Food for Thought: 8 Tips for Saving Money on the Body Ecology Diet

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In a previous post, I mentioned how expensive it can get to be on the Body Ecology Diet (B.E.D.). Here are some helpful hints to minimize the impact on your wallet:

  1. Make a list an scope out your grocery stores. See what each store has available and at what price, before you buy. Also, few people realize that they can submit a request for their local chain store to carry an item. Have your friends ask too. The more people that ask for it, the more likely it is that they will start carrying it. Also, they will most likely price it lower than you will find it at “healthy living” stores!
  2. Try ethnic stores. They often have hard to find ingredients at a reasonable price. Once I figured out that the “sea vegetables” on the B.E.D. were really just different kinds of seaweed, I went to my local Asian market and stocked up for a fraction of the price. I also got various noodles and grains there too! For both everyday and hard to find spices, I go to the Mediterranean grocery who sells them dirt cheap! For the special blue corn tortillas, the Tortilliaria down the road is awesome! Check these places first, before wasting your money at more expensive grocery stores.
  3. Buy in bulk. Costco really surprised me. They have a LOT of B.E.D. safe and organic options at lower prices than you can find them in grocery stores. Here is some of what I left with: both chicken and ground beef, many different veggies, lemons and limes, blue corn tortilla chips, probiotics, flax meal, and a giant sack of quinoa. The only downside is figuring out where to put it all.
  4. Garden or join a community garden. Anything you grow your self will save money. Herbs are the easiest and can be done is small pots on a window sill, if you don’t have a green thumb or a yard. If you are not confident in your gardening skills or if you live in an apartment, try participating in a community garden. Often, the others there will help you and give you helpful tips, because they benefit from your successful crop too!
  5. Look into local co-ops or delivery services. I subscribe to a local delivery service, here in the Triangle. I pay $20 per week (I can skip weeks, if I want) for the small box. I fill my box by picking and choosing from a list of available products from local farms that they post each week. They deliver a few days later. I have personally found this to be cheaper and more convenient than going to the farmers market. I have also heard of local co-ops that offer boxes of a variety of veggies at a discounted price. I wish there was one here.
  6. Cook in bulk too. Pick one or two days a week to cook or prep a large batch of something. Portion it out and can, freeze, or refrigerate it. You will save time and money not cooking everyday. You will also have ready to go lunches, which will discourage you (and maybe others in the house!) from cheating by eating at a restaurant.
  7. Look for generics. The B.E.D. has a lot of branded supplements and other products. Read their labels and try to find a cheaper alternative.  For example, their SuperGreens powder is twice as expensive as the Go Greens powder I tried. Or try the even cheaper Amazing Grass.  I was able to find most of the others too. Alternatives to the branded sweeteners can be found in your local grocery stores. I prefer the “In the Raw” brand, as others have additives. And, as a bonus, they sometimes actually have coupons in the paper for those!
  8. DIY as much as possible. I am told, making your own coconut kefir and “cheese” can save you a lot. Unfortunately I cannot do it myself, because I have yet to find young coconuts in any of my local stores, and I also don’t own a meat cleaver (necessary for hacking the coconut open). However, I do make my own kimchee, as well as other fermented veggies. Basic kimchee is easy and requires few ingredients; cabbage, sea salt, fish sauce, and gochugaru pepper flakes. You can also customize the flavor to suit you. I prefer to add garlic and reduce the usual amount of spice, as it can irritate the digestive tract. A pint jar at my local grocery store is $7! At the Asian market it is $3. It cost me about $3 in ingredients to make my own and it yielded 3 quarts. I saved my self as much as $39!

If anyone has some more money saving tips or any questions about what I have mentioned, please comment blow!

