When first moving to our current home in Pensacola, Florida last year, we were initially concerned with how we were going to easily do our grocery shopping. After all, living in the Baltimore/DC area had spoiled us in terms of convenience; there, you can randomly throw a stone and likely hit Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, MOM’s, Costco, or Whole Foods. But after looking at a map of Pensacola and seeing that those stores were hours away, we figured a change in shopping habits was in order. So we started to lean more heavily on a local (pricey) health food store and weekend farmer’s market, and buying bulk from online vendors like US Wellness Meats and Tendergrass Farms.

But then last weekend I visited my local grocery store, and was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to find relatively healthy ingredients (many of the items I would expect to find in our favorite grocery stores before moving). Organic vegetables, grass-fed and pastured meats, wild-caught seafood, full-fat dairy, and gluten-free items were plentiful. It seems like many grocery stores are starting to prioritize real foods, and it is an excellent sign.

So I decided to carry out an experiment. What if I could whip up a meal using only ingredients found in our local Publix grocery store, while still aligning to my dietary restrictions? It just so happened that I was also eager to re-tackle an old lasagna recipe from several years ago, so it all fell together nicely.

Note: I still get frequent request for my first lasagna recipes, so here it is in convenient PDF form.

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I was recently asked by the fine folks at Cappello’s to try out their unique line of fresh gluten-free, grain-free pasta, and I was excited to get my hands on their product. First of all, I have a special place in my heart for Italian dishes; I started to realize that I was pretty good at this whole “cooking” thing when I first started to focus on and perfect a few Italian meals, many years ago. Secondly, while we do eat dishes using boxed rice noodles from time to time, nothing beats fresh pasta.

The pasta is made using mainly egg and almond flour, and has a taste and consistency that is the best I’ve experienced from a non-wheat product. Read on for some more pictures and details, and I will have the recipes for each of these products up on the site over the next two weeks.

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One of the more unique elements of my December giveaway was that I promised to make the winner a gluten-free variation of any traditional dish they wanted. The winner, Mandy from The Yard, requested a gluten-free chicken lasagna, and I was definitely up for the challenge. Little did I know how much of a challenge it would be!

From the outset, I wanted to make a creamy, spinach-based lasagna like you’d find in Northern Italy, since it would go really well with chicken. The trouble came with the rest of the ingredients – how much cream do I use? What cheese will work best? And how long do I cook it? After several unsuccessful attempts, I feel like a chicken lasagna expert in what NOT to do. For example, don’t use ricotta cheese, because it makes the dish too rich. Also, you don’t need as much cream as you’d think, and you need to thicken the cream with hard cheese to keep it from bubbling over while baking. You also need to soak the no-boil noodles in hot water before cooking (despite the manufacturer warning you AGAINST doing that) in order to get the perfect consistency without overcooking your spinach. Lastly, mozzarella cheese works best on a top layer, creating a pizza-like upper crust.

After a good amount of trial and error, I’m proud to say that I’ve got a unique and delicious chicken lasagna recipe that is just about the tastiest thing I’ve ever made. Fair warning: this is a dairy-intensive dish, with butter, cream, and four different types of cheese!

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