Instant Pot Refried Beans

June 28, 2018 at 10:32 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Mexican & S. American, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog) ()

I used to make refried beans on the stovetop, but now that I’ve gotten an Instant Pot I wanted to figure out how to make them in the electric pressure cooker instead. I started with this recipe for creamy-dreamy pinto beans from Julie and Kittee, but I changed a few things.

First of all, if I’m going to the trouble of making refries I’m going to want to use more than 2 cups of dry pintos! I figured the maximum that would fit in my 6-quart Instant Pot would be 4 cups, so I doubled the recipe. Also, I wanted to take out some of the beans as whole beans before making refries, so I soaked my beans overnight and reduced the cooking time, so that the beans would come out soft but not falling apart. Then I tweaked the seasoning a bit. Below is my modified recipe.

These days I usually serve my refries with salsa and homemade plantain chips. Alma, at 3.5 years, is a big fan. I’ll try to add a post about how I make the plantain chips next. Read the rest of this entry »

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Healthy vegetarian breakfast ideas

June 18, 2018 at 10:10 pm (breakfast, Monthly menu plan, Uncategorized)

I know a lot of people eat the same breakfast every day. Here in Germany it’s often muesli or bread with jam or fresh spreadable cheese. But we get bored of the same thing. I like to mix it up. Here are some of our regular breakfast ideas. Some are quite fast, some are moderately time consuming,  and others are either ones we make ahead of time or we reserve for the weekend.

Porridge or cereal. I usually serve these with fruit (fresh or from the freezer) and flax seeds or sometimes nuts. If they’re too hot for Alma I’ll cool them off with a splash of soymilk or almond milk.

  1. Oatmeal. I often make steel cut oats, either using the overnight method or in my instant pot. Derek prefers oatmeal from rolled oats though, so sometimes we use them instead. We have tried the uncooked overnight oats recipes, but no one likes them.
  2. Amaranth porridge. Derek isn’t a big fan but Alma and I like it.
  3. Creamy millet porridge. I usually make this on the weekend and freeze the leftovers, but next time I want to try to make it in my instant pot.
  4. Muesli. I buy it, rather than mixing my own. I try to buy ones with grains and nuts and dried fruit, but not wheat. German meusli often has wheat in it, not sure why. We eat enough wheat. So I prefer the ones made from oats, rye, barley, puffed amaranth or quinoa, etc. I try to serve it with yogurt but Alma vastly prefers it with soymilk. So I do a mix, or serve the yogurt plain on the side. Often we add some granola for a little crunch. Derek isn’t a big meusli fan, so often he turns his into “oatmeal” by cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes.
  5. Granola. I make it myself, so I can use good-quality oils and keep the sugar content lower. I’m still working on the recipe. Stay tuned for an update.
  6. I’d like to try other porridges. When I visited China I really enjoyed having congee for breakfast. Maybe I should try congee with bok choy and scallion oil again? Or instant pot green congee? I used to make a barley quinoa porridge that I liked, but I haven’t made it since Alma showed up. Other ideas? Maybe broccoli polenta for breakfast? Or maybe some kind of a dal would be a nice change? Not sure if Alma would go for it though. Maybe kichadi?

Bread-based breakfasts. I try to buy good-quality hearty whole-wheat or rye bread for breakfasts. Toppings vary. Whatever I serve, we usually have fresh or frozen fruit on the side.

  1. Bread with nut butter, and sometimes jam or honey or date syrup, or just mashed berries. If we’re in a big hurry I’ll make sandwiches that we can eat on the run. But normally we have them open-faced at home. We prefer these with whole-wheat bread, but we’ll use rye if that’s all we have.
  2. Avocado toast. Usually on 100% rye bread. Sometimes we just eat just avocado toast with fruit or a smoothie, but if we have more time I will serve the toast with pan-fried tofu slices or what Alma calls “yolky eggs.” I usually top mine with sauerkraut as well. Alma eats her sauerkraut plain and Derek usually skips it entirely. In the summer, if we have good tomatoes I will use those instead of sauerkraut. If we have sprouts on hand, I might add those as well. Sometimes we don’t have avocado and then we have our toast with tofu or eggs and sauerkraut.

Time-intensive breakfasts. We either have these on the weekend or make them on the weekend and store the leftovers in the fridge or freezer for a midweek breakfast.

