Cold Weather Food! Easy Lasagna with Hearty Meat Sauce

Now that the weather is a bit cooler in Southern Arizona, there are a few things I like to do: wear more clothing than just a tank top and shorts, drink red wine, and make casseroles!  The highs have only been in the upper 50’s so, this is perfect weather for lasagna!  The recipe below is from Cook’s Illustrated, one of my trusted sources for recipes.  This one will NOT disappoint.  I served this with sautéed broccolini and my All Kale Caesar!

Easy Lasagna with Hearty Meat Sauce

Ingredients:

Meat Sauce

1 Tbsp EVOO

1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)

6 medium cloves garlic, minced, (about 2 Tbsp)

1lb mix of the following meats: ground beef, veal, and pork sausage

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ up heavy cream

1 28oz can tomato puree

1 28oz can diced tomatoes, drained

 

Ricotta, Mozzarella, Pasta Layer

15 oz ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (1 ¾ cups)

2 ½ oz grated Parmesan cheese (1 ¼ cups)

½ cup chopped fresh basil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

12 no boil lasagna noodles (from and 8 or 9 oz package)

16 oz whole milk mozzarella, shredded (4 cups)

 

Instructions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high and add ground meats, salt and pepper; cook breaking meat into small pieces with a wooden sppon until meat loses its raw color but has not browned, about 4 minutes.  Add cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and only fat remains, about 4 minutes.  Add pureed and drained diced tomatoes and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer slowly until flavors are blended, about 3 minutes; set sauce aside.  (Sauce can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days; reheat before assembling lasagna.
  3. Mix ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, basil, egg, salt and pepper in medium bowl with fork until well-combined and creamy; set aside.
  4. In a 9×13 baking dish, smear ¼ cup meat sauce over the bottom of the dish. Place 3 noodles on top of sauce.  Drop 3 Tbsp ricotta mixture down the center of each noodle.  Level by pressing flat with the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup shredded mozzarella.  Spoon 1 ½ cups meat sauce evenly over cheese.  REPEAT layering of noodles, ricotta, mozzarella and sauce two more times.  Place 3 remaining noodles on top of sauce over noodles, sprinkle with remaining cup mozzarella, then with remaining ¼ cup Parmesan.  Lightly spray a large sheet of foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover lasagna.  Bake 15 minutes, then remove foil.  Return lasagna to oven and continue to bake until cheese is spotty brown and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes  Cool lasagna about 10 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

 

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Kid Friendly Meal: Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

Do you want an easy, kid friendly meal?  Good.  Here it is.  I found the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, which painstakingly tests recipes to improve them.  The first time I made it I only had ground turkey, so I skipped a couple of the steps and augmented one of them to fit my tastes.  They are outstanding.  I served the lettuce wraps with coconut rice, black beans and steamed green beans.

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

1 pork tenderloin (about 1lb) trimmed of silver skin and fat, cut into 1″ chunks

2 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp white rice

1/4 cup low-sodium broth

2 medium shallots peeled and sliced into rings to use raw or minced to cook

3 Tbsp juice from two limes

2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp red peper flakes (optional for kiddos)

3 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

3 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh cilantro

1 head Bibb lettuce, washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole

Directions:

  1. Place pork chunks on a large plate in single layer.  Freeze meat until firming starting to harden around the edges but still pliable, 15-20 minutes.
  2. Place half of the meat in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, 5 to 6 1-second pulses. Transfer ground meat to a medium bowl and repeat with remaining chunks.  (Alternately, place 1 lb ground turkey into the bowl)  Stir in 1 Tbsp fish sauce into ground meat and marinate, refrigerated, 15 minutes.
  3. Heat rice in small skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Grind rice with spice grinder or mini food processor, or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal.  You’ll have about 1 Tbsp rice powder
  4. Bring broth to simmer in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pork and cook, stirring frequently until about half of pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle 1 tsp rice powder over pork; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining pork is no longer pink, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer.  Transfer pork to large bowl, let cool.  10 minutes.
  5. Add remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce, remaining 2 tsp rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to pork; toss to combine. Serve with lettuce leaves.

