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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Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”

No one likes a fraud.  And I am not a big fan of something presented as what it is not. It’s a problem in the vegetarian world with meatless food made to look and taste as close to meat as possible. I mean why not just eat the real thing?! How does tofurkey even make sense? We tell our kids to be themselves and find friends who like them for who they are. So why, you say, is it any different for our friend cauliflower? Well, even though it would be great if cauliflower were as beloved as rice or the white potato, the truth is, cauliflower is like the wallflower at the prom who’s never asked to dance. White potatoes and rice are the ones who get invited to the fancy parties as part of elaborate dishes or weeknight dinners full of comfort foods. But when you are looking for something more nutrient dense and lower in carbohydrates, cauliflower is a great substitute for either of these two rivals. Continue reading

Beet and Cabbage Slaw

Raw Beet Slaw | Paleo Spirit

The word coleslaw usually conjures up images of mayonnaise-laden cabbage and carrots. While I am not at all opposed to eating mayonnaise, the problem with the store-bought versions is they contain all sorts of funky ingredients. I make my own mayonnaise now and then but it does take a little more time. Not to mention, my husband, G, refers to mayonnaise as “white death”.  So, if I am going to make a coleslaw he will actually eat, it will have to be “dressed” differently.

This beet and cabbage slaw recipe is partially the result of the bounty of beets in our garden this year.  Sweet Pea has been helping to harvest the beets as well as eat them. Check him out in the photo below with his bunch of beets!paleo beets

My past experience with beets has been primarily with the canned or pickled versions. But this year we have been enjoying them in their more natural state. I have made a few different salads using shredded raw beets with great success. This particular version also utilizes the cabbages that have been maturing in our garden lately.

The 1:1 ratio of oil to vinegar in the dressing brings an acidity that goes great with barbecue – particularly the Ancho Chile Pulled Pork Barbecue.paleo pulled pork and coleslawI recently invested in a large food processor I found at Costco for a reasonable price.  Given all the veggies we are eating now the 14 cup size has become almost indispensable.  It has made my paleo life much easier.

Cuisinart Food ProcessorIt comes in especially handy for this recipe because I can switch out some attachments and process the veggies in no time.  The recipe below has instructions for using a food processor as well as a more manual method.*

Raw Beet Slaw | Paleo Spirit

Paleo Raw Beet and Cabbage Slaw Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of cabbage
  • 2 medium raw beets
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Wash and core the cabbage and peel the carrots and beets with a vegetable peeler. Using a food processor, with the slicing disc in place, process the cabbage and transfer to a large bowl. Install the shredding disc and process the carrots and beets and transfer to the bowl. Install the chopping blade and process the parsley and transfer to the bowl. Thinly slice the red onion and add to the bowl.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until salt dissolves. Toss vinaigrette with the cabbage-beet-carrot mixture. Allow the slaw to stand for 20-30 minutes before serving, tossing regularly. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and serve.

* If you do not own a food processor you can slice the cabbage into thin strips with a knife. I recommending using a hand-held or box grater to shred the beets and carrots.

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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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Paleo Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut has gotten a bad rap over the last several years which influenced me to steer clear because I was deathly afraid of the saturated fat. After discovering the paleo diet, and doing a lot of reading about saturated fats like coconut, I came to understand that it is actually quite healthful.

This recipe started out as a bit of an experiment. I purchased double or triple the ingredients with the expectation there would be a few tries before I got it right. Much to my surprise, the first pie turned out AMAZINGLY good. The coconut crystals taste a lot like brown sugar and imbued the custard with a really rich caramel flavor while being very low glycemic. I was astonished at just how exquisite the pie tastes and how perfect the texture of the crust turned out to be. Searching around the internet did not yield many options for coconut flour-only crusts. In fact, the coconut flour container itself advocates replacing only 20% of the flour in a recipe with coconut. One of the reasons is because coconut flour is extremely dry. It requires a lot of moisture in the form of eggs, fat and/or water to balance the dryness. I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Coconut Cream Pie as a very rough guide for the filling and came up with my own coconut flour pie crust. The crust stays crisp in part because of the thin coating of melted dark chocolate applied before filling. I used Trader Joe’s paleo dark chocolateDark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar which is 85% cacao.

