#52NewEats :: Week 36 :: World’s Greatest Onion Dip

World's Greatest Onion Dip

Ok so.  I’m just going to say this loud and clear: you WILL want this dip at your next family or friends get-together.  You just will.

You WILL need to get over the idea of sauteeing the onions for 45-60 minutes.  You just will.  Because this step, this crucial step, is what sets this dip apart from the very simple French onion dip you have come to know and love.  If you’re not willing to slowly caramelize these onions then step aside and do not make this dip, my friend.

I can tell you that my mouth is watering right now as I’m typing this, literally, I swear, not lying.  I can’t wait to make this recipe again, and soon!

You can find the original recipe //here//.

Some notes:

🍴  If your onions are caramelizing too fast, lower the heat.  You don’t want to burn them.

🍴  I did not think it was necessary to drag out my stand mixer for this task; so I used handheld electric beaters, and I just made sure I beat the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo together for the full 5 minutes.  It really did make a difference to beat these for that long.  If your handheld beaters have a whisk attachment, even better, but I just made sure I beat everything up real good.

🍴  I served this dip with chips like I usually do for onion dip – the saltier, the better, so I went with Ruffles.  😊

🍴  I also topped with chives because extra onion flavor but also pretty green and super yum!

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Herb and Garlic Cheese Spread

Herb and Garlic Cheese Spread

Herb and garlic cheese spread is another old recipe I found in my binder from my early days of learning how to cook.  I remember Aaron loved it back then, so when I saw this I thought it would make a good snack for him to bring in for lunch!

It’s funny because the day I made this, he came home from the gym starving and wanting something to eat, and I was just getting ready to photograph this.  I turned my back to grab some props to stage and turned around and there he was, digging into my perfectly coiffed globe of herb and garlic cheese spread.  I had to smack his hands away and re-do the coif.  I don’t even know if it’s called a coif.  Not even sure where I got that from.  But I had to re-swirl it again and make it pretty.  Food bloggers will know what I mean.

I snapped this little behind-the-scenes of shooting this recipe.  The mid-day lighting is so amazing in this window.  If I wait too long into the afternoon, the setting sun will shine right into this window and cast shadows.  So I try to get my cooking done earlier in the day on weekends if I’m photographing a recipe!  This is a huuuge bay window that looks out onto about half of my three acres.  It’s part of what sold us on this house.  And for Christmas last year, my mom got a custom-made window seat cushion for this window.  It’s so awesome.  My daughter sometimes sits up there and reads.

Behind The Scenes

Anyway.  This herb and garlic cheese spread is a great dip to have out at your next party!  It’s highly addictive, hubby couldn’t stop eating it until I reminded him it’s mostly for his lunch… then he finally put the crackers away.

Herb and Garlic Cheese Spread

Ingredients
8oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

Directions
Add all ingredients to a bowl and use beaters to beat together and combine well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to one week.

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Cholula Mac & Cheese

Cholula Mac and Cheese

Once I perfected my homemade //macaroni and cheese//, I started noticing that my husband was desecrating his plate of perfectly creamy mac and cheese with hot sauce.  😱  The nerve!

Originally it was Tabasco.  I couldn’t believe such things.  Who dare muddle my perfectly perfected cheese sauce with Tabasco?  No!  No no no.

But then he became a Cholula guy.  And I became a Cholula girl.  And then my mom made a buffalo style mac and cheese and I thought hey.  Maybe spicy mac and cheese ain’t all that bad.

So a little while ago I made a batch of mac and cheese and split it in half.  One, I flavored with Chipotle Tabasco (one of my favoritest condiments ever), and the other, I flavored with Cholula.  I brought both to a family gathering at my mom’s house and twisted everyone’s arms to taste both and tell me which one they liked better.  I did not tell them what was flavored with what.

The clear winner was the Cholula flavored mac and cheese, but even so, the Chipotle Tabasco one was also very good!  It was really hard to choose.

