Oct 052014
 

Spaghetti squash is one of those foods that I literally did not know existed until a few years ago. Odds are that I probably had seen it, and thought, what is this hard round thing doing in the produce aisle, as it is certainly not edible. Well, let me tell you, that me from a few years ago was very wrong and she has many regrets, because spaghetti squash is one of coolest veggies out there. So I’m making up for lost time by using it as much as possible–as the “pad” in a healthier pad thai I made last year, as the base for baked chicken parm and now in this Swiss-Chard and Parmesan Baked Spaghetti Squash.
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Part of the beauty of the spaghetti squash is how deceptively easy it is to make. The quickest option is to stab it a bunch of times and microwave for about 10 minutes, or you can halve it and roast it (I like the flavor and texture a little better with this method). Once it’s cooked, you can just scrape out the flesh and it turns into thin, noodle-like pieces. One spaghetti squash gives you TONS of “spaghetti” and you can use it in any recipe instead of traditional noodles. For this recipe, while my squash was roasting, I sauteed some garlic, shallots, and rainbow swiss chard, added lemon, parmesan, and salt/pepper, mixed in the cooked squash and then baked it for a few more minutes in the squash with some
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Nutrition Highlights: If you’re anything like me, when the weather starts to get cooler, you start to crave warm and comforting dishes. This recipe is a great alternative to your typical cheesey-noodley casserole. Spaghetti squash only has 30 calories per cup, where as spaghetti has 220. I’m not saying it’s the same as pasta, but it cuts a HUGE amount of calories and might be worth trying once in a while. It’s also high in fiber and Vitamin C. Swiss chard is an amazing green to incorporate into your diet when you’re getting a little bored of Kale and Spinach. It has a ton of different vitamins, but most notably, Vitamin K, which is important to help you clot blood properly in your body. It’s also one of only a few non-animal sources of calcium in the diet. I used just a hint of parmesan cheese which can be omitted if you’re trying to keep the recipe vegan (although the cheesey crust on the top is crucial in my opinion!).
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Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard & Parmesan
serves 4 as a side
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What’s in it:
Ingredients:
1 large spaghetti squash (cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch chard (rinsed and cut or torn into pieces)
4 green onions (chopped)
1/2 cup good parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray or drizzle the cut side of the squash with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and lay the spaghetti squash halves, cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork. (Alternatively, you can microwave it to cut the time to only about 10 minutes).
2. While squash is cooking, work on the rest of the filling. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add about tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shallots and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute. Add the swiss chard (you may need to add it in batches so there’s enough space, but don’t worry, it cooks down very quickly).
4. Once swiss chard has wilted, squeeze in the juice from 1/2 a lemon and season with salt and pepper. Set mixture aside.
5. Once squash is done, use a fork to scrape out all of the “noodles”. Mix it into the swiss chard, and stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Turn the oven to broil. Fill the empty spaghetti squash halves with the mixture and top with the remaining parmesan cheese. Whole wheat bread crumbs and/or any type of nut would be delicious in the topping as well for more texture.
7. Broil for a few minutes until the parmesan has melted and the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Notes: In my photos, I have some toasted squash seeds as part of the topping. I didn’t recommend this because they got pretty soggy and tough to eat in the left overs. But a different toasted nut (pine nuts or hazelnuts perhaps) would be amazing!

*Feel free to get creative with this and add any ingredients you like! To make this a main course, add some chicken, quinoa, or chickpeas to add a little protein. I added some sundried tomatoes in when I ate the leftovers and that was delicious too!

