Archive of ‘Gluten Free’ category

How to Make Homemade Tahini

If you’ve ever wondered how to make tahini, keep reading. This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store. 

how to make homemade tahini

Have you ever roasted your own peppers on your stovetop? It’s incredible easy and they taste so much better than the canned stuff. I do this a lot more in the summer when I have the time to devote to fancy things.

how to roast red pepper

This weekend, I read on David Lebovits’s site that you can do the same thing with eggplant before making baba ganoush in order to give it a smoky flavor. I decided to give it a whirl because I love a good baba ganoush. I make it a lot in the summer because we grow eggplants in our garden and the thought of smoky baba ganoush sounded too good to pass up.

fairytale eggplant growing in our garden

David warns you not to leave the eggplant on the stove for too long because the smoky flavor may become too strong for most folks. Well, I didn’t listen because I am not very good at following directions. Ever noticed there aren’t any baking recipes on this site? That’s why. The result? A baba ganoush that was Way. Too. Smoky. Just as he had warned. 

roast eggplant to give it a smoky flavor

As the eggplant was roasting, I started gathering the other ingredients I needed to make the baba ganoush. I needed garlic, lemon, chili powder, olive oil, and tahini. Gah! I was out of tahini. I considered substituting sun butter for the tahini and crossing my fingers when I saw a jar of sesame seeds in my cupboard. 

Woo! Homemade nut butters are made by whirling nuts in your food processor and adding a bit of olive oil until you get the desired consistency so it makes sense that tahini could be made just as easily.

I am super bummed that the baba ganoush didn’t turn out, but now I have 1/2 cup of tahini so I can experiment quite a bit before we are up to our eyeballs in eggplant!

Homemade Tahini
This recipe for homemade tahini is easy to whip up in your food processor and will cost you a fraction of the cost of buying it in the store.
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  2. 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden and fragrant. This took me about 7 minutes. Make sure you stir often because, like nuts, they can burn quickly.
  2. When the seeds have cooled, add them to your food processor.
  3. Turn the food processor on and add olive oil by the tablespoon until you get a smooth consistency. I used about 5 tablespoons.
  4. Store in an airtight container in your fridge.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Turkey and Vegetable Chili

Turkey and Vegetable Chili | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Soooo…. according to Fox Sports, the Superbowl could be played at any point between Friday, January 31 and Sunday, February 3. Really? I thought this was a hoax when I first read about it as I was not aware that you could move the Super Bowl, but apparently this is really a thing. Craziness! Winter can be done now, amiright? I mean, they are talking about MOVING THE FREAKING SUPER BOWL because it is too cold and snowy! Ugh. My brain cannot process that.

BUT! Do you know what my brain can process? Tasty chili. :-) Chili is one of those dishes that lends itself perfectly for preparing on a Sunday and eating throughout the week. It also freezes really well so you can always make a huge batch, portion it out, and have it on hand for a quick mid-week meal. It’s no secret around here that I am a fan of preparing my meals for the week on Sunday afternoon. I get a lot of questions about what I prep and how I do it and I am in the process of writing up a Sunday Food Prep Tips and Tricks post so stay tuned for that. I am aiming to have that posted early next week so you can get a healthy start to the week after stuffing yourself silly with wings and chili at a Super Bowl party. 

I usually make chili with ground beef, but all I had on hand was ground turkey so I decided to give that a try. Much to my delight, it turned out great! In fact, I noticed that ground turkey forms larger chunks when cooked than ground beef which lead to a chunkier chili. Since I did not use beans in this recipe, I appreciated the heartiness of the turkey and will probably continue to use it from here on out. Don’t you love happy accidents? 

