Tag Archives: vegetarian

Beans, Greens, and Cornbread: Creamed Kale Edition

Gentle Readers, now that you’ve been through your pantries and rediscovered the location of your stash of beans and rice, it’s time to cook. Today’s meal features three food groups we eat on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, just in different forms. So this is neither the first nor the last time you’ll hear from me on beans, greens, and cornbread.

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If you are new to The Practical Cook, or have not memorized my life story, I was born and raised in the southern part of the United States to a family of farmers and life-long cooks, vegetable growers, canners, and bakers. I’ve been in the kitchen since before I could see the top of the stove, and I’ve been eating meatless Sunday night meals since way before it was either cool or in a Chipotle app (though I suppose it is “meatless Monday” that is on trend).

But I digress. Why beans, greens, and cornbread? It’s high in nutrition, it’s easy to make in batches to feed a crowd, and there’s something in it for everyone at my table. My youngest, who we often refer to sarcastically as Dr. Atkins, loves bread like no other human I know. So when greens and beans are too boring/spicy/whatever for her, she can fill up on cornbread.

My eldest has loved legumes since she had her first chickpea as a child (and that was probably in her first 10 foods eaten), so anything involving beans she’ll eat. For Christmas, in her stocking, she got chow chow. For those unfamiliar, it’s a pickled relish that usually has cabbage, peppers, and some onion that you use as a condiment on beans. It can be spicy, sweet, or more vinegary, but it keeps the plainest bean dish interesting.

All three of us love greens, the leafier and the darker the better. Collards, mustard greens, arugula, kohlrabi greens, rainbow chard—the weirder and more bitter it is, the more we are going to eat of it.

This meal is affordable, flexible for what you have in your pantry, and a great way to use up leftovers or make good use out of shelf-stable food.

On the Table

Beans and Rice (I use my Instant Pot Faux Jambalaya Recipe with a couple of edits: I’ve quit using the spice packets in the beans, I add a healthy teaspoon of salt to the cooking water, I lower the cooking time a couple of minutes so I don’t overcook the small beans, and I doubled the tomato sauce because I stock the larger cans of no-salt tomato sauce.)

IMG_6690Corn bread: I have both plain cornmeal and self-rising on hand. For self-rising, my preference is to add some sugar and salt to make the flavor pop, and always choose melted butter over oil. (If you want THE resource for cornbread, for you or as a fabulous holiday gift, get The Cornbread Gospels [yes, I worked for the company in a past life, and swear by this cookbook]). I eat mine with molasses instead of honey and I’ll happily fight you on this topic.

Creamed kale: Now this is where we go off script. I had cream leftover from making yogurt in the InstantPot (yes, we can discuss that another time). I had two bags of kale that were overcrowding my fridge. If there’s creamed spinach, there must be creamed kale, right? Spoiler alert: my eldest called this restaurant quality and she isn’t given to exaggeration. We were both very impressed with ourselves (she researched recipes while I was prepping, a joint effort).

Creamed Kale Recipe

To prepare, I read two recipes (this one from Bobby Flay and this one) and then ignored them both. Okay, not ignored, but took some technique from and liberties with. Cooking is not baking, adapt at will to your tastes and what you have on hand. This is not the time to only make recipes that you have every ingredient for, this is the time to make do.

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Creamed Kale

Tip: I’ve recently taken the habit of taking the half of an onion that is inevitably left from some recipe and chopping it right then and putting it in a zipper bag in the freezer. You’ll thank me and your past self later. I used some onion from frozen from this new habit. I also keep nutmeg whole on hand because I make carrot cakes and greens and it’s great in both and stays fresher longer. Use a Microplane grater to grate and yes order one if you don’t have it because it’s awesome. But also you can leave it out and just grind a little more black pepper or add some red pepper flakes. Don’t sweat the technique. 

