Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

As promised, today is the day that I share my sweet potato soup recipe using the fresh sweet potato puree I made for Tuesday’s post. This soup is so sweet and rich, you won’t believe there’s literally ZERO added sugar, including natural sweeteners. All the sweetness comes straight from the potatoes, and with all the wonderfully flavorful and warming spices included in this decadent recipe, you’ll be going back for seconds, thirds even! 

Trial and Error – Stick with it!

My first attempt at sweet potato soup a few months back yielded a lumpy baby food-like mess. It wasn’t a mash and it wasn’t a soup. It was this weird soupy mash, and for some reason, it was mealy too. Maybe it was the sweet potato, maybe it was me, I don’t know, but it took a lot of finagling to get it right, at which point I’d lost all track of how I might share it with you, so I decided to wait til this time, when I nailed it.

The lesson I learned was that it’s actually safer to err on the side of (what you might think is) too much liquid for a super starchy soup like this one (or some of the pumpkin soups or celery root soups I’ve made in the past). The reason for this is that you can correct too much liquid by continuing to simmer, stir, and reduce, thereby enhancing the flavor, whereas if you take a too-thick soup off the fire and then try to correct with liquid later, you won’t get the flavor meld you might have gotten with a slow simmer. In any case, I got it right this time, which is why I’m sharing it with you now. Loren called this one “restaurant quality” too! I’ll take the complement and brag it right along to you so you’ll try it at home!

Kitchen Gadgets

I used an immersion blender for this recipe (I swear thing is my best friend), but if you don’t have one, you can use your regular blender (the only downside to that is more clean up — go get an immersion blender). I’ll be sharing my blended beet borscht recipe in the coming weeks, for which my beloved immersion blender just couldn’t do the job. I ended up moving my soup to the Nutribullet for a much MUCH finer blend, which you’ll hear more about when I get that post up. I’ll go as far as to say that it was a move that saved my borscht. So stay tuned for that. 🙂 In the meantime, feast your taste buds on this glorious delight!

roasted sweet potato soup recipe

 

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Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 4
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http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014-12-28-19.52.33.jpg)">
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups roasted sweet potato puree
  2. 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 large carrot, chopped
  4. 1 large clove garlic (mince or press 10 minutes before adding to heat for maximum health benefits)
  5. 3 cups coconut milk
  6. 2 cups almond milk
  7. 1 cup water
  8. 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  9. 1 tbs coconut oil
  10. 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
  11. 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  12. 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  13. 1 tsp REAL salt or sea salt
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 tbs coconut oil in a large, deep pot on medium heat
  2. Add diced onion and carrots and cook until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add pressed garlic and grated ginger, stirring to marry the flavors
  4. Stir in roasted sweet potato puree
  5. Add water, almond milk, and apple cider vinegar, stirring to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom
  6. Add cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and salt
  7. Continue cooking until all ingredients are fully incorporated, then add coconut milk and reduce heat to low
  8. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it becomes one consistency (a regular blender works too -- even better if you have a great blender like a Nutribullet or a Vitamix)
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Chicken Salad-Stuffed Cucumber Cups

chicken salad recipe

I have to admit, this cute little finger food idea is something I came across almost two years ago, but somehow I completely forgot about it until the other day when I was reformulating my chicken salad recipe. I love it because it brings a healthy element to the holiday snacking spread of cookies, candies, eggnog, and pie. It can be tempting to load up on sugary, starchy, nostalgic comfort foods this time of year, but if you present something healthy and delicious in your holiday spread, you might be surprised at how many people will appreciate the reprieve from the (delicious) junk. 

Quick unrelated confession: I had to pull myself away from buying a canister of a chocolate and caramel drizzled popcorn and almond concoction the other day. I seriously canNOT resist when that stuff is around. Thanks to an encouraging text message from a friend, I successfully left the store without the purchase, but it was a close call! This time of year is hard for everyone, even health and wellness bloggers!

Intuitive Cooking

A chicken salad recipe is one of those recipes that has room to breathe; it’s more a formula really. It can change every time you make it based on what you have in your kitchen. It can be more or less healthy, and it can be adapted to a wide variety of flavor profiles. As you know, I’m big on intuitive cooking — a little bit of this and a little bit of that — and only since launching this blog did I start really paying attention to measurements so that I could share them with you in some coherent manner. This recipe has some good ingredient estimates, but for the record, I believe in you. If you want to add more of this or that, do it. I’m sure it will be great. 🙂

 chicken salad recipe

3 Secrets for Healthy Delicious Chicken Salad

There are three main secrets in concocting a healthy, delicious, and (dare I say) perfect chicken salad.

Secret #1: Use organic chicken (pastured if you can find it and afford it). I often make chicken salad when I’ve bought an organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods and have eaten the dark meat for dinner. That’s a great way to go, but you can also cook the chicken yourself too if you find a pastured one. Using organic will mean that your chicken ate non-GMO feed, but eating pastured means that it was walking around enjoying the sunlight and grubs it was digging up in the dirt. Both are preferable to conventional chicken. Find out more about pastured  chicken and eggs in this post.

Secret #2: Pack in as many green things as possible, especially herbs. This recipe includes a lot of celery, chopped green onions, and fresh parsley. Fresh herbs provide a wild and highly nutrient-dense element to your food, and adding them into everything you eat as often as possible is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a good array of phytonutrients. The mayo I used also had some fresh herbs in it, which brings me to secret #3.

Secret #3: Make your own mayo if you can. It might seem like a lot of work or creating extra steps, but I promise you, it takes 2 minutes or less to make your own mayo (just watch the video. It’s like magic).