Turkey and Vegetable Chili
Serves 6
This chili recipe is highly adaptable! You can use any ground protein you'd like and can add more vegetables than the suggested amounts for a super chunky chili.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons chili powder
  2. 2 tablespoons cumin
  3. 1 tablespoon oregano
  4. 1 teaspoon paprika
  5. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  7. 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  8. 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  9. 2 cans of water (I measure using the tomato can)
  10. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  11. 1/4 ounce baker's chocolate (optional)
  12. 2 pounds ground turkey
  13. 1 red pepper, chopped
  14. 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  15. 1 orange pepper, chopped
  16. 4 carrots, chopped
  17. 1 clove of garlic, minced
  18. 1 large white onion, chopped (reserve about 1/3 for topping!)
  19. 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the ground turkey and stir frequently to cook the turkey all the way through.
  3. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, water, spices and chocolate and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  4. Add the chopped carrots and chopped peppers and simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until the carrots have softened.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Paleo Beef Pho

Paleo Beef Pho | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

When I made the switch to a Paleo diet, one of the things I missed the most was pho. Pho is a Vietnamese soup made with meat, vegetables, and rice noodles. Did you see the Man vs. Food Nation Super Pho Challenge episode? I am fairly certain I could crush that challenge with zero obstacles. 

As I was typing this recipe up, it dawned on me that you could make the broth beforehand, freeze it, and make this soup during the week in smaller quantities and in about 20 minutes. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that sooner! The next time I make this, I will have to remember that.

This is a copycat recipe that was inspired by the beef noodle soup from Penny’s Noodles in Chicago. When I was in graduate school, I used to pick this soup up on my way home from class and it was always so hard not to tear into the bag and eat it immediately! I like to eat this soup alongside a crisp, cold, cucumber salad. 

You’ll notice this recipe calls for star anise. Personally, I think that is a key flavor in this dish and should not be omitted. Star anise has a licorice flavor and adds a good layer of flavor to the broth. You can buy star anise online here if you cannot find it in your local grocery store.

My grocery store sells packaged chop suey meat. If your grocery does not sell chop suey beef, you can use stew beef. You’ll need to cut the stew beef into very small pieces before you cook it.

Paleo Beef Pho
Serves 4
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Total Time
3 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Total Time
3 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 star anise
  2. 6 whole cloves
  3. 1 whole cinnamon stick
  4. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  5. 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  6. 1 shallot, minced
  7. 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  8. 1 lb. chop suey meat
  9. 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  10. 1 small head of broccoli, chopped
  11. 4 stalks of kale, chopped
  12. 1 tablespoon chili paste (2 tablespoons if you want an extra kick)
  13. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  14. 6 cups vegetable broth
Garnishes
  1. Thinly sliced radish
  2. Lime
  3. Cilantro
  4. Green onion
  5. Bean sprouts (not strict Paleo)
For the broth
  1. In a pan over medium heat, toast the cloves, star anise, and cinnamon until fragrant to open the flavors. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the spices from the pan so they do not burn and set aside. (See note).
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the shallot, garlic, and ginger in the coconut oil for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly so the garlic does not burn.
  3. Add vegetable broth and spices and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 hours.
For the soup
  1. Fish the whole spices out of the broth. Add the beef and bring the soup to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and add the mushrooms, broccoli, and kale. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
  3. Add the chili paste. Stir, taste and adjust the seasoning. If the soup is tasting a bit flat, add a teaspoon of sea salt to bring out the flavors.
  4. Serve with any or all of the garnishes above!
Notes
  1. I use ground cardamom in this recipe because I did not have whole cardamom. Ground spices burn quickly; therefore, I do not toast the cardamom. I just add it right to the broth in step 3.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Red Thai Curry Mussels

Are you familiar with Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter? It’s the poem recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland and tells the story of walrus and a carpenter who happen upon a bed of oysters while walking along the beach. They invite the oysters to walk with them and, when they stop to rest, the walrus devours all of the oysters before the carpenter has a chance to eat any.

That’s basically what happens whenever anyone orders mussels with me in a restaurant. I love mussels. I don’t mean to be greedy! I intend to share every time, but they are so tasty that I find myself easily getting carried away. I am totally the walrus!

Empty Mussels | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

They’d been eaten. Every one.

The first time I had mussels was in college. I went to UC Berkeley and one of my favorite things to do on weekends was hop on BART and head to Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco. There, I’d grab a bowl of clam chowder and make my way to Aquatic Park (the park behind Ghriardelli Square) and study. One day, I grabbed cioppino instead of clam chowder and my love for mussels was born! 

Side note: I’ve yet to make cioppino at home, but I am dying to try Tyler Florence’s version

Aquatic Park San Francisco

Clam chowder by the Bay!

For this recipe, I steam the mussels using light coconut milk that has been infused with garlic, ginger, and red curry paste. I use light coconut milk in this recipe because it has a milder taste than full fat coconut milk. I like that there is a hint of coconut in the broth that doesn’t overpower the taste of the mussels. 

