Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

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The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?

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Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers and Eating More Vegetables

We’re all adults here. We all know we’re supposed to eat vegetables, because they’re good for you.  But the reality is life happens.   We get caught up in things; we forget to eat vegetables…  Not cool, guys.  Eat your vegetables.

I’m a big proponent of vegetables and exercise being the cure for most things.  I’m not a nutrionist or a doctor but I’ve realized that when I eat more vegetables and exercise regularly, I tend to feel better.

Last week, Melissa’s Produce reached out to me asking if I’d like to review one of their boxes and maybe come up with a few recipes from the content.  I said Yes, because 1. I love vegetables and 2. it seemed like a great opportunity to blog about things.

So let me tell your a little bit about the produce box I got.  I got the “Organic Mixed Vegetable Box – Southern California Delivery.” I chose this one because I didn’t want a box with fruit.  I would rather just have vegetables.  It arrived while I was at work.  Since I live in a housing complex, it was delivered to the apartment office, so the box didn’t sit outside all day.  Luckily, I was able to make it home a few minutes before the apartment office closed at 5pm.  If not, I would have had to wait til the next day, which would have sucked.

I got the box and it was jam packed with deliciousness.  I definitely give them props for their packing skillzz.  Everything was in there, the lettuce wasn’t smashed or wilted.  Thumbs up for that! There was also an ice pack in the box  that kept everything cool.

Here is everything my box included:

produce

This is a good amount of produce for two people.  But Jesse and I eat a good amount of vegetables so we’re good to go.   One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about produce delivery services and CSA shares (aside from cost), is that it’s simply too much produce. I agree, it is a good amount, but not really too much.  When I first saw the enormous pile of vegetables, I got concerned and thought, oh goodness how are we going to eat all this?  But really, having this box forces us to eat more vegetables, it’s just about prioritizing and planning. Using this produce, I’ve planned a variety of meals to use up almost all the vegetables, and today I’ll share one of these recipes: Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce, served with Grilled Zucchini. Sounds delish right?  I think it looks pretty great too! turkeylettuceburger2

The most important thing to remember with CSAs and produce delivery is that certain things go bad faster than others.  Lettuce and kale are the most perishable, so they should probably be eaten first.  Then Zucchini, Broccoli, Cucumber and Celery.  Beets, Carrots, Potato, Garlic, Onion, Leeks and Ginger, will all last a pretty long time.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve been having green smoothies with kale for breakfast everyday to make sure to use the kale.  To consume the lettuce as quickly as possible, I decided lettuce wrapped burgers were the way to go.

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Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce

For Turkey Burgers: 

1 package lean ground turkey (a little more than a pound)
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
garlic salt to taste

For Creamy Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated
1 lime
Garlic salt to taste

Extra:

Lettuce
Tomato  

Combine all ingredients for turkey burger.  Work together and form into patties (4-6 depending on how big you want them, I did 6).  Grill on a hot grill, or on a skillet or you can even bake them.  If you’re grilling on a grill or in a pan, it’ll be about 5 mins per side (depending on how thick your patties are).

In the meantime, prep your yogurt sauce by combining yogurt, grated cucumber and lime juice.  Mix together and add garlic salt.  Taste until you get the right saltiness.  Then refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: You can make this sauce is advance.  As long as it’s refrigerated, it’ll be good for a few days)

Next assemble your burger.  I doubled up and used two lettuce leaves per side of the burger “bun” (so 4 lettuce leaves total per burger. Remember, we’re packing in those vegetables!).  Put down two pieces of lettuce, top with burger and tomato, drizzle with yogurt sauce and top with more  lettuce.  Serve with some grilled zucchini and enjoy!  

This recipe will make 4-6 lettuce wrap burgers (I made 6). I was really happy with this recipe.  Confession: I ate 2!  I don’t feel guilty.

If you’re curious about how I grilled the zucchini, I just sliced it into 1/2 inch thick strips then drizzled with olive oil and tossed with some garlic salt.  That’s it.  And seriously delicious. turkeylettuceburger3

This meal was chock full of vegetables, which is always awesome, but also super tasty and satisfying.

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I can’t wait to make use of the other vegetables.  Here are some of my ideas to make the most of each ingredient…

  • Use Ginger to make awesome peanut sauce to go on zucchini noodles.  Or just drink with hot water, because ginger is great for your immune system!
  • Roast beets to make an amazing kale salad with onion, almonds, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  Doesn’t that sound amazing? I also intend to saute those beet greens and add those to the salad as well.
  • I cut up the rest of the cucumber that I didn’t use in the yogurt sauce just for snacking.  Because don’t we all need some extra veggies as an afternoon snack?  I think yes.
  • Carrots: Gluten free carrot cake.  Yup. I made it happen.  Recipe soon!
  • Celery: I love filling celery with tuna salad for an awesome and light lunch.  I can seriously go through 10 celery ribs in one sitting with a bowl of tuna salad.
  • Leeks + Potato… Do I even need to say it?  Potato-Leek Soup!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with Melissa’s Produce delivery service.  It’s the most reasonably priced delivery service I’ve seen.  I used to pay about $19/week for my CSA share in Ithaca.  The box I got through Melissa’s Produce costs $25 (although I got it free this time, thanks to Melissa’s Produce!).  For $25 you get 7lbs of organic produce.  Not bad.