Advantages of Homemade Mayo:

  1. You can control quality – if you have the highest quality pastured eggs and organic oils in your kitchen, then you are already leaps and bounds ahead of what you can buy at the store. 
  2. You can control the flavor – a small batch of mayo can be whipped up in mere seconds, so you can make it to match whatever suits your fancy. Want a cilantro mayo for this recipe and a smoked paprika mayo for that one? Great! Customize to your heart’s content. This also means controlling for how much salt is added if you’re concerned about sodium intake (not that I’m saying you should be, but if you think you should be, you can control that element here too).
  3. You can control what type of oil you use – the type of oil you use dramatically affects how nourishing (or harmful) the mayo will be to your body. Most people regard mayo as an ‘unhealthy’ food. Store-bought mayo with conventional eggs and processed soybean an canola oil is unhealthy. What you make at home with the right ingredients won’t be. 

chicken salad recipe

Holiday Cucumber Bites

You don’t typically think of chicken salad as finger food. It’s wet and messy, but if you package it in adorable little bite-sized nibble, it’s the perfect, high-protein finger food. These little cucumber cups are adorable and also another way to add a veggie into the mix instead of using a cracker or mini toast. It’s also friendly to those working on reducing processed carbohydrates or avoiding gluten. 

  1. Chicken Salad-Stuffed Cucumber Cups
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    Ingredients
    1. 2 chicken breasts, cooked
    2. 4 stalks celery, chopped
    3. 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
    4. 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    5. 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
    6. 4 green onions, chopped
    7. 3-4 tbs dijon mustard
    8. 2-3 tbs mayo*
    9. Juice from 1 lemon (separate in half)
    Instructions
    1. Mix all chicken salad ingredients (using only 1/2 the lemon juice) with two forks in a large mixing bowl until well-combined
    2. Slice cucumbers into about 1 inch slices
    3. Scoop out centers of each piece to create a tiny cucumber cup
    4. Squeeze a little lemon juice into each “cup”
    5. Using a spoon, place a bite sized portion of chicken salad into each “cup”
    6. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle a bit of paprika over the top for color
    Notes
    1. *If you have time, I recommend making your own mayo. For this recipe, I made mine using the instructions linked in that video, but I used olive oil instead of coconut oil and added some fresh herbs into the mix. Both work great for this chicken salad recipe. If you're using store-bought mayo, try to find an organic one with high-quality oils and eggs.
    Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

 

Anniversary Post + NEW eCookbook with 10 Pumpkin Recipes!

Happy Anniversary to Me!

It’s officially been 1 year and 3 days since I started Cultivated Wellbeing, and my, what an amazing year it’s been!! I’ve learned so much in this past year — about blogging, about myself, about the type of work I really want to do, about the community of bloggers I’m so excited to be a part of, and about the wonderful people reading, commenting, sharing, liking, and responding to the work I’ve brought to the blogosphere and social sites.

I am so grateful to everyone who’s been instrumental in the growth of this blog, especially my husband and biggest fan Loren, my friends and family who are always encouraging, and Meghan Ward of Writerland.com, who taught an awesome class for new bloggers last summer at the Grotto in San Francisco, helped me find my voice, and showed me that html is not impossible to figure out and tweak here and there. Her class opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I could accomplish in addition to exposing me to new opportunities and networks like BlogHer. All the wonderful women at the BlogHer14 conference — the speakers, the presenters, the workshop leaders — they were all amazing and inspiring. The sky really is the limit for these women, and I felt lucky to be in the presence of such talented and driven people.

Let’s Celebrate with a New eBook!

DOWNLOAD NOW

In celebration of CWB’s 1 year anniversary, I’m putting out a new eBook! We harvested a whopping 13 pumpkins  from our front yard garden this year (are you sick of me telling you that yet?), and being surrounded by pumpkins inspired an influx of new recipes from my brain. I’ve done some simple roasts, both sweet and savory, desserts, a smoothie, soup, chili, and more. While some of these recipes are new twists on old favorites, I tried to bring as much creativity to the table as possible, both to show you that cooking winter squash can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be, and to give you some fun examples of healthy dishes that will please every palate. Each one is  absolutely fool-proof-delicious and actively good for you, and while you might find something similar on a different site, it won’t have the “Toni touch” that these 10 beauties do. My goal in creating each of these sweet, rich recipes was to combine happiness and health, flavor and phytonutrients, nourishment and nutrition.

Healthy food can be delicious AND filling, and these 10 recipes are proof!

All recipes are gluten-free and vegetarian with very easy adjustments to become vegan if they aren’t already (probably with the exception of the custard). They all include pumpkin or pumpkin seeds, both absolute powerhouses of nutrients. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene, a full array of antioxidants, and fiber. The seeds are a great source of minerals, especially phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and iron. They’re also a great source of monounsaturated fat and amino acids, including l-Tryptophan, which promotes a balanced mood and restful sleep. Both the fruit and the seeds are low-glycemic foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins. The other ingredients in these recipes were chosen with nutrition and flavor in mind, each full of herbs and/or spices to enhance the micronutrient content and flavor profile. I used real maple syrup to sweeten when necessary, also rich in micronutrients and minimally processed.

IMG_7402

the proud gardener #DexterLove

How do I Get this eBook?

If you have already subscribed to my monthly newsletter, then you likely have the eBook in your mailbox right this very minute. If you haven’t, then it’s time to sign up! You’ll receive a reply email with the eBook inside once you complete the sign up process.

Get excited to access these 10 delectable pumpkin recipes with the click of a button!

