Product Review ~ Grain Free Cookie Dough & Pasta

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A few weeks ago I was milling around on Pinterest and out of the gazillion things I looked at, I just happened to stumble upon Capello’s Paleo Pasta and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  I could not believe I had never heard of them. They didn’t pay me, or ask me to do this review so rest assured, nothing is going to sway my opinion.

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Now of course, just stumbling on a grain free, fresh pasta that didn’t involve a vegetable and something I had to create myself, made me do a happy dance. And cookie dough for the husband too?

I’m sold.

So I told my husband all about it and the second he heard chocolate chip cookie dough he said, “order it”! And that was even despite the price…which I’m going to tell you right up front, is going to make some of you gasp. Unless you live in an area where you can find it in your local store and then you can probably just purchase one item at a time and not have to pay shipping.

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But before we get into the financial nitty-gritty, let me just give you a little of the what’s what on their products. They sell fresh Paleo pasta and cookie doughfettucine, gnocchi, lasagna noodles, and chocolate chip cookie dough. They ship it straight to your house (for a fee of course) in a neat ice box container to keep everything fresh and safe. They ship all orders on Mondays only, so keep that in mind.

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They also enclose a UPS return label so you can get the box back to them.

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All of their products are gluten-free, dairy free, grain free, soy free and peanut free, and the cookie dough is all that and vegan. The egg free among us will be happy to hear that.

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Here’s the rough part.

The cookie dough is $43.05 for three 12 oz. rolls. Ouch…I know. That’s $14.35 a roll (not including shipping) and works out to about $1.30 a cookie. The package says it makes 13 cookies, but I’ve used two rolls and with each roll I was able to get 11.

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The Husband Cookie Dough Vote:

C- for Texture

C for Taste/Flavor

 His opinion was that he doesn’t care for the uneven flavors. He said every few bites he bit into a chunk of salt similar to the size of sea salt, the almond flavor is overwhelming, and he didn’t care for the texture. His words were, “they aren’t even close to being as good as yours”.  Mine aren’t grain free.

My Cookie Dough Vote:

 A+ for Convenience

B- for Texture

C- for Taste/Flavor when they’re warm

B for Taste/Flavor when they’re completely cooled

I do agree with Tony’s salt comment. I ate two leftover cookies last night and had several pieces of salt. But, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just happy to have a cookie that I didn’t have to figure out how to make from scratch. I would probably continue to purchase them if they weren’t so crazy expensive just for the simple fact that I find them to be tasty enough and so incredibly easy. But the price for me…difficult to justify.

I made the fettuccine noodles with sautéed veggies for us for lunch. This is the packaging. They can be refrigerated or frozen upon arrival and of course, need to be thawed in the fridge before cooking.

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The fettuccine noodles are $44.00 for four 9 oz. packages. That works out to $11.00 per package…or about $1.22 an ounce (again, without shipping added). The package says they only need to cook for 45 seconds and cooking time begins the second they hit the water.

At 45 seconds, they were VERY aldente. Kind of crisp in the middle in fact, and had a bit of a moosh along with the crunch. So rather than waste $11.00 worth of pasta, we slipped them back in the hot water and let them cook for about 5 minutes tasting along the way to make sure they weren’t getting overcooked. They softened a bit and the “moosh” was no longer evident. But still more aldente than I think a good pasta should be. There’s that fine balance, and we just couldn’t find it.

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We topped it with sautéed vegetables and leftover crumbled bacon from breakfast. Then, finished with the remainder of the fantastic goat’s milk mozzarella I told you about and sliced garlic french bread I toasted under the broiler.

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The Husband Pasta Vote:

B for Texture

B for Taste/Flavor

He said the 45 second cooking time was, “bogus” and that he really didn’t mind the texture, taste, or flavor. He feels this wasn’t a fair representation for some reason, and would really like to try it with spaghetti to see what it’s like. And we have 3 packages left (or $33 worth), so that won’t be a problem.

My Pasta Vote:

D- for Texture

C for Taste/Flavor

I think the texture was hard to get past. Maybe had the noodles been just a bit thinner? But the thickness combined with the somewhat uncooked texture, really threw me and I didn’t finish my meal. I was happy that they didn’t have an overwhelming flavor of almond flour, but disappointed that they didn’t really have any flavor at all.

