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

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Paleo Tortillas

Paleo Tortillas | PaleoSpirit.com

You can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the girl. I grew up eating Mexican and Tex-Mex food. But after living in New Jersey for many years I have had to learn to live without some of my favorite foods. It’s just not the same around here no matter what some people say. I’m almost always disappointed when attempting to find decent Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. And of course having celiac disease and following the paleo diet does place limits on what I can enjoy anyway. In spite of that, I still consider myself a connoisseur of tortillas. So let’s get one thing straight when it comes to this paleo tortillas recipe. Those of us who are well-acquainted with the taste AND texture of flour and corn tortillas will be tough customers. There’s just no way grain-free tortillas will be exactly the same as “regular” tortillas. But with this recipe my goal was to create something that would not taste TOO eggy, not be too much like a crêpe and would be pliable – able to hold a filling without breaking.

double tortillas cropped

The recipe uses eggs but not nearly as many as some other recipes I have seen. There’s just enough yolk to help them hold together but not enough that it overpowers the flavor. The coconut flour gives it some body but not enough to impart a coconut flavor – something I would find unpleasant in a tortilla. The flax meal helps replace some of the eggs and is one reason the paleo tortillas are flexible. The tapioca flour is a terrific alternative to wheat flours. I have used it before in my Paleo Dinner Rolls recipe and really like the true “bread-like” texture it provides.

Once you get the technique down for making them, paleo tortillas are fairly quick and easy. We have eaten these right after cooking and we have also stored the tortillas in a big zip-lock in the fridge for later use. They stayed flexible after reheating and did not break when they were used to make chicken enchiladas.

Paleo Tortillas Recipe

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Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Frittata with Basil

paleo breakfast recipe

Summer brings many wonderful things. One of summer’s best offerings is the heirloom tomatoes that grace our gardens and farmer’s markets. Today’s recipe for Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Frittata with Basil is the perfect way to showcase not only the full-bodied flavor of heirlooms but their beauty as well.

paleo breakfast recipe

In the garden this year I planted several different types of basil; sweet basil, globe basil and purple basil. This beautiful bounty has languished in my garden far too long. So for this frittata it just made sense to combine the flavors of the tomatoes with basil. The colors of the purple basil and the petite leaves of globe basil are the most unusual and striking and perfect when paired with the heirloom tomatoes.

Purple basil

Our family feasted on this heirloom tomato frittata prior to taking a trip to a nearby arboretum to enjoy the trees, flowers, meadows and a babbling brook. Summer is the time of year when my adopted state of New Jersey shows it is truly worthy of its nickname The Garden State. But summer moves along a little too quickly for my taste. Taking photos is a way of capturing the fleeting days of beauty and fun that passes by all too fast.

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Double Green with statue

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pink flowers 2-5

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Avocado Chocolate Frosting (Paleo and Vegan)

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

Today’s post is by my husband G who did a great job making a beautiful, delicious, healthful (uh, yes, I think it is – at least relatively speaking!) birthday cake for me recently. 

My wife’s birthday always falls near – and sometimes on – Mother’s Day. This often makes for a fun and enjoyable weekend as we celebrate both events, but it can also be kind of hectic as the boys and I shop for gifts and attempt to divvy them up appropriately and in secret.

Well, this year I vowed to get an early and efficient jump on things. The boys and I did our shopping, wrote our birthday and Mother’s Day cards, wrapped our gifts, and were busy clapping each other on the back for our efforts when my wife suddenly asked the dreaded question:

“Are you making me a cake?”

A cake?!?!

D’OH!!!

I forgot the cake!

After hemming and hawing about whether she REALLY wanted a cake (lame, I know), and whether I had enough time to make one, she said “Just look at my website. You know I’ve posted cake recipes!”

My eyes quickly darted back and forth like a deer caught in the headlights. “Ummm…yeah! Duh! Of course I…hee-hee…of course I know that, Sweetie!”

She rolled her eyes, handed me my iPad, and said “Here. Get busy!”

And I have to admit it…it WAS easy. And it DID have avocado in the chocolate frosting. An avocado chocolate frosting. And it WAS delicious!

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

We’ve had this cake (Chocolate Paleo Snack Cake) before, but it’s the first time I’ve actually made it myself. Now, I’m fairly competent in the kitchen so I wasn’t wary of the task…but I was a tad skeptical when my wife told me that avocado was a primary ingredient in the frosting.

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

Avocado?

Isn’t that for guacamole? I mean, I love guacamole but this is chocolate frosting! Well, what it all comes down to is trust, and I trust my wife. After all, she’s like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island – she can make ANYTHING with coconut! – so I had to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Paleo Avocado Chocolate Frosting

Not only is this frosting really tasty, but it doesn’t taste anything like avocado! It tastes exactly how it’s supposed to taste – like rich, creamy chocolate cake frosting. In fact, when you serve it to your friends don’t tell them it’s made with avocado until after they eat a piece! Just enjoy their surprised expressions.

Avocado Chocolate Frosting

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Paleo Dinner Rolls

paleo dinner rollsPaleo dinner rolls may very well save my relationship with my oldest son. Wait…let me explain. My son Ben is generally a very sweet, smart, funny and easy-going young man. But give him gluten and he turns into a different person. Ben normally takes his paleo lunch to school but yesterday was “Take Your Child To Work Day” and he ended up eating the pizza lunch given to the kids at the event. Last night he had another one of his meltdowns and it proved once again the direct and very dramatic correlation between his mood and his diet.