 

The line up:

    • Pumpkin Spice Latte

 

 

    • Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

 

   

    • Sugar and Spice Smoothie

 

   

    • Vegan Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Fried Sage

 

   

    • Roasted Pumpkin and Braised Red Cabbage

 

   

    • Toasted Zesty Pumpkin Seeds

 

   

    • Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

 

   

    • Dessert for Dinner Sweet Roasted Pumpkin

 

   

    • Raw Pumpkin Cheezcake Bites

 

   

    • Pumpkin Coconut Custard

 

 

Sneak Peak Photos of What You’ll Find in this eCookbook:

2014-11-11 11.17.48 eBook pumpkin recipes 2014-11-14 08.20.32 eBook pumpkin recipes 

DOWNLOAD NOW

 

Spaghetti Squash and Cauli-Freddo Sauce

Today’s post is a celebration of creativity in the kitchen. I love finding new ways to enjoy familiar foods and add more vegetables and healthy fats into my diet, all while creating something delicious in the process. When I make something new, I like to get Loren to guess the ingredients after he’s taken his first bite. He couldn’t figure this one out, especially after I told him it was completely vegan and nut-free. 

A good long while ago I was listening to the Fat-Burning Man podcast, and the guest was talking about her experience in healing with real foods. She had suffered from multiple chronic conditions, was in constant pain, was overweight, and overall miserable. She healed herself by completely changing her diet, eliminating trigger foods and making vegetables her primary source of calories. One of the ways that she’s maintained all the positive changes she’s seen in her life is to make sure that the food she’s eating doesn’t feel restrictive and limited, and to do that, creativity is a must. I wish I remembered her name — I looked through the list of guests and just can’t find the episode I listened to — but one creative idea that stuck out in my mind from that interview was as cauliflower-based cream sauce. I finally decided to try it last week, and inspired by a version of one that I found on OhSheGlows, I came up with my own version of Cauli-Freddo Sauce! It’s delicious and a perfect topper for regular pasta as well as veggie options like spaghetti squash and zucchini “veggetti.”  

I love this recipe because it looks, feels, and tastes dairy-based but is completely vegan and made primarily with cauliflower. It feels decadent, but not only is it ‘not bad’ for you, it’s actively good for you, as cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts offer a host of phytonutrients that protect us from cancer and other degenerative and chronic diseases. I served this dish with cajun catfish and roasted asparagus. It was a hit!
cauliflower cream sauce

Cauli-Freddo Sauce (Cauliflower Cream Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Sea salt to taste 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked cayenne pepper
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

  1. Chop cauliflower into pieces and rinse
  2. Place steaming basket inside a large pot and add about 2 inches of water 
  3. Place chopped cauliflower in steaming basket, sprinkle with salt, and cover
  4. Steam cauliflower until a fork will easily go through
  5. Remove steaming basket and cauliflower and dump remaining water
  6. Place pot back over fire and add olive oil and chopped garlic
  7. Let gently sauté without burning and turn off fire
  8. Add cauliflower, sautéed garlic, another 1/2 teaspoon salt, and all remaining ingredients (except parsley) to a high-speed blender
  9. Blend until completely smooth
  10. Plate your “pasta” with sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley 

cauliflower cream sauce

For the Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • avocado oil or olive oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Cut squash in half and grease each half with oil 
  3. Sprinkle lightly with salt
  4. Place face-down in 1/2 inch of water 
  5. Roast on 400 for 30 minutes
  6. Using a fork, scrape out the flesh into a bowl

cauliflower cream sauce

Sicola-Style Roasted Tomato Puttanesca Recipe

I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking this is a “Sicola family recipe” — it’s not. In fact, it’s my take on a recipe a friend shared with Loren over Facebook a few weeks back. I loved the idea of roasting tomatoes in the oven instead of making a stove top sauce like I usually do, so I took the nuts and bolts of that recipe and tweaked it to fit my fancy. I’ve never been great at following recipes to a T anyway; in the end, it always becomes my own concoction. This roasted tomato sauce is no exception.

What makes it Sicola-Style?

1) It’s easy; 2) it’s basically measuring-cup-free; 3) it’s flexible (if you don’t like something in it, just trade it for something that suits you!); 4) it’s nutrient-dense (anchovies=omega 3, tomato peels= extra lycopene); 5) it’s chalk-full of rich, sweet flavor — just like this blog — and last but not least, 6) you don’t have to peel the tomatoes! Sweet relief + extra phytonutrients! What could go wrong? I’m starting the tradition right now, and for years to come generations of Sicolas will make this sauce and sing its praises! I know you will too when you try it at home. Tonight we enjoyed it with zucchini noodles, Sicilian sausage, and fresh basil. A healthy twist on my pasta-loving Sicilian family roots! 

roasted tomato sauce puttanesca

What Kind of Tomatoes to Use?

I used giant red heirlooms and cherry tomatoes from my backyard tomato jungle, but I’ve seen similar recipes using Romas or San Marzanos. At the end of the day, if you start with a good tomato, your sauce will be good. Don’t use gross pink flavorless conventional beefsteaks and you won’t get gross watery flavorless sauce. It’s that simple. In my book, you start with good organic ingredients and you’ll get good results. Don’t skimp on quality and your taste buds and body will thank you. If you need help picking your tomatoes, here are a few tips:

  • The deeper the red color (both inside and out), the better. If you’re having doubts, get a produce employee to cut one open for you before you buy. 
  • You want only a little give when you gently squeeze the fruit, but some give is important. If a tomato is too firm, it’s probably not quite ripe, which means it was super green when it was picked and probably tastes like nothing (another reason to ask to peek inside one!)
  • You want a tomato you like — try a few varieties if you’re not sure what you like best. Certainly the flavor will change and be enhanced as you cook and add seasonings, but if you don’t like the raw materials, you’re less likely to like the finished product.
  • If you can get your tomatoes from a local farmers’ market, you’re almost guaranteeing that they were sun-ripened and recently picked, which means rich, deep flavor. Opt for the farmers’ market if you can!

