- Diane Sanfilippo | New York Times bestselling author of "Practical Paleo" and "The 21-Day Sugar Detox" | Home of the Balanced Bites Podcast - http://balancedbites.com -

Holiday Treats Recipe Round-Up, and a Grain-Free Chocolate Eclair Recipe from The Paleo Mom


We are very excited to have Sarah Ballantyne from The Paleo Mom introduce her highly anticipated chocolate éclair recipe (at the end of this post!) and share some of her favorite holiday sweets and treats with us!

Note: Get your fill of these treats before January 1, 2013, then join the biggest group to ever complete The 21-Day Sugar Detox and have a clean slate for the New Year! – Diane

It’s that time of year! Sleigh bells, mistletoe, twinkly lights, and temptation!  But, you aren’t alone… even the most ardent of us tend to relax our sugar intake standards and make room in our lives for some holiday treats!

The temptation of all the wonderful goodies around this time of year can be overwhelming, especially for those relatively new to the paleo diet. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of paleo adaptations that you can easily make at home. For me personally (and this is probably true for most of you as well), being able to enjoy some delicious paleo goodies makes me feel like I am still participating in all the festivities of the season, without completely derailing all of my efforts to heal my gut and reduce inflammation in my body. Yes, these recipe do tend to contain some form of unrefined sugar, so a modicum of moderation is still required—but, they are much lower in sugar than their SAD counterparts, are grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free (well, there may be some butter or heavy cream here and there), contain good fats, and have way more nutritional value than, well, everything else!

So, here is my holiday recipe round-up for anyone who needs some paleo treat inspiration for the holidays!

But first, a quick teaser of my newest (and super exciting) recipe to share with you:  paleo chocolate éclairs!  Yes, you read that right.  Éclairs were one of my childhood favorite treats. If you aren’t familiar with the éclairs, they are pastry cream-filled puff pastries topped with chocolate. Drool! The recipe is at the bottom of this post, but don’t scroll too fast! Because first are some other great recipes to try too!


Cookies for Santa

Growing up, my mom always made huge amounts of several different kinds of special cookies that we only enjoyed at Christmastime. Tins of cookies were given away to neighbors and friends as gifts, platters of cookies were brought out for company, and don’t forget leaving cookies by the fireplace for Santa! (skip the milk; Santa prefers gin).


Gingerbread Cookies from Food Lover’s Kitchen! Gingerbread men are an iconic Christmas treat. This revisited recipe from Bill Staley and Hayley Mason of Make It Paleo fame (and their new book Gather is available for pre-order now and will be out April 30th, 2013!) is the perfect addition to any holiday cookie platter. Oh, and did I mention the recipe includes vanilla buttercream frosting for decorating? The recipe includes alternative directions to turn these little gems into ginger snaps too!

Paleo Sugar Cookies from Healthy Gluten Free Life! This recipe isn’t just for basic sugar cookies, although what Christmas cookie platter would be complete without them?! Tammy Credicott of Paleo Indulgences fame is giving you some very decadent sugar cookie options! She has included a cinnamon maple frosting with which to slather your cookies, directions for a candy cane sugar cookie variation (drizzle in chocolate no less!), and just plain old chocolate dipped sugar cookies!

Honey-Nut-Brittle-Almond-from TNFWHoney Nut Brittle Candy from The Nerdy Farm Wife! Brittle is a traditional holiday treat and this recipe includes several variations for a healthier version of this Christmas staple. There’s a few other good brittle recipes out there to mention too, like this Autumn Brittle from Paleoaholic and this Chewy Pecan Pie Brittle from PaleOMG!

Peppermint Marshmallow Crunch Cookies from Against All Grain! Do minty flavors make you think ofsnow, and fires in the fireplace, and candy canes on the Christmas tree? Try these mint-flavored meringue cookies which look so beautiful with a little natural food coloring paint! You can also try Danielle’s variation of using them as marshmallows in her dairy-free hot cocoa recipe!

Grain-Free-Pizzelles from KHCGrain Free Pizzelle Cookies from Kate’s Healthy Cupboard!  Pizzelles are just beautiful. Period. Oh, plus they are crisp deliciousness.  It is traditional to serve these plain, with jam on top, or with nutella (check out this recipe for paleo nutella from Paleo Comfort Foods!)

Holiday Hermit Cookies from The Paleo Mom! These could also be called fruitcake cookies. A fun combination of spices, dried fruits and nuts make these cookies both delicious and beautiful! Truly a treat for Santa!


Christmas Morning Treats

Are you accustomed to a special treat beside your bacon and eggs Christmas morning?  Looking for something to nibble on while you and your family open gifts?  Here are some great options!

BananaBread from CCCCBanana Bread from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations! Another great make-ahead option with the benefit of the only sweetener coming from the bananas themselves! George has included three variations for you to try too—the orange-cranberry would be particularly Christmassy! Also check out George’s new e-cookbook Caveman Feast!

