Bloggers + Greek festival

For as lame as Friday night was, Saturday more than made up for it.

We had a little blogger meet-up at Gouveia Vineyards in Connecticut. A bit of a hike for me but very much worth it for the friends, conversation and scenery. The wine was just ok. Winking smile

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Picture stolen from Kat because apparently I have no good group shots on my camera!

Left to right we have Loucindy, Kim, Kari, me, Molly and Emily. Kat of course was taking it since it’s hers. Smile

We started with a little tasting.

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And then decided on a bottle to split.

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We spent the next hour or so listening to Kat explain the difference between Russian and American animal sounds. Bet you didn’t know pigs don’t “oink” in Russian. I don’t even know how to spell out the sound they do apparently make according to the Russians, but let’s just say it’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard and it had us all in tears we were laughing so hard. Thank you, Kat Smile

We kind of forgot to bring any food and by about 4:30pm we were all ravenous and contemplating crashing birthday and bachelorette parties at the vineyard for food so we said goodbye until next time. Thank you ladies, it was a fun day!

{Enter 1.5 hour drive home + Large DD iced coffee + wheat bagel w/ cream cheese to keep me from eating my arm here}

As soon as I got home we pretty much headed back out the door for a local Greek festival nearby with some friends.

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Nothing better than some Greek food,

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with my Greek man,

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his Greek friends,

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and their Greek kids.

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How adorable is she? I also love that she’s eating the one thing that was not Greek at the festival, a hot dog.

No Greek festival is complete without some dancing right?

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And definitely not without some Loukoumades.

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These are the sole reason I go to Greek festivals. Fried dough, rolled in powdered sugar, cinnamon, honey and walnuts. It’s like the Greek version of Zeppole for you Italians out there. I could’ve eaten all 12, but I made myself stop at 3. Baklava can’t even compete.

Hoping these don’t sit too heavy for my run this morning.

Happy Father’s Day!!

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16 Comments

Filed under Around town, Dinner

Whole wheat sunflower bread

I’m 29. We have no kids. And yet my Friday night was spent roasting sunflower seeds and baking.

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You see, I’ve had a container of sunflower seeds for about 6 months now. Raw, unsalted sunflower seeds. And, they were just not doing it for me. At 5:15pm on a Friday night I found myself face to face with said seeds in the pantry and had an epiphany. Roast them! Salt them, cover them in olive oil and roast them! And, that’s exactly what I did.

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They tasted amazing as I ate them one by one off the sheet pan and I probably should’ve stopped there, got showered and convinced Ulysses we should go out like oh, you know, the rest of the young, childless population on a Friday night but, no. Somehow I found myself searching for something to do with my now roasted, salted sunflower seeds.

And that something turned out to be this.

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Whole wheat sunflower seed bread.

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I don’t think I can adequately put words to how amazing this is straight out of the oven with some butter and agave on top. Pure bliss.

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If staying in on a Friday night to bake this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

We may be lame, but at least we eat well.

 

What did you do on your Friday night?

16 Comments

Filed under Around the house, Baking

Spinach & cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms

Alternately titled, “creamy delicious bites of heaven”. Seriously, this dish came out way better than anticipated. Make it.

In Florida we had this horribly phallic mushroom, apparently called a “stinkhorn” according to Wikipedia, that would occasionally grow in our front yard. As if it’s shape wasn’t bad enough, the smell it would give off was, let’s just say “appropriate” for it’s appearance. If that doesn’t make sense, google it. mushroom

source

How something like this can be related to the amazingness of an edible mushroom like a portobello baffles me. Fungus is a weird one.

I love mushrooms, at least edible ones. When I see grocery stores with a section for all types of wild mushrooms I can’t help myself. This is why it’s probably a good thing that there is no whole foods even remotely close to my house. Mushrooms aren’t cheap and I have no self control.

I’ve been craving a calzone lately and that gave me the idea to basically use the stuffing of a calzone but in a mushroom cap instead when I saw these at the store.

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The thing is, I’ve made plenty of calzones at home before and they usually come out disappointingly bland, so I didn’t have incredibly high hopes for this. I shouldn’t doubt myself so much, these were amazing.

First, I just cleaned off the mushrooms and removed the stems. Drizzled them with some extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt & pepper.

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Portobellos remind me of eggplant. They soak up a ton of olive oil. I was pretty generous with it because of this and I think all that olive oil gave it great flavor when roasting. I roasted them for about 20 minutes at 450.

In the meantime I got the filling together.

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Added all these goodies plus some sautéed onion & garlic to about 1.5 cups of ricotta.

