Four Skincare Mistakes I Made & How to Fix It!

Are you making any of these common skincare mistakes? Our skin starts aging at 25 which means most of us need to do damage control now. Learn from my errors and be rewarded with bright, smooth, glowing skin without using any toxic (or too crunchy) products!


When I was 15 years old, I wanted to write a book called The Kitchen Beautician. Skincare has always been an interest of mine, and I would concoct recipes in our kitchen out of real food ingredients. Of particular memory: a two-step mask treatment made from eggs, yogurt and raw honey, body scrubs made from sugar, used coffee grounds and olive oil, and the “aspirin face mask” for acne (did anyone else do this!?)My poor mother would be left to clean up my trail of raw sugar, sticky honey and smelly egg whites. And I would walk into my job at Hollister (embarrassing admission) and be complimented on my “smooth and glowing skin”.

Fast forward to my twenties, an autoimmune and infertility diagnosis, stress of a master’s program, and under-eating/overexercising – my skin really took a hit. I was aging faster than I expected: crow’s feet at 25 years old, hyper-pigmentation, and frequent breakouts and rashes. Looking back now with what I’ve learned about skincare in the past few years, I made some pretty influential errors in caring for my skin. Keep reading to learn from the 4 Mistakes I Made With My Skin in the last 10 to 15 years and the changes I’ve made to reverse the damage.

1. Mixing and matching products or doing the bare minimum. 

  • Do you mix and match skincare products from different brands and lines? Do you skip washing and only use moisturizer or (even worse) wash your face but skip moisturizer?

  • I did this for years once I got too busy for those homemade products! I used harsh acne cleansers (Clean & Clear ride-or-die) and didn’t add hydration back to my skin which started a vicious cycle of ‘dry breakouts’. I used harsh astringent toners like Noxzema pads, and the cheapest Aveeno moisturizer from the drugstore (thinking it was healthy because of the greenwashing on the packaging).

  • A full routine means you have at least a 4-step process: cleanse, prep/tone, treat (serum) and protect (AM/PM moisturizer and eye cream). It may sound high maintenance, but it shouldn’t take you longer than a few minutes twice a day.

  • Scientists design skincare lines to work together – so if you’re always mixing and matching or leaving out steps, you’re not receiving the full benefits of any one of your products. 

  • If you have additional skincare concerns your routine doesn’t cover, you’ll want to add in extra treatments. This may mean a face oil, an overnight peel, or a charcoal mask.

2. Going too crunchy. 

  • When I first adopted a healthier lifestyle and Paleo diet, I decided to attempt cleaning up my skincare.

  • I started using coconut oil for everything – face cleanser, makeup remover, body lotion, homemade toothpaste. You name a problem – I thought coconut oil was the solution.

  • My skin became sallow, fine lines started settling into my forehead, and my cheeks had a fine, rash-y texture with frequent painful breakouts on my forehead.

  • Straight-up coconut oil isn’t ideal for skincare for multiple reasons: 1) It’s highly comedogenic – which means it will clog pores in most individuals, leading to breakouts. 2) It’s made up of drying, astringent-like fatty acids in the form of saturated fat that penetrate the skin barrier but don’t effectively moisturize. 3) It’s not high in the nutrients skin needs for repair and environmental protection.

  • Once I started using real, science-backed skincare products, all those issues disappeared. I no longer have that dry, rash-y texture to my skin, breakouts are rare, my skin is brighter and I actually enjoy performing my skincare routine now.

3. Not wearing SPF daily.

  • I grew up in Florida and spent the majority of my childhood and young adulthood outside in the high sun. Once I got old enough to not be pinned down by my parents and slathered in Coppertone, I stopped wearing sunscreen consistently. And I’m paying for it now!

  • Whether you have light, medium or dark skin, wearing SPF on your face daily (or protecting your skin with a hat and glasses) is pertinent to avoiding rapid aging from UV exposure.

  • Those quick 30-minute walks outside on your lunch break can add up to skin-damaging amounts over time. Wearing a daily SPF like the Dew Skin SPF20 Tinted Moisturizer or the Countersun SPF30 Mineral Sunscreen Stick can help prevent additional UV damage to skin.

  • If you have hyperpigmentation in the form of dark spots, sun spots, freckles, melasma or scarring, you’ll especially want to wear daily SPF. If you’re looking for a product to help reverse hyperpigmentation, the 10% off Countertime Regimen and the Overnight Resurfacing Peel can help.

