South Carolina Getaway [Part 2]

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The beach is always such a meditative place. There is a reason those sound machines have waves as an option; that repetitive and constant noise is therapeutic. Add some sunshine and its restorative.

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While in South Carolina, I went for my first ever beach run. I’ve walked on the beach and I’ve run while on vacation, but I’ve never really had the opportunity to run on the beach. Three times while at Mister’s parent’s house in Surfside, I was able to get a run in.

I’m terrible at running, and with the snow and cold in NY I havn’t really ran in a while. I would love to be one of those people that runs 10 miles a day with a marathon on Saturday, but three miles whoops my lungs and my knees. But when I run its like I forget everything that I had on my mind just minutes ago. Sunshine, breathing, my feet hitting the sand. Just focus on moving and breathing.  Keep moving. Keep breathing.

I don’t know if anyone reads this blog for my running advice. I don’t know if anyone reads this blog at all, but I’ll move on.

Litchfield Restaurant   [Pawleys Island, SC]

Since 1968, Pawleys Island locals and visitors alike have considered the Litchfield Restaurant the “Best Breakfast in Town”. That is as true today as it was back then. More than forty years later, we still serve hearty home-style Southern cooking for both breakfast and lunch. Our full menu is available all day, so sleep in and have a late breakfast if you like.

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I’m genuinely surprised this place even has a website, I mean they aren’t even open past lunch time. I spent a day with my Mother-in-law while Mister and his dad went out to play golf one morning. We started off with a stop for breakfast and this place was definitely worth writing home about.

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We were lucky enough to squeeze in at the counter and I saw the food coming out from the kitchen. That meant I knew I had to order grits and biscuits, the eggs and sausage were kind of an after thought. That biscuit was exactly like I imagined it would be, and yes I slathered it with butter and orange marmalade.

Also, why is food still so regionally divided? Grits in the south, oatmeal in the north. I’m still not sure I fully understand grits, but I can certainly tell you that about a third of that serving kept me feeling stuffed until almost dinner time.

If I get a chance to go back, I’m definitely going to try some sausage gravy.  Now you see why I have to run while I’m on vacation?

The Claw House [Murrells Inlet, SC]

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This was my first time having hot peel and eat shrimp (at least that I can remember?). Crazy good. Like seriously yum. Mister went with crab cakes, which we both think were overpriced for the serving but still good. This place is expensive for the atmosphere, but I think that’s because its located on the Marsh Walk. When the weather is nice, this is a great little section of restaurants and bars linked by a boardwalk. It wasn’t super busy on either of our two visits, but I imagine in the summer season it can get crowded.

Drunken Jack’s [Murrells Inlet, SC]

If you want to feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to the swanky club of another era, check out the lower bar area of Drunken Jacks. Just a few steps down the Marsh Walk from the Claw House, Drunken Jacks has a completely different vibe. This is a great example of something being just old enough to go from dated to retro.

If you keep moving towards the deck area, you’ll have a great view of the Marsh while you sip your drinks. 219.JPG

 

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South Carolina Getaway [Part 1]

Mister and I made it back from South Carolina just as the latest snow storm was hitting New York. It wasn’t the welcome back we were looking forward to, but after 8 days of traveling around it felt good to be snuggled up with our dogs on a cozy snow day.

This was part vacation, part family visit, and part Mister’s birthday present; we went to visit his parents [who split their time between Binghamton, NY and Surfside Beach, SC], with an added stop in Charleston to visit a friend while taking advantage of the cheaper flights through their versus Myrtle Beach.

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We ended up in downtown Charleston pretty late on Wednesday, and I was excited to see everything but also hungry and tired – add that to the fact that it was way colder than we were anticipating and I was getting a little bit cranky.

Mister spotted Poogan’s Smokehouse and it was exactly what we I needed.

Local IPA’s, live music, smokey pork belly, and a pile of BBQ. Two sticky thumbs up.

