When Elana Amsterdam started cooking gluten-free meals after a diagnosis of celiac disease, she had a pretty ambitious goal: to create meals that would satisfy the whole family, including her husband—whom she calls a “tough critic”—and her two sons, one of whom had also been diagnosed with the disease.
Elana got busy in her home kitchen in Boulder, Colorado, and her creative recipes soon had her family and friends asking for seconds. As she got more requests for recipes and also began cooking grain-free in addition to gluten-free—and saw the impact of sharing the knowledge she had developed—Elana launched ElanasPantry.com, where she soon developed a faithful and grateful online following. In 2009 she published her first cookbook, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, followed in 2011 by Gluten-Free Cupcakes.
In July 2013 Elana followed up on the success of her first two books with Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry, which offers recipes that fall within the parameters of the increasingly popular paleo diet. Elana says the diet, which excludes gluten and grains, is “a hunter-gatherer diet, the diet of our ancestors” and includes animal protein, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. This way of eating cuts out all processed foods, and its proponents tout the health benefits of the whole-food, grain-free, and gluten-free approach.
In Elana’s case, eating a paleo diet has been key in maintaining her health. “After three years on the gluten-free diet, I still had digestive distress from celiac that did not clear up. Going grain-free [adopting a paleo diet] cleared up those symptoms almost immediately,” she says. But she is quick to point out that while she has found success with this approach, diet is highly personal, and everyone has different needs. “I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all diet,” she says. “I think everyone needs to eat what works best for their own body; this is the eating plan that allows me to thrive, so I follow it religiously.”
Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry provides a great introduction to the paleo diet, with a clear description of this way of eating and a collection of recipes that are refreshingly simple and decidedly tasty. Though the diet may seem restrictive to newcomers, Elana’s recipes make it clear that taste and texture can still take center stage and that there need not be a sense of sacrifice for those following the paleo diet. In fact, as she does in her own home, Elana’s goal with this offering is to create delicious meals that will appeal to everyone: “Whether they are paleo or not, gluten-free or not, I hope readers of my new book enjoy these quick-and-easy, wholesome, and high-protein recipes.”
Honey Lemon Chicken
1 whole chicken, 2 to 3 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 medium onions
1 head garlic
Preheat oven to 350°.
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place the chicken, breast side down, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil and honey, sprinkle with salt, and stuff with 1 of the whole lemons. Cut the remaining lemons in half and place in the corners of the dish. Cut the onions in half (leaving the skin on) and place alongside the lemon halves. Break the head of garlic apart (leaving the skin on) and scatter the cloves in the dish.
Bake the chicken for 50 to 60 minutes, until the skin is well browned. Increase the heat to 450°, turn the chicken breast side up, and bake for about 15 more minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 170° to 180°.
Remove from oven. Carve the chicken, drizzle with the pan juices, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Colorful Winter Salad
1 small head purple cabbage, grated (about 3 cups)
1 small head romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise and julienned (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, julienned (about 1 cup)
¼ cup Tahini Dressing (see recipe below)
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, lettuce, and carrots. Toss with the Tahini Dressing and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Upside-Down Apple Tartlets
2 cups blanched almond flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup coconut oil, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla crème stevia
6 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch slices
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 8 1-cup wide-mouth Mason jars on a large baking sheet.
To make the crust, pulse together the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the coconut oil and stevia and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
To make the filling, place the apple slices, apple juice, lemon juice, arrowroot powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl and toss to combine. Transfer the apples to the Mason jars so that each one is overfull. Divide the remaining juice from the bottom of the bowl among the jars.
Remove the dough from the freezer and place between 2 pieces of parchment paper generously dusted with almond flour. Roll out the dough ¼ inch thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment. Using the top of a wide-mouth Mason jar, cut out 8 circles of dough and place one on top of each apple-filled Mason jar.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Top with Coconut Whipped Cream (right). Serve hot.
Yield: 8 servings
Coconut Whipped Cream
This dairy-free whipped-cream recipe calls for full-fat canned coconut milk. The fat is what makes the recipe creamy and luscious; light coconut milk won’t work and results in a watery mess. Serve over Upside-Down Apple Tartlets.
13-ounce can Thai Kitchen coconut milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 drops vanilla crème stevia
Pinch of sea salt
Refrigerate the can of coconut milk for least 24 hours before making the whipped cream so that it is well chilled. Chill a metal bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove the coconut milk from the refrigerator and open the can. Gently scoop out the coconut fat, placing it in the chilled bowl. Pour the remaining liquid into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for another use.
Using a handheld blender, whip the coconut fat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Whip in the honey, vanilla, stevia, and salt.
Use right away or store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Yield: 1 cup
Reprinted with permission from Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes by Elana Amsterdam (Ten Speed Press, 2013). Photos by Leigh Beisch.