4. Skipping eye cream. 

  • Did you know the thin skin under and around your eyes is especially prone to loss of elasticity and damage? That’s why crow’s feet can show up in women in their twenties who spend a lot of time in the sun without protection.

  • I wish I could go back and tell 22-year-old me to wear some dang sunglasses and apply a quick pat of nourishing eye cream twice a day.

  • An ultra-nourishing eye cream can help with collagen synthesis to restore skin’s elasticity while also preventing deeper wrinkles from forming. I use the Countertime Ultra Renewal Eye Cream you can get for FREE through tomorrow.

5. Relying on genetics and falling victim to the dieting industry.

  • My Middle Eastern family members all have amazing skin – even into their 80’s and 90’s. Most people are shocked when they find out one of my grandparents was born in the 1800’s and was still alive when I was born in the 1980’s! There’s a reason why the Mediterranean diet has been hyped up as good for your health.

  • Unfortunately, I relied a little too heavily on my genetics and didn’t account for the increase in environmental toxin exposure that my ancestors did not have. Our daily exposure to air pollutants, pesticides, heavy metals, and water contaminants do a number on our internal and external health. 

  • What worked for our grandparents may not work for us today. The majority of women I know suffer from hormone balance caused by overworking, under-eating, excess alcohol consumption, using toxic products, eating conventional factory-produced food and just the overall stress of life in 2020.

  • I fell victim to the less-is-best approach we have to eating and our scales. My skin really suffered from the low sex hormone production – progesterone is “the beauty hormone” after all. We’re basically mimicking early menopause when we don’t nourish our bodies sufficiently. Once I gained the weight necessary for health, my skin looked healthier, brighter and more plump.




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If you’re looking for a safe anti-aging routine, make sure you check out this post!



Equilibria CBD Review: Will it help me sleep?

Equilibria CBD Oil

Find out how Equilibria CBD helped me overcome sleep anxiety and improve my post-partum sleep quality. You’ll get 15% off your organic, contaminant-tested Equilibria CBD order with code ALAENA.


Unless you have been hiding under a sound-proof rock, you have likely heard about the massive explosion of CBD products on the market. CBD products include oil, salves, lotions,candies, lozenges, honey, beverages  you name it, someone has put CBD in it. I myself am a late adopter to these types of trends. I like to watch and listen to other’s reviews and experiences, emerging research and industry regulation for at least a year before I put something in my own body.


The CBD industry is expected to reach $2.5 billion in sales by 2023, and companies are popping up out of nowhere claiming they have “the purest CBD on the market”. While I would be wary of any company making grand, sweeping statements, there is certainly a spectrum of purity in the industry. Improperly sourced CBD oil can contain dangerous levels of heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants, and can be cut with undisclosed ingredients from shady manufacturers.


When sourcing CBD for your own use, it’s important to review the product’s purity, potency and preparation methods. These can all make a significant difference in whether or not you experienced benefits from ingesting or applying CBD.



CBD Benefits:  Sleep, Anxiety, Cancer, Neurological

The benefits of CBD oil are multi-fold. When I polled my readers, the majority who answered were using CBD to improve sleep quality and manage anxiety. Many others use CBD to decrease pain and inflammation, both through oral ingestion of the oil and topical application of salves and creams. CBD is currently being researched for it’s anti-seizure, anti-cancer and neuroprotective benefits as well.

In fact, in one study recently published in The International Journal of Pharmaceuticals, combining CBD with chemotherapy when treating breast cancer resulted in decreased cancer cell proliferation. The same researchers also found their solution of CBD decreased cancer cell activity on its own, even when not combined with anti-cancer drugs.

CBD has also been studied for its neuro-protective benefits especially in children with epilepsy. Several genetic conditions result in upwards of 50 seizures a day in small children, all with the potential to further neurological damage. Researchers found that about 30 to 40% of the cohort of 75 patients with seizure-inducing disorders experienced a 50% reduction in seizures when taking CBD-rich extracts. CBD oil is also being studied for its effects on Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive disorders.


Does CBD help with sleep?

CBD is most commonly used to improve sleep quality in children and adults. It has been explored in preliminary studies in a variety of patients including those with autism, REM sleep disorders, sleep apnea and insomnia.

