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 Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe and How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin

It’s the time of year of all things pumpkin! I am jumping on the bandwagon big time with instructions on roasting a whole pumpkin and a recipe for a paleo pumpkin spice latte.

Our CSA has recently been offering THE most gorgeous pumpkins. Our farmer,Sara, explained that “Cheese” Pumpkins (presumably because they look like a big wheel of cheese?) are especially great for baking. The last few visits to farm have yielded a few of these pumpkins – now what to do with them?

How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin

Having never cooked a pumpkin before, I took to Facebook to ask the folks if they roast their pumpkins whole or cut them up. Almost everyone advised me to cut it up first so it would cook faster and “more evenly”. But I was feeling very lazy and I don’t know about you but I HATE trying to cut pumpkins or butternut squash. I always feel like I am going to stab myself or cut off a finger. So I decided to gamble and just cook the thing whole. It was a risk because no matter where I searched online the only whole-pumpkin-cooking references I found were for much smaller sugar pumpkins. But my process ended up working out beautifully and I wanted to share it in case anyone else has a larger pumpkin they want to cook.

How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F  
  2. Wash the pumpkin thoroughly
  3. Place the pumpkin in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate its sizePaleo Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe
  4. Rub some oil into the skin of the pumpkin – this will help keep it from burning
  5. Pour two to three cups of water into the bottom of the pan
  6. Place the pan with the pumpkin into the oven and roast for 90 minutes – keep your eyes on it towards the end to ensure there is not a lot of scorching happening
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool off (it will continue cooking) for at least 30 minutes but longer if necessary to ensure it is cool enough to handle

*My pumpkin weighed approximately 10 pounds and was about 14-16 inches wide. So you may need to adjust the time depending on the size of your pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

  1. Once the roasted whole pumpkin is adequately cooled, cut it in half and remove the seeds and fibers (save the seeds for roasted pumpkin seeds and throw out the rest).
  2. Cut off the skin and use a food processor (or high speed blender) to puree the pumpkin until smooth. You will have to do this in several batches.
  3. Put the pumpkin puree into containers and refrigerate or freeze for future use

I roasted my whole cheese pumpkin on a Saturday when I was just hanging around the house anyway. So taking the extra time to cook was not an issue and it was nice not to have to battle with cutting it up prior to cooking. The pumpkin yielded approximately 10 cups of pumpkin puree! -two of these large mason jars and then about half of another one.

paleo pumpkin spice latte

The puree was nicely sweet and very smooth and I could not get over the color. Look at the orange. The screen does not do it justice.

paleo pumpkin spice latte

Once I had enough pumpkin puree to feed a small army, I was on the lookout for great paleo pumpkin recipes. Coincidentally, I came across several after downloading the Harvest Your Health Bundle Sale a few days ago. One of the first recipes that caught my attention was one for paleo pumpkin spice lattes.

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Lattes are a favorite this time of year and Starbucks seems to have cornered the market. I admit to being a fan of Starbucks and my usual drink there is a Grande Americano with Heavy Cream (no sugar). When the fall season arrives, indulging in a Pumpkin Spice Latte a time or two is on the agenda. But, honestly, the way pumpkin spice lattes are served at Starbucks is just WAY too sweet for me. Typically, I ordered the latte with only one pump of syrup which always makes me question the wisdom of paying a premium for something and then eliminating the premium ingredients! Sigh. So I REALLY just need to make these at home and making them dairy-free would be ideal.

I found a recipe in the bundle from the book “A Paleo Pumpkin Thanksgiving”. by George Bryant. This recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Spice Lattes is easy to make, dairy-free, has a more prominent pumpkin flavor (it uses puree!) and you can adjust the sweetness to your own taste. (recipe used with permission from George, photo is my own) Continue reading

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Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Frittata with Basil

paleo breakfast recipe

Summer brings many wonderful things. One of summer’s best offerings is the heirloom tomatoes that grace our gardens and farmer’s markets. Today’s recipe for Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Frittata with Basil is the perfect way to showcase not only the full-bodied flavor of heirlooms but their beauty as well.

paleo breakfast recipe

In the garden this year I planted several different types of basil; sweet basil, globe basil and purple basil. This beautiful bounty has languished in my garden far too long. So for this frittata it just made sense to combine the flavors of the tomatoes with basil. The colors of the purple basil and the petite leaves of globe basil are the most unusual and striking and perfect when paired with the heirloom tomatoes.

Purple basil

Our family feasted on this heirloom tomato frittata prior to taking a trip to a nearby arboretum to enjoy the trees, flowers, meadows and a babbling brook. Summer is the time of year when my adopted state of New Jersey shows it is truly worthy of its nickname The Garden State. But summer moves along a little too quickly for my taste. Taking photos is a way of capturing the fleeting days of beauty and fun that passes by all too fast.

