Tag Archives: holiday food

Happy Thanksgiving To You!

Paleo + Life | Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
This pretty beastie is my all-time favorite. All other turkeys pale in comparison to the joy of the bacon wrap!

How is it already Thanksgiving time? I was just discussing with a friend how it always seems like “Oh, it’s two weeks away, I don’t need to worry about that yet!” and suddenly it’s HERE. Whoops.

But no need to fret: one of the reasons I adore Thanksgiving is that it’s really the simplest holiday to manage. Not like Halloween, with costumes and candy and trying to plan treats that won’t make one feel bad afterward; or all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas (and which, I might add, has been going on since darned near August!). Turkey Day is the best because it’s just three parts: Buy food. Cook it. Eat it.
Depending on your family, there may also be football (we are sports-averse, so this is not us), or a trip to the movies (sadly, the tot is not quite old enough for this yet), but the heart of this holiday is the meal. It’s a food blogger’s dream come true.

Every year, I try to make the meal just a little bit different. Sure, there’s always turkey, and there’s gotta be dressing (NOT stuffing and yes, there is a BIG difference), but the sides and desserts are where I like to have my fun. This year, I’m thinking:

It’s simple, totally Paleo, and easy as the proverbial pie. I’m so looking forward to a relaxing day of cooking up some goodies for the family.

What are you thinking of making for this foodiest of holidays? Drop a line in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Potatoes and Pecans

Potatoes & Pecans | Paleo + Life

How goes your January clean eating challenge? So far, so good around these parts. As opposed to last year, when I did my first one, I am actually enjoying it. I feel far less stressed about the process –it’s more of a reminder to myself, since I’ve basically got the “rules” down from a year of being paleo. It also helps that it’s a less restrictive challenge this time around. While I appreciated jumping into the deep end as a paleo newbie, the 21-day primal feels more compatible with my day-to-day life.

Which brings me to sweet potatoes (bear with me, it will make sense in a moment).

Sweet Potatoes & Pecans | Paleo + Life

I have always loved sweets, even pre-paleo, though I tended to reserve them for holiday eating. But it turns out they are full of vitamins A and B-6, among other things. With those kind of benefits, I am happy to eat them year-round.

We steam, mash, bake turn them into fries, pie, breads, even muffins. But at the moment, I’m focusing on quicker dishes, so my daily diet has been more about “how fast can I get food into my face and get back to my work?” than the patient cooking sweet potatoes require.

In order to make that happen, I’ve turned to the microwave. Ours has a “potato” setting, though I usually find that I need to set the machine for two potatoes instead of one (or three instead of two, etc). Still, it helps me get this vitamin-filled deliciousness onto my plate in a hurry. Topping them with coconut oil, pecans and coconut flakes adds healthy fats and makes even a fast snack feel luxurious.

Potatoes and Pecans


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or ghee
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes


  1. Wash potatoes and dry them; poke them with a fork several times.
  2. Microwave potatoes on high for 12 minutes, or until tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.
  3. Remove from microwave; slice potatoes in half and place into serving bowls.
  4. Split potatoes vertically; slip a dollop of coconut oil or ghee into the potato and mix it into the flesh thoroughly.
  5. To serve, top each half of potato with apple sauce, cinnamon and coconut flakes, and chopped pecans.

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce | Paleo + Life

As I mentioned last time, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to more consistently eat paleo “superfoods.” I’m aiming for at least once a week. Organ meats are an easy place to start keeping that resolution. With all of the health benefits they offer (the B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, CoQ10, etc., etc. — check out this great post from The Paleo Mom for more details), these are truly the unsung heroes of the freezer case.

Heart, in particular, is a nice introduction to learning how to eat the odd bits. It’s muscle meat, just like steaks or ribs which are so familiar to us:  the flavor of heart is really just an especially ‘beefy’ roast beef.  The long, low and slow cooking that the sous vide provides makes the meat deliciously tender. (This dish can also be made in the slow cooker, but I find using the sous vide provides a very tender texture.)

