paleo maple cardamom candied walnuts

 maple cardamom candied walnuts
 maple cardamom candied walnuts
 maple cardamom candied walnuts
 maple cardamom candied walnuts

I always liked swimming. When I was in 5th grade, I decided to try out for the team. I loved it but sucked at the competition part. Recreationally I could have done it for hours but me in a competition was a bad scene. I would literally choke and sink. Anxiety gripping even back then hindered me from ever successfully going through with competing long term, so I eventually stopped that affair. Though admittedly, I truly enjoyed practice and hanging out with friends.

But what I liked most was the ritual that took place after nearly every practice. There was a bit of time before our bus trip back to our tiny German village so my friends and I would hit up the, I guess what Americans would refer to as, penny candy store. It was thrilling. The anticipation, the lively debate over which gummy candy was best and which ones would be the choices du jour. Little gummy coke bottles, multicolored worms, sugar covered bears and spaghetti strings would make for a buzzy return trip home. I still wonder how the bus driver put up with us time after time.

But things have changed. These days I’m hardly the candy person I once was. And no it’s not just because I eat in a healthier way. Even prior to my paleo ways, one could put an entire bowl of gummy or other candy in front of me and they would be left untouched to eventually dry out and end up in the garbage. Candy just doesn’t do what it used to.

Nowadays what gets my brain doing a happy dance involves a combination of fat, sweet and salty, in the form of roasted sweet and salty nuts, particularly walnuts. I mean I have some self control but when it comes to candied walnuts, all hope is lost. So many nooks and crannies where the delicious sweet and salty goodness can sneak into, that even as I write this my dopamine levels are on the rise.

You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. I recipe tested these maple cardamom candied walnuts several times and tried really hard not to eat them all. I was marginally successful. What I love about them is just how simple they are to make and truthfully, compared to conventional candied nuts, are far less sweet and use only quality ingredients. You need maple syrup, coconut sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, salt and obviously walnuts. The rest of the magic happens in the oven. I also recommend letting them cool completely before eating them (all).

 maple cardamom candied walnuts
 paleo maple cardamom candied walnuts

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paleo maple cardamom candied walnuts

  • prep time: 2 minutes

  • roasting time: 10-15

  • yields: 2 cups


  • 2 cups walnut halves

  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like them)

  • 1 tsp coconut sugar

  • 1/2 tsp cardamom

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp salt


  • roasting sheet

  • parchment paper

  • medium mixing bowl

  • spatula


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In mixing bowl combine all ingredients aside from walnuts and stir well. Add walnuts and stir until evenly coated.

Spread walnuts on parchment paper lined roasting sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes on top rack stirring once.

Let cool completely before eating.

 Satisfy your sweet tooth with these delicious, crunchy, sweet and salty paleo maple cardamom candied walnuts. They’re incredibly easy to make and only require 6 ingredients. #candiedwalnuts, #candiednuts, #vegansnacks, #paleosnacks, #healthysnacks, #vegan, #paleo, #glutenfree, #dairyfree, #calmeats, #roastednuts, #mapleroastednuts

bolognese sauce over zucchini noodles

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I like meat, I like sauce - so here is meat sauce. Sometimes it would be nice if blog posts that simple would fly. I know some people dearly wish they would but no such luck in this case. You have to endure either the reading or the scrolling past the rambling to get to the actual recipe. The truth is I like the writing part because through it I hope to share a bit of my life/neurosis with you (mostly the latter).

But back to bolognese sauce. This bolognese sauce is good - no, it’s great! It’s a foolproof recipe that was born in my cast iron skillet several years back. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you know well that I have a bit of an infatuation with my cast iron skillet. I’m sure this sauce would turn out perfectly fine in any other pan but for me it’s cast iron all the way. There’s something inexplicable about it; the way it infuses each ingredient it touches with an almost ethereal quality. Here I go again, professing my love for my cast iron skillet. But seriously if you haven’t gotten your hands on one, it’s a worthy investment. One you’ll forever treasure.

But as usual I’ve digressed. This time, really back to this bolognese sauce. Any recipe that starts with bacon has to be good, am I right? And if there’s wine involved, I’m pretty much going to burst into song and dance. In my opinion these two ingredients make any dish spectacular. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, expensive wine either, just one you would want to actually drink. I learned that early on from the experts. Good wine makes good food.

