At home with Cristina Kisner of Cristy’s Kitchen in Roswell

Health concerns in her family helped push Cristina Kisner, a mom of five daughters, toward cooking. She went on to own Cristy’s Kitchen in Roswell. The family includes (from left) Gala Gracey, Kisner, Camila Gracey, Hebe Gracey (in front of Camila), husband Sebastian Gracey, Josefina Gracey, Julieta Gracey and Laura Gylling (Kisner's mother). (Styling by Cristina Kisner / Chris Hunt for the AJC)



Health concerns in her family helped push Cristina Kisner, a mom of five daughters, toward cooking. She went on to own Cristy’s Kitchen in Roswell. The family includes (from left) Gala Gracey, Kisner, Camila Gracey, Hebe Gracey (in front of Camila), husband Sebastian Gracey, Josefina Gracey, Julieta Gracey and Laura Gylling (Kisner's mother). (Styling by Cristina Kisner / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Cristina Kisner, owner of the gluten-free, dairy-free and organic bakery-cafe Cristy’s Kitchen in Roswell, was not a natural-born cook. When one of her five daughters developed an autoimmune disease and another began exhibiting signs of gluten intolerance, however, she knew that she needed to learn.

Kisner, 44, began developing recipes in her native Peru, and her fellow Limeños with dietary concerns began coming to her house for baking lessons. She had one rule: Even if these families had the wherewithal to send their cooks and maids to her classes, she would encourage the parents themselves to come because baking is showing love.

After her husband, Sebastian Gracey, who’s now almost 50, suffered a stress-induced heart attack as his business was failing, the couple made the decision to immigrate to the United States in 2019 and try their hands at a food business. Cristy’s Kitchen was not an immediate success, and it was on the verge of failing in 2021 when Brandon Stanton, creator of the hugely popular “Humans of New York” social media accounts, took an interest and introduced her to his audience of more than 12 million Instagram followers.

In a series of posts accompanied by portraits of them looking squarely at the lens, she recounted in her own words the struggles of raising children with severe medical conditions, of running a business on a shoestring, and of steeling herself for failure. But she also talked of love and faith, and of the healing power of healthy food, and she struck a nerve with readers. A GoFundMe account that Stanton started for the couple raised more than $1.2 million and also alerted a lot of Atlantans to this modest restaurant in a cute converted bungalow.

After members of Cristina Kisner's family experienced medical problems, Kisner switched to organic ingredients and removed dairy, gluten and processed foods from the family’s diet. In her debut cookbook, "Cristy's Kitchen" (William Morrow Cookbooks, $37.50), she shares these recipes. (Courtesy of William Morrow Cookbooks)


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Soon there were lines out the door as well as a cookbook deal, which had been a long-term goal for Kisner. Released last month, “Cristy’s Kitchen: More Than 130 Scrumptious and Nourishing Recipes Without Gluten, Dairy, or Processed Sugars” (William Morrow Cookbooks, $37.50) has climbed the charts on Amazon. Though she has a red-hot career these days, she still has a big family to feed every night.

Cristina Kisner leads an impromptu lesson in making Alfajores (cookies filled with coconut dulce de leche) for daughters Hebe Gracey (center) and Josefina Gracey in their Roswell home. (Styling by Cristina Kisner / Chris Hunt for the AJC)


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What is your go-to dish for a quick dinner?


Really? Making empanadas is quick?

It is, but honestly what I mean is we grab some or maybe some chicken pot pies from the restaurant, and then make a quick, easy salad.

When time is not a factor, what dish do you like to prepare for a meal at home?

A curry with shrimps and plantains and, yes, the recipe is in the book. We also love to make barbecue. We have a beautiful patio and my husband is all the time on the grill.

So if you have guests coming over … ?

Yes, we’ll hang out on the patio and eat chicken wings seasoned with tamari and coconut aminos. We’re always looking for ways to add new superfoods. We also love ribs with barbecue sauce. We always start them first in the pressure cooker and then finish them on the grill.

What do you like to eat at the end of a long workday?