Storing Mussels

Mussels are alive when you buy them and should be eaten the same day you purchase them. When you bring them home, store them in a bowl, on top of ice, in your refrigerator. You could also store them in a large pot of cold salt water in your fridge as this article suggests. 

Preparing Mussels

When you are ready to cook your mussels, you will first need to go through them and pick out any mussels with open, cracked, or punctured shells. Discard any with cracked or punctured shells. Tap open mussels on the counter. If they close, they are still alive and ok to eat. If they do not close, they are dead and should be thrown away. 

Next, you will need to debeard the mussels. The “beard” looks like little threads of seaweed sticking out from the side of the mussel. To remove this, grab it and pull towards the hinge end of the mussel. Most come out fairly easily, but there are some you will have to wrestle with. 

Mussel parts. The beard of a mussel. The hinge of a mussel. | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

The hinge is the side holding the mussel together. Pull the beard towards the hinge.

After you remove the beard, rinse the mussel under cold running water and scrub any dirt off the outside of the shell. Finally, soak them in a bowl of ice water for about 5 minutes to flush out any remaining dirt or grit that may be inside the shell. 

Red Thai Curry Mussels
Serves 2
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 green onions, chopped -or- 1 small shallot, minced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  5. 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  6. 1 can light coconut milk
  7. 1/3 can water, I use the coconut milk can
  8. 2 lbs. mussels
Optional Garnish
  1. 2 green onions, chopped
  2. Handful of cilantro, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat, sweat the onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the coconut milk and water and raise the heat medium-high. Bring just to a boil, stirring to blend all of the ingredients.
  4. Add the mussels and cover the pot. Cook until the mussels open, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Divide the mussels evenly among two bowls. Discard any mussels that fail to open. Spoon the remaining cooking liquid over the mussels.
  6. Garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro, if desired.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

One Pot Meal: Pot Roast Stew

I am crazy for one pot meals, especially during the colder winter months. I love starting a meal after lunch and letting it cook slowly over a low heat until dinnertime. This process is called braising or stewing depending on whether you use large or small cuts of beef. Both methods begin with tougher cuts of beef and the long cooking time helps break down the muscle fibers leaving you with meat that “falls off the bone.”

Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite winter recipes, pot roast stew. This is not one of those recipes that you can’t simply whip up after a long day at the office, but it is one that you can make a ton of on a Sunday and reheat throughout the week. You mustn’t rush the cooking time with this or you will end up with mushy veggies and tough beef. Nobody wants that.

One Pot Meals - Pot Roast Beef Stew

Don’t be deterred by the cook time for this recipe. Three hours is a long time, but I promise it will be worth it in the end! As this is cooking you will start to pick up all of the different smells in this dish. The first time you walk by your kitchen, it will smell intensely of garlic. Then, you’ll get a whiff of rosemary and you’ll want to lift the lid and peek inside because you know something magical is happening in there. Be patient. 

I use chuck roast for this recipe, which is the cut of beef that is used for pot roast. My grocery store happens to sell packages of cubed chuck roast labeled as stew beef, but you could always buy a full-sized pot roast and cube the meat yourself. 

The white cubes that look like potatoes in the photo above are actually turnips and parsnips. I omitted traditional white potatoes to make this recipe Paleo-friendly and, to be honest, I probably won’t make this recipe using potatoes ever again. The parsnip and turnip add a deep layer of flavor to the broth, and when it comes to flavor, white potatoes miss the mark!