Controlled clinical trials are currently being conducted to determine exactly how CBD improves sleep, but initial studies on various cohorts have found it improves sleep quality and decreases anxiety. In this study, CBD was given to patients who reported anxiety during the day and given to patients who reported sleep difficulties at night. Nearly 70% of the study participants noted improvements in either or both anxiety and sleep within the first month.

At this point, the anecdotal evidence is strongest to support CBD improving sleep quality.


My Story with Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia During Pregnancy & Post-Partum

Sleep never evaded me until I became pregnant with my first daughter in 2015 after a long fertility journey. Anxiety about miscarriage, developmental concerns and the drastic change in our lifestyle to come kept me up at night despite pregnancy exhaustion. Sleep anxiety becomes a vicious when the only thing preventing you from sleeping is your anxious thoughts about whether or not you will fall asleep. I would do the clock countdown: “Only 5 more hours left to fall asleep”, ruminate over how exhausted I felt and be unable to sleep when traveling.

Once my baby was born, sleep anxiety turned into postpartum anxiety. I would startle awake at night believing my baby was trapped and suffocating under the covers, over and over again. I would fling myself onto the floor in a mixed state of consciousness and sleep-panic screaming, “Help! Help!” My heart would be pounding so intensely out of my chest, I would need to cup my chest with my hand, hoping to press it back in.

When we would travel for family vacations or when guests would stay the night (which was a frequent occurrence), sleep anxiety would haunt me even more. It brought me to tears on many occasions – the irony of crying because I couldn’t sleep while laying in a perfectly comfortable bed in a perfectly quiet home and STILL not being able to sleep. It was miserable – I really can’t put a positive spin on it like I usually would.

Those new mom nerves really get the best of you, don’t they?

Slowly over time, postpartum anxiety faded and the fatigue from my second pregnancy took over. I slept mostly alone during that pregnancy as I needed to really spread out with my pregnancy pillow fortress to get comfortable. Not amazing for a marriage – but pregnant women need their sleep. Once my second daughter was born, I was worried those night terrors would come back. Thankfully, I only experienced one on our first night home with her.

This time my sleep quality was suffering in a different way. I was waking up to breastfeed at least 2 to 3 times a night and having a hard time going back under. My most restorative sleep was between 5 to 7 am, but that’s when my eldest would wake up for the day. My husband is a lot of amazing things, but a morning person he is not. I was left with those middle of the night wakings AND early morning wakings.

I knew the amount of time I could sleep wasn’t going to change drastically – I was already going to bed early at 8:30 to 9 pm. In order to feel more rested, my sleep QUALITY was going to have to improve.

That’s when I decided to start taking Equilibria’s CBD Daily Drops 30 minutes before bed.

How My Sleep Improved with Equilibria CBD

After the first night, I woke up telling my husband, “Wow! Maya didn’t wake up all night – how awesome!” In fact, she had waken up a couple times, but I had slept right through it! Thankfully, he covered for me with a bottle and let me keep sleeping. After the first week, I noticed less night-wakings and when I did go to her room to nurse, I would be able to fall back to sleep in my bed 30 minutes later without trouble. I was waking up feeling refreshed, not groggy at all (like I would with over-the-counter sleep medications) and happy to be up early with the kids.

I immediately bought some for my mom who has struggled with sleep for well over a decade. I checked in with her after a week, and she let me know she had been sleeping better than she had in years. That’s when I realized, “Wow! This stuff really does what it says it’s going to do.” I can’t say that about most supplements I’ve tried.

I’ve also suffered from adrenal fatigue for years (I run on “high alert” and have since I was a kid). You can read more about my experience healing adrenal fatigue. I wish I had tried CBD oil back then because it would have helped me heal much faster by allowing my body to get out of that “fight or flight” mode more easily.


Can I take CBD oil while breastfeeding?

This is a personal decision to make with your own research and your physician’s approval. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are the last population cohort to ever be tested on due to ethical issues. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s important to speak with your doctor about whether you can safely add CBD to your routine.

Be sure to ONLY consume CBD that is organic and has been safety tested like Equilibria. CBD products are often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides and other unregulated contaminants, and the FDA currently does not test or monitor for product safety.


Safe and Pure CBD with Equilibria

CBD is a largely unregulated industry, and the FDA is finding that more and more companies are producing counterfeit and contaminated products. Many CBD products are contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, herbicides, rancid oils and unlabeled fillers.

If you are going to add CBD to your supplement routine, it is PERTINENT to source safe CBD oil like Equilibria CBD.

