Mexican Hot Chocolate (Mexican Mocha) Mix

Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix

We returned home from our Texas Christmas vacation just in time for a big blizzard. It served as our welcome back to the East Coast and gave us fleeting culture shock. After a night of blowing snow and frigid temperatures, offices and schools were closed. Many folks took advantage of the opportunity to go sledding on neighboring, snowy hills.

Sledders: Lea Valle

The frigid temperatures did not deter me from making a quick trip to one of my favorite locations to enjoy the natural beauty of the winter in its full glory just before the setting of the sun.

Snowy Bench: Lea ValleSnowy Sycamores: Lea Valle

There’s something magical and almost otherworldly about a snowy day. The lightposts of neighboring Natirar always remind me of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. It’s almost as if a faun (or Aslan perhaps?) is just around the corner.

Lightpost: by Lea Valle

Upon returning home I spied my youngest peeking out of his snow fort. Such rosy cheeks. He could use a hot chocolate. Actually, so could I!

nat snow LR

Mexican Hot Chocolate and Mexican Mocha Mix

The morning after the blizzard hit, my husband bundled up and headed out to shovel the driveway and clean off the cars. While he was outside I decided to surprise him with a Hot Mexican Mocha. He had one first during our trip to Texas when we had the good fortune to meet Jenni Hulet (from the wonderful blog The Urban Poser).

Lea Valle and Jenni Hulet

Lea and Jenni

We met Jenni and her family (husband Ben and boys Linus and Oscar) on our way out of Dallas and got to spend a while chatting about all things food, faith, blogging and photography. Our boys showed up in Doctor Who t-shirts (kismet!) and talked of Minecraft and Sonic Screwdrivers (Dr. Who reference for you uninitiated). Clearly we all had a lot in common. So nice to meet you, Jenni and family!

The Mexican Mocha in Dallas inspired our desire to create our own at home. The drink mix can also be used to make Mexican Hot Chocolate which is a spicy take on the classic hot chocolate with flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne. It’s sure to wake you up in the morning – especially when combined with coffee of a Mexican Mocha. After a day playing or working out in the cold it will warm you and stimulate your senses.

The great thing about this recipe is it can be made in advance and stored for when you need it. Just add hot liquid like coconut milk or almond milk (for a dairy-free Mexican Hot Chocolate) or strong coffee (for Mexican Hot Mocha). As long as we are getting our measuring cups and spoons dirty we might as well make enough for a few drinks, right?

Mexican Hot Chocolate (Mexican Mocha) Drink Mix Recipe::

Mexican Hot Chocolate and Mexican Mocha Mix 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 (this bundle sale is now overHarvest 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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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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Ben’s Monster Mash

I put this random recipe for Monster Mash together because:

  1. I was bored (we had a totally random snow day)
  2. it was Halloween
  3. I had a thirst for monster goo.

When I first gave this drink to mom she liked it. This is the story I told:

I went into my back yard and found a giant multi-eyed monster. I grabbed my sword and my imaginary friend (Dragonpuff™*) and together we ground up the monster into a ghoulish, slimy , gross, scary, disgusting…..and surprisingly tasty pulp! It is very sweet. However, if you don’t like pulp in your orange juice you definitely won’t like this.(it is very pulpy)


  • 3/4 cup V-8 Fusion Pomegranate Blueberry (or other, similarly colored, unsweetened, vegetable and fruit juice blend)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • frozen raspberries (aka monster brains)


  1. pour the above ingredients into a cup ( you may add as many “monster brains” as you dare)
  2. stir until applesauce and juice blend nicely.
  3. serve in a scary cup (optional)Monster Mash in a Scary Cup

Overall this is a very tasty blend. I hope you enjoy Ben’s Monster Mash!


~BenBen with Monster Mash




*don’t ask about Dragonpuff™. He’s none of your business.

Bard’s…Not all Gluten-Free Beer is Created Equal

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love beer.

My wife, too, enjoys a high quality beer now and then. But her gluten intolerance made me feel…well, guilty if I was sitting across from her at the dinner table, sipping a cold, tasty bottle of beer while she downed another glass of ice water.

So when she discovered gluten-free beer, I was all for giving them a try. Continue reading

TOLERATION Gluten-Free Ale

Paleo and Gluten Free Beer B&WContinuing my ongoing effort to review gluten-free beers for Paleo beer-lovers, up next is TOLERATION Gluten Free Ale, from “Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales” in Yorkshire, England.

First, a little history about “Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales”. Not surprisingly, the company is owned by its founder, Nick Stafford. According to the company’s website, after being laid-off twice in only seven months (or “made redundant”, as the Brits like to say) in 1991, Mr. Stafford was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start his own brewery. Continue reading

Review: NEW GRIST Gluten-Free Beer

In a free market, quality often improves when consumer choice increases, and this scenario is having a positive impact on the market for gluten-free beer.

