Barbecue Chicken Pizza and a Day in the Fort Worth Stockyards

BBQ Chicken Pizza: Paleo Spirit

Pizza has not been in my life for the last three years. And for the most part I am fine with that. But every now and then I crave pizza, and without a more healthful alternative I am liable to fall off the wagon and go for something really detrimental to my health. So…when I made the paleo pizza crust recipe and it turned out perfect (IMHO) I knew Barbecue Chicken Pizza had to be on the agenda.

BBQ Chicken Pizza | Paleo Spirit

Have you ever had BBQ Chicken Pizza? If not, you really should try it…and soon (or at least after you are done with your “strictly paleo plan” or Whole30, if you are doing that right now). I first became acquainted with this dish while in college at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. The restaurant that served this pizza was a popular destination when you wanted to impress your date. I seem to recall being less impressed with my date than with the BBQ chicken pizza. Sorry.

Fort Worth Fun

Speaking of Texas, this past Christmas holiday our family made the journey from New Jersey back to my Texas home. It was the first time we have been there for Christmas in years. We took the opportunity to not only visit family but take a side trip to Fort Worth. My Maryland-born husband wanted the full “Cow Town” experience so we took in a few sights in the Stockyards area of the city.

Fort Worth photography by Lea Valle

We shopped for boots at M.L. Leddy’s (could not afford them!) and got in touch with our Texas heritage.

Photography by Lea Valle

We took in Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show featuring trick roping, trick riding, trick shooting, a bull whip act, Indian Ceremonial dance and cowboy songs – a full historical experience of the original show from the turn of the 20th century. We also marveled at the longhorn cattle.

Forth Worth photography by Lea ValleCowboys | photography by Lea Valle

In fact, we were so enchanted by the longhorn cattle, Nathaniel even had his photograph taken atop one of those hefty beasts. To the right, in the photo below, is my mother as a young girl with a longhorn in Galveston, TX.  I had no idea this was a Texas family tradition.

LR Nat and Nonna with longhorn

Billy Bob’s Texas

It was New Year’s Eve Day when we visited Fort Worth and it dawned on us we would be remiss if we did not check out nearby Billy Bob’s Texas. Billy Bob’s is the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk” and sits within walking distance to all the sites in the Stockyards. We mosied over there in the early evening – before the crowds arrived – to play some pool and just take in the sites and sounds.

Playin' Pool at Billy Bob's | photography by Lea Valle

Billy Bob's Pool Party | photography by Lea Valle

We finished the evening with gigantic steaks at the famous Cattlemen’s Steak House before welcoming the New Year from the comfort of our hotel room.

Our trip to Texas was wonderful mainly for the time with family and friends we have longed to see. Just being back in that friendly state warmed our hearts and made us wish we had more time to take it all in. For now we will have to be satisfied with small reminders.

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Easy Paleo Pizza Crust Recipe (Dairy-Free)

Paleo Pizza Crust: from @PaleoSpirit #paleo #dairyfree

There are several paleo pizza crust recipes out in the blogosphere these days. The recipe I am sharing today is the result of the desire for a nut-free, dairy-free, grain-free pizza crust that is easy to make and does not require a yeast dough. I’m a bit lazy like that. This recipe also does not use cauliflower or any vegetables. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Those versions of paleo pizza crust are great (tasty, low carb, great nutrition)- just more work than I am willing to put forth at times.

This paleo pizza crust recipe is based on my recipe for dinner rolls. The ingredients are the same but the proportions are slightly different. The result is a thin crust (between 12-14 inches) that will get about as crispy as you like it depending on how long you precook the crust.

Here’s how I make it. Continue reading

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Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars

Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars: Paleo Spirit

It started snowing early on Saturday morning, far earlier than expected. The flakes were the big, fluffy kind you see when the air temperature is not terribly frigid. We were inclined to stay inside and enjoy the view from our warm home. But, unfortunately, we were out of coffee and there was grocery shopping to be done. So, I grabbed my husband, Gavin, and we trekked to the store to stock up on supplies. In a state like New Jersey where snow is no stranger you would think people would know not to panic-buy. But judging by the bustling grocery store, that is not the case.

