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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Spaghetti Squash Gratin (Primal & Gluten-free)

Spaghetti Squash Gratin: Paleospirit.com

Warning! The recipe for Spaghetti Squash Gratin contains dairy ingredients. This one is going to be hard to resist. So if you are strictly dairy-free you might want to stop reading now.

PaleoSpirit.com Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Okay, if you are still reading I will assume you eat dairy products from time to time.

Minimally, I hope you are not inclined to inform me in the comments the paleo diet does not include dairy. (Actually, yes it does depending on your tolerance and the type of dairy. But let’s not argue. Okay?)

Perhaps we can agree on the term “primal” which is typically used to describe a paleo diet or recipe that does include some dairy products. So let’s agree the following recipe is a Primal Spaghetti Squash Gratin.

spaghetti squash gratin by PaleoSpirit.com

The dairy in this spaghetti squash gratin is not just any old dairy, it’s one of the most wonderful cheeses known to mankind.

I’m talking about Gruyère cheese.

Gruyere cheese for primal spaghetti squash gratin

If you have never tried Gruyère you are really missing out. Gruyère is a type of Swiss cheese. This is the same cheese found atop high quality French onion soup. When added to a gratin it imparts a simply amazing flavor. And, in my experience, it is worth splurging on the original version made in Switzerland as opposed to domestic U.S. varieties. The flavor of the original Gruyère is unsurpassed and you need less of it to get the characteristic creamy, nutty, earthy and complex flavor in a recipe.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

This dish is great on chilly autumn and winter days. The spaghetti squash still has a slight crunch and the nutmeg accents the Gruyère perfectly. It would be delicious with steak and a salad or really any meal that you may, in the past, have served with (God forbid) Macaroni & Cheese.

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Rum Raisin Ice Cream (Primal)

primal rum raisin ice creamThe twenty year anniversary of my father’s death came and went a couple of weeks ago. He has come to my mind at least once a day for the last twenty years but marking the date caused me to talk about him more than usual. In telling my sons a few fun facts about the grandfather they will never meet (in this life) the subject of ice cream came up. My youngest son, Nathaniel, upon hearing my dad’s favorite ice cream was rum raisin, became fascinated with this fact. He also knows I never saw my father take a drink of alcohol so Nathaniel was a little perplexed about the rum raisin situation. I tried to reassure him the amount of alcohol in rum raisin ice cream is pretty negligible but it made for an interesting conversation.

cup of primal rum raisin ice cream: PaleoSpirit.com

The recent dairy-free Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream recipe went over well (surprise!) so I thought taking on homemade rum raisin ice cream might be a possibility. This time I’m using milk and cream in an effort to recreate my father’s favorite ice cream flavor. It is sweetened only with raisins and maple syrup and has lots of nutritious egg yolks. The taste is exceptionally creamy and our family loved it. We even fought over the ice cream a little but I took that as a positive sign of a delicious result!

Primal Rum Raisin Ice Cream: PaleoSpirit

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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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Paleo Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-free and Vegan)

Paleo Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

I generally use coconut flour for Paleo dessert recipes because our oldest son, Benjamin, is allergic to nuts. But after hearing great things about it, I finally ordered some Honeyville Farms blanched almond flour. I started out to create paleo chocolate chip cookies but creativity got the best of me and I ended up with something a little different. There’s a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the Honeyville Farms almond flour bag that I used as a base. But I decided to make a Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie instead. And remembering how coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, something I learned when making the Chocolate Paleo Snack Cake, I also added a packet of Starbucks Via (instant coffee) to the cookie batter.

Starbucks ViaThere’s enough of a resulting coffee flavor in the cookie that the word “mocha” seems appropriate to describe the coffee and chocolate combination. In order to make the Paleo Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies I also decreased the almond flour and added 1/2 cup of cocoa powder. Because there are more healthful alternatives, I changed the suggested agave nectar and grapeseed oil to coconut nectar and coconut oil.