Pot Roast Stew
Serves 6
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
3 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
3 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs. stew beef
  2. 1 shallot, minced
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1 parsnip, chopped
  5. 1 turnip, chopped
  6. 3 celery stalks, chopped
  7. 4 carrots, chopped
  8. 1 8 oz. box of mushrooms, chopped in half
  9. 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  10. 1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
  11. 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  12. 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  13. 1 bay leaf
  14. 2 beef bullion cubes
  15. 8 cups water
  16. Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottom pot, melt the ghee over medium heat and brown the beef. You will have to do this in shifts so as to not overcrowd the pot. Overcrowding will cause the beef to steam rather than brown. When the beef is browned on all sides, remove it and set aside.
  2. Lower the heat and wait about 10 minutes for the temperature of the pot drop (you do not want to burn your garlic in the next step!).
  3. Add the shallots and garlic to the pot and cook until the shallots caramelize, about 7 minutes. Stir often.
  4. Return the beef back to the pot and add 8 cups of water, paprika, bay leaf, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, and beef bullion cubes. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over low heat for 90 minutes.
  5. Add the parsnip, turnip, celery, carrots, and mushrooms, cover, and continue to simmer for at least 30 more minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. You can substitute butter for ghee, but then this stew will not be Paleo. To keep it Paleo, you can substitute bacon fat or olive oil to brown the beef.
Cucina Kristina http://cucinakristina.com/

Butternut Squash Flour

I am on the hunt to expand my Paleo breakfast ideas past fried eggs. I love eggs, but sometimes you just gotta change things up. I am still experimenting with this idea, but I was pretty surprised by the way these turned out so I thought I would share the test recipe with you. While browsing Amazon the other day, I came across pumpkin powder. Pumpkin powder is dehydrated pumpkin that is ground into a fine powder and can be used in place of flour. I was rather intrigued and decided to experiment with making my own.

Unfortunately, my local grocery store was totally out of pumpkins, so I picked up a butternut squash instead. Close enough! I wanted to experiment with making tortillas. Traditional corn tortillas are made from corn, water, and lime. Flour tortillas are made from flour, salt, water, and lard. Therefore, it stands to reason that you could make tortillas from any flour, right?

The result was pretty awesome even though my tortilla recipe still needs a bit of work. I think I made this first batch too thick because they split apart when I picked them up and didn’t hold together like a traditional tortilla. However, they tasted great so I just ate my breakfast with a knife and fork, tostada-style. :-) I might try adding a binder (flax seed, perhaps?) to the next batch and see if that helps. I’ll keep you posted!

Paleo Breakfast Ideas

Butternut squash toastadas!

To Make Butternut Squash Flour

Peel, seed, and cube the squash and spread it onto a dehydrator. You want small, evenly sized cubes. The pieces took FOREVER to dehydrate. I had them in there for close to 24 hours. Next time, I am going to shred the squash and see if that helps speed up the process!

When they are fully dehydrated, add to a blender and grind into a powder. This also took a bit of time because I have a pretty cheap blender. I imagine a VitaMix could do the trick in a few seconds! I am going to move the VitaMix to the top of my Christmas Wish List. :-)

Butternut Squash Tortillas (Test Recipe)

In a bowl, combine 1/3 cup butternut squash flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add warm water by the tablespoon and mix until you get a doughy consistency. For me, 3 tablespoons was too little, but 4 tablespoons was too much. I had to play with this and add a little bit more flour to form a dough. Like I said… I am still experimenting!

Divide dough into 2 balls. Place dough between 2 pieces of waxed paper and press with a tortilla press. If you do not have a tortilla press, you can roll these out by hand. Toast the tortillas in a skillet, about 4 minutes on each side.

Butternut Squash Toastadas
Assemble the toastadas by placing two tortillas on a plate. Top with your favorite toppings.

In the photo above: 2 butternut squash tortillas, shredded chicken, tomatillo salsa, pickled carrots, and pumpkin seeds.

Other Paleo topping ideas: Shredded pork, ground beef, eggs, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, olives, cilantro, fresh lime, onions, peppers, and thinly sliced radish.

Have you ever used squash flour? 

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Coffee (Inspired by Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spiced Latte)

Confession: I’ve never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. 

It’s true! In general, I’ve never been a big fan of Starbucks coffee, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I have managed to miss the PSL craze year after year. However, people seem to go absolutely bananas over this thing. Why? I don’t get it.

I decided to investigate, and was shocked as to what I found out. Granted, most people are not freaks about reading ingredients and most folks don’t pay attention to things like sugar content, but I am, and I do, and my reaction was something like this:

First, the pumpkin spice latte contains no actual pumpkin. It’s basically a mix of espresso and high fructose corn syrup. The average size PSL has 49g of sugar and 51g of carbs! Holy. Moly. That is more sugar than a regular can of Coke (39g), more sugar than a bag of Skittles (47g), more sugar than a can of Red Bull (27g), and more carbs than a Big Mac (46g). Y-I-K-E-S! And, don’t think those numbers drastically improve by using non-fat milk or ordering it sans whipped cream because they don’t.