  1. Pancakes. I try to make healthier pancakes, but I still consider them more cake than truly healthy breakfast. But Derek and Alma love them, so we have a Sunday pancake breakfast about once a month. I make a double or triple batch and freeze extras for a midweek breakfast. We usually make banana oat pancakes with eggs and ground oats rather than wheat flour, or some variant of the “two-ingredient” banana egg toddler pancakes. Sometimes Derek makes these vegan banana nut pancakes. My mother says she prefers waffles to pancakes, but I don’t have a waffle iron. And no, Mom, I DO NOT WANT ONE. Sorry for yelling, y’all.
  2. Broccoli feta lime frittata. This is another Sunday brunch item. We usually have enough leftovers for one more weekday breakfast. I’ve never tried freezing it. I wonder if I could freeze a whole frittata?
  3. Other vegetable-containing breakfasts we occasionally make are quinoa spinach croquettes and cauli-tots. Both freeze and reheat well in the oven. Both contain some veggies and a little egg but also lots of cheese. I’ve tried reducing the cheese content but then nobody is so excited about them. I’ve also tried some of those egg vegetable breakfast muffin recipes or tofu vegetable muffin recipes, but so far I haven’t found any we’ve liked.
  4. Stuffed hashbrowns with steamed veggies, avocado, and/or cheese. This was one of my favorite breakfasts when I was a kid. Everyone loves it, but it’s a lot of work and doesn’t scale well. We only make it about once every six weeks as a Sunday brunch.
  5. Sweet potatoes. Sometimes I have leftover roast sweet potatoes that I serve for breakfast. I also found an interesting recipe for sweet potato peanut butter toast, but our first try wasn’t a success. You’re just supposed to slice the sweet potato and put it in the toaster and spread it with peanut butter like you would regular toast. But the texture wasn’t right. Next time I’m going to try to cook the sweet potatoes about halfway before slicing and toasting them.
  6. I’d love more veggie-heavy, but still quick and easy breakfast ideas. For a weekend breakfast I really want to figure out some sort of egg in tomato sauce recipe. I’ve tried this shakshuka recipe a few times, but Alma mostly ends up eating white bread, and Derek is never excited. I’ve also tried Italian baked eggs in tomato sauce, but I have trouble cooking them to the right degree, and the ramekins are a pain to clean.
  7. Another idea I’d like to explore is veggie fried rice or cauliflower fried rice. Any other ideas? I know we can just eat standard lunch and dinner foods (or leftovers) for breakfast, but right now this is still a hard sell. Plus we usually barely have enough leftovers for lunch, never mind breakfast too. I use to do miso soup for breakfast, but I stopped, not sure why.

Other ideas, to mix and match, sometimes with some of the above items, sometimes with each other:

  • Chia pudding. I usually make my mom’s super easy recipe with just almond milk and a tad bit of date syrup, but sometimes I make my pumpkin chia pudding recipe instead. With fruit this makes a quite light breakfast. I usually serve it with something else as well. I always make the chia pudding the night before.
  • Roasted chestnuts. I buy bags of pre-roasted chestnuts for quick breakfasts. Alma loves them, and they’re a nice unprocessed starch source to fuel her for the day. This year I plan to learn to roast them myself, but I’m not sure how much work it will be to peel them.
  • Pan-fried tempeh strips. I get a nice gyro-flavored tempeh at my local organic store. Alma doesn’t love it, but she will eat a few of the crispier pieces. Goes well with sauerkraut.
  • Scrambled eggs. Derek loves scrambled eggs but Alma prefers “yolky” eggs. We mix it up.
  • Scrambled tofu. When I was growing up my Mom made sliced pan-fried tofu or scrambled tofu just about every morning. We don’t eat it that often for breakfast, but it is another idea to throw into the mix.
  • Smoothies. I don’t have any recipes that I use regularly. I just throw in whatever I have on hand. I generally prefer to chew my food, but smoothies do have some nice pluses. They’re a good way to use up fruit that otherwise wouldn’t get eaten (e.g., that peach that won’t quite ripen before going bad, the pear that somehow got a bit overripe, the banana that’s starting to turn brown…). I often throw this fruit in the freezer and save it for my next smoothie. Also, lately Alma hasn’t been very big on yogurt or flax seed, but she doesn’t mind them in a smoothie. I also make extra smoothies whenever I get the blender dirty and freeze them in regular drinking glasses or small glass juice bottles (with lids). When we’re really in a rush I put one glass in the fridge the night before and Alma drinks it in the car on the way to daycare. If the smoothie is all we’re having for breakfast, then I like to make it a bit more substantial by adding hemp seeds or hemp protein powder or flax seeds, as well as whatever nut/seed butter I have on hand. Or a bit of leftover porridge.
  • Dried fruit and nut bars. When we’re really in a rush I pull out the Lara bars. But they’re expensive. I want to try my hand at making them myself again. I’ve done it before (homemade Lara bars), but have gotten out of the habit. Clearly, real food is preferable, but if we’re really in a rush than a Lara bar is better than eating total junk.

 

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The best pesto, and sore arms

June 17, 2018 at 9:13 pm (Cooking tips, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, unrated, Website / blog)

I got a ton of fresh basil from my CSA this week, so I decided to make pesto. I followed this “best pesto” recipe from Serious Eats. Wow was it hard work! I like that it gives the amount of basil leaves by weight, but the recipe did not prepare me for how much work it would be. It took a huge amount of effort to grind all those basil leaves down by hand. Maybe it was because I was using a big thai mortar and pestle instead of the little white (marble?) one they show in the video? By the end I could barely grip the mortar any more. And I never did get my basil leaves as fine as they show in their photos. The pesto did taste really good though (even though I didn’t have any Fiore Sardo, and used all parmesan, and left out the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

Alma tasted the pesto but wouldn’t eat it. I froze the bulk of it in two small glass jars.

I have more basil. I might try making the same recipe in the food processor, and see how different it tastes to me. Maybe I’ll even freeze my basil overnight first.

I’m out of pine nuts though. Maybe I’ll try making the next batch of pesto with sunflower seeds instead? Or maybe I’ll just freeze my basil (in oil?) and save it in the freezer for some other recipe.