Pickled Willy’s Gourmet Pickled Seafood #PickledWillys

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Pickled Willy’s is a family/veteran owned and operated specialty seafood processing plant in Kodiak, Alaska. They sell a variety of seafood related items in various forms. Their smoked fish seems popular and they have won awards for it. Their flagship products, pickled seafood, are what is unique about the company. They use an old family recipe with secret seasonings they won’t divulge! Their commitment to quality is commendable. All of their products are 100% sustainable and fished from Alaskan waters. The products are hand packed, low in fat, high in Omega-3’s, all natural, and have no preservatives. Their ingredients are simply as follows: Halibut/Lining Cod/Sockeye Salmon/King Crab, Organic Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Water, Pickling Spice, Onion, Salt (Fish). Bonus:Their products are also gluten free! They are also committed to providing their long-distance customers with the freshest product. They shipped it UPS expedited and it was extremely well packed with bubble wrap, ice packs, and lots of “this end up” stickers (which UPS ignored).

Also, if you car ever in Kodiak, you can visit their shop and sample the various products they sell. Pickled Willy’s products make great souvenirs and gifts. If you happen to do some fishing while you are in Kodiak, Pickled Willy’s will even process and ship your catch back home to you! You choose the preservation method. So cool!

Now, your first question is probably “Does it taste good?”

I assume this is your first question, because it is usually the first question anyone asks before they try something new. Some people might be wary because the combination of pickles and fish is a bit unusual, aside from some tuna salad recipes that contain pickle relish. Also the only pickled fish most people have heard of is the Northern European delicacy pickled herring, which has an unfortunately bad reputation. I want to debunk this unfortunate reputation, because Pickled Willy’s seafood is quite tasty! It is a mild pickling solution, so you don’t notice the vinegar bite you get in many pickle products. The sugar is also not overpowering, which is nice. The pickling spices also compliment the fish, so they don’t cover up the natural flavor of the fish. Best of all the fish tastes fresh. If there is one taste I cannot stand, it is the pungent taste of fish that has been frozen or sitting around for a couple of days. Pickled Willy’s obviously uses fresh caught fish that they pack right away to preserve the natural subtle taste only found in a fresh catch. So overall, the pickled seafood has a mild, subtle taste that can only compliment your meal, not overpower the other ingredients. And don’t forget the health benefits!

Your next question “How on earth do you eat it?”

There are many things you can do with pickled fish. The simplest is to serve it as an appetizer on a cracker, piece of toast, or slice of cucumber. Adding a dollop of sour cream is often recommended (but I can’t say if it is good, because I cannot eat it!). Pickled Will’s packs all of their fish in bite-sized chunks, so they are convenient for appetizers. The seafood is also tasty as a main dish in sandwiches, wraps, and on salads. You can even mix it with other ingredients to make a dip! The Pickled Willy’s website also has a recipe page to give you some ideas. If you want to eat it plain, then some popular pickled fish accompaniments are cold mayonnaise based salads, such as potato or macaroni salad, beets, boiled potatoes, and hard boiled eggs.

Seriously, how great (and unique!) an appetizer would it be to serve the salmon on a slice of cucumber with a dab of sour cream and a sprig of dill on top! This would be a great idea with the holidays just around the corner!! Here is my test batch:

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For more information or to purchase visit pickledwillys.com

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All my opinions are my own. One may or may not have the same results as myself when using this product.

Korean Briased Tofu with Green Onion

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Before I found out about my gluten intolerance, my husband and I used to go to our favorite little Korean restaurant once a week. I love that in addition to your main dish, you also get a variety of little side dishes called banchan. Unfortunately, it is hard to find gluten-free Korean food in a restaurant. Almost every dish involves soy sauce, fried elements, or gojuchang (a Korean chili paste that contains wheat!). So, as always, I have begun to try to replicate these dishes at home. I think that tofu is an under appreciated food here in the US, because it has been labeled as an option for vegans and vegetarians. Omnivores seem to avoid it here. However Asian countries have long since included in in their diets, in addition to meat. I greatly respect that, as it is a healthy and versatile source of protein. This particular dish is normally served as a banchan, but it is so good I could eat it by itself or maybe on top of some greens as a salad!

