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.

Chicken Enchiladas

For nearly two weeks my husband was asking me to make enchiladas. Since I didn’t plan on blogging about them, I decided to take the easy way out and use a pre-packaged sauce rather than making it from scratch. Rick Bayless has a new line of skillet sauces on the market and they were on sale at my favorite grocery store, A&G Fresh Market. I was pleasantly surprised after reading the ingredient list because I actually recognized and could pronounce everything on there.

Ingredients:

•   Tomato (fresh tomato, roasted fresh tomato, tomato puree, calcium chloride and citric acid)
•   Water
•   New Mexico chile pepper
•   Apple cider vinegar
•   Red bell pepper
•   Salt
•   Onion
•   Garlic
•   Evaporated cane juice
•   Spices
•   Xanthan gum

My husband gobbled these up and with a mouthful of food claimed that he, “would happily eat these once a week for the rest of our marriage.” Enchiladas are a snap to make so that is fine with me!

I am a bad blogger because I didn’t measure anything as I was making these. However, I think about enchiladas the same way I think about pizza. Do you precisely measure out each topping? Or, do you just throw them on there adding more of the things you like and less of things your husband makes you add you aren’t wild about?  What’s the worst that can happen? You end up with too much cheese? Is that even possible? I didn’t think so.

Chicken Enchiladas 

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Red Chili Enchilada Sauce
  • 2 chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 package shredded cheese
  • 8-10 corn tortillas
  • Salt and pepper or your favorite all-purpose seasoning

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350˚and coat the bottom of an 11 x 7 baking dish with enchilada sauce.

2. Before you start any assembly, you are going to need to shred the chicken. You can buy it already shredded or do it yourself. If you are opting for the DIY method, simply boil 2 chicken breasts in a pot of water until they are cooked through. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Remove them from the water and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. Shred by pulling the chicken apart with your fingers or by pulling it apart with two forks. Season the shredded chicken with salt and pepper or your favorite all-purpose seasoning. I used Adobo.

3. In a bowl, mix the shredded chicken with a 2-3 handfuls of cheese (make sure to reserve some for topping your enchiladas!) and a spoonful or two of the enchilada sauce. Exact measurement doesn’t matter, you are just adding a bit of the sauce to help season the chicken.

4. In a separate bowl add some sauce; if I had to guess, I’d say about 1/3 cup. This will be used to moisten your tortillas. Don’t worry about adding “too much” to the bowl. If you have leftover sauce, you can top your enchiladas with it.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 1

5. Next, dip your tortillas into the sauce making sure that both sides are coated.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 2

6. Place some of your chicken/cheese mixture in the middle of the tortilla.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 3

7. Fold one side towards the middle like so.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 4

8. Fold the other side over the top like so.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 5

9. Place the enchilada seam side down in a baking dish.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 6

10. Repeat this until your baking dish is full. Mine only held 7 tortillas. Yours might hold more, it might hold less.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 7

11. Top with any remaining sauce and cheese.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 8

12. Cover and bake in a 350˚ oven for 15 minutes.

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Step 9

Have leftovers? Chop them up and mix them in with scrambled eggs for a Mexican breakfast treat!

Cucina Kristina | Chicken Enchiladas | cucinakristina.com

Leftovers!

Maxwell Street Market & Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles

I have some exciting news. This is my 100th post! Woo!

In honor of my 100th post, I am going to give you a travel post AND a recipe. Y’all are lucky readers. 🙂 In addition to chronicling my world travels, I wanted to start writing about my discoveries and adventures right here in Sweet Home, Chicago. You can find my first “Tourist in the City” post about the Chicago Botanic Garden here.

Today, I am going to tell you about a hidden gem in Chicago. It’s the Maxwell Street Market, a weekly open-air flea market located in the South Loop. Seriously, if you live in Chicago and you love Mexican food, you should head down to Des Plaines and Polk Street and stuff yourself silly. The market is held every Sunday. You’ll find some of the best, inexpensive Mexican street food in Chicago and there is no admission price to get in. Win!

Pastor Taco at Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Pastor (Pork) taco – $2

I went with a friend of mine in November and ate approximately 25 pounds of food. Ok, maybe not quite 25 pounds of food, but I sure as heck ate a TON of tacos that day and didn’t feel guilty about it.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Me, quesadillas, carne asada, and pastor.

The food is all made to order, even the tortillas. Did I mention that it is cheap? Check out these prices.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

I recommend… everything!

This lady was a tortilla making machine! She was cranking them out like nobody’s business.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Fresh, soft, warm tortillas. YUM!

I am a bit of a mole freak. I love mole. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it. This was some of the best mole I’ve had since moving to Chicago and I paid $2.50 for it.

Maxwell Street | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

I love mole!

In addition to housing some fantastic street food, the Maxwell Street Market is also host to a flea market. Need a set of tires? You can get them here along with a new lamp, a package of socks, a box of nails, and a guitar. You can also get your hands on some fresh produce at prices that beat any grocery store in town.

At the flea market, I bought a bag of dried hibiscus flowers and have been drinking hibiscus tea throughout the winter. Hibiscus tea has a very tart flavor, similar to a cranberry. I happened to like the tartness and usually drank my tea without adding any additional sugar, although I occasionally added a bit of honey to sweeten it. The hibiscus flower contains vitamin C, is thought to lower blood pressure, and has a surprising amount of health benefits. It is also very pretty to look at when it is steeping in your teapot. 🙂

I posted a picture of strawberry hibiscus popsicles in last week’s Paleo Food Diary and had a lot of people asking for the recipe. If you do not have popsicle molds, you can freeze these in ice cube trays, Dixie cups, or muffin tins. If you like strawberry, you might also enjoy my strawberry, banana, and orange popsicles.

Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles
Makes 6 pops

Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup dried Hibiscus flowers

Directions:

  1. In a pot, bring water and Hibiscus flowers to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain flowers and add the liquid to a blender.
  3. Add strawberries, banana, and honey and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.

Prosciutto, Asparagus, Egg “Muffins”

This weekend I experimented a little in the kitchen by attempting to make Prosciutto Egg Cups for breakfast. Rather than following a tried and true recipe for the first go-round and tweaking to my liking, I tried to make up the recipe from the start. The result didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped. Prosciutto Egg Cups are supposed to look like this:

Or, like this:

But, my version looked more like egg muffins. Whoops!

They were still pretty yummy and I think the main problem was that I scrambled the eggs first rather than dropping the whole egg into the Prosciutto. That’s what happens when you don’t follow a recipe. 🙂

I made two, ate one, and stuck the other in the fridge to see if it would hold up overnight. It did, which is exciting because now I feel like I can make a few of these on Sunday afternoon and have breakfast taken care of for the first few days of the week! If you are going to use this as a grab-and-go breakfast item, I’d recommend heating it up. Cold eggs aren’t very tasty. In fact, they are pretty gross.

Prosciutto, Asparagus, Egg “Muffins”
Makes 2

Prosciutto, Asparagus, Egg "Muffins" | Cucina Kristina cucinakristina.com

Yum!

Ingredients:

  • 2 stalks of asparagus, roughly chopped
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-6 slices of Prosciutto

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚.
  2. Roughly chop asparagus and mushrooms and set aside.
  3. Line 2 ramekins (you could also use a muffin tin) with Prosciutto slices until the bottom and sides are completely covered.
  4. Add the asparagus and mushrooms to the ramekins.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Add eggs to ramekins.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. (I did mine for 27 minutes because they were still a little runny looking at 25 minutes).
  7. When finished cooking, let stand for a few minutes. Slide a knife around the edge of the ramekins to loosen the “muffin.” Serve warm.