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This is the perfect dish to welcome back fall!
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Sep 232014
 

Much to my dismay, football season has, in fact, returned. Although I’m not the biggest fan of these 3 hour games inhibiting my ability to do more important work (like catch up on Scandal and other Shonda Rhimes dramas), football does have one redeeming quality–the snacks. While delicious, football snacks are not traditionally the healthiest. I’ve made a few healthier but still worthy options in the past like these buffalo quiona bites or these baked sweet potato skins. Here’s one more to add to the list…ladies and gentlemen, meet the Greek Nacho.
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Unlike the game of football, there aren’t a whole lot of rules to greek nachos. Basically start with a base of whole wheat pita chips (or better yet, bake them yourself), and top with any ingredient that you would consider putting in a greek salad. Drizzle with tzaziki and enjoy!
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Nutritional Highlights: These beat your everyday nachos in many ways. First, instead of a fried corn chip as the base, this recipe uses whole wheat, baked pita chips. Fiber from the whole wheat part, and less fat from the baked part. While in your traditional nachos, the majority of the toppings are high fat, high sodium, processed ingredients like ground meat, salsa, various cheese products, and sour cream, this recipe uses mostly veggies as toppings (tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion) and just a bit of cheese. You get the creaminess you are looking for from the tzaziki, but the base is non-fat yogurt, adding protein and calcium to the dish. So give your pizza delivery man a break this Sunday and whip these up!
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Greek Nachos
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What’s in it:
4 whole wheat pitas, cut into 8 triangles each (alternately you can use pre-made pita chips)
Salt and chili powder to taste
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper (I like using yellow or orange to add another color!)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup tzaziki sauce (store bought or follow this recipe)
Optional additional toppings: chickpeas, chopped black kalamata olives

How to make it:
1. If making your own, first bake your pita chips. Preheat oven to 400. Spread pita triangles on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Flip triangles and repeat. Bake until the chips are golden brown and crispy, about 12-14 minutes.
2. While pita chips are baking, prepare your toppings. If making your own tzaziki, prepare that as well.
3. Once pita chips have had a chance to cool, assemble your nachos. Layer the pita chips on a platter. Sprinkle with your vegetables, olives and/or chickpeas, and crumbled feta. Drizzle the tzaziki sauce over the top. Enjoy!
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What I’m really trying to say is that this dish is a home run, or a touch down, or something like that.
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Aug 172014
 

Something terrible happened today. I was walking down the streets of New York City, minding my own business, and something fell from the sky. It was a leaf. But not just any leaf–a brown leaf. I looked up, and spotted a whole tree full of leaves trading their vibrant greens for dull browns. Um, excuse me fall, it is August 17th, you are not welcome yet. In protest, I did the only thing I knew how to do–bought a watermelon, the epitome of summer in my mind. And then I cut it into adorable little cubes and stuffed it with burrata, because why not.
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Other than highlighting this amazing watermelon, the other big plus to this recipe is that it is incredibly easy. Cube the watermelon, dig out a little burrata crevice, fill said crevice with burrata, and top with a tiny bit of lemon zest and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. You can serve it just like that as a classy appetizer, or top mixed greens with the cubes and serve it as a salad.
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Nutritional Highlights: You know that signature bright pink/red “watermelon color”? Well it’s not just pretty, it also is a sign of it’s high lycopene content–an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and prevent a number of chronic disease in the body. It is also high in vitamin C and low in calories due to it’s high water content (about 46 calories per cup). Another unusual fact about watermelon is that it has a good amount of citrulline, an amino acid that is converted into arginine in the body (another amino acid). Through a lot of boring sciencey steps, our body produces something called nitric oxide synthase (NOS) which may cause blood vessels to expand, reducing blood pressure. To up the protein/calcium and enjoyment factors of this dish, I added just a tiny bit of burrata to each watermelon cube–you won’t regret it.

