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Enjoy Life Decadent Bars — Review

If you’ve read a good part of this blog you’d know that I have a younger sister known as Chef Flower and she is a student in Chef Froggie’s Gluten Free Culinary School. Well, the culinary school has been on a long break, but Chef Flower has still been learning. We come back to bring you a new post from the school, one where we especially needed Chef Flower’s help for. A product review.

Part of being a student at the culinary school involves not only learning baking stuff, but learning how to write stuff about what you bake and cook and taste. A few months back someone from Enjoy Life Foods contacted me asking if I’d like to try their new Decadent Bars and write a review on them. I told them that sadly, I’m allergic to one of the ingredients in them, but that my sister isn’t and she would be glad to try them. A week or so later I received this package and Chef Flower excitedly brought it to me and asked if she could open it. “Well actually, yes, you can open it because it’s actually for you.” She was more than thrilled and surprised and couldn’t wait to try the bars.

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Unfortunately, she was sick at the time, so I didn’t let her try them till her taste buds were working normally again. And then our mom heard about the bars and insisted she wanted to try them as well. So, both tasted them, analyzing them, thinking about how to word the feelings coming from their taste buds, and then writing them up. Things have been crazy around here and I’ve had 1/2 of the text on one computer and the other half on another till today. So, without further introduction, I present you with Chef Flower’s analysis!

Cherry Cobbler:

It tastes like cherry pie with cinnamon. Though, after you let it sit in your mouth, you feel a grainy texture, kind of what gluten free pies taste like. [Chef Froggie’s note: not all gluten free pies taste like this… just she hasn’t had the really, really amazing crusts apparently… guess I’d better work on that!] Not does it just taste like cherry pie, but it smells like cherry pie! It does taste good but it’s not my favorite.

Chocolate Sunbutter:

I am not that fond of chocolate [Chef Froggie’s note: that was till a week after she wrote this, now she has fallen in love with chocolate unexpectedly], but this chocolate sunbutter bar is the best chocolate bar I have ever had! With the taste of sunbutter I also am not fond of peanut butter or sunbutter, but in this case, its delicious! With a nice and crispy taste!

S’mores:

Even though I am not fond of chocolate, I love S’mores. And even more, what is even better is Enjoy Life S’more bars. I like the chocolate taste with the crunchy graham cracker taste, though I don’t taste the marshmallow that much. I compared this to the Quaker brand that had artificial ingredients in it. I did not like it as much as the Enjoy Life ones. This chocolate marshmallow S’more bar is sooo good!

Cinnamon bun bar:

Very good, but it does not taste like a cinnamon bun. It tastes more like a cranberry bar. The texture is very different. This bar is good, but not as good as the S’more bar!

Now, remember our mom insisted she wanted in on the action. My mom doesn’t have any food allergies (nor does my sister), so they came at it from the view of some used to “regular” food.

Cherry cobbler

Overall, very good. And I don’t usually like cherry deserts. But the balance of ingredients is very good. When you start eating you can tell the cinnamon. Though when you finish eating there’s something like a grainy/powdery texture. But I would definitely go for more.

Chocolate sunbutter
I don’t like it at all, I can’t explain it, but it might be that it seems too dense for my liking.

S’more
I like the texture. I like the taste. I like the color. It’s perfect.

Cinnamon bun
Very good texture. Very good taste. Overall very good product.

In the end, Enjoy Life Foods, I think your ELFs did a good job and really made some amazing stuff!

Sandwich soup

No, I don’t mean a soup to go with a sandwich. I mean a soup made out of a sandwich. And by that I don’t mean a soup with chunks of sandwich in it, I mean a creamy, really delicious, soup made entirely from a sandwich. The best part? It not only tastes like a sandwich but it’s ready in minutes.

Due to the fact my esophagus has taken offense for some reason at solid food, I’ve been on a non-solid food diet for 8 weeks. Actually, today is day one of week 9. It does drive me crazy because I miss solids. I can’t go pick up a safe snack or treat at whole foods and eat it on the way home. I have to wait till I get home, and throw it through the blender first. There’s no more snacking as I cook an MC safe dinner. And, menus have changed. Some things I just don’t want to eat to be quite honest.