The next morning I made a quick trip to a local supermarket for yogurt, fruit, and muffins that made an easy breakfast. My biggest budget travel tip for anyone is don’t go to a restaurant for every meal – buy like you would at home. Bananas were a cheap snack that we could take with us, and smaller things like a box of granola bars and bringing reusable water bottles meant the snack/water break costs didn’t add up as fast.

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On our way from Charleston to Surfside Beach, we stopped at Drayton Hall. I’ve always had a love for visiting historic sites – particularly homes. Coming from New York, plantation houses have always been sort of a fascinating existence within the realm of history and Hollywood. While they are always associated with the dark history of human enslavement, they are also landmarks of a way of life, an era of American history, and a display of a culture I havn’t really gotten to “touch” in person before.

Drayton Hall is incredible in the sense that it is entirely preserved rather than restored. The building hasn’t been turned into a Disneyland approximation of how grand southern life was; its a house that holds so much history that even the vacant rooms breathe whispers of the lives that have passed through.

The preservation versus restoration issue was something that Mister didn’t quite understand; and coming from a History/Public History background, I wasn’t sure if it was something that didn’t really make sense to everyone else as well.

Preserve: They do the minimal amount necessary to maintain the house exactly as it was when it became a historic site. They interpret the paint colors as they were found, instead of repainting the house the original color from the first moment of construction. They point out where the outbuildings once stood, instead of rebuilding them for an easier tour.

Restoration: Bringing the building back to the way it looked when first built, or back to a specific time period. This includes furnishings being brought in or custom made, sometimes costumed interpreters, and often times erasing the changes that were made over time.

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Whenever visiting a historic site of this magnitude, I relish the opportunity to consider who built this house. Why? How? Where did the wood come from? Who made the bricks? Why was the house built in this exact place?

Imagine the first owners crossing the threshold. The last family to run down the stairs. The first tourists to open the door.

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After a few hours spent taking the formal tour and walking the grounds, we had to switch cars and found ourselves looking for food outside of town, in a highly commercialized area. It wasn’t looking promising.

I pulled up Yelp and did some serious reading before finding Boxcar Betty’s. Perfection. Small menu, specializing in chicken; fast, cheap, good.

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Balaboosta [Manhattan]

Balaboosta; n. A Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife, homemaker, a wonderful mother, cook & gracious hostess. she does it all and she does it well!

That’s the description that can be found at the top of their website  and is a perfect way to describe the warm, homey atmosphere in the Mulberry Street restaurant.

While I was running late to meet a few women for brunch, they had already started on cocktails and the Mediterranean Sampler [house made hummus, labne, matbucha, za’atar pita]  Since being introduced to za’atar at the Bronxville Farmer’s market a while ago, I’ve loved the flavor profile but can never really nail the application.

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That is what made my drink so perfect – imagine a middle eastern margarita.

“Lily” Za’atar infused tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, ginger syrup, lime, black saline

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I cannot rave about the cauliflower appetizer enough [lemony + crispy], but the shakshouka I had as my main was incredible. The only real complain from those of us who ordered it was that it was so incredibly hot that in eating it I felt like I was melting from the inside out. Even on a cold day, the physical temperature of this dish was a bit overwhelming.

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The flavor was incredible, and the grilled bread was just enough to soak up the tomatoes and spice. I’m definitely thinking of recreating this at home – which would take some thought because my cast iron pans are quite large and Mister is really focused on not deviating from his chocolate chip pancakes routine in the morning.

Spicy Margarita, Bread, and Something for the Dogs

This past weekend was pretty low key – and one of the first weekends that Mister and I both had busy Saturdays planned separately.  While Mister went skiing with my Dad, I met a few women for brunch in Manhattan.

It is nice being walking distance to a Metro North station in Westchester – within 35-40 ish minutes I can go from my front door to Grand Central. Thankfully, the women I met up with were kind enough to choose a place just a few blocks from Grand Central to make brunch even easier.