There are no major changes with this mac and cheese from my //original recipe//.  The only things I did differently were a) I used rotini instead of elbow macaroni, but you can use whatever you want! and b) I added 4 tablespoons Cholula to the cheese sauce.  Everything else is exactly the same!

You can certainly experiment with adding more or less Cholula to your taste, especially if you are hesitant with spicy foods.  The 4 tablespoons was a good amount to get a bit of a kick, but not too much; but we are not too sensitive to spicy foods.  Use your judgment and taste as you go.  Enjoy!

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Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Today, I bring you one of my favorite old-time recipes from when I first started learning how to cook: fresh tomato and garlic penne.

When I first started learning how to cook, I was also sort of discovering that I liked pasta.  Weird, I know, right?  Like, who am I?  I don’t even know sometimes.  But yeah, I first fell in love with alfredo sauce and after making that a gajillion times, my boyfriend (now husband) urged me to make some pasta with red sauce.  He is partial to red sauces while I could eat any kind of creamy, cheesy, saucy pasta by the bucketful and never really get full.  So we tried some of those jarred sauces, and they aren’t terrible, but whenever / however I stumbled across this recipe, I knew immediately he would like it.

So we made it over the weekend for the first time in, oh, like, 15 years?  😂  I swear, I’m not reaching that far back for recipes because I’m running out of content or ideas.  In fact, I’m reaching that far back because I’m trying to expand my repertoire of vegetarian recipes, and found this old gem as a result of minimalizing one of my recipe binders last month.  It was one of those, “OH!  THIS recipe!  Why did we ever stop making this?!” moments.

And when I took my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my little apartment in Spokane, Washington, where I have a vision of myself wearing khaki overalls (lol whut), sitting at our dining room table that was practically in the family room, watching Jeopardy, sprinkling Parmesan cheese over top of hot penne pasta graced with the sweetest Roma tomatoes, that fresh basil wafting up into my nostrils, and, finally, shoveling forkfuls of this pasta into my mouth.  It wasn’t a bad recipe then, and it’s not a bad recipe now.  And it’s a GREAT recipe to make right now, at the height of fresh tomato season.

I hope you enjoy it!

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups uncooked penne rigate pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

Directions
1. Cook pasta as directed on package and drain.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic in oil for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tomatoes start to break down and sauce thickens slightly. Reduce heat to low, and stir in basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

3. Toss tomato sauce with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with additional fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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#52NewEats :: Week 32 :: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Guysssssss.  Who knew vegan desserts could be SO delicious?

This is another recipe from my friend Daniela over at //dulce y natural// blog.  The //original recipe// was for chocolate chip cookies, but for whatever reason, the dough did not really come together enough for me to be able to roll into a ball, so I improvised and pressed it into a pan to make chocolate chip cookie bars instead.  I suspect my issue may have been that my house was so warm to start, that my coconut oil was already in the liquid state.  In her blog Daniela instructs you to work quickly with your hands in the dough, as the heat from your hands will keep the coconut oil soft.  Maybe when she made them, the coconut oil started to firm up just enough to tighten up the dough.  But not for me on a 90-degree day here in the Pennsylvania countryside!

Regardless, these chocolate chip cookie bars were a major success.  I baked them for the same amount of time, maybe a minute or two longer, than the cookie recipe, and they made my house smell amazing!  I lined an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, and when the cookie bars were done baking and had cooled a bit, I lifted them out of the pan and cut them into bars with a chef’s knife.  The day I made them, I was meeting my mostly-vegan BFF for dinner and decided to bring a box for her and her wife to share.  The next day she texted me and said they couldn’t stop eating them and they wanted the recipe!

These chocolate chip cookie bars were made from ingredients I already had in my house, which was also awesome, because I didn’t have to go buy anything fancy to make them – and, also, because that means I can basically make them anytime I want!  I hope you head on over to Daniela’s blog and give these chocolate chip cookies (or cookie bars!) a try.  And while you’re there check out the rest of the recipes… I’ve got my eye on that carrot cake next!!