While Martha’s recipe called for 3 cups of coconut milk I used two cans of coconut milk plus one 7 ounce packet of creamed coconut.The creamed coconut made a HUGE difference in the final product because it has more texture and a very concentrated coconut flavor.

paleo coconut products

Another substitution was arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch.Corn is not a food used on the paleo diet but arrowroot is a perfectly good alternative as long as you add it at the end of a recipe. Arrowroot loses its ability to thicken at high heat.

Crust

Filling

Dairy Topping (optional)
Topping
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • dark chocolate shavings (85% or higher cacao)
Place the coconut flour and coconut flakes into a food processor and pulse until combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, coconut oil, coconut crystals, celtic sea salt, baking soda and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry in the food processor and pulse until it forms a crumbly dough. Add the water slowly until the dough comes together and appears moist but not soggy.

Spread the dough into a 9 inch pie dish and bake at 325 degrees for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave (or a double boiler).
Once the pie shell is completely cooled use a pastry brush to coat it with the melted chocolate.

Place the coated pie shell in the refrigerator to harden.
Prepare an ice bath and set aside. In a bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks; set aside. In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, creamed coconut, coconut crystals, vanilla extract and celtic sea salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, about 10 minutes. You want to cook some of the liquid out of the coconut milk so that it concentrates the flavor and will thicken a bit. Whisk a quarter of the hot coconut milk mixture into the egg yolks; whisk in remaining coconut milk mixture. Pour into a clean saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until custard is thicker and bubbles appear in the center, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set in the ice bath. Whisk it occasionally while it cools off for a total of 30-40 minutes. Add the arrowroot powder and whisk until combined and somewhat thicker (it will thicken more in the refrigerator).
Place a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate. (Filling can be kept in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, up to 1 day.)
Place the coconut flakes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly golden brown. Set aside.

Fill cooled crust with the custard and spread evenly with an offset spatula.Refrigerate paleo coconut cream pie at least three hours. Garnish with toasted coconut flakes and some grated dark chocolate just before serving.
The pie is delicious without any sort of whipped cream topping. However, if you have no issues with dairy and would like to add it simply combine the cream and coconut crystals and stir gently until the crystals have melted. Use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and beat the mixture until soft peaks form. Top the pie with the whipped cream and add the coconut flakes and chocolate shavings before serving. This pie can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days. The entire recipe is gluten, dairy and nut free and tastes better than any other coconut cream (custard) pie I have ever eaten paleo or not!

Homemade Coconut Cream Pie Larabar Recipe

Larabars are one thing that can bring Paleo dieters and raw vegans together.  Impossible you say!  Well, strangely enough this is one delicious product that has the power to do the inconceivable.  Raw vegans appreciate the fact there are no animal products and the ingredients are uncooked.  Paleo adherents clamor for Larabars because they are grain, legume, dairy and sugar free.  In my Paleo journey Larabars have become almost indispensable for a quick snack on the road or after a workout.  I usually pair them with some beef jerky for protein – something frowned upon by our raw vegan friends. Sorry guys.

The problem with Larabars for some of us, wonderful as they are, is the price.  While I appreciate that high quality ingredients do come at a premium it can get pretty expensive.  The cheapest I have found Larabars is $1 per bar on sale at a local grocery store.  The regular price is $1.89 at this particular store and I have seen higher prices elsewhere.  Having pronounced the Coconut Cream Pie Larabar my absolute favorite I set out to create a recipe that matches up as closely as possible but costs much less.  In this post I will provide the recipe as well as a cost calculation based on the ingredients that I used.

The recipe makes 4 Homemade Coconut Cream Pie Larabars.

Ingredients

Place raw almonds in food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped, continue to process for another minute or two until finely chopped.  Add in the coconut flakes, pulse and then process until fine.  Add the dates and continue processing for about 1 minute and finish by adding the 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil and process until the mixture clumps together (1-2 minutes).

Use plastic wrap to form the mix into bars – this recipe makes 4.

I purchased the raw almonds and dates at Costco and the Coconut Flakes and Oil at Whole Foods.  The cost calculations below are based on the price I paid at Costco and the internet price for the Coconut Flakes and Coconut Oil.  Not everyone has access to Whole Foods and frankly, as much as I love it, Whole Foods is nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” for a reason.  So ordering the coconut items online makes sense financially and in terms of convenience.  It can be pretty hard to find the Extra Virgin and UNSWEETENED (that’s key) Coconut Flakes and Oil at the regular grocery store.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  These products also keep very well.  I put the flakes in the refrigerator and the oil is fine at room temperature for a very long time.

