Tag Archives: desserts

Paleo Chocolate & Cinnamon Mug Cake

I am still adjusting my schedule — a much more active little one presents some difficulties — but I needed to share with you all this delightful creation. I present: mug cake.Chocolate & Cinnamon Mug Cake | Paleo + Life

“Really, Cher?” I hear you saying. “Mug cake? That’s so 2013.”

Perhaps mug cake is a bit past its new and exciting stage. But you know what it also is? Delicious.
I adore mug cakes, and I am not ashamed. Especially since paleo mug cakes have fairly healthy ingredients. Eggs, bananas, a bit of spice for flavoring — these are staples I use just about daily.
(Speaking of spice: I have always wondered: just what the heck is in “spice cake” anyway? I need to investigate. I bet a spice-cake style mug cake would be amazing.)

This recipe is quick and easily adaptable to whatever spice you have on hand. Two things to note:

1) This works best with liquified oil. If using coconut oil, warm it before using so that it isn’t solid.

2)For best results, be sure to mash the heck out of the banana. If you don’t like banana or want to lower the carbs, a thicker applesauce (like my Apple Sassy Applesauce) is a fine substitute.

Paleo Chocolate & Cinnamon Mug Cake


  • 1/2 large banana
  • 1 egg
  • 2 heaping teaspoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil


  1. Combine banana and egg in a large coffee mug; mix thoroughly. Add remaining ingredients, stirring after each addition. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, depending on the power of your device. Serve immediately.

Roasted Bananas with Lime

Roast Bananas with Lime | Paleo + Life

You’ve probably figured out by now that I love dessert. Between the fudge and the figs, the panna cotta and the pudding, the sweet tooth is somewhat obvious. I try to keep it down to a dull roar, but sometimes my desire for a treat gets the best of me and I want something NOW.

This dessert, which we had after Christmas dinner, came about because of that longing. I had made cookies (Creamy Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons; so fantastic) with the kids the day before, but those disappeared almost as fast as we made them. I really wanted something as a nice ending to the meal that wouldn’t be overwhelmingly sugary.

Glancing around the kitchen, I spied the bananas. Seeing them made me think of a recipe for roasted fruit I’d found when the toddler was just beginning to eat solid foods. While baby food wasn’t exactly what I was aiming for, warm roasted fruit sounded just about perfect.

Roasted Bananas with Lime | Paleo + Life

The bananas are broiled, which brings out their natural sweetness, then coated with a drizzle of honey-lime sauce — it takes much longer to describe this than to make it. This takes hardly any time at all to roast; you could even do it  while dinner is on the table. Serve warm with a sprinkle of coconut flakes and a hit of lime zest. If you’re feeling indulgent, add a dollop of whipped coconut cream. Totally paleo, and totally delicious.

Roasted Bananas with Lime


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 4 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 of a lime, preferably organic
  • coconut flakes


  1. Set oven to broil. Coat a baking sheet with the coconut oil. Place the bananas on the sheet and set aside.
  2. Make the syrup: warm the honey (the microwave is perfect for this; approximately 10-20 seconds) and combine with the lime juice. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Coat each slice of banana with the syrup, then place in the oven. Broil until fruits are softened and slightly brown (approximately 10 minutes). Remove from the oven; add a second coat of sauce to each piece.
  4. To serve,make a bed of coconut flakes in a dessert dish. Add two slices of banana to each dish. With a zester, scrape a bit of fresh lime zest over each serving. Serve immediately.

Book Report: Real-Life Paleo

Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. As always, all opinions are my own.

Matt McCarry and Stacy Toth are the dynamic duo behind Paleo Parents, and prolific authors of paleo cookbooks, including one on eating nose-to-tail (Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes that Respect the Whole Hog)* and one for kids (Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids)*. Their newest offering is Real Life Paleo: 175 Gluten-Free Recipes, Meal Ideas, and an Easy 3-Phased Approach to Lose Weight & Gain Health*, which suggests a slower, three-phased approach to taking on a paleo diet.

Quick Banana-Chocolate Souffle Cake from Real Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Quick Banana-Chocolate Souffle Cake, p. 146

In brief: this book is a gold mine. While I am a “jump in with both feet” kind of person, not everyone can handle that approach, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed. Stacy and Matt’s very encouraging tone gently leads the reader by the hand, always explaining why certain foods are encouraged or discouraged, letting them get more comfortable with the idea of paleo eating while offering tasty, kid-friendly recipes. It is written in a very conversational, friendly tone: I had to wrestle it away from my oldest in order to read it for this review!