When I first started throwing things in the blender 2 months ago, I quickly learned that not everything tastes good pulverized together. Yes, I LOVE quinoa, but, I do not like the taste of it with other things in the blender. You know how some adults will tell picky eaters, “why do you have to separate everything when you eat it? It all gets mixed together in the stomach!” Well, here’s the answer:

The stomach doesn’t have taste buds!!

One dish may taste great together, even mixed together, but when you go to throw it in the blender, it really doesn’t taste good. So, I’ve set out to maintain some degree of sanity in the whole not-allowed-to-eat-solid-food thing over the last 8 weeks and I’ve been doing some kinda crazy experimenting here and there and discovered that some of my favorite foods in solid form really do taste really good as a creamy puréed soup! When I suggested some of them to my best friends they both looked at me like I was crazy. But I was desperate for some variety in what I was eating!

The first try was pizza. It was actually really good!!! Then I tried cinnamon buns with ice cream floating on top. That was really good. Brownie soup with ice cream (or without) was really great too. Then I took bacon, potato, Daiya cheese and some coconut milk. It. Was. Amazing. At another time I’ll post the recipe for cream of bacon soup. I also made chocolate cereal soup. That was really good and nice and creamy. But today, the star of the show would be my favorite.

Sandwich soup. Yup. It’s really simple.

You can prepare the sandwich like a regular looking sandwich like this, but it is totally NOT necessary. I usually just stick the stuff straight into my vitamix.

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1. Tear/cut up the sandwich material and toss it in your blender.

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2. Add water up to about 2/3 of the depth that the sandwich stuff takes up.

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3. Turn blender on low and slowly increase the speed till you get to the very highest speed. Leave it on high for a minute or two.

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4. Pour, serve & enjoy.

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Now, a few notes. I’m sure you all are wondering what it tastes like. Really, it tastes like a sandwich! I’m totally serious!!
However, unless you want to make tomato soup (which is really good too), don’t put tomato with the sandwich. The tomato has a tendency to overpower everything else when thrown in the blender so if you want to taste everything else, leave it out.
Also, I haven’t tried mustard, pickles and the like. But, I bet they’d make a good addition!

And, lastly, those of you who know me know I love frogs and know about Super Froggie and the Frogland gang (kid frogs with food allergies (and without) who help each other out and learn from each other). I love working on stuff related to them as a way to encourage others. But a friend decided to ask for a drawing of Super Froggie, with his cape and all (yes, including his belt and epipens!) for some secret project she was working on to encourage and cheer ME up as it’s been rough with not being allowed solid food for so long! And in the mail yesterday came THE most AWESOME glass I have ever seen which she had custom ordered from Starr Parnell. (It looks kinda not straight but that’s due to the angle I took the picture at. In real life it’s perfect). It was a complete surprise. But it was perfect! There is no way I can’t help it but smile when I drink out of this glass, even when I’m really not feeling great.

Apple Pie Lasagna

This weekend has been pretty awesome. I have actually had a full weekend break from homework. Tomorrow, though, it’s back to the grind. But, till then I’m going to keep on enjoying the warmer weather, sunshine and free time to just be creative. So, I baked. :)

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Sometime last week my little sister came to me excited because she had had a vegan lasagna a neighbor made and thought it was really good. “And it didn’t have any cheese!” She told me. “Did it have tofu?” I asked. “Uh, yes.” See, I’m allergic to soy. She tried to say that it didn’t have much tofu, but I’ve seen vegan recipes before for this and they don’t have a tiny amount. As we debated the other ways I could make it I remembered another problem. Even if I used Daiya cheese, there was still tomato sauce. For years my body does not do well nor like tomato sauce. I can have tomatoes, but tomato sauce is different for some reason. Maybe it has to do with the quantity that’s in lasagna and other dishes. But it’s really hard to make lasagna without tomato sauce.