This speedy bolognese is a hearty recipe you can make on any weeknight. Traditional bolognese is cooked slowly for hours but I’ve decided to make a speedier version that’s heavenly every single time. And if you have a food processor in your possession, you’re in luck. Sure you can cut the vegetables by hand and enjoy the process while doing so, but on a busy weeknight a few pulses of the food processor are a welcoming aid.

You have a few options for what to serve this sauce with. If you’re not paleo or whole 30, you could go with rice pasta or regular but I like sticking with zucchini noodles as they work exceptionally well with it. So grab a glass of wine for the bolognese, one for yourself and get cooking!

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bolognese sauce over zucchini noodles

  • Prep time: 10 mins

  • Cook time: 45 mins

  • Makes 6-8 servings


  • 3 large carrots peeled and roughly chopped

  • 2 celery stalks roughly chopped

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters

  • 1/2 pint mushrooms baby portabella or white mushrooms, finely chopped

  • 1 large clove minced garlic

  • 3 slices bacon diced

  • 1 lb grass fed beef (I like 85%)

  • 1/2 cup red wine (use broth for whole 30)

  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp oregano

  • 1/2 tsp salt divided

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil

  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped italian parsley

  • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar or maple syrup (skip for whole 30)

  • 2-3 zucchini (zoodles for serving or spaghetti if not gluten free)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1/2 cup bone or chicken broth (optional)



In a food processor, add carrots, onion and celery and pulse a few times. You still want to be able to recognize the vegetables. Small but not granular is ideal. (Alternatively chop all vegetables small by hand).

Preheat cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. About 3-5 minutes. Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towel lined plate and set aside. In the same pan, add onion, carrot, celery and 1/4 tsp salt cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add beef, stirring contentiously and breaking it up into smaller pieces. Cook until browned (about 8 minutes).

When meat is fully cooked, add wine and turn heat up to scrape any bits off the skillet. Cook until most of the wine is evaporated. Add tomato sauce and paste, oregano, mushrooms, salt, pepper and coconut sugar. Add bacon, basil, parsley and lower the heat to low. Let cook for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. If you want to thin out the sauce, feel free to use some or all of the broth. But this is optional. I like my sauce thick.

Heat frying pan, 1 tbsp of oil olive oil and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat, stirring continuously. The noodles should still have a bite to them just slightly softened.

To assemble, place zoodles on plate, top with the bolognese sauce and add additional basil if you so desire. This will pair exceptionally well with a Nebiolo or Pinot Noir.

 Want the ultimate comfort food? Bolognese sauce does it for me and I think you'll agree! With a few shortcuts this sauce can be ready in 45 minutes. It's loaded with vegetables, when served over zucchini noodles, it's low carb, paleo and whole 30. Check it out! #bolognesesauce, #bolognese, #paleo, #whole30, #meatsauce, #realfood, #calmeats, #lowcarb, #keto, #dairyfree, #glutenfree, #zucchininoodles, #zoodles

apple and beet salad with candied walnuts and cashew cheese

 roasted beet salad with apple and candied walnuts
 roasted beet salad with apple and candied walnuts

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. Fall represents a lot of things for me, but among them what stands out in my mind most is our move to the United States. That may sound glorious and exciting to some but it wasn’t that for me. When torn from everything you know - family, friends, school, language, lifestyle and routine, suddenly your identity is compromised. Who are you? Who was I? Life was dismal for a long time. Living between two languages - one of security and family and one I desperately wanted to know, to understand to bury into. One of possibility.

But we humans are adaptable and though challenging and frightening for a long time, life slowly became tolerable again. In fact it became good. There were new friends, the language I was slowly learning day by day, there was Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and Bush that kept me company on many days. There was new and exciting food, but most of all there were people I felt I could trust who would be there when I needed them. Not something I took lightly. In a matter of a year my old life was a distant memory and though I missed it at times, I knew I could never go back to what was. There was only forward.

So fall has always been a time of change for me, a rebirth of sorts. With summer’s oppressive heat and humidity gone, I feel some renewed energy and enthusiasm for fall. I find myself making playlists that take me back to my younger days and just for a short time I can be teleported to those defining moments which forever changed who I would become.

With a new season comes seasonal food and though I’ve eaten apples my whole life, I found them to be particularly wonderful in the US. That first autumn, I ate a boatload of them. They tasted exceptional and quite different from what I was used to in Romania. There were so many varieties and flavors. There were tart ones, sweet, crispy and juicy ones and I couldn’t get enough of them.

With nostalgia spilling into everything including food, I thought I would make a recipe with this beloved fruit. I wanted to keep it light, simple and pull in autumn’s flavors into a simple yet complex salad with earthy flavors aplenty.