Salvation Taco was the perfect spot for a girl’s brunch ; there was a steady stream of spicy margaritas and sangria while we were able to lounge around a coffee table on couches.   Thankfully one of us took command and ordered food for the table, which meant we were all able to share tacos, quesadillas, and wings. Everything had great flavor, and I personally loved the extra salty chips that came with an order of guacamole.

By Sunday morning, we were both excited for a lazy couch day – especially Mister after a very early and long day of skiing. We had mini bagels with the works [i.e. smoked salmon, tomato slices, and red onion] and coffee while on the couch. 010.JPG

While waiting for the coffee to brew, I spied the bread cookbook my Mom  had gifted me last week and thought the rainy Sunday was a great time to give something a try.

Bread Illustrated   is an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook – which means I was in love with it before even cracking the binding. For all beginners, scientists, curious cooks, or experimenters – try America’s Test Kitchen. What I love is they explain the why and the how to every single thing. For example, with my favorite meatloaf recipe of their’s – they showed the results from baking it in a glass loaf pan, a metal loaf pan, and free form on a sheetpan. They explain the merits of each situation, and ultimately recommend free form on a sheetpan for the ability to crisp up all the edges. I trust their recipes because they work, and they explain why.

Bread and rice seem to be my two nemesis in the kitchen. I can’t cook rice, and I struggle with bread.

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While it didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, the Whole Wheat variation on the American Sandwich Bread was perfection. The taste, texture, and even crust was really impressive. Thanks to the cookbook, I think I was able to pinpoint why the rise wasn’t ideal [water wasn’t warm enough for the yeast in the first rise, and it might’ve been too cold/drafty in my kitchen for the second rise].

I can confidently say, however, that I used said bread for my lunchtime sandwich at work today.  Feels pretty good to say, hey look I made this! [I didn’t actually do that, because I’m pretty sure that would just be strange. But like if someone asked…]

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While all this baking was going on , I felt bad for the dogs. Yes I’m a crazy dog mom, but we keep the dog treats on the counter where I was baking and they kept running in exactingly.  Since I had the oven going, and we weren’t doing anything other than laundry and watching tv most of the day, I decided to try a batch of dog biscuits as well.

I happened to have a set of dog related cookie cutters we had received as a wedding gift – so I was able to come up with a pretty sizeable batch of dog bone shaped treats.  I purposely under baked them by a few minutes, to keep them soft per my dogs’ preference.  These were a HUGE hit – so much so that I’m considering making them as regularly as I can.

 

Clean and Easy

Per my last post – I’m back on track and this is a very determined train.

Last night for dinner was lean, green and easy.

Left is Misters: bbq chicken, butternut squash, roasted broccoli

Right is Mine: butternut squash, roasted broccoli, mushrooms, kale

I turned the oven on to about 350 degrees while I waited for Mister to get home. Tossed the broccoli in some olive oil, salt, pepper and put on a foil covered pan. Put the chicken in a Corningware (or oven safe dish) with about half a bottle of Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce. Bake 30 ish minutes.

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Meanwhile I got to play with these cuties I found the other day:

They’re like crinkle cut fries – but squash. I’m clearly a child because the shape alone was what sold me. I steamed them on the stove, and then tossed with a handful of random seasoning.

I ate a handful before they even made it to the plate, they were that good. Mister, however, thought they were the worst ever and didn’t eat more than a forkful. Poor guy – he might have supplemented his dinner with some macaroni and cheese. I swear I tried to make him a healthy dinner, I really tried.

This morning for breakfast, I had a little extra time before a morning work meeting so I made a smoothie bowl. These are a craze, just like the ACV drink and juice cleanses – but I’m telling you smoothie bowls are actually fantastic.

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Make a smoothie without as much liquid as normal – so its thicker. Then top with whatever sounds good. Eat with a spoon. Ta Da – you’ve got yourself a smoothie bowl!

