Take Me Back To Summer Salad from AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook
Tara Perillo, alias Paleo Cajun Lady, is one of my favourite AIP bloggers. She is kind and gentle, candid and witty, generous and wise. I could go on, but I love her most for the honest, caring and supportive nature that comes across so readily in her blog and social media posts. If you already know Tara, then this information will be all too familiar and you’ll doubtless be aware of the rough ride she has had in her quest for good health and her battles against Lupus, Vitiligo and Plaque Psoriasis. Hopefully you will also know that she released her first e-book in May, the appropriately titled “AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook“. If you haven’t had the pleasure of connecting with Tara, then do go and say hello, there will be a warm welcome when you do.
When Tara gifted me a copy of her new e-book I was intrigued. I have never visited Louisiana, where Tara is from. The fact is, I have never even been down South. Not unless you count a lengthy layover in Houston several years ago, when my husband and I hit the nearest mall, rather than wait around in the airport for our connection. And I have never eaten Cajun cuisine. Because I’m a Brit, there are certain culinary foods in Tara’s book that I’m not even familiar with, such as grits and étouffée, and it’s been a loooong time since I last ate okra.
Tara’s e-book consists of recipes for salads, soups, sauces, seafood, poultry and meats, side dishes, together with sweets and drinks. You will see she’s covered all the basics. You’ll find a fair few recipes that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with Southern eating but it’s all in there; tell me a meal that evokes Cajun cooking and I’m willing to bet Tara wrote an AIP version of it. Gumbo, cacciatore, fricassee, shrimp boil, crawfish étouffée, grits, crispy duck with blackberry-fig sauce? Yep, it’s all here!
Tara has put her heart and soul into her e-book. A deep rooted love of her southern upbringing is obvious, as is the fondness with which she recalls her grand parents, Ma and PaPa. Her blog was even named after PaPa’s shrimping boat, The Cajun Lady. I love that Tara, rather than shying away from the more unfamiliar ingredients of true Cajun cuisine, has embraced them and they readily feature, often taking centre stage even, in her recipes. Each and every one of the 63 recipes is not only focused on healing, but enjoying simple cooking and then dining on the fruits of minimal labour. And whether you are following the Autoimmune Protocol, GAPS, SCD, Wahls Protocol, Whole30 or any elimination diet for that matter, there’s something in here for everyone. Believe me, I had no shortage of volunteers to help hoover up the three simple and tasty recipes I’ve made so far 🙂 . Next on my list is the delicious sounding Crispy Duck with Blackberry-Fig Sauce, Cranberry-Apple Chicken with Cabbage and the one-pot Pork Belly + Spiced “Rice”. Mardi Gras Seared Tuna, Sweet Potato Coconut Crisp and Coconut Apricot Bliss Balls won’t be too far behind!
Whether you know her or not, I thought I’d delve a little into the lady behind Paleo Cajun Lady and share her thoughts with you. I got the family involved too because, after all, they are just as nosey as I am!
Artichoke-Leek “Fettucini” from AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook
Tara, please tell us what brought you to the Autoimmune Protocol, how you came to it and when?
After first going gluten free in 2013, and then paleo in January 2014, I was still looking for a protocol that would kick up my healing a notch. That’s when I found The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. Everything she wrote just clicked with me. She introduced me to the Autoimmune Protocol in March 2014, and I haven’t looked back since.
Did it take you a while to start the AIP or did you jump into it straight away
I really just jumped right in! LOL! I had been eating paleo for a couple of months already; so, it really wasn’t difficult for me to remove a few more foods. I really believed in the science of it all. I wanted to start the healing straight away.
What were your favourite foods/drinks pre-AIP and what are they now?
I was pretty much a healthy eater before going AIP. I did competitive sports training; so, my diet was pretty good. But, I did enjoy a glass of wine with dinner most nights and a lot of tomato sauce dishes. I still really miss my tomato sauce. Now, I love so many foods that I can still eat. I’d have to say, sardines are my favorite overall food. I’ve also had a newfound love of liver. I like to just fry it up with a bit of garlic and onions. Yum!
Are there any foods you have decided you like, as a result of the AIP, that you may not have tried otherwise?
I’d have to go back to the liver for that one. I’ve always eaten chicken liver. But, I don’t think I would have tried beef liver again, if not for the AIP. So glad I did.
What do you typically eat for breakfast and how much time do you have in the mornings to prepare it?
I typically don’t eat breakfast. Most days, I practice intermittent fasting. Although I know this is not typically recommended on the AIP, it works very well for my particular issues. My lupus has attacked and damaged much of my digestive system. I’ve had my gallbladder removed, so my body doesn’t produce the bile needed to digest foods, especially fats. In my case, the more often I eat, the harder my body needs to work to digest and process the food. The few times I do eat breakfast, it’s usually some kind of hash, made with sweet potatoes, a protein, and veggies. I can usually prepare it in 20 minutes. If I need something faster, I’ll batch cook it before.
How much time do you spend in the kitchen and have you got any tips for those who think they spend too much time there?