In Phase 1: Swap, you swap out the worst foods in the diet. This means going gluten-free, as well as taking out refined and processed foods, changing dairy products and meat (full fat, organic and grass-fed are king here), and eating more veggies. The book has a useful tear-out grocery shopping guide that you can use in the store to remind you of products to look for while shopping, and tips for going out to eat. (As the primary cook in our house, this may be my favorite part of the book.)

In Phase 2: Remove, you focus on removing other grains, dropping dairy, legumes, and processed oils. (In this phase, you ‘go paleo.’) Matt and Stacy share more shopping tips here, and share suggestions from their family’s transition, as well as lists of paleo kitchen staples and suggestions for family activities (some food related, some not).

If Phase 2 is Paleo 101, then Phase 3: Heal is the next course in the sequence. In this phase, organ meats, bone broth, fermented foods and more are added to the diet. These are considered paleo super foods, in that aren’t just good for you, but can actively help heal your digestive system. This phase also emphasizes lifestyle aspects of paleo, since they can be just as healing as the foods you’re eating.

Green Onion and Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese from Real Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese, p. 238

There is much more to the book: suggested menus, meal plans, and spice blends, as well as close to 200 recipes. Speaking of those: all of the recipes are categorized by phase, and all are indexed to help those who need to avoid specific allergens. There are lots of recipes for staples like coconut milk, and many good ideas for less-sweet alternatives to both breakfasts and desserts. Thus far, my favorite new-to-me recipe is the Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese (one of many squash recipes) — the husband went for seconds and thirds, and the meat loving oldest boy was barely done with his dinner portion when he asked to have some for breakfast. That dish is definitely going in the permanent rotation, though it may be a while, as my must-try list is about a mile long. The book strikes a good balance between safe, simple flavors kids will like, and a few adventurous ones that stretch the palate a bit (both the homemade beef energy bars and the mussels are on my list).

The Real Life Paleo approach is a really sustainable way to get folks eating healthier, one meal at a time. I wish I had had this book when we started our paleo journey: I dare say my kids would have been far happier if we had gone paleo this way. Still, I’m glad to have it now. This book has earned a place on my bookshelf for everyday inspiration.

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever from Real-Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever, p. 384

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever


  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1-1/2 kosher or sea salt
  • 1 (13-1/3 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk or 1-3/4 cups homemade
  • 2 large pastured egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix, for garnish*


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Remove the ends of the squash, slice it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Then peel and cube the squash. Spread out the squash cubes in a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely.
  3. Place 2 packed cups of the cooked squash and the remaining ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Put the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn, following the manufacturer's directions, until stiffened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Freeze in an airtight container for at least 30 minutes before serving. If frozen for more than four hours, let rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. (Natural ice creams don't contain chemical softeners, so they set hard like ice and require time to soften.)
  6. Scoop into bowls and top with the Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix.

Note: if you can’t find butternut squash, any winter squash will do. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged peeled and cubed butternut squash to make this recipe even easier, but we’ve heard that pumpkin is a fan favorite.

Don’t have an ice cream maker? Never fear. After cooking and cooling the squash, place it in the freezer to harden for a few hours. Then, once partially frozen, add the squash and remaining ingredients to a high-speed blender and puree — you’ll have instant soft-serve.

* = Affiliate link.


Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding | Paleo + Life

I swear, this is blog is not becoming Paleo Desserts with Cher. I just happened to have some super ripe avocados that I needed to use, which brought the following to mind.

About ten years ago, I worked for a major grocery store chain. (Considering my obsession with food, I’m sure this surprises exactly no one.) As the community relations staffer, one of my responsibilities was scheduling our store’s classroom with interesting cooking classes.
At that time, the raw food movement was newly popular, and I met a lovely raw vegan chef who occasionally taught in our classroom.

One day, I poked my head into a class Jenny was teaching, and she offered me a sample of a delicious chocolate pudding. It was delicious, of course, but I absolutely did not believe her when she told me it was made with avocados. I thought it was brilliant. The whole raw foods lifestyle seemed so complicated, however, and since I knew I wasn’t committed to it, I eventually forgot all about it.