When we try the pasta with spaghetti sauce, I’ll do another review and let you know. Sometimes, spaghetti sauce just makes everything better!

Grilled Salmon & Vegetable Quinoa

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Yes, I know. Quinoa is considered a grain.

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The internet says this, “Quinoa, a species of goosefoot, is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family.”  

So irritating when they fold your salmon at the store! It tears up the middle of what would have been a perfectly gorgeous filet.

So irritating when they fold your salmon at the store! It tears up the middle of what would have been a perfectly gorgeous filet.

After reading this, I have no bloody idea what quinoa is. (Read in English accent, it will make you laugh.)

Grain, seed, grass, pseudocereal?

Heat your grill to 350 degrees and season salmon with olive oil, garlic powder, dried dill, sea salt, and pepper.

Heat your grill to 350 degrees and season salmon with olive oil, garlic powder, dried dill, sea salt, and pepper. I do mine on foil because I don’t like to have a fishy grill.

Who knows.

All I know is that it made a very tasty bed to lay my salmon on, and I’m thankful for that.

Cook Quinoa according to directions. Typically, one cup of Quinoa to two cups of water or broth.

Cook Quinoa according to directions. Typically, one cup of Quinoa to two cups of water or broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been soaked up.

After being off of grains for a several weeks now, I’m not entirely convinced that grains were leading to more joint issues for me. I’ve eaten rice twice and had one adverse reaction. Both times were at two different restaurants. The first time was a small Asian restaurant near us that “swears” the dishes I order are gluten free. However, the last two times we’ve eaten there, even prior to going grain free it made me sick. Achey, major migraine headache, etc.

Saute your favorite vegetables in olive oil. I used broccoli, onion, mushrooms, and red bell pepper.

Saute your favorite vegetables in olive oil. I used broccoli, onion, mushrooms, and red bell pepper.

The second time I had grains during my grain free trial was a few days ago at PF Chang’s. We ordered off of their gluten free menu and every- single-thing, was fabulous. I wish I would have taken pictures for you!

When the veggies are aldente, add a heaping couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and grate a clove of garlic over it.

When the veggies are aldente, add a heaping couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and grate a clove of garlic over it.

But long story short, I had zero reaction to that food and ate probably a half a cup of brown rice along with gluten free condiments, seasonings, etc. So I’m guessing the restuarant near us, is not as gluten free as they claim to be.

Toss until it's all wilted.

Toss until it’s all wilted.

Add a few pinches of your favorite seasoning.

Add a few pinches of your favorite seasoning.

The possible silver lining to this food allergy cloud is that I may be able to enter grains (occasionally) back into my diet with no adverse effects.

We’ll see.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork.

Add the quinoa to the vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the quinoa to the vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.

I’ve been very truthful about how I feel about the whole grain free and Paleo “thing”. It’s annoying to say the least. And so far during this grain free trial, I notice the blanched almond flour bothers my joints more than anything. Yesterday we had paleo pasta made with almond flour (I’ll post a review soon) and paleo chocolate chip cookie dough made with almond flour. I felt terrible when I woke up this morning. Swollen, painful, hands and knees, headache, puffy. The typical allergy response to something your body doesn’t care for.

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At first when I went off of the grains I noticed a major difference in joint swelling and pain. However, the main flour I was using was Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour. There are other ingredients as well, so I just assumed it was the rice and the thought that I may possibly be bothered by almonds never even crossed my mind. I guess I’ll never know for sure until I’m tested. Another thing to go on the “to-do” list when we are properly insured.

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So I’ll start experimenting a little at a time. A healthy, happy, food balance is all I’m looking for.

Aren’t we all!

Tuna & Sauerkraut on Paleo Herb Bread

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No, I’m not pregnant.

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We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief over that one. That would be quite the surprise for my upcoming 46th birthday, wouldn’t it?

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Nope, not pregnant but I am craving some interesting things. I told you a few posts ago that I was going to be tweaking my diet some more and trying to battle the Lyme Disease symptoms with food.

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I can tell you that going off of all grains and refined sugar (except for extremely special occasions) makes you crave some interesting things. Like sauerkraut and tuna fish, for some reason.