Sorry, I’ll stop being a total buzz kill and get to the recipe!

I discovered this recipe when I was trying to make Pumpkin Pie Popsicles for a dinner party. I had some leftover popsicle mix, stored it in a mason jar, added it to my coffee the following morning. WOW! Yum, yum, yum!

Homemade Paleo Pumpkin Pie Coffee

Note: This recipe will fill a pint-sized mason jar. I was adding this to a 16 ounce travel mug and it easily lasted a full work week and then some!

Pumpkin Pie Coffee - Cucina Kristina |cucinakristina.com

Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free… we’re taking care of all dietary restrictions in one fell swoop!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coconut milk – (I use Silk brand, not full fat coconut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon raw coconut oil (optional)
  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of high quality sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a week.
  3. Use in place of creamer in your favorite coffee.

Note: The pumpkin puree will settle in the bottom of your mug if you do not drink this quickly. Have a spoon on hand to give it a stir if you are savoring the flavor.

Also, apparently vegans are up in arms because the current Starbucks PSL cannot be made vegan. Guess what? The above recipe is vegan! Pass it on :-)

Homemade Ghee -or- DIY Clarified Butter

So many recipes in the Paleosphere call for ghee. What’s ghee? Ghee is another name for clarified butter! What’s clarified butter? The stuff that you dip your fingers into at a seafood restaurant… or lobster tail if you are trying to exhibit table manners. Seriously, how tasty is clarified butter? So tasty!

Wait? Butter is Paleo? No. Butter is not Paleo-friendly because it comes from cream, which contains casein and lactose, but when you make ghee, you remove the milk proteins and are left with a delicious nutty fat that is perfect for roasting, sautéing, searing, stir-frying, or melting and drizzling over your favorite veggie.

ANYWAY… it turns out that ghee is incredibly easy (and quick!) to make. I made this really early in the morning because I am a freak and like to wake up before the sun. True story. Then, I used it to make steak and eggs and baked apples. I even thought about putting some of it in my coffee and making Paleo butter coffee, but I thought that might be going a little overboard for one morning. Maybe I will try that next week. :-)

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • 1 pound butter
  • Glass jar for storing the ghee – I used a pint Mason jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Wooden spoon/Solid spoon to skim the foam
  • Pot

Directions:

1.  Over a low heat, melt the butter in your pot.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Use a low heat so your butter does not burn.

2.  Try to avoid stirring your butter as it is melting because you want to milk solids to foam up and separate from the fats. When it starts to look like the picture below, use a wooden or solid spoon to skim the foam off the top.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Not stirring is so hard

You might have to do this a few times to get all of the milk proteins out.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Just keep skimming, just keep skimming…

3.  When it starts to look like the photo above, let it boil for 10-12 minutes. The milk solids may start to brown and float to the side. That’s ok! You want that. That is giving the ghee a deep nutty flavor.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

5

4.  When it the bubbling slows and the browned milk solids start to fall to the bottom of the pan, your ghee is ready to be strained.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Strain any browned bits out.

5.  If you are using a mason jar, place 3 layers of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and loosely screw on the lid. You want to make sure that the cheesecloth has a little give to it. Notice in the photo above the gap between the cloth and the rim of the lid. Strain any browned bits or foam out.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

This will be HOT. Do not grab it right away!

6.  Discard the cheesecloth. BE CAREFUL! The rim, jar, and ghee will be hot! Let it cool for a bit before you start to handle it.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Ta da!

When it cools, it will solidify and turn a nice silky color. You can just scoop out however much you need and start cooking. Since the milk proteins have been removed, you do not need to refrigerate your ghee; however, I do to be on the safe side.

Now, stop reading and go make some ghee!

Cucina Kristina Goes Gluten-Free!

That’s it! I’ve had it! I’m going gluten-free and no one can stop me!

I decided to go gluten-free for a month last summer to see what all the buzz was about. It seemed that overnight every restaurant in Chicago was rolling out a gluten-free menu and grocery stores were dedicating entire aisles to gluten-free items. I never dreamed this little experiment would impact my life as drastically as it did.