Not surprisingly, the recent growth in available brands of gluten-free beer is attributed to the increasing recognition of general gluten sensitivity and serious autoimmune disorders like celiac disease. To satisfy the rising demand for beer among consumers who want to avoid ingesting gluten, some brewers are turning to wheat and barley alternatives like sorghum, a species of grass cultivated in warm climates worldwide and that is commonly used to produce sugary syrup known as “sorghum molasses.”

One of these brewers is Lakefront Brewery, Inc., from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lakefront started in 1987 after a sibling rivalry between two brothers (the owners) over who could make a better homebrew.  This rivalry eventually developed into a full-fledged business. Lakefront is notable for brewing and selling “Organic ESB” which is the oldest government-certified organic beer still on the market.  Organic ESB uses 100% organic malt AND hops.

Lakefront’s entry into the gluten-free beer market is known as “NEW GRIST Beer”, and the story of how it first arrived on the shelves is an interesting one. Prior to 2006, the federal government mandated that “beer” had to be made with no less than 25% malted barley. This meant that gluten-free, alcoholic beverages could not officially be classified as beer. Ignoring the old saying that you can’t fight city hall, the owners approached the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Tax and Trade bureau and successfully lobbied for a change in policy that enabled them to brew, market and sell NEW GRIST Beer.  NEW GRIST now falls under the FDA’s jurisdiction, hence the need for nutrition information on the six-pack.

I’ve had several bottles of NEW GRIST, and I can honestly say: I like it.

One of the first things I noticed about NEW GRIST is that it tastes like beer. While that may seem like an obvious quality for a beer to have, if you’ve sampled other gluten-free beers you’ll understand why I think it’s important to mention. Gluten-free beers ARE different from standard beer, and that difference is most obviously demonstrated in the taste, which tends to be sweeter and slightly drier than standard beer due to the high sugar content of the sorghum. Most people, especially beer connoisseurs, will notice the difference between standard beer and gluten-free beer with the first sip.

NEW GRIST is definitely sweeter than standard beer, but it’s not as sweet as other gluten-free beers. It has a fuller body, and a stronger hoppy flavor than most gluten-free beers, too. The aftertaste is mild but consistent, with a good blend of carbonation and bitters. I heartily recommend NEW GRIST, especially to folks who want to avoid gluten but enjoy a tasty beer.


– G

P.S. If you have tried NEW GRIST Gluten-Free Beer I’d love to hear your opinion.

For More Reviews of Gluten Free Beer see: Redbridge & TOLERATION

Paleo and the City: Madison Square Park

I took my youngest son, SP (stands for “Sweet Pea” or “Stink Pot” depending on the day), for a jaunt into New York City yesterday.  We left early in the morning which meant we would be having breakfast, lunch and dinner (and dessert) there.  We started out at Starbucks where SP had a decidedly non-Paleo Sausage & Egg Sandwich.

I ordered a Grande Americano with heavy whipping cream.  I have had bad luck asking for a Grande Americano with “heavy whipping cream”.  Either I end up with “whipped cream” (fail) or they interpret “heavy whipping cream” to mean LOTS and LOTS of cream.  Sigh.  Prior to discovering the Paleo thing I used to drink lattes with either 2% or whole milk.  But now when I go to Starbucks, or similar coffee shops, I generally order an Americano.  An “Americano” is basically a shot, or shots, of espresso topped with an equal amount of boiling water.  I personally prefer the taste of an “Americano” to brewed coffee because it has a richer, crisper flavor.  The addition of heavy whipping cream ensures that there is little to no carbohydrate in the drink.  The taste of the coffee with the richness of the cream means that I do not miss the sugar.  And having ditched my fear of fat I am able to drink the Americano with a clear conscience.

After our trip to Starbucks we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day by spending the morning in nearby Madison Square Park. The park features free concerts for kids on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the summer.  We were lucky enough to see a concert featuring Moona Luna.  They were QUITE good and elicited lots of jumping.

We also got to see Jaume Plensa’s sculpture “Echo” while in the park.  The installation is 44′ high and was quite impressive, especially with the Empire State Building in the background!  “Echo” is a white fiberglass resin work inspired by the Greek mythological nymph Echo.  She could only utter other people’s thoughts but not her own. (The mythological character, not the sculpture.  That would have been creepy.)  The massive scale of the work is supposed to draw parallels to Echo’s origin as a mountain nymph.  The work is in the park through August 14, 2011.

We spent a little time at the playground in the park enjoying the sunny day.

And then it was time for lunch at….drumroll please….SHAKE SHACK!

You might be asking yourself how one could stick with the Paleo Diet at a place called Shake Shack.  Well, little SP definitely did not stay Paleo.  He also felt the need to taunt me with the chocolate shake during the entire meal.  (Note the second straw which I will admit I DID use to sample the shake.  My willpower was not quite strong enough to resist that one.)