Ingredients

1 block tofu (14 oz)

2-3 stalks green onion – cut into 2 inch long peices

3/4 cup gluten free or tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp gluten free gojuchang or other chili paste (I used a chili garlic paste I found at the Asian Market)

1/2 tsp minced garlic (omit if using chili garlic sauce)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sesame seeds (for garnish)

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan.
  2. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, garlic, and sesame oil in a separate bowl.
  3. Drain and cut tofu into desired size. I chose larger rectangles, but smaller bite-size pieces work too. Pat dry with a paper towel (this is very important, since any excess water will cause the hot oil to spit while cooking).
  4. Pan fry tofu on both sides until lightly browned.
  5. Add in green onion and saute to wilt it slightly.
  6. Add in sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes until it is slightly reduced.
  7. Top with sesame seeds, serve, and enjoy!

French Onion Soup

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I have to say that this is my absolute favorite soup! It is simple to make, low in calorie (until you add the bread and cheese!), and tastes great! I don’t get to eat it very often though, because it is made with beef stock, which often contains gluten. Also, there is the bread and cheese to contend with!

Ingredients

2-3 medium onions, yellow or white, sliced thinly

1 – 32 oz box of GF Beef broth (I used Rachel Ray’s brand, because it is all natural)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp of dried thyme (or 1 sprig of fresh)

1 Tbl of GF Worcestershire Sauce (I used Lea & Perrins)

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  1. Slice onions and saute until translucent in a small amount of oil or butter. This can be done in the same stockpot (4 qt for this recipe) you will cook the soup in, to save dishes.

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2. Add in bay leaf, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth. Cook 10-20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

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3. Portion out into oven save bowls, top each with a piece of your favorite GF bread (the crustier the better), and your favorite cheese (soy mozzarella for me!) and broil in the oven until the cheese melts.

  • If you  do not have oven safe bowls or do not want to take the extra time to cook the soup altogether, you can cheat! While the soup is cooking, top your bread with the cheese and toast it in either a toaster oven or in your conventional oven. When the soup is ready, pop the toasted cheesy bread on top and serve!

Easy GF Vegan/Vegetarian Chili Recipe

One of the things that surprised me when going gluten free is the amount of soups and stews that contain gluten, especially chili. Chili is one of my favorite meals to make because it is hearty, wholesome, and delicious! It goes great on hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries too. However, I have to be careful about ordering it when dining out. Many kinds of pre-packaged chili contain gluten. Premixed chili spice packets also can contain gluten. I even had a friend offer me some of her “famous” chili, but declined when she told me her secret is to dump a bottle of beer in it at the end! That is also why I ask what is in each thing I consider eating, even if it seems obvious.

This recipe is my favorite, because of it’s simplicity. Basically you dump a can of every vegetable you like into a pot and let it stew. You can do it quickly in a stock pot on the stove or let it stew all day in your crock pot. You can easily add or remove any ingredient, based on taste, without damaging the recipe overall. I added an onion and peppers for flavor, but they aren’t necessary. This time, I even replaced the chili spices with two of the new McCormick GF Chili spice packets, to make it even easier! It may not be haute cuisine, but it is great in a pinch. Probably the best aspect is its low cost. I purchase the canned goods when they are on sale, never paying more than $1 per can. I estimate it cost me $12.22 to make the whole pot. I usually get 8-10 servings per pot. Assuming the 8 servings, that is $1.52 per serving! It also freezes well too, so you don’t get tired of leftovers. I portion out the leftovers, so I can bring them to work or eat them later, when I don’t feel like making a meal from scratch.

Ingredients – Chili Base

1 small onion, white or yellow, rough chop

1 bell pepper, color of choice (I used green this time)

2 – McCormick Gluten Free Chili spice packets

1 – 15 oz can of black beans

1 – 15 oz can of kidney beans

1 – 15 oz can of corn

1 – 15 oz can of okra

1 – 15 oz can of sqaush

5 – 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes, flavor of choice (some brands offer chili seasoned ones!)

