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!

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.

My Paleo Food Diary

Last week’s Paleo Food Diary was wildly successful; it got the most hits of any post I’ve ever written! I am so glad that people are interested in the world of Paleo, and I hope that these food logs will give folks a little insight into how delicious Paleo eating can be. We made a trip to Costco last week, and I bought 36 eggs. I promise I will post a non-egg breakfast next week or the week after when we make our way through our current stash.

Breakfast – Scrambled Eggs with Green Pepper, Onion, Mushroom, Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Chicken Sausage, and Strawberries
This week I cooked up some green peppers, mushrooms, and onions and mixed them in with scrambled eggs. I cut up some strawberries and cooked up a sun-dried tomato and basil chicken sausage link that I bought at Trader Joe’s. I also had a cup of coffee with coconut milk.

Cucina Kristina | Breakfast | cucinakristina.com

Cooks up quickly

Lunch – Leftover Chicken Fajitas, Guacamole, and Pico de Gallo
Fajitas are a staple dinner in our house. We eat them almost every week and I always make sure we have enough for leftovers. I ate them just like this with a fork, but you could also have these leftovers in the form of a salad or use iceberg lettuce leaves in place of tortillas. My recipe for pico de gallo and guacamole can be found here. This was so good, I had two helpings!

Paleo Food Diary Lunch - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Fajitas are a staple in our home

Snack – Spicy Power Bars
I wasn’t super hungry between meals this week, but I had power bars leftover from last week and snacked on those when I got hungry. The power bar recipe is from Elana’s Pantry and it is delicious.

Spicy Power Bars | Recipe courtesy of Elana's Pantry @ elanaspantry.com | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

This recipe makes 10-12 bars

Dinner – Open Faced Burger with Cauli Rice and Roasted Radishes
I used a head of cauliflower to make cauli rice last week and had a ton leftover. I know I promised the recipe, but I had so much leftover I didn’t need to make any more. I didn’t realize a head of cauliflower made as much rice as it did! Next time I make this, I will take pictures and post the recipe immediately. I promise. 🙂 Luckily cauli rice holds up well in the fridge and reheats easily. My husband wanted burgers for dinner so I served him a traditional burger and ate mine sans bun. I seasoned the meat with the Sazón seasoning my Foodie Pen Pal Paul sent me. Phew! Say that three times fast!

Paleo Food Diary Dinner - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

There’s lettuce, tomato, and pickles under the patty

 There you have it! Another glimpse into a typical meal day of Paleo eating. I am trying to cut back on my overall sugar intake so I avoided dessert this week. The sugar industry is sneaky and it makes me so angry! Did you know that the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar each year? Let that sink in for a minute… 130 POUNDS of something with absolutely no nutritional value. Even if you do not drink soda or eat sweets, your sugar intake is probably higher than you think. Once I started reading labels more closely, I was astounded at the amount of sugar in pre-packaged foods! Steve over at Nerd Fitness just wrote a fantastic article all about sugar. Go read it and get angry. Then, shake your fist defiantly at the sugar industry and refuse to let them continue interfering with your health! End rant.

My Paleo Food Diary

People are always shocked when they find out I do not eat grains, dairy, or refined carbohydrates. It’s as if they think the only thing left on Earth to consume is air! Paleo eating is a lot more abundant and delicious than people think. I swear! To prove it, I thought I would put together a photo diary showing what I eat in a typical day.

First, let me dispel the misconception that I eat zero carbs. While I am avoiding simple carbs (bread, pasta, bagels, muffins, etc.), I load up on complex, nutrient-dense carbs (leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, etc.). We traditionally only think of carbs in the simple form and while my carbohydrate intake has certainly lowered over the last 6 months, it is far from zero.

Breakfast – Fried Eggs over a Warm Asparagus, Mushroom, and Arugula Salad
I took a handful of arugula and tossed it in olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then, I topped it with mushrooms, shallots, and asparagus that I sautéed in olive oil. Next, I added 2 fried eggs, a sprinkle of paprika, and served it alongside some avocado slices. Before breaking the yolk and letting it ooze all over my plate, I did a little jig because I was super amped to have this plate of awesomeness in front of me. I also enjoyed a hot cup o’ joe with coconut milk.

Cucina Kristina's Paleo Food Diary - Breakfast: Fried eggs over a warm mushroom, asparagus, and arugula salad.

I’ll probably eat this everyday all summer!

Lunch – Mason Jar Salad
For the last 6 months, I have eaten a mason jar salad everyday for lunch. I prep them on Sunday and enjoy them all week. There are so many ways you can change up a salad, I never get bored with them. I dress my salads with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, lime juice, or red wine vinegar because I am boring when it comes to salad dressings; however, you can use any dressing you like. I also always add a source of protein like hard-boiled eggs, chicken, or tuna and an additional fat source like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or nuts.

Mason Jar Salads. Stay fresh for up to a week in the fridge. Layer hardier ingredients on the bottom and more delicate items on top. Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Eat your veggies 🙂

Snack – Spicy Power Bars
I rarely get hungry between meals. I know! It is hard for me to believe sometimes since I spent a good part of my life calorie restricting and feeling hungry ALL. THE. TIME. If I feel hungry during the day, I snack on homemade power bars, a handful of nuts (pistachio are my favorite!), or beef jerky. I am usually hungrier on days after I workout and less hungry on my rest days. This power bar recipe is from Elana’s Pantry and it is delicious.

Spicy Power Bars | Recipe courtesy of Elana's Pantry @ elanaspantry.com | Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

This recipe makes 10-12 bars

Dinner – Beef and Broccoli over Cauli Rice
For dinner I made beef and broccoli over a bed of cauli rice. Yes, that white stuff below is cauliflower, not rice. This dish comes together quickly and everything can be prepped ahead of time. Bonus! The recipe for the beef and the cauli rice are coming next week!

Beef and broccoli over cauli rice

Not white rice? Coulda fooled me!

Dessert – Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicle
If you do not have a set of popsicle molds, you can use ice cube trays, Dixie cups, or muffin tins. This week, I made or Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles. These popsicles are dairy-free, gluten-free, Paleo, and have no added refined sugar. The ingredients are Hibiscus tea, strawberries, banana, and honey. They are simple, refreshing, and delicious! You can find the recipe here.

Cucina Kristina | Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicle | cucinakristina.com

No added refined sugars!

There you have it! That is a pretty typical day for me. If you prep these meals beforehand, the active cooking time for each of them is less than 15 minutes. I had a lot of fun putting this together. Do I have a new blog series on my hands? Possibly! 🙂

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.