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce | Paleo + Life

My favorite way to serve beef heart is in romesco sauce. One of the loveliest, most versatile sauces I know, it comes from the Catalan region of Spain. Like any good traditional recipe, romesco has many variations. Some versions use tomatoes, some use bread, but just about all feature sweet peppers, garlic and almond flour.

Prepared in the sous vide, the flavors of the vegetables and meat infuse one another so that each bite holds the essence of all the ingredients. Here, I’ve blended the vegetables with the juices from the meat, which gives the sauce a deep velvety brown color. For a thicker, more colorful sauce, when you open the packet, pour off the meat juices and puree the veggies. Depending on which pepper you have used, the sauce will take on that color.
(Don’t discard the juices: pour them into a saucepan, and cook over medium high heat until the volume is reduced by half. Drizzle a bit of this over the beef. It is delicious.)

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce


  • Beef heart, approximately 3 lbs
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond flour


  1. Preheat sous vide to 185 degrees.
  2. Rinse the heart and pat dry. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the paprika, parsley, salt and pepper over the meat, making sure all sides of the heart are coated.
  3. In a sous vide pouch, combine the heart, onions, bell peppers, garlic and oil. With the vacuum sealer, seal the bag shut.
  4. Place pouch in the sous vide. Allow to cook for 24-36 hours. Remove pouch from sous vide and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. When cooled, open pouch and remove heart; set aside. Pour vegetables, cooking juices and almond flour into a high-speed blender and puree for 15-20 seconds, or until a smooth sauce has formed.
  6. Slice the heart into portions approximately 3/4" thick. When ready to serve, top slices of heart with a spoonful of sauce.

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.

Ten Great Food Gifts

Toddler-Proof Holiday Tree | Paleo + Life

This is our 2014 Christmas tree, because the toddler is, well, a toddler.


At this point in my life, I am solidly in the camp of preferring experiences to “stuff.” Not that I don’t enjoy gifts when I receive them — Vera the Vitamix was my birthday pressie, after all — but what I want most is more time with and for the people I care about. A good dinner with my husband, or brunch with a friend, is far more tempting than any gift I could receive.

That said, my absolute favorite gifts to give and receive are food-related. I love it when someone takes the time to offer something tasty from their kitchen — it’s usually the sort of thing you wouldn’t think to make for yourself, and always delicious. Giving food gifts also makes me incredibly happy. I grow a good number of herbs in our garden, and because so much of our family is far away, I love being able to share a little bit of Oregon with them.

Here are my favorite Paleo + Life recipes for gift giving:

  1. Herb Infused Oils — I like to put these in beautiful bottles like these from Cost Plus World Market. Make multiple flavors, or do one jar of flavored oil and another of flavored vinegar.
  2. Blueberry Shiso Jam — because I don’t can, I like to make freezer jam instead. So in my kitchen, this is reserved for local gifts, which I package in plastic jam containers or mason jars.
    If you use Bonne Maman preserves, their jars are especially attractive and great to recycle as well.
    In any case, if you haven’t canned the jam, sure you let the recipient know that it should be used or frozen fairly quickly.
  3. Apple Sassy Applesauce — this can be packaged the same way as the jam above.
  4. Candied Pecans (part of my Figgy Pudding recipe) — this is a hard gift to part with, largely because I have to stop myself from eating them all(!). Again, Cost Plus has perfect containers.
  5. Peppery Spice Mix from my Spiced Summer Burger recipe — I just make up a big batch of the spice mix and put it in a jar; it works with a variety of meats, or with portobello mushrooms if you want to make it vegan. I like these fancy shaped jars.
  6. Cinnamon Spice Nut Butter — a trio of this, the blueberry jam, and the applesauce would make an absolutely killer present.
  7. Paleo No-Grain Granola — so easy to make (and eat,) big batches are a requirement. If you can stop yourself from eating it all, put together a few jars. Perhaps a trio with the original recipe and the suggested variations?
  8. Mango Citrus Salsa — Good citrus is available right now, and frozen mango can be found in most stores. This salsa goes really well with seafood or meat, and is full of healthy ingredients. With the New Year — and New Year’s resolutions — just around the corner, start them off right.
  9. Perfectly Paleo Peppers and Onions — Make this recipe as given, then put in a jar with a couple of extra garlic cloves, a  sprig or two of rosemary, and enough olive oil to cover it.
    It lasts a surprisingly long time in the fridge and is a great base for a meal.
  10. Apricot Cardamom Sauce (from my Apricot Crepe Cakes recipe) — This is a flowery, sour sauce that I love as is, but it might be too mouth-puckering for more sensitive palettes. To tamp down the  tartness, increase the honey to 1/4 cup.