Fast-forward ten or so years: While I was at IFBC (the food bloggers conference), one of the samples I tried at the big Saturday night wing ding was a simple dessert featuring bananas and cocoa powder. When I sampled it, I knew it was something my kids would love, but without any fat, it would just zip right through your body. One of the first things I learned about cooking is that fat equals flavor — and fullness. (Nothing starches my linen** more than the kids coming back after dinner, complaining that they are still hungry.) So I wanted to figure out how to adapt this dessert, when from the depths of my memory, that long-ago taste of chocolate avocado pudding emerged. Immediately, I knew I’d found my answer.

The problem? Only one of the four kids actually likes avocado. So I knew I’d have to be a little devious about it. I whipped up a batch and let the oldest boy sample it. He adored it. I then fed it to the kids, without mentioning the contents, since Youngest Girl is especially particular and would have refused to try it point-blank.

The verdict was unanimous: Everyone ate it, happily, without so much as a complaint. I actually texted my husband during dessert, despite the fact that he was less than ten feet away:

Husband: Huh.

(One of us may be more excited about this than the other.)

Now that I’ve perfected the recipe, will I tell the kids what’s in it? Eventually. Right now I’m just going to enjoy knowing that my kid is chowing down on a dessert I absolutely adore, sucking in healthy fats and tons of vitamins in the process. Score one for Mama.

Note that this is not super-duper sweet; I wanted the flavors to come through as cleanly as possible. If you prefer a sweeter taste, another two tablespoons of maple syrup will not hurt one bit. While the nutmeg is optional, I find the earthy, peppery flavor emphasizes the creaminess of the chocolate and avocado. The addition of berries and pumpkin seeds are just the icing on the … wait, maybe this is getting to be Paleo Desserts with Cher. Considering how delicious this is, I don’t think I will mind one bit.

**Yes, I just made that up. Y’all know what I mean.

Paleo Chocolate Avocado Pudding


  • Two Reed avocados (or 5-6 Hass avocados)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Berries
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds


  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor or high-speed blender. Process until thoroughly combined (in food processor, this takes 1-2 minutes. With high speed blender, this will be faster). Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. To serve: top with berries,and sprinkle on a few pumpkin seeds and ground nutmeg.

Figgy Pudding, American Style

American-Style Figgy Pudding | Paleo + Life

This past weekend, the family and I participated in a harvest with the Portland Fruit Tree Project (PFTP). For those who are unfamiliar with this wonderful organization, it’s mission is simple. Because of our temperate climate, Portland is full of fruit trees — but sometimes the homeowners cannot use the fruit they grown. Rather than letting it go to waste, PFTP gathers a group of volunteers who harvest the fruit. Most of it goes to homeless shelters, but the volunteers also are allowed to take some fruit home. The homeowners don’t have a big mess on their hands, the shelters get extra food, and the volunteers get community service time as well as free fruit: it’s a win for everyone involved.

On our harvest date, it turned out to be just our family and some folks from PFTP for the three hour session. Between us, however, we picked 226 pounds of grapes and figs. We took home about two pounds of figs, and 24 pounds of concord grapes. I was thinking I’d make grape jelly, but at the rate my kids eat them, they won’t last long enough for me to do that. I don’t mind, though: fistfuls of concords are so much better than a lot of things they could be eating.

This recipe, however, is all about the figs.

American-Style Figgy Pudding | Paleo + Life


The figs we harvested were incredibly ripe — like fall apart as you took them off the trees ripe — so I needed to use them in something where shape didn’t matter (i.e., not a salad or a cheese plate). I decided to cook them down into a concentrated American style pudding (as opposed to British puddings, which are something like fruitcake).
Then I started thinking about American Thanksgiving, since it’s only a month away (I know, I’m a touch early, but it’s my second-favorite holiday of the year and I am a little obsessed). Since this is our first paleo Thanksgiving, I wanted experiment with a simple fruit-based dessert. I added chocolate for depth, a little honey for sweetness, and a bit of cinnamon and vanilla to add warmth. I thought it just sounded like these might be good.
Little did I know it would turn out to be a sexy, smoky, intensely figgy treat that made me want to lick the bowl. Nope, I’m not even a little ashamed to admit that: this stuff is good. Even my fig-hating teenager loved it.

Top it with quickly candied nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts would be incredible, too) and brightly-flavored dried cranberries for a bit of contrast and zing. While I made it with the holidays in mind, it’s too good and too easy to save just for that day: this pudding is definitely going into the regular rotation.