Olive oil
Butter
around 1/4 cup chopped onions
1 bag of kale (Tuscan, fluffy, whatever Trader Joe’s or your store has in a bag in the salad aisle)
salt and pepper
some fresh grinds of nutmeg
1/2 cup of cream or so

  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet (use one that has a lid that fits, you’ll need to cover it later) over medium-high heat, then add about a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. Melt the butter and when it’s hot add the onion and lower to medium. Cook the onion until it’s softened, a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the bag of kale, season with salt and pepper, stir well so you mix the oil/butter/onion mixture into the kale, then put a lid on it. Let this cook, covered, stirring a time or two, until the kale is significantly wilted and actually fits into your pan, a few minutes.
  3. Add a few grinds of nutmeg (maybe adds up to 1/4 teaspoon) and your cream. Stir. If you like creamier kale or have a really big bag, add more cream. Make sure all the kale has been bathed in delicious cream, cover it back up, and let it cook for several minutes, checking on it and stirring occasionally.
  4. When the kale is cooked to your preferred tenderness, and the cream is reduced, taste for seasoning, adjust, and serve.

Coming up next: Vegetable Stock from Scratch and Scraps

 

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Weekly Menus: It’s Finally Fall Edition, Week of 10/20/2013

Gentle Readers, wow, what a week. I managed to sit down to eat 3 or 4 actual meals in the span of a week–the rest were food grabbed on the run. Not to downplay the awesome that is Barcelona, but work travel is not the same as leisure travel. Being immersed in a different food culture always makes one think about their own.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Barcelona is driven by local, fresh, and reasonable portions. It’s a great concept, and one to which I subscribe. One of the best things I ate all week was this humble croqueta, which was akin to a mildly cheesy chicken pot pie in croquette form. We found it by turning down a side street in a non-touristy neighborhood famed for its cakes. (Guess what in that sentence prompted me to hop off the tour bus.)

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

In a random chance, I also had a rather interesting conversation about sustainable food with someone high up in one of the major international food corporations. We talked about Michael Pollan and the tension between profit and sustainable, especially as pertains to meat. I don’t envy him his job.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

But I digress. Look for inspiration from Barcelona appearing in posts for the next few weeks. I respect a culture that is not fussed about diet crazes and every new trend. Barcelona has strong foodways that are built to be flexible and incorporate new traditions. I love that. Visiting always makes me want to go back again.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Which means my menus for the week are:

Sunday: Leftover surprise
I’ll be eating whatever TPC’s Mom left in my fridge. Surprise! Sometimes, even oatmeal or cereal is enough after traveling.

Monday: Tapas!
Figs and cheese? Tomato bread? Prosciutto and melon? I’m not sure what I’ll combine, but it will be small bites of whatever is in the store.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Tuesday: Spinach Quesadillas and Beans
Simple and direct, one of our favorite easy meals. We’ve got a lot going on this day.

Wednesday: Bratwurst and Pierogie
Just add Brussels sprouts.

Thursday: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage in Brown Butter Sauce
One of my favorite easy meals courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Served with a green salad, and you’ve got a multi-colored delight for dinner. It’s worth browning some sage in butter–it’s just fun.

Friday: Nachos!
Using up the last of our leftover veggie chili, I’m pouring it over chips, topping it with cheese, and serving it up with a side of guacamole.

Saturday: Deep Fried Everything
This might be our N.C. State Fair Day, and we have a long list of things to eat. Apple fritters, corn, fried okra, and whatever the “it” thing is in deep-fried. We are so ready.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Have you been to your state fair already? What should we find and consume? No deep-fried goodness too strange. We’ll try it on video even. Post your challenge below!

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Send your winter squashes, your mad carving skills, and your airline miles to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Weekly Menus: Remote Edition, Week of 10/13/2013

**Published out of sequence–this was put into draft and never published!**

Gentle Readers, sometimes an act of rebellion is as simple as cooking a meal. This has been a hectic week–we’ve been fighting fall colds and prepping for approximately 1 million cool things that we here at Team Practical Cook hope to do in the next few weeks (pumpkin patch, N.C. State Fair, Neko Case concert, travel, soccer, Halloween, you name it). In my spare time, I have a big girl job that demands a lot of my time and TLC.

Says it all. My new favorite mug.

Says it all. My new favorite mug.

The other night, I shut the laptop, locked the phone, and cooked. It felt great. The girls are amazing and supportive eaters, and don’t mind that we sometimes eat odd pairings (veggie chili and pumpkin cranberry scones anyone?). We always eat together, even if it’s a few bites, or our new highly experimental Italian sodas, or in the car.