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#52NewEats :: Week 30 :: Apple Almond Muffins

Apple Almond Muffins

I met an adorable fellow food blogger, Daniela, in the food bloggers group on Facebook, and immediately fell in love with her work because….. well, because the very first post I read of hers had the F word in it, and I knew she was my kind of girl!

Ok, ok, ok… also, because, she focuses primarily on sweets?  But uh, not just any sweets, vegan sweets!  If you have not dabbled in vegetarianism or veganism, you might be sitting there wondering just how possible it is to create vegan sweets recipes that actually taste good, and Daniela is here to tell you, and I am here to echo her, that it is ENTIRELY possible, and ENTIRELY delicious.

I have made two of Daniela’s recipes now – the second will be up very soon – and I just went to her page to grab the link to her blog, //Dulce y Natural//, and noticed now she’s got a carrot cake recipe up.  And lord help me, because if I have major weaknesses, carrot cake is definitely one of many…  But anyway, yes, I have made two of her recipes so far, and these muffins promptly disappeared, and I made the mistake of sharing the second recipe with my vegan BFFs instead of keeping them all to myself, so I guess I need to make those again too (stay tuned!!)…

These //apple almond muffins// were the PERFECT little vegan companion to my vegan smoothie for breakfast every morning.  Um, actually, I guess mine weren’t so vegan since I did slather some Kerrygold butter on them, but, ok, vegetarian muffin with vegan smoothie, good enough.  #plantbased #imgettingthere

I have to admit, I have not done much vegetarian or vegan baking, and I was not sure how these would turn out or come together.  But they totally surprised me, and now I am a believer.  When you are raised to believe that “you need an egg to bind it”, then you read a recipe for something like a muffin and of course feel doubt that it would come together.  These muffins were delicious though, and so easy to make, considering I pretty much always have all of these ingredients in my house anyway.  The only thing I will say though is, I am not sure how accurate conversion measurements would be.  I have a kitchen scale, so I set it to grams, and measured everything out that way.  I attempted to google conversions but they were so precise, I didn’t even bother going that way.

Go check out Daniela’s blog, and make these muffins!

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#52NewEats :: Week 28 :: Broccoli Cheddar Wild Rice Casserole

Broccoli Cheddar Wild Rice Casserole

It is no secret that I looooove //smitten kitchen//.  Love her.  LOVE.  HER.  She was probably one of the first blogs I’ve ever followed, and I found so much inspiration in her photography.  She has taken some really mouthwatering pictures, famously, with only a single window in her NYC apartment kitchen to light the food.  I am quite confident that had I never seen smitten kitchen’s work, I would never have thought I could do something like a food blog myself.

I have a deep love for many of her dishes…  //Red Wine Chocolate Cake//, once recommended to me by a dear friend; //Homemade Ricotta//, I submit that there is no easier, no tastier, no creamier homemade ricotta recipe out there; I could go on and on.  I also absolutely love her site, because it it minimalist, and there are maybe 1-2 ads on her pages, and none of them get in your face, no annoying popups, no splash screens.  Nothing ever gets in the way of the content you are there to see!

Quite frankly, she is my ultimate food blogging idol.  #skwannabe

Now, folks, I can add this delicious casserole to my list of favorites.  There are a couple reasons I LOVED this //broccoli cheddar wild rice casserole//:

🍴  It tastes decidedly “grown-up”.  The cheese sauce doesn’t taste like a run of the mill cheese sauce.  I am attributing this to the dijon mustard, though I could be wrong.  My kid’s 7yo tongue would definitely NOT like this dish.  😂  Not right now anyway.