Kitchen Hack: Tomatoes lose their flavor and nutritional value rapidly when refrigerated. Buy your tomatoes the same week you plan to use them and store them on your counter, not in the fridge. You’ll get more flavor and more lycopene, an antioxidant important for eye health and prevalent in tomatoes. In fact, the lycopene increases when you cook and is more bioavailable when fat is added, so this sauce does the trick — cooked in olive oil to guarantee a healthy dose of lycopene in every serving!

Let’s Get Started!

1

Your Shopping list*:

  • 3 lbs fresh organic tomatoes
  • Organic olive oil
  • 1 can black olives, coarsely chopped (a Sicola family favorite!)
  • 1 small jar capers
  • 1 small jar anchovies fillets in olive oil
  • fresh oregano (or your favorite fresh herbs — other options are rosemary, marjoram, thyme, or some combo)
  • cracked red pepper
  • REAL salt

*I’m giving you a shopping list instead of an ingredients list because you will not use the whole can of olives or jars of capers and sardines. My leftover olives are long gone (in my belly) but the capers and sardines will store in the fridge for a very long time.

Supplies:

  • 2 large cookie sheets
  • Blender
  • Jars for freezing/storing (leave about 1.5 inches at the top of each jar you plan to freeze to avoid sadness and broken glass disaster in your freezer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 while you prep your cookie sheets and ‘maters
  2. Coat the cookie sheets with a thin layer of olive oil
  3. Cut the tomatoes in half if small, into quarters if large, and line the cookie sheets
  4. Generously drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over tomatoes
  5. Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225F and cook for another hour
  6. Remove from the oven and evenly distribute about 1/2 the can of olives, a couple spoonfuls of capers, and about 10 chopped anchovies over the two sheets of tomatoes
  7. Add about 5 sprigs of fresh oregano — simply strip the leaves from the stems, no need to chop
  8. Sprinkle cracked red pepper to your desired spice level (start small, you can always add more at the end!)
  9. Replace sheets in the oven and cook another hour or so
  10. Remove from the oven and add all contents to blender
  11. Add about 5 more sprigs of oregano
  12. Pulse lightly for a thick, chunky sauce or puree for a smoother texture
  13. Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to one week. Freeze what you don’t eat to save for a rainy day!

CYMERA_20141015_225520

Creamy Cucumber Gazpacho Recipe

I was wandering around the Jack London Square Farmer’s Market in Oakland when I heard someone calling my name. I turned to see a good friend sitting at a vendor table. Sara had just finished doing a cooking demo for Cookin’ the Market, and she was excited for me to try her creamy creation. 

Straight from the About Us page on their website, “Cookin’ the Market is a market chef program focusing on creating quick, nutritious meals using fresh, seasonal, locally-grown ingredients. Sharing free recipes, cooking tips, and cooking demonstrations around the San Francisco Bay Area. The program is a response to the pre-packaged, heavily processed and fast foods that have become so prominent in American meals. Cookin’ the Market emphasizes real ingredients, healthy recipes, and easy preparations to demonstrate that anyone, regardless of time or talent, can cook delicious and nutritious foods that not only taste better, but are also better for you.” (read more)

This delicious, refreshing green soup couldn’t have entered my life at a better time. I have cucumbers coming out of my ears from the front yard garden! I was excited to go home and replicate her recipe, which I’ve since made no less that four times. I think it merits a share and a nod to this awesome program and my awesome friend Sara. 

cucumber gazpacho recipe 

 While it’s superb straight out of the blender, I’ve also found that it’s even better after it’s been in the fridge for a day. So if you have time to make it a day in advance you should! 

Creamy Cucumber Gazpacho
Serves 4
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large cucumber or 2 smaller ones
  2. 1/2 cup organic greek yogurt
  3. 1 tbs fresh mint (about 10 leaves)
  4. 1 tbs fresh chives
  5. 3 scallions
  6. Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  7. 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. Black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Peel the cucumber and chop into 3 or 4 pieces
  2. Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and puree until completely smooth
  3. Serve with a garnish of chopped scallions and a drizzle of olive oil
Adapted from adapted from a recipe by Sara Haston of Cookin' the Market
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/
I love it because it’s light and fresh while still being rich in protein and nutrients, including probiotics from the yogurt! A fantastic and nutritious combination of flavors, and it literally takes mere minutes to throw together Peeling the cucumber is the most laborious part.

Enjoy!

cucumber gezpacho recipe

Easy One-pan Meal: Low-carb Green Bean Casserole

My mom is famous for her Italian green bean casserole. Not to be confused with anything involving cream of mushroom soup or fried onions, she layers canned green beans, Italian breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, Lawry’s seasoned salt, and olive oil, in a pan, puts it in the oven, and that’s it. Simple, delicious, full of flavor and childhood nostalgia. 

healthy green bean casserole low carb one-pan mealFresh Green Beans

As a general rule, I try to minimize canned foods and maximize fresh veggies, and since we’ve been super lucky this season with our green bean yield in the garden, I decided to create my own one-pan meal inspired by my mom’s famous recipe. 

If you’re like me, you want dinner to be easy prep and easy clean-up. Since my food-making workshop is a 1950’s kitchen with zero upgrades (no dishwasher, no disposal), I like to dirty as few dishes as possible with one-pot or one-pan meals. 

This recipe works great for a low-carb lifestyle full of flavor and joy without the hassle of exact measurements and tons of dishes.