Veggie chili, now with chickpeas.

Veggie chili, now with chickpeas.

My act of defiance of life’s pace was simple. We just stopped for 30 minutes and cooked and ate. Nothing requiring an act of Congress (all shutdown jokes aside) or a great shift. I prioritized. I need to do that more. Right now, I’m scrambling to get ready for another business trip, this one international, and this blog is going to be paused for a week.

Priority, the Eldest. :)

Priority, the Eldest. 🙂

I left half of the veggie chili in the freezer as a potential nacho topping, and I’ve stocked the joint with easy to eat foods and lots of pumpkin things. (The full review on those products is coming in the last half of October, though I may never touch another pumpkin item again after this.)

So forgive this break in form–I encourage you all to stop and cook, no matter what you have on hand. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or even really go together. Just push pause for a minute and eat together.

I’ll see you in a few weeks. Be sure to check me out on Instagram (@amylewi) or follow me on Twitter (listed below) for some food stalking from Barcelona. I can taste the tapas now.

Send your tapas, your strokes of brilliance, and your pumpkin challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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See you NEXT SUNDAY for Weekly Menus!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 9/22/2013

Gentle Readers, I’ve decided that Fall makes me hungry. There’s no other explanation for the number of hours I’m currently spending dreaming about my next meal. For the sake of sparing my feelings, let’s pretend this is a seasonal affectation and not a constant state. As the weather cools, I think more about warm and hearty foods.

Veggie Chili Simmering

Veggie Chili Simmering

Also, larger portions at dinner mean warm lunches the next day. We are currently putting the Thermos Food Jars (I love them) through their paces. Here’s how, with this week’s weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 9/22/2013

Weekly Menus: 9/22/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/22/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/22/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner
A perennial favorite, this is a good excuse to make pumpkin pancakes (a team favorite right now), biscuits, or even baked cheese grits. All great possibilities for batch cooking that’s eaten through the week.

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Monday: Not Dogs and Fries
Simple and from the freezer, plus using up some of the cabbage I bought for Chicken Noodle Soup last week as slaw. This is the vegetarian junk food meal you don’t have to be guilty about.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Tuesday: Veggie Chili or Lentil Chili
More stews and one-pot dishes! This will feature standard legumes or the fast cooking lentil. Great vegetarian choices to be paired with cornbread or my new favorite Cheese Sticks from Trader Joe’s (review coming). Great for the lunchbox the following day as well.

Wednesday: Tuna Melts
Because we’ve been eating so many hot lunches, the bread had to head to the freezer. It’s breaking out now as open-faced tuna melts. We discovered it’s the one way we all like tuna salad. Not overdressed, a little kick from hot sauce, and way pickley.

Can't decide between a tuna melt and a peanut butter? Choose both.

Can’t decide between a tuna melt and a peanut butter? Choose both.

Thursday: Gnocchi with Pink Sauce
A break from the standard pasta, we are all deeply in love with the creamy organic tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s right now. There is a story here, coming soon, of why I am redoubling my love for the store.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Extra Crispy Sage

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Extra Crispy Sage

Friday: Leftover Delight
We can only eat so much, I know that there will be food left, and there’s no better time to watch a movie and munch the best of the previous week than a Friday.

A lot of little leftovers can add up to a whole meal.

A lot of little leftovers can add up to a whole meal.

Saturday: Dine Out
So many options, plus outdoor eating with a fall chill!

Fall says latte to me--but never ever pumpkin ones.

Fall says latte to me–but never ever pumpkin ones.

What’s in your kitchen these days? I’m looking for good one-pot and stew ideas. I feel a slow-cooker edition coming on! Post your comments below, or send a Tweet my way.

Send bright ideas, rashers of bacon, and pumpkin cupcakes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: Soft Foods that Don’t Suck–Braces Edition

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/11/2013

Gentle Readers, another week, another road trip. One of the biggest challenges is coming home to an empty kitchen. So I try to shop and plan accordingly. I’ve been stocking the pantry with healthy snacks, and we’ve got fruit in the fridge that can last a bit longer.

Peaches: I'm addicted to you.