🍴  Broccoli!  I mentioned recently that I like dishes like this casserole because they help me get more broccoli into my belly.  Broccoli isn’t so bad when it’s covered with cheese sauce.  😉

🍴  It was REALLY good leftover.  I ate it for lunch for the next two days.

I already have this casserole on my menu again for next week – we will be pairing it with a salad, following our new primarily vegetarian diet.  Maybe I can get my kid to try it.  🙏  But YOU should DEFINITELY try it.  Go forth, and eat the broccoli!

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Favorite Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

So it’s sort of time for me to come clean about something, and that something has directly lead to the development of this smoothie recipe, so here goes.

Back in May I woke up in the middle of the night one night with incredibly severe knee pain in my right knee.  I was laying in bed and thought maybe I was sleeping in a funny position and tried to roll over, but I couldn’t lift my leg.  I had to lift my leg with my hands to move it at all.  Pain shot from my knee up my thigh to my hip, blinding me, it was so bad.  I was near tears, and tried getting out of bed to walk it off.  I walked back and forth in my bedroom, kicking my foot out randomly, attempting to pop my kneecap back in place (I thought maybe it had popped out), but nothing helped.  Eventually, I got back into bed and didn’t sleep for the rest of the night because the pain was so terrible.

The next morning, I called my doctor first thing and got an appointment around lunchtime.  I went to work, my knee bothering me on the drive in, on the trek up the stairs, etc.  I really thought something bad had happened to my knee.  So I go to the doctor, and she’s doing her doctor thing, checking for swelling in my knee (there was), checking movement (she made me squat and was impressed with my form 💁), etc.  Then she moves on to the normal stuff, checking my blood pressure, listening to my heart…

She heard something through the stethoscope that sent her into a panic.  She began asking me all kinds of questions – do I ever have heart palpitations?  I don’t think so?  Do I take birth control?  Yes…  Have I ever fainted?  No…  Have I ever had a blood clot?

….a blood clot??

She says she is hearing “too many beats” with my heart, and they aren’t registering on that finger clip thing (pulse ox?), she can only hear them through the stethoscope.  So she sends me to another room where they quickly slap some electrodes on me and take an EKG where they find all these extra heart beats.  The whole time she’s asking me how I feel and I’m just like, “I feel fine, but uh, my knee hurts…?”

She essentially freaks out and sends me to the hospital for blood tests (one to rule out a blood clot, another standard round of bloodwork minus cholesterol as I hadn’t fasted) and an x-ray (for my knee).  All the symptoms presented “could” point to a blood clot, and though it’s the worst case scenario and maybe the two events aren’t even related, she must do her due diligence and rule it out.  She left the room for a minute and I started crying.  A blood clot?  I am 37.  Stop it.  Old people get blood clots.  And wtf is going on with my heart?

So I pulled myself together, contacted my friend at work and tell her to please tell some people I wouldn’t be making a meeting I’d had scheduled for 1pm and that they should proceed without me, and contacted my manager to let him know I wouldn’t be back for the afternoon.  And off to the hospital I went.

The whole time this is going on, of course I can’t stop my brain from buzzing.  This is it, it’s finally caught up to me.  If I don’t have a blood clot, then something is wrong with my heart and I’m gonna have to eat buckets of lettuce for the rest of my life.  But that will totally be okay, because I will kick ass harder in the gym, and I will make myself healthy, and I will have more time with my family.

Later that day, I was sitting on my couch when I received the phone call that I did NOT have a blood clot (THANK YOU JESUS 🙏).  A little while after that, I received the phone call that said my x-ray revealed “arthritic damage” in my knee.  I was ordered to be seen by a cardiologist the next day (for a formal EKG and determination of whatever was going on with my heart), and to follow-up with an orthopedist for my knee problem.

When I woke up the next morning, magically, somehow, my knee pain was completely gone.  It was like it had never happened.  I mean, I couldn’t even make it happen again.  It had disappeared as quickly as it had shown up.