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I used whole milk ricotta. Could you use part-skim? Yes. Do I recommend it? No. Ricotta is one of those things that I don’t think the “low fat” version tastes nearly as good. Mayo is another. There’s only 1.5 cups of it, split among 6 mushroom caps it’s 1/4 cup a serving. That’s not enough to worry about in my opinion. Winking smile Whole milk ricotta is so incredibly creamy and almost “sweet”. Part skim just doesn’t live up.

By this time the mushrooms should be all roasted and shriveled up.

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They lose a lot of water while roasting. If there is any excess water in the pan, drain it out before stuffing them.

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Want to know about the perils of food blogging? An ant climbed into the tray while I was taking these pictures outside! I’m a firm believer in the 5 second rule. I figured it was about to get roasted at 450 for another 10 minutes anyway.

During the last minute or so, I sprinkled some bread crumbs on top to give it a little crunch. And voila!

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I think the sautéed onion & garlic really helped bring out the flavors in the filling. And let’s be honest, when there are 3 cheeses involved it’s hard to taste bad. This could be a great side to some grilled chicken or eat 2 and call it a day like we did!

 

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Makes 6 stuffed mushroom caps

  • 6 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and stems removed
  • 1.5 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 1.5 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes in water, drained & coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 a medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • breadcrumbs (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450. Arrange mushroom caps on greased baking sheet and drizzle with evoo, season with salt & pepper. Roast mushrooms at 450 for about 20 minutes. While mushrooms are roasting, combine spinach, 3 cheeses, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes in large bowl. Sauté onion & garlic until soft and then add to bowl. Mix to combine all ingredients and season with salt & pepper. Once mushrooms are done roasting, drain any excess water and then fill caps with stuffing generously. Put back in oven for another 10 minutes. If topping with breadcrumbs, do so in the last 1-2 minutes.

 

Fungi lover? Yes or no? 

21 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Meals, Recipes

Tao NYC

Oh, New York City.

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You will forever be a place I regret not living for at least a year.

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When I was 22 and graduating college, more than anything, I wanted a job in a city, where I could work in a glamorous high rise building, pay exorbitant rent, take a subway to work, have drinks outside in the summer with friends & coworkers and eat at every amazing restaurant around. I got 3 job offers my senior year, 2 in cities and 1 in Madison, CT. Guess which one I picked? In retrospect, I probably picked the best “job”, but I will always regret not living in a city at some point in my life. Ulysses absolutely despises cities. Part claustrophobia, part obsession with land, garages, and cars. So we will never live in a one, and to be honest, at this point in my life it wouldn’t make sense but, at 22 and single it would’ve been cool for a little bit.

Living only a little over an hour away by train, I try and find any excuse to get into the city and yesterday I had a good one! I met my friend Corinne, who I hadn’t seen since her wedding in November, for dinner at Tao. Corinne actually lived in Florida the same time we did. She was my only friend down there and we bonded together over our hatred for FL and desire to move back north (my, how things have changed since then, for me at least Winking smile). We both enjoy food as much as the other so our get togethers are usually centered around a good meal.

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The atmosphere at Tao is pretty cool. It’s almost pitch black inside (hence the dark pics) but then there is this giant buddha statue that is literally 2 stories high with those colored lights around it. We ate upstairs and with a 6pm reservation were one of the first people in there but it was packed by the time we left.

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I started with a Bamboo Gingerita.

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Delicious. Kinda strong, but that just means I only need one then. Smile 

I try to take advantage of any chance to have tempura. It’s one of the few fried things I actually really like, mainly because it’s usually so light. So we decided to split a sweet potato tempura as an appetizer.

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Unfortunately, it was super greasy. Still tasty, but I’m pretty sure tempura is supposed to be a bit lighter than what we got.

We also split a spicy tuna roll that was really good.

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Shoestring onions on top? Yes, please.

Ok, I have a pad thai weakness. Anytime I see it on a menu I feel like I have to get it. It’s something I would never make at home and I just absolutely love it. Funny side note though, although I’ve never had any allergic reactions to food, I’ve been tested for allergies multiple times for my shots and each time it comes back saying I’m allergic to soy and peanuts. The doctor doesn’t get it and I continue to eat both without any reactions. Every time I order pad thai though I think to myself, “what if this is the time I react?” and then check to make sure I have my inhaler with me before I stuff my face. Well, I saw pad thai tonight and came sooo close to getting it but ended up with the wasabi filet with tempura onion rings instead. Corinne actually got the pad thai though so I got to taste it. Both meals were great. My beef was cooked perfectly and the wasabi crust was just enough to taste, not incredibly overpowering as wasabi can sometimes be.

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Neither of us was really feeling dessert, although the people next to us had this giant fortune cookie filled with chocolate mousse that looked pretty cool.

Corinne caught a cab to the bus station and I had enough time to walk the 16 blocks back to Grand Central day dreaming about the city and pretending I lived there.

