A March Snow and a Recipe: Seared Scallops with Strawberry Relish

Snowy Cows | photo by Lea Valle

This is the year I finally learned to love winter.

In Texas the seasons are: almost summer, summer, still summer and Christmas. So my first winter spent in the northeast U.S., those many years ago, was a shock to my system mixed with wonder and joy at the novelty of the abundant snow. That year the winter weather lingered long into spring leaving me feeling, novelty or not, I might have made a mistake in venturing out of the familiarity and warmth of the south.

Snowy Trees | Photo by Lea Valle

But subsequent winters were far milder. Sometimes, much to my surprise, I found myself disappointed there was not MORE snow. It was a creeping, unconscious adaptation to a climate with four distinct seasons – winter not the least among them.

Snowy Willow | Photo by Lea Valle

This year the winter seems never-ending. The roads have potholes, the school vacation days are quickly disappearing from the calendar and the longing for spring grows stronger every day. But no amount of complaining will change the inevitable coming of winter snow. And this year I finally have learned to accept and embrace it. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but when others bemoan the next storm, I am quietly rooting on the snowfall.

Snowy Fence | Photo by Lea Valle

In spite of the inevitable inconveniences of the season, there is strange comfort in the quiet, forced sequester at home while the snow envelopes the world around us. I look forward to the quiet drives around town drinking in the peaceful landscape blanketed in newly fallen snow. I relish visits to the neighboring cows who seem only mildly perturbed at the cold, strange white matter covering them and their home fields. Even the time sitting at my desk peering out at the peaceful falling of new snow is a time to appreciate, rather than curse, the essence of winter in all its glory.

Cow with Sign double

The cleanup and annoyances that are all a part of the onslaught will come later. But for a while I resolve to be like a child in awe of the proverbial “winter wonderland.”

Boy with Snow | Photo by Lea Valle

Taking in the world made new, camouflaged as a cloud.

Snowy River | Photo by Lea Valle

So if you find yourself in the dead of winter lamenting the snow, take a moment to reflect. Because if you have even a hint of the mind of a poet, you might agree that newly fallen snow, covering the old, is not only beautiful but a sermon itself on the beauty of repentance.

A March Snow Poem with Photo

Seared Scallops with Strawberry Relish Continue reading

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

Parsnip Celeriac Soup: PaleoSpirit.com

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

Parsnip and Celeriac Soup with Fried Beet Matchsticks 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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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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Pan-Fried Shishito Peppers: Paleo Appetizer Recipe

shishito peppers recipe paleo

This post and recipe for Pan-Fried Shishito Peppers is by my husband G who was inspired by a young farmer at our local CSA to turn the pepper bounty from Saturday’s pick-up into a tasty appetizer. Take it away G!

What comes to mind when you hear the word “pepper”? Other than “salt,” I mean.

For some of us, it might conjure up sensations like hot, spicy, or burning. For others, it may be colors like the vibrant red of a shiny bell pepper, the brilliant green of a jalapeño, or the fiery orange of a habanero. Still others may be reminded of a country, like Mexico, the appropriately named Chile, or even…Japan?

shishito peppers paleo appetizer

That’s right – Japan! Land of sushi, sashimi, New York Yankee’s outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, the world’s coolest electronic gadgets, Godzilla, books that are read from right-to-left, and the tasty Shishito pepper.

shishito peppers paleo appetizer

We found some Shishitos at our local CSA farm (along with all sorts of fresh and beautiful produce), and filled our weekly basket with 9-10 peppers. One of the farmers said the shishito peppers are delicious when sauteéd in olive oil and salted to taste, so that’s what we did, with minor modifications.

Paleo Spirit | Paleo Appetizer

Instead of using only olive oil, we added equal amounts of leaf lard -the highest grade of lard from the visceral – or “soft” – fat from around the kidneys and loin of the pig. It lacks any real pork or meaty flavor, making it an excellent neutral-flavored cooking fat with a high smoking point. Leaf lard is particularly prized by bakers for use in producing moist, flaky pie crusts.( We used leaf lard it in this recipe because we had it on hand. But you could use regular lard given the savory flavor of the dish.)

leaf lard

We purchased the lard a few weeks back at Red Apron Butchery during the book release party for the cookbook Beyond Bacon.

Pan-Fried Shishito Peppers

Here’s how I made this amazing paleo appetizer recipe:

To make the pan-fried shishito peppers, first, I heated some of the lard along with some olive oil (for flavor) in a cast iron skillet until hot. Next, I also added the peppers and fried them for about 10 minutes, adding in some minced garlic in the last minute, then sprinkling the finished peppers with fresh lemon juice and sea salt. The result was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and spicy – enough to please most any palate.

