Visalia resident Kindra Pigott Franzen's journey to becoming a food blogger, recipe creator and home cook extraordinaire didn't exactly start out with a bang.
She flunked home economics in junior high school and didn't have much interest in cooking after that. It wasn't until she was about 18, when her cousin gave her a cookbook, that she began to see food differently. In many ways, she had little choice.
Living with her father, whose kitchen abilities were limited, Franzen became the cook of the family.
"It was either sink or swim," she says. "But what I discovered is that I had a really good sense of what was in food."
That keen ability would serve her well over the years as she held several cooking-related jobs that refined her cooking skills. Today, Franzen, a stay-at-home mom, is author of several food blogs, including California Cavegirl Kindra and Write from the Farm.
The blogs were started several months ago and average about 150 hits a day. She has readers in more than 65 countries.
"Australia, New Zealand and Canada really like me," she says.
What Franzen advocates is a simple paleo-style of cooking that is rich in local organic produce, grass-fed meat, fish and eggs. She shuns wheat, refined sugar and processed oils.
"When we really got serious about eating different, we gutted our pantry and fridge," she says. "Gone was the refined sugar and we replaced it with the organic coconut sugar."
Franzen admits it wasn't easy to make the switch at home and still satisfy a bread-loving husband and two boys, ages 7 and 11. But after a year and a half of changing their eating habits, everyone has settled into their new lifestyle.
Franzen also has seen the benefits. She lost 40 pounds and lowered her blood pressure and cholesterol.
"I couldn't go back to the way I was eating before," Franzen said. "No way."
Still, Franzen says she is flexible about how the family eats, especially when they go out. At Red Robin, she had a burger without the bun and chose sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.
On her blogs, Franzen has become known for her creativity in her recipes. One of her recent favorite dishes is her albondigas soup — a Mexican meatball dish made in a broth.
Instead of rice or flour to bind the meatballs, she used pork rinds to hold together the ground beef and chorizo. The dish is rich in flavor, color and makes a hearty meal.
She has made gluten-free doughnuts and one of her more popular blogs was her recipe for something called "Bullet Proof Coffee." The concoction blends coconut oil, or ghee, a clarified butter popular in Indian cuisine, into your coffee.
"It really gets your brain going," Franzen says.
What she hopes people learn from her blogs is how to be resourceful, creative and mindful about waste.
Franzen rarely throws away a Mason jar or any other glass jar she gets. She uses them to store sauces, soups, juices and salsa in the freezer.
To save on their grocery bill, the Franzens also added a garden where they raise vegetables nearly all year long. She also is thinking about adding chickens.
"Our friends and families thought we were a little crazy when we started doing this and blogging about it," Franzen says. "But now people who have tasted my food want to pay me to cook for them."
Gingerbread-pumpkin spice cake pops
5 large eggs
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup pumpkin puree (I use organic canned if I am not using fresh pumpkin. If you use fresh, make sure to get all of the excess liquid out of it)
¼ cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup blanched almond flour
½ cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon gingerbread spice mix*
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (optional, I do not use it)
*Gingerbread spice mix
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons allspice
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cloves
Pinch of black pepper
Dark chocolate glaze
One-quarter cup dark chocolate, chopped and melted (I use a high cacao content dark chocolate baking bar, unsweetened. Dairy-free)
1½ teaspoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon raw honey
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and oil the insides of your cake pop pan really well. I use a coconut oil spray. Place the eggs, coconut milk, pumpkin, maple, coconut oil and vanilla in a food processor and blend until frothy, about 15 seconds. Add the dry ingredients, then blend on low for 10 seconds and on high for about 20 seconds. Pour the batter into the pan, filling each cavity full enough to be rounded on the top and bake for 25 minutes. Let them cool for 5 minutes before removing the cake pops from the pan and cool on a cooling rack.
Repeat with your leftover batter.
To frost: melt chocolate, oil, and honey on low in a pan (I use cast iron). Whisk all of the ingredients in a shallow bowl until smooth. Dip the top of each cake pop in the chocolate then gently rotate the cake pop to let the excess glaze drip off. Turn right-side up and place back on the cooling rack. Let set for 5 minutes, then refrigerate for 15 minutes until the glaze has hardened.
1-1.25 pound chub of organic grass-fed beef
2 links (about 1/2 pound) grass-fed beef chorizo sausage (you can use any sausage you want), casings removed.
2 organic eggs
1/2 cup pork rinds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes ( I run them through a food processor with my pork rinds)
1 cup cilantro (chopped)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/2 white onion (pureed)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
4 green onions
2 tablespoons ghee (you can use oil or butter)
1.5 cups veggie mix*
16 ounces tomato sauce (organic, sodium- and sugar-free)
1/2 quart veggie stock (I prefer Anne's)
11/2 quarts water
Juice of one lime
1/2 white onion
1/2 purple onion
1/2 cup cilantro
small eggplant (any variety)
1/2 cup broccoli slaw (I buy it pre-bagged)
1/2 cup carrot shreds (I buy it pre-bagged)
4 bulbs garlic
In a skillet, melt the ghee, sauté the shallot, garlic, onion and chives. In a large bowl, add eggs, ground beef, ground sausage (taken out of casings), cilantro, sauteed veggies, cilantro, spices and finely processed coconut and pork rinds, mix together with your hands thoroughly. Form into meatballs. Makes about 18 1-inch meatballs. Set aside while you make the broth.
Make the veggie mix by combining ingredients in a food processor and blend.
Heat water and veggie stock to boil, add veggie mix and boil for 10 minutes, add meatballs, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Garnish with diced avocado, onion and cilantro.
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