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I started a Paleo diet last Monday. Today I had finally hit my limit of protein, vegetables, and fruit. So I grabbed my new Against All Grain cookbook and set out to see if I could find something I could sink my teeth into that didn’t crunch, moo, or cluck.

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I found a recipe for her hamburger buns. A little tweaking, and I had the perfect “bread” snack.  I made three little mini sandwich loaves. Lowered the salt, added lots of herbs, and came up with this.

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The reason I’m choosing to try the Paleo (ish) diet is because it is supposed to be very helpful in preventing inflammation, something people with Lyme Disease really struggle with. Inflammation can wreak terrible havoc on your body in so many ways.

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Fermented foods are also excellent for inflammation and the gut.

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And if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s Skipjack Line Caught Tuna, you should. It’s delicious.

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Add a little olive oil mayo, a little dill, some ground pepper…yummy.

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Then slather the bread with horseradish mustard. So many bold flavors!

But not so bold they outweigh each other.

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I would say the texture is in between bread and a biscuit if that’s possible. Very tasty and stayed together quite nicely until the last couple of bites. I would say it’s probably best if you’re going to use it for a sandwich to use it the day you bake it. Otherwise, it will probably need to be toasted to stay together.

It did satisfy my grain craving. For today anyway.

I’ve already been thinking I may bake a batch in the morning without the herbs. I’m thinking it would be delicious warm with whipped coconut oil and medicinal honey.

I’ll let you know!

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Mini Herb Sandwich Loaves

1 1/2 Cups Raw Organic Cashews

3 Organic Eggs

3/4 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 Cup Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk

1/4 Cup Spectrum Shortening

1/3 Cup Coconut Flour

1/3 Cup Blanched Almond Flour

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 1/2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Fresh Thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 Tablespoon Almond Milk – for brushing on tops of loves

Braggs Organic Sprinkle – for seasoning tops of loaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the cashews in a food processor and process until ground into course crumbs, about 20 seconds.

Add the eggs, vinegar, almond milk, and shortening. Process until smooth. Add the flours, salt, and baking soda. Process again until smooth. Spoon into three even mounds on parchment paper and smooth into loves with wet hands.

Brush tops of loaves with almond milk and sprinkle with the Bragg’s seasoning. Bake for 35 minutes. 

Blueberry Lemon Bread & An Early Morning Walk

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Good Morning!

Glazed Lemon Blueberry Bread is on the menu for breakfast this morning.

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I’m sure I’ve told you before how much my husband loves sweets. I’ve been trying to really reduce the sugar content in my diet since I’ve been having some health issues, which means he has had to suffer as well.

So this morning when Tony left to go on his morning run, I decided I would surprise him with a sweet bread.  What kind of wife would I be if I didn’t take pity on my poor, sugar loving, husband?

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For some reason on Saturday morning we were both filled with early morning energy and decided to hop out of bed and take the dogs for a walk.

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Red Winged Blackbird

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The Rindge/Jaffrey Rails to Trails trail has beauty at every turn.

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Everything was so calm the forest was a perfect mirrored reflection in one of the many ponds.

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Every time the Geese quacked, a little puff of breath floated through the air.

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Going for an early morning walk rather than an afternoon walk certainly paid off.

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For several weeks we’ve walked without my camera and every time I mentally pinched myself for not bringing it along. This time I made a point to remember, and was rewarded with the Great  Blue Heron.

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They usually fly away as soon as they see the dogs, but this one allowed me several shots before deciding he’d had enough. They’re so huge, it really is amazing to see them fly so gracefully.

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The walk was peaceful and beautiful, and the wildlife was stunning. They were extra patient with me and my camera, almost as if they knew I wanted a few last, very special, shots.

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We’ve seen almost every animal and water fowl  New Hampshire has to offer since we moved here with the exception of the Fisher Cat and Moose.

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And I can certainly live without seeing a Fisher Cat.

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I thought for sure with the presence of so many swampy areas that we would see at least one moose on our early morning trek, but no such luck. We have a couple of weeks before the moving company comes at the end of the month, maybe we’ll spot one before then.

Even the dogs were photogenic.

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The Bear made a visit the other night.

