Tag Archives: kids

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.

Playing in the Kitchen

finished soup

Today, I thought I’d dive in to recipe development in a bit more depth.
Recipe development: that sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not fancy in my head. Really, it’s just playing in the kitchen — usually because we’re starting to get hungry and need something fast. So here’s how a typical dinner happens around here.

raw veg

This one started, as they often do, with the realization that dinner needed to hit the table pretty darned soon, and I had no plan. Sigh. I spy some veggies in a wooden bowl, and think I should use that squash. The weather’s been cold and damp today; soup sounds good. I chop up the squash, and peel some carrots. Roasting is usually quick, and gives really good flavor. Roasting brings out the sweetness, so I’m pretty sure even the littles will like it.

Thinking I’d like something warm and Mexican-inspired, I pull out salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and sprinkle those on the veggies. I quickly melt a bit of coconut oil, and pour that over them as well. Pop the trays in a 425 degree oven, and that’s underway.

I send a text to the husband, trying to convince him to pick up a rotisserie chicken on his way home. Husband says nope, can’t do it. Another dramatic sigh. I’ll pull something out of the freezer.

pork jowl

A quick dig around in our small freezer brings me to this chunk of smoked pork jowl. I figure hey, that’s basically bacon. I’m going to slice it up and fry it to go with the soup.

While the meat is cooking, I start thinking about the final dish. Since I’m going to puree the veggies in the Vitamix, I know the soup will be super smooth and silky. Crisp pork will make a nice contrast to that, but I want a bit of crunch (and color) as well. How can I do that? I pull out the hand grater and shred some red cabbage.

Onions in Pork Fat | Paleo + Life

I think about adding some of the garlic I roasted last week to the soup, but am torn. Like the roasted veg, the garlic is sweet, but the flavor’s a bit stronger than I want. Instead, when the pork is done cooking, I slice an onion really thin, and cook the slices in the rendered fat. The onion slices start to caramelize as they cook, starting to develop a deep, sweet flavor, but also picking up a bit of the smoky flavor from the cooking fat. As I taste them, I think: Yup, that was the right choice.

When the onions are done, I pull them out of the pan and set them aside. By this time, the carrots and squash are fork tender, so I pull them out of the oven. I let them cool for a few minutes, but since we need to dish dinner up PDQ I’m handling them while they’re still hot. The carrots are already peeled, and just need slicing, but the squash needs the peel taken off as well. I toss the chunks into the Vitamix, and blend away.  Because of the quantity of veggies, I do this in two batches.

Once the soup is blended, dinner’s basically done. I scoop a hefty portion into a bowl for each of us, topping it with the red cabbage, bacon and fried onions.  No time for fancy plating: we’re starving, and it smells fantastic. We dig in.

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.

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.

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.


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.

Going Paleo with Kids

no thank youMy youngest girl, who is in elementary school, is the joy and the challenge of my life. This, of course, is because she is so much like me. She has my determination (and stubbornness), my love of knowledge (and habit of sharing in an “oh, doesn’t everyone know that?” sort of way), and my need for structure (and tendency toward dictatorship). For better or worse, while she is physically her dad’s mini-me, her personality is generally mine.

This personality redux leads to some of the biggest frustrations in my paleo journey.
Frankly, the teenagers have been much easier to convert than the little one. I suspect it is because they still have some control over their food, since they can cook for themselves, whereas the grade schooler is pretty much stuck with whatever I choose to make.
After I have spent time working hard on dinner, only to be greeted by “ugh!” when I bring it to the table —  “I don’t care for it” if she remembers her manners — it’s infuriating.
More than once I have had to sternly remind myself that it is not about me, I am not my food, and she is not being a pill just because she can. Furthermore, it’s not as if she will starve: we offer a bowl of plain yogurt as the alternative if she doesn’t want what is being served for dinner.  Sometimes, we go through a lot of yogurt.

My girl also loves mac and cheese the way I loved cinnamon toast at her age. I can’t fault her for that – she has a kid’s palate, and it’s pretty much the perfect combination for a kid’s tastes. I continue trying new things, aiming to keep her diet more paleo/primal than not, and that is good enough for now. *

Still, there have been some dinner successes, and I cherish those. Our top ones are:

I’m sure there are more, but at this moment, my little cave baby is trying to rip a chunk of my flesh away with every single one of his six teeth; a sign to stop if ever there were one.

I will revisit this list as more things come to me.