Suspecting my cardiologist may want to do a blood test for cholesterol, I made sure I didn’t eat before my appointment.  They hooked me up for another EKG and determined that what they were finding were PVC heartbeats – premature ventricular contractions.  PVCs are like little pre-heartbeats, kind of like a flutter.  If a normal heartbeat goes ba-BUM ba-BUM ba-BUM, my heart beats like baba-ba-BUM baba-ba-BUM baba-ba-BUM.  Some people say they feel them, but I don’t.  My cardiologist assured me that most of the time, PVCs are benign; but that sometimes, they can point to something else going on with the heart.  So, he ordered several more tests for the coming weeks, as well as a cholesterol blood test to be done that day.

Later that day, I was once again sitting on my couch when I received the phone call with my cholesterol blood test results.

(As a side note, I will just tell you that I almost feel like this is what I was dreading the most.  I have always had “perfect” blood pressure, but I have wondered about my cholesterol levels.  It can be a silent killer!, according to the interwebz and various documentaries I’ve seen.  I had actually scheduled a physical for the day after my birthday this year, with the specific intention of getting bloodwork to see what my cholesterol levels were, figuring it was probably high time that I change my diet (RIP SFB?), but I came down with strep throat and ended up cancelling it.)

So the nurse calls me and says, “The doctor says your cholesterol results are acceptable.”  And I went, “Oh!  Whew!  Oh my gosh, great news, thank you!!!”  And we hung up.

And then…. doubt.

Acceptable?  Why “acceptable”, why not “good”?

So I called her back and asked her for the specific numbers.   The breakdown:

  • Overall cholesterol:  205
  • Triglycerides:  104
  • HDL (“good” cholesterol):  64
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol):  119

According to a chart I found published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, my overall cholesterol should be under 200, so I fell into the “borderline high” category.  Triglycerides should be under 150, so I was good.  HDL should be higher than 60, so I was good (yay!).  And LDL should really be less than 100, but okay to be less than 129, so I was good there too.

Even though those results were “acceptable”, and by all means, I should feel blessed, considering my love for cheese and red meat, I felt like I had some work to do.  I wanted to focus on raising my “good” cholesterol and lowering my “bad” cholesterol, because even though they were good enough that I don’t need medicine, I don’t ever want to get to the point where I do need medicine.  So let’s nip this shit in the bud RIGHT NOW.

The number one factor in your cholesterol levels is your diet, closely followed by the amount of exercise you do.  Now listen.  You’re talking to the girl that has a blog and an Instagram account focused on food.  And not just any food, SLUTTY food.  Food that is not good for you!  Food that is bad for you.  On the one hand, I am eternally grateful that my eating habits so far have not lead to an early heart attack, BUT, I AM getting older, and I believe it is time for me to start being more mindful of the food I’m putting into my mouth.

So, off to the interwebz I go, looking for foods that raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. The number one food that lowers bad cholesterol is: OATS!  Ok, I like oats.  We can figure out how to incorporate these into my diet.  It means I need to shuck the grain free thing, or at least count it in the 20 of my 80/20 grain free rule.  Also: whole grains!  Beans!  And some of my favorite fruits!  Awesome, I’ve got this.  One of the top foods that raise your good cholesterol is: AVOCADOS!  Sweet!  I love avocados.  If I put half an avocado on a slice of Ezekiel toast every morning for breakfast, then I will be simultaneously raising my good cholesterol AND lowering my bad cholesterol!

So naturally the NEXT place I go to is Pinterest, looking for oatmeal recipes.  I actually kind of hate oatmeal itself, but don’t hate oats.  Oatmeal is mushy and sticky and sooo filling, so I thought about finding oatmeal smoothie recipes that I could drink with my cholesterol-kicking powerhouse avocado toast.  I found several banana oatmeal smoothie recipes with similar ingredients, that were all very delicious, but somehow over the last two months, in the fog and rush of early morning sleepiness, I ended up combining my favorite things from each smoothie recipe into its very own SFB version.  And now, voila, we have my favorite banana oatmeal smoothie recipe.

