An uber-popular paleo blog, Against All Grain is the brainchild of Danielle Walker, a self-taught chef who dishes up easy-to-make recipes without grains, gluten, dairy, and refined sugars. Her mission is to create whole-food recipes that reflect the taste and texture of the American diet. Danielle’s struggle to get back on her feet after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when she was only 22 years old inspired her to help others suffering from similar ailments. She believes that there is no reason to eat the same bland allergen-free foods over and over again, and has "gone against the grain" to ensure that everyone suffering from food allergies can eat what they want and never feel deprived. Based out of Northern California, Danielle is also the author and photographer of the New York Times best selling cookbook Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great. So what's next on her to do list? She's plotting a You Tube take over. So, keep your eyes peeled and your spatulas ready.
What is your favorite meal of the day?
Probably lunch. That’s usually when I’m recipe testing, so I’m eating whatever I’m trying out which tends to be more fun then the boring salad or lettuce wrap.
What’s an ingredient that you just can’t live without?
Almond flour for sure for all my baking, but I also really love ghee. I don’t know that I could pick just one.
If you were stranded on a deserted island what two spices would you want to have with you?
That’s a good one. I really love cumin and, then, probably thyme. I feel that you can use those both in so many different things and they’re great together as well.
Where is your favorite place to shop for ingredients?
I do most of it between Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's. My non-perishables I buy online, usually through Amazon. Then, on weekends, I stock up on the things that I know that we’ll use at the farmer’s markets.
You’re a popular food blogger with thousands of followers. Is there a food blog that YOU follow?
I use to, but I’m so bad. I tell everyone that I’m one of the worst bloggers because I just don’t have the time anymore. I do love Mark’s Daily Apple; he’s really knowledgeable, and I really enjoy reading all of his articles, so that’s probably one that I continue to keep up on. And I love to follow all the magazines to see what the current trends are. I try to keep up on some of the paleo and gluten-free blogs just to see what my friends are up to, but I also try as hard as I can to stick to myself so I’m not accidentally influenced by other recipes out there.
As a health conscious food blogger, do you still treat yourself to guilty pleasures?
I can’t afford to really. I just know that I'll get sick. Occasionally, there are a few things that I can do like French Fries and, sometimes, ice cream, but usually it’s dairy-free ice cream. But the days of eating a slice of pie or a piece of cake at a party are just not worth it anymore, because I will immediately feel horrible. For those foods, I’ve now recreated my own versions using my own ingredients. So, I don’t really miss them anymore.
What is your favorite late-night snack?
I’m not a huge late night snacker mostly because I tend to go to bed before it gets to be late night, i'm in bed usually by 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.-- the joys of having a 4 1/2-year-old. But, I go for the salty at night, so I would probably snack on dry roasted cashews, salami, organic pickles and sauerkraut--believe it or not, just straight from the bag with a fork! I love the brand Farm House Culture.
What are the biggest challenges and greatest rewards of being a food blogger?
Challenges are probably dealing with the critics. I’ve learnt that I just need to let it roll off my back at this point, but it’s still hard to hear people criticize something that you’re giving out for free on your blog or hearing that someone doesn’t like something. I always try so hard to create things that everybody will like, but I’ve learnt that you can’t please everybody. The reward, for sure, is the amount of people that I’ve been able to help. Seeing the numbers and figures of people viewing my site and on my social media is incredible. They share their stories with me about healing through food: how they’ve been able to help their children who have ailments, or getting off of medications, or being able to get back to being a mom or a dad after being sick in bed for so many years! So, it’s those stories from my fans that are definitely the most rewarding.
Do you have any recipes that stand out for being epic fails?
I have been so fortunate, that for the majority of my recipes, I don’t have that many failures which is really great, and I’m so blessed to be able to say that. But, I do have one story that stands out it my mind, and it was just awful. I tried to make a dairy-free, grain-free mac and cheese just because I get requests for it so often. I thought it was a brilliant idea to use cauliflower as the macaroni and then make a cashew nutritional yeast sauce for the cheese. It was the most uneatable, disgusting thing I have ever made; it unfortunately went straight into the trash. I always tell people that I don’t throw things away very often, even if they’re not perfect, because I don’t want to waste the money or the food. In the beginning days of my blogging career, especially with the baking where it took a lot of getting used to, I use to start our meal time with "I’m so sorry but you are eating this, and I promise I won’t ever make it again." But, that cauliflower mac and cheese was one that went right down the drain immediately; it was just intolerable.
What’s next in your career?
I hope to take over You Tube; it’s kind of my next big thing that I want. I feel like I’ve accomplished the blog and books, and now I really, really want to start providing more video content for people. I’ve been asked numerous times by all my fans to do it, because, especially with foods they’re not used to, people love to see videos and I love doing it. So, that’s kind of my next big thing to focus on, getting a lot more content up on my You Tube Channel and having a weekly show there.
Finally, can you share one of your favorite recipes?
This soup has been an all-time-favorite on my blog and has had the most hits of any post, well over 3 million views. It uses leftover roast chicken and roasted vegetables and has such beautiful colors from the butternut squash and sweet potatoes.
Leftover Roast Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Grain Free & Gluten free)
Hands-on Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes (55 minutes if using raw chicken)
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups peeled and cubed carrots
- 4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 2 yellow onions, quartered
- 1/4 cup ghee, melted bacon fat, or extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper
- 12 cups slow cooker chicken stock (pg 58 in my book) or low-sodium store-bought stock
- 6 cups leftover shredded cooked chicken, or 2 pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
- 2 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 5 cups baby spinach
- Preheat the oven to 425°F
- Roast the vegetables. Place the garlic and vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle on the ghee, sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large stockpot. Add the chicken, herbs, and salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer while the vegetables are roasting, about 15 minutes. If you’re using raw chicken breasts or thighs cook for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken pieces and use to forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the stockpot.
- Pick out the onion quarters from the pan roasted vegetables and set aside. Add half of the remaining vegetables to the soup and place the other half in a blender along with the onion quarters. Puree the vegetables with the 1 cup of water.
- Add the vegetable puree and baby spinach to the soup. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and the soup is hot.
Make ahead tip: Roast the vegetables up to 3 days in advance and store in the refrigerator.
Alexis Nilsen has a blog called Cow Crumbs.This princess is filling her paper bags with wholesome good-for-you ingredients, proving one recipe at a time that gluten-free can be so much more than rice flour and tapioca starch.