Monkey Bread from Paleo Parents! Cinnamon and walnut coated biscuit bites of joy from the kitchen of Matt McCarry and Stacy Toth, authors of Eat Like a Dinosaur and their new book Beyond Bacon, which is available for preorder. You can make this one the night before and then throw it into the oven while you open your stockings.  The addictive little bites will definitely keep you going for those marathon present openings.

chocolate-waffles3 from PaleOMGChocolate Waffles from PaleOMG! This has decadent breakfast written all over it from the talented Juli Bauer who will soon be coming out with her first cookbook. The advantage is yumminess, the disadvantage is you would have to cook them that morning. You could try making these ahead and heating them up in the toaster, but Juli didn’t include this idea in her directions.

Perfect Paleo Pancakes from The Paleo Mom! This pancake recipe is unlike any paleo pancake recipes you’ve seen.  They are quite literally perfect. With the benefit of no sugar ingredients, you can keep this even healthier by topping with fresh berries and whipped coconut cream!


Decadent Desserts

Tiramisu from FLKTiramisu from Food Lover’s Kitchen! There’s something about light fluffy desserts that is just so perfect after a big extravagant dinner.  So, paleo tiramisu?  Yes, please!  Tiramisu is always better made ahead too, which means it’s a perfect dessert to make for Christmas because you can actually make it during the day Christmas Eve (you could even make the ladyfingers now!). This recipe does use some dairy ingredients (full-fat sour cream), so it won’t be for everyone.

English Christmas Cake from Eat Live Grow Paleo!  Looking for a brandy-soaked fruitcake devoid of grains? Yes, ideally you would have made this a couple of weeks ago and have been “feeding” the cake brandy every week leading up to Christmas. Well, you have two choices: make it now for New Year’s or save this recipe for next year. Or both. Or you could check out Eat Live Grow Paleo’s recipe for Christmas pudding instead!

pecan pie from Ps

Paleo Pecan Pie/Tart from Paleo Spirit! You may feel that pecan pie is more of a Thanksgiving thing. And then you would be missing out of the opportunity to enjoy this delightful dessert for Christmas! Nutty, rummy, caramely, gooey goodness.

Holiday Bundt Cake from Paleo Parents! Want a more kid friendly cake to serve for dessert? This spicedbundt cake with apple, pistachios and white chocolate is another amazing creation from the Paleo Parents (Matt and Stacy really are some of the most talented paleo cake recipe developers around, so you can count on this one being a winner).

Holiday Trifle, Paleo Style from The Paleo Mom! This is an impressively beautiful dessert, also best made ahead (and drowned in rum or cognac). If you wanted to, you could use the jelly roll component of this recipe with a whipped chocolate ganache frosting or whipped coconut honey frosting recipe to create a Bouche de Noel (a.k.a. yule log!)!



Chocolate treats also go with the season. There are so many iconic holiday desserts that I thought these deserved a section all of their own

nom nom chocolate truffleChocolate Truffles from Nom Nom Paleo! There are tons of variations of chocolate truffles out there, but these are an authentic ganache-style truffle—which means melt-in-your-mouth intensely chocolaty goodness.  You could also make a more grown-up version of these by replacing the vanilla and even a tablespoon or two of the coconut milk with your favorite gluten-free liqueur.

Valentine’s Day Mousse from The Clothes Make The Girl! Just because Mel developed this recipe to be a romantic Valentine’s Day treat doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this as a special holiday treat now!  Containing only two ingredients (and you’ll get a super  arm workout as an added bonus!), this mousse really does whip up light and fluffy and oh-so-dark-chocolaty!

almond-joy-chocolate-bark-EPAlmond Joy Chocolate Bark by Elena’s Pantry! What is more magical than the combination of dark chocolate, coconut and almonds?!  This is a very simple and quick recipe from Elena’s Pantry that you could customize to suit your own sweet tooth (or lack thereof) by using darker chocolate.

Paleo Plantain Brownies from Preparing It Paleo!  Many paleo bakers are starting to recognize just how magical pureed green plantains are as a paleo flour substitute. These brownies are a good example! So, if you need a chocolaty square of joy this holiday season, this is the recipe to try!

tripple chocolate truffles from TUPTriple Chocolate Chipotle Cake Truffles from The Urban Poser (via Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations)! Chipotle-spiced chocolate cake, crumbed and mixed with chocolate ganache, turned into balls and dipped in more chocolate. I don’t really need to say anymore, do I?

Mandarin Chocolate Truffles from Against All Grain!  These candies have a soft orange chocolate truffle center covered in a hard chocolate shell. Think of something that usually comes in a fancy box from an expensive store. But, these are completely paleo and even dairy-free!

Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies by The Paleo Mom! Want your chocolate fix on your cookie platter? Then these are the cookies for you—with that perfect crumbly melt-in-your mouth shortbread texture, intense chocolate flavor, and not too sweet.