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Maybe in another life?

 

Do you live in a city? Love it? Hate it? Where was your first job?

22 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Meals, Restaurants

A run for sanity

Summer wrote back:

“Step off woman. I have 6 days before I need to get my act together. Between now and then I can mess with you as much as I like. Hope you enjoyed yesterday.”

I was like, “You’re a sarcastic one huh? Fair enough. I’m eventually moving back to Florida anyway, where your customer service is much better.”

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Ever have those days where it’s just one thing after another at work? You get something done only to have 3 more things get added to the list and they get increasingly harder? Yeah, that was yesterday for me. And if you’re sitting there thinking “I have no idea what she’s talking about” please leave a comment letting me know who to send my resume to. Ok? Thanks.

I used to just get wrapped up in it all and sit at my desk plowing through the work until it was all done. No breaks for lunch, bathrooms only if absolutely necessary. And then I realized that’s probably not the healthiest/sanest way of dealing with the stress. So, yesterday I pulled myself from the desk at noon and decided to go for a lunch time run. Since summer was all MIA again yesterday it was actually perfect running weather, low 60’s and cloudy.

Quick fuel:

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I honestly never thought we’d finish this ridiculously huge bag of dates from Sam’s Club but somehow we’re down to the last few. It only took 5 months. I can’t wait for that bag to be out of my fridge!

Signs you’re on a “frustration run”:

1. Your playlist consists of Linkin Park and Florence and the Machine on repeat. Bieber just isn’t cutting it this time.

2. You look down at your pace about 3/4 of a mile in and realize you’re running a 7:54. Effortlessly.

3. Simultaneously, the skies open up with a downpour & a gust of wind so strong it could keep you running in place kicks up and your reaction is to look up at the sky and say “Bring it bitches!” –> Seriously, I did this. After I looked around to see if anyone was nearby.

4 miles and 34 minutes on the dot later I was a soaked, sweaty mess. And it felt oh so good.

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Hi, awkward self portrait!

Quick shower and back to work. Smile

It doesn’t make the to-do list any shorter but it sure helps my mental state for the rest of the afternoon.

Jillian and I had a date after work to just chill out some.

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I probably should’ve done a yoga download instead because that lady’s voice is much more soothing than Jillian’s annoying voice screaming “I want heart rate up people! And, that’s why we rep it out!”

And then, I did what every person with a bad day should do.

Baked cookies.

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Emily’s recipe for coconut oil almond butter chocolate chip cookies immediately caught my eye when she posted it yesterday. Coconut and almond butter in chocolate chip cookies? What’s not to love about that? I followed the recipe exactly except I used a real egg instead of a flax egg. I still licked the batter, oops!

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I think most people have a go-to chocolate chip recipe. I, however, like to try a new one each time. There are thousands of variations out there, why not try a few new ones? I don’t mind healthy substitutions for most things, but when it comes to chocolate chip cookies I want it to still taste like a chocolate chip cookie. No oats, no applesauce. Butter, sugar and chocolate chips please. Subbing the butter for almond butter and coconut oil worked though in this case.

3 of these with some vanilla ice cream. Now that’s how you end a bad day. Smile

Today should be better though because even if work still bites, I’m meeting a friend in NYC for dinner at Tao!

How do you relieve work stress? Do you have a go-to chocolate chip recipe? Link up if you want to share it!

17 Comments

Filed under Baking, Running, Work

Dear Summer,

Yesterday, June 13,  I used the heated seats in my car. Please understand we have 6 winter months in which that is acceptable, June is not one of them. Summer is for A/C and barbeques. Swimming pools and beaches. Beer and mango, black bean salads. Not heated seats. I’d appreciate it if you could get your act back together.

*Warmest* regards,

Gina

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Mangoes bring me back to my childhood and memories of my dad. I can clearly remember the first time I had one.  We waited patiently for it to ripen on the countertop. Once ripe, it went into the fridge to chill. Then, we all waited for dad to cut it “correctly”. Did you know mangoes are the national fruit of India? My dad grew up in Calcutta, India. He knows mangoes.

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From that day on mangoes have been one of my all time favorite fruits. I don’t know why I then tend to forget about them for extended periods of time. It’s almost as if they are too much of a “treat” to just be considered fruit. I equate them more with the likes of chocolate cake. Enjoyed occasionally, not an everyday indulgence. When they caught my eye in the grocery store yesterday, I knew it was time for us to get reacquainted.

Since the weather hasn’t been cooperating, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a salad that at least tastes like summer. Mangoes + black beans + cilantro = summer. Anyone who disagrees with that equation obviously didn’t excel in math class.