The sip of chocolate shake notwithstanding, I was able to otherwise remain “Paleo” for the rest of the meal.  Shake Shack has good comprehension of the whole gluten thing so I was able to order a bunless, double burger with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions. They asked me specifically if I had an allergy to gluten and put it into the order ticket (as you can see in the photo).

The organically raised Angus beef that Shake Shack uses was amazingly tasty.  Their concern for customers seeking to remain gluten free was also very impressive.  I highly recommend Shake Shack at its original location in Madison Square Park in NYC or any of their other locations.

After lunch we took a trip to the top of the Empire State Building and then met up with G for dinner.  Stay tuned for future episodes of “Paleo And The City” for our experience at Zerza Mediterrano and Babycakes Bakery.

Let’s Talk About Beer: Redbridge Gluten-Free Beer

I’m just going to come out and say it: I like beer — a lot.

So when my wife informed me that beer is not exactly “Paleo”, I was more than a little concerned. I can survive without the bread, the pasta and the cereal. I can do without doughnuts, cake, candy, ice cream, and even the soda I used to drink like it was water. Besides, I’ve lost almost twenty pounds in six months since I’ve been eating Paleo so I’m motivated to stick with it.

But…does that have to mean no more beer?

Well…no, not exactly. Thanks to gluten-free beer.

Yup. That’s right. Gluten-free beer — meaning no barley, and no wheat.

That’s because it’s made with sorghum, a genus of numerous species of grass that are often used as fodder plants to feed livestock. Certain species, known as “sweet sorghum”, have been cultivated in the southeastern U.S. since the mid-nineteenth century for use in sweeteners. In some parts of the US, sorghum syrup is even used on pancakes!

Admittedly, there is some controversy as to whether gluten-free beers made with sorghum can truly be considered “Paleo.” As a powerful sweetener, sorghum is obviously high in sugars and carbohydrates. And although beers brewed with sorghum are generally considered to be safe for people who are gluten-intolerant (like celiacs), any brewer who makes gluten-free beer is still required to test every batch and record gluten levels in “parts per million” just to be safe.

I don’t really have issues with gluten, but my wife does, and she claims that gluten-free beers don’t cause the symptoms of gluten-intolerance that she often gets from regular beers. As a man who has gained some wisdom with age, I’ll take her word for it!

REDBRIDGE is a readily available brand of gluten free beer that’s made with sorghum and sold by Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser. I’ve had quite a few bottles of REDBRIDGE, so I’m comfortable recommending it as an alternative to regular beer for those with gluten intolerance issues, or for folks who like beer but simply want to stay Paleo.

If you try a bottle of REDBRIDGE, you’ll notice right away that it does taste different from regular beer. It’s a lighter, smoother taste, slightly sweet, and without a strong, hoppy finish. It’s a refreshing taste, similar in some respects to a wheat beer. I like it, but I readily acknowledge that it’s not for everyone. If you prefer a more intense hoppy flavor to your beer, like with an I.P.A., then REDBRIDGE might not be for you. Otherwise, I recommend trying it, especially if you’re gluten-intolerant. Finally, like most beers (but not all), REDBRIDGE is best served cold.

I’ll do some mini-reviews on other gluten-free beers in future columns.



For More Gluten Free Beer Reviews See:  New Grist & TOLERATION


Fireball Margarita: Paleo Cocktail Recipe

Strict adherents of the Paleo diet generally eschew drinking alcohol. Realistically speaking, we know there are times when you may want to indulge. I personally enjoy having a margarita now and then but I really dislike the overly sweet versions. This recipe for the Fireball Margarita has no added sugar and is fairly low in carbs and high in antioxidants thanks to the blood orange juice. The habanero infused tequila gives the margarita a kick that goes great with spicy foods. I put together a couple of different recipes; one for a chilled, single Fireball Margarita served without ice and one for a pitcher that is poured over ice-filled glasses. The single recipe is a little heavier on the juice to mellow out the spicy tequila. The pitcher of Fireball Margaritas is more concentrated to compensate for the addition of ice.

Habanero Infused Tequila

2 cups tequila
1-2 habanero chiles

Cut the habanero chiles in half and mix with tequila in a pitcher and let it steep for 2-3 hours. The longer it steeps the hotter the tequila.

Fireball Margarita

1 ounce habanero infused tequila
3 ounces blood orange juice or grapefruit juice
Kosher salt

Mix tequila and juice in cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled – 5 to 10 seconds. Strain into salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with orange or lime wedge.

Pitcher of Fireball Margaritas

2 cups habanero infused tequila
4 cups blood orange juice or grapefruit juice
Kosher salt

Pour enough water onto a small plate to cover the bottom. Pour a layer of Kosher salt onto another small plate. Dip the rims of 8, 12 ounce glasses in the water, then into the salt. Add ice to the glasses. Mix the tequila and the juice in a pitcher, add ice and stir until chilled. Divide the mixture among glasses. Garnish with orange or lime wedges.