This works out to approximately $0.67 per Coconut Cream Pie Bar which is significantly less than you would find at a store.  The bars do not really need refrigeration but you can certainly freeze them if you choose to make a larger quantity to have on hand.  In future posts I will go into detail about why coconut is our friend and the saturated fat found in coconut is actually good for us, not bad.  For now, just trust me that this recipe is delicious and nutritious.  To keep insulin levels in check you should pair the bars with some protein when you can and don’t scarf them like they are dessert – even though they taste like it.

Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake

Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake is a bit of a misnomer because the Paleo Diet, by definition, does not include dairy products. Cheesecake, obviously, has LOTS of cheese which may have you scratching your head.  In strict Paleo Diet circles this recipe would probably be referred to as “Faileo” instead of Paleo.  But here’s the deal, my husband had a birthday a few weeks ago and he requested cheesecake.  He and I have been “paleo” for a few months and while I generally avoid dairy he does indulge in full fat Greek yogurt and heavy cream for his coffee.  I searched around for a recipe in the “paleosphere” and did not find very much so I decided to come up with my own.

I started out with Nigella Lawson’s recipe for chocolate cheesecake and modified it to be as close to Paleo as humanly possible.  Voila’, Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake!  My goal was to ensure the recipe would be completely gluten free, have a low glycemic index, contain full fat, organic cheese, pastured butter and omega-3 rich eggs.

Instead of the graham cracker crust in Nigella’s recipe, I used almond meal in order to eliminate the gluten and increase the nutrition.  Full fat Greek yogurt was used in place of sour cream to increase the protein content and thicken the cheesecake without having to resort to custard powder or cornstarch.

The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate but I used unsweetened dark chocolate to eliminate as much processed sugar possible.

I substituted 1 Cup of Coconut Crystals for the 3/4 Cup of fine sugar called for in the original recipe.

Coconut Crystals is a sugar replacement (not an artificial sweetener) made from the sap of coconut blossoms.  It is very low glycemic (GI of only 35), diabetic-friendly, contains 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C and broad-spectrum B vitamins.  By adding a full cup I compensated for the sugar missing in the unsweetened chocolate while keeping the overall glycemic level of the cheesecake fairly low.

Ingredients

Cheesecake base:

  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal (or use a food processor to grind up raw almonds)
  • 1/4 cup butter (chilled ghee or coconut oil)
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp coconut crystals
  • Dash of salt (especially if almonds and  butter are unsalted)

Cheesecake filling:

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped small
  • 2 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1 cup coconut crystals
  • 3 large Omega-3 eggs
  • 3 large Omega-3 egg yolks
  • 7 oz container of Greek style yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sauce:

Special Equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the base, in a food processor combine the almond meal, butter, cocoa and coconut crystals until it makes damp, clumping crumbs and then tip them into the pan.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to make an even base and put into the freezer while you make the filling.

Put a kettle on to boil.

Melt 6 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate either in a microwave or double boiler, and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the cream cheese to soften it, then add the coconut crystals, beating again to combine. Beat in the whole eggs and then the yolks, and the Greek yogurt. Finally, add the cocoa dissolved in hot water, the vanilla extract and melted chocolate and mix to a smooth batter.

Take the springform pan out of the freezer and line the outside with a good layer of plastic wrap, and then another layer of strong aluminum foil over that. This will protect the cheesecake from the water bath.  Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan.

Fill the roasting pan with just boiled water to come about halfway up the cake pan.  This will keep the oven moist and the cheesecake from cracking.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the cheesecake should be set, but the underneath should still have a wobble to it.  Peel away the foil and plastic wrapping and sit the cheesecake in its pan on a rack to cool. Put in the refrigerator once it is no longer hot, and leave to set, covered with plastic overnight. Let it lose its chill before unspringing the cheesecake to serve.

To make the chocolate sauce: very gently melt the chopped chocolate, cream and coconut crystals. When the chocolate has nearly melted, take off the heat and whisk it to a smooth sauce. Let it cool a little, and pour it over the chocolate cheesecake on its serving plate.

 

For this recipe I used very “high end” ingredients in order to max out the nutritional content and keep the GI very low.  If I were to add up the cost it was probably on the expensive side.  For me it was worth it for a special occasion and I wanted to experiment with these ingredients to see how close to strict Paleo I could get.  But please don’t feel like you can’t try this recipe if you are not going to splurge on the same ingredients I used.  It would be fine to use regular cream cheese and eggs and unsweetened chocolate.  Obviously you can substitute regular sugar for the coconut crystals if you prefer.  In my opinion the most important change was the use of almond meal instead of graham crackers in the crust.  For anyone trying to remain gluten free this is extremely important.