It seems a little mean to bake these mocha chocolate chip cookies when Ben cannot eat them. But he was a good sport about it saying, “it’s okay, I’m used to it.” I’m not really sure what he meant by that since I go out of my way to ensure he can eat most of my recipes. But he let me off the hook so I won’t worry too much about it. He knows I’ll make him something tasty that he can eat a little later.Paleo Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Twice-Baked Cauliflower

twice-baked cauliflowerThe inspiration for this Twice-Baked Cauliflower recipe came from my oldest son, Ben, who turns 11 years old today. Happy Birthday, Benjamin! In addition to being an all-around great boy, Ben has bowled me over with his new-found fondness for cauliflower. This is a kid whose pre-paleo vegetable repertoire primarily consisted of canned green beans and the (very) occasional carrot stick. But since we have been following the paleo way of eating he has tried, and liked!, many new things. Ben also enjoys Cauliflower Rice and Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” both of which are dairy free. However, he eats full fat dairy and gave me the idea of trying a mashed cauliflower dish using Greek yogurt. Ben's twice-baked cauliflowerWe are going all out with the dairy on this one so steer clear if you have an intolerance. I guess you could call this Primal Twice-Baked Cauliflower.

Even though the cauliflower is technically only baked once, the flavors are definitely in keeping with the spirit of the “Twice-Baked Potatoes” we all know and love. This much lower carb version has tons of flavor and is beautiful enough for special occasions. We even served it at Christmas dinner. The colors were perfect and my in-laws loved it which is always a good thing. Continue reading

Paleo & Primal Whole Foods Haul

Whole Foods is a great resource for Paleo Diet (and Primal) necessities. On the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Whole Foods held a sale on “Grass-Fed” ground beef. While steak is high on my list of good things in life I definitely love good ground beef. It’s very versatile and can be healthy and delicious in spite of it’s blue-collar image. When I heard about the sale I knew I would be making the trek to the nearest store. When perusing Twitter in the early afternoon I noted a couple of people complaining that the store where they were shopping was running low on the beef. So I hurried over there and managed to snag my maximum limit of ten pounds.Paleo diet grocery shopping

The beef at this particular location comes from a farm in Skillman, New Jersey called “Simply Grazin'”. I have become a bit wary of the phrase “grass-fed” so I checked out their website. Fortunately, as the name suggests, the cattle from this farm are raised organically and grass fed from start to finish (grass-finished). This means that the animals are treated more ethically and are eating the diet they were created to eat. It also means their meat and milk is far more nutritious. The Standard American Diet (SAD) leaves us with a terrible ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Meat from grass fed animals is higher in Omega-3 fatty acid and lower in Omega-6 which can help in getting closer to the optimal ratio of 1:1. This fact is what makes spending a little extra money on grass fed meat well worth it to me.

Check out the beauty of the beef! I took this photo in the middle of the store – yes, I actually took my fancy camera in there to capture the moment. :-) My husband, G, and our boys, ran away in embarrassment but not before I snapped a shot of the meat with G’s Vibram Fivefingered foot in the background. They just don’t understand!paleo diet grass fed beef
One of the main reasons I make the occasional trek to Whole Foods is to stock up on coconut products. I have been able to find some of these ingredients in other stores but I know Whole Foods is going to have a better and more reliable selection. Some of my favorites are virgin coconut oil, creamed coconut, coconut flour and shredded/flaked coconut. The day I went, the store was out of my preferred coconut flakes so I had to settle for shredded coconut. Whole Foods also carries reduced fat flaked and shredded coconut. But since fat is one of the main reasons I eat coconut I can’t imagine purchasing reduced fat versions.

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Some other favorite items from Whole Foods are organic cage-fee eggs, Omega-3 fish oil, chicken and beef stock, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and fine Celtic sea salt.

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My two little boys still eat some dairy (and G and I have been known to put heavy cream in our coffee) so if I make the trip to Whole Foods I will be looking for “pastured” dairy products. Here you can see Fage full fat yogurt which has twice the protein of regular yogurt. We also snagged some drinkable yogurt from grass fed cows as well as pastured whole milk and Half & Half. Ordinarily, I would have purchased heavy cream, not Half & Half, but they were sold out. My goal with any dairy is to purchase full fat, organic varieties from grass fed animals when possible. Even then my consumption is limited to cream in my coffee and the very occasional cheese.

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I would love to be able to buy more items from Whole Foods. Just look at their beautiful produce.

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But even if I cannot afford to buy all my food there I at least try to take advantage of sales and focus on items they offer that are more difficult to find elsewhere. In the next couple of days I will post the recipe for meatloaf that I used with some of the awesome grass fed ground beef.

What else is a “must buy”? What do you love about Whole Foods?