If you’ve got a favorite food gift, please share it in the comments!

Paleo Coco Ginger Fudge

Coco Ginger Fudge | Paleo + Life

Happy holidays! Since this is our first paleo Christmas, I wanted to make a fun holiday treat.
In typical Cher fashion, this recipe took a detour, but I am quite happy that it turned out as it did.

What I meant to make was a date-based truffle — I’m sure you’ve seen them all over the interwebs. Since these are such a great paleo basic, I wanted to have one here for you.
However, I started working on this recipe while also making breakfast and packing lunch for the kids and husband. So while I only meant to soak the dates for about 10 minutes, they ended up soaking for about an hour.

fudge v bl

This made the dates extremely soft — and as bonus, the soaking water was a lovely sweetener for several cups of tea —  but also meant that they wouldn’t hold shape if I blended them for any length of time.

Of course, last month, while making nut butter,I managed to burn out the motor on my food processor. This meant I had to use Vera the Vitamix for the processing. Did I mention I was multi-tasking during this process? (Yes, I know better.)
Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a nut-butter like instead of the sticky mass I had aimed for –whoops.

fudge detail bl

Needing to improvise, I decided to make a paleo-style fudge. So I added melted coconut oil to the mix, gave it a good stir, and stuck it in the fridge. The result was a combination of creamy, chocolate, chewy coconut and slightly spicy ginger that just melts in the mouth. A happy accident if ever there were one.

This would be a great dessert after a Christmas dinner or for a holiday party. Make a big batch in a shallow tupperware-type container with a lid, and take it to a potluck. I bet it will be the first thing that disappears from the table.

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  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • Hot water
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup cashew meal
  • 1 piece of ginger, 1/2" - 1" long, peeled
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil


  1. Place dates in a small bowl. Pour enough hot water over them to cover the dates completely. Soak for 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. When dates are thoroughly softened, drain water, reserving for another use. In a high speed blender, combine dates, cocoa powder, and cashew meal. Using a zester, grate ginger into the mixture. Blend for 30- 60 seconds, or until the date mixture has become a smooth paste.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine date mixture, shredded coconut, and coconut oil. Stir vigorously until well combined.
  4. Pour the mixture in a small, shallow container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm. Cut into small pieces and serve.

Paleo “Cornbread” Dressing

Paleo "Cornbread" Dressing | Paleo + Life

Are you absolutely sick of Thanksgiving food yet? I understand if you’re just over it. Most people are. Me, however? I’m still in love with holiday grub. Especially with this dressing.

Every year, I wonder to myself why I only make it on Thanksgiving. I suspect it is because when I was younger and more ambitious, I asked my grandma how to make her cornbread dressing.
(Side note: I didn’t even know stuffing made with bread was something people ate until I was an adult. All the people I knew ate dressing.)

Her instructions began “First you take a duck…” and went on, and on, and on for what seemed like ages. I decided any dish which required me to make two whole other dishes first didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and decided I would just enjoy it at her house.

As the years went by, I changed states. I also changed my mind about how much trouble stuffing was worth. Going home to Chicago was sometimes impossible, so I had to learn how to make a decent substitute. While I never equaled my grandmother’s dressing — she just had a way of “puttin’ her foot in it,” as folks used to say — I came close enough to satisfy my yearning for that flavor.