“You could use apple sauce!!” My sister said, laughing as she was referencing how she used to always get tomato and apple sauce mixed up and always said she wanted apple sauce on her pizza when she meant tomato sauce. We both laughed. “Uh…… no.” I said. Somehow in the conversation though I somehow came up with the thought of putting fruit in it. Which led to my idea of mixing an apple pie with lasagna, turning it into a desert.

Part of why I got rather excited about this idea is that I’ve really really struggled to make pie crusts that are gluten, dairy and soy free. It’s possible. But I just haven’t gotten something that I like quite down yet. But using lasagna instead, even though it would be different, I wouldn’t have to worry about making a pie crust in order to make pie. So, that also simplified things. After brainstorming a bit more with my sister and then with one of my friends, I came up with how I wanted to make it. And it turned out pretty well. This recipe is pretty simple and easy to make. So, here’s the recipe:

1. Peel, core and slice 9 large apples (more if they’re small)

2. Mix together:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup rice flour
Cinnamon to desired taste (I like quite a bit)

3. Add the above mixture to the apples and mix well.

4. Preheat your oven to 375* F

5. Cook 9 pieces of rice lasagna according to package instructions
You can either snap the pieces to size before cooking or after cooking. While it is a bit harder to get a smooth edge when the pasta is dry, I find it easier than trying to cut it when it’s hot.

6. Butter your dish (I use Earth Balance buttery “spread”), then lay the first layer of cinnamon/sugar coated apples in the bottom.

7. Add three rows of the lasagna pasta, trimming as necessary.

8. Coat the pasta with some butter spread on it.

9. Cover the pasta with more apples. The inside layers I like to put 2 layers of apple slices.

10. Repeat with more pasta, then butter, and repeat till you get to the final pieces of pasta. Add a layer of apples on top, or two if you want.

11. Pour the cinnamon/sugar juice left at the bottom of the bowl the apples were in over the top of the completed dish.

Bake at 375* F for 45-55 minutes.

The apple pie lasagna is good both hot and cold, so you can serve it fresh out of the oven (don’t burn your tongue when eating!) or refrigerate it before serving.

Chocolate cookies

Oh. My.

These cookies are ahhhhhmazing! I just had to share. Especially after leaving off on a kinda scary note of the story from the last anaphylactic reaction a few weeks ago. I’ve had it on my mind to bake over the last 3 weeks. But well. I’ve just been in survival mode. Being a full-time student doesn’t make it easy and I’ve been working on catching up. But this weekend I decided to take a break from the assignments and reading and give my brain some time to let the creative juices flow. I started out by sewing a froggie hoodie for the dog. :) Then today I made pumpkin, sunbutter, chocolate muffins. And then cookies. Oh my. They’re all sooo good! Why did I wait so long to make them?? Ok, probably because I’ve been too tired to try to play with recipes and adjust my favorites to being egg free over the last month and half. But I finally got around to getting egg replacer a few weeks back so things have been turning out a bit more normal when I bake now.

I kind of took the recipe from Jules, but made my own adjustments to it based on things I’ve done in the past and also kind of forgot an ingredient.

8 TBS coconut spread (this has more of a consistency of shortening, not butter, so it works better with cookies than any margarine does)
1 TBS egg replacer
2 TBS coconut milk (So Delicious, not plain coconut milk from a can)

Beat together with electric mixer. Then add:

1 cup sugar
dash/squirt of vanilla

Beat well together. Add:

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Mix well and then stick in the fridge for a bit. Preheat oven to 375 F.

Grab a lump of dough (about 1/4 cup) and roll into a ball with your hands, and place on the cookie sheet (I just line mine with aluminum foil, the cookies do not stick so NO need to grease it) and flatten slightly. Leave about an inch or 2 between each cookie.

Bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and do your best to wait a few minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet so that you don’t burn yourself!

Makes about 18 cookies. You can also only make 1/2 and freeze the rest for another time when you’re really wanting cookies but don’t have the time to throw together the ingredients. Just thaw the dough enough to shape, and bake. But, I’m going to recommend that you double the recipe and make extra to freeze. Oh, and btw, they freeze really well.

