Paleo with a Purpose

Food & Drink / Stories / January 18, 2014

Denise Coots Shares her Journey to the Diet that Changed her Life

Photos by Keith Borgmeyer

On a recent Wednesday night, HER stopped in while Coots was making dinner for her family.  As it was her day off, she made several different recipes that the family will eat from for a week or more. Her pumpkin pancakes are already in the freezer and her chicken breasts wrapped with bacon are cooling.  In the slow cooker are her Italian Meatballs to go with her homemade tomato sauce that she makes and then freezes in separate plastic bags.

She shares several more recipes here, which her entire family loves.


Jamie Oliver Tomato Sauce Recipe

A portion of this sauce contains 2 to 3 servings of vegetables, so it’s a great way to get goodness into your kids.


2 small onions

1 small leek

 2 stalks of celery

2 red bell peppers

2 zucchini

2 carrots

A large pinch of dried oregano

2 bay leaves

4 14.5 oz. cans of plum tomatoes with juice

2 cups water


Prep your veggies, peel onions, trim leek (thoroughly washed of sand) and celery, halve and deseed 2 peppers, then roughly chop everything. Use the coarse side of a box grater to grate 2 zucchinis and 2 carrots.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, followed by all your chopped and grated veggies. Add a large pinch of dried oregano and 2 bay leaves, then cook slowly, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes with the lid on, or until the vegetables are soft but not starting to brown.

Meanwhile peel 1 small butternut squash, then carefully cut it in half, scoop out and discard the seeds and coarsely grate the flesh. Add it to the pan of vegetables. Add the cans of plum tomatoes with juice, 2 cups water, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Take the pan off the heat, spoon out the bay leaves and let the sauce cool slightly before blitzing with a stick blender until smooth (or use a blender or food processor in batches, but make sure the lid is secure).

Makes 13 cups.

Note:  Divide the leftovers between large freezer bags. Press as much air out of the bags as possible before sealing them; lay flat in the freezer.



Cindy’s Paleo Italian Meatballs

1 lb. ground veal

1 lb. ground pork

¾ lb. ground beef*

(Coots uses 3 lbs. of ground beef)

½ cup almond flour

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ tsp. dried basil

1 ½ tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

3 large eggs, beaten

6 cups of your favorite Italian sauce* (Coots uses her own sauce)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil.

Place the ground meats, almond meal, garlic, seasonings, salt, pepper and eggs in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs (about golf ball size).

Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and put in the over for 20 minutes.*

(Coots put her meatballs in the slow cooker for four hours on high). She serves the sauce and meatballs over spaghetti squash.


Sweet Potato Casserole

“I have made numerous

times without the topping. The bomb! We love it.”


4 large sweet potatoes

½ cup canned coconut milk

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

juice of half an orange

Pecan Topping (optional)

¾ cup chopped raw pecans

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. melted coconut oil


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and preheat over to 350 degrees. While water comes to a boil, peel and dice sweet potatoes into large chunks.

Add sweet potato chunks to water. Boil until fork tender – about 10 minutes.

Drain potatoes, then dump them back in the large pot with all the other ingredients. Using a hand mixer, blend until potatoes reach desired consistency and flavor (you may like to add a little more coconut milk, spices or syrup based on your taste). 

In a small bowl, combined all topping ingredients until pecans are well coated.

Dump sweet potatoes into an oven safe dish and top with pecans.

Bake in preheated oven until topping is browned – about 15 minutes. Serve Warm

Servings 12 plus


Food for Thought – Recommended Reading and Resources

Rob Wolff, author of “The Paleo Solution,”

Mark Sisson, author of “The Primal Connection,” “The Primal Blueprint” and “Primal Cravings.” He also writes a food blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, which includes many inventive recipes and advice. He believes whole grains are

Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC, author of the bestselling “Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole Foods Lifestyle” and owner and founder of Balanced Bites,

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s “It

Starts with Food” is a good source of and they also write a


The Truth About Gluten and Going Gluten Free

While we all hear a lot more about non-gluten products, separating the facts from the fad or fiction can be challenging. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Approximately 18 million Americans live with an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten while others have been diagnosed with full blown celiac disease, a condition where the body attacks its own tissue and can result in weight loss and malnutrition.

“People with celiac disease don’t absorb nutrients, have constipation and diarrhea and fatigue and memory issues,” said Lindsey Koelling, a registered and licensed Dietitian at Hy-Vee.

Those symptoms, along with stomach upset, bloating and abdominal pain, though, could translate to other conditions, too, and in the past Koelling said would have been common for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS. In the past, doctors dismissed celiac disease but that’s no longer the case.

The only way to know if you have celiac disease is to see a doctor and have a blood test, often followed by an intestinal biopsy.  Those that are diagnosed with celiac disease can find many gluten-free, GF, products available including breads, pastas, cookies and cakes. Hy-Vee has a growing line of these foods in the health section.

“People may not realize that gluten can be found in some seasoning packets for chili or taco seasonings or that it’s added as a filler in some deli meats,” said Koelling. 

Even those that aren’t diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity are adding more GF products to their diet because they believe it is a more healthful approach to eating or a way to lose weight. According to the experts, though, that is actually somewhat uninformed as GF products can actually have more calories than their regular counterparts and foods with gluten are often more nutritious.

(Other Sources January 2014 issue of Good Housekeeping)


Chef Riley Epperson of Jefferson City Hy-Vee prepares Paleo meals using groceries found within the aisles of the store.


Paleo recipes prepared by Chef Riley Epperson.

Alvin Leifeste

Previous Post

So you want to be... A Dentist?

Next Post

Workout in STYLE

1 Comment

on January 24, 2014

Thank you for the article Paleo with a purpose. The story was personal to me. I have PCOS and in Aug of 2012 Dr. Gil Wilshire put me on the Diet and my life changed. I had the most energy ever and I started having my monthly cycles. The last couple of months I was struggling with the diet and the article was up lifting to get back of track. It was also nice to know there is a woman like me here locally. I know the struggles with having PCOS. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Story

So you want to be... A Dentist?

Mollie Lindquist, DDS, returned to her hometown of Jefferson City a few years ago to join Diamond Ridge Dentistry....

January 15, 2014