Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Cashew Cream Frosting

Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Cashew Cream Frosting | Paleo Spirit

“Love is a verb”, someone once said. Then again, maybe I read it somewhere. It would be nice to remember exactly because it impacted me greatly. This in spite of the fact the same concept has been shouting up at me from the pages of scripture practically all my life.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…” – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Maybe I resisted the idea because it implies and involves work and perseverance and not just roses and chocolate and love songs. Or maybe the idea of love as a verb, as an action, was drowned out by a popular culture which so glorifies romantic love – love that is mostly about feelings.  Our culture loves romantic love. It loves the idea of love. But true love is sacrificial – it includes a cost. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as much a romantic as anyone. It’s just that over time you come to realize real love is not that warm, fuzzy feeling you have at the beginning of a relationship. Real love is action, it’s doing and helping and trying long after those romantic feelings have faded a bit. 

Dozen Roses | Photo by Lea Valle

Real love includes showing those we care about that we value and cherish them. But rather than being cynical about Valentine’s Day and the commercialism around it I choose to embrace it in all its red, chocolate, roses and poems glory! But in embracing it also recognizing the importance of balancing the warm fuzzies with the reminder to celebrate true, enduring love that transcends fleeting emotion. So let us enjoy the day and the small reminder to celebrate those we love and the importance of romance in helping true love flourish and survive!

e.e. cummings poem | Paleo Spirit

We need chocolate with our roses…

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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:

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:

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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Roasted Peach and Lemon Thyme Ice Cream (Paleo & Dairy-free)

Paleo Peach Ice Cream with Lemon Thyme | Paleo Spirit

We have been on a peach kick lately. In addition to this Roasted Peach and Lemon Thyme Paleo Ice Cream, there’s been Peach Breakfast Cake, Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa and Vanilla Peach Freezer Jam. The peach tree in our backyard has been very “fruitful” this year and we have taken full advantage.

double peaches final

Not being professional fruit pickers we had to resort to some primitive methods of reaching the peaches high in the tree. Behold the “Lacrosse stick-broom handle-peach picker”.

Nat picking peaches

In spite of our primitive methods we were pretty pleased with the harvest. Although to make all these recipes we definitely made use of farm stand peaches this summer. Yellow peaches have always been my favorite but white peaches have their own beauty.

White Peaches | Paleo Spirit

In order to make the ice cream I roasted a few of these beauties. Before roasting the peaches I cut them up and placed them, skin on, in a baking dish, drizzled honey on them and roasted the peaches until they were soft and the skin peeled right off. The house smelled absolutely heavenly.

White Peaches | Paleo Spirit

While the peaches were roasting I harvested the Lemon Thyme from our garden. It has an unusual flavor – a variation of regular thyme but, as you can imagine, with a strong lemony scent. The leaves are tinted with golden edges setting it apart from its more ordinary cousin.

Lemon Thyme | Paleo Spirit

When making the coconut milk ice cream I decided to use egg yolks to create more of a custard for a creamier, less icy end product. The hot coconut milk was infused with the lemon thyme goodness and honey, then used to temper the eggs to create the custard.

Eggs and Lemon Thyme | Paleo Spirit

The soft roasted peaches were relieved of their skins and smashed with a fork then added to the lemon thyme infused custard. The peach and coconut milk custard mixture then was added to our ice cream maker and processed until we had a thick, peachy summer treat. We lined a bread pan with parchment and froze the ice cream for a few hours before serving.

Paleo Peach Ice Cream with Lemon Thyme | Paleo Spirit

The Peach and Lemon Thyme Paleo Ice Cream was served with some fresh peaches. Refreshing.

Paleo Peach and Lemon Thyme Ice Cream | Paleo Spirit

Roasted Peach and Lemon Thyme Paleo Ice Cream

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Honey Yogurt Gelato with Roasted Strawberry Sauce

Honey Yogurt Gelato | Paleo Spirit

Italy holds a special place in my heart for many reasons. My husband and I met there when we were both in graduate school studying international business. That was not my first time in Italy. A semester abroad in college conferred on me what has become a life-long passion for Italy and all things Italian. Gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, also played a key role in my complete seduction. To this day whenever I indulge in gelato it brings back joyful memories of my travels and study in that most wonderful of countries. And it is something Gavin and I have enjoyed together and remember fondly.

Many years ago while back in Italy for work I travelled with a colleague who was devoted to her nearly fat-free diet. She was very diligent about eating healthy foods – albeit without much if any fat, which we know now is not ideal. We were there for three weeks and she declined gelato whenever we went out for it. She made it clear she wanted to indulge in the sweet treat but was afraid of gaining weight. While I admired her willpower and dedication to her chosen way-of-eating, I could not help but feel sorry for her. We were in Italy after all. It was GELATO!