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Meatless Monday: Beetroot and Goat Cheese Tart

After a gluttonous Thanksgiving I took a couple of days off to reset myself.  I made a simple turkey soup using the carcass.  It rendered about two gallons of stock so I used one and a froze one.  My MIL and I have been hitting the gym hard these last couple of days.  Barre3, Rhythm Cycling, TRX and the treadmills have been in heavy rotation.  During the holidays my only goal is to maintain my weight.  Bottoms up!

I needed to come up with a new beet recipe.  My MIL requested a beet dish while she was visiting.  So img_1756 img_1757 img_1758after a quick search, I found this delicious recipe on Delicious Everyday It includes crust and goat cheese, which are two of my MIL’s favorite things in the whole world.  I did serve this with sautéed beet greens, mashed potatoes with crispy onions and lamb chops.  But this could easily be served at a brunch or even as a dessert.  The filling has quite a bit of tang!

Beetroot & Goats Cheese Tart
Slightly adapted from delicious Simply The Best by Valli Little
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 4 – 6
Author Jennifer Schmidt
Ingredients
BEETROOT MARMALADE:
2 medium sized beets
2 green apples coarsely grated
1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp of ground cloves
2 star anise
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup cane sugar
JALOUSIE
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry thawed
8 oz  goat cheese
1 Tbsp of freshly picked thyme leaves
1 egg lightly beaten

  • Instructions
    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and wrap the beets in foil and place in a roasting try. Roast for 1 hour, or until tender. Set aside to cool before peeling and coarsely grating.
  • Combine the grated beet and apple in a saucepan along with the nutmeg, cloves and star anise. Add the red wine vinegar and sugar and place over a high heat. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to medium, cover and cook for 1 hour, or until thickened and reduced. Remove the lid and cook for a further 8 to 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool completely.  Then remove the star anise pods.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the pastry. Cut the sheets of pastry in half and one sheet spread the beet marmalade over the middle of each half, leaving a 2cm border. Top with crumbled goats cheese and the thyme leaves.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut slits in each half of the pastry, starting about 4 cm in from the edge, spacing each cut 1cm apart. Carefully place each half on top of the base and press to seal around the filling. Trim the edges and then brush lightly with beaten egg.
    Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and puffed.
  • Recipe Notes
    When sealing the pastry be careful not to press too hard on the cut edges as this will prevent the edges of the pastry rising. Also, when brushing the pastry with the beaten egg don’t brush the edges as this will prevent the edges from puffing up.

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Meatless Monday: Vegan-Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

There are a few times in cooking when I have experienced a curious thing: A vegan, gluten-free recipe is as good if not better than a conventional recipe.  This is one of them.  I was flabbergasted when I tasted this recipe from the Minimalist Baker.  Check out this website and this recipe and you will not be disappointed.  I used pumpkin puree that I had made and frozen a few weeks prior and I had great luck with using coconut oil (vegan butter scares me), and homemade cashew milk that I had on hand.

Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
Serves: 10
Ingredients

CRUST
6 Tbsp cold vegan butter (or chilled coconut oil with varied results)
1 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Flour
1/4 tsp salt
4-6 Tbsp ice cold water

FILLING
2 3/4 cups pumpkin puree (~1 1/2 15-ounce cans)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 Tbsp olive oil, or melted coconut oil
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or sub mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
1/4 tsp sea salt

  • Instructions
    To prepare crust, add gluten free flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Slice or dollop the cold butter in and work gently with a fork or pastry cutter to cut it in. Don’t overwork, just get it incorporated.
  • Next add ice cold water a little at a time and use a wooden spoon to stir. Only add as much water as you need to help it come together.
  • Once a loose dough is formed, transfer to a piece of plastic wrap and work gently with your hands to form a 1/2 inch thick disc. Wrap firmly and refrigerate for a minimum 30 minutes, up to 2 days. Just let it warm back up a little before using. You don’t want it too warm or it can get too soft to handle.
  • Once your dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare pie filling.
    Add all pie ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.
  • To roll out the crust, unwrap the disc and place it between two sizable layers of wax paper (plastic wrap will work OK, but is a little more difficult to work with). Use a rolling pin to gently roll it into the shape of your pie pan. If it cracks, don’t stress – you can reform it with your hands once you get it in the pan. But try and be gentle.
  • To transfer the crust, remove the top layer of wax paper and gently lay the pie dish face down on top of the crust and use the support of the wax paper to quickly but carefully invert it. Don’t overthink it – just do it.
  • Once you get the crust inverted, gently use your hands to form it into the pan, working the crust up along the sides. It can be a little tricky but it bakes beautifully, so it’s worth the effort! Just try not to overwork the dough in the process – it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to perfect the shape. Any holes or cracks can be mended with a little excess dough and the heat of your hand.
  • TIP: I would advise against trying to be fancy and do any elaborate design with the crust, so just get the crust in, get a flat edge and go.
    Pour filling into pie crust and bake at 350 for 58-65 minutes. The crust should be light golden brown and the filling will still be just a bit jiggly and have some cracks on the top. Remove from oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.
    Slice and serve with coconut whipped cream and an additional sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or pumpkin pie spice (optional). This would also be amazing with my Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Brown Sugar Pecans!

