Danielle Walker is a full-time blogger, cookbook author and business owner — but if you told her back in college that this would be her career, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. Danielle — whose blog Against All Grain features Paleo-friendly, grain-free recipes and healthy lifestyle tips — came to a Paleo-based, gluten-free lifestyle out of necessity.
We’re all about finding yummy recipes for special diets, but Danielle doesn’t just follow a Paleo diet because she wants to — her autoimmune disease requires it. After numerous hospitalizations, severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding and more than one near-death experience, Danielle turned to a naturopath, who suggested a clean diet devoid of grains, legumes, dairy and refined sugar. Danielle immediately saw results. Her health steadily improved, and she hasn’t been hospitalized since 2011. She continues to adhere to a Paleo-based lifestyle to this day, and is ecstatic about the improvements she’s seen to her health.
However, Danielle wasn’t content to just eat chicken every day (though there are plenty of delicious clean-eating poultry recipes out there!). She started her blog and published two cookbooks that showcase her favorite creative grain-free recipes. We sat down with her to talk about her diet, her cookbooks and her tips for all those wanting a little something extra out of their lifestyle.
What cookbooks have you authored, and what is exciting about your latest release?
After blogging for a couple of years, I became really passionate about writing recipes and wanted to collect them all in one place. I took a one-day seminar on food photography and embarked on writing and photographing my first cookbook, Against All Grain. It is a comprehensive collection of recipes that span from breakfast to dessert to beverages. I wanted the book to be a sigh of relief for people who have to eat grain-free. I wanted them to open the book and leaf through the pages and feel like they could live again, and that they didn’t have to live a life of bland and mundane foods.
My second cookbook, Meals Made Simple, was an answer to my readers’ plea for more weeknight meals and a way to make a Paleo lifestyle a little bit easier. I included eight weeks of meal plans and grocery lists to help alleviate the intimidation that people often feel when they’re first starting out.
This new book was such a passion project for me. Everyone that knows me knows that I love holidays. Really, I love any occasion to celebrate! My readers continually expressed the need for more celebratory recipes, so they were truly the catalyst for my Celebrations cookbook. When forced to alter their diet drastically for the sake of their health, people often fear that their fond memories and traditions will be lost along with the newly eliminated food groups. That is why I transformed my most cherished family recipes and collected them all in this book. You will find mouthwatering dishes for 12 special occasions, from a backyard barbecue to a full Christmas spread, to help you create a fabulous grain-free party that even grain-eating friends will enjoy.
Do you think people without autoimmune problems can benefit from eating a Paleo/gluten-free, grain-free lifestyle?
Absolutely. A Paleo diet cuts out a lot of inflammatory foods and encourages nutrient-dense foods, so many people find relief from a variety of symptoms. I hear from so many readers that they notice more energy, better sleep, fewer aches and pains and even relief from migraines. If nothing else, it causes people to cut out processed foods and refined sugars and start eating whole, real foods.
What are some of your favorite fall ingredients for grain-free cooking?
It’s cliché, but pumpkin puree is my favorite fall ingredient! I love baking with it, and all of the quintessential autumn spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and cardamom. I use a lot of almond, coconut and cashew flour, so those are used often in all of my fall baking as well. As for savory, I enjoy cooking with butternut and kabocha squash, especially in curries.
What are some of your favorite recipes right now?
I’m so excited about this new book, so all of my favorites are from there at the moment. I’m particularly looking forward to making all of the Thanksgiving dishes. The Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Jam and Green Bean Casserole are some of our favorites, and we really only enjoy them once a year, so it’s a treat. I also cannot wait for everyone who gets the book to try the Christmas Fudge recipe.
Is it important to you to cook seasonally?
I’m so inspired by the seasonal produce when we visit the farmers’ market on the weekend. It causes me to break out of the rut I sometimes get in with side dishes and salads and try new things. Seasonal produce just tastes so much more fresh and lively.
How do you recommend people adhering to a Paleo-based lifestyle handle holidays and parties?
Well first off, grab a copy of my new book Celebrations. It will become your gluten-free holiday handbook. I always suggest offering to bring a dish or two when you go as a guest to someone’s house, because then you know you will have something safe to eat. I often have a snack beforehand just to be safe, and then try to pick and choose items I can eat when I’m at the party.
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(Photo via Jennifer Skog)