Are you a fan of lettuce wrapped burgers or are you a bun purist?

Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce provided me with a free produce box in exchange for this blog post.  Opinions and recipes are my own.

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado-Pepita Pesto

These days I pretty much only want to talk about vegetables.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve been over doing it with desserts/sweets recently so I’m going to get super excited about vegetables and tell you about my most recent vegetable-filled discovery: Zucchini Pasta.

I’m not the biggest fan of pasta and I’m partially convinced that I’ve talked myself into not liking it, because I just don’t feel like it’s amazing enough for the calories.  Bread, on the other hand, I’m happy to eat tons of bread, regardless of calories.  Pasta… I’m meh about pasta.  That said, I’m a huge fan of eating things in the shape of long stringy pasta.  I love spaghetti squash and when my co-worker gave me an extra spiralizer that she had, I was ecstatic.

Since then my brain has been churning with awesome zucchini noodle ideas.

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The inspiration for this recipe came from a raw, vegan cooking demonstration I went to a few weeks ago.  They served us zucchini noodles with pesto. So from there, I decided to make my own version with ingredients I had on-hand at home.  It was a complete success. zucchinipasta1

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado-Pepita Pesto

5 small zucchini squash, spiralized or julienned
1 small avocado
1/4 cup pepitas
1 cup fresh basil
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced

Place avocado, pepitas, basil, lemon juice in food processor (or vitamix).  Pulse.  Stream in olive oil and water and continue to blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss zucchini noodles with some of the pesto, you can add more or less to your liking.

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Please note, this recipe will make more than enough pesto for 5 zucchini.  You can refrigerate the rest for another day (it’ll start to turn brown after 2-3 days). zucchinipasta3

 

What I loved about this dish was:
1. how easy it is to make.
2. how well it tastes the next day and
3. the fact that it doesn’t require you to turn on the stove or oven, with our recent heat wave and summer just around the corner, that was essential.

I’ll definitely be making this again.   I’m consistently surprised at how much I like raw zucchini.  It’s definitely an underrated vegetable.

 Do you have a spiralizer?  Any ideas on what I should try to spiralize next?

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Peanut Butter and Co. Bee’s Knees Giveaway to win two free jars of Peanut Butter!

Farm Fresh to You: Get Produced Delivered, Eat More Vegetables

I’m going to be honest. This is not what I had in mind for dinner tonight.

salad

I had a salad for lunch and because I’m all about balance, I’m generally of the belief that if I had a salad for lunch, I’m certainly not having one for dinner.  But here I am.  Having a salad for dinner after I had one for lunch.  I don’t want to be one of those girls.  I’m not one of those girls.

Let me tell you the story of this salad, because really it started a few weeks ago.

Several weeks ago, Living Social was running a deal for Farm Fresh to You. It’s like a CSA delivered to your house, but instead of buying in at the beginning of the season, you can just order whenever you want it and pay weekly.  So I saw the deal: $15 for a delivery box of vegetables.

farmfresh

If you used to read my blog when I was in grad school, you’ll know that I had a CSA share in Ithaca, NY from the Early Morning Farm and I absolutely loved it.  Every week I was so excited to pick up my share at the farmer’s market.  I got to try new and exciting vegetables like rhubarb and kohlrabi.  For a foodie writing her thesis on Sustainable Food Systems, you can probably imagine how amazing that was for me.

When I left Ithaca, I was sad that I wouldn’t have a CSA share to pick up weekly anymore. CSA shares in Southern California are basically twice as expensive as my share was in Ithaca (I paid about $20 per week back then).  So I was bummed.  I couldn’t afford to get one.  Let’s be honest, healthy living can be expensive.  (Remember how I got a second job to pay for Crossfit… omm yeah).

So when I saw this Living Social deal for Farm Fresh to You, I was all over it.  Last week, I placed my order and my box arrived today.  I had it delivered to my office because I was worried I wouldn’t be home when they delivered it and the heat wave here has been rough.  Now let me tell you, during my drive home, I was thinking about all the possible things to have for dinner, completely forgetting the box was in the backseat.

By the time I got home I had pretty much decided I wanted polenta with a poached egg.  But then I remembered the box full of vegetables.  I unpacked them and saw everything that was inside:

  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 honeydew melon
  • 2 delicata squash
  • 1lb potatoes
  • 3 apples
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 pears
  • 1 pack of Berry Kiwi
  • 1/2 lb green beans
  • 1 bunch of carrots

That’s when I remembered: Oh yeah, I used to eat salads all the time because that shit goes bad real fast AND I hate to waste food. There’s no two ways around it, you have to be a voracious vegetable eater if the box is just for you (and that’s the case for me, since I live alone).

produce

And you know what goes bad first?  Lettuce.  You can wrap it in a paper towel to keep it crisper longer, but let’s be honest, it’s not making it past 4 days.  I wish the box included kale instead of lettuce… but alas not reality.  So that’s when I knew salad was for dinner.