I like to call my no-measure style of cooking “intuitive cooking” because it involves trusting your instincts and going with what looks and feels right. That being said, I know that intuitive cooking isn’t for everyone, so I will give some estimates so you can get the hang of it. 

healthy green bean casserole low carb one pot meal

Ingredients for this recipe are super simple (serves 4):

  • Fresh green beans (enough to line a large plan without really stacking them on top of each other)
  • About 1 lb of your favorite ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, pork, loose sausage)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to avoid a greasy dish, use very sparingly if you choose loose sausage, which tends to have a higher fat content)
  • Your favorite hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, and asiago all work great), shredded or grated
  • sliced almonds
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (affiliate link)
  • Water and a pinch of salt

Healthy Low-Carb Green Bean Casserole one pot meal

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Rinse and snip the ends of the beans
  3. Place a layer of beans in a baking pan and add 1 inch of water and a pinch of salt
  4. Braise in the oven for 10 minutes
  5. While the beans are in the oven, warm a skillet and add your ground meat, browning completely
  6. Drain off any liquid in your skillet and set cooked meat aside
  7. Once the beans have been in for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and drain remaining water from the pan
  8. Layer the remaining ingredients on top of the braised beans in the following order:
    1. ground meat 
    2. garlic powder (light sprinkle over the entire surface of the dish)
    3. onion powder (light sprinkle over the entire surface of the dish)
    4. shredded almonds
    5. shredded cheese
    6. Lawrys seasoned salt
  9. Bake at 350F for 12 to 15 minutes until the cheese turns a golden brown

 greenbean casserole

The Wonders of Sunchokes!

This post is going to be short and sweet, because I got started late this afternoon and was fidgeting around with graphics when I should have been writing.

I love love love SUNCHOKES, and today I want to share the simplest recipe on earth that yields a healthy, filling, delicious root veggie side dish WAAAAY more exciting than a potato. OK, here it is.

sunchoke recipe

photo sourced from Creative Commons, created by Kenraiz Krzysztof Ziarnek (source linked)

So what’s a sunchoke?

Jerusalem artichoke? No? Same thing. The names are interchangeable, even though this tasty gem has absolutely nothing to do with the artichoke family, which is a thistle. Rather, as the first name I used may indicate, “sun”choke, this hardy plant is related to the sunflower and grows tall with yellow flowers just like its cousin. The stalks grow 8 to 10 feet tall, and the underground rhizomes spread in a tangled network just below the surface, growing into gnarled starchy edible roots. According to most gardening websites, when the plants start to wilt and turn brown, the roots are ready to harvest.

I got impatient in my own garden, however.

I know, shocking.

We bought a couple of sunchoke seedlings last fall, and without doing any research at all, stuck them in the back of one of our two back yard raised beds. They did nothing but wilt and die, so we removed them and moved on with life. This spring, little sprouts came from where we’d removed them, so we let a few of them grow to see what would happen. They grew and grew until they were casting a shadow over the rest of the box, at which point we cut them back and finally decided to actually do a little research on the crop.

Oops

PANIC ensued when I read that they are known to take over, spreading rapidly wherever they are planted. We planted them RIGHT next to our asparagus, which can take up to three years to yield a crop — not something I wanted to risk. Out they came!

roasted sunchoke recipe
fresh out of the ground

These little babies became dinner that very night.

http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/sunchoke4.jpg)">
Roasted Sunchokes
Roasting root veggies is a great way to retain flavor and nutrients with minimal effort. You can apply these simple instructions to any number of root veggies, you just might need to adjust cooking time based on how large you chop and how dense the root. (beets take forever)
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb sunchokes
  2. Avocado oil (spray form is easier to work with, but drizzling from the bottle works too)
  3. REAL salt or a mild seasoned salt
  4. cracked red pepper
  5. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Cut sunchokes into small chunks and spread across a cookie sheet in one layer ( no overlapping)
  3. Spray or sprinkle avocado oil over the chunks and toss to ensure that all sides are covered
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper over (use cracked red pepper sparingly)
  5. Toss again to ensure the seasons cover the chokes
  6. Roast on 400 for 30 to 35 minutes (could take longer, depending on your oven)
  7. They're ready when they feel soft like cooked potatoes
Notes
  1. Try to make the chunks as uniform in size as possible to ensure even cooking. You might end up with some soft and some crunchy, but the crunchy ones are good too!
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Why bother?

Potatoes are much easier to find than sunchokes, and they don’t take as long to cook, so why should you go to the effort to eat roots other than potatoes? I’ll tell you why!

Sunchokes are high in fiber, especially oligo-fructose inulin, which as I’ve shared in my resistant starch potato recipe, is awesome if you want to consume a starchy food without the glycemic load. The fiber in a sunchoke balances out the starch, making it a great addition to your plate if you’re watching your carbs.

Sunchokes are also rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, E, and carotenoids; all great cancer-fighters and more prevalent in sunchokes than your average potato.

100 grams of fresh sunchoke provides 429 mg or 9% of daily required levels of potassium, which is an important mineral for the active among us (it’s an electrolyte) aiding in muscle recovery and preventing muscle cramping.

100 grams of fresh sunchoke contains 3.4 mg or 42.5% of iron, probably the highest amount of iron for the common edible roots and tubers. (source) Iron deficiency in the US is relatively common, but supplementation can lead to undesirable consequences like cramps and constipation. Eating a food naturally rich in iron is a great solution, because when iron is packaged up how nature intended, those side effects disappear.

Sunchokes are also rich in B vitamins, especially thiamine, an essential nutrient for healthy hair, skin, and nails. (source)

Enjoy these nutrition powerhouses and the delicious, unique flavor that comes with them. Today I’m sharing a simple roasted root recipe, but you can make a killer creamy soup with these guys too. Try it out! And enjoy!

sunchoke recipe

Resistant Starch Potato Salad – What’s Resistant Starch?

If you’re up on the latest in the Paleo community, then you’ve probably heard the term resistant starch flying around, and you probably have some idea of what it is. If you’re NOT up on the latest in the Paleo community, then you have no idea what I’m talking about and are reading this post because the weird title piqued your curiosity.