And so, over the last two months, I have:

  • Been eating avocado toast + banana oatmeal smoothie almost every morning;
  • Passed my ECG with flying colors;
  • Passed my stress test with flying colors;
  • Found out, as a result of wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, that the reason I sometimes feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous during the day is because my PVCs are occurring at a higher frequency (NOT low blood sugar or dehydration like I always attributed it to);
  • Found out that there actually wasn’t “arthritic damage” in my knee; but that I AM predisposed to knee problems due to a history playing basketball in my youth, and therefore am forbidden from running (especially on a treadmill), jumping, and lunging (aw, shucks!).

Last week I had a checkup with my cardiologist to go over the results of all the tests, and he says if anything popped up in any of the other tests, that he would be concerned and look deeper into what could be going on.  He assured me that one of the top indicators of these PVCs being benign is the fact that they literally disappeared during the stress test (exercise).  If they were still present or got worse during the stress test, it would be a high indicator of a deeper problem.  But he feels confident in saying to me that these are benign and currently nothing to worry about.  HOWEVER.  I will see him again in 6 months for a follow-up, and probably get another ECG after that, just to make sure something isn’t developing.  It’s something we keep an eye on, even though right now they are benign.  What a relief!!

If you’ve read this far, I reckon you deserve a treat.  So here it is, my favorite, very filling, very nutritious, banana oatmeal smoothie.  🙂  Stay healthy, y’all.

Banana Oatmeal Smoothie
Serves: 1

Ingredients
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup rolled / old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice (or pumpkin pie spice), optional
1 tablespoon syrup (you can use maple, or I use coconut palm syrup)
1-2 tablespoons nut butter (I like almond butter or cashew butter)
1 banana, sliced and frozen

Directions
1. Pour almond milk into the blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Let the oats soak in the almond milk for a little bit to soften them up and make them easier to blend. I usually let them sit for about 10-15 minutes while I’m doing other stuff in the kitchen. Then, flip your blender onto “puree” and blend until nice and smooth. Pro tip: freeze your smoothie cup for 10-15 minutes and it will keep your smoothie extra cold for your ride to work.  😉

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Mexican Street Corn Dip

Mexican Street Corn DIp

I mentioned in my post for Mexican Street Corn Tostadas a couple weeks back that I was pretty inspired by that recipe and made a corn dip….thing.

Is it weird that I think the words “corn dip” just don’t jive together?  I don’t know why.  It sounds pretty redneck.  Y’ALL COME FETCH YA SOME CORN DIP!  But I’m quite the country bumpkin these days and I s’pose I don’t mind it.

So yeah – I LOVE this corn dip, and I was reminded to write this post because I’m making it TONIGHT for dinner!  You can spread this onto some tostadas, maybe even use it as a topping for tacos, or – I might try this – as a filling for quesadillas or burritos or enchiladas.  Just put this stuff on everything, it’s THAT good.

Mexican Street Corn Dip

Ingredients
1 15oz can of yellow corn, drained
1/2 can of black beans, drained (or use the whole can – I only had a half can sitting in my fridge)
1/4 cup chipotle mayonnaise (or to your preference)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup minced cilantro
Juice of half a lime
Salt & pepper to taste
Queso fresco, crumbled, to taste
Tortilla chips

Directions
1. Add the drained yellow corn to a dry nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn starts to dry off. Add the drained black beans. Continue cooking until the corn and the beans lose some of their moisture and are warmed through, and the corn is slightly browned and toasty.

2. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Set the bowl into the fridge to cool down the corn and black beans faster to room temperature, or a little cooler.

3. Once the corn and black beans are cooled, add the rest of the ingredients and stir together to combine. Serve with tortilla chips as a dip, or as a topping for tacos or tostadas.

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