If you’re not up for making cashew cheese, feel free to skip it but I highly recommend it as it adds a layer of creaminess to the salad, plus you’ll have extra left over and can whip up this delicious recipe. So check out this combination of roasted beets, cashew cheese, candied walnuts, crispy apple slices and spinach, drizzled with a bright dressing. You won’t be dissapointed.

 roasted beet salad with apple and candied walnuts
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 roasted beet salad with apple and candied walnuts

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apple and beet salad with candied walnuts and cashew cheese

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

  • Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Serves 4


For dressing: 

  • 2 tbsp orange juice

  • 2 tsp lemon juice

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • pinch of salt

  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

For salad: 

  • 2 large or 4 small yellow and red beets

  • 1 apple, thinly sliced

  • candied walnuts (recipe below)

  • a few handfuls of spinach

  • optional: cashew cheese (recipe here)

For candied walnuts:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp coconut sugar

  • 1/8 tsp Himalayan or sea salt


  • aluminum foil

  • parchment paper

  • roasting sheet

  • medium mixing bowl

  • small mixing bowl


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash beets and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast for 1 hour or until soft. Let cool slightly. Peel and slice beets and set aside. (Wear kitchen gloves if you don’t want stained hands)

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for candied walnuts, place on parchment paper lined sheet and roast for 15 minutes, tossing once half way. Remove and let cool. (Try not to eat them all)

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until incorporated.

To plate; add spinach, apple and beet slices, cashew cheese and candied walnuts and drizzle with dressing.

 Make your tastebuds happy with this delicious and hearty roasted beet salad with apple, candied walnuts and cashew cheese. It's a fantastic combination that won't disappoint. If you're whole 30, you can still make this by simply using regular walnuts instead of candied. #salad, #fall, #beets, #apple, #calmeats, #vegan, #cashewcheese, #paleo, #whole30, #realfood, #glutenfree, #dairyfree, #dairyfreecheese, #paleocheese

sweet potato noodles with kale and walnut sage sauce

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It’s been raining for a thousand years. Well not quite but nearly 2 months straight. I recall the day everything started when the sky opened up and day after day of rain replaced what was supposed to be a bright, sunny season. As I drown my sorrows in liquid vitamin D (which I usually reserve for the dark winter months), I realize maybe this is the new normal and I have to find a way to accept it.

It’s absurd to be frustrated at weather and yet here I am, feeling robbed of strawberry picking, beach day trips, laying in the grass, playing with my kids outside and more. I waited all summer for myself to return to some version of myself but it hasn’t quite happened. Accepting things as they are feels impossibly difficult for me. I wonder if I’m alone or if it’s simply human nature to be resistant to things that go against our expectations. But truly what is there to do other than make peace with what is? When talking about expectations someone dear once said: “if you don’t have any, you won’t be disappointed.” What a concept!

But here we are on the brink of fall and I’m going to optimistically believe that eventually the rain will stop and sunnier days will be on the horizon. They have to be, right? So I’m thinking about fall food, fall flavors and all things I love about this season. Earthy, rich, luscious and satisfying food that fits perfectly well with the start of cooler weather.

There are many foods I associate with fall but one in particular is sage. In my opinion it’s an ingredient that can easily make or break a dish. Sage is a capricious herb; use too much and you find yourself with an overpowering flavor that drowns out all other ingredients. Use too little and you miss out on the beauty and essence of what this robust herb has to offer.

It was sage that inspired the sauce for this dish - a creamy and satisfying concoction. Coconut milk, walnuts, sage and maple syrup work thoroughly well with shallot, kale and garlic to create this delightful sauce. Next came the thing to pair it with. I settled on sweet potato noodles as the ideal companion. It’s an indulgent, fall inspired dish you can throw together in 15 minutes.

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sweet potato noodles with kale and walnut sauce:

  • prep time: 10 minutes

  • cooking time: 15 minutes

  • makes: 4 servings


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large shallot, finely cut

  • 1 large garlic cloves minced

  • 1/3 cup walnuts plus extra 2 tbsp

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 1 tsp fresh sage

  • 1 tsp maple syrup (skip for Whole 30)

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 2 cups kale de-stemmed and cut into bite size pieces

  • 2 large sweet potatoes spiralized


  • spiralizer of your choice

  • medium frying pan

  • large frying pan

  • blender or food processor


Blend coconut milk, sage, maple syrup and 1/3 cup walnuts. Set aside.