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Amaranth porridge with blueberry sauce

May 27, 2018 at 11:24 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

About once a month I make this recipe from Naturally Ella for Blueberries ‘n’ Cream Amaranth Porridge. Derek won’t eat it, but Alma and I like it a lot. Amaranth has a somewhat odd sticky, grainy texture, but the addition of the creamy blueberry sauce helps transform it into more of a traditional tasting breakfast porridge.

I usually make it on the weekend, since it takes about 30 minutes to make. I always make extra amaranth and freeze it for a quick mid-week breakfast. Here’s how I cook the amaranth.

In a 2-quart pot, soak 1.5 cups of amaranth overnight. In the morning, drain the amaranth, and return it to the pot with 3 cups of water and three pinches of salt. Bring the amaranth to a boil, turn the heat as low as it will go, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 more minutes. Stir to mix in the extra water on the top of the amaranth.

Alternately, I’ve had success making amaranth in my instant pot electric pressure cooker. Lasttime I tried 1 cup of amaranth with 2 cups of water on high pressure for 3 minutes + natural release. It came out well, although it was sitting on keep warm for about an hour. Alma and I ate more than 2/3 of it for breakfast, so next time I’d try 2 cups of amaranth with 3.75 cups of water for 3 minutes + NR. I’m also curious to try a pot-in-pot method, so I don’t have to clean the large insert, but I suspect the cooking time will go up.

To make the blueberry sauce I follow the original recipe but cut the maple syrup down a tad and use vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean:

  • 1 cup blueberries (I always use frozen, I wouldn’t waste fresh in this dish!)
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup (or 1 ripe pear, see note below)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I haven’t tried coconut milk yet)
  • pinch of salt

Note: I’ve also left the maple syrup out and added a ripe pear to the sauce. Once I just finely diced it (with skin on) and let it simmer with the blueberries. Another time I had a bunch of overripe pears and I cooked them into pear puree first (simmering them then pureeing them with my stick blender). I then used the puree in the blueberry sauce. Alma and I enjoyed both versions.

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Banana Oat Nut Pancakes

May 27, 2018 at 11:13 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog) ()

We have tried a lot of banana pancake recipes. This recipe from Cookie and Kate is currently one of our favorites. I usually add pecans as well.

The pancake batter has a lot of coconut oil in it, so I find you don’t need to use much oil in the pan. The oil could probably be cut down. The teaspoon of sweetener seems unnecessary if you eat them with maple syrup. I assume the lemon juice is there to activate the baking soda? I haven’t noticed any lemon flavor.

The recipe says it makes 8 pancakes, but they must be larger than ours, because for me it makes at least 9, usually more.

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Beluga lentil and beet salad with walnuts

May 27, 2018 at 11:03 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Salads, Spring recipes, unrated, Winter recipes) ()

This is not really a recipe so much as a dinner idea. I basically serve beluga lentils and sliced cooked beets on a bed of salad greens, and drizzle with Annie’s dressing. If I have extra time I will roast some walnuts or pepitas to sprinkle on top. Occasionally we will skip the Annie’s and use feta instead.

I make this at least once a month, and everyone is always happy. When I tell Alma (at 3 years old) what we’re having for dinner, she says “oh, yum, I like that.” Derek is less excited about the idea (it sounds too boring) but once he actually eats it he’s always happy. I like it too. Plus it’s relatively easy to make and can be (mostly) frozen for a quick weeknight meal. Both the lentils and beets freeze well, as does Annie’s dressing. So all I have to do is pull out all the frozen components the night before, and then wash some salad greens.

I usually cook up a big batch of beluga lentils in my instant pot (see below for details). If you don’t have one, you could use a stovetop pressure cooker or just make them in a pan. I always make extra and freeze the leftovers in a glass jar.

I also usually cook beets in the instant pot. Roasted may be tastier, but the instant pot is so much easier and more reliable. Sometimes I am in a rush and then I buy the pre-cooked beets that are in every German supermarket. But they don’t taste as good as the ones I cook myself.

How to make beluga lentils in the instant pot

I usually use a pot-in-pot method to cook lentils in the instant pot. I put 1.5 cups of water in the base of the instant pot, then put down the trivet and insert my small (3 quart) instant pot base. I fill it with 500g beluga lentils, 900g of water, and 1 tsp. of salt. I cook the lentils on manual (high pressure) for 12 minutes plus natural pressure release.

I have also tried setting the lentils up in the morning before work, and setting the timer so that the lentils would be done at dinnertime. Since the lentils would be soaking all day I lowered the cooking time, maybe to 5 minutes? I think it worked fine, but I’m not positive. I also don’t recall how long before dinner I set the start time. Maybe 10 minutes to come to pressure, 5 minutes to cook, and 15 minutes for pressure to come down, so 30 minutes before dinnertime?

If you don’t have the 3-quart insert, you can cook the lentils directly in the large 6-quart base. Jill Nussinow says to cook them with 1.5x water for 6 to 7 minutes plus natural release. But others say 2x water and still others say only 4 minutes natural pressure release. I tried a couple of different ways, but I was never happy with how they turned out. Unfortunately I didn’t keep notes. but I generally found that the lentils cooked unevenly. The ones on the bottom end up overcooked and the ones on the top end up underdone. If you have a a 7-cup pyrex bowl you could use that, but then 500g lentils will likely be too much, causing your bowl to overflow during cooking. Maybe 450g (1 pound) lentils and 800g water would fit? I’ve also heard that some people soak the lentils overnight and then cook them in the instant pot in a steamer basket. I haven’t tried it that way yet.