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Double Green with statue

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pink flowers 2-5

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Paleo Banana Mocha Shake

Paleo Banana Mocha Shake

Before being diagnosed with celiac disease* I was in a “no man’s land”. Maybe you’ve been there too. It’s the place you end up when you don’t know what is making you sick and no one – including doctors – knows how to help you. It’s not a fun place to be. Back then, even though it was not clear what was making me sick, I must have subconsciously known it had to do with food. I simply felt better when I didn’t eat! Clearly we have to eat to live so this was not sustainable. Regardless, I got into the habit of skipping breakfast or only having coffee or a latte. To be more precise, the Triple Venti Latte (usually with an extra shot) at Starbucks was often my breakfast of choice.

Fortunately, I found a better option than skipping meals in order to feel good. As long as I don’t eat grains and gluten I generally feel pretty well. These days breakfast usually consists of eggs over-medium fried in ghee with fresh tomatoes and avocado or maybe bacon and berries. There’s typically some type of protein, veggies and/or fruit and a fat. But lately I’ve been making these paleo banana mocha shakes (or smoothies) for a change of pace. The shake goes great with a couple of eggs in the morning in place of my usual coffee. But I also like to have one in the later afternoon and use some of the leftover French-pressed coffee still in a thermos from the morning. The frozen banana gives this dairy-free chocolate shake body and sweetness and it combines well with the flavors of chocolate and coffee. It’s a great way to use up those bananas you froze when they got a couple of dark spots and no one would eat them. (At least that’s what happens in our house…) Continue reading

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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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How to Bake Bacon in the Oven

What do bacon and flowers have in common? Well, nothing, really. But before I show how to bake bacon in the oven I just have to share what is blooming in my garden this week. Last week was lilacs and now we have some purple iris. We have lived in our house for thirteen years and I have divided and moved the iris several times over the years. Now we have dozens and dozens of these purple and blue flowers all over.

Iris are exquisite.

Iris

iris closeup

We also have some False Blue Indigo behind the garage overlooking the vegetable garden.

False Blue Indigo

And the Columbine have emerged and bloom proudly in the shady part of the back yard.

Columbine

Along with our flowers are three raised beds where we planted a square foot garden. The strawberries are in their own free form part of one bed. I spied some fruit forming under the bright green leaves. So exciting!

strawberries

Strawberries in hands

Total non-sequitur alert!

How To Bake Bacon In the Oven

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Paleo Quiche with Spaghetti Squash Crust

Weekends around here are super busy now that Lacrosse season is upon us. Tennis is the sport I always envisioned my boys playing. They’ve had some lessons and seem to enjoy it and I will admit to having spent time imagining them as high school tennis stars. I reasoned that tennis is sensible because it not only works for school sports but it’s something that can be played well into adulthood. But while my boys may opt to continue tennis lessons at some point, Lacrosse has now come into the picture and my husband G couldn’t be happier. G grew up in Baltimore where Lacrosse is a major sport (unlike my home in Texas where Football reigns supreme). He started playing Lacrosse when he was a very young boy, played Lacrosse for The University of Massachusetts and went on to become a Lacrosse coach at a boys school in Manchester, England for a year. So, you see, our sons will play Lacrosse, it is fated to be. 

I just wish Benjamin would remember to tie his shoes!

Ben running at Lacrosse

Both brothers seem to be taking a liking to the game. Tennis anyone?…anyone?

Ben and Nat at Lacrosse

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately which is great considering all of the outdoor activities we have going on. After Saturday’s Lacrosse tournament I spent a little time admiring more of the natural spring beauty in our yard. Ginkgo tree with new leaves, tulips, rhododendron…dandelion (well, at least it’s pretty when you look closely).

hipstamatic flowers 4-2

Sunday was another busy day with church in the morning and an afternoon of fishing with the Cub Scouts…

paleo quiche

Nathaniel looks at bridge

Nathaniel caught a fish and managed to earn his fishing belt loop in the process. He was very proud.

Nathaniel with fish

While working hard at fishing, we spied a few Canadian geese keeping their goslings very close while patrolling a part of the lake.