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It never crossed my mind that he would be interested in our bird feeders now that we have a fence.

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Silly me, bears aren’t worried about fences and only have one thing on their mind. Food.

There are big bear claw marks on a few of our trees along the back fence line. This one must be pretty light on his feet because he barely bent the thin wire fence as he climbed over.

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Luckily the vinyl fence was a quick fix, but we have yet to receive the bill, so it may not be a painless fix.

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Needless to say, all of the bird feeders have come down and have been packed away until we move back to an area where bears aren’t usually a worry.

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Plenty of exciting and beautiful things to miss when we leave New Hampshire, but the West also has a beauty all its own.

Getting excited to move in the direction of home!

Blueberry Lemon Bread with Lemon Glaze

2 1/2 Cups of Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

2 teaspoons of Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum

1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1/2 Cup of Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar

1 Cup of “Buttermilk” (1 cup almond milk with juice of 1/2 lemon)

3 Organic Eggs

1/2 Cup of Avocado Oil

4 teaspoons of Lemon Zest (about 2 lemons)

1 1/2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Cups of Organic Frozen Blueberries

Whisk all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk all of the wet ingredients together and add to dry ingredients. Fold until fully incorporated. Fold in the frozen blueberries. Bake at 350 degrees for 65 minutes. 

Lemon Glaze

1 Cup of Powdered Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Dairy Free Butter, melted

2 teaspoons of Freshly Grated Lemon Zest

2-3 Tablespoons of Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

Whisk in bowl and drizzle over cooled bread.

Cupid’s Breakfast Salad

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~ Happy Valentine’s Day! ~ 

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This Valentine’s Day we’re thinking outside the chocolate box. Cupid is no dummy when it comes to starting the day off right. He has plenty of opportunities to eat sweets and goodies, but knows he’ll need to stay healthy and full of energy for the task at hand.

After all, being the symbol of love and master of attraction and affection is no easy task.

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Cupid’s Breakfast Salad is balanced beautifully with all kinds of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats.

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There’s even a little bacon on top to add a bit of salty, smokey, goodness.

Cupid knows that bacon spells L-O-V-E.

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His dressing is made with tart cherry juice, the deep and romantic color of the heart. Tart cherries reduce inflammation, lower the risk of stroke, fight that tummy jiggle, and are loaded with melatonin to give a peaceful start to the day.

Cupid wants only what’s best for you when it comes to matters of the heart and health.

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“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ―Virginia Woolf

Cupid’s Breakfast Salad

2 Cups of Packed Organic Spinach, stems removed

1 Organic Red Chard Leaf, stem removed and sliced

1/2 of an Organic Avocado, cubed

1/2 of a Small Organic Apple, cubed

1 Organic Clementine, peeled with a knife, sectioned

4-5 Organic Strawberries, cubed, plus some for garnish

1 Slice of Organic Bacon Cooked Crisp, crumbled

4 Organic Pecans, sliced lengthwise

1 Medjool Date, seed removed and diced

Toss all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.

Cupid’s Tart Cherry Dressing

4 teaspoons of Organic Lemon Juice

3 teaspoons of Pure Maple Syrup

2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

1/2 Cup of Organic Tart Cherry Juice

2 1/2 Tablespoons of So Delicious Greek Style Raspberry Coconut Milk Yogurt

Grated Rind of 1/2 of a Lemon

Pinch of Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper

Rind of 1 Lemon

Place all ingredients in a jar and screw lid on tightly. Shake until emulsified.

Multi Grain Gluten Free Bread

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Today is my Blogversary. Three years ago today I started Gluten Free Zen.

What better way to celebrate than with an excellent gluten-free bread?

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Gluten free has come a long way since I kicked it out of my diet several years ago. Remember what gluten-free bread was like? Ugh. That weird slippery feel when it went down your throat…lack of taste, crumbly texture…forget making a sandwich with it unless it was toasted, and even then it wouldn’t stay together.

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Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on store bought gluten-free bread these days. They even design bread machines with gluten-free features now! In fact, a few months ago, we bought one. How wonderful it is to have the house smell like freshly baked bread again.

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You can go here to read several different bread machine reviews.