Also a note on cooking regular (greenish/brownish) lentils in the instant pot. Last time I did 2:1 water to lentils (by weight not volume, so a bit less than 2:1 by volume) in the main pot. I think I cooked them on high pressure for 5 minutes and released pressure after about 15 minutes, but the pressure was just about up. They came out not bad, but a tad unevenly cooked. I think next time I will try using the pot-in-pot method instead.

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My time-saving kitchen tips

March 15, 2018 at 10:20 pm (Cooking tips, How to cook, Monthly menu plan)

There is never enough time. I thought life was busy before, but now that I have a toddler I really need all the extra time I can get. I’ve been striving to optimize our cooking routines, so that we spend less time planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. I’m still struggling, but here are a few strategies we’ve started using to save time in the kitchen. The vast majority of them involve the freezer, which is why we recently upgraded to a massive five-drawer freezer! Read the rest of this entry »

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Toddler-approved hummus

January 27, 2018 at 10:07 pm (B plus, Beans, Derek's faves, Middle East / N. Africa, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog) ()

Alma likes storebought hummus, but never likes my regular homemade hummus. So I decided to try a new recipe. I did a google search and picked this random recipe for “Better than Storebought” hummus from www.inspiredtaste.net  I chose it because it had over 700 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Plus it’s a relatively simple recipe, with a slightly different technique than I usually use. It has you blend the tahini and lemon juice first, before adding the chickpeas.

I doubled the recipe:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or 3 cups (500 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons (60 to 90 ml) water
  • Dash of ground paprika, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more, until the tahini is whipped, smooth, and creamy.
  2. Add the garlic, cumin, and salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.
  3. Add half of the (drained) chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Keep adding bean cooking liquid 1 or 2 Tbsp. at a time, until the hummus is the desired consistency.

I think I followed the recipe pretty closely. I added a tad more than 3 cups of chickpeas (maybe 530g?) and a little more lemon, and used the bean cooking liquid to thin it out instead of water. I also put in only about half the cumin, just in case it would cause Alma to not like it.

The hummus came out well. Derek loved it. He said it was bright and creamy and perfect. Alma wouldn’t eat it on carrot sticks, but did deign to eat it on spelt crackers. And a few days later she ate it happily on cucumbers! I liked it. It doesn’t taste like storebought, but it was yummy. I’d make it again. I might use slightly more tahini and less olive oil.

Update as of Feb 25, 2018:

I cut out the olive oil and cumin, and added more tahini than last time. I made a double batch:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (122g)
  • 1 cup tahini (227g)
  • 4 garlic cloves (mine weighed around 7g, but I think 12g would be more average)
  • 1.25 tsp. salt
  • 4 cup salted chickpeas (should have been about 656g. but mine weighed 725g)
  • about 7 Tbs. bean juice (I used 111g)

I first added the lemon juice and tahini to the food processor until fluffy. Then added the garlic and salt, then the chickpeas, and finally the bean juice. I thought it wasn’t quite as tasty as my last batch, but I’m not sure what the difference is. Maybe a tad too thick? Needed a little bit more liquid maybe?

It made about 5.5 cups maybe? I left 2.5 cups in the fridge and froze 2 cups. It’s kind of a pain to clean the food processor, so if it freezes well I think next time I’ll make an even bigger batch. Maybe 6 cups of chickpeas.

How I cooked the chickpeas: I cooked 1 pound 12 ounces chickpeas in my instant pot. I hot-soaked them over the morning in about 70 C water, to fill to the 3 liter mark. I also added about 1 3/4 tsp. of salt. I left the instant pot on keep warm.  When they seemed fully hydrated I cooked them under pressure for 17 minutes. They ended up soft (maybe a tad too soft for chana masala) but not quite as soft as last time. Maybe next time do 16 minutes, take some out, then cook the rest for hummus another few minutes? I used the still very warm chickpeas in the hummus, because I heard that makes a creamier hummus.

To decide how much tahini to use, I compared a few recipes.  This nytimes Zahav-inspired recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and a full cup of tahini!, but no olive oil (except to garnish). That said, the nytimes version seems to be a bastardized version of the chef’s original recipe. The version of Zahav’s recipe on food52 calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and only 2/3 cup of tahini, and the technique is different. Odd. This Ottolenghi recipe calls for about 18 Tbs. of tahini for 4 cups of chickpeas!

For reference, the amount of tahini for 4 cups of chickpeas ranges from 10.67 (Better than storebought recipe), 14 Tbs. (Zahav), 18 tbs. (Ottolenghi), to 21.33 (NYT version of Zahav’s). Lemon juice ranges from 4 Tbs. (Ottolenghi), 7 Tbs. (Zahav), 10.67 Tbs. (Better than storebought). And salt ranges from 1.33 tsp. salt (Better than Storebought), to 1.5 tsp. salt (Ottolenghi).

Update as of April 14, 2018:

I cooked 1.5 pounds of dry (unsoaked) chickpeas with 1.5 tsp. of salt in my instant pot for 55 minutes, and then went out and they ended up sitting on keep warm for around 3 hours I think. They ended up quite soft. Next time maybe I should add a bit less salt, just 1.25 tsp for 1.5 pounds of chickpeas or 1.5 tsp. for 1.75 pounds of chickpeas.

