Paleo Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Turkey Vegetable Platter

Turkey Vegetable Platter Appetizer

Want to celebrate Thanksgiving like a caveman? Then perhaps you’ll want to plan your dinner according to the so-called “paleo diet.”  The idea of the paleo diet is that human beings should eat like our ancient ancestors in order to prevent certain health problems that can arise from modern diets full of fat, sugar and refined flour. Proponents of the paleo diet advocate eating meat, seafood, vegetables, nuts, and eggs, while omitting grains, refined sugars, most fats, and dairy products.  What? No whipped cream for my pumpkin pie?  No cornbread dressing?  How can this be?  Here are a few suggestions.


Mixed nuts

Mixed nuts

Bacon-wrapped broiled shrimp

Bacon-wrapped broiled shrimp

For appetizers that rock  (that’s a little paleo humor), try bowls of mixed nuts, a vegetable tray, and bacon-wrapped broiled shrimp.  Let’s assume that our caveman ancestors lived on the Texas coast where they could seine for shrimp and had wild hogs running around to make bacon.  They could also harvest pecans and perhaps find wild squash and prickly pear fruit for their vegetable tray at this time of year.  No sour cream or cream cheese dip. No ranch dip. Strictly speaking, not even hummus (a dip made of chick peas and tahini or sesame seed butter).  But bacon-wrapped shrimp?  Sign me up!

Roasted turkey

Roasted turkey

Main Course

Turkey of course! Or ham. Or brisket. Or leg of lamb. All meats except those with preservatives are allowed on the paleo diet.  No flour, milk or butter in that gravy though.  Just use the delicious juices from the meat itself, maybe enhanced with a little wine.  Not bad.

Side Dishes

Potatoes, squash and tomatoes are all native to the Americas, while greens are native on all continents except

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Antarctica. All would be perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course these particular vegetables would not have been available on the Texas coast thousands of years ago, but human beings are creative and adaptable.  Ancient people would have found whatever plant foods were edible at this season and used them.  The real problem for Thanksgiving as I see it, is dressing.  Paleo diet books generally do not endorse grains as part of the natural human diet. No corn bread.  No wild rice. No rolls or biscuits. Not even a crumb. Sorta makes me want to cry. But such is the sacrifice to go paleo.


This category may present the most problem to those who want a Thanksgiving dinner just like momma used to

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

make.  Remember no flour, butter or dairy allowed.  Sssh!  No pie crust, no cake, no ice cream? What’s left?  Well, how about a crustless pumpkin pie?  Same wonderful flavor and texture, sort of like a mousse or custard.  Sounds good to me!  Or how about fresh autumn pears poached in spiced red wine?  That’s one of my favorites.  Light, healthy, and delicious.  The perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

I think it would be safe to serve wine or beer at this paleo dinner, since archaeologists

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

have found evidence in many parts of the world of ancient alcoholic beverages.  Tea, being nothing more than leaves, would probably be all right too.  But that cuppa coffee to go with dessert?  I doubt it.  Oh well, I’ll just have another glass of wine and call it a day!

Let me add that the so-called paleo diet is controversial due to the lack of grains and limited fats.  And lack of whipped cream. I think I’m just going omnivore, or as the hipsters say, flexitarian. That way I get to choose a little bit of everything!

Happy Paleo Thanksgiving Everyone!

For my friends outside the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving whenever you celebrate abundant harvests.  And if you don’t have a special holiday for giving thanks, I hope you give thanks for every day you have.  Cheers!

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Hiking Presa Canyon

Canyons of the Lower Pecos

Canyons of the Lower Pecos

Now that cooler weather has arrived, some of you may be thinking of hiking in the desert and canyons of the Lower Pecos region of south Texas. Wonderful idea!  I had the privilege of taking the guided hike to Presa Canyon last spring.  The temperature was only forecast to be 95 degrees Farenheit, so the tour was a go. If it’s more than 100 F, they don’t take groups into the canyon, for good reason.  I promised you then that I would write more about it ( see my post of March 18, 2013), but it has taken me awhile to get up the guts.

Rock Art in Black Cave

Rock Art in Black Cave

The hike was about eight hours, four hours in to Black Cave, and four hours out.  Information from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department describes the hike as “extremely strenuous” due to “rough terrain,’ and suggests that hikers have “experience in backcountry hiking skills.”

I had been hiking in the Lower Pecos for 20 years or so, and I said to myself, “well, it’s ALL rough terrain,” so I thought I could  do this. I made my reservation and paid my fee at Seminole Canyon State Park. Everything started fine, a lovely walk though a beautiful place. I felt good.

But when we turned down Presa Canyon itself, the nice flat canyon floor became a jumble of stones ranging in size from an Easter ham to a small Volkswagen. I wish I had thought to take a photo, but I was concentrating too hard on where to put my next footstep. Over and over again. For about six hours.

We reached Black Cave about noon, had our lunch, and studied the enigmatic rock art to be found there. Then we headed back. Four hours of watching where I put my foot, step by step, in exquisite torture.  I hurt the whole way back. Every time I put my foot down for the next step, my toe hit the end of my boot, which hit the rock. Ouch!  In addition to several blisters, I eventually lost five toenails.  I wish I had a picture of that purple horror, too, to scare you straight. Fortunately for you, I don’t.

You see, I made some poor choices about this hike. Like the socks I chose. And how much I carried on my back.  And,

Deer head skeleton under blooming Mexican buckeye tree in Presa Canyon

Deer head skeleton under blooming Mexican buckeye tree in Presa Canyon

knowing what I know now, I should have invested in different hiking boots. Even my wide-brimmed straw hat that I thought was great, turned out to snag on every limb and thorn along the way.

Another mistake was thinking I was really healthy enough to be doing this in the first place. There is a reason I was dragging at the end.  Heat, exertion, and high blood pressure.  Rock canyons become radiant stone ovens by afternoon on hot days. There was a time or two during the hike I thought I might pass out from heat stroke. I drank a lot of water, but high blood pressure gets you in the end.  I thought I was OK before I started, then Val asked me, “is your blood pressure under control in normal conditions?”  “Yes,” I said. “Well,” she said,  stating the obvious,”these are not normal conditions.” Oh. I get it now.

Fortunately, I made some good choices too. Like being reasonably fit. And taking extra moleskin along to bind those blisters. And taking my trusty hiking poles. And freezing a couple of bottles of water the night before–they were sure good in the heat of the afternoon. I even had some to share, which was good because somebody else ended up carrying my pack most of the way out.  Thank you, whoever you are.  Sorry I don’t know your name. You were galloping along so easily, and I was so far behind.

So, here’s my list of must-haves if you take this hike:

Sunscreen, of course


Bandana wrapped around small frozen bottle of water–wet the bandana down and wrap it around your neck in the afternoon to chill down

Baseball-style hat, possibly with neck protection

Black Cave

Black Cave

Moleskin and knife or small scissors

wool hiking socks

good fitting hiking boots

hiking poles (optional for the young and agile)

easy lunch that does not need refrigeration, like peanut butter sandwiches

one or two pieces of fruit like apple or orange for snack



camera ( I only took my iphone camera because it was light.  But you may want higher resolution photos)

Bandaids (you never know when you might need first aid)

Be careful, and watch where you put your feet and hands.  Rattlers, you know. Just remember that a rescue crew would have to walk in and out four hours each way too.  I asked the designated first aid specialist with us , a big former Army type, if he would carry me out if I broke my leg.  “Yes,” he said,” but I don’t bring anesthetic.  You would hurt like hell.”  Go safely, my friends.