1 – 6 oz can of tomato paste

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  1. Saute onion and pepper, if desired. Add it to your stock pot or crock pot. If you are using a stock pot, you can saute in the same pot so you have less dishes.

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2. Add in spices or spice packet, cook for a few minutes until fragrant. This brings out the flavors more, so you can use less spice.

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3. Add in mixed veggies, making sure to drain the liquid from each can. Rinse the beans thoroughly too. I usually throw the contents of each can in a colander and rinse.

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4. Add in the tomatoes, also well drained. If you purchased spiced diced tomatoes, do not rinse them or you will loose the spices!

5. Cook on low crockpot setting for 6-8 hours or medium heat on the stove for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. As the vegetables cook down, the chili will look a little watery (see image above).

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6. Add in the tomato paste to thicken the chili. It is ready to eat!

  • I serve mine with vegan cheese and avocado or guacamole. Sometimes I also include tortilla chips or GF cornbread on the side too.
  • For a meaty version, add in 1 lb cooked ground beef or turkey in between steps 2 and 3.
  • For a fall twist add cooked pumpkin or another winter squash. Adding cinnamon to the squash version is great too!

For those of you who don’t want to use a spice packet:

Ingredients – Homemade Chili Spice

2 Tbl Chili powder

1.5 tsp red pepper flakes

1.5 Tbl Garlic Powder

1 Tsp Onion Powder

1.5 Tbl Cumin Powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sugar

Gluten Free Banana Bread

This is my favorite quickbread recipe and also my most frequently used recipe over all. It makes a great breakfast item or a nice snack with a cup of coffee. It works well for potlucks, bake sales, welcome wagons/baskets, gifts, and as an easy breakfast when you have visitors. I have even brought one, instead of the customary casserole, to a grieving family. They really appreciated a breakfast option, since everyone else gave them lunch or dinner items.

This recipe is a favorite, because I love adaptable recipes. The batter can be scooped into muffin tins for those who don’t like having to slice a loaf. It can be topped with oats, crushed nuts, or a gluten free streusel to make it more attractive. My favorite thing about this recipe is that you can switch out the nuts for dried fruit or chocolate chips. Cranberries add a holiday flair! You can also experiment with the spices or leave them out for a more basic banana bread. I have been known to add a gluten free bourbon or coconut flavoring in the past too! Just be careful not to add more than two tbsp of liquid (this includes the vanilla) or it will effect how the bread rises.

Ingredients

2 c GF Flour blend – I used Domata in this one, but have used Bob’s Red Mill and Wholesome Chow with success in the past

1 tsp Xanthan gum – only if your flour blend doesn’t already contain it

2 tsp GF baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 c sugar, granulated

1/2 c sugar, brown, not packed

1 stick butter, margarine, or earth balance, melted

3 bananas, medium, smashed

2 ea egg, large, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c pecans, pieces

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Sift flour, Xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon , and nutmeg together.

3. Mix in both sugars.

4. Mix in melted butter, mashed bananas, and eggs.

5. Fold in pecans.

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6. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, then pour in batter.

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7. Bake 45-60 minutes until crust is golden or until a knife or toothpick you stick in the middle comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool in a pan for 30-40 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack.

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Pro Tips:

*DO NOT open the oven to check on the bread while it is baking. I know this is a well ingrained habit, but gluten free baked goods will collapse if you do this! Gluten is what normally gives breads and cakes their structure and stability. The rapid change in temperature caused by opening the oven will collapse what little structure is created by the xanthan gum. It is better to use the oven light to check on your baked goods through the oven window. I do not recommend opening the oven until the 45 minute mark to quickly check the doneness on this specific bread.