Equilibria tests their products for:

  • Pesticides: Hemp farmed using conventional practices will retain pesticides in the end product. Equilibria uses organic farming practices on their own 1,000-acre farm and tests their end product for pesticide contamination

  • Heavy Metals: Heavy metals are present in the earth, water and soil even when farming using organic practices. I only feel comfortable using CBD oil that has been heavy metal tested. Equilibria tests for lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic in their product.

  • Microbials like bacteria like gram negative spores, salmonella and e.coli

  • Mycotoxins: Mold spores are commonly found in tinctures. Equilibria tests for two common spores: aflatoxins and ochratoxin A


How do I know how much CBD oil to take?

Equilibria has dosage specialists to help you find the best daily and nightly dose of CBD for your specific needs. It’s recommended to start with one 10mg Gel Capsule after breakfast (to keep you calm during the day) and 10 mg of the Daily Drops 30 minutes before bed for a sound sleep. Monitor your symptoms and stress levels for a week, and then contact your dosage specialist to help you adjust as needed!


I recommend signing up for the monthly subscription.

You can start or stop it at anytime, add on or take away items and select specific ship dates for your subscription! I’ve been doing a once-monthly shipment of the 10 mg Daily Gel Capsules and the 10 mg Daily Drops. This lasts me exactly 30 days when using one of each every day (capsule in morning, drops in evening).



Get 15% off your first order of Equilibria CBD with code ‘alaena’ at checkout!



Pineapple Chicken and Broccoli

This Paleo, Gluten-Free and Soy-Free Pineapple Chicken and Broccoli features a quick blender pineapple sauce and easy skillet instructions. If you’re craving simple Asian flavors for a weeknight meal, you’ll love this Pineapple Chicken!


Gluten Free Pineapple Chicken


I’ve been all about the skillet meals in our house the last few weeks (hence the Turkey Stir Fry with Ginger Sauce from last week). My mom made us Asian-inspired skillets often during childhood, and when my dad traveled for work, she would sometimes order takeout from the local Chinese restaurant. What was your favorite takeout menu item as a kid? Mine definitely was the saucy chicken and broccoli in the paper box. And it inspired this healthier Paleo Pineapple Ginger Sauce in this recipe!


The Pineapple Sauce couldn’t be easier to make. Simply blend up pineapple, coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, and sesame oil in a blender until smooth. When the skillet ingredients are almost fully cooked, you add in the Pineapple Sauce and let it thicken. *Boom* dinner is on the table before you know it!



  • Fresh pineapple

  • Coconut aminos

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Broccoli

  • Red Onion

  • Sesame Oil

  • Sesame Seeds

  • Maple syrup (optional)

  • Arrowroot starch

  • Green onions

Gluten Free Pineapple Chicken



~ Eliminate the sesame oil and black pepper (for AIP)

~ Replace the sesame seeds with finely shredded unsweetened coconut (for AIP)

~ Leave out the maple syrup in the sauce


Lastly, if you love Asian flavors but are on the AIP diet or have food allergies such as gluten, soy and nuts, you’ll love the recipes in Enthused my ebook! You’ll get over 80 recipes for only $19.95 including these Asian-inspired ones below:


  • Mango Ginger Dressing

  • Vietnamese Shrimp Salad

  • Tamarind Veggie Stir Fry

  • Amazing Acorn Squash Curry

  • Sticky Orange Beef

  • Salmon and Sweet Potato Larb

  • Indian Butter Chicken

  • Turkey Teriyaki Poppers



~ You can eat this skillet on its own or serve it with a side of white rice or cauliflower rice for a low carb option

~ Steamed asparagus for extra greens veggies

~ A butter lettuce salad topped with Unbound Wellness’ Ginger Salad Dressing


Gluten Free Pineapple Chicken





Pineapple Chicken and Broccoli

Turkey Stir Fry with Ginger Sauce

Paleo Turkey & Potato Skillet with Ginger Sauce


This Paleo-friendly Turkey and Sweet Potato Stir Fry is flavored with a rich ginger and coconut aminos sauce. If you think skillet meals are short on flavor, you’ll love this gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free one pan meal!


As I’m going through old recipes on my website, I’m discovering The Forgotten Ones. You know – the ones will terrible photos and maybe three comments. I have a lot of work ahead of me to optimize my website for search engine traffic – it’s my #1 business goal this year. That being said – I’ll be digging up some old recipes you may not have known were in the depths of Grazed & Enthused.