Either way, I’m about to 1) explain briefly what a particular category of resistant starch is and how it works; 2) refer you to an article that fully explains the concept much better than I will; and 3) leave you with an awesome kitchen hack and a recipe that you can thank me for after you sink your teeth into the deliciousness.

resistant starch

What is resistant starch?

Resistant starch, also known as amylose, is one of two types of starch found in green plants. It’s made up of a structure of molecules so tightly wound that it’s difficult for the enzymes in our digestive tract to break them down. They are resistant to digestion and therefore behave differently than digestible starches. There are multiple types of resistant starch, but right now we’re only going to focus on one: Retrograded Starch.

For a comprehensive explanation of ALL types of resistant starch, check out this article in PaleoMagazine.

Retrograded Starch is the type that’s created once starchy vegetables like potatoes, grains, or beans is cooked and then cooled for a 24 hour period before serving. This cooling process, either by refrigeration or freezing, actually changes the structure of the starches already in these foods and creates a more resistant variety. (source)

Why would I want to eat resistant starch?

Resistant starch is actually a lower glycemic food than your regular digestible starch. The glycemic load can be reduced by up to 25% just by cooling your cooked starchy veggie for 24 hours before eating. (source – affiliate link) Great news if you’re struggling with your blood sugar but find yourself starving without a few starchy carbs in your diet! Even better that some studies show an increased sensitivity to insulin with the consumption of resistant starch. (source)

This works beautifully for dishes like potato salad, bean salad, pasta salad, and quinoa salad — just cook your starchy veggies the day before it’s time to make the salad, and you’ll already have cold ingredients ready to go, resistant starch and all!

KITCHEN HACK BONUS: These starches remain resistant upon reheating the food. So if you want warm potatoes or rice (etc), you can still make this work in your favor if you plan ahead.

DIGESTIVE BONUS: When resistant starches make their way to your small intestine, they feed and encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut (prebiotics). Some of these healthy bacteria (in addition to doing a host of other beneficial tasks inside your gut like synthesizing vitamins and fighting invaders) release butyrate into your system. Butyrate is a fatty acid that aids in metabolic function, reduces inflammation, and supports immune function. (source)

 

Don’t go too crazy now!

Start slowly with resistant starch, and make sure it agrees with you. That PaleoMagazine article I mentioned earlier recommends that you begin with 20-40 grams per day to test the waters. This post is not meant to give you cart blanche to go on a wild carbo-licious rampage, as tempting as that might be sometimes. That being said, I have a scrumptious recipe to share that follows all the precautionary recommendations when adding resistant starch into your regimen.

resistant starch

Red White and Bleu Resistant Starch Potato Salad

Ingredients (makes 6 to 8 servings):

  • 1 lb of the most colorful small potatoes you can find (red and purple are ideal for greatest nutrient density), cooked the day before and refrigerated
  • 4 pieces organic bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled (never settle for conventional bacon, and get pastured if you can find it)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles (amount depends on your affinity for stinky cheese)
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup homemade coconut mayo
  • Splash apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Halve or quarter 1/2 the potatoes, depending on the size, and roughly mash the other half with a fork in a large bowl
  2. Add bacon, cheese, scallions, and walnuts to potatoes
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, salt, and pepper
  4. Stir in the mayo mixture until well-incorporated
  5. Serve cold

resistant starch


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Easy Japanese Cucumber Salad – Sunomono Recipe

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant, chances are you’ve had the Japanese appetizer sunomono. If you haven’t, then I’ll tell you that it’s a simple cucumber salad lightly dressed with oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and a little sugar and allowed to sit in its own juices for a while for enhanced flavor. I love ordering it with chopped octopus — as long as I know that the restaurant cooks the octopus well and doesn’t give rubbery grossness. Rubbery octopus is a bummer, but perfect octopus is divine!

cucumber salad sunomono

I’ve made this dish a couple of times out of a need to use up the giant cucumbers sprouting endlessly in our front yard. They aren’t Japanese cucumbers (which are smaller, so if you use those you might want to use 2 or 3), but they’ve done just fine every time I’ve made this dish. And when I say giant, I mean giant — I used one and made a massive bowl that Loren and I split and still had leftovers (split as an appetizer … I’m known to cook a lot of food). Also, the variety I have growing out front is “burpless” for those of us out there who find that cucumber “repeats” on us. This variety doesn’t do that, so if you’re into gardening, consider growing them.

cucumber salad sunomono

Anyway, this recipe is simply the easiest thing to whip up you could imagine. I literally measured nothing to make it, so the following instructions might not be for everyone. If you want exact measurements, you might want to find another version of it somewhere on the interwebs. I can promise you that this is very hard to screw up though, so go with me down the path of intuitive cooking this one time and see how it turns out. This could be the first step you take toward trusting your own instincts in the kitchen! You won’t be sorry that you didn’t dirty your measuring spoons.

Also, as you’re slicing in the kitchen, I suggest saying “sunomono” to the tune of the Muppets singing in this video. I can’t help it and do it every single time I make or order it. It might be compulsive but I’m not sure. Either way, it’s fun! Or you might hate me for putting this song in your head.