*If you have parchment or wax paper on hand, cut a piece the size and shape of the bottom of your pan (this works for cakes and bar cookies too!) place it in the pan after it has been greased. Having this paper at the bottom of the pan, keeps your baked good from sticking to the bottom of the pan and tearing apart when removing it.

Sweet Coleslaw

One of my favorite sides in the summertime is coleslaw. It is easy to make, since you simply mix everything together and let it sit overnight. This also makes it a great pot luck dish!

The origional dish was brought to the Americas by Dutch settlers who called it koolsla, meaning cabbage salad. Today there are many types of slaw, some of which are mayonnaise based, vinegar based, and red slaw.

My favorite is the classic sweet mayonnaise based slaw that you get in most fried chicken restaurants. Since I can’t eat the chicken, I don’t get to eat the slaw too often. Here is my version of the sweet coleslaw:

Ingredients

1 small onion, minced (or 1 Tbl onion powder)

2/3 cup mayonnaise

½ cup white sugar

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon gluten-free white vinegar (Heinz is a safe option)

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

½ teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

1 small fresh cabbage, chopped to desired size

1 medium carrot, grated

1. Whisk mayonnaise, sugar, vegetable oil, vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds together in a large bowl until smooth.

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2. Add in cabbage and carrot (or coleslaw mix) and toss to coat.

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3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or lid; refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Overnight works best.

Tips:

*You can substitute the fresh cabbage and carrot with a 16 ounce bag of coleslaw mix from the bag lettuce section of the grocery store. It also saves you from having to chop and grate.

*For a tangy version of this coleslaw add 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

*I have in the past used Veganaise instead of mayonnaise for an egg-free version. It works, but the flavor is not quite the same.

Turkey Meatball Pho

My husband absolutely loves vietnamese pho and it is one of the few stove top dishes he will help me make (he prefers cooking on the grill). While I eat vietnamese food every chance I get, it is difficult to find a restaurant where they have gluten free options. Even though the noodles are gluten free (rice), many restaurants marinate their meat in either soy sauce or hoisin sauce, which are not gluten free. I have even been places where they added soy sauce to the broth. So I make it at home!

Traditionally, pho is made with sliced meat. However, we prefer a meatball version, which I have seen on menus before. It’s great because because you can mix in extra flavorings there too. Also, ground meat is cheaper! This time around, we decided to make it even less traditional and go with  a leaner ground turkey, instead of beef.  Since I used poultry for the meat, I also opted to use chicken stock instead of traditional beef stock. You can easily change the recipe back to the beef, using like quantities of each.

Ingredients

1 quart gluten free chicken broth

2 shallots – 1 quartered, 1 sliced

1 piece star anise

1 tsp cilantro, dried

1 tsp sugar

1 inch piece of ginger, fresh – slice half, and mince the other half

2 shallots – 1 quartered, 1 sliced

1lb turkey, ground

1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs (or crushed GF crackers)

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 medium jalapeno pepper (optional)

1/4 cup white onion, minced

6 oz rice noodles

1 oz bean sprouts, rinsed

Optional Garnishes: 

1/2 bunch Thai basil, shredded

1/2 bunch mint, shredded

1 lime, sliced in wedges

1 tbl peanuts, crushed

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To start, pour chicken stock into a 3 to 4 qt pot. Add the quartered shallot, sliced ginger, the star anise, and the cilantro. Simmer, while you make the meatballs.

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Next, heat up a frying pan with some oil. Mix turkey with the breadcrumbs, minced ginger, garlic, jalapeno, and onion. Roll into balls, preferably bite sized. *My husband made these much too large, so we had to cut them up to eat.*

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Brown the meatballs on all sides. They do not have to be cooked all the way through, yet. While they are browning, skim the shallot, ginger, and anise out of the broth.

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Once the meatballs are browned, add them to the broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. While that simmers, boil some water in a large pot and cook the rice noodles. They cook very quickly, usually 6-10 minutes, so keep an eye on them. While the water is boiling, quickly fry the sliced shallots in the hot oil left over from the meatballs, then set them aside.