This morning for the smoothie I did:

half of a frozen banana + little less than a cup of orange juice + 2 scoops of Trader Joe’s Pea Protein Powder + 3 frozen peach slices + 2 big handfuls of spinach.

For the topping:

chia seeds, coconut flakes, granola, and walnuts.

Crunchy, sweet, filling. This was my first time going full fruity – my past few experiments may or may not have involved a chocolate smoothie and chocolate chips.  See what I mean about getting back on track?

 

Meal Prep

It was a deep rut.

Christmas, New Years, Snow Storm. Flannel pajamas, baggy sweaters, cheese, wine. Christmas cookies, french toast, more cheese.

How to break the deliciously cozy cycle when New York has been colder than Alaska lately?

ACV.

Apple cider vinegar. Its a little routine that I can never stick with too consistently (despite my best efforts), but its a great way to jump start a little nutrition and pry yourself away from caramels and Camembert.

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8 oz of cold water, squeeze half a lemon, 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Drink this before you start breakfast, while you’re getting ready in the morning. Before coffee, before brushed teeth, before the stretchy pants get too comfortable.

It may be psychological, total placebo affect – but for me personally, it curbs my sweet tooth and allows me to hit the reset button my nutritional intake.

While I sipped my ACV, I cooked a big batch of food for the coming week to allow myself to really trudge through the winter apocalypse with some vitamins and hopefully a few less pounds in the stomach area.

New Year New Tradition

In my last post I noted that Mister and I eat the same dinner every year on New Years Eve. We didn’t really have a tradition for New Years Day – which seems to be the day everyone universally has off (except for my Mom this year, sorry Mom!).

With the long weekend of no plans, I knew I had some time to put together a decent brunch and liked the idea of starting a new tradition that’s all our own.  We invited my sister and her husband, and Mister’s brother and his wife – which is just about the top number of people that can fit in our kitchen. Did I mention that our house is tiny?

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Here’s everything just before we started, I’m incredibly proud of how well everything turned out. My list-making abilities paid off – as did the discovery that my magnetic notepad that I normally stick to the fridge can be stuck to the metal backsplash between our stove and the vent.

The complete menu:

Growing up Jewish, I have it ingrained in me that sweet foods should be eaten around the new year based on the idea that sweet foods are eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The night before I started the baked french toast, and the pea salad. I don’t want to give away all the family secrets, but my Aunt Resa’s pea salad is one of my favorite things to eat on holidays. This was my first time attempting it, and it was the perfect acidic counter balance to all the sweet.

I’ll give you the recipe, but promise to give Aunt Resa the credit please.

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Mix one bag of frozen peas with one can of drained chickpeas.  Pour an entire bottle of italian dressing on top.  Let sit overnight, drain well before serving and toss with redskin spanish peanuts.  Enjoy! Its crunchy, tart, a little sweet from the peas. We’ve eaten the leftovers as a snack or even a light lunch.

While everyone was arriving I made sure we had a cheese plate out, nothing fancy, but an opportunity to use the monogram marble cheeseboard we received as a wedding gift.  Aren’t weddings fun?

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And of course, what would a New Years Day brunch be without a champagne bar?

 

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The Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail started a conversation about how I am a sucker for all things seasonal. If you put up a sign that says “Limited Edition” I will most likely buy it, for no other reason other than it is seasonal and/or limited. This is how I ended up with Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.  I don’t even eat regular cheerios. And yes, they were as bad as you would think.

This Winter Wassail though – incredible stuff.

Even if you’re not a songbird, Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail is so festive, you may find yourself spontaneously bursting into carols of the season with every sip. Our Winter Wassail was modeled after the spiced beverage enjoyed during 12th century Christmas celebrations. Years later, we’re still impressed by the drink’s ability to turn humbug feelings into holiday spirit. A sweetened blend of black currant, apple, and lemon juices produce a punchy punch. The cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and orange peel punches it up even further. Enjoyed hot or cold, the flavor and aroma will instantly kindle feelings of holiday cheer. It’s a merry mixer with red wine, simmered on the stovetop and served steaming. Winter Wassail will be with us through the holidays. If merriment is your manifesto, you’ve met your match. Each 64 fluid ounce bottle is $3.99, until the last carol is sung (or we run out).

