My latest “Culinary Adventure” brought me to the quaint town of Claremont, California. It was a two day throwdown with Ryan and Rachel, two of the funnest, smartest, and most amazing people that I’ve met. I love these adventures, because I never know how they will unfold. They always include humor, hard work and hoarding of healthy haggis for hungry humans (not really haggis, but I needed a food word starting with h) and this trip did not let me down.

Ryan and Rachel with Super Radical Rib Rub rubbed ribs in a rack ready for the smoker.

I first met Ryan in September of 2012 and a seed was sewn when I wheeled a wagon full of pulled pork and slaw over to CrossFit South Bay while I was in town scoping out a job opportunity. I figured I would cook for the athletes of the gym one night and Ryan happened to be in one of the classes. (Here I am with the wagon and my good friend, Paleo Madeline, walking to the exact class that Ryan was attending some 18 months ago.)

Paleo Nick and Paleo Madeline walking to the gym with a wagon full of food to serve to the members.

So, the seed was planted and the wheels started turning for Ryan. Eventually, he would leave his job to launch a start-up of his own. As his business began to grow, he started cooking Paleo meals for his employees for lunch each day. As the size of his workforce grew, so did the demand for larger quantities of food, and, “Poila!”(Paleo for Voila!) that’s where Paleo Nick steps in. 

Ryan’s business, Kanopy Insurance, is thriving and he and Rachel brought me in to show them the ropes on how to prepare Zoned out, Paleo meals in large quantities. If you have a chance to check out his company, please do so. They can offer you ultra competitive rates on everything from auto, to homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, to liability insurance and worker’s comp coverage for your business. I am not big on promoting things unless I truly believe in them and Kanopy can save you money immediately, if you’re into saving money, check them out…

Canopy Insurance logo

Okay, back to the cooking…

We opened up with a trip to The Restaurant Depot to get lined out with food storage containers, a case of ribs, a case of Halal chickens, bulk veggies, a few canned items, and some basic equipment. By the time we were done shopping, we were famished, but instead of hitting the drive-thru, we rushed to their place and I threw this together while they unpacked the car.

A plate of food in a white bowl. Ground beef, kale, mushrooms, onions, carrots, ready to eat.

By the time the car was unpacked, the food was done and we had enough for two meals for all three of us. Lesson one was in the books – stay away from the drive thru, chug some water and, with a hot pan, you can have Zoned out, Paleo food in minutes.

I set them up with a 24″ Smoke Vault and a Pro 90 Stove, both by Camp Chef and available at OutdoorCooking.com. This new equipment would adorn their beautiful patio for the weekend and ultimately provide the firepower to cook over 200 meals.

I gave Ryan the run down on the smoker, we busted out some Super Radical Rib Rub, and before long, we had turned this…

super radical rib rub bottles in front of a tray of pork ribs

Into this…

5 racks of smoked dry rub ribs standing on their sides vertical

We went with the dry, moist, dry method on the ribs and they turned out spectacular. When we put them back in for the final drying session, one of the racks broke apart a little, so we took the opportunity to EAT IT! We had some sweet potatoes roasted off by then and I showed them how to make Massie Mayo, so we were able to throw together a quick dinner that looked like this…

plated dish of super radical smoked ribs and sweet potatoes, garnished with Massie Mayo and parsley

We had smoked 15 racks of ribs, discussed the Paleo and Zone diets in length and how they might apply to the R&R household, made mayo, cleaned out the fridge, organized the cupboards, and “fung shui’d” the place so that we’d be able to “cook with gas” on day two. Oh yeah, we also threw 8 chickens into two hotel pans and transformed them into the Paleo Paisano Preparation that would cook overnight at low heat. Check out this color…

chicken Pisano's being prepped in two large hotel pans with bell peppers, pepperonis, and cherry peppers.