I made an even larger batch of hummus than last time (4x the original recipe), but I think it was too much for my food processor motor to handle, and also probably a bit too much for the freezer. Next time I’ll probably go back to the 4-cup of chickpeas version. Or divide it and make it in two batches.

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (183g)
  • 1.5 cups tahini (341g)
  • 6 garlic cloves (around 16g)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin (I didn’t add this at first, but it was quite bland. Was better with the cumin.)
  • 1.5 tsp. (but see note below on the bean juice)
  • 6 cup salted chickpeas (984g)
  • about 10-11 Tbs. bean juice (about 173g) [I ended up needing to add way more liquid, maybe double? That’s probably why I needed less salt, since the bean juice was salted]

Here’s the original “Better than Storebought” recipe x4, for comparison:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) fresh lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 8 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or 6 cups (1kg) cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup to 1.5 cups of bean cooking liquid

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Cauliflower fried “rice” with carrots, peas, and corn

January 18, 2018 at 10:41 pm (breakfast, B_, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, One pot wonders, Quick weeknight recipe, Soy and seitan, Website / blog)

So I haven’t been blogging much lately. We have been cooking, but we haven’t been making so many new recipes. Blame my toddler. Alma (at almost 3) is not what I would call a super picky eater. She will eat most vegetables, and almost all types of beans, whole grains, fruits, and nuts. That said, in comparison to Derek and I, she is soooo picky. She doesn’t yet like most spices and herbs, she’s adverse to many “mixed” dishes, and she’s generally nervous about anything new. It’s hard to get up the energy to try a new recipe, when you know that with high likelihood it will be rejected, at least on the first attempt.

But I am still in need of quick, healthy weeknight recipes as well as healthy, vegetable-containing breakfasts. So I went on a search for “kid friendly” recipes. Most of what I found was either a dessert, non-vegetarian, or flour-, dairy-, or grain-based, with few to no vegetables. Not what I was looking for. Then I came across this recipe for a one-skillet cauliflower “fried rice” on the Super Healthy Kids blog, and it reminded me that I’d been meaning to try making fried rice out of cauliflower for a while. This particular version looks a little wan — there’s no scallions, no ginger, no chilies. But I figured it would be a good first version to test on Alma (who won’t touch scallions or chilies, and isn’t a huge fan of ginger). Read the rest of this entry »

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Why I’m ditching my stovetop pressure cooker

July 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm (Beans, Equipment reviews)

I have a nice Fissler pressure cooker that I use occasionally (mostly to cook beans). I like it, but I don’t love it. Recently I got an Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker. Even though I’ve only made four things in it so far (black beans, chana dal, sweet potatoes, and beets), I can already tell that I like it much better than my stovetop pressure cooker. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asparagus, pea, fava bean, and barley ragout

May 31, 2017 at 9:37 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, Beans, Grains, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Vegetable dishes) (, )

I am embarrassed to admit that I have never cooked with fava beans. All that boiling and husking and peeling of individual beans … Seems like a lot of work. So I thought I’d start easy with basically ready-to-eat frozen, pre-shelled fava beans. But what to do with them? I found this recipe for a spring ragout on the 101 cookbooks blog, and it looked good, and toddler friendly. Alma likes asparagus and peas and pasta, so hopefully she’d like the dish. And she did. I decided to make it a second time, but then Alma got pasta at lunch at daycare, and I didn’t want to serve pasta twice in one day, so I subbed in barley instead. She loved it!  Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy toasted overnight steel cut oatmeal

May 29, 2017 at 8:55 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Normally Derek doesn’t like oatmeal made from steel cut oats that much, but today he really liked it, and he asked me to write up what I did. I mostly followed this recipe from Marin Mama Cooks for toasted overnight steel cut oats, but I made a few changes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red lentil and spinach pancakes

May 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm (Beans, Dark leafy greens, Uncategorized, unrated, Website / blog) ()

Alma does not like red lentils. She will happily eat brown lentils, green lentils, and black lentils, but if I give her a bite of red lentils she invariably spits them out. I think it’s a texture thing, so I thought I’d try this recipe from the Healthy Little Foodies blog for red lentil and spinach pancakes. The recipe is really simple — just soaked (not cooked) red lentils, garlic and spices, and fresh spinach. Read the rest of this entry »

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Baked Cauli-tots

May 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog) ()

There are a million recipes online for cauliflower “tots”. They’re a fun change of pace from simple roasted cauliflower, and they’re easy to make in advance when you need a quick breakfast. Serve the cauli-tots with some already cooked beans and some fresh fruit and they’ll make a great breakfast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Restaurant-style sesame noodles

April 30, 2017 at 9:58 pm (Alma's faves, Chinese, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Sauce/dressing, Tofu, Uncategorized, Website / blog) ()

I already have two sesame noodle recipes on my blog. The first recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook, and uses tahini. The second recipe is from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese cookbook, and uses peanut butter. But lately we haven’t been making either of these recipes. Instead we’ve been making a version of the takeout-style sesame noodles recipe from Sam Sifton on the New York Times website. It uses both tahini and peanut butter. It’s clearly the winner. We make a whole meal out of it by adding pan-fried tofu, steamed broccoli, and various raw veggies. The last few times we’ve made this for dinner, Alma has scarfed it up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade Progresso-style Lentil Soup

April 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, My brain, soup, unrated, Winter recipes)

The first food that Derek ever cooked for me was a bowl of lentil soup. He very carefully opened up a can of Progresso lentil soup, and then worked long and hard to “cook” it. And cook it he did, not in the microwave but in a real pot on the stove! It was piping hot and delicious.