Gluten Free Bread Making Tips

A while back I posted that I had finally come up with a gluten free (and dairy and nut free) bread that I was happy with. I was going to share the recipe, but well… I’m still playing around with it trying to make it better. So, since I have no idea how long it’ll take me to get to the perfect recipe, I’ll just share with you guys some tips that I’ve learned along the way when it comes to baking bread… minus the gluten. Some of these tips I’ve heard from other bloggers, but the only page I can think of that I remember I learned tips from would be from Cook It Allergy Free. I know there’s one other blogger who I really benefited from their advice, but I really have no idea who it was. Sorry! I try to link to people when I’m citing something they said or did (like any good student), but I really have no idea who or where it was! I know other tips have come from some friends on twitter, including Gluten Free Gigi.

So, here are some of the things I’ve learned when baking gluten (and dairy) free bread:

1. The dough will never look the same as any glutenous dough you’ve ever baked. If it does, the result will be a hard-as-a-brick, dry, and really hard to bake through thing that you won’t want to call “a loaf of bread” and will try really hard to somehow eat just so you can finish it (or you might really want to throw it away).

2. Your dough needs to be moist and stir-able before you put it in the pan. You do not need to knead it. Kneading is done to develop the gluten, and when there’s no gluten to develop, it’s pointless to knead it.

3. You don’t need to make the dough rise, “punch down” then put it in the pan to rise yet again. As soon as I’ve mixed the dry and wet ingredients together thoroughly, I pour it straight into pans and let it rise in the pans(anywhere around 20-60 minutes of rising, however long it takes it to rise to the edge of the loaf-pan), then put it straight into the oven.

4. I’ve found that putting some sort of thicker moisture like applesauce or yogurt (soy yogurt works quite well) helps to keep the bread moist and have a good texture.

5. Raisins, sesame seeds, flax (ground), whatever you think of is really good. Raisins add moisture to the bread and taste too. :)

6. The flour combo: go with your gut. Use a base that you’re comfortable working with, and add some more whole-grains, but don’t add too much of them. I like teff (but in small quantities), and millet (in small quantities) and especially love sorghum (in larger quantities). Sorghum doesn’t make it taste really weird as it doesn’t have a really strong taste like teff and buckwheat do. But beware that each flour has a different level of how much liquid it absorbs. My favorite base flour is Grandma Whimsy’s Rice Flour Blend. This stuff is really seriously awesome and I can make most things without needing to add any gums. :D :D

7. Gums: believe it or not, gums are NOT always necessary for baking gluten free breads! If you do use them, do not use too much. A small amount goes a long way. But, if you do decide to try baking without, you’ll need to play around with the flour ratio more. Sweet white rice flour seems to do a good job at helping to keep my baked goods from crumbling, but I still need to play around with it more. Also know that if you use rice milk and apple sauce as the main liquid ingredients as opposed to soy milk and soy yogurt, the bread will be more brittle. So, have fun and play around with what you have and can eat… I’m still working on perfecting my bread soy-free at the moment.

8. The pan: I tried glass pans, and I kept on having problems. Somewhere I read that metal loaf pans work better and I have to agree. So, I stick with metal loaf pans. They just work better for some reason.

9. The oven: make sure your oven is calibrated correctly. We used to have an oven that was off by like 25 degrees F at some points on the dial and more or less at other points. Know your oven and check it.

10. Baking: Baking your bread at a lower temp for longer helps to bake all the way through. I used to try baking my bread at 400 F, but that resulted in the outside getting burnt while leaving the inside uncooked. I’ve found baking it at 350 for longer does the trick.

11. Do not cut the bread while it’s warm. I know it tastes great, but don’t slice up the whole loaf while it’s warm. It’ll be a lot harder to slice nice slices. Wait till it’s cooled off, and then slice.

12. The freezer: I like to slice the bread and freeze most of it this way. Then I just have to pull out as many slices as I need when I need them, and either nuke them or microwave them and they taste great and are nice and moist.

13. If your bread has a base of rice flour in it, and it’s kinda dry and not so fresh tasting after several days, pop a slice of it in the microwave for 10 seconds.