Getting back to the original question, when I hear the word “pepper,” I instantly think back to memories of my Dad watching football on a Sunday afternoon with a plate of jalapeño peppers and sliced cheese. He’d eat the jalapeños whole, turn beet red, and sweat like a madman. It looked painful, but he said he enjoyed it. Funny, but he often complained of heartburn…I wonder if there was a connection?

Fried Shishito Peppers | Paleo Appetizer Recipe

Pan-Fried Shishito Peppers Recipe Continue reading

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Rainbow Chard with Shiitake Mushrooms and Wild Garlic

Rainbow Chard with Shiitake Mushrooms and Wild Garlic

Today we have our second pick up at Uncle Bill’s Farm CSA where we will choose from among the lovely produce picked fresh this morning. New Jersey spring season means lots of greens overflowing in our bushel baskets. One of the most beautiful of them all is rainbow chard. It’s considered one of the healthiest veggies around, with high amounts of vitamins A, K and C. Rainbow chard is also rich in minerals, dietary fiber and protein.

I grew rainbow chard in my raised bed gardens last year and that is when I fell in love with the beauty of this healthful leafy green. We harvested some of it when my mother-in-law was visiting and together she and I enjoyed the beauty of the deep greens of the leaves and strikingly bright and varied colors of the stems.

Rainbow chard paleo

paleo rainbow chard

Rainbow chard paleoRainbow Chard

In order to make use of the produce while it is still fresh we need a few different quick and easy recipes that combine some of the ingredients. After seeing the absolutely perfect rainbow chard last week at the farm, I determined to create a dish that makes use not only of the chard but of the wild garlic that was also available. The addition of the shiitake mushrooms makes this a heartier side dish that could pass as a main dish for you vegans and vegetarians.

Rainbow Chard with Shiitake Mushrooms and Wild Garlic

Rainbow Chard with Shiitake Mushrooms and Wild Garlic Continue reading

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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!

Sausage and Kale Sauté Continue reading

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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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Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip (Paleo & Vegan)

Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip: @paleospirit

“It might choke Artie, but it ain’t gonna choke Stymie!”

The entire time I was making this dairy-free spinach-artichoke dip the above line was going through my head. I’m not sure how many of you remember “The Little Rascals” but it was a show I used to watch all the time growing up. I LOVED Stymie, Alfalfa, Darla and, of course, Spanky. In this scene, Stymie is given a fine meal to try. He doesn’t know what an artichoke is but he’s “gonna tackle it”.

Clearly, artichokes can be a bit intimidating. The good news is this recipe, while featuring artichokes, presents none of the associated confusion. We are going to stick with the artichoke hearts and make our lives easier. Whew!

My husband G and I made this spinach-artichoke dip on New Year’s Eve. We had some leftover corn chips from our traditional Christmas Eve Tortilla Soup. (Yes, I realize corn chips are not paleo. But they were gluten-free so it was a splurge.) We cut up some cucumbers and tried the dip with both. Two years ago I probably would have preferred the corn chips with the dip. But this time we found ourselves favoring the cucumbers! It was a bit surprising but I guess our tastes have really changed. Not to say I don’t enjoy corn chips now and then but they are definitely not something I crave. It was a nice confirmation of how changing the way we eat can build on itself in altering our tastes for the better if we stick with it.

The paleo spinach-artichoke dip uses my newly found favorite ingredient: cashew cream. It gives the dip that creamy taste you want without using dairy products. We have made this twice in a week. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip: @paleospirit

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Many of us started a month of Strict Paleo eating (aka Whole30) recently. This recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus helped our family get through day one and we hope it will find its way into one of your meals soon. One thing is clear, following a paleo way of eating is not going to mean deprivation. Just look at our breakfast. I mean, really. This is good stuff.

prosciutto-wrapped asparagus

Before getting to the recipe I wanted to mention G’s last post. In it, my husband wrote about his fall off the “paleo wagon”. In order to enter his giveaway he asked that readers include a comment on one of their New Year’s resolutions. It’s been really interesting reading the comments and I know many of you are excited, like we are, to start with a clean slate in the New Year. Several people noted their resistance to making “resolutions” feeling this could be a set-up for failure. Instead, there are lots of people who set “goals” which is probably a better way to look at it. No matter what time of year, it’s always a good idea to strive for health and wellness.

Here are some highlights of comments we’ve seen so far:

  • Loss weight and/or add muscle
  • Complete a month of strict paleo eating (Whole30) without cheating
  • “Run an 8 minute mile”
  • “To believe in myself”
  • “Make our children healthier”
  • Be able to “keep up with” kids and grandkids
  • One random act of kindness once a week
  • and many more…

I’m really glad G posed the question because we have enjoyed reading the responses very much. So thank you to all who have participated so far. (There’s still time to enter as of this writing!)

Now for the recipe for these tasty morsels!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus: Paleospirit.com

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