Sweet Chicken Curry and Nico’s

A little while ago, I posted a recipe for Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens soup. I also made a curry out of the same base ingredients and it turned out really well. Once again, I started with two chopped sweet potatoes in a large pot:

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I added a can of coconut milk plus an equal amount water:

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Two tablespoons curry and one tablespoon cinnamon:

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And let simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes:

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Add approximately 4 cups dandelion greens and cook for about 10 more minutes:

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I shredded three cooked chicken breasts, added to pot, and removed from heat to warm through:

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This curry turned out really well! I wasn’t quite sure how much curry/cinnamon to put in, but I thought the final flavor worked well – it was sweet with the curry flare, but not too much.

Sweet Chicken Curry, serves 4
Ingredients
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 can coconut milk plus equal amount water
- 4 cups dandelion greens
- 3 pre-cooked chicken breasts
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
Method
1. Chop sweet potatoes and add to a large pot
2. Add coconut milk, water, and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add dandelion greens and simmer for another 10 minutes.
4. Shred chicken and add to pot, remove from flame to warm through.

I also recently went to the new taco joint in Uptown: Nico’s Tacos.

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Nico’s is located on Hennepin in the ever-changing storefront next to Namaste Cafe. In the last 2.5 years, this spot has been home to Duplex Restaurant, The Birdhouse, and now Nico’s. Nico’s is owned by the same folks behind Amore Victoria – one of my favorite Minneapolis eats. Yet, I don’t think that fact alone can tell us much about Nico’s fate given that Birdhouse was owned by Heidi and Stewart Woodman (Heidi’s acclaim).

A few friends and I went to Nico’s for guacamole and tacos. The guac was delish (but when is that not true?):

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There’s a nice selection of taco fillings, and I selected one vegetarian (with cactus!), fish, and beef:

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Tacos are not a go-to food for me, so I might have been less impressed than a big taco fan, but I don’t feel the need to go running back here soon. They are open later though (1am daily), so if you’re in need of a late-night Uptown munch, this could be a good spot to put on your rotation.

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Is this the fast I desire?

Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – is considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish Year. It is a day for reflection and deep introspection. A day to devote yourself to thinking about how you have strayed over the last year, to repent for what you have done wrong, and to commit yourself to being a better person in the coming year. Interestingly, the prayers and meditations on Yom Kippur can only repair the relationship between you and God or you and yourself. To repair a relationship with another person, you must apologize directly to them. Making the day even more significant is the fact that tradition teaches it is on this day that the book of life is sealed, and within it is written who shall live and who shall die over the next year. One’s merit is determined by the sincerity with which they do teshuvah.

Teshuvah translates roughly as repentance, but the concept is much more complicated. It is not merely about regret and contemplating one’s actions. Teshuvah is a turning towards the right – a true change of heart and character. If presented with the same situation in the future, you would do differently. It is a painful and difficult task to truly change oneself, but this is what teshuvah demands. And this is the charge to the Jewish people during the month of Elul and the high holy days, culminating on Yom Kippur. We are to change ourselves, alter the core of our persons, to become better people. On the most holy day of Yom Kippur, we do this by attending services all day, engaging in continuous self reflection and contemplation, and taking the day off of school and work.

And we fast. No food. No water. Nothing.

And this is where the problem lies. For me and dozens hundreds thousands of Jewish girls and woman who are struggling, recovering, or recovered from eating disorders. For us, fasting is not a way to think more deeply about justice, repentance, and what is right. On the contrary, it is a direct reversion back to some of the behaviors that we most wish to change about ourselves. At best, fasting is a painful reminder of a troubled relationship with food. At worst, it is a triggering experience that brings with it a return or increase of negative thoughts/behaviors.

The acknowledgement that fasting on Yom Kippur is a troublesome demand for those with eating disorders is receiving more attention. In 2012, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), the central authority for Jewish law within Conservative Judaism, released a responsa (ruling regarding religious law) titled The Non-Fasting Shaliah Tzibbur on Yom KippurThe overall objective of this responsa was to determine if it is ever permissable for someone who is not fasting on Yom Kippur to be the service leader. Embedded within this larger question is a discussion about which people are excluded from the commandment to fast. In fact, some people are not only permitted to eat, but they are commanded to do so if abstaining from food could cause them harm. For example, if one is ill and fasting could put them at increased physical risk. Within the responsa, the Rabbis note the application to those with eating disorders, stating “it may be dangerous for those who are in treatment for and recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia to engage in restrictive practices around food consumption.” It seems, then, that there is a green light of sorts permitting those affected by eating disorders to not fast on Yom Kippur.