And here’s a photo of the whole meal–spicy sriracha-lime grilled shrimp, panko crusted zucchini-corn saute, and of course the watermelon-burrata salad. Not a bad dinner, if I do say so myself.
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Watermelon-Burrata Cubes with Lemon Zest
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What’s in it:

  • 1/2 watermelon, cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
  • 8 oz burrata (or another soft cheese like goat cheese)
  • zest from one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • balsamic glaze/reduction

How to make it:
1. Prepare your watermelon by cutting into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes. Using a small spoon or knife, scoop out a small hole in the center of the cube to make it a cup. Be careful not to scoop all the way through to the bottom.
2. Fill each watermelon cube with a small scoop of the soft center of the burrata or goat cheese.
3. Top each cube with a piece or two of lemon zest and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. If serving as an appetizer on their own, arrange the cubes on a platter and drizzle with balsamic reduction or glaze. If serving as a salad, arrange cubes on a bed of greens and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction.
5. Enjoy this refreshing summer appetizer/salad while you still can!!
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Aug 072014
 

Does anyone else find that when you’re super busy you are the most productive, and when you have plenty of free time your lazy alterego comes out? I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. By “not busy”, I mean I ONLY have a full time job and am not in any classes. The concept of going home after work is pretty foreign to me, but with all this freedom to do anything I want, I’ve found that what I really want to do is nothing at all. I have plenty of time to clean, but yet there’s a pile of clothes growing in the corner of my closet that my neat-freak fiance can’t see. Plenty of time to pick up a good book, but yet I’m watching marathons of Chopped and Say Yes to the Dress (yes, the bridezilla is growing stronger). So that’s why my posting has been a little sparce this summer, but don’t worry I’ll be making a comeback soon. And I have to say these summer corn and zucchini fritters are a pretty good way to start.
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Good corn is one of the best parts of summer. These corn “fritters” (and I use quotes because they are far from fried) are the perfect combo of sweet, spicy, herbal, crunchy, and tender. They can be served as an appetizer with a little avocado or crema on top, or over a salad, or just straight out of the pan because you can’t wait to pop a few. Good news is they are also super easy to make and start to finish only take about 30 minutes. Hooray for lazy summer Marissa having more time to watch bad TV!
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Nutritional Highlights: Corn sometimes gets a bad reputation. If you’ve read any of Michael Pollen’s books, you were probably surprised to learn that almost everything we eat is somehow made of corn–our farm animals are fed it and almost all our processed foods and drinks are made out of it. But yet we don’t eat nearly enough of the really great kind…fresh corn right off the cob. Although some carb averse people see this as a scary starchy food (which it is to some extent), it’s a healthy carbohydrate that provides a good amount of fiber which benefits the GI tract and helps control blood sugar spikes. It also has several antioxidant phytochemicals, which help reduce inflammation and help protect us from many chronic diseases. This recipe highlights this ingredient in both a healthy and craveable way. While typical fritters are deep fried, these are crisped up in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil spray. They also have added veggies and herbs such as shredded zucchini, scallions, and cilantro which add to it’s nutrients. They can easily be made gluten free by choosing a GF flour. This is a healthy summer app or side that will please both your overachieving and lazy sides.
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Sweet Corn & Zucchini “Fritters”
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What’s in it:
2 cups fresh corn cut from the kernels (about 2-3 kernels)
1 zucchini, shredded
2 green onions/scallions
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
optional: 1/2 – 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour of choice (whole wheat or gluten free types encouraged)
2 eggs (1 whole egg and 1 white only)
Juice from one lime plus 1/4 teaspoon zest
Olive oil or canola oil spray, for frying
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How to make it:
1. Shred the zucchini and put it in the center of a few layers of paper towel. Squeeze gently to remove some of the liquid and set aside.
2. Combine the first 8 ingredients (through the pepper) in a large bowl. Add the cornmeal, flour, beaten eggs, and lime juice/zest and stir gently until just combined.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) over medium/high heat. Spray the pan with oil and add the corn mixture (about 2-3 tablespoons per fritter). Using a spoon, flatten the fritters a bit so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cook for about 3 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. Spray the uncooked side of the fritter with a little oil, flip, and cook for another 3 minutes.
4. Set the cooked fritters aside and cook the remaining batter in as many batches as you need.
5. Enjoy these amazing little summer un-fritters in any way you like!
– topped with a slice of avocado and extra cilantro or pico de gallo
– drizzled with lime crema (light sour cream or greek yogurt mixed with lime juice and zest)
– in a salad with your favorite summer veggies
– or straight out of the pan because they’re so good!!
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Jul 252014
 