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Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Tacos

Taco Tuesday is tomorrow, so try this one on for size!

 

Butternut squash tacos (vegan)
Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into cubes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz fresh spinach
10 corn tortillas
chopped cilantro for garnish
Maple tahini dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
3 Tbsp hot water to thin
Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Layer butternut squash cubes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush cubes with olive oil and maple syrup. Sprinkle with cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until tender and just starting to brown at the edges. Turn once during cooking to brown all sides. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is baking, prepare the beans, spinach, and onion mixture.
Over low heat, add the beans to a small pan with the garlic powder,chopped onions, 1 tsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir for 2-4 minutes to heat through. Add in about three large handfuls of fresh spinach and let it wilt for about 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
Prepare the maple tahini sauce by adding tahini, maple syrup, and lemon juice to a mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Add hot water until a pourable sauce is formed. Set aside.
Prepare the tacos by topping the corn tortillas with a spoonful of the bean and spinach mixture, then a spoonful of the butternut squash.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and maple tahini sauce.

Meatless Monday: Cauliflower Mash

I can’t tell you how much I love this recipe.  I have made it twice in the last week and am considering making it again, tonight.  I love the Clean Blog because the recipes are just that: clean.  There is a confidence you carry with you when you feel fulfilled by food.  There is also a feeling of accomplishment when you have polluted your body with something that is going to make you feel guilty or sick afterward.

It has the fluffiness and comfort food feel of mashed potatoes without the heaviness.  Chase says he likes this better than mashed potatoes.  The next time I make this, I’ll take a picture and add it.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

2 medium heads cauliflower (about 2 pounds total once trimmed)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for baking
3 tablespoons coconut cream
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
3-5 tablespoons chives thinly sliced, plus more for serving
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400. Slice off the top of an entire garlic bulb, so each clove is exposed slightly. Drizzle olive oil over bulb so each clove is coated. Wrap garlic bulb in foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until garlic is soft. Once finished baking, set aside to cool.  Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to roast the garlic in the oven, you can peel 4-5 cloves of garlic and infuse the EVOO by heating the oil in a saucepan until the cloves are golden.

2. While garlic is roasting, prepare cauliflower. Cut cauliflower into large chunks and remove excessive stems. Place 1 inch of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Place cauliflower in a double steamer and steam for 10-12 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.

3. Place cooked cauliflower in a food processor. Add olive oil, coconut cream, onion powder, roasted garlic (you can squeeze the bulb of garlic and the cloves will easily come out), plus salt and pepper to taste. Pulse the food processor until cauliflower is combined with other ingredients and has a creamy texture.

4. Preheat oven to 350. Pour cauliflower into mixing bowl and combine by hand with thinly sliced chives.

5. Transfer mixture to a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cauliflower is heated through and lightly browned on top.

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Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Gratin

Meatless? Check!

Vegan? Check!

Delicious? Check!

This recipe is worth every minute that you spend on it.

SERVES 8

Avoid buying prepeeled or chunked butternut squash for this dish.

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
2 pounds onions, halved and sliced thin
1/4 cup water
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 pounds butternut squash
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
INSTRUCTIONS

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Combine 1 tablespoon oil and panko in 12-inch skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until water is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons water and cook until onions are caramelized and water is evaporated, about 5 minutes longer. Add 2 teaspoons sage and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; set aside.

3. Trim ends from squash and peel. Cut in half lengthwise, then quarter each half lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut each piece into 1/4-inch-thick slices (you should have 11 cups). Toss squash, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 2 teaspoons sage, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Arrange half of squash evenly in prepared dish. Spread half of onion mixture evenly over squash. Arrange remaining squash evenly over onion mixture. Spread remaining onion mixture evenly over squash.

4. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake until squash is nearly tender, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle panko mixture over top and continue to bake, uncovered, until squash is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer dish to wire rack. Combine parsley and lemon zest in bowl and sprinkle over gratin. Serve.

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Meatless Monday: Kale + Slivered Brussels Sprout Soba Noodles

I love nutrient dense cold salads for lunch.  I love them even more when they are meatless.  This one is from one of my favorite food blogs called Sprouted Kitchen.  The beauty of this one is that my husband came one day and heated up said noodle combination and doused it with Sriracha.  So, it is tasty warmed up and the next day too!

Kale + Slivered Brussels Sprouts Soba Noodles

Ingredients:

Serves 4 as a main course

Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison:Vegetable Literacy

The recipe originally calls for 4 brussels, but I wanted to finish up the bunch I had. I ended up using around 10 and discarding the tough core (I did not discard the core.  Mine were small and tender). There is enough dressing to bulk up the greens here, so the recipe below reflects that change.

1 bunch tuscan kale
5 tsp. toasted sesame oil
10 brussels sprouts
1 plump clove garlic
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (white or black)
2 pinches red pepper flakes
4-8 oz. soba noodles
4 slivered green onions, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Slice the kale leaves from their stems and discard the stems. Working in batches, stack the leaves, roll them up tightly lengthwise, and then thinly slice them crosswise into narrow ribbons. Put the ribbons in a large bowl with 1 tsp. of the sesame oil and 1/4 tsp. salt. Massage the leaves with your hands until they glisten.
  2. Discard any funky outer leaves from the brussels sprouts. Slice them paper thin (mandoline works best) then toss them with the kale.
  3. Pound the garlic until smooth in a small mortar (I used a bowl and minced the garlic fine). Stir in the vinegar, remaining sesame oil and soy sauce. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss well. This much can be done in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to serve, or enjoyed alone as a salad.
  4. Bring the water to a boil. When starting the noodles, finish the salad with the sesame seeds, pepper flakes and green onions. Cook the noodles according to package instructions and drain well. Toss the noodles with the greens. The noodle salad can be served warm or cold.

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Meatless Monday: Tomato Jam

What do you do when you have waaaaay too many tomatoes?img_1540

Jam out!

With just a quick simple search: tomato jam, you can find TONS of recipes.  Here’s the one that I liked best.  It is from The New York Times.  I also have some limes that are almost on their way out so that was helpful too.

Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste

  1. Directions:
    Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.

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Meatless Monday: Cauliflower Soup

America’s Test Kitchen is unparalleled in their quality and precise testing of recipes.  After getting oneimg_1534 of their magazines: Cook’s Illustrated for years, I still refer to my back issues for the interesting articles and beautiful back covers.  In addition, if you haven’t heard their radio show on NPR, check it out.

Soup is amazing for many reasons.  This soup is outstanding.  It feels and tastes indulgent.  But, when you look at the ingredient list, you’ll see that though there is butter in it, it is a simple wholesome recipe that will feed your body and your soul.  And, dare I say, it could be a very impressive 1st course for your next dinner party.

Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, (2 pounds)
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
Salt and pepper
4 ½ – 5 cups water
½ tsp sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp minced fresh chives

Directions:

1. Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove; thinly slice core and reserve. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets from head of cauliflower; set aside. Cut remaining cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices.
2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leek and onion are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.
3. Increase heat to medium-high; add 4 1/2 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower; and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower, return to simmer, and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily, 15 to 20 minutes longer.
4. While soup simmers, melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently, until florets are golden brown and butter is browned and imparts nutty aroma, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to transfer florets to small bowl. Toss florets with vinegar and season with salt to taste. Pour browned butter in skillet into small bowl and reserve for garnishing.
5. Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Rinse out pan. Return pureed soup to pan and return to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistency with remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture but should be thin enough to settle with flat surface after being stirred) and seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of browned butter, and chives and seasoning with pepper to taste.

NOTE FROM THE TEST KITCHEN White wine vinegar may be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Be sure to thoroughly trim the cauliflower’s core of green leaves and leaf stems, which can be fibrous and contribute to a grainy texture in the soup.

NOTE FROM QUIN: If you need heat, like my husband does, you can swirl some hot sauce or chile oil on top before serving.

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