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

paleo cranberry bliss bars

After deftly battling the crowds, and stocking up on necessities, we ventured to Starbucks for a pound of their Christmas Blend coffee. I am no stranger to Starbucks and may have mentioned before my penchant for the Grande Americano with Heavy Whipping Cream. But each time I’ve been in the store in recent weeks the seasonally available Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bar has been sweetly calling my name. I resist. In fact, having celiac disease means there’s really no way I even seriously entertain the notion of eating one of these beauties. It’s sad, actually.

Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars: Paleo Spirit

But I got a bright idea! I would have Gavin eat one and describe, in detail, what he tasted so I could make a gluten-free, paleo-friendly version of the Cranberry Bliss Bars. And that is exactly what we did. He ate it a little too quickly if you ask me. And in fact I got a little snippy telling him to slow down, that the ONLY reason he was eating it was because he was on a mission – a mission of mercy to those of us longing for, yes, CRAVING, one of these things!

Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars: PaleoSpirit.com

At that point all I heard was, “cream cheese…lemon…ginger…*garble* some kind of chunky white stuff, oh, that’s probably white chocolate..boy, that was good!” And with that, the cranberry bliss bar was history. Gee, thanks for that in-depth analysis, honey.

Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars: PaleoSpirit.com

So let’s go for it. This recipe for Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars is gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and (mostly) free of refined sugars. The dried cranberries will almost certainly contain sugar. So if you are just absolutely opposed to it then this recipe is not for you. But compared to the original recipe, and most other treats you will be offered this holiday season, this recipe has far less sugar and still manages to be moist and delicious.

Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars: Copycat Starbucks Recipe Continue reading

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Paleo Tortillas

Paleo Tortillas | PaleoSpirit.com

You can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the girl. I grew up eating Mexican and Tex-Mex food. But after living in New Jersey for many years I have had to learn to live without some of my favorite foods. It’s just not the same around here no matter what some people say. I’m almost always disappointed when attempting to find decent Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. And of course having celiac disease and following the paleo diet does place limits on what I can enjoy anyway. In spite of that, I still consider myself a connoisseur of tortillas. So let’s get one thing straight when it comes to this paleo tortillas recipe. Those of us who are well-acquainted with the taste AND texture of flour and corn tortillas will be tough customers. There’s just no way grain-free tortillas will be exactly the same as “regular” tortillas. But with this recipe my goal was to create something that would not taste TOO eggy, not be too much like a crêpe and would be pliable – able to hold a filling without breaking.

double tortillas cropped

The recipe uses eggs but not nearly as many as some other recipes I have seen. There’s just enough yolk to help them hold together but not enough that it overpowers the flavor. The coconut flour gives it some body but not enough to impart a coconut flavor – something I would find unpleasant in a tortilla. The flax meal helps replace some of the eggs and is one reason the paleo tortillas are flexible. The tapioca flour is a terrific alternative to wheat flours. I have used it before in my Paleo Dinner Rolls recipe and really like the true “bread-like” texture it provides.

Once you get the technique down for making them, paleo tortillas are fairly quick and easy. We have eaten these right after cooking and we have also stored the tortillas in a big zip-lock in the fridge for later use. They stayed flexible after reheating and did not break when they were used to make chicken enchiladas.

Paleo Tortillas Recipe

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Paleo Blueberry Muffins

paleo blueberry muffins

This basic paleo blueberry muffins recipe comes at a perfect time. It’s blueberry season around here. Blueberries are showing up at our local farmers’ markets in huge quantities. People flock to the u-pick farms for the pleasure of plucking these little nutrition powerhouses from the bushes themselves. Blueberries are anti-inflammatory and filled with good things like manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber. They are relatively low in sugar which makes them an ideal fruit for lower carb diets. But blueberries are also beautiful and traditional and, well, they are blue! Not many other foods can claim this color.

blueberries with poem

We have a couple of blueberry bushes in our backyard so when their buds emerged earlier in the season (April 1st) I pulled out my macro lens to capture these images. There’s just something amazing about seeing God’s beauty up close. It becomes something totally different and often even more impressive.

