The Big FIVE OH! Or Otherwise Known As, My Best Birthday Yet

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How do you feel about your birthday? Dread it, love it, celebrate it, pretend like it never happened? It IS the only birthday at that age that you will EVER have. I wonder if people understand the significance of that? I turned 50 this summer. I wasn’t about to celebrate my 50th with a black balloon mentality. No way! I didn’t want this particular birthday to just go by with a flutter and a pffft either. I planned my own birthday trip!

I don’t expect or need big birthday celebrations but I was particularly excited about this birthday because some significant changes had taken place over the past few years. 2018 has been by far, the healthiest year for me in the last 11 years since I became sick with Lyme Disease.  Also, we have been on a wisdom ride that I will never forget. We have experienced the full range of all the heaviest emotions crammed into a five-year period. It felt like a friggin’ tornado.

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We moved from one end of the country to the other twice, we lived in our camping trailer for a few months because we couldn’t find a house, my husband changed careers and jobs three times, I had two really terrible Lyme flares, and during that time we also had to deal with some ongoing significant extended family issues. We were experiencing several of the top ten things on those lists psychologists put out in articles about extreme stress – all at once. But we knew we wanted something different, so we powered through. Once we were settled into our new house, I hit the ground running. Going through all that stuff at once had stirred up some questions for more and I needed to figure out how to get them answered.

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I felt like I needed a new approach to an old way of thinking. I read everything I could get my hands on that was related to what I wanted to learn. Then, I went completely out of my comfort zone and joined a support group run by an out of the box family and relationship therapist. The people in my group were from all walks of life with past experiences and current challenges to share. If I wanted growth, I was going to have to share too, which meant setting aside my fears of exposing all of those emotions and scary questions we all try so hard to cram down.

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When I let go of the fear of being totally transparent, it became one of the top three absolute best experiences of my life. We were all working toward one common goal – personal growth and a better understanding of relationships with ourselves and others. I had found my tribe. After the first couple of weeks, I could clearly see that healing and growth is a full body experience. You must work on the not so obvious as well as the obvious. I know, it sounds like a fluffy new age book. But it was nothing like that. It was an intense, humbling, and fulfilling experience that no self-help book (and I am an avid reader) has ever provided.

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There’s a lot of wisdom in people’s stories even when you have nothing in common with them. Their choices, and how they deal with life can be a significant learning experience for you if you choose to really listen and apply it. I came out the other side about two years later knowing myself better than ever. I thought I already had that down, but it turns out  there were some old patterns that were allowing negative things to happen that I didn’t think I was in control of. And because I took the time to really practice pulling the wool from my eyes – I came away with a very clear view of the underlying issues all of us face, and how those issues play out in our lives based on our own belief systems, patterns of behavior, family influence – and the choices we make based on how much or how little value we think we hold in other people’s eyes. I am the master (on earth) of my own destiny as far as my relationships and how I my experience with life pans out. I learned how to say no, how to better recognize red flags, and to set boundaries and it opened up endless growth opportunities.

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That journey is a very large part of why I was so excited and looked forward to turning 50. I thought to myself, Now THIS is what celebrating a birthday feels like. Beyond the surface of fun, lies the true reason to celebrate: Growth. I cannot sit stagnant in my life just going through the motions when I know there’s blossoming to be had! We need growth and pruning because it all works together. Then when we come to the end, we’re a beautiful full blossom – not some number we should dread! I can see concrete changes in how I feel, think, and react to what life has to offer whether it’s an irritating challenge or a welcome one. THAT is certainly worth celebrating along with a year of pretty dang good health!

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 There is another side of growth that doesn’t involve all the unicorn and rainbow feelings. Growth doesn’t just fall in your lap. Your mentality doesn’t just flip without a fight. It’s painful at first. Sometimes excruciatingly humbling. Changing ingrained patterns of behavior and choices that have been with you all your life and recognizing how they have played a role in the things you’re unhappy about, takes time and some serious nerve. I had no idea what would come of joining that support group. Several times I felt like turning around and running the other way. Just quitting and pretending like I’d never stirred “that” pot. But I forced myself to stick with it and the others did the same and it created a really unique and amazing bond that I’m not sure I’ve ever had with any other human being. I forced myself to stick with the work of being fully transparent and it paid off in ways I never could have imagined. Real growth provides a clear lens and when you get used to living with those wool free lenses, you can’t believe you ever lived any other way!