Sometimes the best dishes appear when I pick up a random ingredient with no plan in mind as to how to use it. This is one of those times. I’ve been noticing beautiful black figs at the grocery store lately, so I decided to pick up a box and think of a way to use them. I love the flavor of figs paired with the sweet/acidic flavor of balsamic vinegar, so I made two dishes using this combination.
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Both of these dishes could not be easier. All I did was halve the figs, brush with EVOO and a tiny pinch of salt, and grill for a few minutes. For the “sundae”, I used store bought greek frozen yogurt (of course you can make your own too) and topped with the grilled figs and the balsamic reduction. This is the perfect dessert for someone who doesn’t like overly sweet desserts. If you’re like me and DO love overly sweet desserts very very much, no worries, you’ll still like it. It’s a perfect light summer dessert and putting balsamic reduction on frozen yogurt makes you feel like a grown up.
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The salad was delicious in it’s simplicity as well. To the same grilled figs, I added mixed greens, sliced peaches, roasted almonds, shaved manchego, and topped with balsamic reduction. It was sweet and savory and super fresh with just enough acidity.
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Nutritional Highlights: Figs are a great source of fiber and potassium, and even though most people eat them dried, they’re even more delicious and healthy when you eat them fresh. These grilled fig dishes are both incredibly healthy, and highlight the natural sweetness. This sundae is way better for you than your average chocolate whip cream covered vat of deliciousness. I used fat free greek frozen yogurt which is lower in sugar, fat, and higher in protein than ice cream. Balsamic reduction and figs are much lower calorie and sugar toppings, sadly, than hot fudge and sprinkles. The salad is also incredibly healthy, getting a little extra protein from the almonds and even though higher in fat, I shaved the manchego very thinly so you get the bold flavor without adding too much.
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Grilled Figs & Balsamic Reduction – Two Ways
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You really don’t even need recipes here, but I’ll give you the synopsis

For the grilled figs: Halve your fresh figs and spray or lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt. Grill on a medium-hot grill cut side down for about 3-4 minutes or until slightly charred and softened.

For the balsamic reduction/syrup: Add 1 cup balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey to a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it has reduced significantly in volume (to 1/3 cup). Let cool completely.

To make a salad: Toss your favorite greens with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and top with grilled figs, fresh peach slices (I did this mostly for color, so you can just let the figs stand alone), a few roasted salted almonds, and shaved manchego. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction. You can also swap goat cheese for the manchego, or any nut for the almonds.

To make a sundae: Use store bought or homemade vanilla greek frozen yogurt (or ice cream if you musttt) and top with a few grilled figs, chopped toasted nuts, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Enjoy some figs outside of the newton for once!

Jul 102014
 

Ever get into a breakfast rutt? Are you a serial cereal eater? Do you wish your toast was toast? Looking to scramble your egg routine a bit? (Insert additional breakfast puns here). I find that more than any other meal, I am a creature of habit and often go months eating the exact same breakfast. For the past several months for me this has been cereal with almond milk, berries/banana, and cinnamon. A great breakfast, but I was looking for a change. I decided to go the savory route with these super healthy, protein-packed quinoa, veggie, and egg bites.
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A few great things about this recipe. 1) It’s the perfect refrigerator clean out recipe. You can pretty much throw in any type of vegetable or cheese and these will turn out great. 2) It’s easy to make and makes 6 servings so you’re set for the whole week. 3) These are SO healthy…stay tunes for more on that…
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Nutritional highlights: If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast you really can’t do much better than that. The bulk of these muffins are veggies and quiona, which provide tons of vitamins and protein. A few eggs to bind it together adds even more protein and some healthy fats. I used 2 egg whites and 2 whole eggs because the bulk of the nutrients in the egg are actually in the yolk (like B vitamin choline). Plus, contrary to popular belief, even though the yolk is high-ish in dietary cholesterol, it doesn’t actually seem to increase our blood cholesterol. So why not use all whole eggs? Of course you could, but to keep the calories in check I went with half and half. And two of these little cups are only 150 calories! That with a piece of fruit and a coffee (or two or three, oops) is the perfect breakfast.
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Mini Summer Vegetable & Quinoa Frittatas
makes 12 muffins (6, 2 muffin servings)
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What’s in it:
1/2 cup dry quinoa cooked in 3/4 cups water
1 leek, chopped
2-3 cups chopped vegetables (I used zucchini, yellow squash, and baby portobella mushrooms)
2 egg whites and 2 whole eggs
1/4 cup milk (I used soy milk but any type you have works)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and 10 cherry tomatoes, sliced