Paleo Ostrich Egg Brunch

The boys and I took a trip into New York City the other day and stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket.  My husband, G, had been there the previous Friday and let me know there was a farmer selling ostrich and emu eggs.  Unfortunately, he was sold out that particular day. But Sweet Pea, Big Boy and I were in luck because, on the day we stopped by, the farmer from Roaming Acres Farm still had a couple of ostrich eggs

The price was $30 for one fresh ostrich egg or $20 for a hollow shell.  I purchased the pterodactyl-like egg which was then wrapped in bubble wrap for the trip home.

We were pretty excited to give the egg a try but given the sheer volume of food, and our desire to share the experience with others, we invited some friends over for a Paleo Ostrich Egg Brunch.  In preparation for the extraction of the egg from its shell G selected two drill bits for his Dremel tool.  Paleo Spirit

He used the smallest bit to drill a starter hole in one end of the egg then moved up to a larger bit until he had a hole big enough for a straw. 

We initially tried to extract the egg by inserting a straw slightly smaller than the hole and blowing into the shell.  We ended up drilling a tiny hole in the other end of the egg and blowing directly into that hole.  This second method proved successful.  Once the ostrich egg was out of its shell and into a large bowl I added:

  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper

We cooked the mixture in two batches on medium heat in the fat rendered from duck bacon

And, drumroll please……Here’s what the finished product looked like.paleo scrambled ostrich egg

The only difference we noticed between this ostrich egg and regular chicken eggs was some gelatinous ribbons running throughout.  It was part of the white of the egg and looked rubbery. One guest said it reminded her of “lardons” – “pieces of bacon or pork which are inserted in meat in the process of larding” usually in French cooking.  Though initially off-putting it was actually quite tasty and not rubbery at all.

Sweet Pea and Big Boy were VERY excited about brunch!Paleo Ostrich Egg Brunch

Accompanying the scrambled ostrich egg for our “Paleo Brunch” we served some duck bacon, fresh strawberries, gluten free jelly donut cupcakes (recipe from Elana’s Pantry), orange juice and coffee with heavy cream. Paleo Ostrich Egg Brunch

Sweet Pea was pretty jazzed at being allowed to indulge in a tiny bit of coffee and cream in his little Sweet Pea-sized coffee cup.Paleo Brunch

The unanimous opinion was that the ostrich egg was delicious.  The heavy cream and duck fat certainly did not hurt matters.  The texture of the egg itself was very tender – more fluffy than similarly cooked chicken eggs.  It fed four adults and two children with a lot of leftovers in spite of the fact we adults had pretty sizable portions.  My estimate is we ate the equivalent of about 18 chicken eggs.  Here’s a photo of the leftovers.  Paleo Ostrich Eggs

The farmer had estimated the ostrich egg would provide an equivalent of 18-24 chicken eggs.   It seemed to me we had closer to the equivalent of 28-30 eggs.  We certainly could have invited over a few more friends  Given the successful experience there will most likely be a next time!

Paleo Ostrich Egg Brunch

Big Boy imagines he is holding a real pterodactyl egg.

I Have Made Cauliflower! Basic Cauliflower Rice Recipe

This is the first year I have attempted to grow cauliflower. My husband, G, built three raised garden beds and I got very ambitious and started planting all sorts of new things. I knew next to nothing about growing cauliflower and resorted to consulting YouTube for some how-to videos. Some were helpful. Others, like much of what is on YouTube, were downright bizarre. But I digress….

I learned that cauliflower grows in the middle of a large plant with lots of leaves and the ones in the middle sort of flop over the floret to keep it cool and shaded. It was for this reason that one day it seemed as if nothing was there but the very next day I poked a little deeper and discovered a serious cauliflower floret! I used a large knife to cut the floret out of the plant just as the large, nameless man in balloon-fronted shorts on YouTube had instructed. The moment, for me, was very reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Castaway” when he is finally successful in making a fire. I actually exclaimed out loud,

“I have made CAULIFLOWER!!!”

After exulting in my success in growing this organic gem I pondered my next step. Of course I would need to find a recipe worthy of my first actual homegrown cauliflower floret. Shortly after starting the Paleo Diet I read about “Cauliflower Rice” and was intrigued. I happen to like cauliflower. But my husband and kids definitely do not like it in any form. In fact G tells a story of going home with a college buddy for a weekend and being horrified when the guy’s mom proudly declared that dinner was “Cauliflower Casserole”. Woo hoo! Not. Given the PTSD he suffered as a result of this experience I was not optimistic that G, or our boys, would be remotely interested in eating cauliflower in any form. But I am happy to report they ALL enjoyed the cauliflower rice and even asked for seconds. Given that the recipe is gluten free and low carb it works great for anyone on a Paleo, Primal or low-carb/Atkins type diet. It seems to fill the void that sometimes exists on a grain free and white potato free diet when you long for something starchy. Cauliflower rice fits the bill – without the starch and high carbohydrate count.