Honey Yogurt Gelato with Roasted Strawberry Sauce | Paleo Spirit

Food is one of life’s pleasures. In spite of strict dietary requirements I still believe in enjoying life through food as long as you can do so without totally derailing your overall health. Dairy is not a food I often consume but when I do I try to ensure it is of high quality – grass fed is best and we do enjoy raw dairy when we can get it. Raw dairy is not legally for sale in New Jersey so we have to drive to nearby Pennsylvania for a great source. Wholesome Dairy Farms is our favorite place to find grass fed and raw dairy. On our last visit we were privileged to see a newly born calf. When the farmer asked if we wanted to see the baby born just hours earlier we were envisioning something smaller and more feeble. Instead, we were greeted by a rather hearty and LARGE fellow who had little trouble walking around on his own. Nathaniel was overjoyed to be able to pet the baby.

Wholesome Dairy Farm

When deciding what to do with the grass fed yogurt, one of the first things that came to mind was gelato! What better way to feature this particular indulgence in high quality dairy?

Yogurt Gelato

While working in Milan many years ago, my apartment was in a five story walk-up on a major road. I still remember Viale Umbria with all its sights and sounds and the LONG trek up to my apartment. One of the great things about the apartment was being right above a pizzeria and a gelateria. It was at this particular family run gelateria I was first introduced to “gelato allo yogurt alla fragola” – Yogurt Ice Cream with Strawberries. It was nothing like the “frozen yogurt” in the U.S. which is often fat free or low fat. The yogurt flavor of this gelato was far more intense  – very creamy and tangy. It was delicious by itself but during the summer, when strawberries were in season they were added to the mixture for an even more amazing treat.

Honey Yogurt Gelato with Roasted Strawberry Sauce | Paleo Spirit

So if you are able to tolerate dairy and find yourself with some high quality yogurt I strongly urge you to make this honey yogurt gelato. You will not be disappointed. I can’t guarantee it is exactly the same as what you would find on Viale Umbria in Milano but it is pretty close. The honey flavor is more pronounced than what is typically served in Italy but it is a truly amazing taste sensation. You can vary the amount of honey depending on your taste.

The first recipe is for the honey yogurt gelato followed by a roasted strawberry sauce that adds one more intense flavor to the entire frozen treat experience.

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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 |

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

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Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

Being the mother of boys is a wonderful thing. I have never been a “girly girl” so perhaps God, in His infinite wisdom, knew I would be a better mother of boys than girls. Of course I might be saying the exact opposite if I had been blessed with girls. But there’s just something special about the relationship between mothers and sons and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to raise these two precious souls.

“…and she loved a little boy very, very much – even more than she loved herself.” – From ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein

Our boys like to get dirty. My husband and I have an ongoing joke about our differing views on the acceptability of how dirty they get when playing outside. G is a stickler for cleanliness and even though he knows it’s not a big deal, he cannot help but cringe when he sees the boys in the dirt or mud. Meanwhile I have always maintained – at least when being contrary with G – that “a dirty boy is a happy boy”. My point is when they are outside getting dirty it means they are using their imaginations and bodies. They are not just vegetating inside playing computer games (hey, computer games have their place). But even I was a bit mortified when I spied Nathaniel in the back yard recently.

He started out looking innocent enough. I thought perhaps he was planning on helping me garden. He likes to garden. So I figured he was gearing up to assist with planting or weeding or something productive like that. But no, evidently not. He had something much more important to attend to.

He was making mud pies, people!

Muddy Nathaniel double

“Whoa, I really am kinda dirty now. Maybe I shouldn’t have done this” I imagine him thinking. But no, he doesn’t care. I assure you he

Looking at his hands

And how can I resist this face? The only thing to do with a sweet boy covered in mud from head to toe is to kiss him on the cheek, while keeping a safe distance from his mud-covered parts, and hose him down.

Ready to get muddy

And maybe, after he’s cleaned up a bit, you can feed him chocolate chip cookies. Well, make that paleo chocolate chip cookies.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

This recipe for grain-free chocolate chip cookies contains walnuts. But the walnuts are an optional ingredient. And, in fact, my Nathaniel can eat most nuts except for walnuts and pecans. So for him I leave them out. But the day I was testing this recipe, the boys had a good friend over who is not allergic to nuts. I asked their buddy Jonah to help in a couple of ways. First, he agreed to help with photos (that’s him holding the plate) with the promise of a couple of cookies. And he was also asked to offer his opinion on those cookies. It was my version of market research. And according to Jonah, who is one of my most favorite people in the world, by the way, these paleo chocolate chip cookies are awesome!

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

You will not miss “regular” chocolate chip cookies one bit.

Paleo CHocolate CHip Cookies with Walnuts

So make these cookies soon and share them with someone you love – boys OR girls. Who knows, you might get a mud pie in return. Continue reading

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Avocado Chocolate Frosting (Paleo and Vegan)

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

Today’s post is by my husband G who did a great job making a beautiful, delicious, healthful (uh, yes, I think it is – at least relatively speaking!) birthday cake for me recently. 