This One Pot Turkey and Sweet Potato skillet is based on an old recipe for a Ginger Buffalo Sauce. Well, it turns out my taste buds were way off 5 years ago because I made it today, and it tasted noting like Buffalo Sauce. It did then – it does not now. A true and humbling conundrum.


Instead, with a few tweaks I achieved this incredibly savory and flavor-packed skillet using a good dose of apple cider vinegar, ground ginger, coconut aminos, fish sauce and a few other ingredients. You whisk them together, bring them to a boil and allow to reduce into a syrupy ginger stir fry sauce.


In a separate skillet, you simply stir fry the sweet potatoes, red onion and ground turkey (or chicken or pork would work too) and toss with chopped green onion to finish. This easy weeknight meal got a 10/10 in our house – protein, veggies, satisfying salty flavor – done, done, done.


If you’re avoiding nightshades to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet, you’ll love the “spice” you get from the ground ginger in this Stir Fry Sauce. You can even add more than the recipe calls for, if you want it extra spicy.



  • Olive oil

  • Red Onion

  • Ground Turkey – ground chicken or pork could be subbed in

  • White sweet potatoes – orange sweet potatoes work too

  • Green Onions

  • Ginger Stir Fry Sauce (recipe included)


If you want to add some greens to this meal, I recommend thinly slicing kale and throwing it in once the sweet potatoes are almost done cooking. You can even add some chopped cilantro, but I wanted to keep the ingredients minimal for this recipe


Finally, are you looking for a good meal prep meal? This one gets even better the next day as the flavors develop, so double or triple the recipe for meals all week! We served ours topped with sliced avocado for extra color and fat.



Paleo Turkey & Potato Skillet with Ginger Sauce




  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, canned coconut milk, honey, ground ginger and turmeric, garlic and onion powder, and fish sauce.

  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat and allow to reduce and thicken for 10 minutes. It will deepen in color.

  3. Stir in the coconut aminos and smoked sea salt for added flavor and umami. Stir into your Turkey & Sweet Potato Skillet as it calls in the below recipe.




Five Spice Beef Skillet with Fennel and Currants

Nightshade-Free Cuban Picadillo

Harvest Chicken Hash





Turkey Stir Fry


Chicken and Coconut Rice with Nut-Free Satay Sauce

Oh yes – one pot chicken and coconut rice flavored with garlic, ginger, shallot and cilantro! Served with nut-free satay sauce and easy green beans for a full meal!


Chicken and Coconut Rice with Satay Sauce


I shared earlier this week with my Chicken and Rice Meatballs that chicken and rice is a comfort food for me. Apparently, I need lots of comfort this week since this is my second recipe featuring this food combination. You’ll love this gluten-free and nut-free family-friendly Chicken and Coconut Rice with blanched green beans and nut-free satay.


To create a flavorful base, I pulse shallot, garlic, ginger and cilantro in a food processor. Then I sauteed this flavorful mixture in olive oil and butter until fragrant. The chicken thighs are browned in the same pot and then the rice, coconut milk and water are added for a hands-off stovetop cooking.


While the chicken and rice cook, I blanch the green beans in salted water and then toss with some of the set aside shallot mixture. The whole meal comes together with a delicious and simple nut-free satay sauce made with sunbutter instead of peanut or almond butter!


Lastly, this makes an excellent make ahead dish. It can be easily doubled to serve 6 hungry adults (or make 6 generous servings for leftovers).



one pot chicken and coconut rice




  • Lightly sweetened Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter): I use this one.

  • Coconut aminos: I find Big Tree Farm’s coconut aminos the most similar to soy sauce in thickness, flavor and sweetness.

  • Coconut or rice vinegar: Coconut vinegar has a bright fermented taste while rice vinegar is a bit more mild.

  • Sesame oil: A little goes a long way with sesame oil. If you want more of a sesame taste, add one drop at a time.

  • Hot water: You’ll make use of the leftover hot water from blanching the green beans. It helps thin out the sauce!


If you want to substitute the lightly sweetened Sunbutter, you can use cashew or almond butter with 2 teaspoons of honey stirred in. If you prefer a lime-flavored satay sauce, you can replace the vinegar with lime juice. The sesame oil is key for an authentic taste, so I don’t recommend eliminating it.



chicken and coconut rice




  1. Make a flavorful base first. Pulse together cilantro, shallot, garlic, ginger and salt in a food processor. Saute in olive oil and butter until fragrant.