The ingredients are pretty straightforward:

INGREDIENTS: WATER, CANE SUGAR, APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE, BLACKCURRANT JUICE CONCENTRATE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SPICES (CINNAMON, CLOVES, NUTMEG, CARDAMOM, GINGER), LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, ORANGE PEEL.

Weirdly enough, that list turned a few people off – whom were pleasantly surprised by the actual juice once trying. Its like a holiday spiced cranberry juice.  More sweet and spiced than tart.

I love those champagne coup glasses more than anything. How can you not feel incredibly fancy while drinking from them? Its as if they require me to throw on some kitten heels while I slice up some snacks.

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Cheers to new drinks, to new family, to new traditions. Happy New Year!

Weekend Catch Up

I know that my posting comes in waves; there are daily posts that dwindle to nothing for a month and then I’ll reappear.  I’m sure this is no way to garner an audience, but life happens.

I headed up to Albany after work on Friday, and Mister and I were both equally tired and hungry by the time it got dark out.  We agreed on take out from Rain on Lark Street, after having stopped in for a drink last week and agreeing the food smelled and looked promising.

We picked up our takeout, and ate it on the couch with our sweatpants on; which is the best way to eat any and all takeout.

This stuff was really good.  It wasn’t nearly as greasy as typical Chinese takeout, and didn’t leave us feeling like bloated, sweaty monsters.  There was flavor, texture, and quality to our order, and we would definitely order again.  The only thing I didn’t like, was their won ton soup.  Interestingly enough, the menu we were looking at online for ordering listed it only as “Shanghai style won ton soup.” The menu on their website lists it as “shrimp and pork won ton.” This additional shrimp information makes a world of difference; when I bit into the dumplings, the filling was almost sausage like in its consistency.  Lumpy and almost gristly, it was unappealing.  Knowing now that it was shrimp mixed with pork explains it enough, but I wouldn’t order again.

Saturday morning, Mister and I had our second wedding related planning appointment.  After a year of being engaged, we set a wedding date and booked a venue.  On Saturday, we also confirmed our photographer.  Since our wedding date isn’t until June of 2017, we’ve got plenty of time to worry about the small things, and I’m making sure to check off the big ticket items as soon as I can.

Sunday, was when the fun went into full swing.  We started the day off with a workout at Flight Trampoline Park, which I can’t recommend enough.  Want to work up a sweat, while laughing for about an hour? They have instructor led fitness classes Saturday and Sundays, where you get to jump around barefoot.

Following that class, I got to the serious business of meal prepping.

I like cooking, and I like eating.  But with my living/work situation I can’t always find the time to do both well.  So I’ve gotten in the habit of cooking up a storm for myself and Mister over the weekend, to last throughout the week.

This Sunday, I cooked up:

3 containers of lean ground beef, riced cauliflower, and mushrooms

3 containers of shredded buffalo chicken salad and broccoli slaw

3 beef burrito bowls with rice, beans, and veggies

4 plain baked/shredded chicken breasts.

1 dozen hard boiled eggs

This, combined with some leftovers, cut up veggies, and my office stockpile of oatmeal will get us both on a good start for the breakfast and lunches for the week.  Some will be eaten for dinner depending on our schedule, and I’m sure we’ll grab a sandwich or something else to add to the mix when necessary.  But my point is, this took about an hour of grocery shopping and an hour or two of cooking while watching TV.

With the wedding coming up, I’m trying to keep myself more accountable on watching the bank account and my dress size; so making sure we eat healthy meals on a budget is important.