On day two, we started by loading up the smoker with Super Radical Chickens and Pork Loin. We then headed to CrossFit Kinnick to knock out 14.4 and spread some butter. Ryan beat me through the cleans, but I out edged him by three muscle ups in the end. We had a great time and wanted to hang out all day, but had to get back to and check on the smoker, right?

Ryan standing in the doorway of CrossFit Kinnick

Back on the homefront, the chicken was done, so we cut the heat on the smoker to let it rest. We did a knife sharpening lesson and by the time our daggers were razors, our chickens had rested. We got to dig into this for lunch…

super radical rib rubbed whole chickens on a tray after being smoked

We had worked out, our knives were sharp, and we were fueled up, it was time to start the real cooking. I could talk all day about the friends that stopped by to help, the dog (or was it a bird?) next door that could smell the food and kept whining, and all of the fun we had, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking and make this short. 

We “mise en placed” everything out and then got right into the Thai Turkey Throwdown which turned this…

Ryan seasoning a tray of ground turkey with salt and pepper poolside in his backyard. Preparation for a large batch of Thai Turkey Throwdown.

Into this… (8 gallons of fresh, spicy, coconutty goodness)

Large cooking pan filled with Thai Turkey Throwdown being mixed with a wooden spoon.

We did a “Thai transfer” into a couple of hotel pans for cooling and fired the rondeau back up for some Chipotle Beef Ragout. It started like this…

Chipotle Beef Ragout cooking in an extra large saute pan. Ground beef, loaded with beet greens, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, bell peppers, celery, garlic and onions.

And, ended up like this with Austin portioning it out into 3 and 4 block containers. While this one looks beefy, don’t be fooled. It was loaded with beet greens, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, bell peppers, celery, garlic and onions.

Nick and Ryan portioning out the prepared Beef Ragout into black Tupperware containers with a 2-cup measuring cup at the kitchen counter.

For the grand finale, we went with some spaghetti squash in the smoker…

Halved Spaghetti Squash, seasoned with salt and pepper in aluminum hotel pans ready to go into the smoker.

“Nicotine Natalie” came by to mix up and shape these beautiful Paleo Poppeltones (loaves of meat)…

3 large loaves of meatloaf freshly out of the oven on a foil lined sheet pan.

And Mike, Ryan, Eddie-Money and I worked together to throw down the tomato basil sauce that became the capstone for this new creation. Notice the scale in the background, these were all precisely divied up to 3 and 4 block portions…

A couture top full of portioned out spaghetti squash, topped with meatloaf slices and tomato basil sauce.

Rachel “wo-manned” the kitchen and was a “Portioning Princess” all day long. We started with 120 small containers (3 Block) and 120 large containers (4 Block), and when we were done, I think there were maybe 10 small containers to spare. So, we ended up with roughly 225 meals, which is lunch for 15 people for three weeks! 

While it was a giant prep session and we did turn out a ton of food, the value of the experience was not in the food, but in the transfer of knowledge and the forging of friendship. Rachel, Ryan and their friends will now carry the torch with weekly prep sessions and their investment will deliver exponential returns. After all, how much value can you place on 60+ years of healthy eating?

Thank you, Rachel and Ryan. You are amazing people and, while our lives don’t allow us dine together daily, I look forward to the next time we share a sheet pan of chickens in the shade with a dog wimpering at the fence (or was that a bird?). Lean on me as a resource for Konstructing your Kulinary Kanopy. What you are doing is a noble thing and I admire you for it.

There were many lessons learned from this Culinary Adventure, but the greatest is, “You never know what will happen when you wheel a wagon of pork butt to a fitness facility full of food fiends.”

Cook for your friends (and strangers) often, be generous at every opportunity and only attempt to outdo others in hospitality and kindness (and maybe muscle-ups)!

Oh yeah, and…

“Keep It Paleo!”

Your Pal,

Paleo Nick

(Seen here with my new BCNFs [Best Culinary Ninjas Forever])

Rachel, Nick and Ryan posing for a photo in their backyard near the pool

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