Peaches: I’m addicted to you.

I’m eating peaches and nectarines like it’s my part-time job, so no waste there. Quesadilla fixings hold for a bit, so that’s also at the ready. And eggs, which I waxed on about last time, are always there.

So the very light Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: milk, bread, eggs, fruit. On hand, Almond Bars, cereal, pasta. I can live a long time on these things. It’s like shopping for a snowstorm, only add fresh items. I am Southern you know.

Southern Survival: Milk, Bread, Eggs

Southern Survival: Milk, Bread, Eggs

The weekly menus:

Sunday: Dine Out!
Otherwise, rotisserie chicken would be my dinner weapon of choice.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Monday: Frozen Pizza
That’s what it’s there for. Just add salad and fruit, welcome home.

Tuesday: Open-Faced Sammies
This has been a real break-through this summer. We’ve done tomato, tuna, egg salad, and more. I think the “stuff to bread” ratio is much better, and we fill in the blank with celery, carrots, salad, fruit. It’s working for us.

Some nice person gave me a canteloupe at the car wash. It's a hybrid of canteloupe and honeydew. Delightful.

Some nice person gave me a canteloupe at the car wash. It’s a hybrid of canteloupe and honeydew. Delightful.

Wednesday: Spinach Quesadillas
This is podcast night, and I need to make food efficiently so I can get on air. Making anything in a cast-iron skillet makes it feel like homemade to me.

Thursday: Pasta Primavera
We got a garden-load of veggies from TPCs Parents. Looking forward to some combo tossed with pasta. Simple and to the point.

Friday: Stir-Fry
I have some frozen rice leftover, eggs, and more vegetable bits. Add soy and ketchup, steam some edamame, break out the chopsticks.

Leftover Fried Rice

Leftover Fried Rice

Saturday: Dine Out!
More field research! Another country, perhaps Malaysia? 😉

Send your dinner inspiration my way! It’s almost time for school again, so we’re warming up the lunchboxes. What are you cooking? Post a comment below!

Send bugspray, sharp cheddar, and your cooking secrets to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: The Big Easy in Review: Eating in New Orleans

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For the Love of Macaroni and Cheese: Homeroom in Oakland, CA

Gentle Readers, sometimes one goes clear across the country for comfort food. In a week of extreme eating (and I do mean extreme, starting with a meat cone and marching across many scones and some chocolate), simplicity won my heart. The Practical Cooks Junior and I went on vacation to San Francisco, staying with family in Oakland, and eating with many friends along the way. Our last meal abroad was at Homeroom, and it was spectacular.

White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese with Bread Crumb Toppings from Homeroom.

White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese with Bread Crumb Toppings from Homeroom.

The restaurant serves macaroni and cheese. Plus vegetables. And that’s really it. Well, plus drinks and beer. There’s a good bit of bacon too. I respect that in an establishment. Here’s what I liked about the place.

Kids portion of traditional creamy cheddar mac-n-cheese. So fantastically good.

Kids portion of traditional creamy cheddar mac-n-cheese. So fantastically good.

1. Clarity of purpose. Do something and do it well. I knew what I could eat before I went. It was reasonably priced, and I was delighted to eat the White Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese, with optional crumb topping.

Hello minty peas, so fresh and full of vegetable goodness.

Hello minty peas, so fresh and full of vegetable goodness.

2. Infinite variety. Though the menu is focused, you can alter and amend your mac-n-cheese ad infinitum. Bravo. Next time I’m getting the garlicky gouda or the truffle and mushroom.

Hipster atmosphere for the win!

Hipster atmosphere for the win!

3. Strong vegetable sides. In a world of starch and cheese, it would be easy to fall victim to a junk food mentality. Not at Homeroom. There are several salads and a few main veggie sides. Again, all reasonably priced. We got minty peas and bacony Brussels sprouts: wow. The Youngest could not shovel peas in fast enough. The Eldest launched a full assault on the sprouts. After a week of eating lots of travel food, it was a welcome respite.

Go ahead and drool over these bacony Brussels sprouts. I'll wait.

Go ahead and drool over these bacony Brussels sprouts. I’ll wait.