  2. Add the chicken thighs to the pot. Brown on each side for a few minutes, scraping up the shallot base so it doesn’t stick and burn.

  3. Stir in the uncooked organic white rice, coconut milk and water or broth. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid.

  4. Cook the rice and chicken for 25 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, give it a good stir and add another cup of water or broth.

  5. Chicken and rice is done when the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is no longer crunchy and the chicken is tender.




chicken and coconut rice


Avocado Fudge Bars (Paleo, AIP, Vegan)


These three-layer Avocado Fudge Bars are low in sugar but still decadent! A no-bake Paleo and Vegan dessert with simple ingredients and a healthy dose of avocado!


triple layer avocado fudge bars


I’m full-on obsessed with these triple layer Avocado Fudge Bars. They’ve been hidden on my blog for years, but I’m rewriting some old favorite recipes and updating photos. I have slightly adjusted the recipe to my nowadays preference, but I still included some AIP tips in the notes.



1. COCONUT-DATE LAYER: a simple no-bake crust made from naturally sweet dates, shredded coconut and a touch of cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt.

2. AVOCADO FUDGE LAYER: ripe avocado is blended with coconut butter and just a tablespoon of honey for a lightly-sweetened, creamy avocado “fudge”

3. CHOCOLATE FUDGE LAYER: simply melt your favorite dark chocolate and thin it out with grass-fed butter or palm shortening to top these bars!


If you’re looking for a low sugar, no-bake treat to have on hand during the week when you want a quick bite, these are it! I like to cut them into 1-inch squares and keep them in the fridge for a snack.


Paleo Chocolate Avocado Fudge Bars




  • Medjool dates

  • Shredded coconut

  • Cinnamon

  • Cocoa or carob powder

  • Vanilla power or extract

  • Sea Salt

  • Butter or Ghee

  • Avocado

  • Honey

  • Dark Chocolate

Avocado Chocolate Fudge Bars





Lastly, if you’re looking for some good quality dark chocolate chips, here are a few of my favorite brands: Equal Exchange, Enjoy Life, and Pascha. If you can’t find dark chocolate chips at your store, you can melt dark chocolate squares in its place. I would use at least 2/3 cup chopped dark chocolate squares in place of the 1/2 cup chocolate chips.







Chicken and Rice Meatballs (Gluten-Free)

These Chicken and Rice Meatballs are tender, delicious and a great freeze-ahead meal. They’re gluten-free and can be made dairy-free too! Serve over organic hummus, pesto or your favorite dip for an easy on-the-go lunch or dinner.




This recipe is inspired by my love for my Lebanese grandmother’s roast chicken, rice and hummus platters. Teta would serve juicy roast chicken stuffed with lemon and garlic over a plate of steaming white rice. We would spoon a big dollop of “labneh” (strained yogurt) on top of the rice and pass warm pita bread around the table.


I’ll admit I’ve had twenty dozen too many dried out meatballs since going gluten-free. The lack of bread crumbs makes it difficult to achieve a truly tender, moist recipe. This recipe uses three gluten-free ingredients to mimic the moisture soaked bread crumbs provide: egg, almond flour and cooked and cooled white rice.



  • Hummus: If you want to keep dinner simple, I like Cedar’s Organic Hummus that you can find at many grocers. If you’re looking for a bean-free hummus, try Meatified’s Garlic & Artichoke Hummus. It’s AIP-friendly and made without sesame!

  • Baba ghanoush: Prefer the smokier flavor of grilled eggplant in baba ghanoush? These would be delicious served/smothered in the dip.

  • Pesto: You can make my homemade Herb Pesto recipe, if a brighter, garlicky meal is more your style.


You’ll find these Gluten-Free Chicken and Rice Meatballs make for the perfect grab-and-go lunch leftovers! I recommend doubling the recipe and baking in two batches (since you bake in the cast iron skillet for browning and even heating). Here are a couple vegetable side dishes that will pair and travel well with the meatballs.




Lastly, this recipe is up to your interpretation! It’s pretty much a blank canvas for your culinary quests.


Chicken and Rice Meatballs - Gluten Free




  1. GREEK MEATBALLS: Add 1/3 cup crumbled feta and 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives to the meatballs for a Greek inspired take.