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 If you are seeking a new way of doing things, you may have to be your own cheerleader for a while or find a group like I did. Being transparent and strong in your character and convictions isn’t truly promoted and celebrated in the outside world. Some people will say they are supportive but really they just want you to fall in line and not think outside the box. They’ll try to convince you to keep quiet and that not upsetting the apple cart is more important than living your best version of the life God has planned for you. They’ll think you’re selfish or crazy or that you’re not Christian “enough” or forgiving or empathetic “enough” when you change long ingrained patterns that people are used to. They’ll take it personally and it will make them mad. But that’s OK, because when you stick to what you know is best for you and the people you love, there are no negative outcomes regardless of other’s opinions.

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For your next birthday, I challenge you to lovingly embrace that number. Make it something special and CELEBRATE IT!  It’s your gold medal for that year and it means you’ve made it through like a champion. You have marched through 365 days of every single challenge and every single dip in the road and over every mountain and every amazing thing that you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing and being a part of.

You didn’t compromise on some of the stuff that shouldn’t be compromised (you don’t have to be perfect), and you lived your best life that you knew how to that year. That birthday number people try to outrun, represents miraculous growth if you let it. Championship level growth if you focus on what you want.

Your actual outer “age” means nothing when you’re busy getting wise and slaying demons and seeking your most joyful, peaceful, loving life!

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Langostino Tacos

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While I was looking for wild caught fish that’s easy to deal with at Costco the other day, I ran across Langostino “Lobster Tails”.

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Lobster? Not really, but they do taste like miniature lobster tails. And after searching “what is langostino” in Wikipedia, let’s just say – they taste delicious but I still really have no idea what they are.

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My only three stipulations with fish and seafood are – it’s not tilapia, it’s not farm raised, and it tastes good. So as long as it meets those requirements, who really cares what it is…right?

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Here’s what Wikipedia had to say:

Langostino is a Spanish word with different meanings in different areas. In the United States, it is commonly used in the restaurant trade to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn. Squat lobsters are more closely related to porcelain and hermit crabs. Langostinos are not langoustes (spiny lobsters) despite a similar name (in Spanish, lobster is called langosta). Also, langostinos are sometimes confused with langoustines (Norway lobster), which is a true lobster common in European cuisine.[2]

In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration allows “langostino” to be used as a market name for three species of squat lobster in the family Galatheidae: Cervimunida Johni Munida gregaria, and Pleuroncodes monodon.[3] In Spain, it means some species of prawns. In Cuba and other Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, the name langostino is also used to refer to crayfish. In Argentina the name is used to refer to Pleoticus muelleri, a kind of shrimp, while in Chile and Peru it refers to Pleuroncodes monodon.

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So whether they’re squat lobsters or shrimp or prawns or cray fish – who knows? We DO know they taste amazing any way you’d like to prepare them. I chose tacos but they’d also be delicious with a little butter and sea salt as an appetizer alongside a flavorful focaccia and roasted garlic, or cold on top of a salad, or baked in a creamy seafood dish or simmered in a seafood stew. They’re relatively inexpensive for a large bag and they’re individually frozen which means you can take just the amount you need and keep the rest in the freezer for another time.

Langostino Tacos

*Makes 4 Large Tacos or 8 Small Tacos

**Go Here for my Grain Free Spinach Tortilla Recipe

For The Sauce:

2 Cups of Fresh Cilantro, stems removed

4 Whole Green Onions

1/2 of an Avocado

2 Garlic Cloves

3/4 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

Juice of 2 Limes

1 Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 teaspoons of Coconut Sugar

1/8 Cup of Water

Place all ingredients in a blender or nutribullet and blend until smooth. Refrigerate. You’ll likely have extra sauce left over – it goes great on top of salads, baked potatoes, and with chicken. The next night, I used it as a sauce for cole slaw with a little of Primal Kitchen’s dairy free caesar dressing and it got rave reviews. 

For The Toppings:

1 Large Carrot Peeled, then sliced with the peeler into long strips

4 Large Radishes, sliced thinly

1 Cup of Red Cabbage, thinly sliced

1 Cup of Baby Spinach Leaves, stems removed

1/2 Cup of Red Onion, thinly sliced

2 Avocados, thinly sliced

Prepare toppings and set aside or refrigerate. Wait until you’re ready to serve the tacos to slice the avocados. 