We follow our paleo way of eating fairly strictly. In spite of the paleo dessert recipes on this site we really do not indulge in them frequently. Our desire for sugary snacks is not that powerful at this point. But when you have a middle school boy who is gluten intolerant (and quite possibly celiac) there has to be a balance between following what may be considered strictly paleo and helping him feel like a normal kid. During his meltdown Ben expressed he is often embarrassed that he eats differently from his peers. He NEEDS to have treats now and then and yes, he wants to eat bread. I want to train him to eat whole foods and take care of his body. But I refuse to allow food to become something that divides us and makes life more difficult. Middle school is hard enough!

In order to keep Ben on board with the program – to keep him from rebelling completely – I tried to come up with a recipe for a type of paleo bread he might enjoy. I have another recipe for banana cardamom bread but it uses almond flour and Ben is allergic to nuts. So this paleo bread recipe had to be nut free as well as grain and gluten free. The solution is a recipe that uses tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch) as well as coconut flour and a few other, simple ingredients. Continue reading

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Paleo Key Lime Pie: Dairy-free, Nut-free and Vegan

paleo key lime pie

Spring has finally sprung around here and it feels like time to celebrate. This Paleo Key Lime Pie was inspired by the beautiful green hues that emerge as spring arrives. Far from the hearty stews, braised meats, roasted veggies and even rich dark chocolates featured in our kitchens and dotting the food blog landscape in winter, this key lime pie feels a world apart and just right for spring!

paleo key lime pie

The other inspiration for the pie came about after an email from a woman desperately hunting for a birthday dessert recipe for her friend. The trouble, you see, is her friend is Paleo AND vegan. And if that wasn’t challenge enough, the friend is also allergic to nuts. Impossible, you say? Well, at first I thought it was but keep reading and you will see the ingredients that make this dream come true.

paleo key lime pie

The day after I made the pie we had a scary experience with our youngest son. We thought Nathaniel had managed to dodge the allergy bullet. We found out the hard way that is not the case when he ingested a bit of walnut and ended up needing an Epi-Pen injection to stop his throat closing up. Thank God he is fine now and I will write more about what happened in a future post. But it seemed all the more fitting that we have a paleo dessert recipe that is safe for almost anyone.

Paleo Key Lime PIe

The Paleo Key Lime pie has no dairy, no nuts, no eggs, no soy, no grains and free of refined sugars. The taste is tart and refreshing and you will never detect the main, and surprising, ingredient – avocados. Continue reading

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Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits

Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits

Several weeks ago my husband came home from work and happened upon a loaf of bread I had made. It was my attempt at a paleo bread recipe. Later, he told me how happy he was to see bread – something we ordinarily do not have in the house. He saw the bread, got excited and immediately reached for a slice. As G tells it, he was bringing the slice to his mouth when he remembered, “Wait a minute. Lea doesn’t eat bread. This must be Paleeeeeoooo breaaaaaad…” It was too late. He had already taken a bite and his trepidation was validated.

Not good.

We have been joking about this ever since. Not to say it does not exist, but we have yet to find a good recipe for paleo sandwich bread. And, honestly, while G may disagree, I’m not that bothered. After eating grass fed beef and vegetables and healthful fats for months the allure of bread is not quite what it once was.

Coconut Flour Paleo Biscuits

The recipes in the paleo bread category I do appreciate are things like scones, banana bread, muffins, biscuits and the like. These recipes always seem to turn out much better when using dense flours like almond and coconut. The following recipe for paleo biscuits is the result of severals trials and errors. My son has a nut allergy and cannot eat almond flour so we often default to coconut flour. My husband is not a big fan of the coconut flavor. In order to keep these coconut flour biscuits from having too much of a coconut flavor I opted for vegetable shortening instead of coconut oil.

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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 Chocolate Birthday Cake

For my husband’s birthday a few weeks ago I made him a Coconut Flour Paleo Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Bacon Frosting. Paleo Chocolate Cake with Bacon FrostingIt was a big hit. (You could easily leave the bacon out of the Chocolate Ganache Frosting if you are less than thrilled about trying that seemingly crazy scheme.) Here’s a closer look at the cake after it was sliced. Sorry, but I can’t resist showing off my blue hydrangeas. I love hydrangeas!slice of paleo chocolate birthday cakeBack to the chocolate cake. Don’t you just want to dig in?!PaleoSpirit:: Slice of Paleo Chocolate Cake

In the chocolate ganache frosting post I promised to provide the recipe for the cake itself in the next entry. But I lost my notes! (Can you say ADHD?) I was about 90% sure of the ingredients but needed to make it again to validate the recipe.

Poor me.

This time I chose to make the coconut flour cake with a Coconut Honey Frosting. (Hydrangeas again)coconut flour paleo cake with coconut honey frostingAnd because the layers were quite thick, I cut each one in half and made a four-layer paleo chocolate cake. The cake cooked up and tasted just like the other one so now I feel comfortable sharing the recipe. Whew!

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Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Pepper

paleo sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic, pepper and lemon

Broccoli Rabe sautéed in olive oil and garlic is my all time favorite vegetable side dish. It was not something I ate growing up in Texas. In fact, even though it is quite popular in Italy (known as rapini), I do not recall eating it when I lived and worked there either. It was not until I moved to the Northeast U.S. that I discovered the deliciousness that is broccoli rabe.  At home my husband G and I sometimes fight over who gets more of this dish.  (“I think you got more than I did!”) And our two boys are starting to enjoy broccoli rabe too which means there will either be more fighting or I will have to remember to make bigger batches in the future.

For the Love of Bitter Greens

Broccoli rabe (aka rapini) is a highly nutritious, bitter green.  My taste for bitter greens may have started when I was about eleven years old and my mother had me and my siblings help her gather, cook and eat dandelion greens for a graduate school class project.   Continue reading

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