In an earlier time, Michele Rosen would have been called an alchemist. She takes arrowroot flour, coconut milk, broth and Dijon and creates a sauce that could be mistaken for cream, and combines tapioca and blanched almond flour, powdered monk fruit sweetener and other ingredients to make a poppy lemon seed bread.
But today, Rosen is known as a developer of paleo diet recipes, which she shares with visitors to her Paleo Running Momma blog and Instagram account. Her cookbook, Paleo Baking at Home: The Ultimate Resource for Delicious Grain-Free Cookies, Bars, Breads and More (Page Street Publishing, 2020), contains directions for making 60 cakes, cookies, breads and other baked goods. Whether savory or sweet, all her dishes are faithful to the paleo diet, and contain a combination of fruits, vegetables, nuts and meat, but no dairy products, grains, sugars, or additives.
Analytics for Paleorunningmomma.com show that one-skillet and 30-minute meals are popular, but there’s another real-world way Rosen can gauge her recipes’ success: Seeing them consumed by people who aren’t on the paleo diet. “If I’m going to a party or a gathering, I want to bring a paleo dessert and be confident I can eat it and everyone else will like it,” she says. “It doesn’t have to taste like cardboard.”
We asked Rosen, a Tenafly resident, about how her business evolved, and she’s attracted more than 450 thousand followers to @paleorunningmomma.
What prompted you to start your blog, and why did you call it Paleo Running Momma?
I was always someone who worked out a lot. I started running in college and got into marathons. I had run in one in October 2013 and gotten horrible tendonitis in my ankles, with a knee thing going on. In 2014, I qualified for the Boston Marathon and was looking for ways to reduce the inflammation in my body. I started learning about eating gluten-free, which can help with that, and found the paleo diet online. I’d always loved cooking, so I merged the two interests. When I was learning how to cook paleo, I wanted the blog to be about more than just a cave man diet; I wanted to make it more family-friendly. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, with kids ages 3, 5, and 7, and it started as a hobby.
When did your posting turn into a profession?
I was connecting with other bloggers, and they were monetizing their efforts. I thought I’d try that. I went on websites that had the most traffic and were worth the most money, and saw that food blogs were doing well. I thought, “Okay, this will be a food blog.” So I leaned off the family and running content and focused on recipes. I also learned how to do basic photography and graphics. I started seeing increased traffic, which was motivating, and started putting up five recipes a week and promoting them on social media platforms like pinterest.
Is it hard to find the ingredients for your recipes?
When I started, I had to get everything on Amazon.com. Now it’s much easier. Whole Foods has sugar-free bacon and grain-free flours, and most supermarkets carry Bob’s Red Mill almond flour, including Aldi. I still get maple sugar on Amazon.
Bergen is a great place to be because it’s convenient to go to any grocery store and cook healthy. There are so many resources, and you find a lot of likeminded people.
How do you develop your recipes, and do you have a few favorites?
In the beginning, there were a lot of dishes I liked to cook that I tried to put a paleo spin on, but I decided that was a bad idea. Things with stuffing… Stuffed chicken breasts are fine, but without cheese it’s not the greatest thing. Certain food combinations aren’t good, too. I have stuffed acorn and butternut squash recipes I try to do a new spin on each fall. And one-skillet creamy sauce and chicken is always a hit.
There was more of a learning curve with baking. I had to learn how to replicate traditional baked goods with almond and coconut flour, and dairy- and grain-free ingredients.
Your book was published at the beginning of COVID. What was that like?
The book came out March 10, 2020, and the timing may actually have worked in my favor, because while promoting it online, I could tell people to get the ingredients and bake from my book. People were stuck in their houses, and cooking was something they could do.
You also work with food brands. Do you find them or do they find you?
Typically, brand managers contact me. At first, the partnerships were through blogposts, and companies would sponsor recipes I’d promote on my social channels. For the last few years, brands want to partner on Instagram. I’ve worked with a lot of them, some more ongoing than others. These include Reynolds Wrap, Ancient Nutrition and Athletic Greens (supplements), Whole Foods, Aldi and Stop & Shop. Abbotts Farm is the only plant-based meat-maker I know that’s both vegan and paleo. I also like to partner with companies that make clean versions of foods without additives and sugar, such as Jones Dairy Farm.
Has being on the paleo diet improved your health?
I’m not extremely strict with it; I tell people it can be a baseline for how you create your meals. The inflammation piece brought me to the paleo diet, but I stay because my digestion is a lot better. I’m less bloated, and have more energy in general from not eating a lot of carbs. I also replaced running with yoga, and it became my go-to thing to go to Fire Shaper in Tenafly. I think I’m there five days a week!
Are there any restaurants in Bergen you recommend for their paleo cooking?
I believe you can modify your order to make it mostly paleo at most restaurants. A couple that I enjoy are Sofia in Englewood and True Food Kitchen in Hackensack.
What’s up next for you?
I would love to create a book with meals rather than baking recipes, especially the one-skillet 30-minute meals that everyone loves. Along the lines of baking, there are no plans yet, but I would love to create an all-purpose paleo baking flour using a mix of the flours I use the most in my baking.
Has your family followed your lead, eating-wise?
They don’t have health issues, and I don’t restrict their diets. They eat what I cook and enjoy it.