The Paleo Chocolate Cheesecake recipe was a bit of an experiment and I am pleased it turned out so well.  We had a visitor from Australia with us the weekend I made it and he, in spite of not having an interest in eating Paleo, was very complimentary of the final product.  It is an extremely rich dessert and I recommend eating smaller slices and then freezing any leftovers for future falls off the non-dairy wagon.

Enjoy!

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Kale: “The Queen of Greens” + Kale and Avocado Salad Recipe

Kale is one of those really scary vegetables.  There cannot be more than a small percentage of the population that gets excited at the prospect of eating it.  But kale is such a nutritional powerhouse it deserves a second look…or taste.  Kale is a leafy green in the cruciferous vegetable category like broccoli, cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts.  One cup of kale contains 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of Vitamin A, 200% of Vitamin C and 1,020% of Vitamin K.  One cup also gives you 5 grams of fiber, 35 calories and minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. It is an organic gardener’s dream because it is easy to grow, is disease and pest resistant and produces well into the Fall.  And for Paleo adherents, such as myself, or anyone not eating a lot of dairy products, the calcium content is pretty important.

Harvesting Kale

Part of our “Camp Paleo Spirit” summer homeschool experiment involves gardening.  Kale is the only thing in our garden, besides herbs, ready for eating so it was an obvious choice for our Day 1 gardening activity.  Never having grown kale before I had to “google” the harvesting process. What I learned is you want to cut off the outer leaves when they are richly green and firm but not too dark and tough. You can start harvesting when the plant is about 8-10 inches high.  Ideally you should only cut what you will use that day and make sure enough leaves remain in the inner part of the plant so that it continues to produce.

Both boys were VERY down on the idea of eating kale until they participated in the harvesting of it.  It’s amazing how the enthusiasm grew after they got to help out.  We gathered enough to make one large “Kale Avocado Salad” (recipe below) and it turned out REALLY well.  This recipe is strictly Paleo, which means it is grain, legume and dairy free.  It also technically qualifies as “raw” and “vegan” if you are into that sort of thing.  ;-)

Kale Avocado Salad

  • 1 Bunch curly kale – about 10 large leaves
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/2 Vidalia (sweet) onion, diced
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4-6 Campari tomatoes quartered, or a handful of grape tomatoes, halved


Wash the kale and pat dry with a clean towel.  Remove any tough parts of the stems and cut or tear into bite-sized pieces. Place the kale into a large bowl.  Cut the avocado into small cubes and add to the kale along with the Vidalia onions.  Pour on the olive oil, the juice of one lemon and salt and pepper to taste.  Use a spoon to stir the mixture until the leaves are well coated with the oil, lemon juice and avocado.  You can even use your hands to “massage” the salad if you really want the avocado mixed in well and are feeling especially “earthy-crunchy”.  I would recommend massaging the salad before you add the lemon juice to avoid irritating your hands.  The lemon juice seems to almost “cook” the kale so letting it soak in for several minutes adds to the flavor.  The tomatoes can be tossed in just before serving.

I was amazed at the great flavor and the easy prep.  The firmness of the kale leaves, unlike lettuce, stood up to overnight storage and the salad was just as good, if not better, at lunch the next day.  I can envision several versions of this dish so I encourage you to experiment and let me know how it goes.  Cucumber and/or carrots might be great additions.  We ate the salad with some spicy sausages flavored with red pepper and it was a really great complement to the kale.  So adding a pinch of cayenne to the dressing would probably give a nice kick.

Check here for more paleo side dishes and salads.

Kale Avocado Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Bunch curly kale – about 10 large leaves
  • 1 Avocado
  • ½ Vidalia (sweet) onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4-6 Campari tomatoes quartered, or a handful of grape tomatoes, halved
Instructions
  1. Wash the kale and pat dry with a clean towel.
  2. Remove any tough parts of the stems and cut or tear into bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl.
  3. Cut the avocado into small cubes and use your hands to “massage” the avocado into the kale leaves.
  4. Add the chopped sweet onion to the kale.
  5. In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Use a spoon to stir the mixture until the leaves are well coated with the oil, lemon juice and avocado.
  7. Add the tomatoes right before serving.