Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde) and a Giveaway

This post is SO long overdue.

There is an explanation for my seeming fall into slackerdom. Did you know I have a full-time job with a two hour per day (minimum) commute?! (A total of over 420 miles per week driving – thank God for my hybrid!). Oh yes, and a husband…and a couple of kids… and a house and, and…. Then there’s the ole perfectionism which prevents me from posting until I labor over everything for a good while.

Being able to be a full-time blogger would be great and, who knows, maybe one day that will happen. But, alas, blogging is not going to replace my current day job anytime soon. In the meantime, if I’m going to post more often I’ll need to get more efficient with recipe testing and photo editing and be a little less perfectionistic about it all.

This Roasted Tomatillo Salsa is really easy and packs a punch depending on how spicy you want to make it. Roasting the veggies adds to the depth of flavor and is similar to the Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa from a few weeks ago. I used it to make Paleo Chicken Enchiladas Verdes which is yet another post in my queue that I am hoping to finish soon!

Paleo Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

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Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa with Pan-Fried Halibut

Pan-Fried Halibut with Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa | Paleo Spirit

The peach kick continues with this recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa. Tomatillo salsa, also known as salsa verde, contains roasted or otherwise cooked tomatillos.

Tomatillos - PaleoSpirit.com

In spite of growing up in Texas where tomatillos were plentiful, I do not recall ever eating a fresh one. I feel a little lied to! No one told me tomatillos are delicious raw. Our CSA grows them so this was the first year we had several gorgeous, green gems lying around just calling out to be turned into salsa….or eaten fresh?

cut tomatillo

The salsa is the best I have ever made and I am a bit of a salsa snob. The combination of roasted and fresh flavors is delicious and the smooth and chunky texture makes it perfect as a dip or a relish to go on meat dishes.

Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa

We made the salsa on a weekend that included a bit of outdoor fun. The nearby Delaware Water Gap area is a gorgeous place that is only a bit more than an hour west of New York City. The funny thing is I read the “Paleo Indians” along with the Lenape tribe used to roam these hills. How appropriate! We frolicked in the river that included a few mossy rocks from which we jumped into the cool waters of the deep pool.

Lea at waterfall

Later we hiked up the mountain and enjoyed the beautiful views. I love this photo of my oldest son, Benjamin, because just a couple of days after our hike he told me of his intention to become a Christian. His faith and courage are inspiring and I’m so proud of his decision.

On Mt Tammany

Ben told us he is ready to be baptized but said he wants it to be private (not in front of the entire church) and he does not want anyone to get “mushy”. Good luck with that last part, Ben. :-)

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Healthy Homemade French Dressing (American Style)

Paleo French Dressing

Weekends have been so perfect lately I can’t really complain about the last two days of rain. The only downside is this is the exact week the lilacs are blooming in our backyard. Every year I look forward to the days when I can sit on the back patio and drink in the intoxicating fragrance of the lilacs. But I’ve either been at work or it has been raining. Fortunately, before the rain started, there was time on Friday night to enjoy the flowers while decompressing from the busy week. And by Sunday afternoon the rain had stopped which allowed me to make up for lost time by capturing a few shots of these beauties in full bloom.

These are just two of our mature Palabin lilac bushes.

Backyard lilacs

Palabins have cute little heart-shaped leaves.

Lilacs and heart leaf

We planted them several years ago and every year they are more beautiful than the year before. I found a poem about lilacs planted by a mother and it makes me wonder if my boys will ever come back to this house years from now and think about how we planted and enjoyed the lilacs.

Here’s an excerpt. (You can find the rest at the link.)

The Lilacs Mother Planted

by Ed Blair

Oh, sweet and fragrant lilac, the one she loved so
well,
Thy fragrance brings to memory sad thoughts I
cannot tell;
Sweet lullabies of childhood sung at the evening
rest,
By mother clasping closely the one she loved the
best.
A voice that gently whispered sweet words of
love to me,
A face so kind and gentle, a heart with love so free;
Still yet my heart throbs feel them, still yet I see
them there,
When lilacs that she planted with fragrance fill
the air.

Wet Lilacs

The rain drops are actually rather flattering don’t you think?

lilacs after rain

While taking pictures of the rain soaked lilacs I noticed the chives also blooming on the back patio.

wet chives

Who knew chives could be so beautiful!?

wet chives 2

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Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets

Today’s post is written by my husband G who is a Baltimore, Maryland native and die hard Ravens fan. He’ll introduce our new recipe for Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets just in time for Sunday’s Ravens-49ers match-up. The following recipes may come in handy for Super Bowl parties if you are looking for some delicious finger food without all the junk. Take it away G!

Super-Bowl Sunday – It’s an American tradition!

Since the first Super Bowl game was played in January of 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the game has morphed into a mega-event that can captivate an entire nation for one Sunday afternoon. If you believe the statistics, nearly 85% of all Americans will be watching this year’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Simply put, that’s incredible!