14. Never give up. Try someone’s recipe and then if it gives you ideas, get to experimenting. I started using Jules Gluten Free‘s bread recipe, and then made changes bit by bit to it and ended up with my own recipe. But only through trial and error and never giving up.

15. I turn the oven on for a minute, then turn it off before it really gets hot and put the loaves in the warm oven to rise. Having a warm environment helps the bread rise better.

16. I heat all the liquid ingredients. Starting with the milk/water, and then in the warm liquid I put the yeast in it to proof it. HOWEVER, I only put the yeast in about 5 minutes before my dry ingredients are entirely ready and all together. Otherwise the yeast um, well… gets a little out of hand. (no, I’m not using too much yeast) Oh, and that brings me to…

17. Don’t use too much yeast. Using more yeast just because the last time you made bread that much yeast didn’t make it rise enough, does NOT mean that you need more yeast. If you have too much yeast, your bread will taste distinctly too yeasty and you won’t want to eat it.

18. Yes, I actually use baking soda and baking powder (or as my family sometimes calls it “baking power”) in my bread in addition to yeast. It just seems to work. But I’m not sure I’d use them in every single kind of bread I ever bake.

19. If you mix the yeast in warm liquid before mixing it into your dough/batter make sure the liquid isn’t too warm or it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise at all.

So those are my main tips for gluten free bread baking I’ve learned over the last 1 1/2 years. As I think of others, I’ll add to the list. Now go have some fun in the kitchen. :D I think I’m going to need to bake some more bread soon…

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Before I went gluten-free, I never had trouble making cookies that turned out. They were quite simple. But once you take gluten out… making cookies is far from easy! I’ve tried time and time again to make them, thinking this might work, or maybe that might work, but I still couldn’t get cookies to turn out… especially chocolate chip cookies. I asked around for help, and several people gave me a few pointers on what might be wrong with my cookies. I tried again, and things were better, but still not quite right.

But my other problem, is that, well, I’m a university student, so I don’t exactly have time to bake cookies all the time. Then a few weeks ago a friend happened to ask me if I had a recipe I could give her that was gluten free for the cook book she was working on for a school project. I figured that it would be great motivation for me to keep working on cookies and said “sure!”

Then, I forgot about it.

That is till this week and found out she needed it the next day! Whoops! So, I pondered all sorts of different ideas in my head and tried to come up with a way I could make some kind of gluten and dairy free cookie that was easy to make, didn’t have a ton of crazy sounding ingredient, worked and tasted good. The following morning I set to work right after breakfast. I had no idea how the cookies would turn out, but I sure hoped they did.

And, they did. :)

So, if you want to make them too, here’s the recipe:

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
4 TBS Dairy-Free margarine/”butter” alternative
4 TBS Dairy-Free shortening (this MUST be shortening, not margarine. It’s what helps the cookies to hold together and not melt all over the place when baking)
3/4 C sugar
1 TSP vanilla
1 Large egg (make sure it’s a large egg)

1/2 C coconut flour
1/2 C sweet white rice flour
1/8 C garbanzo (chickpea) and fava bean flour
1/2 C sorghum flour
1/2 TSP baking soda
1/4 C Dairy-Free mini chocolate chips

1. Pre-heat oven to 350* F.

2. With electric mixer, cream “butter” and shortening. Beat in sugar, vanilla and egg beating throughly with electric mixer.

3. In separate bowl: mix all dry ingredients (coconut flour, sweet white rice flour, garbanzo and fava bean flour, sorghum flour and baking soda).

4. Using a spatula, slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients, stirring well to incorporate everything. Stir in chocolate chips. The batter will be stiff.

5. On cookie sheets lined with aluminum foil, either
a) drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto cookie sheet, 1 inch apart; or
b) roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes, placing 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake 12-13 minutes, or until cookies are just turning golden.

6. Let cool for several minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy.

Learning to bake gluten free bread… with SUCCESS!


It’s taken me 15 months. Yes. A long long time. I can’t even remember the last time I had my dad’s bread. His bread is just amazing. It’s got flax, sesame, raisins, whole grains and more. It’s not like store bought bread that you can squish into a little ball, yet it’s not hard as a brick, nor does it tear when you try to spread stuff on it. We have friends who ask for his bread for desert instead of ice cream…. yeah…. I’ve missed that bread since I went gluten free.