My wife’s birthday always falls near – and sometimes on – Mother’s Day. This often makes for a fun and enjoyable weekend as we celebrate both events, but it can also be kind of hectic as the boys and I shop for gifts and attempt to divvy them up appropriately and in secret.

Well, this year I vowed to get an early and efficient jump on things. The boys and I did our shopping, wrote our birthday and Mother’s Day cards, wrapped our gifts, and were busy clapping each other on the back for our efforts when my wife suddenly asked the dreaded question:

“Are you making me a cake?”

A cake?!?!


I forgot the cake!

After hemming and hawing about whether she REALLY wanted a cake (lame, I know), and whether I had enough time to make one, she said “Just look at my website. You know I’ve posted cake recipes!”

My eyes quickly darted back and forth like a deer caught in the headlights. “Ummm…yeah! Duh! Of course I…hee-hee…of course I know that, Sweetie!”

She rolled her eyes, handed me my iPad, and said “Here. Get busy!”

And I have to admit it…it WAS easy. And it DID have avocado in the chocolate frosting. An avocado chocolate frosting. And it WAS delicious!

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

We’ve had this cake (Chocolate Paleo Snack Cake) before, but it’s the first time I’ve actually made it myself. Now, I’m fairly competent in the kitchen so I wasn’t wary of the task…but I was a tad skeptical when my wife told me that avocado was a primary ingredient in the frosting.

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting


Isn’t that for guacamole? I mean, I love guacamole but this is chocolate frosting! Well, what it all comes down to is trust, and I trust my wife. After all, she’s like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island – she can make ANYTHING with coconut! – so I had to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

Not only is this frosting really tasty, but it doesn’t taste anything like avocado! It tastes exactly how it’s supposed to taste – like rich, creamy chocolate cake frosting. In fact, when you serve it to your friends don’t tell them it’s made with avocado until after they eat a piece! Just enjoy their surprised expressions.

Avocado Chocolate Frosting

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting Continue reading

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Mango and Mandarin Orange Paleo Cheesecake Tart

Paleo Cheesecake Tart

There is almost nothing better in spring than taking walks to enjoy the first flowers of the season. The emergence of daffodils always signals for me that winter is truly over and all the wonderful weather months of the year are yet to come. William Wordsworth also appreciated daffodils, writing a masterpiece of a poem dedicated to these symbols of rebirth. The poet not only exulted in the sight of the daffodils but realized his indulgence in such displays of natural beauty carried over to more mundane times when they would “flash upon” his “inward eye”. More reason to make time to appreciate beauty as a way to enrich your life and sustain your health.


by Williams Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.yellow daffodils

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
Hipstamatic daffodils 4x6
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
Single daffodil
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Mango and Mandarin Orange Paleo Cheesecake Tart

Daffodils* blooming is also the time of year when fresher flavors are in order. Following on the heels of the Paleo Key Lime Pie I share this recipe for a frozen paleo cheesecake tart that also incorporates the refreshing flavor of citrus. This no-bake, grain-free paleo dessert contains a dairy-free “cheesecake” layer of mandarin orange flavored cashew cream topped with a puree of mangos and mandarin orange juice.

Paleo Cheesecake Tart

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Paleo Key Lime Pie: Dairy-free, Nut-free and Vegan

paleo key lime pie

Spring has finally sprung around here and it feels like time to celebrate. This Paleo Key Lime Pie was inspired by the beautiful green hues that emerge as spring arrives. Far from the hearty stews, braised meats, roasted veggies and even rich dark chocolates featured in our kitchens and dotting the food blog landscape in winter, this key lime pie feels a world apart and just right for spring!

paleo key lime pie

The other inspiration for the pie came about after an email from a woman desperately hunting for a birthday dessert recipe for her friend. The trouble, you see, is her friend is Paleo AND vegan. And if that wasn’t challenge enough, the friend is also allergic to nuts. Impossible, you say? Well, at first I thought it was but keep reading and you will see the ingredients that make this dream come true.

paleo key lime pie

The day after I made the pie we had a scary experience with our youngest son. We thought Nathaniel had managed to dodge the allergy bullet. We found out the hard way that is not the case when he ingested a bit of walnut and ended up needing an Epi-Pen injection to stop his throat closing up. Thank God he is fine now and I will write more about what happened in a future post. But it seemed all the more fitting that we have a paleo dessert recipe that is safe for almost anyone.

Paleo Key Lime PIe

The Paleo Key Lime pie has no dairy, no nuts, no eggs, no soy, no grains and free of refined sugars. The taste is tart and refreshing and you will never detect the main, and surprising, ingredient – avocados. Continue reading

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