And let’s not forget the drama surrounding Super Bowl XLVII. For starters, the head coaches of each team are brothers! That’s right, brothers! John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens and his younger brother Jim coaches the 49ers. Then there’s the impending retirement of the Raven’s team leader and future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, as well as the ascension of wonder-boy 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick to genuine NFL superstar. All in all, it looks to be a great game as fans around the country hunker down in front of their televisions to cheer on their team.

And what Super Bowl party would be complete without good food? Unfortunately if you’re eating Paleo, the pickings are often slim…but it doesn’t have to be that way! In the spirit of great tasting, all-American bar-food that goes so well with football and the Super Bowl, we’re happy to present…

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets!

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets: PaleoSpirit.com

These paleo buffalo chicken nuggets are surprisingly tasty! (Our family fights over these every time Lea makes them.)

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Nuggets: Paleo Spirit

Now for the recipes…first come the chicken nuggets, then homemade blue cheese dressing, dairy-free ranch dressing and how to make a plain paleo chicken nuggets version. Continue reading

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How to Make Raw Cashew Cream

raw cashew cream

For some reason, the idea of making something called raw cashew cream makes me feel very “earthy-crunchy”. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Maybe it’s because there is a certain stigma associated with the raw foods and vegan movements and raw cashew cream falls into their realm(s). It’s unfortunate, really, because there is so much innovation going on there. We may depart ways when it comes to certain foods – definitely soy products for one. But I love finding out all the different techniques other cooks use to find ways around dietary restrictions. There’s a lot of creativity, not to mention some tasty and nutritious food as well.

Cashew cream is a rich creamy base used in many dairy-free, vegan foods. Raw cashews are essential in this recipe. This is because cashews derive most of their flavor from the roasting process. Without roasting, raw cashews have no real flavor of their own which is why they are ideal to create this dairy-free cream. If you follow a paleo lifestyle then raw cashew cream is a great option for dairy-free recipes.

Making raw cashew cream is really very simple. Here’s what you do. Continue reading

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Superstorm Sandy and a Paleo Stuffing Recipe

paleo stuffingIt’s been quite a while since I have written a post! I usually try to post at least once a week but we’ve had some unusual circumstances around here recently which have made it more difficult. For one thing, I started a new job and getting into the swing of that plus home and family obligations have taken up most of my time. But the main reason I have not posted recently is because we live right smack in the middle of the area affected by Superstorm Sandy! Fortunately for us, our house was not damaged in the storm and we didn’t have any major trees come down. But we were without power for almost ten days and that made life a tad difficult. In the midst of all the chaos I did take a few photos with my iPhone of some of the damage to our neighborhood. Check out some of the trees and telephone poles that were snapped in half from the power of the wind.

Huge numbers of extremely large trees came down all over the place crashing into homes, knocking down power lines and blocking roads. Our boys’ schools were closed for a solid two weeks and there are still folks around us without power over three weeks later!

My employer opened their offices to employee families for a few days. G’s office in Manhattan was closed for several days due to flooding and power outages and New Jersey Transit was also not running. (In fact, our usual train line is still not back in service.) G and the boys came to the office with me a couple of days for showers and to have a place to work remotely and stay warm. Nathaniel made the most of his time by reading and reading and reading. We can’t get this boy to stop reading!

During the power outage we did pretty well with food. We had a couple of coolers and a propane grill that we used for some basic cooking. In advance of the coming storm, before we lost our electricity, I made a loaf of Paleo Banana Cardamom Bread and it definitely came in handy. We served it along with some scrambled eggs (on the grill) and fresh strawberries (while they lasted).

We were able to boil water on the grill for coffee and coffee has never tasted SO good! It was a lot like camping except with a nicer tent (aka our house).

We had stocked up on some “apocalypse” foods prior to the storm. It turned into a couple of meals of tuna salad with olives and pickles.

As food in the freezer began to thaw, we made a tomato and olive sauce and served it over grilled salmon. For at least a few meals we were eating pretty well and we didn’t really stray from our usual paleo diet.

Just as we got our power back we had a Nor’easter snow storm which knocked out our power yet again! By that time our refrigerator had been cleaned out of all food and we were geting pretty frustrated. But once the power came back and the gas stations were starting to come back online we felt as though we needed to turn our attention to the harder hit parts of our state. We made our way down to Union Beach, NJ for a Saturday where we helped out by delivering food and supplies and helping to organize things for the local people who had lost all of their belongings in the storm.

It was a great experience for Ben and Nathaniel to learn the importance of helping others. At worst we were inconvenienced by the storm. But other people lost their homes and some even lost loved ones. Helping others taught us all a lesson on putting things into perspective and counting our blessings.

If you would like to donate to help people impacted by Hurricane Sandy I suggest you consider the following organization:

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc

We have personally worked with this organization and can vouch for them in terms of the aid that goes directly to people in need.

Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing: PaleoSpirit.com

Now that things are getting back to normal around here I hope to be able to continue posting recipes on a more regular basis. Given that Thanksgiving is upon us I decided to try a paleo stuffing recipe. Last year I made a Gluten-Free Cornbread Dressing. It’s the one recipe on this site that contains corn. It’s a great recipe but this year I wanted to make a truly paleo stuffing. It’s a little odd not to have bread in a stuffing. But this concoction provides all the flavor of a traditional stuffing or dressing recipe without the grains or the carbs. Continue reading

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Venison Steak with Cauliflower Couscous and Red Onion Compote (Paleo)

venison steak and cauliflower couscous paleoWhen my neighbor Tony gifted me with some very fresh venison steaks recently I was excited and a bit apprehensive. Where we live the deer are plentiful and I have long viewed them as pests. Prior to the installation of a high fence for my back yard, our garden was the scene of daily deer traffic. They ate my flowers, nibbled on my shrubs and left plenty of droppings near where my children played. So the idea of “thinning the herd” has never been offensive to me. The problem is I have never cooked venison before. What do I do with this?!

I got plenty of advice from folks who have experience with venison. I was tempted to marinate the steaks or use a brine. But I ultimately decided to go the simple route and just pan sear the venison steaks. The exotic flavors come primarily from the cauliflower couscous side dish and the accompaniment of the sweet and tangy red onion compote. These recipes are the result of my plan to treat the inherently paleo venison (hunter food!) with the respect it deserves. I wanted to add some sophistication to this meat and create something special with complimentary flavors.

While taking photos of the venison and cauliflower couscous I offered some to Nathaniel who eagerly submitted to being my taste-tester. But my voracious reader did a little multi-tasking during his taste-testing gig.

Oh how I love a reading boy!

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Crispy Duck Breast with Chipotle Orange Sauce

purple flower

As the summer wanes we have been trying to cram as many good things into the remaining days as possible. To this end, the boys and I have spent some blissful afternoons at a nearby arboretum. The weekends bring the crowds of wedding parties so we journey there on weekdays.

The peace of the gardens is broken only by the songs of birds, the crunch of the gravel paths as we walk along, and the sounds of the boys running and playing by the brook meandering through a bamboo forest.

Many months ago, when I was not physically, emotionally or spiritually well, this place brought me healing. I distinctly remember walking alone in the cool of an April day with the sunshine on my face. I was suddenly struck by how soothing it was to be out in the beauty of creation. I have always enjoyed nature but on that day it felt as if a warm and healing blanket wrapped itself around my shoulders.

black-eyed susans

God was there with me. I know this as much as I know my own name. Something in my heart and soul communed with the beauty around me.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)

pink sedum buds: PaleoSpirit.com

Did you get that last part? “My souls knows”

I believe God implanted something special in all our human hearts. When we experience beauty, the “something” in our souls recognizes and appreciates it. We may have stifled this over time with our busy, stressed-out lives, but it is there if you listen to it.

anemone buds

My realization about the healing qualities of nature led me to make it a habit to enjoy something beautiful every day. For you this might be listening to a piece of beautiful music, reading a poem, smelling a flower, stopping long enough to feel the breeze on your face or simply gazing at the moon – anything that causes you to stop, even for a few seconds, and appreciate the beauty you encounter everyday in large and small ways. I guarantee you it is good for your soul no matter how healthy you are. And if you are searching for healing, appreciating beauty, like a dose of medicine, will provide a small measure of what you need.

pink anemone: PaleoSpirit.com

This recipe for Crispy Duck Breast with Chipotle Orange Sauce is spicy and delicious. The sauce itself is very simple and easy. It’s a perfect dish to make on a busy day – whether it be a work day or one in which you are blessed enough to be able to enjoy the great outdoors. 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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Roasted Beet and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing

roasted beet and cucumber salad with yogurt dressing

We planted some chiogga beets this year. Ordinarily I buy vegetable plant seedlings and transplant them into our raised garden beds. But because these are heirloom beets we ordered the seeds online and that meant planting them ourselves. So we’re kind of proud of these beets. It was fun for the boys to see what comes from a little seed they planted themselves. Here’s Nathaniel with a few of our crop.

Chiogga beets

We may have let them grow a little bigger than what is best for flavor. Smaller beets tend to be tastier.

Here’s what chiogga beets look like when you slice them. They are kind of mesmerizing if you stare too long.

chiogga beet slice

Even though chiogga beets would have worked perfectly well in this roasted beet and cucumber salad, the ones I used this time were “regular” beets. Still delicious, still beautiful and nutritious – cancer-fighting, actually. I remember my aunt Norma making a beet and cucumber salad when I was a kid. I have no idea what was in it other than beets and cucumbers and some sort of creamy sauce. But I do remember it was really tasty so you might say this recipe is an homage to Aunt Norma!

The yogurt dressing in this version is close to a tzatziki sauce with garlic and mint. I just love the combination of cool cucumbers, sweet roasted beets with a garlicky yogurt sauce. It’s a perfect (primal) summer side dish. Continue reading

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