Both of us still love Progresso vegetable classics lentil soup, but we can’t get it here in Germany. It’s probably for the best though, as I try not to buy canned foods, plus the sodium levels are through the roof. Still, we miss it, and so I decided to try to make it myself. I looked online for a copycat recipe, but couldn’t find anything that seemed promising. So I just took a look at the ingredient list and nutritional label and gave it a crack. I haven’t had the real thing in years, so I could be off, but to both Derek and I my soup tasted just like the real thing.

The first time I made it Alma wouldn’t touch it (too brown and goopy I guess), but at some point she finally tried it and really liked it. Then the next time I served it she again rejected it. I reminded her that last time she had scarfed it up and that she had even chastised me for finishing all the leftovers. She tried it again and again happily polished off her bowl.
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Creamy millet porridge with baked, spiced pears

February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

Derek is not a millet fan. I remember him happily digging into a millet pilaf I made many years ago, and then almost doing a spit-take. “What did you do to the rice?” he asked with a look of intense disgust on his face. “This is the worst rice you’ve ever made!” So as you can imagine, I don’t cook a lot of millet. But Alma likes porridge, and I’m not the biggest oatmeal fan. I wanted to make some alternative-grain porridges, and I came across a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for creamy millet porridge. They say “slightly overcooking millet causes the seeds to burst and release starch, creating a creamy consistency that makes this grain ideal for breakfast porridge.” Sounds good! I think Derek’s main problem with millet is its somewhat dry, gritty texture, so I thought maybe he’d be willing to eat millet in a porridge. And he is! Alma likes it too, and for me it’s a nice change from oatmeal.

When I made this porridge for breakfast today, I served it with my Mom’s Ayurvedic baked, spiced pears. Alma isn’t normally a huge pear fan, but she likes these baked pears, which are seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. And unlike with baked apples, she doesn’t even complain about the skin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegetarian Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)

February 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, B plus, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Japanese, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I was looking for a green cabbage recipe that a toddler would like, and I came across this pretty simple (albeit quite Americanized) vegetarian Okonomiyaki recipe on the 101 cookbooks blog. Alma generally likes pancakes, so I decided to give it a try. Below is a doubled version of the original recipe, with a few modifications. Derek and I like them a lot, and it’s a relatively quick recipe, so suitable for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday lunch.

One thing I was concerned about in terms of making this recipe kid friendly is the name. Luckily Alma doesn’t know the word “yucky” yet (she’s only learned the German “bäh” at daycare so far). But if she did I’d be worried about her thinking the name was Okonomi-yukky. Maybe if you’re serving this to kids for the first time you should call it Okonomi-yummy instead.

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Broccoli, feta, lime frittata

December 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Monthly menu plan, Necessarily nonvegan, Uncategorized) ()

The frittata is called the lazy cook’s omelet. Sounds perfect, no? I like omelets but I’m definitely lazy. I’ve tried various frittata recipes before, but neither Derek nor I ever like them. They’re always a bit too dry and rubbery. Or over-browned. Or just meh. But I’ve always thought that maybe my technique was just wrong. So I decided to give it another go, when Cook’s Illustrated came out with a new frittata series this year. And I thought it came out pretty well! Definitely better than my previous attempts.

And Alma really likes it (at least as of September 2017). I’ve since made it several times and she always really enjoys it. The magic of feta cheese perhaps? Read the rest of this entry »

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Wintry root vegetable risotto with red beans

November 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm (B plus, Beans, Fall recipes, Grains, Peter Berley, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

A friend served us this recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, and both Derek and I really liked it. Shredded carrots and parsnips add a bit of sweetness, turnips add a slightly funky note, while the beans add an earthy, hearty feel. Ginger and tomato paste add even more flavor. The original recipe also calls for burdock, but we can’t get it here, so we left it out. I’m sure it would make the dish truly stellar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Modern Succotash with Fennel and Scallions

November 12, 2016 at 8:49 pm (Beans, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe)

So far Alma does not like fennel. I was looking for a recipe for fennel that she might possibly like, and I found this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for a modern succotash with corn, white beans, and (a little) fennel. She loves corn and generally likes white beans, so I figured it was worth a shot.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Kasha casserole with mushrooms, parsnips, carrots, and chickpeas

November 10, 2016 at 2:38 pm (B_, Fall recipes, Grains, Peter Berley, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

When my mom was visiting she made me kasha with mushrooms, and I quite enjoyed it. I have quite a bit of the toasted groats leftover, and so when I was looking for something to do with parsnips last night, I was excited to come across this recipe in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. It came out a bit soupy, but I really liked it! Read the rest of this entry »

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Eat the rainbow fridge chart

July 5, 2016 at 10:44 pm (Alma's faves, Uncategorized)

I am trying to make sure Alma’s diet includes a large variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as at least one serving of nuts/seeds, whole grains, and legumes per day. It’s surprisingly hard! I thought some kind of chart might help.