What about you? If you have any sure-fire recipes for picky kids, what are they?

*If you have a really sensitive, picky kid, check out this great guest post on PaleoParents; it’s all about feeding a child with sensory processing disorder and autism.

Cinnamon Pepper Plantains (Maduros)

Cinnamon Pepper Plantains | Paleo + Life

Calendar coincidences amuse me. Today, for example, is Labor Day, which is always the first Monday of September. It is also the first day of the September. Somehow, it seems as if that makes today more meaningful and important. Is that weird? Probably. Still, it seems like an extra-auspicious day to make a fresh start.

With fresh starts in mind, today is a great time to start a Whole30, like my friend J. is doing.
My husband and I did one in February, and even though I thought we had a pretty healthy diet before, we discovered that we were eating a surprising amount of junk. Doing the Whole30 was a great way to reacquaint ourselves with the way we really wanted to eat and to feed our family.

So while I am focusing on tasty, kid-friendly dishes this month, I will also be sure to include things that are Whole30 appropriate.  Like these cinnamon pepper plantains.

Cinnamon Pepper Plantains | Paleo + Life

Plantains are a strange and wonderful food, useful in all their stages of ripeness. When green, they are bland and starchy — great for taking the place of grains, as in this excellent (not Whole30) pancake recipe from The Paleo Mom. As plantains ripen, turning from green to yellow to black, their natural starches convert to sugar and they become sweeter and sweeter; the flavor is something like a cross between an apple and a banana. Because of this, it is important to get plantains at the proper stage of ripeness so your dish turns out correctly.

For this recipe, my take on a traditional preparation called maduros, I recommend using plantains that are on the riper side, anywhere from spotty yellow to completely black. Again, the darker the plantain, the sweeter they will be.  Note that plantain skins are much tougher than those of bananas, so you’ll need to cut them off rather than peeling them.
The seasoning is simple — just three ingredients — but the sharpness of freshly ground black pepper and the sweetness of cinnamon heightens and intensifies the taste. As a bonus, true cinnamon*happens to be incredibly good for you.
All in all, it’s a great start to a Whole30, a new month, or just to enjoy something a little different.

Cinnamon Pepper Plantains (Maduros)


  • 4 ripe plantains
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, preferably Ceylon


  1. Cut plantains in half. Gently wedge the knife just below the skins and remove. Slice the flesh in half.
  2. Season plantains with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. Warm a medium skillet over medium heat. When warm, add 2 tablespoons coconut oil.
  4. Add seasoned plantain slices to the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until plantain is caramelized and brown. Add more oil if needed. Flip; cook for another 2 minutes on the second side. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

* = Afifliate link

Cheesy Ranch Zucchini Chips

Zucchini Ranch Chips | Paleo + LifeWhile I generally love eating paleo, one of the things I miss from my pre-paleo days is potato chips. Crunchy, salty, cheesy potato chips. You know what I mean, right? Crunchy chips are a unique tactile experience. The slight resistance as you bite, then the shattering of the chip and the flavor exploding across your tongue…Mmm. There is very little like it.

But chips are not a habit I want to indulge in too often. Most brands are cooked in oils I’d rather not eat, and the ones that are cooked in a healthy oil tend to be expensive. What’s a cook to do? Spend a little time playing around in the kitchen, of course, which is how I devised these tangy zucchini chips.

Zucchini and yellow summer squash, which make delightful noodle substitutes when cut with the spiral slicer, also happen to be excellent chip substitutes as well. There is hardly any work involved here: slice, oil, season and dehydrate. Being patient while they dry is truly the hardest part.

The reward for your patience is delicious, intense, cheesy flavor. My oldest says they taste like alfredo sauce, while my husband likens the flavor to ranch dressing. I am not sure which of them is right; I just know I’ll be making a lot more of these, and soon.

Ranch Zucchini Chips


  • 1 large zucchini (roughly 9-10" long, big enough to fill a 5- tray dehydrator)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Romano cheese powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Wash and stem zucchini. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the fruit into thin rounds (about 1/4" thick is good). Place slices in a large bowl.
  2. Add olive oil to zucchini slices, massaging thoroughly to make sure all slices are equally coated.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine cheese powder, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley and sea salt. Stir thoroughly. Sprinkle the cheese and spice mixture over the zucchini slices.
  4. Lay the slices on the trays of a dehydrator, making sure that they do not touch. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 24 hours or until chips are crisp.


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