Preheat large frying pan on medium. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Next, add kale and cook for 5 minutes until it begins to soften but still retains a crunch.

Add walnut sage sauce and cook for 1 minute to heat sauce through.

Meanwhile, in medium frying pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and sweet potato noodles and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 2 tbsp water to create steam and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until sweet potato noodles are soft. You can cook them longer if you want them a bit softer. Add sweet potato noodles to sauce and combine well.

Serve right away with additional chopped walnuts and if you really love sage, a little extra on top.

 I'm a sucker for fall flavors! This rich and creamy sweet potato noodle with kale and walnut sage sauce recipe is earthy, flavorful and oh so comforting. Check out this simple 15 minute vegan, paleo recipe that also has a whole 30 option. #vegan, #fall, #autumfood, #fallfood, #sage, #kale, #paleo, #whole30, #calmeats, #sweetpotatonoodles, #sage, #glutenfree, #dairyfree

strawberry water kefir

 strawberry water kefir
 strawberry water kefir

I've been trying to get this very simple water kefir recipe shot and written for over 6 months but kept putting it off. Other recipe ideas crept in and took priority and to be honest, photographing liquids simply hasn't always been my favorite. Sometimes photos do turn out but most often I find them to be a bit of a challenge. Light has to be just right and in the past when I've had a go at shooting this strawberry water kefir, it wasn't quite what I'd hoped, so I tabled the thing several times.

So for today I had an entirely different recipe planned. I was thrilled, loved the combination and was sure it would turn out just right. But after several tries realized it was not going to happen. It failed miserably. I was dissapointed and truly frustrated about the waste of time and ingredients but this is part of the process so I reluctantly had to accept it. After dusting the tapioca flour off my shirt, I had to come up with an alternative and fast.  

Serendipitously, in stepped water kefir. I'd just made a fresh batch and after staring at the bubbly, pink drink for a while, I realized today may just be its day. I couldn't quite believe it, my beloved water kefir was going to save me. 

So let's talk about this bubbly, delicious strawberry water kefir. If you're a soda drinker and are reading this blog, I'm going to go on a limb and say that maybe you're trying to make some sort of change and improve the health of your gut. Well you're in luck; this probiotic drink is a delicious and healthy alternative to the conventional stuff. But there is a commitment involved. Every 2-3 days, you have to switch the grains from their current water to a fresh batch of sugar water. Your grains will continue to grow and expand and eventually you will have to split and add them to other containers or if you have any takers, give some away.

Sound intimidating? It's not. I was sure I was going to mess it up when I first tried it but you'll see just how simple it is. In my opinion, the water kefir gets better after several batches once the grains really get used to the new environment. I've made this recipe many times with a variety of fruit and have settled on strawberries as holding up beautifully, fermenting well and though naturally losing their red color, they flavor the water perfectly. 

Since I can't find grains locally, the next best thing is Amazon. I've ordered from this company several times and can't say enough about their quality and consistency. 

 strawberry water kefir
 strawberry water kefir and strwberries
 strawberry water kefir
 strawberry water kefir

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strawberry water kefir

  • prep time: 5 minutes

  • fermenting time: 2-3 days

  • makes: 4 cups


  • 1/4 cup raw organic sugar

  • 1 batch water kefir grains (this varies from 3 tbsp-5 tbsp)

  • 4 cups spring water (it's important to use spring water)

  • funnel

  • 3-4 sliced strawberries



Combine sugar and water in wide mouth bottle and stir with wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Add water kefir grains, cover with coffee filter or cloth and secure with rubber band. Store at room temperature for 2-3 days. 

Once water kefir has finished fermenting, strain liquid in bottle with stopper and reserve grains. 

Add strawberries to the freshly poured water kefir, secure stopper and let water kefir sit on the counter for 1-2 days until you start to see bubbles and strawberries have lost their color. (You may not see a lot of bubbles until about the 2nd or 3rd batch)

Wash wide mouth bottle well and start the process all over again. 

You can do this indefinitely. Once you have about 1/2 cup grains, you can start dividing them into 2 batches. 

 Here's a healthy, delicious & probiotic rich soda alternative that's inexpensive to make and lasts as long as you want it. Water kefir grains grow and multiply and yield a perfect drink for anyone who's looking for a soda replacement. #waterkefir, #kefirgrains, #guthealth, #calmeats, #paleodrinks, #paleo, #probiotics, #probioticdrinks, #kefir, #vegan, #digestion, #healthydrinks, #sodaalternative