Blueberry bud macro | PaleoSpirit.comBlueberry bud macro | PaleoSpirit.com

Beautiful, nutritious, and delicious – blueberries have a lot going for them. Eating them fresh is ideal. But if you find yourself with some extra blueberries lying around, or if you have been to one of those u-pick farms and have bushels, you may want to turn a few into paleo blueberry muffins.

paleo blueberry muffin recipe

The other reason this recipe comes at a perfect time is because we just figured out our oldest son, Benjamin, has outgrown his allergy to almonds. Benjamin’s allergy skin tests always showed a milder reaction to almonds than any other nuts. So I wondered if this day might come. It has been tough helping him transition to a paleo way of eating because of that allergy. He’s been primarily limited to coconut flour recipes with the exception of Paleo Dinner Rolls which used tapioca flour (those were a hit!) But it’s quite a relief to be able to feed him things with almond flour now and then without worry. In fact, our pediatric allergist encouraged us to feed the boys nuts they can tolerate so they do not develop an allergy. (Please consult a physician prior to attempting reintroduction of nuts into the diet if there is a known allergy history.)

Paleo BLueberry Muffin recipe

Paleo Blueberry Muffins Continue reading

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Paleo Dinner Rolls

paleo dinner rollsPaleo dinner rolls may very well save my relationship with my oldest son. Wait…let me explain. My son Ben is generally a very sweet, smart, funny and easy-going young man. But give him gluten and he turns into a different person. Ben normally takes his paleo lunch to school but yesterday was “Take Your Child To Work Day” and he ended up eating the pizza lunch given to the kids at the event. Last night he had another one of his meltdowns and it proved once again the direct and very dramatic correlation between his mood and his diet.

We follow our paleo way of eating fairly strictly. In spite of the paleo dessert recipes on this site we really do not indulge in them frequently. Our desire for sugary snacks is not that powerful at this point. But when you have a middle school boy who is gluten intolerant (and quite possibly celiac) there has to be a balance between following what may be considered strictly paleo and helping him feel like a normal kid. During his meltdown Ben expressed he is often embarrassed that he eats differently from his peers. He NEEDS to have treats now and then and yes, he wants to eat bread. I want to train him to eat whole foods and take care of his body. But I refuse to allow food to become something that divides us and makes life more difficult. Middle school is hard enough!

In order to keep Ben on board with the program – to keep him from rebelling completely – I tried to come up with a recipe for a type of paleo bread he might enjoy. I have another recipe for banana cardamom bread but it uses almond flour and Ben is allergic to nuts. So this paleo bread recipe had to be nut free as well as grain and gluten free. The solution is a recipe that uses tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch) as well as coconut flour and a few other, simple ingredients. Continue reading

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Paleo Banana Pancakes and a Day in the Snow

The snow started early on Friday and did not relent until the following morning. Upon waking, we were met with the sun peeking into our bedroom windows giving the promise of a beautiful day. The promise was fulfilled with sun, warmer weather and just enough snow to make sledding, snow ice cream and snowmen possibilities.

But first, before venturing out, we shared a special breakfast together.

paleo pancakes in the window

We fortified ourselves with paleo banana pancakes made with almond and coconut flours, mashed banana and eggs. They were the perfect accompaniment to our wonder at the beauty of God’s creation in the snow.

Nat with Paleo PancakesWindchimesSnowy Branches

After devouring pancakes and bacon, and feasting our eyes on the snowy morning outside our windows, we decided to head to a nearby estate-turned-park known as Natirar. The crystal blue sky, the sparkling white snow and the giant sycamore trees greeted us.

Natirar in the snow

Natirar Waterfall

We thought it would be fun to make use of the pristine snow and venture sledding on the rolling hills.

It turned out a few others had the same idea.

Sledders at Natirar

Cross-Country Skiers

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Girls SleddingBlack and White Sledder

Snowball

by Shel Silverstein

I made myself a snow ball as perfect as could be.
I thought I’d keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas and a pillow for it’s head.
Then, last night it ran away.
But first — it wet the bed.

Nat and sledLea scarf

It was a fine day in the sunshine and snow filled with the beauty of nature and the joy of life exemplified by frolicking children and adults.

Continue reading

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Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits

Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits

Several weeks ago my husband came home from work and happened upon a loaf of bread I had made. It was my attempt at a paleo bread recipe. Later, he told me how happy he was to see bread – something we ordinarily do not have in the house. He saw the bread, got excited and immediately reached for a slice. As G tells it, he was bringing the slice to his mouth when he remembered, “Wait a minute. Lea doesn’t eat bread. This must be Paleeeeeoooo breaaaaaad…” It was too late. He had already taken a bite and his trepidation was validated.

Not good.

We have been joking about this ever since. Not to say it does not exist, but we have yet to find a good recipe for paleo sandwich bread. And, honestly, while G may disagree, I’m not that bothered. After eating grass fed beef and vegetables and healthful fats for months the allure of bread is not quite what it once was.

Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits

The recipes in the paleo bread category I do appreciate are things like scones, banana bread, muffins, biscuits and the like. These recipes always seem to turn out much better when using dense flours like almond and coconut. The following recipe for paleo biscuits is the result of severals trials and errors. My son has a nut allergy and cannot eat almond flour so we often default to coconut flour. My husband is not a big fan of the coconut flavor. In order to keep these coconut flour biscuits from having too much of a coconut flavor I opted for vegetable shortening instead of coconut oil.

Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits Continue reading

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Paleo Banana Cardamom Bread

Well, today a new chapter in my life begins. I’m starting a new job after being home full-time with my boys for almost two and a half years.

It’s a big day for me and I’m excited and a little nervous. Being home has been wonderful and I have enjoyed every second of the time with my children. Having the time to be able to focus on healing my body and soul has been priceless. With help from God, a few good friends and loved-ones, I have come a long way. Working on this website has been a creative outlet for me and I have enjoyed all the comments and emails I have received over the months. But, with new found health and vitality, the time has come to take on a new challenge. While I will definitely be busier than ever I fully intend to keep posting here.

In fact, I am quite sure I will need to come up with strategies for managing our paleo diet while working a very intense schedule. When I was preparing for my busy week ahead I decided to make some paleo banana bread to store away for breakfasts for at least a couple of days. We usually eat meatier fare in the mornings and I have had the luxury of time to devote to kitchen clean-up. Now, not so much!

Paleo Banana Cardamom Bread

The addition of cardamom came about mainly because I wanted to make something a bit different from the standard banana bread flavor. But the motivation to use this particular spice was the result of my own disorganization when it comes to grocery shopping. I was recently making a recipe that called for cardamom as one of about a zillion ingredients. When I was in the grocery store I could not for the life of me remember whether or not I had ground cardamom. So, of course, I bought a big jar of it. Come to find out, I already had two other jars! So I tried desperately to figure out what flavors go with cardamom. This spice has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. In addition to being used in Indian cooking, cardamom is used in baking in many Nordic countries. Once I heard this news it occurred to me that it might compliment the flavor of banana – and I was right. Whew! That’s a relief. Something to do with the cardamom now.

paleo banana bread

When using almond flour I almost always add some coconut flour. Almond flour seems too wet and the addition of coconut dries it out a bit. The combination of the two seems to hit the “sweet spot” in grain-free baking. I had to make this a few times to come up with the right ratio as well as the best sized pan and oven temperature. The recipe for paleo banana cardamom bread you will find below is moist and aromatic – perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon.

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Paleo Shortbread Tea Bag Cookies

Have you ever seen the movie Amadeus? It’s my favorite movie of all time. The following is a scene where the composer Antonio Salieri, looking at the impeccable first drafts of Mozart’s compositions, marvels at the perfection of the work. He recognizes the hand of God.

“He had simply written down music already finished in his head. Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation.”

I have to agree with Salieri that God was clearly involved in Mozart’s musical genius and used him to grant us amazing beauty in the form of his compositions. I could write a thesis on how God has provided mankind with many blessings of beauty and how those things point us back to Him. But this is a recipe post and right about now you are probably wondering what in the world this has to do with Paleo shortbread cookies! Well…..you see, I can relate to poor old Salieri. At one point in the movie he laments how, in his view, God has not granted him genius but has, instead, cursed him with the ability to recognize genius when he encounters it. This frustrates Salieri and causes him to hatch a plot against Mozart.

While I am not hatching any plots against others who happen to be more artistically talented, I do find myself at times feeling a bit envious of their abilities. When I see works of great artists, or hear amazing music or read brilliant poetry I long for a similar talent. This is also true when it comes to crafts. I can appreciate the crafts of others but have never been blessed with the crafting gene. HOWEVER, today I feel as though I have finally overcome my deficit in a small way with the following paleo shortbread tea bag cookies!

This recipe falls into the category of dessert/treat AND craft. (Look out, Martha Stewart!) It would work really well at a tea or a wedding or baby shower. The paleo tea bag cookies could even be used as party favors. They are grain free, gluten free, nut free and sweetened only with maple syrup and a small amount of sugar in the dark chocolate coating.

Gluten Free Shortbread Tea Bag Cookies

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