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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Parsnip and Celeriac Soup with Fried Beet Matchsticks (plus Giveaway)

Parsnip Celeriac Soup:

Just down the street from our home lies a lovely, family-owned Christmas Tree farm. In spite of this, we have opted for an artificial tree the last few years primarily because of my son’s tree allergies. But, I will admit, another factor is the artificial tree is “pre-lit”. Yes, the convenience trumped the natural beauty of the real thing – at least until now. This year we decided to take a chance with the allergies and opt for the full cut-your-own-Christmas-Tree experience.

Tree Farm

Nathaniel found a “little tree”.

Little Tree

His little tree reminded us of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.  We ultimately chose a larger tree and the boys took turns (with close supervision!) cutting it down.

Help with cuttingcutting

The tree farm is close enough we could walk home with our tree.

G carries tree-2

We really had fun with cutting our own Christmas tree. It looks and smells great and I’m pretty sure we will be tossing out the artificial tree and going natural from now on.

The experience reminded me of a poem by e.e. cummings I memorized for seventh grade English class:

little tree by e.e. cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

Christmas tree

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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.


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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Easy Paleo Recipe: Sausage and Kale Sauté

Paleo Sausage and Kale Saute

Today’s recipe for Sausage and Kale Sauté comes after a bit of a hiatus. Regular posting is a little tough lately because my job is very busy and my commute is just as long as ever. But G’s commute just got a LOT shorter. Yay! He is no longer schlepping into New York City everyday on the train. Now that he works much closer to home our lives are already easier. Whew! This new recipe is a great one for when he makes dinner: fast and easy and perfect for a weeknight dinner. It’s also great to make ahead and take to the office for lunch.

The Dr. Oz Show

Before we get to the recipe I want to share an interesting happening. Have you heard of Dr. Oz? I’m sure many of you have. He’s a successful cardiologist and popular author and TV host. Well, one of his producers has been recruiting people for an upcoming episode featuring the Paleo Diet. They reached out to me with a few questions on my Paleo success story. The only problem is the questions focus a lot on total weight loss. The request was for “before” and “after” photos, total weight loss, size before and size after, etc… They also asked about medical condition symptom reversal but the focus of the show seems to be mainly about weight loss. My paleo success is primarily a health story. I don’t really have a remarkable “before” picture. So I submitted my “after” photo and told my Paleo story and we shall see if they are still interested.

On the Paleo Spirit Facebook page I posed the following question,

“Aren’t the health benefits of Paleo just as important as dramatic weight loss?”

Here are a few of the answers I received:

“More so, imo, because not everyone who is overweight has medical issues.” – Danica

“And not everyone with medical issues is overweight…” – Michelle

“I went Paleo to help an autoimmune disease. The weight loss was a wonderful side effect.”Kelly

Absolutely!!!! I believe they can be (and in my case are) interrelated. Having Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel, and being overweight, I am living proof of the multiple benefits of choosing to live a Paleo lifestyle. I was super sick and terribly weak and those were my motivators, for sure. Now, fourteen months and 45 pounds later, my MS symptoms are almost non existent and I have not had one digestive flare up. So as far as I’m concerned, the health benefits are the driving force, with weight loss being the (grain free, refined sugar free) icing on the cake!!! – Michele

It will be a few days before I find out if they will have me on the Dr. Oz Show. Even if I am not one of the selected guests, my hope is they will focus primarily on the health benefits of Paleo with the weight loss aspects featured as just another great side effect. No matter what happens, only good can come from the word about Paleo getting out to the masses.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Paleo Mini Meatloaves

Paleo Mini Meatloaves

Few things are as beautiful as a field or forest with freshly fallen snow. Wintertime in our neck of the woods is sometimes a Currier and Ives painting come to life. It is a time for Holidays, for celebrations with family and friends, for warm blankets, cozy fireplaces and of course, for feasts. Put simply, wintertime is the comfy season. So why not spend the comfy season with some delicious, comfort-foods? Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food in my opinion. It’s not fancy but it warms you up and makes you feel satisfied.

I’m always on the lookout for a good meatloaf recipe. But the trouble is most of them contain bread crumbs, powdered soup mixes or prepared sauce ingredients that I do not want to eat. The alternative was to come up with my own recipe containing only healthful ingredients. I had some trouble making full-sized meatloaves because they never seemed to hold their shape. The solution was to make meatloaf in muffin tins.