I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. But, I also create recipes for a living; so, that could help explain why. LOL! If I didn’t have a lot of time to spend cooking, I would probably just spend a couple of days a week batch cooking and meal prepping. If you spend an hour or so chopping all of your veggies for the week, you can save yourself some kitchen time. I also say, get yourself a slow cooker or Instant Pot. That way, you can just throw your pre-cut veggies in with some protein, and you have a wonderful meal waiting for you.
When you go travelling, do you have a regular packing list so you can eat/live AIP and if so, what’s on it?
I certainly do! I’m always sure to pack sardines, tuna, fresh fruit, Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips, Epic bars (the AIP ones here and here), extra bottled water (checked luggage only), Trader Joe’s Fruit Bars (it’s just dried fruit), and avocados. Typically, I keep a small bottle of Kasandrino’s olive oil and a tin of sea salt in my purse, too.
What interests you when you’re not thinking about the AIP and how do you balance everything?
I mainly think about my fitness levels and how to get back to where I was before I got so sick. I’m currently working on creating a system to get myself back to my old athletic self. Finding balance has been really hard. I’m such a competitive person that I have a tendency to put too much strain on myself. Knowing everything I do about my autoimmune disease, I realize I have to take things much slower than I used to. I’ve been focusing on meditation and lots of good sleep. Those of us with autoimmunity need to learn to take things at our own pace. That’s exactly what I’m doing.
Baked Apples and Maple Cinnamon Ice Cream from AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking the AIP might be for them but is nervous of the commitment?
I would say, stop thinking about it…and, just DO IT. Fear is what stops us from doing some of the best things in life. We fear failure, judgement from others, change, and so much more. Don’t let that fear take over. There is an amazing online community of many of us living with autoimmune disease. We are here to support and encourage you with recipes, advice, and even a cyber hug when you need it. Start the change and reach out to the community. You are stronger than you think you are!
What do you say to people when they question your way of eating?
Well, I’ll clean it up for your readers. LOL! I used to throw a bunch of science about the AIP at them. Most often, I was met with blank stares. Now, I simply tell them that I have stayed out of the hospital for almost two years now, have repaired the ulcers that covered my stomach and small intestines, have avoided the prescribed surgery to have part of my large intestine removed, and am well on my way to rebuilding the athlete I once was. That usually works!
What do you do to relax and are you any good at it?
I suck at relaxing! It’s definitely something I’ve had to work on since going on the AIP. I was even doing the most extreme yoga practice I could do. I make sure I take time to meditate every day now. I also do a relaxing yoga sequence a few days a week. And, I take a day off every week where I do activities I truly enjoy.
How many hours sleep do you average a night, do you find it easy getting to sleep and if not, what do you do to achieve it?
I usually get about 7 1/2 hours a night of sleep. I have suffered from chronic insomnia since I was a child. I have found routine to be the best weapon to fight insomnia. Every night, I do the same routine. About an hour before bed, I’ll drink a cup of herbal tea with 2 teaspoons Calm magnesium supplement. I rub fractionated coconut oil with a couple of drops of essential oil (chamomile and lavender) onto my neck and shoulders. I also have blackout curtains, an eye mask, and a noise machine with beach sounds. I’m a little freakish with my routine; but, it works. It also helps to quiet my mind and say my prayers before I drift off to sleep.
What, or who, inspired you to write your e-book?
Honestly, it was Dr. Sarah Ballantyne herself. I had put out a paleo Cajun cookbook last year. It was mainly a project to see if I could actually put one together. Anyway, Sarah reached out to me to see if I would be willing to put together an AIP cookbook for an upcoming project she was working on. Well, there was no way I was going to tell her no. She had saved my life! So, I went to work on it straight away. The cookbook is basically a memorial to my grandmother and all of the Cajun cooks in my family. When I first started paleo, and then the AIP, I wanted to recreate the meals I had grown up eating with my family. I knew there was no way I could do without gumbo, étouffée, or fried okra. I recreated all of those recipes and a few new ones to enjoy the flavors of home, Louisiana. I’m so glad Sarah inspired me to share those Cajun dishes with all of you.
What would your last supper be, AIP-style?
It would have to be my Shrimp and Okra Gumbo. Besides being delicious, it’s the recipe that reminds me most of home. That’s what I would want my last memory to be.
GIVEAWAY : Tara has kindly offered one lucky reader the chance to have your own copy of the “AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook”. I told you she was sweet didn’t I? All you need do is tell me why you would love to own her e-book and I’ll get the children to choose a winner at random! If you would like to buy a copy, click here. Giveaway ends 7pm PST, Sunday August 2nd. Good luck! [GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED – congratulations Kristi Fairfield, you are the winner]
Take Me Back To Summer Salad
from AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
for the chicken:
1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless (I left mine on)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp coconut oil
for the salad:
2 cups dandelion greens, chopped
1 roasted beet, quartered
4 large strawberries, sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
for the dressing:
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp organic raw honey
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375F.
Pour melted coconut oil over breast. Sprinkle herbs onto chicken breast. Place chicken breast on shallow baking sheet and put in oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165F, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. As chicken is resting, assemble salad. Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients in small bowl. Add dressing to salad and toss. Plate salad. Cut chicken into strips and lay atop salad. Serve.
Tara gifted me a copy of the AIP Paleo Cajun Cookbook but I am not benefitting from any sales of the book made as a result of this post. Tara will benefit 100%. All thoughts and photos are my own.