Okay, so I know that your mouth is watering and you want to just run off and start baking. But, remember that extra special treat I promised? The recipe for paleo chocolate éclairs?  Well, here it is!



Paleo Chocolate Éclairs By The Paleo Mom

The choux pastry is made the traditional French way of creating an egg-rich batter on the stovetop, piping onto a cookie sheet and baking immediately.  I’ll be honest up front:  this is a bit of an arm workout.  Once the puff pastry cools, you end up with hollow pockets of joy.  To make éclairs, cut them in half and fill with vanilla pastry cream (I’ve included variations for chocolate and coffee pastry cream as well) then top with melted chocolate.

When I was a kid, a French friend of my mom’s used to make homemade éclairs and filled them with whipped cream instead of pastry cream (she actually used to make the most decadent version of strawberry short cake using choux pastry too).  A delightful alternative to pastry cream is whipped heavy cream or coconut cream (sweeten or not, it’s up to you).  Another possible variation of this recipe is to pipe silver dollar sized circles of choux pastry instead and then use an injector tip on your piping bag to fill them with pastry cream or whipped heavy cream.  Voila!  Puffballs! Stack them and drizzle with chocolate for a croquembouche to wow your friends.

Yields 16-20 4”-long éclairs.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a day. For longer storage, store in the fridge.

Pastry Cream



  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and whisk together.
  2. Then put the saucepan on the stovetop and heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly.  You want to heat until just shy of boiling point.  The pastry cream will start to steam slightly and then start to thicken.  Once it becomes thick and gooey, remove from heat (takes 7-8 minutes if you put it on a preheated element).
  3. Pour into a bowl or measuring cup and cover the surface with wax paper to prevent a custard skin from forming.  Let cool to room temperature before piping into éclairs.

Choux Pastry



  1. This is going to be intense, so I recommend measuring out all of your ingredients before you start.  Combine your flours and salt.  Crack your eggs and place them in separate bowls (okay you can combine your extra yolk and one egg in a bowl).  Have either a pastry bag with a wide tip ready or a large heavy duty plastic bag (like a ziplock freezer bag) and a pair of scissors handy.  Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper.  Actually, line two baking sheets because you’ll probably need two.
  2. Heat coconut milk and palm shortening over medium heat until it just starts to simmer.  Remove from heat and pour in all of the flour all at once.  Stir like mad until it’s thick and fully combined.
  3. Add the eggs ONE AT A TIME and stir like crazy with each addition (you are doing this off the heat).  Each time you add an egg, the dough will seem to separate and then as you stir, it will come together.  Wait until it comes together before adding the next egg.
  4. At the end, you have a fairly warm, quite thick and sticky cream-colored dough.  Immediately scoop it into your pastry bag or plastic bag.  If using a plastic bag, cut off one corner so you have a hole about 1” in diameter.
  5. Pipe 4”x1” long rectangles of dough onto your prepared baking sheet (if you’re using a pastry bag tip that isn’t 1” wide, you can pipe a really narrow U shape to get your éclair rectangle).  Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect, they will smooth out considerably as they cook.
  6. Immediately place into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes.  They will puff up to be about 1” high (depending on the size of your eggs) and will be light golden in color.
  7. Remove from the oven and gently turn each one upside down.  Let them cool upside down on the baking sheet for 20 minutes (then you can move them to a cooling rack until you’re ready to deal with them).
  8. Cut pastries in half using a sharp knife (the pastry is quite thin, so you can just trace around the circumference without cutting all the way through the whole pastry).  Pipe cooled pastry cream into the middle.
  9. Make sure to cut and fill them relatively promptly after they have cooled.  They have a habit of getting softer if they sit too long and are then much harder to cut open cleanly (still taste great though!).

Chocolate Coating



  1. Melt chocolate and shortening together on your stovetop or in your microwave.  Spread over the top of the éclairs with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
  2. Enjoy right away or let the chocolate cool first, up to you!


sarahBWho is The Paleo Mom?

Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (a.k.a. The Paleo Mom) is a scientist turned stay-at-home mom who shares recipes, explains the science behind the paleo diet and its modifications, and blogs about the challenges of raising a paleo family. Following the paleo diet has made a monumental difference to her health, including contributing to her 120-pound weight loss! This powerful nutritional approach has also cured Sarah’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome, acid reflux, migraines and anxiety issues while also greatly improving her asthma, allergies, psoriasis and an autoimmune disease called lichen planus. Sarah has successfully transitioned her originally skeptic husband and two spirited young daughters to a paleo diet and lifestyle.  She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and sharing her successful recipes with you, including recipes for everything from one-pot dinners to paleo versions of kid staples to decadent paleo desserts. Most of all, Sarah’s passion is to share her biology, physiology and nutrition knowledge through informative posts that distill the science behind the paleo diet into approachable explanations. Because of her own experiences with autoimmune disease, she has also become the best resource on the paleo diet autoimmune protocol.

Visit Sara’s blog at www.ThePaleoMom.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.