The recipe I bring you today is for paleo mini meatloaves. You could call them paleo meatloaf cupcakes if you prefer. Whatever you call them, these little meaty muffins are sure to be a hit with your family – including finicky children.

I performed the solemn duty of meatloaf tester. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

paleo meatloaf

The little morsels definitely passed muster. They reheat well which makes them great to take to work for lunch. These paleo meatloaves are so chock full of vegetables they make a meal in and of themselves. If you have picky children this might be a mechanism for getting some veggies into them without hearing objections.

Here’s how I make them. Continue reading

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Duck Confit Sweet Potato Hash and a Day in New York City

Paleo Breakfast HashMy husband G works in New York City. He had to work late on Friday night and all day Saturday so his company put him up in a hotel. The boys and I tagged along for moral support. The fact that we could enjoy some of the greatness that NYC has to offer had NOTHING to do with it. Nope. Nothing. It was purely sacrificial on our part. ;-)

Since we were there early Saturday morning, the boys and I made our way to The Breslin which is a restaurant in the Ace Hotel. We ordered the “Full English Breakfast”  – one for me and one for the boys to split (plus an extra side of sausage, of course!)

Breslin English Breakfast

The breakfast came with blood pudding, also known as black pudding or blood sausage. It is a popular dish in many parts of the world but not something Americans tend to eat. No matter how paleo-esque it might be, the thought of eating blood pudding did not fill me with glee. The restaurant would not allow for substitutions so I did try the pudding. But while it essentially tasted like breakfast sausage, I could not get past the IDEA of eating blood.

Here’s a photo of the pudding – it’s a terrible shot but you get the idea.

Not appetizing. Sorry all you blood pudding fans…

Everything else was delicious but I made the mistake of letting the boys sit next to each other so it ended up being one of the most expensive and frustrating breakfasts I have ever had. My intention of taking lots of photos did not pan out partly because it was very dark in the restaurant but mostly because I was just so aggravated. The boys were far more manageable after they stuffed themselves with lots of pork products and eggs. Whew! (For more info and photos of The Breslin you can check out Nom Nom Paleo’s recent post.)

The High Line Park

After breakfast we headed to The High Line which is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It was opened in 2009  and is owned by the City of New York. It was saved from demolition by the community and is an amazing example of how to use a historic site as public space.

Here’s our view of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building from The High Line:

And some of the interesting architecture visible from The High Line.

Buildings from The High Line:

Nathaniel enjoyed pretending to be a giant standing in the middle of the street grabbing (literally) a cab.

Moving along The High Line trail we happened upon a dashing cellist.

Cellist on The High Line:

Then Benjamin bounded down some of the seats lining a street overlook when disaster struck. This shot was taken about ten seconds before he fell and broke (we suspect) his arm. (And just by the way, I HATE that sign in the background.)

So that was the end of our walk. We headed back to the hotel to decide what to do with the poor little guy. Before driving back home we made a final stop at Grom for some gelato. For some reason this made Ben feel much better. Hmm.

One of our other fun experiences in New York, albeit Long Island, was referenced in my last post. For brunch in the village of Southampton I experienced duck confit sweet potato hash. It made enough of an impression that I determined to make a version of it at home. The hash uses sweet potatoes instead of the standard white potatoes which are generally eschewed on the paleo diet. But aside from that, the taste of sweet potatoes with the fatty, rich duck meat is exquisite and it’s far more beautiful than white potatoes anyway.

Duck Confit Sweet Potato Hash:

Duck confit is prepared by salt curing a piece of meat (generally goose, duck, or pork) and then poaching it in its own fat. The meat is rubbed with salt, garlic, and herbs then covered and refrigerated for up to 36 hours. Duck confit is often sold in cans but I was only able to find the individual legs in a local grocery store.

Duck Confit

Once you have some duck confit you can begin the process of making the duck confit sweet potato hash.

First you will need to find some sweet potatoes.

sweet potatoes: paleo duck confit sweet potato hash

Then peel them.

peeling a sweet potato

Then dice them.

diced sweet potato for paleo duck confit hash

Grab a red onion, dice it up, chop some fresh parsley and congratulate yourself on being an ace sous chef.