For The Langostino:

4 Cups of Langostino, thawed and patted dry 

1/4 Cup of Avocado Oil

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and grated

2 Tablespoons of Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 Cup of Minced Parsley

Celtic Sea Salt to Taste

Heat the avocado oil in a large skillet on medium high. The langostino is already cooked, so this process is quick. Add the grated garlic and move it around in the oil to flavor, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the langostino and toss several times to heat through. About 3 minutes. Add the parsley, season with salt and lemon juice, toss a couple more times and remove from the heat. 

 

Layer the tacos however you’d like and top with the cilantro sauce and serve. We also added a little hot sauce. 

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Grain Free & Vegan Banana Double Chocolate Muffins

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I’m not sure about you, but my experience has been that normal tasting muffins in the grain free and vegan world are hard to come by. Especially if you have multiple diet requirements.

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I think I have two grain free muffin recipes on the blog not including this one. That’s because they are really difficult to deal with texture and taste wise. I’m very picky when it comes to a muffin. BUT, that hasn’t stopped me from trying because every now and then, a girl just needs a chocolate muffin. And being able to eat one without any of the most common allergens is a super bonus.

So after numerous tries and disappointments, I have finally created a chocolate muffin recipe I think we can all cheer about. It doesn’t have odd ingredients that you have to search for, and it’s easy to whip up right before everyone wakes up for breakfast, or before a kid’s soccer game or classroom party, or as an easy dessert.

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It’s rich in flavor and loaded with chocolate, it’s fluffy and has a nice crumb, but not too crumby and not too fluffy.

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It’s just right!

Banana Double Chocolate Muffins

1 1/8 Cups of Very Ripe Mashed Banana

2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

2 teaspoons of Vanilla

4 Tablespoons of Full Fat Coconut Milk

1/2 Cup of Coconut Sugar

1/3 Cup of Cacao Powder

1/2 Cup of Arrowroot

1/2 Cup of Coconut Flour

1 teaspoon of Double Acting Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

1/8 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

1/2 Cup of Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups. Measure all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips into a medium bowl and fold together until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup almost to the top and bake (I use convection) for 20 minutes, until mostly firm in the middle when touched with a finger.

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Grain Free & Vegan Huckleberry Scones

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We’re nearing the end of summer and you know what that means…

Dread of winter?

Living on hot cocoa?

Hairy legs?

Pumpkin spice everything?

Hibernation?

Well maybe…but not just yet.

What nearing the end of summer means in the Northwest is …

Huckleberry Season!

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They do grow wild here in the mountains and when our son was little we picked them ourselves. I don’t like the aggressive bees, spiders, bear worries, or dusty feet, so after he grew up we started buying them instead.

We may have to go back to picking our own though after we were left in shock last weekend at the Farmer’s Market with a $55 price tag for a gallon ziplock bag. We used to be able to buy a gallon of huckleberries for $25-$35. Maybe that was what we will now refer to as, “the good ole’ days”.

Once we came to terms with that we opted for a half-gallon bag at $25 because $55 for berries seemed quite over indulgent and let’s be realistic, we needed to save some cash for the made to order gluten free cinnamon and sugar doughnut holes that we’re now addicted to, must have, and think about all week until the next Saturday market rolls around.

Priorities you know.

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So we came home after a double order of the world’s best doughnuts and I split those  purple gold nuggets up into 1/2 cup servings and hid them away in the freezer to enjoy throughout our winter. Lord knows, while it’s gray and frigid for 6 months straight and I end up asking myself (again) why we live in this town, I’ll need a reminder of summer and better days to come.

When I posted our huckleberry pancakes on Instagram last weekend I had messages from people from different parts of the country telling me they’d never had a huckleberry! If they weren’t so dang expensive I would have offered to mail each person enough to make pancakes – but that will have to wait until we win the lottery.

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Huckleberries are absolutely delicious and although they look somewhat similar to a blueberry, they are very different. They’re smaller than a blueberry and have a much more intense flavor. Lightly tart but also very sweet and very fragrant. They add wonderful flavor to pancakes, crepes, waffles, muffins, pies, and are also very tasty on top of ice cream as a sauce or in home made ice cream. You can also just eat them plain, but to save your pocketbook, I would only do that when you’re up in the mountains picking them yourself.

These scones are grain free, dairy free, egg free & vegan.

Huckleberry Scones

*Makes 8 Triangles OR You Can Use Smaller Biscuit Cutters for More Servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1/2 Cup of Coconut Flour

1/4 Cup of Chestnut Flour

1/4 Cup of Cassava Flour

2 1/2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt

2 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)

Zest of 2 Medium Lemons

6 Tablespoons of Dairy Free Butter (I use soy free Earth Balance)

3/4 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk (my favorite is the Arroy D brand)

1/4 Cup of Fresh Lemon Juice

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

3/4 Cup of Fresh or Frozen Huckleberries

Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside. In a glass measuring cup add the coconut milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir and let rest while you cover a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.