Easy Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)

Ingredients (serves 3 or 4):

  • 1 giant burpless cucumber or 3 Japanese cucumbers
  • Unrefined expeller-pressed sesame oil — check out my Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil to find out why “unrefined” matters (about a 5 second pour)
  • Maple syrup Maple Syrup (about a 3-second pour)
  • Gluten-free Tamari (just a dash, maybe 5 shakes through the plastic filter on sunomono Japanese cucumber saladthe spout of the bottle)
  • Black sesame seeds (black ones are more nutritious than white ones, but white works too — use as many as you want)
  • Rice vinegar (about 10 shakes through the plastic filter on the spout)
  • OPTIONAL: fish sauce (2 or 3 shakes, only a 1-second pour if there’s no plastic filter)
  • OPTIONAL: sesame chili oil (start slow with this so it doesn’t get too spicy and add what you want for your own taste)

Directions:

  1. Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible into a large sunomono Japanese cucumber saladbowl. (I use a stand-up grater that has a mandolin-style blade on one side. It’s super simple and safe to use)
  2. Drizzle in all the liquid ingredients
  3. Toss using tongs and make sure everything mixes thoroughly
  4. Add in sesame seeds and do another light toss
  5. OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving

 

japanese cucumuber salad sunomono


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Best Stuffed Squash Blossom Recipe Ever

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

This year we decided to plant pumpkins in our newly created front yard edible landscape, and as a result, we’ve had a boon of squash blossoms to eat (on the left in the picture above). In years past, I’ve seen tiny baskets of squash blossoms in booths at the farmers’ market and been curious as to how people eat them. Every time I’d ask a farmer, the answer would be, “stuff ’em with cheese, bread ’em, fry ’em.”

MMMM, healthy! (sounded like gas and pain to me)

As a result, we never bothered buying them, but once we found ourselves with a front yard full of squash blossoms, I decided to experiment. The first batch I picked ended up getting chopped up and thrown into scrambled eggs, because I never found the time to do anything with them before they started to shrivel. Little did I know, squash blossom petals are like little magical yellow silky spider webs — much stronger and stickier than you’d imagine, which means they are great for stuffing, even if they shrivel a little bit. The eggs were good, but I wouldn’t say the blossoms added much to them besides color.

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

I was prepared for the next round I picked, which I used for this recipe, and which will undoubtedly redefine what you think of a gluten-free, grain-free, vegan ANYTHING, much less a version of something that’s typically stuffed with cheese, battered, and fried.

Seriously.

I’m talking about stuffing squash blossoms with vegan cheese and coating them with grain-free batter. This is a vegan, gluten-free squash blossom recipe that will have you pinching yourself in disbelief. One bite of these little nuggets of joy and you’ll be singing the praises of vegans and “glutards” (a new term I just learned that completely cracks me up and apparently describes me) everywhere! Maybe you won’t be singing their praises, but you might be singing mine for sharing this with you. This recipe is not only gluten-free, it’s grain-free, lending itself to an even greater audience of restricted eaters.

 

While I’m not the most humble of people among us, I don’t generally endorse the singing of my own praises, but with Loren as my witness, these things are THE BOMB, and you won’t regret making a special trip to the grocery store for garbanzo bean flour to make them. That’s a promise.

A word on which squash blossoms to eat

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain-free

example using a zucchini plant

There are two kinds of blossoms you’ll find in your garden if you’re growing squash of any kind. Some of the blooms are male and some are female. The male ones just look like a regular flower with a regular stem. Those are the ones you want to pick for a recipe like this one. The female ones have a little mini-fruit at the base of the blossom. Check out this article for more photographic examples and some great info on squash gardening. The take-home message is that you shouldn’t pick the female flowers because you will likely be preventing the fruit from forming. The bees move the pollen from the males to the females, and that “insemination” gets the fruit going. If you take the flower off before that happens, the fruit won’t mature. 

Squash Blossoms(1)

Gluten-free Vegan Squash Blossom Heaven

Ingredients:
  • 20 male squash blossoms
  • 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

    vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

    basil herbalea super globe in my garden

  • 1 cup water (you want the mixture to be pasty — thinner than hummus, thicker than soup)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt to go in the batter + a little extra to sprinkle right after they come out of the oil
  • Cashew cheese (I left out the cilantro this time. Linked recipe makes more than is needed for 20 squash blossoms)
  • Fresh basil (any kind will work — typically smaller leaves are sweeter. I used basil herbalea super globe from the garden.)
  • Sunflower, sesame, or coconut oil for frying (you want about half an inch of oil in your fry pan)
 Directions:
  1. Make the cashew cheese following the instructions this recipe leaving out the cilantro
  2. Carefully open each squash blossom to stuff the cashew cheese and small basil leaf into the blossom and twist it shut (the petals just stick together like magic yellow mesh)
  3. In a wide shallow bowl, mix the garbanzo flour and salt and slowly incorporate about a cup of water, until you get the desired consistency — not too thick, not too runny
  4. Heat your skillet before adding the oil, then add 1/2 an inch and heat to 330F
  5. Dip the blossoms into the batter, covering completely, and then place into the oil
  6. Cook each side until golden brown
  7. Salt immediately
  8. Drain on some paper towels and allow them to cool before devouring

vegan gluten-free squash blossom recipe grain free

 

 

Spicy Watermelon Skewers and Agua Fresca

Today’s post is short, but that’s OK. We’re ready for the weekend right?

I started writing this post with the intention of only sharing the Spicy Watermelon Skewers recipe, but then I started to feel like I was cheating posting something so simple.

Honestly though, it’s sweet, simple, and really really delicious; perfect for a back yard BBQ on a hot summer day and great to bring to a picnic.

To assuage myself of the guilt, I’m also going to recommend that you try a slightly modified version of the skewers in the form of an agua fresca as well — instead of skewering the melon, stick it in the blender!

Now you get two recipes for the price of one!

CYMERA_20140627_153734

Spicy Watermelon Skewers:

Ingredients

  • 1 small seedless watermelon (makes about 8 skewers)
  • About 20 nice fresh basil leaves
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

  • Cut the watermelon into large chunks
  • Skewer three to a skewer, placing a leaf of basil between the three chunks
  • Sprinkle skewer with a touch of cayenne, chili powder, and sea salt
  • Enjoy outside where you can get messy!

Watermelon Basil Agua Fresca

watermelon skewers

photo sourced with permission from Creative Commons

Ingredients

  • 1 small seedless watermelon (makes about 3 agua frescas)
  • About 6 basil leaves
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Maple syrup (about 2 tsp)
  • Chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  • Chop the watermelon up enough to fit it into the blender
  • Add all other ingredients
  • Blend
  • Enjoy!