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Drain the noodles and divide them between two bowls. Top with bean sprouts. Add some meatballs and broth. Add desired garnish. We used basil, jalapeno slices, and the fried shallot. Lime wedges, mint, and peanuts are other great traditional options.

Honey Sesame Chicken

One type of food that I miss being able to eat at restaurants is Chinese food. I have not once been comfortable ordering food at a Chinese restaurant, since I found out I was wheat-intolerant. It seems like most of the food is cooked in the same few woks, with little to no cleaning in between orders. So much cross-contamination! Also, they never have gluten free or tamari soy sauce available, like a few Japanese restaurants I have encountered do.

Because of this, the only time I get to eat Chinese food, is when I make it myself. The other day, i started craving the sweet honey sesame chicken I used to order as a kid, so I decided to try to make it myself. I did a lot of research and  managed to piece together an excellent and (as always) adaptable recipe.

I also love a good slow cooker recipe, because you can prep it ahead of time, do most of the clean up before the meal has finished cooking, and you don’t have to babysit the pan, which frees up your time to do other things.

Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

1.5 tablespoons of rice vinegar

1/4 cup of honey

½ teaspoon of Sriracha (or other hot sauce)

1.5 teaspoon of sesame oil

1/4 cup of tamari soy sauce (or coconut aminos, if allergic to soy)

1 teaspoon of minced clove garlic

1 medium onion, sliced

2 teaspoons of corn starch (or arrow root, if allergic to corn)

2 tablespoons of water

1.5 pounds of boneless and skinless chicken breast, cubed

For garnish: scallions, sesame seeds

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  1. In a bowl, add the rice vinegar, honey, Sriracha, sesame oil,  and tamari.
  2. Mince the garlic clove and slice the onions. Add these ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
  3. Mix some water and the starch together, whisking to get out any clumps, then add this to the sauce.
  4. Put the chicken breast in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over it making sure that the chicken is covered.

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5. Cook covered on high heat for 3 ½ half hours or 5-7 hours on low heat.

6. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish, and serve with white rice. Enjoy!

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Notes:

  • I don’t like things too spicy, so I only used a little Siracha to balance out the sweetness of the honey. If you do like it spicy, you can always use more hot sauce or add a chili or two to increase the heat.
  • You can sub out the white rice out for healthier options like brown rice or quinoa too!

At The Table Together 5 Minute Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix Review

Happy Monday everyone! Over the weekend I decided to try out a pizza dough mix that I found at Homegoods (one of my favorite places to find cheap GF items). It is made by a company called A Tavola.

Pizza Mix

I was very excited to find this because not only is it GF, but it is vegan as well! I love pizza but it has been very difficult for me to find a dough mix or recipe that is both gluten and dairy free. It also states in several places on the package that it is easy to make, quick, and foolproof.

I started out following the instructions on the package, but soon hit a snag. The package states that you should form the dough into balls on a flat baking sheet, flatten them in the middle, and let them rise. My dough came out WAY too runny to be able to shape it like regular pizza dough. Not foolproof!

I went to the company’s website and discovered that their online tutorial is different from the package’s instructions. The website said to place the dough in pie/cake pans to shape the crust. I separated the dough into two greased 8″ cake pans and used a knife to spread it into the shape I desired.

After letting them rise, I baked them plain for 10 minutes. Then I added the toppings and baked it for 10 more minutes. Here is the result:

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They actually puffed up a lot more than I expected, but did not turn as brown or crispy as I hoped. Because of this, the pizza was not easy to pick up.

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Here is a side view. Hopefully, you can see that the crumb structure was actually pretty nice. It also tasted good as well.

If you would like to try this yourself, I would suggest either using less liquid or adding more of your own GF flour blend to make it easier to work with and easier to pick up when baked.