Thursday, November 8, 2012

Paleo Musings + Coconut Curry Recipe

I'm slowly diving into the world of the paleo lifestyle and am currently really liking it so far. For those of you that don't know what it is, I'll try to sum it up: essentially it's trying to eat as close to what our ancestors ate, though obviously not exactly what they ate because most of those foods don't actually exist anymore. It includes cutting out ALL grains (including rice, quinoa, gluten, etc), legumes (beans), refined sugars, and pasteurized dairy products (though I'll drink raw milk). For someone who eats a fast food diet this would be an extreme (though very smart!) change of diet, but it's not that far off from what I eat now; I'm already gluten free and I eat a pretty small amount of sugar. It will still be hard to cut out so many foods I love, like beans in chili, corn tortillas, and pretty much anything processed like my beloved pistachio gelato and waffles!

I'm not going to tell you that you should live this way or try to convert you, but I do plan on sharing my experience about it over the next few months. I am NOT eating fully paleo right now. In fact I just ate a white chicken chili and some cornbread that a friend brought over and it was delicious. I am, however, slowly transitioning my meals so that are mostly paleo, and trying to have one meal a day be fully paleo. I know that if I just give away everything that's 'bad' in my kitchen today, I'll want to go right to the store tomorrow and buy it again. So instead, I'm doing it step by step, meal by meal, because this is something that I want to stick with and honestly, I think it will stick with this plan. I know that I feel like crap after I eat a lot of the 'bad' foods, and if I can cut out gluten and sugar, I can do anything!

If you want to join me with this, DO. I love talking about it and food in general and would love to help you with it, as well as you help me. You can start slow, like making more meals at your house, or if you already do, trying to cut out gluten or something. Take small steps! Along with Dooce, I HIGHLY recommend the book Practical Paleo*. It has great 30 day meal plans (which I plan on using) and some are specific to certain people, like weight loss, thyroid issues, etc.

Anyways, I have a good recipe to share: Coconut Curry.

I love curry a heck of a lot, and the restaurant I used to eat it at that was gluten free stopped making it gluten free. (Though they claimed it was gluten free, my intestines told me it definitely wasn't!) This meal is pretty close in taste to what I used to pay $13 for, though a lot less sweet and it only takes 15 or 20 minutes, and even less after you've done it once!

This is naturally a paleo recipe when you don't eat it with rice. The only reason it's not in most restaurants is because they add soy sauce which is not needed! So if you love curry, try it, you'll love it. (Or as Yo Gabba Gabba says, "Try it, you'll like it!") Inspired by this recipe and this recipe.

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Coconut Curry
Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo, and Optionally Vegan 
Servings: 4       Prep time: 5 minutes      Cook Time: 15-20 minutes (more if you use fresh veggies)

2 cans coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons green or red curry paste (depending on if you want red or green curry)
3/4-1 pound shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, etc (optional)(And I feel pretentious saying it, but try to get grass-fed, free-range, organic meat)
2 tablespoons curry powder (If you want it spicy, use SPICY curry powder; regular is not spicy)
1 teaspoon pepper
2-4 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
2 1/2 cups veggies of your choice (I used two ten-ounce bags of organic frozen veggies for a faster prep: california style with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and carrots and the thai style pictured)

Step 1: Cut meat into bite sized pieces and well as veggies if you used fresh ones. Do not shake coconut milk cans, but open them. Using a spoon, transfer all the 'fat' into a little bowl. It should be about the top half of the can. It's important to have it in a separate container so that when you add the 'fat' to the pan in Step 3, it's all at once and you don't have to spoon it out.

Step 2: Preheat your pan, preferably a 12-inch cast iron or stainless steel. Do not add any oil or anything, just let it sit on the burner for a minute or two.  While pan is preheating, gather all of your ingredients, take off the lids and have measuring utensils within arms reach of the stove because once you start cooking, you don't want to leave the stove for a few minutes.