After two weeks of being gluten-free, I felt amazing. I was sleeping less but sleeping better. For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to get a good night’s sleep and what it felt like to wake up feeling refreshed. I had a ton of energy, and I never felt overly full after meals. When the month was up, I wondered if it was the elimination of gluten that was making me feel this way or the fact that I had replaced glutenous items with fresh fruits and vegetables. Whatever it was, I was feeling great and decided that I would try to remain as gluten-free as possible from there on out.

Ever since then ANY time I have had gluten it has been bad news. My stomach cramps, I feel like a rock is sitting in my stomach all day long, I have “digestive issues,” I toss and turn at night unable to sleep, my energy plummets, and I just don’t feel good. At first, I thought it was in my head, but this has happened often enough over the last year that I honestly think I am gluten sensitive. In fact, I think many people are sensitive to gluten and aren’t aware of it because gluten is in so many foods we are accustomed to eating.

This weekend was the last straw. I fell victim to the sweets table at a baby shower. The sweets table always gets me! However, the 45 seconds of joy I get when I eat a cupcake or a cookie doesn’t outweigh the hours afterwards that I feel like crap. After a totally sleepless Sunday night, I woke up Monday morning and decided to go completely gluten-free. Forever. No more cheat days. Done.

I am toying with the idea of pulling my pre-Paleo and non gluten-free posts down, but I like the idea that they are here and representative of my journey. The last thing I want is for people to come here and feel I am misrepresenting myself! I’ll probably keep them up for now and add a disclaimer to them, but I want you to know that every recipe I post from this point forward will be 100% gluten-free. I may post some recipes that are not strict Paleo occasionally, but I promise you won’t find a lick of gluten on Cucina Kristina ever again.

Here are some of my favorite gluten-free blogs.

Za’atar Scented Carrot Fries

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have undoubtedly heard me rave about the Foodie Penpals program I participate in each month. Well, I found a Paleo version hosted by Tarah over at What I Gather and Brittanie over at Three Diets One Dinner. How perfect! Paleo Penpals is very similar to Foodie Penpals. Each month you are paired with another participant and you exchange Paleo-friendly items with them. Then, you create a recipe using the items you received from your pen pal. Tarah and Brittanie will put together a roundup post with all of the recipes that were submitted and post it on their blogs at the end of each month. I thought this would be a really great way to expand my Paleo pantry and get some inspiration for new recipes.

This month I was paired with Amanda from Kentucky. She sent me two different spice mixes; one was her own “super secret” pork rub and the other was a spice mix called za’atar. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix that is a mixture of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac and it used on pretty much everything in the Middle East. It can be used to season root veggies or you can add it to olive oil to make a dip for bread. Some people eat it straight from the jar.

Sumac has a slight citrus taste so my original thought was to make za’atar spiked marinara sauce; however, after adding nearly three tablespoons of it to the pot and finding it didn’t have the punch I was looking for, I gave up that idea. I’ve seen pictures of carrot “fries” floating around various Paleo blogs and decided to give that a try. Success!

Carrot fries are awesome! They have a consistency that is similar to sweet potato fries. The sweetness of the carrots and coconut oil pairs nicely with the tartness of the sumac. You can purchase za’atar online or you can make your own from scratch. If you can’t get your hands on any, you can substitute the za’atar in the recipe below for your favorite all-purpose spice blend or season with plain old salt and pepper.

By the way, have I showed you my method for melting coconut oil?

How to Melt Coconut Oil | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

We don’t own a microwave so I had to get creative!

Yup. That’s my bathroom. That’s my hairdryer. Laugh all you want, but it works like a charm! :)

Za'atar Scented Carrot "Fries" | Via Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Served alongside homemade mayo

*NOTE: This recipe makes a single serving of carrot “fries.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon za’atar

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425˚.
  2. Peel and chop carrots into quarters. You want them to be roughly the same size and thickness.
  3. In a bowl, toss carrots in melted coconut oil for a few minutes to make sure they are well coated.
  4. Add za’atar to the bowl and toss the carrots for another few minutes making sure to distribute the spice evenly.
  5. Spread the carrots onto a baking sheet lined with foil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes. Watch these as they have a tendency to burn quickly! It may take a few more minutes or a few less depending on how thick you cut your “fries.”
  6. Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before serving.

1 2 3 4