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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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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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

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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 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:

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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Homemade Nutella (Paleo & Vegan)

Paleo Nutella

One of the exciting things about traveling to other countries, at least for me, has always been finding local food products. It was exciting to bring home some of these packaged foods to share with my family as a souvenir of travel. While finding local foods is still fun, the world has undoubtedly become smaller. Foods that were once found only in Australia or Italy are now widely available either in local stores or via an internet order.

While I may not be ordering large quantities of Vegemite (no offense to my Australian readers!), Nutella, which I initially found when living in Italy, remains near and dear to my heart. I have not eaten this hazelnut and chocolate spread in ages and ages because it simply has too much sugar (first ingredient). But I recently had this epiphany about Nutella. There is nothing in the basic recipe for Nutella that is absolutely outside of what would be allowable in the paleo way of eating providing we make a few tweaks. Yay!

homemade paleo nutella breakfast

This recipe for homemade paleo nutella will get you pretty close to the real thing. One difference is the texture which is a bit less smooth due to the fact that we are making our own nut butter. It is also less sweet. But this, for me at least, is a bonus. My taste for sugar and sweet things is far less than it has been in the past so I am completely pleased with the level of sweetness of this homemade version of the chocolate hazelnut spread. When I put the finished product in the refrigerator it did not harden up to a brick but remained nicely spreadable without requiring warming up. The oils also did not separate and it did not require stirring.

Do you remember seeing this ad for Nutella touting its health benefits?

Does that ad crack you up as it does me?

The company behind Nutella ended up paying about $3 Million dollars in a class-action lawsuit because of their health food claims. I’m a staunch believer in personal responsibility so the idea that vast numbers of people would believe eating what is essentially a spreadable candy bar is healthful and then blame the manufacturer is a little beyond me. Not to mention, the idea we should be eating sugary carbs for breakfast is fairly common as evidenced by the TV commercials for so-called healthy cereals loaded with sugar. Can we sue the federal government for the ridiculous food pyramid? Just asking.

Even Homemade Nutella is Not a Health Food

Please, this is not a health food – it will not make you healthier. But it is a reasonably healthful treat that won’t completely derail you if eaten in moderation. If you decide to make this homemade paleo Nutella recipe the only downside would be if you become addicted to it. So sue me. (No, not really.)

Homemade Paleo Nutella:


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In love with LOVEBEAN Fudge

While back in my home state of Texas for the Paleo FX Symposium – Theory to Practice in Austin, March 14-17, I encountered LoveBean Fudge.

It was a magical meeting. (The symposium was good too….)

The husband and wife team behind LoveBean are huge believers in high-density super foods. Together they have created some chocolate products that are really nutritious and absolutely delicious! One thing that caught my attention about LoveBean Fudge is the fact it is made with organic coconut nectar instead of evaporated cane juice. I have used coconut nectar or coconut crystals in several recipes, such as Paleo Coconut Cream Pie and Paleo/Primal Chocolate Cheesecake. I even use it in my popular Paleo Pancakes recipe. Coconut nectar/sap is very low glycemic (GI of only 35), is an abundant source of minerals, 17 amino acids, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH. Some may argue there is not much difference between cane syrup and coconut nectar. But even if the insulin response to either form of sugar is largely the same, I would choose coconut nectar for the added nutrition and the unique and delicious flavor.

Here’s Sweat Pea eating some LoveBean Fudge. Hmm. Funny but he doesn’t seem to notice the insulin response! (And BTW Austin DOES rock.)Sweat Pea loves the LoveBean

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bonbons

chocolate chip cookie dough larabar ballsThe Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabar is one of my youngest son’s favorite treats. As you may know, Larabars are not cheap. In spite of the price, I have been buying them occasionally because I want to make my Sweet Pea happy. I am often incapable of resisting his charms. (Could you resist this face?)In order to save some money I finally decided to try making them for myself. I’m happy to report it turned out great. You may have already seen my post on Homemade Coconut Cream Pie Larabar which is another one of our favorites. This recipe is similarly simple. It contains only 3-4 ingredients and is very quick, easy and delicious. These bonbons are great as a snack or treat and make a sophisticated dessert offering for a party.

chocolate chip cookie dough larabar ingredients Continue reading