Unfortunately, the decision is not quite that easy. At least for me. The weight of the decision not to fast feels too monumental. I fear I would be letting down my community, friends, coworkers, family – all of whom are fasting. I worry I am taking the easy way out, making excuses, separating myself from thousands of years of tradition. I worry that I’m ‘too weak’ to handle hunger, that I’m missing an opportunity that would be good for me, that I will regret whatever food I eat during the day….and this is when the eating disorder voice slips in.

And I know I should not fast. I should not fast because in between the meaningful introspection and solemn prayers, I would be obsessing about my next meal, considering how many calories I can eat at dinner that night, if my fast is sufficient to offset the extra calories eaten the night before, and wondering which of the five sizes of pants in my closet (the result of years of weight loss/gain) will fit me tomorrow. Rather than being a day of turning away from those things I wish to rid myself of, it becomes, instead, an invitation for them to reenter my life.

The purpose of the fast on Yom Kippur is not simply food deprivation. In Isaiah 58:5-7, part of the Haftorah reading on Yom Kippur, we read,
is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies?…No, this is the fast I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke. To let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin.”

To me, this is a reaffirmation that lack of food is not the real point. And if fasting makes it all about the food (as is a temptation for someone with my history), then I am, in fact, missing out on the holiday’s true significance. Choosing not to fast is not an ‘easy way out’ or excuse at avoiding the discomfort of hunger. Rather, it is a way for me to access the true meaning and intent of Yom Kippur.

If you are interested in additional reading about the connection between eating disorders and Yom Kippur and the broader Jewish community, check out some of these articles/posts:

Fasting From Affliction: Reflecting on my Eating Disorder on Yom Kippur – on TC JewFolk
When Fasting is Not Teshuvah: Yom Kippur with Eating Disorders – from RitualWell
Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community – from My Jewish Learning
Eating Disorders, A Problem Among Orthodox Jews – from the Huffington Post
Rabbis Sound an Alarm Over Eating Disorders – from the New York Times

Easy Tuna Cakes

I try to have a protein source at every meal, but this standard can be hard to meet in a pinch. Cooking meat often takes more time and effort than I have, so I’m always looking for fast and easy protein sources that take only a few minutes to prepare. I’ve found a winner of a quick protein recipe in…

Tuna Cakes (full recipe below)

From start to finish, this takes less than 10 minutes, and there are relatively few ingredients. Plus, who doesn’t have a can of tuna sitting in their pantry?

All you need to do is beat one egg:

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Add a can a tuna:

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Two tablespoons flour of choice (I used whole wheat), a few shakes of your favorite seasoning, and a small squeeze of mustard (I used dark):

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Stir to combine and scoop onto a pre-heated skillet as two patties:

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Let cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip:

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Easy. Quick. Delicious.

Easy Tuna Cakes, serves 1
Ingredients
- 1 egg
- 1 can of tuna
- 2 tbsp flour
- a few healthy shakes of seasoning
- small squeeze mustard
Method
Beat egg in a medium-sized bowl.
Add all other ingredients.
Place as two patties on a pre-heated skillet, 
cooking 2-3 minutes per side.

It’s a Deal

As evidenced by my past enthusiasm for Groupons and free stuff, I am a sucker for a good deal. Is it necessary to receive multiple emails daily from Living Social and Groupon? No. Is it necessary to treasure my Costco membership as though it were the last water bottle on a deserted island? No. But I do, because I love getting a deal. Costco, here I come!

But in all seriousness, I do not feel guilty about the $$$ I spend through Living Social and Groupon. One might think I am encouraged to spend more money by receiving these tempting deals direct to my inbox multiple times each day, but it is my firm belief that they both save me money and provide me with experiences I might not otherwise pursue.

For example, I am going to take my super cute bf on a date once in a while, AND I love finding fun new places for us to try/explore. Online deals make it easier to do the former on a budget and the latter without putting in a ton of time researching. I don’t just buy any deal that comes my way, but when I see something that looks good or I’ve been wanting to do, you can bet I scoop it up right away!

Over the summer, these are my deal highlights:

1. Eat Street Social

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Noah and I had wanted to try this place after reading about their specialty cocktails on a number of occasions. As fate would have it, Living Social was offering a deal for a three-course meal for two plus a bottle of wine for the low price of $30. I’ll take it! We chose a chardonnay for the wine…

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…and the meal included a caprese salad:

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mushroom risotto (this was my favorite course!):

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and steak with mashed potatoes and asparagus:

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Unfortunately, dessert was not one of the three courses provided (a clever trick indeed), so we ordered our own – an ‘oreo’ sandwich and chocolate torte:

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2. Barre Bliss

I first tried barre classes last spring as part of a different deal (I don’t think I blogged about it unfortunately) and was immediately intrigued. Barre is a group fitness class that is fast and furiously gaining popularity. The workout has its foundation in yoga and dance conditioning. It targets muscles through isometric movements common in ballet. The classes are called ‘barre’ because they are done with a mat at a ballet barre.