4. Just desserts. I only regret I lacked the stomach to try more desserts. We had this peanut butter pie, and it was outstanding. A little salty, a little sharp from either sour cream or cream cheese, and well balanced with the graham cracker crust. I will dream of this. The homemade salted oreo is also highly Yelp recommended. I hope someone will eat that and let me know. I will be back for it.

Peanut butter pie was not overly sweet, but full of flavor. No crumb left behind.

Peanut butter pie was not overly sweet, but full of flavor. No crumb left behind.

5. Beer selection. Again, so often it’s easy to try to do everything. Here, they do a few selections that rotate, and they’re diverse and good. Plus they do crazy combos like a lime plus beer shandy. Too sweet for me, but A for effort. Beer and mac-n-cheese may be my new favorite combo ever.

Simple summer ale, wide mouth Ball jar. Made for each other.

Simple summer ale, wide mouth Ball jar. Made for each other.

To conclude, this is run don’t walk. The place is hipster central, but without the snark that so often accompanies it. I do like that about California in general. Right down to the kids’ menus they hold to theme–it was like homework. TPCs Jr were enthralled. They served the veggies first. Genius. Great service, cool atmosphere, rocking food.

Homework time at Homeroom!

Homework time at Homeroom!

I will confess, I tried the bacony mac-n-cheese, and didn’t love it. Too smokey for me. I know, a bacon lover’s sin to say so in my out loud voice. It was me, not them.

Run, don't walk. Homeroom.

Run, don’t walk. Homeroom.

What do you think of themed restaurants? Do you love mac-n-cheese? What’s your favorite combo? Post your comments below or Tweet my way! Great to be back, and more recipes and reviews are coming your way soon.

Special thanks to my crew of tasters.

Special thanks to my crew of tasters.

Send chocolate milk, good ideas, and good intentions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Happy Birthday to me, Weekly Menu Edition

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The Whole Foods Salad Bar: A User’s Guide

Gentle Readers, it is serious confession time. I love the Whole Foods salad bar in a way most people reserve for God and Country. I love the variety. I love that I didn’t have to prep 1 million individual ingredients. I love the fresh crispy vegetables and the potential of using squash casserole as a topping.

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

Shredded beets and two cubes of tofu, yes please. Whole Foods Salad.

That’s right, squash casserole. Don’t judge. Here are my tips to making the most of your trip, without taking out a second mortgage.

The Whole Foods Salad Bar: The Practical Cook Way

1. Limit the salad dressing. Nothing cranks up the cost like too much dressing. Also, it overpowers your careful selections. Let other things flavor your salad, like couscous, quinoa, egg salad, fruit, etc.

Quinoa can add flavor, and is typically already dressed. Whole Foods Salad.

Quinoa can add flavor, and is typically already dressed. Whole Foods Salad.

2. Diversify your offerings. There are so many things from which to choose, don’t get caught loading up on any one thing. If the salad is just for you, take one of each kind of tofu, one tomato, one broccoli, and so on.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

Yes, that is squash casserole on top.

3. Don’t skip the hot bar. The vegetables don’t stop at the edge of the salad bar, try steamed green beans and asparagus, cooked carrots, salsa, squash casserole (can’t recommend that enough), the sky’s the limit.

Whole Foods Quinoa and Firecracker Slaw: Working Mom Food

Whole Foods Quinoa and Firecracker Slaw: Working Mom Food

4. Meat is salad too. This will cost you your weight in gold, so limit the addition. However, the smoked meat bar is perfect for a single wing, a portion of brisket, or the top of a rib (skip the bones).

5. Sweet, Crunchy, Salty. The best salads are balanced in composition. Look for different ways to bring color, texture, and taste. Try unusual combinations. If you’re stuck, employ your kids to assist. They don’t come with the same barriers and restrictions you do in terms of “right” and “not right.” Be prepared to eat some combos that would be best on Man vs Food. My favorite right now? Adding a piece of fried yucca on the top.

Whole Foods Salad Bar, I love you.

Whole Foods Salad Bar, I love you.

What’s your favorite trick or foodstuff at the Whole Foods Salad Bar? Post a comment here or on the Facebook page, or Tweet my way!

Send heavy items, good ideas, and legitimate questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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