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6 ingredients + chopping/dicing + a simple vinaigrette = 1 delicious summer salad

That’s some AP stuff right there. Or not. I got a 2 in AP calc, what do I know?IMG_0322IMG_0332IMG_0340

 

Mango, Black Bean Salad

Makes 6-8 side dish portions

  • 1 large ripe mango, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 fresh ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 very small red onion or 1/4  of a medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro, diced
  • 1 medium jicama, coarsely chopped

Simple vinaigrette:

  • 3 tbsp evoo
  • juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 lemon + 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

After chopping and dicing, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and pour over salad. Toss to combine. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and chill before serving.

 

How do you cut/eat a mango? I have a coworker who pokes a hole in it and then sucks the fruit out.

31 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Side Dishes

Pea & radish risotto

More continued fun with the camera at breakfast time. Smile

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That would be a variation of Ashley’s amazing buckwheat bakes. If you haven’t made one yet, check out her recipe page for a whole section dedicated to them. I made a bunch of modifications to this morning’s bake but it included banana & blueberries on the inside with an almond butter, coconut butter and almond milk frosting on top. Worth every one of the 30 minutes it takes to bake!

This weekend was kind of a wash weather wise. Yesterday, it was cold and rainy and today, while a little warmer, was still gloomy. Instead of normal summer foods I was craving something more comforting. Risotto is one of those dishes that defines “comfort food” to me. My mom makes a wonderful dried porcini mushroom and sausage risotto in the winter that is creamy, cheesy and everything risotto should be. So many times I’ve ordered a risotto dish at a restaurant only to be served something that is masquerading as a rice pilaf. The difference is in the method. People say risotto is time consuming but it’s really not. Rice takes the same amount of time to absorb the necessary liquid whether you set it all in the beginning and walk away like a typical rice dish or, you slowly add the liquid in stages like a risotto. Risotto is not any more time consuming, it just needs a little more tlc. And I can assure you that added tlc is more than worth it when it results in this.IMG_0291

Since it’s at least supposed to be warm weather season, I decided to keep this risotto on the lighter side with peas and radishes. This was served as a side dish to some grilled steaks but could definitely steal the show as main course if you wanted it to. In fact, it would be excellent with some grilled shrimp as a stand alone dish.IMG_0204

I actually found some brown Arborio rice at the bulk bins last time. This was the bottom of the container though so it was mixed with a little bit of regular, longer grain rice that was left when I poured it in. They technically have different cooking times, like different shaped pastas would, but I just rolled with it. I wasn’t about to pick apart the different shaped rice.

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Aren’t those radishes cute with their little tails? They kind of remind me of tadpoles.

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Anything that starts with butter has gotta be good, right?

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Some diced onion, garlic and shallot.

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You know where this is going…sauté.

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Once the mixture has softened, add the rice to toast and absorb all the oil & butter.

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And if you haven’t yet been convinced to make this. Maybe this will help.

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Some for the risotto, some for you. It’s only fair.

After the risotto absorbs the wine (anywhere from about 1/4-1/2 cup will do)  slowly ladle some heated chicken broth (or veggie) into the pan with the rice until it just covers it. Once it’s almost completely absorbed, add more until all the broth is gone and the rice is fully cooked. Here’s where I’ve heard many an Italian swear by different methods. Some say do not touch or stir the rice at all while it’s going through this process. My mom and family fall into this group. Others say to stir every now and then during the cooking process to release the starches in the rice which makes for a creamery risotto. I’ve tried both and actually prefer the latter. Sorry mom. This works especially well with white rice as it breaks down easier than brown.

While the rice is cooking, prep the veggies.

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And grate the cheese.

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When the rice has absorbed all the liquid and it’s fully cooked (taste test here, ours was a little al dente last night) add the frozen peas, radishes, some fresh chopped herbs and grated cheese.

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Season to taste and top with some crumbled bacon.

Why?

Does bacon even need an explanation? I didn’t think so.IMG_0287

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Pea & Radish Risotto

Makes 6 side dishes

  • 1 1/4 cup brown Arborio rice
  • 40 ounces chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced radishes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley & mint)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked well until crispy (optional)
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Heat chicken broth in small sauce pan over low heat. In large skillet, heat evoo & butter on med heat. Add shallots, garlic and onion and sauté until softened. Add rice and toss to coat. Let rice toast for 1-2 minutes. Add wine and stir rice until wine is completely absorbed. Slowly ladle chicken broth into rice until just covering the top of the rice. Let the rice absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally. Once liquid is mostly absorbed, add more broth again covering only to top of rice. Continue until broth is used up and rice is fully cooked. Add radishes, peas, herbs and cheese to cooked rice and mix. Season with salt & pepper and top with crumbled bacon.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipes, Side Dishes