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I don’t think these classes are high-impact enough to be a sole form of exercise (you will work hard and sweat a little, but it doesn’t give that post-run/spin class feeling). I will admit, though, that they really work your muscles. I might not be covered in sweat head to toe and heaving for breath after barre, but my legs start doing that crazy shake thing when you can just.barely.hold.on.

Anyway, Groupon was offering a deal for 10 barre classes at a place called Barre Bliss a mere 6 blocks from my house. Full price classes can be anywhere from $12-20 for a drop in, and this deal was 10 classes for $49. What a steal!

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3. Minneapolis Bike Tour

Noah and I were already interested in participating in this Minneapolis bike event before a Living Social deal came out offering registration at two for the price of one. Perfect!

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The Minneapolis Bike Tour is a recreational ride for people of all ages around the Grand Rounds. There is the option for a 14-mile ride or a 36-mile ride, and proceeds were used for bike safety, education events, and trail improvement.

Riders needed to start the bike tour between 7:30-8am, so we got there bright and early! The start was on Kenwood Parkway, very near the sculpture garden, and there were A TON of people!

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We milled around the various vendors to kill time before the start. There were free bananas, so we couldn’t complain:
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Once the riders got going we spaced out almost immediately. About 5 miles in was the first rest stop, located on the shores of the scenic Lake Harriet:

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I don’t know how many participants there were, but people kept pouring in our whole time at the rest stop – and we were there for a good amount of time considering how many snacks we had to choose from:

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Due to time constraints, we were only able to do the 14-mile ride this year, but it was a great route and I would love to do the longer route in the future! Plus, they gave us cool bike lights:

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As you can see, these daily-deal purchases have done little to deplete my savings and allowed me a number of fun activities throughout the summer. Moral of the story is, get your groupon on.*

*disclaimer: this advice only applies to people with a healthy level of self-restraint and no history of shopping addictions. 

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

Each August, nearly two million Minnesotans and people-who-wish-they-were-Minnesotans flock to a twelve day celebration of fried food the Minnesota State Fair. The average daily attendance exceeds that of any other state fair in the country (um, because we’re the best), and the total attendance is bested only by Texas (um, their fair runs twice as long as ours. and everything’s bigger there. so basically that statistic should be discounted). When I moved to the Twin Cities a few years ago, I quickly learned that people live for the fair. Even if you don’t think you do, as soon as fair season rolls around, YOU DO

Every radio station, local celeb, and politician sets up there. Newspapers run reviews about all the new food items (and the old favorites), and the fodder of conversation for two weeks becomes what fair food items to get, what to try new this year, and where to find the hidden gems.

As someone unfamiliar with the fair culture, I didn’t understand what all the hullabaloo was about initially. Then, one fateful day in 2011, I went to the fair. And now I know. So, when summer hits, I – like every other Minnesotan and Minnesotan-wannabe – start thinking about the fair.

When August 22nd finally rolled around this year, we.were.there. Parking is a nightmare, so we rode our bikes to the party:

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As to be expected, the fairgrounds were packed:

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After admiring some food we were not going to eat:

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It was time to get serious. First stop: The Minneapple.

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The Minneapple is basically a fried apple pie. Noah got one last year and loved it, so he was excited to try this year’s menu addition – minnepumpkin pie:

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My first purchase was a state fair classic. Cheese curds:

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I will admit this was actually my first encounter with cheese curds. They never particularly appealed to me before, but for some reason, this year the thought of fried cheesy goodness hit the spot. They did not disappoint.

Moving on, inside the agriculture building was a wide selection of craft beers. We ordered a flight of four.

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As I alluded to before, each year the state fair releases a list of all the new foods that will be sold. This list is awaited with great anticipation, and the moment it debuts people begin to predict what will be earth-shattering, what will fall short, and what will become a new classic. This year, the item that caught my eye was a peanut butter and jelly shake. I am a total sucker for milkshakes (definitely in my top favorite foods), and I also love peanut butter and jelly. Win – win, right?

The vendor selling the pb&j shakes was Goertze’s Dairy Kone.

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Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the final product. I couldn’t taste any jelly to speak of – it really just seemed like a peanut butter shake. Of course, pb shakes are delicious, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

The final food purchase of the evening (and a mistake, in hindsight) were buffalo flavored potato ‘chips.’ Basically, medium-sliced potatoes fried and flavored with buffalo seasoning. Nothing special – a real shame since they came at such a high opportunity cost!

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Once eating anything else became a true impossibility, it was time to move on to some of the fair’s other entertainment. Namely, the Miracle of Life Barn. This aptly named barn is where they keep all of the pregnant animals, hatching eggs, and baby sheep/cows/chickens/bunnies. It’s fun to check out all the animals, but seriously watch out, because if you find yourself watching a sheep giving birth it can get prettttty gross. Real fast.

