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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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

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde) and a Giveaway

This post is SO long overdue.

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

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

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

Paleo Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

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Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa with Pan-Fried Halibut

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

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

Tomatillos - PaleoSpirit.com

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

cut tomatillo

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

Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa

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

Lea at waterfall

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

On Mt Tammany

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

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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

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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 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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Paleo Breakfast Porridge

I came across this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt recently.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature but beautiful old people are works of art.

A lot of meaning can be drawn from this particular statement. But in the context of health, it reminded me how we often take our wellness for granted. In our youth we may treat our bodies in a way that is less than ideal because we can get away with it. Eventually, the signs of abuse and/or neglect start to take their toll. When we start eating better, exercising, taking time to pray and/or meditate we may have the best of intentions but still struggle to stick with our new resolutions. Let’s take heart that the things we are doing now to take better care of ourselves, mind, body and soul will eventually pay off. We are investing in a future of better health and wellness. We are creating works of art.

Paleo Breakfast Porridge

Paleo Breakfast Porridge:: Paleo Spirit

Two years ago our family started down the path of creating a better, more healthful future for ourselves. As part of that, we began transitioning* to a grain-free diet. This paleo breakfast porridge recipe really helped us out during that time. Most people have never considered the possibility of a grain-free “cereal” and before going paleo we had not either. Our first “paleo porridge” was in a simpler form – just bananas (or plantains), coconut milk, almond meal and flax meal. It was born out of desperation – the desperation to make something that remotely resembled oatmeal or other types of hot cereal to replace what we were losing.

Since those early days, our paleo porridge has turned into a more complex dish. We began adding spices and all different types of toppings to the porridge. We always eat it as a side dish with a source of protein like sausage or eggs. It’s great with added berries, unsweetened coconut flakes and nuts. The sweetness will vary depending on the ripeness of the bananas you are using. We don’t typically add any additional sweetener but you have the option of drizzling a little maple syrup or raw honey on the porridge before serving if you like.

This paleo breakfast porridge recipe is easy and serves anywhere from 2-4 persons.

Paleo Breakfast Porridge Recipe

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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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Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti (Paleo & Vegan)

Paleo Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti:: PaleoSpirit.com

Living in Italy many years ago I first became acquainted with biscotti. It was long enough ago that biscotti were not well-known in the United States. After returning home, I hosted a feast for my extended family that included an authentic almond biscotti recipe. It was something new for my family. The recipe I used was from an Italian cookbook I had purchased in that country and the resulting confections were quite crunchy and dense. In fact, I will never forget how my great aunt Ann enjoyed them. She enjoyed them in spite of the fact that she might have popped her jaw out of place trying to crunch one!

The recipe I have for you today is quite different. This is a grain-free, paleo and vegan recipe for chocolate pistachio biscotti. It uses almond and coconut flours and the resulting cookies are nicely crunchy but not so dense and hard that you will break a tooth or hurt your jaw. My great aunt Ann has passed away now, but I’m quite sure she would have enjoyed these biscotti even more than the “authentic” version.

Paleo Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti:: PaleoSpirit.com

School is back in session for us this week. After school my boys and I enjoy having a snack together and talking about our day. Taking the time to connect with loved ones is important. But it is also important to nourish other friendships by spending time together. Sharing food and drink can be an important part of bonding. It is also a great way to show hospitality – something that seems almost a lost art these days.

I love the poem “A Time To Talk” by Robert Frost. It reminds us of a simpler time when life had a more leisurely pace. It speaks of a man working in his field but taking time to enjoy the company of a good friend who had stopped by. He forgets, for a little while, his responsibilities and chores and simply enjoys spending time with his friend. We should all take a little “time to talk” with people we love and maybe even open our homes in hospitality to someone new, someone who might become a friend.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

Paleo Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti: PaleoSpirit.com

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