Sinus Smog

I feel like I’m trapped in some sinus induced smog.  Its yucky and all of my food tastes like cardboard.  There’s nothing worse than trying to eat food when everything tastes like mushy gruel.  Enough gross out language for today…. I’m going to quit my whining and leave you with this beauty:

011.JPGThis is the only thing that’s tasted good to me in a few days, and boy does it taste good.  This was my first time trying the Cashew Milk “Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert” aka ice cream, and it was lightyears better than the coconut or almond milk based equivalents.  It was so much creamier that it didn’t have the mouth feel of being dairy free at all.

Highly recommend.

What’s your go to when you’re sick? I know soup is the biggie, but when you can’t taste anything my brain is pretty convinced I’m trying to ingest dirty dish water.  Blerg.  Escarole and Bean soup from Pelham Pizzeria is the exeption; this has been one of the few things that has tasted incredible to me the past few days.  Mister had the foresight to order me extra when we were there this past Sunday, and I’m milking the quart for all its worth.  Its definitely made in house and I think even assembled per order because even if you ask for it to go, there’s a bit of a wait and it comes out crazy hot.  There’s tons of oil, garlic, pancetta, and goodness.  Plus there’s greens, so its healthy.  I promise.  Only a few days after my botched juice cleanse and I’ve devolved to ice cream and pancetta.

I tried pasta, but the mush in my mouth without flavor was hard to stomach.  Same goes for steamed veggies.  I’ve snuck some veggies into my system via Garden Lites chocolate chip banana muffins, which come frozen and are made with zucchini and some other good stuff.  Man those are really good.

 

Modified Juice Cleanse, Day 2

Since being prescribed antibiotics for a sinus infection, my original plan for a three day juice cleanse was derailed.  Trying to see the positive in this situation, I refocused my efforts on eating only whole foods, nothing processed, no meat, no dairy, for a minimum of three days, in addition to about half the juices.  I theorize that my body can use all the extra vitamins and nutrition it can get to help me feel better.

In addition to my morning Formula 2, I had the following juices [All juices from Pure Food and Drink in Tuckahoe, NY]:

  • Formula #13: Carrot, Apple
  • Formula #8: Green Apple, Cucumber, Grapefruit, Mint
  • Formula #14: Pomegranate, Orange, Beet

The #13 didn’t do too much for me taste wise, I almost wish it was thicker and I could’ve heated it up as soup.  I’m sure that defeats some of the nutritional benefits of pressed juices.

The #8 felt like a refreshing cocktail, I would definitely grab this in the summer.  Unfortunately, the combination of snowy winter weather and being sick has left my bones feeling cold, so I’m craving more hearty and comforting versus refreshing.

The #14 was terrible at first sip, then it grew on me and I actually finished it pretty quickly.  The beet flavor is very overwhelming, but in a weird way, hit that comfort food feeling I was craving.

I picked up some of these Mary’s Gone Crackers “Super Seed” crackers at Stop&Shop on my way home from work, along with some dinner ingredients.  I only had a few, but the texture is much lighter than I was anticipating and they have a great black pepper/sesame flavor that was perfect after all the juice.  I’m not sure if everyone would qualify these as an unprocessed food, but for me, these are “cleanse approved.”  Especially since I’m pretty much making up the rules as I go along.

I was craving something warm and flavorful for dinner, but wanted to stick to meat and dairy free.

A very ginormous baked potato went in the toaster oven for about an hour or so, while I got started on the veggies.  A container of mixed baby kale and baby spinach, a few sliced baby portobella mushrooms, a yellow pepper, and a shallot were cooked up in a scoop of coconut oil.  I added the kale/spinach a handful at a time, intermittently while the whole thing was cooking to vary the texture; leaving some barely cooked, and some cooked all the way down.

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The game changer for this meal, slathering the baked sweet potato with roasted red pepper hummus.  I got the idea from Googling vegan, vegetarian, and cleanse related recipes.  Personally, the idea seemed weird but the texture and flavor worked so well that I can’t wait to have it again for dinner tonight.