Paleo "Cornbread" Dressing | Paleo + Life

Since we are eating paleo these days, the main ingredients in cornbread dressing are off the list. My big project, therefore, was to make something that came close. I had planned to test it a couple of times before Thanksgiving, but that didn’t end up happening. On Thanksgiving Day, I found myself rushed and needing to improvise. With a cranky six year old and a starving spouse, I needed to get dinner on the table in the next 30 minutes.
(This did not fill my heart with joy. I am slightly obsessive about special occasion menus in general, and this one in particular. Most years, I spend the month of November planning and re-planning this meal because I enjoy it so.)

Shockingly, the quick-and-dirty version was pretty darned good. My very particular husband ate nearly the entire pan. However, I suspected I could do better. The version here is Dressing 2.0; still quick while having even more flavor.

Following the wise advice of gluten-free girl and the chef (Shauna and Danny Ahern, who have written a multitude of lovely cookbooks), I created my own gluten-free flour mix. Using their recommended ratio of 40% protein/60% starch, and attempting more algebra than I had since the eighth grade, I made a mix of almond, coconut and tapioca flours. Although I measured it precisely with my (new!) kitchen scale (this one is similar*), you might not want such a big batch.  For those of you who want to make a bit less, I used roughly 2 parts coconut/3 parts almond/8 parts tapioca. A store-bought GF mix would work, too.

Paleo "Cornbread" Dressing


  • 1/3 large onion, rough dice
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 4 cups gluten-free flour mix (2 parts coconut flour, 3 parts almond flour and 8 parts tapioca flour)
  • 2 cups cashew meal
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter or other oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups broth


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet, combine onions, celery, carrots, sage, salt and pepper with a two tablespoons of fat. Saute over medium-low heat until veggies are softened (approximately ten minutes). When done, remove vegetables from pan.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour mix, cashew meal, baking soda and salt; stir thoroughly. Add melted oil, eggs, and broth, stirring after each addition (the batter will be somewhat stiff until Fold in sauteed vegetables.
  4. (There should still be some oil remaining in the skillet from cooking the vegetables; if not, add another tablespoon. Pour the batter into the skillet; bake for 40 minutes or until top is browned and crusty. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.

Cranberry Coconut Smoothie

Cranberry Coconut Smoothie| Paleo + Life

My husband has been out of town for several days, which has made me responsible for all of the children, all of the time. He is a pretty good wrangler of kiddos when he is here, and I am missing his help. More than once, I’ve delayed breakfast because I didn’t have time to make myself something and get the kids out of the door on time.

This is where smoothies come in. While they might not be the ideal breakfast, for me, they come pretty close. Some days, when I wake up, I just cannot even stand the idea of chewing. Does that happen to other people? It seems weird when I say it out loud. This was especially true when I was pregnant and dealing with morning sickness — some days, the idea of eating made me gag.

Instead of forcing something down, I’d make a smoothie. Something simple, quick and delicious is exactly what I needed, and made it easier to get through the rest of my day. Adding greens, which I’ve recently begun to do, makes them even better.

Because it’s nearly Thanksgiving, fresh cranberries are readily available. My husband and oldest boy both snack on them like candy, but the ladies of the house are not convinced that these tart little treasures are worth eating. Because cranberries are so good for you — helpful in fighting infections as well as post-meal blood sugar spikes — it is worthwhile to get some into your diet on days other than Thanksgiving. 

Cranberry Coconut Smoothie


  • 1/2 cup milk of your choice (I like coconut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup protein powder (I prefer NOW Foods Eggwhite Protein, 1.2 Pound)
  • 1/2 banana, preferably frozen
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional: divide and reserve for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed spinach (optional: divide and reserve for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut for garnish (optional)


  1. Combine milk, coconut oil and protein powder in a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 10-15 seconds, or until combined.
  2. Add banana, berries, spinach and honey; blend again for 15-30 seconds, or until mixture is completely blended and smooth. If desired, garnish with a sprinkle of unsweetened, shredded coconut, a few berries, and a spinach leaf.


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.

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