Profile: Cynthia Spivey & Ronnie’s Paleo Meatloaf
Cynthia Spivey is a very good cook. A few years ago, when I was working in fashion, we met at a trunk show (a Tupperware-like party, but instead of food containers, you buy clothing and shoes) that one of her friends was hosting in Montecito, California.
I drove back to this scenic coastal town a couple of Sundays ago to see Cynthia again, but this time to talk all things paleo. She recently wrote and published a cool, no-nonsense guide titled How to Eat Paleo (When You Don’t Live in a Cave), which is filled with useful tips, fun illustrations, and easy-to-follow recipes. I wanted to find out about her switch to a healthier lifestyle.
“My health was declining for about 10 years,” Cynthia began. “Every year, my doctor would say the same thing: My cholesterol was up again, so was my blood sugar and weight, and I would soon be pre-diabetic. She told me to exercise more, but I lacked the energy to do anything.”
She considered numerous diets, but they all seemed too restricted. “I really didn’t want to count calories,” Cynthia continued. A friend was on paleo and explained the principles to her. “Intellectually, it made total sense to me.” But she didn’t quit her existing habits cold-turkey. She went gluten-free first to help with her bread and toast addiction, and after progressively feeling better and less foggy, she eliminated grains and legumes altogether. Soon her kids and husband came on board, too, and Cynthia was in charge of all the cooking.
“To me, paleo is mainly about nutrient-dense food,” said Cynthia. “Trust your body to tell you what works for you. I think one should be consistent and not obsessive, because you need to live your life. Being 80 percent paleo is perfectly fine.”
Fair, but I wanted to know how she makes it work for her on a day-to-day basis. She broke it down for me: Breakfast is almost always eggs or an egg-veggie scramble; lunch typically consists of a salad or lettuce wraps and protein; dinner is seafood or chicken with tons of vegetables. Parties at her house are strictly paleo, but “nobody notices a thing.” When she travels, she brings a crustless quiche, rolled-up pieces of turkey, mixed nuts, and dried fruit. She rarely eats snacks, but she still drinks wine and tequila and occasionally eats good-quality, organic dairy, such as goat cheese.
Age 55 — Hometown Born in Ohio, grew up in the Bay Area — Where do you live? Santa Barbara — Occupation Author, mother — Signature dish People seem to like my cauliflower purée, but that is kind of boring. I don’t like to repeat much or use recipes when cooking for friends, so I don’t think I have a signature. It is whatever I feel like making at the moment. — Who taught you how to cook? My grandma inspired me, and my college roommates taught me the basics. The rest I learned along the way. — Favorite kitchen tool Avocado scooper/slicer — Always in your pantry Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ghee, almond flour, dates, nuts, coconut milk, and lots of spices. — Go-to snack Fruit — Favorite cuisine It’s too hard to choose. That would be like choosing my favorite child. — Do you diet? No — Food addictions Changes all the time — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve Non-fat — Who’s your sous chef? Most days, no one — Drinking while cooking? Yes! But not too much before the food is on the table! — What’s for dinner tonight? Not clear yet, but something with salmon and a new paleo cranberry jalapeño relish I’m testing. — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? I’m kind of clumsy, so no, because I am used to spilling things. — Best meal you ever had So many! The most recent best meal was at Rick Bayless’ new Chicago restaurant Leña Brava a couple weeks ago. — Contact smilingwatergroup.com
Ronnie's Paleo Meatloaf
This flavor-packed, mouth-watering paleo meatloaf is perfectly moist and dense, and it’s composed of simple ingredients: fresh puréed vegetables, two kinds of ground meat, an egg, and aromatic dried herbs. I enjoyed it straight from the oven, with mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed chopped zucchini, but try it Cynthia’s way, too—sliced and reheated in the oven to give it an all-around layer of surface crispness. Also, the meatloaf is great as-is, but the spicy sauce takes it to a new, kicky level.
“My friend Ronnie Lott ate it at Nick's Next Door in Los Gatos, California, and contributed the recipe to my book,” says Cynthia. “He’s one of the greatest football players in history and has been inducted into both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame. He won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and played for the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.”
- Serves 6
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup peeled, chopped carrots (about 2–3 medium carrots)
- 1 cup peeled, chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 3 cups chopped, white button mushrooms, stems removed
- 1 pound grass-fed, ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup dry Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Sauce (optional)
- 1 teaspoon peeled, minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon peeled, minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped scallion
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon chili paste, such as Sambal Oelek
- ½ cup hoisin sauce
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and grease a 5x9-inch loaf pan with the olive oil. Set aside.
- Place the carrots, onion and mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade, and process until puréed. Transfer the mixture to a large skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat, until it’s dry and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 12–15 minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
- Mix the beef and pork together in a large bowl. Add the egg, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and combine, preferably using your (clean) hands. Add the vegetable purée and mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan, and pat it down to release any bubbles. Bake in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 135 degrees, about 30 minutes. Let cool, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Prepare the sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Heat briefly in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the meatloaf into 1¼-inch pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cook in the oven until hot in the center, about 20 minutes. Serve with the sauce drizzled on top, if you like.
Chili paste and hoisin might contain non-paleo ingredients, but you can easily find paleo versions online.
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