Add the cold dairy free butter to the dry ingredients and cut in with two knives or your fingers (that’s what I prefer) until the mixture has small chunks of butter throughout about the size of peas.

Add the wet ingredients and the huckleberries and fold it all together gently, don’t overwork the dough or your scones will be dense and heavy.

Scoop the dough onto the covered baking sheet and pat lightly into a circle. You want to pat enough that the dough holds together after baked, but not so much that you pat all of the fluff out and make them heavy.

Slice into 8 wedges and separate. Sprinkle with extra coconut sugar.

Bake (I use convection) for 20-23 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet before removing and store in a loosely covered container. Will keep for 2 days or you can wrap them well and freeze them.

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Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup

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I have a file box where I keep interesting and creative ideas for recipes that I either come up with myself, or that I find in magazines and elsewhere. It’s full of exciting things that I’ve labeled “re-create” because they don’t fit a gluten free/grain free, dairy free, lifestyle. And of course those of you who’ve been following me for a long time know that’s the very reason I started this blog. To prove to people that those of us with food allergies CAN eat delicious, lovely, satisfying foods just like everyone else – with a little forethought and tweaking.

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This pancake recipe was inspired by a mainstream (full of allergens) recipe I tore out of a magazine in 2010! I was  a little shocked myself to see that date, actually. I’ve been lugging around a file box of ideas with me for at least 8 years. That means those inspiring ideas have moved with me back and forth from one end of the country to the other – twice. I only keep things I’m very serious and excited about so that should tell you how I feel about these pancakes. I was thrilled that I could use the magazine’s idea of a carrot cake pancake and make it my own allergen free treat.

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I haven’t eaten carrot cake in many years. It used to be a staple on Easter and other celebratory holidays.  So as I was thumbing through my file box the other day and ran across the carrot cake pancakes inspiration…well, sign me up! I’m used to baking with gluten free and grain free flours now so trying to create my own allergen free recipe wasn’t difficult. In fact, it worked the first try.  Now that I’ve been able to create a carrot cake pancake mix that works well, I don’t foresee any issues in the future with being able to create a carrot cake recipe – so stay tuned!

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This recipe could be very versatile. That’s something that’s important to me – to have a base to work from where I can switch up flavors and add things. These would also be great with the addition of unsweetened shredded coconut, raisins, and walnuts in the batter. You could also try toasted coconut along with the toasted nuts on top if you don’t want it in the batter. You could play with the texture of the carrots as well. I did a fine grate, but I think I may have even been happier with a medium grate.

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Purple carrots would make them fun for kids, even grated beets. If you add grated beets, they’ll likely turn your batter red which would be fun. I would add 2 or 3 extra Tablespoons of coconut sugar to offset the earthy tone of the beets. You could also do grated apple (pat them dry first). You could do candied nuts on top, or add miniature chocolate chips or other diced dried fruits. For a kids sleepover breakfast you could do s’more pancakes with marshmallows and chocolate chips and then add crumbled graham crackers on top.

The options are only as limited as your imagination and the willingness of your palette!

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup

1/4 Cup of  Chopped Toasted Pecans

1/2 Cup of Buckwheat Groat Flour (ground buckwheat groats)

1/4 Cup of Coconut Flour

1/2 Cup of Arrowroot

2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 1/2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon of Ground Nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon of Ground Ginger

1/8 teaspoon of Ground Cloves

1/4 Cup of Coconut Sugar

1/2 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk

1/2 Cup Water

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Lemon Juice

1 Tablespoon of Avocado Oil

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

2 Eggs

2 Cups of Finely (or medium) Grated Carrots

Pure Maple Syrup

Dairy Free Butter

Ceylon Cinnamon

(For the cinnamon syrup: Simply add however much syrup you think you’ll need to a bowl, add about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and whisk to combine. When pancakes are done, heat the syrup, whisk again, and serve with the pancakes.)

Whisk dry ingredients together. Whisk coconut milk, water, and lemon and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the oil, vanilla, and eggs, and whisk until frothy. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in carrots.

Heat and butter a skillet. Cook pancakes until bubbles form on top and the underside is golden. Flip and cook for about 2 more minutes until done.