GeeseIMG_1965

Square foot gardening

After fishing we had a little time to work on our garden before it was time to make dinner. So far we’ve cleaned up our three 4′ x 10′ raised beds and amended the soil. This year we’ve decided to try “square foot gardening” (SFG) which is the practice of planning and creating small but intensively planted gardens. The idea is to maximize the yield by being super efficient with space. You follow guidelines for how much space and resources each plant needs to grow. For example, guidelines say you can get 16 radishes in one square foot while tomatoes should be planted one per square foot. This method also helps with weed control and can improve results of companion planting. In preparation for SFG we divided the beds into square feet plots. I’m sure we’ll post more through the season but here’s how it looked when we started two weeks ago.

square foot gardeningsquare foot gardening

We worked in our garden for a while before turning our attention to dinner. We were ready for something easy, hearty and healthy. Inspiration came from a photo I saw recently on Pinterest of a quiche with a spaghetti squash crust. I came up with a dish that adds grass-fed beef seasoned with chili powder and other “Tex Mex” spices combined with eggs and a few other veggies on a “crust” made of spaghetti squash. We also dubbed it “Taco Pie” because it sounded much more fun to my kids than the formal “paleo quiche with spaghetti squash crust.” (Funny how they respond to things based on the name!) The result is a grain-free, gluten-free, meaty quiche that works as a one-dish meal. My whole family loved it and I hope you will too.

Paleo Quiche with Spaghetti Squash Crust

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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.

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Baked Eggs in Prosciutto-Filled Portobello Mushroom Caps

Paleo Baked Eggs

It is COLD around here.

My friends and family in Texas tend to assume the weather in New Jersey is far harsher than it actually is. I sometimes find myself defending my adopted state insisting “the weather here is wonderful, not what you think!” And this is true…for the most part.

I love the four distinct seasons; the lingering, flower-filled Springs, the sunny Summers mild enough to allow ample, comfortable time outdoors and the crisp Autumns replete with colorful changing leaves and apple orchards brimming with produce.

But then there’s the winter.

It is not as snowy as other parts of our country – we are not covered in the white stuff for much of the season. And the average temperatures, relative to some other states, are reasonably mild. But my Texas blood has yet to completely acclimate to this cold. And this week is especially challenging. We have had temperatures in the single digits with below-zero degree wind chills. Some people love it. But I suffer through, dreaming of the days when the hyacinths and daffodils erupt through the soil giving a promise of more pleasant days to come.

But right now. It’s just cold.

Yesterday we ventured out to a local farm to stock up on meat and eggs. Their store was unheated. Sigh. Well, they did have one space-heater but it scarcely made a dent in the frigid air. The redundant meat freezers seemed almost comical. But it occurred to us the refrigerators were indispensable for keeping the eggs WARMER than the freezing room!

The grass-fed brisket, homemade pork breakfast sausage, ground venison and farm-fresh (not frozen) eggs were procured – QUICKLY – and we were on our way back to the relative warmth of our home. (Shout out to Ugg boots for improving my quality of life in the winter immeasurably!)

Now on to those eggs….

Eggs, prosciutto, portobello mushroom caps

Did you know you can bake eggs in a portobello mushroom cap? Well, you can. It’s a little challenging because, depending on the shape of the cap, you might experience a mishap of an escaping egg. They can slide off the mushroom if you aren’t careful. But I have confidence we can do this thing.

Here’s how I did it.

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Paleo Breakfast Porridge

I came across this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt recently.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature but beautiful old people are works of art.

A lot of meaning can be drawn from this particular statement. But in the context of health, it reminded me how we often take our wellness for granted. In our youth we may treat our bodies in a way that is less than ideal because we can get away with it. Eventually, the signs of abuse and/or neglect start to take their toll. When we start eating better, exercising, taking time to pray and/or meditate we may have the best of intentions but still struggle to stick with our new resolutions. Let’s take heart that the things we are doing now to take better care of ourselves, mind, body and soul will eventually pay off. We are investing in a future of better health and wellness. We are creating works of art.

Paleo Breakfast Porridge

Paleo Breakfast Porridge:: Paleo Spirit

Two years ago our family started down the path of creating a better, more healthful future for ourselves. As part of that, we began transitioning* to a grain-free diet. This paleo breakfast porridge recipe really helped us out during that time. Most people have never considered the possibility of a grain-free “cereal” and before going paleo we had not either. Our first “paleo porridge” was in a simpler form – just bananas (or plantains), coconut milk, almond meal and flax meal. It was born out of desperation – the desperation to make something that remotely resembled oatmeal or other types of hot cereal to replace what we were losing.

Since those early days, our paleo porridge has turned into a more complex dish. We began adding spices and all different types of toppings to the porridge. We always eat it as a side dish with a source of protein like sausage or eggs. It’s great with added berries, unsweetened coconut flakes and nuts. The sweetness will vary depending on the ripeness of the bananas you are using. We don’t typically add any additional sweetener but you have the option of drizzling a little maple syrup or raw honey on the porridge before serving if you like.

This paleo breakfast porridge recipe is easy and serves anywhere from 2-4 persons.

Paleo Breakfast Porridge Recipe

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