There are lots of charts on the internet, but they all seemed limited in some way. So I decided to make my own “Eat the Rainbow” chart. It includes a color-coded list of foods and a weekly checklist. I use the food lists to get ideas during our weekly meal-planning session, and I use the checklist to keep track of what we’re eating during the week.

rainbow_chart

I’ve seen a lot of sources online that suggest trying to get each color in every day. That seems impossible! Right now my goal is to offer each color at least a couple times a week, and offer at least a couple different colors each day.

My list has many more rows than most “Eat the Rainbow” charts that are available on the web. First of all, in my list each color is separated into two rows, one for fruit and one for vegetables. I separated them because getting Alma to eat a variety of vegetables is much more difficult than getting her to eat fruit, which she almost universally loves. Another oddity about my list is that there are several rows for green vegetables. In my original chart the green vegetable list was way too long, so I separated out leafy greens and brassicas. I figured those nutritional powerhouses deserved their own row, especially since they get their own category on my blog! I also separated out mushrooms, since technically they’re fungi not vegetables, and because they are tasty enough to get their own category.

I thought I’d post my chart here in case anyone else finds it helpful. Feedback and/or suggestions are welcome! I tried to make it pretty comprehensive but I’m sure there are things I left out. I considered having different versions of the list for each season, but deciding what went in which list was impossible, due to regional variability and the availability of frozen foods.

You can download a pdf file of my Weekly Eat the Rainbow Chart. If you prefer to plan menus on a monthly basis, then try my Monthly Eat the Rainbow Chart.

 

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Curried cabbage, potatoes, and peas

July 2, 2016 at 8:51 pm (B plus, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Indian, Monthly menu plan, Other, Starches)

This is a relatively straightforward recipe from the cookbook “660 Curries”. Both Derek and I really enjoyed it. It tasted authentically Indian, without being overwhelmingly rich.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Saffron cauliflower with raisins and olives

July 2, 2016 at 3:09 pm (B_, Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, Italian, Ottolenghi, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is a standard Sicilian combination that I’ve seen in many cookbooks. Sometimes the recipe also includes pine nuts, anchovies, garlic, basil, tomatoes, pasta, and/or parmesan. I’ve tried many different variants, but I’m never that excited by the dish. It’s flavorful, but somehow just not my preferred flavors. But a student of mine from Iran gave me a ton of saffron as a gift and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I came across this Ottolenghi recipe in Plenty, and was surprised to see that—unlike other recipes which usually call for only a pinch or 1/8 tsp. of saffron— his version calls for 1.5 teaspoons (!?!) of saffron. I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tassajara warm red cabbage salad with sunflower seeds and raisins

July 2, 2016 at 2:56 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, B plus, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I’m trying to get more “purple” in, and wanted to use red cabbage, but never know what to do with it. I tried this Tassajara warm red cabbage recipe by way of 101cookbooks. Heidi says her version is less cheesy, less fruity, and less rich, but it still tasted plenty cheesy, fruity, and rich to us. Both Derek and I enjoyed it. Now that Alma is two, she likes it too. It’s a pretty sweet -tasting (and hence toddler-friendly) dish, due to the use of the raisins and balsamic vinegar, plus all the natural sugars in the cabbage and onions.
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Banana egg blueberry pancakes

June 12, 2016 at 7:38 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Monthly menu plan, Necessarily nonvegan, Website / blog) ()

Apparently these two-ingredient pancakes have been floating around on the Internet for several years, but I first came across them on parenting blogs, where they are popular because they’re toddler friendly and not too unhealthy. Although they can be made with just two ingredients (banana and egg), I usually add a few other ingredients as well. Below is our most common version. For other variations, see this excellent writeup on thekitchen.com. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asian-style baked tofu, toddler approved

May 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm (Alma's faves, B plus, Baked tofu, Chinese, Derek's faves, Tofu) ()

I finally got a chance to try an easier version of the crisp marinated and baked tofu. I skipped the pressing and the cornstarch dredging steps and simply poured the marinade directly onto the tofu and baked it. It was a hit, both with Derek and with Alma. And I didn’t miss the cornstarch or pressing steps at all. I think the texture turned out just fine. Read the rest of this entry »

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What we’ve been eating in April, with toddler menus

May 1, 2016 at 9:22 pm (Menus, unrated)

I have had no time to blog lately, so I thought I’d do one big post about what we’ve been eating lately. Luckily Derek asked me to keep notes on our menus, as a way of making menu planning easier. It’s easier to just repeat old menus than try to figure out new menus from scratch.  My notes aren’t complete though, as some days I forgot to write down what we ate.

We’ve been making lots of old standbys, but have tried a few new recipes. I’m posting our menus below, with some brief notes on the new recipes. I’m also including a separate entry for what Alma ate for dinner, since my German friends with toddlers often ask me what we feed her. They just can’t imagine what she eats. A vegetarian toddler who rarely gets bread or pasta (and who doesn’t like potatoes, at least when I cook them)? What in the world does she eat every day? Hopefully this post will answer that question! Read the rest of this entry »

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Simple, French-style pureed soup, especially for toddlers

May 1, 2016 at 8:09 pm (Alma's faves, French, Root vegetables, soup, unrated, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog) ()

I recently read the book French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen LeBillon. I quite enjoyed the book, and—when it comes to preparing food for Alma—it gave me lots of “food” for thought. (Sorry!)