Figgy Pudding, American Style


  • 4 cups figs, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Candied Nuts
  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries


  1. Combine figs, cocoa, honey, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until figs are mostly disintegrated.
  2. Remove pan from heat and blend the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.
  3. Return to heat; cook for another 20 minutes, or until volume is reduced by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Candied Nuts
  5. Combine all ingredients in a small skillet. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, toast nuts until fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat; allow to cool.
  6. To serve, layer pudding, nuts and cranberries in a dessert dish.

Plum Rhubarb Panna Cotta

Plum Rhubarb Panna Cotta |Paleo + Life

My mother-in-law, J., is a story teller. That is not the sum of her, naturally — she is an interesting, complex woman to be sure — but when I think of her, the first thing that springs to mind are her wonderful tales of growing up out here in the West with her dad, an extraordinary scientist. Pet ravens, bones boiling in the back yard, lamps made of elephant bones … it all sounds like a scene out of a novel. If I hadn’t actually seen the lamp, I don’t know that I’d believe it.

Besides keeping the family stories, J. is also keeper of family mementos. Her home is full of unexpected treasures like antique Native American rugs, and such: every so often, she passes some of those on to us.

We have a sweet set of tea cups, for example, that J. inherited from her grandmother. They are not especially valuable, but I love them dearly. They are dainty enough to be charming, without being so delicate that I’m afraid to touch them. We never use them for tea — the cups are far too small for the vats of tea both Husband and I like to drink — but they are a wonderful size for desserts like panna cotta.

Plum Rhu V Blog

I consider panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) to be the ultimate in fancy jello. I know that sounds crazy, but really, that’s all it is: milk mixed with gelatin (I use Great Lakes*) and whatever flavoring you want.
Panna cotta is so lusciously creamy, and so easy, that I want to make it all the time. I think it works for every season, too. My husband has a summer birthday, so for him, I made one with an apple mint. When the autumn started, these beautiful plums just spoke to me. For my birthday, I’ll probably do lemon, since I love citru. around springtime, I can’t wait to try lavender honey. Then next summer, maybe lemongrass, and in the fall again there’ll be apples…The possibilities are endless.

Getting back to this fall’s dish: I wanted a treat, with a deep, fruity flavor, that I could have even on a Whole30. I wasn’t looking for a traditional dessert, because I don’t believe that’s in the spirit of Whole30, but I wanted something that would be like having a fancied up piece of fruit after dinner. I think this sticks to the rules of the challenge while still being a little bit special; something tasty you could share when swapping stories with friends after dinner.

This is not a traditional panna cotta, being much more fruit than milk, but it sets up similarly. Rhubarb is quite tangy, so use the sweetest plums you can for contrast; the grapes add an extra boost of natural sweetness as well. If you are on a whole30 or a 21-Day Sugar Detox, that should be all you need: it really will be fine to leave out the sweetener. Heck, you could leave out the rhubarb if it isn’t your thing; double the amount of grapes instead. Plum and grape panna cotta would be brilliant, too.

If you are having sweetener, do try adding the maple syrup and honey; it adds some depth that emphasizes the hint of anise from the star anise and the smoothness of vanilla. Of course, use the best vanilla you can find; it really does make a difference.
Finally: vegetarian friends, I have not tried this, but I hear agar agar works well as a substitute for gelatin. Do let me know if you try it!

Plum Rhubarb Panna Cotta


  • 1-1/2 pounds plums, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, chopped
  • 1/2 pound red seedless grapes, sliced in half
  • 1 small piece star anise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional; skip if doing whole30)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (optional; skip if doing whole30)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons gelatin


  1. In medium saute pan, combine plums, rhubarb, star anise, vanilla, maple syrup, and honey. Stew over medium-low heat for approximately 30 minutes, or until the fruits have softened enough to give when poked with a fork. Remove star anise; rinse, dry and reserve for another use.
  2. Pour the fruit into a high speed blender and puree 15-20 seconds, or until mixture is smooth. (If you do not have a high-speed blender, an immersion blender will also work. The texture will be somewhat less fine.) Set aside.
  3. In a separate sauce pan, pour the milk and gelatin. Allow gelatin to absorb liquid for a few moments, then stir to dissolve. Briefly warm the mixture over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
  4. Combine the gelatin and milk with the fruit mixture.
  5. Pour the panna cotta mixture into the molds of your choice. Refrigerate for 30 minutes until soft set; for a firmer set, refrigerate for at least one hour.

