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5 Questions with “Make it Paleo” authors Bill Staley & Hayley Mason

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I recently had the great pleasure of not only meeting, but also becoming great friends with Hayley Mason and Bill Staley, authors of the popular blog The Food Lovers Primal Palate and now, the brand-new, amazingly beautiful and completely useful cookbook Make it Paleo. This young and vibrant dynamic duo exudes enthusiasm for the Paleo lifestyle and I feel lucky to have connected with them as fellow bloggers in this awesome community. Their laid back approach to life and how present they are while cooking (as I witnessed when they prepared dinner for a group of us while in Los Angeles for the recent Ancestral Health Symposium) serves only to motivate others even more to treat cooking and eating amazing food as one of life’s truest simple pleasures.

1. What makes Make it Paleo different from other Paleo or primal cookbooks that are out there?

Hayley & Bill: We wrote Make it Paleo with a goal of it being able to hang with ‘mainstream’ cookbooks. If someone were to walk into Barnes and Noble and see our book next to, say, Tyler Florence’s book or Jamie Oliver’s book, or Giada’s, they would not think something is weird about our book or that something is missing from the recipes. The food is real, clean, and honest – yet it looks every bit as good as something any of the top chefs would make. In addition to the killer photos (which we took ourselves), the book discusses Paleo ingredients fairly in-depth. Instead of talking about how these ingredients affect your body (which has been covered by Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson) we talk about how these ingredients interact in the realm of cooking.

Here is an example: Most people know by now that coconut oil is a saturated fat, has wonderful anti-viral properties, is great for your skin and hair, as well as burning fat. In Make it Paleo, we discuss how coconut oil relates to cooking: what type of cooking should you use it for? Can you bake with it? What flavors does it pair well with? We get similar questions a lot from our followers, and we made sure to cover all basics of grain-free cooking in Make it Paleo.

2. What will be your greatest memory from creating Make it Paleo?

Hayley: Well, I guess the greatest memory for me (besides getting that first email from our Publisher asking us if we wanted to talk about making a book), was the crazy hoops we jumped through to create all these recipes. We really threw ourselves into this book 100%, without leaving much breathing room, and we didn’t realize that would mean going to the grocery store 3-4 times a day, or having people start to recognize us at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and our local specialty foods store McGinnis Sisters. It literally was a mad house around here. I would be cooking and plating dishes, while Bill shot the photos and simultaneously entered the recipes into the design file. As crazy as that whole time was, it was probably the most fun. I will say this, I never slept as well as when we were doing all that cooking all day long!

Bill: I do agree with Hayley that the best part of creating Make it Paleo was making and shooting the recipes. However, my favorite memory from the whole process had to be the weekend we took our first draft of the book with us to the beach. From day one, we had a very specific timeline for the book (ha, thats the project manager in me), and we knew that if we timed things just right, we could take a hard copy draft with us to the beach. To most people, taking ‘work’ on vacation with them doesn’t sound like a good time; but taking a draft of our book with us back to the beach just felt right. It had been just about a year since we had been at the beach, and I proposed that we write a cookbook together, so it became somewhat of a mission to come back a year later with that desire fulfilled. We soaked up some rays, gave the book some ‘tough love’ and even had some fun that weekend, too. Thats what this whole thing has always been about with us: fun. Another great memory will be how I got to eat every single recipe pictured in the book. Talk about a sweet gig!

3. Have you ever tricked friends or family with a grain-free recipe of yours? If so, which?

Hayley & Bill: All the time, although we can’t trick people as readily as we used to be able to. They kind of know what we’re up to these days, and it’s no secret that we only cook Paleo fare. About 6 months ago, we made a grain free carrot cake for Bill’s mother for her birthday – her favorite. The cake was a smash hit (check out the feedback we got on our blog post), people were saying it was not only a great grain-free carrot cake, but the best carrot cake they’d ever had! People were also telling us how THEY were tricking other people with this cake, too. We took a slice to Bill’s elderly grandmother, and just gave it to her. She said it was the best she’s ever had. To this day, she still doesn’t know. Hopefully she is not a reader of Balanced Bites. Sorry Grammy.

4. Which recipe took the longest to create or required the most re-creations before getting it just right?

Hayley & Bill:  It wasn’t so much the recipes that required recreation, as it was the photography. The first thing we did when we were planning out our project timeline was to take a look at all of our existing recipes and see which ones had suitable, book ready photos. Needless to say, that was not a very large number. From there, we started shooting dishes for the book and they looked better and better. We took over 20,000 photos during the months we were working on the book, yet only 520 made it into the book. By the time we were wrapping up photography for the recipes, we realized that some of our photos from the beginning of the project were not up to par.

Our Game Day Guacamole is a good example of this. We had this great recipe on our website but the photos weren’t cookbook-worthy, so we re-shot it within the first week of cooking for the book. By the end, we were both sure that we could do better. We learned so much about food photography and styling during the process that photos from the beginning didn’t match the quality of the photos from the end. So naturally, we went back and re-shot a lot of the earlier ones. I guess thats what happens when two meticulous artists get involved with this sort of thing.

5. How will Make it Paleo make life easier for those following a Paleo/primal or grain-free lifestyle?

Hayley & Bill: From day one, our goal has always been to inspire other people to stay on track, and get excited to cook and eat healthy meals. We jumped on the Paleo wagon as a team, and chose health from the start of our relationship. If we, as two people in their 20’s (who were a new couple at the time), could choose health together, then anyone can. We made it work, no excuses, no exceptions. We hope that Make it Paleo will show people that following a grain-free lifestyle doesn’t mean having to give anything up. All of the recipes in our book can be enjoyed with family, friends, loved ones, at parties, or simply on your own. You could give this book to anyone, whether they follow a Paleo diet or not, and they would get something out of it.

Is there anything else do you really want people to know about Make it Paleo?

Hayley & Bill: We both think the book is a good value. We didn’t necessarily set out to make it that way – we wanted it to be a big, sexy cookbook with tons of photos, great recipes, and a lot of good information that would help people to better understand the in’s and out’s of grain-free cooking. By the end of the project, Make it Paleo was a whopping 448 pages with over 500 photos, 215 recipes – and yet the dang thing is less than $20 on Amazon. We’re absolutely giddy that people will get so much for their money. All we’ve ever wanted to do is share our recipes, and our publisher (who also happens to be Robb Wolf’s publisher) made that possible  for us in a huge way. Also, here is a fun fact about the book: we designed it from cover to cover (including the cover) ourselves!

Thanks, Hayley & Bill!

I’ve already ordered a copy for myself AND one for my parents! You can get on in and pre-order your copy of Make it Paleo today on Amazon.com!