There are a number of interesting observations LeBillon makes in the book, but I’ll save them for another post. Today, I wanted to focus on the idea of starting dinner with a simple pureed vegetable soup. LeBillon says that the French start their meal with a soup several times a week. This soup is almost always a vegetable soup, and often a simple pureed vegetable soup. These soups supposedly make great starters for babies and toddlers, as they’re an easy way to introduce them to a lot of different vegetables. Also, it gives them a vegetable at the start of the meal, when they are most hungry. Finally, they’re really fast to make. Just saute some aromatics, throw in your veggies and broth, simmer briefly, and puree. All in all, that’s pretty easy, which is definitely a plus when it comes to cooking with a busy toddler underfoot. Finally, they freeze really well. You can freeze the soups in small jars and then defrost them quickly when needed—no need to scramble to put something healthy on the table at the last minute.

I thought I’d give it a try. I started with LeBillon’s simple French carrot soup with dill recipe.  Although most toddlers seem to like carrots, Alma usually does not, I’m not sure why—maybe a texture issue? I thought  pureeing them was worth a try. The first time I served it, Alma ate one very tiny bowl of it (a mise en place bowl), without too much complaint. She didn’t love it, but it helped that she’s just learned how to use a spoon, and so anything that requires a spoon is therefore very exciting. I had made quite a bit of soup, so I decided to take half of the leftovers and add in some roasted red bell pepper and jarred tomatoes, and pureed the soup again. I refrigerated a little bit of each soup, and froze the rest in small glass jars. The version with red bell pepper and tomato was definitely a bigger hit (with both Derek and Alma) than the straight carrot soup, but over the last several weeks Alma has eaten the plain carrot dill version several times, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes less so.

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My mom’s toddler-approved chana dal

April 14, 2016 at 11:13 am (A minus, Alma's faves, Beans, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Indian, My Mom's recipes, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

My mom visited us in January and made us her favorite chana dal recipe for dinner one night. It was a hit, but we ate it all up immediately. So before she left she made us a second, doubled batch and froze it. We defrosted it a few weeks later and again it was a hit with everyone, including my 1-year-old. Since then I’ve been making a quadrupled batch of chana dal every two weeks. We eat it for dinner, freeze some of it, and eat the rest for breakfast a few days later. Then we defrost the frozen portion and have it for a dinner and a breakfast the following week. Sometimes we serve it with yogurt, but often we don’t. My now 14-month-old always eats it happily. When we have it for breakfast, I try to serve it with a piece of vitamin C rich fruit, often a grapefruit, an orange or clementine, or a kiwi. The only problem with the recipe is that it doesn’t have any vegetables in it. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables — maybe a bit of spinach or carrots? In the meantime, if I have leftover roasted or curried cauliflower, I will serve that as a side dish.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinoa Spinach Croquettes, Toddler Approved

February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm (Alma's faves, B plus, breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog) ()

Last month I made broccoli cheddar quinoa bites, and liked them. So I decided to try this recipe for “Quinoa quiche muffins with spinach and cheese.” Although they are called muffins, the recipe is actually quite similar to the previous recipe, except that it calls for spinach instead of broccoli, has more eggs, and uses feta in addition to cheddar. Like before, I made them on a cookie sheet instead of in a muffin tin, to save on cleanup time. Although they are called “quiche muffins,” the way I made them they didn’t have the texture of a typical quiche or of a typical muffin. The texture is more grainy and crumbly, similar to the texture of these five-grain croquettes.

Alma really likes this recipe, and Derek and I enjoy it as well. The croquettes freeze well, and along with a piece of fruit they make an easy quick breakfast. I’ve made this recipe at least 5 times since I originally posted it (often with a slight variation), and it’s always a hit. It also works well as a take-along snack—just bring the frozen croquette with you and it will probably be defrosted by the time you get there. It’s fine room temperature. Just don’t giveit to your toddler inside without a plate because it can be a bit crumbly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chickpea Stew with Saffron, Yogurt, and Egg

January 7, 2016 at 9:50 pm (101 cookbooks, Beans, B_minus, Necessarily nonvegan, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Uncategorized)

This is another recipe featured on Food52’s Genius Recipes page. It’s from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Every Day. I chose it because I had some chickpeas and homemade vegetable broth to use up, and a student of mine from Iran got me a boatload of saffron as a gift. Also, it looked pretty easy, and I needed to make a quick lunch that was suitable for both Alma and me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinoa broccoli cheddar croquettes

January 7, 2016 at 9:30 pm (breakfast, B_, Cruciferous rich, Grains, Website / blog)

After the disappointment of November’s double broccoli quinoa recipe, I was surprised when Derek picked another broccoli quinoa recipe to try. This one for broccoli cheddar quinoa bites is easier though. Once you have the quinoa cooked you just chop some broccoli, grate the cheese, mince a few cloves of garlic, and mix it all together and bake it. Easy peasy broccolisy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gooey bittersweet brownies

January 7, 2016 at 9:14 pm (Alice Medrich, Brownies and bars, B_, Uncategorized)

I already have an Alice Medrich cocoa-only brownie recipe I like a lot, but this one was featured on the Food52 Genius Recipes page, and has been getting rave reviews for its ultra gooey, ultra chocolatey qualities.  Read the rest of this entry »

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