Duck confit sweet potato hash ingredients: Paleo Spirit

Now it’s time to get serious about cooking the duck confit sweet potato hash. Continue reading

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Wild Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce (Autoimmune Paleo Recipe)

From what I have heard, many people have chosen August as a month to follow the “Whole 30″. For those of you who have never heard of it, Whole 30 is essentially a strict version of the paleo diet similar to what I wrote about here. For one solid month there’s no wiggle room with sugar and no “cheats” with grains, legumes or dairy, among other things. It is a pretty drastic elimination diet but can do wonders for health. It is an absolute necessity if you suspect you have food intolerances. But it can also serve as a “reboot” for those of us who have already completed a 30 day (minimum) elimination diet in the past.

I already eat a fairly strict version of the paleo diet most of the time, but I do occasionally indulge in full fat (preferably pastured) dairy and some sugar in the form of things like maple syrup or honey. But in honor of folks following “Strictly Paleo” or “Whole 30″ plans this month, I wanted to post a recipe that will fit right in.

Wild Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce is easy, takes just a few minutes, will provide plenty of protein and Omega-3s and is also approved for those of you following an autoimmune paleo protocol. This means you are not eating nuts, eggs, plants in the nightshades family and certain types of peppers. (See my food matrix)

Even though I used pastured butter when I made this salmon dish recently (as shown in the photos) you can easily substitute ghee* or even olive oil. (Check out this post for an easy way to make ghee in the oven.)

Wild Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce

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Paleo Chipotle Chili

Paleo Chipotle Chili
Posting a recipe for Paleo Chipotle Chili today seems especially appropriate. I am traveling back to my home state of Texas for the Paleo FX Symposium 2012 in Austin. It was an early morning for me today, beginning with my 3:30 a.m. alarm, but made better by the pink sunrise highlighting the dark Manhattan skyline upon take-off. The wonders of technology help me finish this post on my flight – thanks to my handy dandy iPad2 (which is only slightly less cool now that the third version is out!)

Before waxing too poetic about sunrises and iPads I’ll get back to the subject at hand -Paleo Chili. Chili may seem sort of obviously Paleo by its nature – lots of meat, a sauce, maybe onions and peppers. But I’m specifically calling this one Paleo to emphasize there are no beans and no sugars and there are a couple of “hidden” veggies. I like to include chopped mushrooms in a lot of my ground beef dishes. It’s a great way to add volume, texture, nutrition and a little extra flavor without a lot of carbohydrates – unlike the beans often found in many chili recipes. The fire roasted green chiles do much the same job while also adding another level of dish appropriate flavor. I have even been known to incorporate finely chopped kale in chili. Well, actually I’m not really “known” for it because I am not sure anyone ever noticed that little trick.
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Applegate Farms Uncured Hot Dogs for a Paleo Diet

Trying to follow the Paleo diet as closely as possible is definitely worthwhile. But going strict Paleo is not easy in the beginning and it can be confusing and frustrating. If you are responsible for feeding a family and they are not as motivated for change it is truly challenging. Rather than getting discouraged and giving up or having a mutiny on your hands it is important to find ways to optimize your diet while keeping everyone onboard as much as possible.

I always appreciate blog posts that have hints and tips for staying focused and not getting overwhelmed when making radical changes. In that vein I would like to discuss a product that has been a big help for our family. Applegate Farms Uncured Hot Dogs*.

paleo hotdog

Applegate Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog

Now I know what you are thinking – there is NO WAY a hotdog is healthful. Continue reading

Chicken Liver Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

For years I ate boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cutting off any extra fat with the precision of a skilled surgeon. Fat was the enemy, you see, and the idea of eating organ meats was just anathema. But those days are long gone now that I have been enlightened to the health benefits of eating more than just low fat cuts of animal flesh. Organ meats, including chicken livers, are really high in nutrition. Liver is full of vitamins A and B12, Folate, Pantothenic Acid (B5), iron and selenium – all things our bodies need to function well.*

In spite of this earth-shattering information, my husband, G, has threatened to become a vegan if I try to serve him chicken livers. Now THAT’S quite a threat! But if he were to allow himself to try this recipe for Chicken Liver Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette he would find there’s no need to go to the dark side. The inspiration came from my recent perusal of a Nigella Lawson cookbook. G seemed very interested in said cookbook but I dare say it was Nigella he fancied and not the chicken livers. Nigella’s recipe calls for maple syrup and sherry vinegar but she references a time when raspberry vinegar was all the rage for similar salade tiède on restaurant menus. Since I had some raspberry balsamic vinegar on hand I decided to give it a try and it turned out delicious. Continue reading