Serve with dairy free butter (or regular) and cinnamon syrup above.

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Flourless Chocolate Dream Cake

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Incredibly easy. Simple, healthy, ingredients.

Gets rave reviews every time I serve it. Makes the house smell amazing. Gorgeous.

You can’t ask for much more from a dessert.

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Flourless Chocolate Dream Cake

*12 Servings

For The Raspberry Sauce:

4 Cups of Frozen Organic Raspberries

2/3 Cup Organic Coconut Sugar

For The Cake:

4 Bars (12oz) of Theo’s Organic Fair Trade Pure 70% Dark Chocolate

7 ounces of Earth Balance Soy Free Dairy Free Butter (I used the tub – the cubes sometimes produce a different result.)

6 Organic Eggs

6 Tablespoons of Arroy-D Coconut Milk (full fat)

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Tablespoon of Organic Coconut Sugar

For The Ice Cream:

I like to serve mine with Coconut Bliss’s Dairy Free Vanilla Island ice cream for those that cannot do dairy and with Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream for those that can tolerate dairy.

For the sauce add the Raspberries and 2/3 cup coconut sugar to a medium saucepan and heat on medium low. Once the raspberries are melted, turn to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until lightly reduced and thickened. Refrigerate for 3 hours. This can easily be made a day ahead and thickens more upon cooling.

Line the bottom of a 9 inch removable bottom tart pan with parchment and spray with non stick spray. (I spray the underside of the parchment as well.) Set the tart pan on a baking sheet and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

For the cake add the dairy free butter and broken up chocolate to a medium saucepan. Heat on low to medium low being VERY mindful that it doesn’t get too hot and seize the chocolate. Stir as it begins to melt and once the mixture is smooth and incorporated, remove from heat.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, coconut milk, vanilla, and the 1 Tablespoon of coconut sugar until thoroughly incorporated and frothy.

Very slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture whisking quickly. Don’t add the egg mixture too quickly, or the eggs will cook. You want to temper the chocolate first. When you’ve added about half of the egg mixture slowly – then you can pour in the remaining and whisk thoroughly.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart pan and bake for 24 minutes. There should be a little jiggle in the middle. The sides may also puff up while baking, but once it’s removed from the oven and begins to cool the cake will settle.

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Grain Free Pesto Chicken Flatbread

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These are Oh. SO. Good.

And the best part is that they’re easy to make and look gorgeous. They work for a casual dinner or lunch with family or for a more special meal with guests –  paired with a big salad, a great bottle of wine, and a fresh sorbet for dessert.

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Grain Free Pesto Chicken Flatbread

*Makes 8 Flatbreads

1 Package of Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenders

2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Italian Seasoning Herbs

1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

Few Grinds of Fresh Pepper

1 Package of Chebe Focaccia Mix

1 Egg

1/4 Cup of Avocado Oil

1/2 Cup of Water

8 Tablespoons of Vegan Pesto 

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

16 Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 of a Small Onion, thinly sliced

1 Cup of Chopped Baby Spinach

2 Cups of Goat Gouda Cheese

2 teaspoons of Italian Seasoning Herbs

1/4 Cup of Freshly Chopped Oregano

1/4 Cup of Freshly Chopped Basil

Marinara Sauce

Heat the 2 TBS of avocado oil in a medium skillet. Place thawed chicken in the skillet and sprinkle both sides with the Italian Seasoning, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper. Saute until done and set aside to cool. When cool, chop chicken, set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line three baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Combine the Chebe Focaccia Mix, egg, 1/4 cup of avocado oil, and 1/2 cup of water and knead until smooth and dough is easily formed into a ball. You may need to flour hands (I use arrowroot). Cut the dough into 8 equal parts and pat out into rounds on the parchment covered baking sheets. Prebake the flatbread rounds for 10 minutes and remove from oven.

Heat the marinara in a small sauce pan and simmer on low until you’re ready to serve the flatbread.

Spread a TBS (or more if you like) of the vegan pesto on each round. Using 1 teaspoon of Sea Salt, sprinkle each. Top with the chopped spinach, onions, chicken, and 4 tomato halves each. Top each flatbread with the cheese. Sprinkle with the Italian Seasoning. Bake for 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly bubbling on the edges. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the chopped fresh basil and oregano.

They also freeze well. I wrap mine individually with saran wrap and then store in a double bagged ziplock. To reheat, remove from plastic and thaw on counter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flatbreads on a parchment covered baking sheet and heat for 10-15 minutes.

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