  2. BACON & CHEESE MEATBALLS: Add 1/2 cup diced cheddar and 1/3 cup cooked and cooled chopped bacon for a “bacon and cheese” meatball.

  3. GUACAMOLE MEATBALLS: Add 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro and 1 teaspoon cumin. Serve with homemade guacamole.




1. If you can’t find pre-ground chicken at your grocery store, simply place a pound of chicken thighs and/or chicken breast in your food processor and blend. Chicken thighs will yield juicier, more flavorful meatballs.

2. I use my Instant Pot to make perfect rice every time! For this recipe, add 1 cup organic jasmine rice to your Instant Pot with 1 cup filtered water. Cook using the “Rice” setting (about 12 minutes). Transfer to a plate or bowl and let cool completely before using in this recipe.

3. If you eat dairy, I like mixing 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese into the rice while it’s warm. It adds a delicious salty, umami flavor to these meatballs.




Chicken Rice Meatballs


Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower Bites


Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower Bites


These addicting oven-roasted salt and vinegar cauliflower bites are Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan! They make a delicious kid-friendly snack or side to any dinner menu!


I came up with these Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower Bites a few years ago! I was looking for a salt & vinegar flavored side dish that would satisfy my cravings for something pop-able.


While this recipe couldn’t be easier, you’ll love how the apple cider vinegar and sea salt combine to make roasted cauliflower a lot more interesting. I like to eat these as an afternoon snack (they remind me a a little bit of popcorn *shrug*) or serve them with just about any protein.


The truffle salt adds a ton of flavor to an otherwise very simple recipe. You only need four ingredients for this recipe. You can’t beat simple and tasty!



  • Fresh organic cauliflower

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Truffle salt


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Chop cauliflower into small even-sized florets, discarding the stems and leaves. Toss with the olive oil, vinegar, and salt on the baking sheet.

  3. Roast for 18-20 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the cauliflower is a light golden brown in spots. Let cool a few minutes before eating with your hands for a fun afternoon snack!

If you don’t have truffle salt, you can certainly use himalayan salt or sea salt. I would add some extra seasoning like pepper, garlic and onion powder to make up for the lost flavor.







Enjoy the recipe, and let me know what you think in the comments!


8 reviews

Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower Bites

Prep Time 00:05 Cook Time 00:20 Serves 1-2


  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp truffle salt


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Chop cauliflower into small even-sized florets, discarding the stems and leaves. Toss with the olive oil, vinegar, and salt on the baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 18-20 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the cauliflower is a light golden brown in spots. Let cool a few minutes before eating with your hands for a fun afternoon snack!





Salt & Vinegar Cauliflower Bites

Nightshade-Free Bolognese Sauce


Nightshade-Free Meat Sauce - Paleo, AIP, Whole30, Gluten-Free


A nightshade-free Bolognese Sauce made in one pot, Paleo, AIP and gluten-free! This meat sauce is made without tomatoes making it a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet!


While I haven’t been on the AIP elimination diet in years, I still need to avoid large quantities of nightshades (especially tomatoes) to keep inflammation down.


Thankfully, you can still make a delicious, rich and comforting Bolognese Sauce without any tomatoes! I really loaded this sauce down with vegetables like carrots, onion and celery. In place of tomato, I use a can of pumpkin puree. Pumpkin makes an excellent substitute for tomato paste in recipes. Just be sure to add a bit of acid (like the balsamic vinegar in this recipe).


Ingredients for Nightshade-Free Bolognese Sauce:

  • Mirepoix: Yellow onion, celery and carrots to develop a base flavor

  • Grassfed ground beef: I would keep it at 85% to 90% lean – no leaner and no fattier

  • Canned pumpkin puree: To replace the tomato in traditional bolognese and thicken the sauce

  • Organic red wine: Add depth of flavor and is a traditional ingredient in bolognese. White white can also be used.

  • Bone broth: Provides richness and the liquid required to simmer for condensed flavor

  • Fresh and dried herbs like parsley, rosemary and thyme.



Paleo Nightshade-Free Meat Sauce


Of course you need to serve your Nightshade-Free Bolognese Sauce with a gluten-free pasta that really holds up to this heavier sauce. I prefer a gluten-free rice or quinoa spaghetti for this dish. If you’re grain-free, you can certainly go with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles (tips below)!