 

 

 

Misleading Headlines: Gluten Sensitivity in the News

Gluten Sensitivity Might Not Exist?

You may have recently seen some buzz in the news about gluten — specifically, that non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (or intolerance) might not really exist, and in fact the condition could all be in our heads. One recent study has apparently shown that test subjects reported digestive discomfort very inconsistently with regard to how much gluten they were administered at a given meal during the study period. I’ve seen quite a few articles reporting on this study, but the one in Forbes seems to sum it up best.

Since I’m writing a book about the best, healthiest and most delicious ways to go gluten-free, I feel the need to address these new findings — if you can call them that at this early stage in the game.

Jumping to Conclusions

The idea of gluten-sensitivity wasn’t based on evidence from one study done one time by one scientist. That’s not the way scientific rigor works, as we learned in 5th grade science class, and just as the Forbes article states in plain English. A simple search in Google Scholar for “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” will show you that many studies have been done on this topic, some isolating wheat, some addressing gluten from all the various sources, nearly all finding that there is in fact a non-immunological response to gluten in a number of subjects. One study of 37 subjects cannot negate a body of research, nor can it override the myriad anecdotal and experiential testimonies of hundreds of patients across the developed world.

fodmap foods

 

FODMAPs to Replace Gluten?

The article mentions the potential misplacement of blame on gluten, that perhaps FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) are the real digestive disruptors, and gluten isn’t the problem at all. In fact, FODMAP foods overlap greatly with glutenous foods, so attempting to tease this distinction apart might result in similar lifestyle choices already being practiced by those on a gluten-free diet. Granted, the list of FODMAPs is far broader than the list of glutenous foods, however it’s often the case that those with gluten sensitivity also have other sensitivities due to damaged intestinal lining or leaky gut. Often eliminating problem foods to allow the gut to heal can precipitate the reintroduction of some of FODMAPs, if not all. 

There are definitely FODMAP-free diets out there that have helped a number of very sensitive folks get their guts on track to be able to heal and potentially start eating a broader range of foods again. It’s true of any elimination diet, including a gluten elimination, that certain individuals can repair their gut and reintroduce trigger foods that no longer cause problems. Most holistic doctors will suggest abstaining from particular foods for a certain amount of time and then slowing reintroducing each one separately to attempt to decipher which foods cause problems. In some cases, these trigger foods can be successfully reincorporated into the diet without upset, and in some cases they can’t.  

For me personally, I’ve attempted to fully reintroduce gluten a couple of times, and the results have been unpleasant after about two weeks eating it regularly. That being said, trace amounts like those found in soy sauce don’t seem to cause any ill-effects when used very occasionally for me. Others might experience negative effects from even trace amounts.

The overlap between FODMAPs and gluten-containing foods definitely merits more research, and by all means, I can’t wait to read the studies when they come out. Until then, I’m sticking with what works for me and so many others working hard to repair their damaged digestive systems and improve their lives.

gluten sensitivity

image borrowed from cracked.com

Take-Away: Media Hyperbole

Sensational headlines that throw into question lifestyle strategies that have worked for a huge number of individuals (myself, friends and family included) when “much, much more research is needed” really don’t do anyone any favors in the long run.

The truth is that everyone’s different and everyone reacts differently to different foods based on their own internal environments. If you stop eating gluten and you feel better, then great! Keep doing what works for you. The marketing hype that’s brought gluten-free sales through the roof over the last few years probably doesn’t have all that much to do with how you feel every day. Nor should a study of 37 people throw your personal wellness strategy down the tubes. Take care of yourself and listen to your body. There’s some advice worth taking.

 

Gluten Free ebook Announcement!

I’m so excited to share with my fantastic followers that I’ll be releasing my very first ebook this summer!

As you probably know if you read this blog regularly, I’ve been gluten-free for about 5 years now. This book will serve as a guide to delicious living for anyone considering a gluten-free lifestyle. I often hear people say that they’d be interested in going gluten-free if it weren’t so hard.

Or so confusing.

Or so boring.

Or so expensive.

gluten-free

I’m here to tell you that going gluten-free doesn’t have to be ANY of those things, and with my easy guide to going gluten-free you’ll be eating more delicious food than you could have possibly imagined. In fact, if you’ve been following this blog and trying some of the recipes, you’ve been eating gluten-free foods all along, and you might be surprised to find that there is a plethora of delicious options that are not only naturally gluten-free, but far more exciting than the glutenous staples in your pantry.

 

image credit Fathima at http://happinessisat.blogspot.com/

image credit Fathima at http://happinessisat.blogspot.com/

 

I can’t wait to share all of my tips with you in this ebook!

The book will be available to the public by the end of July, but if you sign up for my newsletter here, I’ll make sure you get your first-edition copy before everyone else, absolutely FREE!

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Subscribing to my newsletter means being the first to hear exciting updates about Cultivated Wellbeing, as well as access to exclusive recipes, health tips, and special offers.

Naming my gluten-free ebook

As some of you might know already, I have trouble with titles. I used to be a songwriter, and would often let others name my songs or simply stick with the generic placeholder I started with because I could never decide on a song title. Unfortunately this ebook is no different, so I’d love your help!

Please suggest a title in the comments below for a chance to win!

If one of your suggestions happens to make it to the cover of my ebook, I’ll send you a gift basket filled with some of my favorite kitchen staples.

Don’t forget to sign up for that newsletter! Only those who sign up are eligible for the goodie basket!

Stay tuned for my first newsletter update coming to your inbox within the week!

 

image credit: Warsztat Elemiah

image credit: Warsztat Elemiah

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