Paleo Cashew Chicken Cabbage Cups

There's a small Asian grocer not far from where I work. It's a landmark for me--it's been in that same spot for as long as I can remember. Even before I cared enough to read the street signs, I knew where I was when I saw the Asian market. It family owned shop, with over-stuffed aisles and at least ten different types of coconut milk, more than seven colors of curry paste, and a case of vegetables that can't be found anywhere else in town. (Edit: when my Dad read this post, he reminded me that there's a whole wall of different types of rice noodles, and buckets of live crabs). When I was young, the shop owners ran a restaurant next door. It was cheap, saucy, full of umami, and felt like the real-deal. I didn't recognize half of the things on the menu (that added to the effect) and ordered the same thing every week for the first decade of my life: Cashew Chicken. 

Then one day, when I was still in elementary school, I asked for my usual, and the shop owner refused to take my order. He threw down his pen. "Look kid," he said in a thick accent, "you order the same thing every time! This time, you must try something different". My dad looked at me, and nodded in agreement. I was instantly stressed. How could I choose anything other than Cashew Chicken?! I looked at the rest of the menu for the first time in my life. That was the day a new era began. (That new era was the era of the Spring Roll, and for the next decade of my life, I only ordered Spring Rolls from that little restaurant). (They were really good Spring Rolls). (And that was really good Cashew Chicken). 

In recent years, the little shop and restaurant have changed hands. I don't visit it regularly anymore, unless I need something special, and that familiar man who made my Cashew Chicken from scratch for years is just a memory now. This recipe brings that memory to life in full swing: the vegetables are crisp and lightly blanched, the cashews are toasted and crunchy, and it's all smothered in a nutty savory sauce. Instead of serving this over rice, I serve it in cabbage cups, making it a grain-free meal. In place of store-bought hoisin sauce, I make my own paleo version. This recipe only uses 1 skillet, and goes from chopping board to fork in no more than 30 minutes. 

Paleo Cashew Chicken Cabbage Cups

Paleo, Primal, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free    |       |    Print Friendly and PDF

Serves: 5-7   |    Total Time:


  • 1 pound chicken breast, cubed (Tip: ask your butcher to do this for you!)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, strained
  • 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, strained
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce OR Worcestershire Sauce
  • Paleo Hoisin Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce OR coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seed butter
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar OR rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • To serve:
  • 1/3 cup whole unsalted cashews
  • 1 small head savory cabbage


  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger.
  2. When the ginger is fragrant and starting to brown, add the chicken. Allow the chicken to brown on each side, stirring only occasionally. While the chicken cooks, stir together the the ingredients for the hoisin sauce.
  3. Sprinkle the arrowroot powder into the skillet and stir so that is coats the chicken. Add the vegetables, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts to the skillet, along with the fish sauce/Worcestershire Sauce and Paleo Hoisin Sauce, and cover. Stir well, so sauce is well distributed. Cook for 3-5 minutes, just until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Sprinkle in the cashews, and red chili flakes. Carefully peal individual leaves from the head of cabbage. Wash and pat dry. Arrange the cabbage cups on serving plates and fill with a scoop of cashew chicken. Serve with a drizzle of Sriracha and chopsticks.


Simple Roasted Salmon with Garlic & Dill

I am always in a rush. Having things on my “to do” list can drive me crazy, so instead I just power my way through them, hoping to leave more checkmarks than spelling errors in my wake. I once had a Nicaraguan co-worker tell me that I need to spend a long time in a room all by myself, with nothing to do. He said I would learn something about myself that I didn’t know before. I remember thinking (and this is still what I think), That would be absolutely miserable.

I have yet to test this theory out (really, I don’t know that I will ever test it out), but I can see where he was going. Take a deep breath. Stop moving. Slow down. Notice the little things. In a way my whirlwind helps me. I can crank out my school papers when I need to, and having always been a focused person, I don’t get distracted. I just buckle down and go. Always being in go-mode, however, leaves little room for reflection. Sometimes, something will happen, like I will run into someone head on in the grocery store, and I will think Woah. Didn’t see that coming! Gotta slow down. I’ll take a few breaths, and try to wind down. It lasts an hour, max. 

Writing is not something you can't rush. When words are pumping through your mind you need to type as fast as you can, but when you’ve already written everything that you can think of and need something else, it becomes very slow. You must sit there. And think. With nothing to do. A few bloggers are pros at this, somehow swirling their personal insights into their recipes and whisking in a dash of something extra. The result is a beefy blog post that leaves you satisfied, the way a good meal does. It takes time to create a post like that. I’m not talking an hour and a good dose of creativity, I’m talking days. It takes far longer to write a blog post like that then it does to caramelize onions or roast this salmon so that is has perfect crispy skin. Maybe, instead of sitting in a room all by myself for a month, I can just practice the art of patient writing. 

Taking photos is also a slow moving process. I mean, you want to eat, desperately, but you have to get the light right, find the right angle, mess with your props. I rarely exhibit that sort of patience. Last week, in a rush to eat, I broke my lightbulb and later, still in a rush, replaced it with a sort of yellow-toned bulb I found at the store. I didn’t realize that it was yellow until I arrived home, when I was ready to plug it in and go. It turned on, and I instantly shuttered: Yellow toned bulbs and food aren’t friends. Being a total amateur, I need all the help I can get with my photos, and that yellow bulb? Not helping. Thank goodness for amazon--mail ordering is great when your in a rush. 

These are the things that are ongoing and difficult for me to overcome. They will always take time, as even the most polished writers and professional photographers will do several iterations of the same piece before being satisfied. (This is my second time writing this--progress is being made!) What is easier for me, is making other changes around here: checking things off of the list and getting it done: I revamped my recipe index so that it’s easy to find things (and hey, it actually contains everything!), and updated the About section of this site. I hope their new state is more useful to you! I would love to hear your ideas on how to make this even better. I’ll probably get to them since, well, I would hate to have anything sitting on my to do list for too long!

Like many good things, this recipe is best when you take your time, though it's very straight forward. Allow the pan to get nice and hot before you place the salmon in it. Patience will yield a flaky filet with crispy skin. And when you’re ready to eat, take a moment to let go of your to do list.

This recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart's Roasted Salmon with Butter

Simple Salmon with Garlic & Dill

Published February 6, 2015 by
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Serves: 4   |    Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound salmon fillet, with skin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Slice the butter into several pats and place them in a oven-safe skillet or roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven.
  2. While the butter heats, slice the garlic into thin "chips". Use a knife to cute horizontal slats into the salmon an inch apart. Stuff the garlic chips into the slats.
  3. After 5 minutes, the butter should be melted and hot. Remove the pan from the oven and place the salmon in the butter, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, ad dill. Return to oven. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick your filet is: for a thin filet bake for 8-10 minutes, for a medium filet bake for 10-13 minutes, and for a thick filet bake for 13-15 minutes. Test the salmon with a fork. The flesh should be flakey and opaque.