Step 3: Once the pan is hot, pour in the coconut 'fat' that was in the bowl. It will get a little smoking, but shouldn't spray too much. Start stirring it immediately, and continue to do so for a few minutes. This is called 'cracking the coconut'. What's happening is you are letting all the water to evaporate leaving you with coconut oil. After a while of stirring, you'll notice a difference and it will start  to  get thick and blobby. How long it takes depends on how fatty the can was. I used Thai Kitchen coconut milk the first time and it was very fatty (though it's because it had an added thickener, xanthan gum) and turned to oil after 2 or 3 minutes. The second time I used Natural Value brand and it took closer to 7 minutes because it was just straight up coconut milk and wasn't as thick (which I recommend as xanthan gum is not paleo).

You can see it start very liquidy with a lot of steam fogging up the picture, then gets a little thicker, then thick enough to put into a little pile and not spread everywhere.

Step 4: Once you have 'cracked the coconut', add the curry paste. Stir until it's mostly mixed. If it started to stick to your pan and seem caked on, don't worry about it. When you add the coconut milk it'll cook it off and add flavor.

Step 5: Add your meat, curry powder, pepper and fish sauce. The amount of fish sauce depends on if you want more flavor; I add 4 or 5 tablespoons because I like the flavor. It's not a fishy flavor, per se, and it's delicious. Stir the meat around until it's mixed in with the coconut/paste/fish sauce and let sit a few minutes until mostly cooked through.

Step 6: Add veggies and stir, then add milk and stir. The amounts above all fit in my cast iron pan, but it was a close fit so be careful stirring if you use one! Let simmer until veggies are cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

Step 7: Eat! You can eat it over rice if you aren't paleo, and if you are paleo I recommend eating it over cauliflower 'rice' like we did. (Basically you just put half a cauliflower head into a food processor until it's the size of rice, then add a few tablespoons broth to a pan and cook the cauliflower a few minutes, then drain the broth.) I thought it was better than regular rice and Vince loved it!

I recommend eating it with a Thai cucumber salad, or just regular one like us. If you try the recipe, let me know how it turned out!

*I'm an Amazon Affiliate so I make money if you buy something from a link. If you don't like that, click here to go to the regular Amazon website!


  1. Ooh, is coconut milk paleo? That's what we typically use for milk, and I always buy it unsweetened.
    I made a lot of soups when I was trying to be fully paleo. I think I already told you, but I basically continued to be paleo just with dairy, and I of course had the occasional cheat day. I definitely feel way better when I avoid grains though so you've inspired me to get back to that!

    1. Yep, it's paleo! That and almond milk (or any nut milk) are palao. The stuff you'd use for the recipe is just pure coconut milk, not coconut milk beverage which is what most people drink, but it has other stuff in it.

      Do what feels right for your body!!

    2. And I just looked at my container of coconut milk beverage (not just the can of coconut milk) and it's not actually paleo because it has guar gum, made from beans. That just happens to be the SO Delicious brand, but I know there are other brands out there that are more 'pure'. I've never tried straight coconut milk from the can, but next time I cook with it I'll try it!

      Or, make your own which I plan on trying soon!

  2. Oooh good idea! I've never used the cans either. I just expected them to be liquid, like the cans of evaporated milk my mom always used for fudge! I'm curious now though!

    1. It's liquid, quite a bit thinner than evaporated milk!

  3. Wow! This recipe sounds great. Some good cooking tips I hadn't heard of too. Thanks. I think we'll try this tonight.

  4. Made it with cauliflower and some shrimp scallops tilapia. Delicious! Thanks for a new fav.

    1. Glad it worked for you! Mmm, it sounds so good with all that seafood!

  5. I'm by no means paleo, but I always try to steer clear of processed food. I met a woman a few months ago who had MS, which there is no medical cure for, and had a bleak prognosis. She switched to paleo diet and can now walk, talk, drive and barely has any symptoms at all. Since then paleo has been of interest to me, hope it goes well for ya!

    1. I believe it! Food is the most important thing we put in our bodies and it amazes me when people don't associate their unhealthiness to what they eat. I'm glad your friend was able to get better by doing that and didn't just accept her 'fate'. Thank you for sharing, and good luck with what you choose to do as well!