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 🙂

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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.

Heart-Shaped Origami Bookmark

Hello, Internet! I have missed you. I have been MIA on the blog for the last six weeks because I have been furiously trying to find a job. I never dreamed it would be as hard as it was to get a teaching job, but I am happy to report that I will be teaching 7th/8th grade Language Arts come fall (read: in 2 weeks. Eek!). Woo hoo!

I have a pin board called For My Future Classroom. It was a space for me to collect a bunch of teaching-related ideas since I didn’t know what grade I would be teaching up until a few days ago. Now that I know, I have a new board called Teaching Middle School and have been furiously trying to weed through my old pins and find new pins. This got me thinking about the state of all of my other pin boards, and I went a little organization crazy. When I first joined Pinterest, I would pin things without verifying the content or the links. Thus, I had an unintentionally large collection of pins that led nowhere. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a fabulous pin and having it lead to nowhere!

I spent a good amount of last week cleaning up my Pinterest boards. I worked very hard verifying links, writing meaningful comments on each images, and choosing engaging cover images. I still have a few boards to go through, but I am about 85% finished. I hope you enjoy my shiny, new, well-organized collection of pins!

While going through my Gettin’ Crafty board, I stumbled upon a pin for a heart-shaped origami bookmark.

Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com | heart shaped bookmark

I love reading!

I followed this video tutorial from The Cheese Thief using a piece of paper that I cut from a magazine advertisement. She recommends using a 4 inch x 4 inch square in her video, but I found this to be slightly too small to manage the smaller folds. I used a 4.5 inch x 4.5 inch square and felt that the extra half-inch really made things easier for my stubby fingers. 🙂

This bookmark is holding a spot in The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged, which I HIGHLY recommend if you would like to get stronger, leaner (or bigger if you are looking to add muscle mass), faster, and more fit.

July Foodie Penpal Reveal Day!

I have been drowning in job applications for the past month. I never dreamed that finding a teaching job would be so time-consuming and overwhelming. I’ve applied to positions in Chicago and a few of the surrounding suburbs, but I have also been searching and applying for some non-teaching positions as a backup. I literally have not left my computer in almost 3 weeks! It’s rough, but I keep telling myself that one way or the other it will all be over soon and I will be back to work full-time.

In the meantime, I managed to participate in another round of Foodie Penpals! This month I was paired with Lucie from Georgia. Lucie was super on top of things. The deadline to mail packages is the 15th of the month and my package arrived on the 11th! She even included a description of each product along with the history behind it.

July Foodie Penpals

Honey coated pecans

I requested that the items be gluten-free and peanut-free, which meant that I could not receive any of Georgia’s famous peanuts. Lucie included some amazing honey coated pecans. Between my husband and I, these lasted approximately 15 seconds.

July Foodie Penpals

Pork rinds!

This was another winner with my husband. I think he is beginning to become more excited for my Foodie Penpal packages to arrive than I am. These had a very smokey flavor, which I liked a lot. Then, I saw this recipe from Paleo Girl’s Kitchen where she used pork rinds to bread chicken and my mind was totally blown. I am definitely going to have to give that one a test drive.

July Foodie Penpals

Southern condiment trio

I can’t comment personally about the above three items because I haven’t had a chance to try them yet. I am simply DYING to try the Georgia Peach Grilling Sauce, but the weather for the past few weeks has not been grill-friendly. We’ve had a lot of rain and even a few days in the 60’s. The 60’s?! In July? I don’t understand the Midwest. I plan on using it to cook up some chicken, but I am sure it would also be very tasty on shrimp or scallops.

I’d never heard of Mayhaw jelly before and it apparently gets it’s name because “May” is the month in which the “Haw”thorne berries are harvested. The description from Lucie’s note said that it Mayhaw’s are part of the apple family and that Mayhaw jelly has been toted as “the best jelly in the world.” I think I am going to save it for the fall because it sounds like something that would really perk up my taste buds when I am missing summer.

I plan on breaking into that jar of Hot Chow Chow this week. This is also something I had never heard of and when I Googled what to eat it with I realized that the possibilities are endless. Some of the things that I found were as an accompaniment to BBQ pork, mixed in with tuna, as a relish for shrimp tacos, and a topping on an omlete. I LOVE mixing salsas into my scrambled eggs so this is perfect!

To see what I sent to my Foodie Penpal, hop on over to Sharde’s page at http://shoedooo.com/.

Wanna be a Foodie Penpal? Find out how! Click the stamp to sign up!

The Lean Green Bean

Past Foodie Penpal Reveals:

Here’s a detailed explanation of the program:

– On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

– You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!

– The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

– You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

– Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

– Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

My Paleo Food Diary

Hi Friends!

I’ve been MIA on this blog for the last two weeks because I have been (unsuccessfully) recipe testing. I think one of the common misconceptions about Lifestyle blogs is that everything we post turns out perfectly the first time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Since the inception of this blog, I’ve probably have more kitchen flops than successes, and I’ve had plenty of crafts turn out looking like they were done by a preschooler rather than a full-grown adult.

Let me preface this by saying that we ate a lot of take-out this week. I managed to put together an example food diary from the recipes that turned out palatable. Nothing was mind-blowing, except for the arracherra, but that’s because it’s one of my “go-to” recipes that I knew would not disappoint. I can only take experimentation for so long!

Breakfast – Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage Link from Trader Joe’s (not pictured) and “Green” Smoothie
To make the smoothie, I juiced 2 carrots, 1 cucumber, 1 lemon, a handful of parsley, and a 1-inch piece of ginger. I added that to a blender with 3 stalks of kale, 1 tablespoon of flax seed, and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. The result was OK. The texture wasn’t a little too grainy (if only I had a VitaMix!) and it needed something in the taste department. Next time around, I’ll probably juice all the veggies and blend in a banana or some strawberries for some added sweetness.

Paleo Food Diary Breakfast - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

This Green Juice Boost (of Energy!) is so much better!

Lunch – Cucumber & Lox
This was my Paleo rendition of the classic bagel and lox sandwich. Since cream cheese is not Paleo, I omitted that. The result wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely missing something. I need to whip up a dressing or a sauce to accompany this because it wasn’t my favorite dish in the world.

Paleo Food Diary Lunch - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

A take on bagels and lox without the cream cheese.

Snack – Apples with Sunbutter
I discovered Sunbutter as an alternative to nut butters and I can’t get enough. The classroom I was student teaching in was a peanut and nut free classroom and I wasn’t allowed to bring my almond and cashew butters to school. I think I actually like this better than almond butter! If you do not have any apples lying around, this is just as tasty right off the back of a spoon. 🙂

Paleo Food Diary Snack - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Better than peanut butter!

Dinner – Arrachera (Skirt Steak) with Cauli Rice and Grilled Green Onions
If you have not coated a green onion in olive oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and popped it on the grill, you are missing out on life. Green onions are mild to begin with, but when you grill them they become very sweet and tender. They are the perfect accompaniment to arrachera. I love arrachera because it is inexpensive and cooks up quickly. If you do not have outdoor grill space, you can cook it on the stove top very easily. Because it is thinly sliced, it takes about 3 minutes per side for a well-done piece of steak. I marinated the arrachera for 8 hours in olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion, garlic, and adobo. While my husband was manning the grill, I made fresh pico de gallo and guacamole (not pictured).

Paleo Food Diary Dinner - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Did you know you can regrow green onions? True story.

This dinner was by far the best thing I have cooked up in the last two weeks! Hopefully, I will fare better this week. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

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.