Soup is the fast food in my house. Every week I make a huge pot of bone broth and freeze it in portions in ice cube trays. I also have a container with a mix of veggies that I chopped and dried in the dehydrator. Put them together and in five minutes I have a delicious soup.

Do you have a favorite midnight snack?

It’s not a common snack, but I love granola. Because of my daughter’s condition, we always have AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) allergy-friendly granola.

Are there any cookbooks or cookbook authors you go to for inspiration?

Yes, for sure: Mark Hyman. I love all his books. He’s a functional doctor and has a lot of recipes.

Is there one kitchen tool you can’t live without?

My blender. Without my blender, I can’t cook anything.

If I were to open your fridge, what ingredients would I always find?

I always have nuts, seeds, almond butter, cashew butter and the milks — coconut milk and almond milk.

Peruvian cooking uses so many ingredients that are unfamiliar here. Which ones do you think are not known well enough?

You have all of them here but people don’t know how to use them. Start with Peruvian fruits: Camu camu is delicious in smoothies. So is lucuma. Grenadilla is a kind of passion fruit, and it’s the first fruit we give to our kids because it’s so easy to digest.

You often talk about how you taught yourself to cook for your daughters. Do you have any advice for folks who are going on that journey?

At the beginning, I hated to bake but I told myself I have to do this for my daughters. I have to love it. So I made that click, I started to enjoy to cook, to feel the ingredients, to bring happiness with my food. When you’re cooking, you’re putting your energy in your food so you have to be happy. The kitchen is the heart of the house.

Cristy’s Kitchen, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. 1066 Alpharetta St., Roswell. 770-518-7858,

Josefina Gracey, one of Cristina Kisner's daughters, poses with a plate of Kisner's Superpowerful Brownies. (Courtesy of Jimena Agois)

Credit: Photo by Jimena Agois

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Credit: Photo by Jimena Agois

Superpowerful Brownies

Kisner first began preparing these brownies at the country house an hour from Lima that her husband had access to through work. She remembers fun days of swimming and tennis and playing around with the clay oven on the property where she conducted some early baking experiments. Over the years, she’s made them even healthier by adding nutritious ingredients like moringa powder.

7 ounces (200 grams) paleo 70% chocolate chips (such as Hu brand)

2 1/2 tablespoons raw almond butter

1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon (125 grams) organic extra-virgin coconut oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cashew flour

2 tablespoons superfine blanched almond flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill Brand)

1 tablespoon arrowroot flour (also known as starch or powder)

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons moringa powder

2 teaspoons adaptogenic mushroom powder

7.76 ounces (220 grams) eggs (the weight is without the shells; start with 4 large eggs), at room temperature

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (250 grams) coconut sugar

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 tablespoons cacao nibs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-inch (or 8-by-8-inch) baking dish with parchment paper on the bottom and sides, with an overhang on the long sides for easy lifting.

Fill a medium saucepan almost halfway with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Place the chocolate, almond butter and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl that will fit over the saucepan without touching the water.

When the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and set the bowl in the saucepan. Let the chocolate, almond butter and coconut oil soften a bit, then start stirring to help them melt completely. Mix until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine the cashew flour, almond flour, arrowroot flour, baking powder, moringa powder and mushroom powder and mix well.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, coconut sugar and maple syrup. Whisk until combined, but do not overmix. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add the vanilla and half the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients and whisk again until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with the cacao nibs.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the surface is completely dry. If you poke the brownies with a toothpick and they still have a lot of moisture, it’s no problem.

Transfer the brownies to a wire rack. Let cool completely. Cut into 9 brownies just like a tic-tac-toe grid. I love to eat these very cold, so as soon as they cool down, I cut them up and store them in a container in the fridge. With the amount of chocolate and coconut oil these contain, they can last a long time, even weeks, and you can freeze them, too.

Makes 9 brownies.

Per brownie: 490 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 7 grams protein, 51 grams carbohydrates, 45 grams total sugars, 3 grams fiber, 29 grams total fat (17 grams saturated), 145 milligrams cholesterol, 96 milligrams sodium.

Recipe adapted and reprinted with permission from “Cristy’s Kitchen,” by Cristina Kisner, published by William Morrow Cookbooks.