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray a muffin tin with olive oil spray.
2. Get your quinoa cooking. Note: Your quinoa box/bag probably says to use a (1:2 ratio), ie 1 cup of water for a 1/2 cup quinoa, but I like it to have a little bite and not be too mushy. But prepare according to your preferences!
3. While quinoa is cooking, saute your vegetables. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat and add your chopped leeks. Saute for 1 minute and then add your other chopped vegetables. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5-8 minutes until the vegetables a softened and slightly browned. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites, whole eggs, and milk. Add cooked quiona and vegetables and spoon into your prepared muffin tin. Top with three cherry tomato slices each and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
5. Bake for about 10 minutes or until frittatas are cooked through.
6. Enjoy hot or cold for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Notes:
1) This is more of a quiona-veggie muffin than it is a true frittata. If you’re looking for something light and fluffy and eggy, use more egg and less quinoa/veggies.
2) Feel free to swap any type of vegetable or cheese that you like.
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Here’s to switching up your breakfast routine this summer!
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Jun 302014
 

If you’re anything like me, there’s really no such thing as summer “vacation” anymore. If your summer has been as busy as mine has been, and you’re looking for literally the easiest possible festive 4th of July treat, here it is. There is no culinary skill needed here, just some delicious red and blue fruit, skewers, and if you want to get fancy, a drizzle of honeyed greek yogurt and a sprinkling of roasted coconut chips.
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Every 4th of July BBQ or picnic needs some fruit, and this recipe takes your average fruit salad or mundane watermelon wedges to the next level. You can get creative by cutting the fruit into different shapes and it could even be a fun activity for your kids (hey, if you have kids, why not put them to work, right?).
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Nutritional Highlights: Berries are in their peak season right now, which means they have the highest level of vitamins. Berries get their bright color from an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which also decreases inflammation. Another antioxidant in berries, quercetin, may help slow age-related memory-loss and also reduces inflammation, especially in the joints. Vitamin C is another big highlight of berries powerhouse nutritional profile, which is also a strong antioxidant and has many powerful effects in the body. Basically, fruit is good for you! Crazy idea, I know. This is a great way to make fruit a little bit more fun, so everyone will enjoy it this 4th of July.
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Patriotic Fruit Kebabs with Honey-Yogurt Dip
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What’s in it:
– Red and Blue fruit of your choice!
blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and watermelon all work well for this!
– Mini wooden skewers
– 6 oz plain greek yogurt
– 1 tablespoon honey or agave
– Toasted coconut or roasted coconut chips for garnish

How to make it:
1. Cut your strawberries and watermelon into the shapes of your choosing. Leave small berries whole. Skewer in different patterns onto your wooden skewers.
2. Mix the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon or tiny bit of vanilla extra if you’d like.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the yogurt into a small ziplock bag and cut a tiny tiny piece off of the bottom corner. Use this to squeeze a drizzle of the yogurt over the fruit kebabs.
4. Sprinkle with coconut chips and serve along side the remaining yogurt dip.
5. Oh say can you see…how easy that recipe is?
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Here’s to a happy and healthy 4th!
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