But I’ve been determined to recreate my dad’s bread, but gluten free (it’s already dairy free). I’ve tried. And tried. And tried. And tried. And tried……. sometimes getting something that tasted decent, other times I managed to eat it somehow so all the ingredients used wouldn’t go to waste.

I’ve had bread turn out hard as a brick. Super dense because it wouldn’t rise. Or it would rise but would fall and cave in and just not work. It would look nice on the outside, but was uncooked in the middle… or if it was cooked in the middle, it was super dry and hard on the outside. Or if it looked right, it tasted weird, or sometimes just plain nasty. I tried extra yeast (yuck!) more rising time (forever??), and one thing after another. Different oven temperature, different baking time, and pans, and I just couldn’t get it to turn out like I wanted it to.

As time went on though, I started to get closer. I learned about baking using ratios between starch and whole grains, I learned about different flours, learned which ones I like the taste of and which ones I just don’t. Which work well, and which I’m perfectly happy with never ever buying again. I’ve researched and spent hours staring at recipes, and thinking about it at random moments during the day how I can make it work.

Then I went to North Dakota. I brought flour and stuff with me to bake random things to relax when I needed a break from studying linguistics. But I only ended up making a bunch of muffins and some grape pie.

Now I’ve been home for 3 weeks. 2 weeks ago Jules talked on twitter about baking gluten free bread. But I had just burned my hand, and was working on regaining strength and getting my hand used to doing things and not hurting every time I washed my hands in lukewarm water. Thankfully, a week after that, my hand was back to normal!

Then, came hurricane Irene. And the uncertainty of whether we’d lose power. I sewed a new pouch for my EpiPens in the morning (still not finished with it though) then got around to baking in the afternoon. Once I started, I didn’t stop till it was after 9pm and I needed to get to bed. I started off with baking bread, merging a recipe I had from Jules and my dad’s recipe. Changing the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients as I felt like it should be…. believe it or not, BEFORE I ever mixed the ingredients together. I think I’m starting to get better at this gluten free baking thing, one day at a time! I baked and baked and baked that afternoon, making the bread, muffins (which actually turned more into an apple muffin pie instead of Jules’ blueberry muffins… I had no blueberries on hand, and I’m allergic to bananas, so I totally tweaked the recipe and ended up with something quite different!), graham crackers (Chef Flower and I made 2 GIANT graham crackers to make a huge s’more in the next days!), tapiocia pudding, and pie dough (to be baked the next day, provided we had power).

As I pulled the bread out of the pan, I sliced it open to check to make sure it was totally baked and it was. At dinner I tried it, and my first reaction was, “hey, this is really good! Not quite like Papa’s bread, but it tastes really good!” Chef Flower agreed with me and so did my mom. My dad tried it and his first reaction was, “wow, this actually tastes…. like bread!”

I spread some earth balance on it and sunbutter, and as I bit into that “sammich” I was blown away by how great it tasted, the texture and how it tasted just like a real peanut butter and butter sandwich I used to eat as a kid! Wowie!!!! The next day at lunch, it was still as good, and did I say it slices well too! No crumbling, and you can even slice it thinly and balance it on a knife without the bread breaking in 2 or crumbling to pieces! And it still tasted as good!

So, while I have 1 little thing I need to tweak (not quite liking the after taste of the rice bran in there), I wanted to share with you guys that I have successfully made gluten and dairy free bread that tastes great, is moist, has that marvelous homemade taste, isn’t hard as a brick, yet isn’t like store bought bread, and is healthy for you too! I’ll post the recipe hopefully sometime soon, but being a college student, it may be a week or two, maybe 3 or 4 before I have the official recipe to post. In the mean time, I’ll leave you with a picture of it. :)

Now I actually look forward to sammiches because I at last have gluten and dairy free bread that I can eat that tastes good and has the texture similar to my dad’s bread! Yayayay!!!!!

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