I love this particular bread machine because it has a gluten-free setting. I don’t have to guess or do a lot of work or thinking to figure out how to use it. Which is after all, the purpose of having a bread machine right? I read all kinds of reviews on other machines where you have to start it on one cycle, move to another, yadda..yadda..yadda. No thank you.

In the Breadman, I add all the liquids, add the dry ingredients, shut the lid, and push the gluten-free cycle. After it’s mixed for a few minutes I help it along with a little stir, possibly add a couple more Tablespoons of water if I think it’s looking too dry, smooth out the top, and leave it alone for three hours. Maybe 15 minutes of my time, if even that, from start to finish. Easy!

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The payoff is well worth the tiny amount of time it takes to throw everything together. I believe I paid around $175.00 for it on Amazon. Worth every penny. And quite inexpensive if you compare it to how many loaves of gluten-free bread you buy at the grocery store every year.

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We typically go through about 1 loaf of gluten-free bread a week. That’s 48 loaves of bread a year (at least), and if they’re store bought, that adds up to almost $240.00 a year. And it’s not EVEN GOOD has very little nutrition, and good luck finding organic.

An initial investment in a good bread machine, organic healthy flours, grains, etc. will seem a little pricey, but it’s well worth it in the long run both financially and for your health.

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Multi Grain Gluten Free Bread

1 1/4 Cups of Sorghum Flour

1 Cup of Amaranth Flour

1/4 Cup of Quinoa Flour

1/2 Cup of Ground Flaxseed

1/4 Cup of Whole Grain Amaranth

1/2 Cup of Tapioca Starch

1 Tablespoon of Xanthan Gum

1 1/2 teaspoons of Bread Machine Yeast or Instant Yeast

1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt

1 1/2 Cups of Warm Water (maybe a couple Tablespoons more)

1/4 Cup of Pure Maple Syrup

2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

1 teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar

4 Eggs

Add all liquid ingredients to your bread machine. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients and add to the liquid ingredients. Turn bread machine on gluten free setting. Allow it to stir for about 10 minutes, then open the lid and scrape the sides down with a spatula. At this point, I sometimes add a couple more Tablespoons of water if I think it is looking a little too dry. Close the lid and wait for the mixing cycle to finish. Smooth the top with a spatula (sometimes it forms a dome), close the lid and don’t open it again until it’s finished. 

Spicy Sausage and Bean Soup & Lazy Man’s Garlic Bread

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I could live on soup.

In fact, as long as I had a nice variety, I literally would eat soup every day of my life for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have no idea why I feel this way about soup, but really, what’s not to like about it? Your options are endless. You can make a light soup or a hardy soup. You can make a puree or you can make one with all kinds of yummy texture and flavor. All I ask is that you don’t eat it out of a can.

Soup is easy to make yourself (not as easy as opening a can…but not much harder)  and the payoff is huge. Just the fact that you’ve created something delicious from scratch all on your own is a plus. The fact that you can control what’s in it…that’s the important part. No chemicals, creepy thickeners, hidden allergens, or crazy genetically modified who knows what for you. Just simple organic ingredients that are beneficial for the whole family.

Spicy Sausage & Bean Soup 

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Small Onion, chopped

1/2 Cup Celery, sliced thinly

2 Garlic Cloves, chopped

About 2 Cups of your favorite GF/DF sausage, sliced (I used Hot Italian Pork & Sweet Italian Chicken)

4 Large Tuscan Kale Leaves (rib removed) rolled, cut in half, and sliced thinly

1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves

1/2-1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (depends on how spicy you like it)

1 15 oz. Can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz. Can Black Beans, rinsed and drained

8 Cups Chicken Broth

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Kosher Salt & Pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a dutch oven or large pot and heat. Saute the onion, celery, garlic, sliced sausage, kale, thyme, and red pepper until the sausage is cooked through and the onion and celery are becoming translucent. Add the beans, broth, and Old Bay Seasoning and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. Add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

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Lazy Man’s Garlic Bread

*Super easy and a perfect way to use up leftover hamburger buns.

2 Udi’s Gluten Free Hamburger Buns

Earth Balance Soy Free Butter Spread

Garlic Powder

Dried Oregano

Open the buns and spread with butter. Sprinkle generously with garlic powder and dried oregano. Place under the broiler until golden.

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