Apple Sassy Applesauce

Apple Sassy (Applesauce) | Paleo + LifeFour days ago, miniature rivers of sweat ran down my back as I squinted into the Seattle sun. Smooshing crusty shrimp foccacia into my mouth with one hand and wrestling my nursing toddler with the other I watched my girl rolling across the grass, giddy with sun and silliness. I tried to take a deep breath, fixing this second in my mind, ordering myself to remember, to savor this last gasp of summer. It seemed impossible that it would end.

But this morning, the patter of rain roused me from the sloppy swirl of blankets covering my bed. The breeze coming in from our open window nipped at our skin and raised taut goosebumps on arms and legs. The littlest girl was grumpy, the tot would not leave my arms, and husband and teens were all bleary-eyed slugs. Fall, such as it is in the Northwest, seems to have come.

I wanted to make something warm and soothing. Something thick and rich that would help us all embrace the change of season, instead of resenting it for not being summer.
Applesauce, I thought. I should make applesauce.

Apple Sassy Applesauce | Paleo + Life

While we were up north, we paid a quick visit to my husband’s aunt and uncle, who treated us to a generous bagful of apples from their garden. Apples that fresh don’t really need anything except mashing, but a hint of ginger and a dash of cinnamon brightens and deepens the apples’ flavor. When my little taste tester tried this, the wee bit of heat from the ginger is the reason she declared this not applesauce, but Apple Sassy.

When I’m making applesauce for the little ones, I just add the spices and blend; it is super fast, and we all like the fresh flavor of raw apple. However, if you have the time, I recommend that you give your applesauce a turn in the slow cooker. Some of the water in the apples will cook off, which concentrates the flavor wonderfully, without going as far turning into apple butter.
Of course, you can do that, too: just let it cook longer until the volume reduces to about half and the texture has thickened even further. A good apple butter sticks to the spoon the same way nut butter does.

However you choose to make it, homemade applesauce is a real treat. Serve this over pork chops, roasted sweet potatoes, stir it into plain yogurt, make gelatin gummies with it … or just enjoy it by the spoonful. A batch of this will warm your spirit, whatever the weather.

Apple Sassy (Apple Sauce)


  • 16 small to medium apples
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2" square piece of ginger, peeled


  1. Wash, core and roughly chop apples. Place the cinnamon, ginger, and about one-third of the apples into a high-speed blender. Blend for 30-60 seconds, or until apples have been pulverized and only tiny flecks of apple peel can be seen. Pour mixture into large bowl and set aside.
  2. Blend remaining apples into a pulp. Add to the mixture in the bowl, stirring well. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until ready to eat.
  3. Optional: If you desire a thicker applesauce, pour the mixture into a slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on HIGH.

Grape Italian Ice

Grape Italian Ice | Paleo + LifeGrape. Italian. Ice.

I swear to you, this was an accident. Italian ice was not even on my radar; I was actually thinking about back-to-school meals and doing a series of quick weeknight suppers. Somehow, I got distracted. Can you blame me?

Grape Italian Ice | Paleo + Life

Perhaps it was the great sale on the grapes, or the unusually warm weather that led me astray. Regardless of how it happened, I regret nothing. How could I, when this luscious treat is the result?

Italian ices, also known as granitas, are wonderful summer desserts. They are simple to make, lovely to look at, taste divine and need hardly any effort for delicious results. Black grapes are just about perfect right now: juicy, flavorful, and so naturally sweet the recipe calls for nothing more than a hint of enhancement. A splash of lemon juice and a little bit of powdered galangal root, a spice commonly used in Thai cooking, enhances the grapes’ natural flavor without overwhelming it.

I recommend that you cool your serving dishes for best results. The refrigerator is probably safest, but if you’ve forgotten, a couple of minutes in the freezer should work just fine.

Grape Italian Ice


  • 2 lbs. seedless black grapes
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon galangal root powder


  1. In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine grapes, lemon juice and galangal. Blend until grapes are fully pulverized (about 1 minute in the blender). Pour into a freezer-safe container and place in the freezer.
  2. After about one hour, remove the mixture from the freezer. Use a fork to scrape the solid parts around the edges into the center. Return mixture to freezer. After another hour, repeat.
  3. After the third hour, mixture should be completely frozen (if it is not, just scrape and return it to the freezer).
  4. When ready to serve, scrape the mixture one last time to "fluff" the granita. Scoop into a chilled dish for best results.

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