Gluten-Free Pasta Options

  1. Gluten-Free Spaghetti Pasta: my favorite brands are Jovial Foods and Ancient Harvest.

  2. Zoodles: saute or roast at least 6 large spiralized zucchini and toss with olive oil and sea salt.

  3. Spaghetti Squash: slice a large squash in half widthwise, scoop out the seeds, brush with olive oil and roast cut side down on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.


If you’re a lover of Italian and looking for more nightshade-free recipes, try the ones below.

  1. Acorn Squash Gnocchi with Garlic Brown Butter

  2. Deli Style Italian Pasta with Zoodles

  3. Beef & Mushroom Carbonara with Spaghetti Squash




Nightshade-free Bolognese Sauce Paleo Whole30 AIP

Smoked Sausage and Rice Soup

Sausage & Rice Soup - Gluten Free



This gluten-free Smoked Sausage and Rice Soup is the perfect easy weeknight meal! It packs in protein, carbs, 4 different veggies, fresh herbs and bone broth. The smoked flavor of the sausage adds tons of flavor to the soup – you won’t believe it’s ready in 30 minutes!

I cannot get enough of zee soup lately. It’s not even cold here, but maybe my acupuncturist is right. She’s been telling me for years to stop eating raw foods like salads and focused on warming, cooked foods. And I have to admit – she’s right! My digestion is thanking me for giving it all of this pre-digested food steeped in broth.


This Gluten-Free Smoked Sausage & Rice Soup was born out of convenience, like most of my recipes. I had a package of our family’s FAVORITE organic, grass-fed smoked sausage links, a bag of Bonafide Provisions Chicken Broth and the old standby veggies: onion, celery, carrot and sweet potatoes.


It’s hard to make a “bad” tasting soup, but I will pass along some of my tips to ensure you love the end result.


How To Make Soup

1. Start with a flavorful base cooked in fat. The base of any soup is usually flavor developed through either caramelization, saute or browning.

2. If your soup contains meat, think about if you want the meat to add flavor to the soup, or if it’s just there to add bulk. In this recipe, we brown the smoked sausage to increase its depth of flavor and allow it to simmer in the soup as the veggies cook.

3. Add more seasoning than you think you need! A sprinkle of salt, pepper and herbs probably won’t cut it, if you really want a stand-out soup. When using dried herbs, add them earlier in the cooking process so they have time to rehydrate. When using fresh delicate leafy herbs like parsley or cilantro, only add those at the end. Heartier fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme should be added earlier in the cooking process with dried herbs to develop flavor.

4. Make sure you’re using the right amount of liquid. I don’t recommend cooking absorbent grains like rice directly in your soup pot. Rice absorbs too much liquid and it’s best to add pre-cooked rice at the end of your cooking time. It will still absorb extra moisture and thicken up the soup, but will leave some broth behind to be enjoyed on your spoon.

5. Finish your soup with a hit of acid. Not that kind of acid, Dad. Something like vinegar or lemon juice to brighten up the flavors so you’re not eating a bland pot of mush.

6. Lastly, don’t overcook your veggies! Not all soup needs to be simmered on the stove for hours on end. Too long of a simmer time can break down veggies like potatoes, carrots and squash far too much.


gluten free sausage rice soup



Ingredients in Sausage & Rice Soup

1. Mirepoix: a fancy French word for the common vegetable base of many dishes which includes onions, carrots and celery.

2. Sweet potatoes: to add bulk and nutrients to your soup. You can use any kind of potato here though!

3. Bone Broth: I don’t use the carton variety of broth which often contains MSG and additives. The only brand I use is Bonafide Provisions Chicken or Beef Bone Broth. It can be found in the freezer aisle of many grocery stores. When you defrost it, you’ll see how gelatinous it is – just like any good homemade broth should be!

4. Smoked Organic Grassfed Beef Sausage: We buy the Kiolbassa brand sausage (from our local Publix), but any smoked sausage will do. The sausage adds a lot of flavor to the soup so don’t skimp on quality!

5. Organic jasmine rice: Did you know organic white rice is easier to digest than brown or wild rice? If you want to make it even easier to digest, soak the uncooked rice in filtered water for 24 hours. You rice will be a bit mushier once you cook it – but this is a good tip for anyone with digestive health issues.



Looking for more Gluten-Free Healthy Soups To Try?

Healing Ginger Chicken Soup with Butter Broth

Thai Lemongrass Chicken Soup

Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Homemade Biscuits by Paleo Running Momma





Gluten Free Sausage & Rice Soup