Basic Cauliflower Rice:

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a 8×8 microwaveable dish and cover with plastic wrap. There is no need to add water because the cauliflower will cook in its own moisture.
  2. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.paleo cauliflower rice recipe
  3. Use a food processor to pulse the steamed cauliflower until it is the texture of rice. (You may have to do this in a couple of batches.) Place the cauliflower in a medium bowl and set aside.paleo cauliflower rice recipe
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute’ for about 30 seconds being careful not to burn the garlic.
  5. Add the cauliflower into the pan and stir fry for 7-10 minutes, until tender.
  6. Add the parsley, the sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
Serves 4-6
I recommend you start with this basic recipe and change it up as you desire and depending on what you are serving it with. For example the basic recipe calls for flat leaf parsley but I have also used fresh basil with great success. Additionally, sauteing a diced onion in the olive oil prior to adding the garlic and cauliflower would be good as well. I have even seen a recipe that called for a cup of finely chopped celery. The possibilities are endless. I did find that steaming the cauliflower prior to sauteing it made the whole process easier. You can steam it and process it in advance and store, covered, in the refrigerator and saute’ right before serving.
Cauliflower rice goes especially well with the Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic recipe. I added about a half cup of the garlic sauce from that recipe into the cauliflower rice and served them together. It was really delicious, low carb, grain free – Paleo!
For more information on growing cauliflower and its nutritional profile you can check out this post.

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Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic is a classic French dish. This Paleo version of the recipe stands out in my mind as one of the all time biggest hits with my husband. The first time he tried it he could not stop remarking, in between bites, on how good it was. Even if garlic is not your favorite ingredient do not let this recipe scare you off. The cooking process involves boiling, frying and simmering the garlic which leaves the cloves very mildly pungent, sweet and tender. In fact, they practically disintegrate by the end of the cooking process leaving the sauce with a wonderfully rich flavor. The dish works well with “Cauliflower Rice”. I discovered that adding some of the resulting sauce to the cauliflower made it especially good. One bonus with these two dishes is you can make both of them ahead of time and reheat before serving. This is a simplified, crock pot and Paleo version of the classic Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic based on one by Ina Garten sans the butter, cream and flour.

Ingredients

  • 3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
  • 2 (3 1/2 pound) chickens, cut into eighths
  • Celtic Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fat (ghee, lard, tallow, etc…)
  • 3 tablespoons Cognac
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. Separate the cloves of garlic (don’t peel them) and drop them in a pot of boiling water for about 60-90 seconds. Strain the garlic out, allow to cool slightly and then peel. Set aside.
  2. Dry the chicken and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the 3 tablespoons of fat in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken, skin side down, until browned, about 3 minutes on each side.
  3. When a batch is done, transfer to a large crock pot and continue the process until all the chicken is browned.
  4. Add all the garlic to the pot containing the fat. Lower the heat and sauté for about 10 minutes, turning the garlic, until evenly cooked and browned.
  5. Add the Cognac and white wine and return to a boil, scraping any of the browned pieces off the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the thyme leaves and pour the entire pan of garlic and liquid over the chicken in the crock pot.
  7. Cook on low heat for 6 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, remove the chicken from the crock pot to a large serving platter. Taste the sauce at this point and add in some Celtic Sea Salt (or table salt) and pepper to taste. If the sauce is not thick enough for your preference I recommend adding 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder at this point. Arrowroot tends to lose its ability to thicken if cooked. But adding it at the end, after the sauce has cooled down, seems to work well. Personally, I thought the sauce was fine without being thickened. Especially because I used some of it to flavor the “Cauliflower Rice” dish that I served with the chicken.
Alternate Instructions
If you want to make this dish all in one evening and serve it for dinner, rather than transferring the chicken to a crock pot,
  1. Place the chicken on a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
  2. Once all the chicken is cooked and the sauce is prepared add the chicken back into the large pot or Dutch oven and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes until the chicken is done.
  3. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cook the sauce down to your preferred consistency and season to taste. You can use an immersion blender to purée the garlic which will thicken the sauce. If you prefer an even thicker sauce it would be at this point the arrowroot could be added before pouring it over the chicken.
Bon appetit mon cavepeople!