Explore a Gluten-Free South With Lara Lyn Carter

Lara Lyn Carter

“Skinny Southern: 90 Reinvented Classics Without the Guilt.” This almost sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s actually the title of a newly released cookbook by Emmy award-winning Chef Lara Lyn Carter. This cookbook highlights classic Southern recipes that Carter has managed to remove gluten and refined sugar from, while still maintaining great flavor and feel-good vibes.

The recipes in the cookbook by Lara Lyn Carter offer healthy options to satisfy and delight any palate while meeting a number of dietary needs. Whether you’re diabetic, gluten-free, or just looking to cut refined sugars, this book is for you. The depth of flavor Carter achieves with her cooking blew us away. We loved the fact that we were able to enjoy classics without feeling like we were missing out on anything.

Lara Lyn Carter
Lara Lyn Carter

Finding the Right Substitute

Through Carter’s recipe development for the book, she was able to maintain flavor, texture, and quality by finding just the right substitutes. Carter let us know that while coconut flour might work for one recipe, it might not be as successful for another since each of these substitutes presents a different viscosity and moisture content level.

Curious about what it would be like going gluten and refined sugar-free, we asked Carter what are some pantry staples necessary to tackle the transformation.

“I always tell people that the first step in “going” gluten-free and refined sugar-free is to purge! Clean out all old baking staples, spice blends, and prepackaged foods. I always have people tell me how surprised they were at how many items they had in their pantry that contained gluten, like a taco seasoning mix or bottled sauce,” said Carter.

She suggests that you start rebuilding your pantry with baking items first, “Be sure that you are buying gluten-free. My favorite line is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free line. It is all that I use,” said Carter.

Gluten-Free Baking Staples

  • Almond Flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • Cornmeal
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Brown Rice Flour
  • Oat Flour

For unrefined sugars, Carter suggests using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coconut Sugar as well as pure maple syrup and honey. Some of her other favorites are D’Vash Date Nectar, date syrup, and sweet potato nectar!

Carter says, “The next step is stocking the pantry with organic spices and seasonings so that you can begin making all of your own seasoning blends and sauces. You would be surprised at the fillers, preservatives, and gluten that can be found in pre-packaged brands.”

Lastly, Carter suggests stocking up on good quality vinegar and oils for cooking, baking, and making sauces and marinades.

Oils to Keep on Hand in Your Kitchen

Naturally, if you live in the South, grits are also a staple product in your home, “We love our grits, and my absolute-must grits are Gayla’s Grits. They are delicious coarse-ground grits that are gluten-free and 100 percent natural.” Naturally, after connecting with Carter and having her share her secrets to trimming the fat (gluten and refined sugar) in our diets, each and every one of these items made it to our shopping cart, along with our fresh Melissa’s produce. The first thing we decided to make from the cookbook — shrimp and grits, naturally.

Lara Lyn Carter

Shrimp and Grits

Just like the South, the recipe for shrimp and grits varies from one part of the South to the other.
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr
Servings 4 people


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup coarse ground grits
  • 8 ounces Parmesan cheese grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion) chopped
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped


  • For the grits, bring the chicken broth and pepper to a boil.
  • Add the grits to the broth and cook covered over low-medium heat for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Add water ¼ cup at a time as needed during the cooking to keep the grits from sticking.
  • During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the Parmesan cheese and stir to allow it to dissolve into the grits.
  • For the onions, pour the olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat and add the onion and salt. Cook for 15 minutes until caramelized.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the shrimp on a greased baking sheet.
  • Mix the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary and pour over the shrimp. Roast the shrimp for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Ladle the grits into large bowls and divide the onions and shrimp evenly among the grits.
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