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Our last stop before leaving was the Sheep barn. We determined sheep are the cutest farm animal. Which should give you an idea about how cute the competition is (read: not cute at all).

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Don’t worry, the above sheep are not – as I feared – members of a violent extremist group whose chosen attire is white hoods. Rather, they wear those things to keep from getting dirty. Who knew?

August and September Bestowed

I’ve fallen a bit behind on my recounting of Bestowed boxes.

Alas, I’ve fallen a bit behind on blogging in general. Not to fear though – I am back with a vengeance. Bestowed is a monthly delivery program of healthy living products – mainly food with some beauty and fitness thrown in. Each month’s items are unique and provide a fun way to try new products without buying them myself (or having to buy a large size).

Since July’s box, I’ve neglected to tell you about my August and September goodies.

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In the August package there was:

A coupon for a free Noosa yogurt:

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A package of SeaSnax (roasted seaweed):

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A bag of rice chips (barbeque flavor):

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these were delicious!

A crunchy oats and honey granola bar:

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Two flax and chia packets:

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Mighty Leaf Iced Tea:

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Miracle Noodles (basically low calories noodles – they were weird):

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REBOOT (a supplement drink):

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And rice vinegar (Bestowed recommends putting it on salads or stirfrys):

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As you can see, this Bestowed package was quite large. I could tell it would be good when I felt how heavy the package was (probably from the bottle of rice vinegar). I still have yet to try the REBOOT, iced tea, or rice vinegar, but everything else (minus the noodles which were weird) was very good.

In the September package I received:

Cinnamon Crunch Somersaults (basically, just granola. I think they sell it at Starbucks or Caribou?):

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A bag of popcorn (sans butter and salt):

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Cranberry almond thins (more or less a thin cookie):

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Small packs of olives (I gave these away immediately):

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Hazelnut Chocolate Dairy-Free Milk:

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I love dairy free milks, so this made me especially happy (sorry Noah, I know how that pains you).

A Greek Yogurt Squeeze:

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Fruit snacks:

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VitaMelts Multivitamins:

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These taste good, so maybe I’ll remember to take them!

And white whole wheat tortilla wraps:

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Like August, the September package was heavily packed. Bestowed, you don’t let me down again! I haven’t tried anything from the September package yet, and writing this post has made me even more excited to sample. If anything rocks my world, I’ll tell you about it later. 🙂

Make sure to check out my other Bestowed posts here:
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup

My weekly trip to the Wedge Coop last weekend resulted in me coming home with several large sweet potatoes and a humongous bunch of dandelion greens. Now, nearly a week later, I still have both of those items in bulk. What to do? After flipping through a few cookbooks, the Gypsy Soup recipe in Moosewood caught my eye. The original recipe calls for sweet potato, tomato, onion, and green peppers, but Mollie Katzen says in her recipe notes that any orange and green vegetables will work. So, I modified the recipe heavily and made my own….

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup *full recipe below

To start, I chopped up three stalks celery and two sweet potatoes and added them to a large pot with a little bit of olive oil:

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I didn’t think they were cooking much since they were piled so high, so I added a little bit of water in the pot and let steam for about 5 minutes. After a few minutes, I added three cups water along with paprika, turmeric, basil, cinnamon, cayenne, a bay leaf, and some soy sauce:

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After simmering for about 15 minutes…

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I added a half bunch of roughly chopped dandelion greens:

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I simmered for another 10 minutes and then added some leftover cooked chicken. I used one wing, one breast, and three legs, but you could use whatever you have on hand!

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As soon as I added the chicken, I turned the heat off, stirred to combine, and left in the pot to heat through:

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I had the soup for lunch with a cheesy tortilla. I wasn’t familiar with dandelion greens before making this, and they were a little bitter – perhaps a sweeter green, like spinach, would be a bit better. Nonetheless, the soup was delicious with a good spice level. Plus, anything with sweet potatoes is fine by me.

Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Dandelion Greens Soup, serves 4
Ingredients
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 cups water
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch cayenne
- half bunch dandelion greens (approximately 5 cups)
- leftover chicken (approx. three cups or whatever you have)
Method
1. Chop sweet potatoes and celery and heat in large soup pot with oil 
for approximately 5 minutes. Add a bit of water depending on size of 
the pot.
2. Add 3 cups water and spices and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
3. Add dandelion greens and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
4. Add chicken (shred or chop, according to preference), stir, and turn 
off the heat. Let sit until chicken heats through.

And…since I was in the kitchen I also made a batch of Tina‘s no-bake Almond Joy Cookies. I haven’t had one yet, but they look good!

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