Instead of that polenta and poached egg dinner I had in mind, I threw together a salad of lettuce, carrot, edamame and a Moringstar Farms Veggie Patty.  For dressing, I mixed together some natural peanut butter, hoisin sauce, sriracha and vegetable broth, for a little Asian inspiration (Note: that’s basically how you make the dipping sauce for Vietnamese Spring Rolls).

So you’re probably thinking… good for you! Pat on the back for having a salad! Who gives a crap!?! 

Well really the whole point of all this was to tell you one of the top benefits of having one of these produce delivery services (or a CSA share) and why I’m considering getting it again: it forces you to eat more vegetables.  And not just that… organic vegetables, even better!

Farm Fresh to You brought my count of vegetables for the day from 4 to 6 (plus 3 servings of fruit).  While I probably would have added spinach to my polenta with poached eggs, the box diversified my vegetable intake, because I already had spinach in my smoothie this morning.  Even better, different nutrients!

Overall: I was pleased with what was in the box.  It had a little too much fruit for my liking, but I love the idea.  I think in the future I’ll just choose the vegetable-only box.  I’m all for eating more organic vegetables, because with a sweet tooth like mine, I can always use extra vegetables to balance it out (I’ll be completely honest, after the salad I had a spoonful of peanut butter mixed with sweetened condensed milk for dessert… I know… we won’t talk about it anymore).

Oh and just so you know, I was not compensated by Farm Fresh to You.  I bought the Living Social deal on my own and these are just my opinions.

Have you tried a produce delivery service?  Did you like it?

Easy Roasted Chicken with Vegetables and Being Fearless

My friend Liz texted me this weekend with a quote from a book she’s reading: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This couldn’t come at a better time, because I spent half the day having a mild panic attack. I made a very large purchase.  An investment is more what I like to call it.

It arrived around 11am, but I couldn’t bring myself to open it until about 7pm.

I bought a new camera.  You’re probably thinking… are you nuts? I’d be so excited.  I am!  But I’m also slightly scared out of my mind, because not only am I terrified of spending money but I bought this camera with a purpose.  To try something new and pursue something different.  I’m going to be vague and all sorts of mysterious until I get my act together.  But what it comes down to is that I need to be fearless, because I have no reason to be afraid.

I realize that to many people I might seem like a risk-taker.  I’m perfectly fine with traveling across the world on my own.  I’m not scared of getting lost or trying new things.  I love walking around foreign cities on my own.  But everything I do, I do because I know I’ll be good at it.

I know what I’m good at, and I hate being bad at things.  So sometimes I stay in the safe zone.

The best comparison I can draw is roasted chicken.  Like this roasted chicken dinner that I shot with my old Canon Rebel Xsi on my Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens

Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is safe and simple.  We know it’ll taste good with minimal prep work required.  All you need is olive oil, salt, pepper, chicken, onion, tomato and summer squash, put it in the oven at 425F for 45-60 minutes.

The oven does the work for you.  It’s quick, easy and safe.  Roasted chicken is one of those things I know I make well.   Roasted Chicken2

But for now, I’m working on being fearless.  No more roasted chicken for a while. I’m lucky enough to be in a position to try new things and invest in things I want to accomplish.  I shouldn’t let fear get in the way, because fear only makes matters worse.

So I pose that question again to myself, and to you: what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

 

Black Bean Enchiladas

So on this thing that I’m calling Operation Make-Dinner (my desperate way to make myself eat healthy meals instead of snacking for dinner), I’m realizing that one person doesn’t require that much food.

I can cook two large (and my large I mean 4-6 servings) per week and that will last for lunch and dinner throughout the week.  Luckily, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing over and over again.

Earlier this week, I made Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash.  I had it for dinner once, then lunch two consecutive days after.

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So on the days when I had Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash for lunch, I had Black Bean Enchiladas for dinner.

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These aren’t super fancy enchiladas like the kind you have in restaurants, these are much simpler and healthier.  I didn’t fry the tortillas, they’re not filled with fatty meats and cheese.  It’s mostly beans and vegetables, sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.

For a week night meal, that’s what it should be: mostly vegetables.  I used shredded carrots and bell peppers because that’s what I had on-hand (the carrots were left over from the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash).

To make life easier (and for portion control), I baked them in small glass containers (instead of a large 9×13 pan)

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Black Bean Enchiladas

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 cup shredded carrots
1 bell pepper (I used a bunch of mini bell peppers)
2 cups black beans (I cooked them Guatemala style last week, but you can use canned too)
1-2 tsp cumin powder (depending on how you like it)
1/4 cilantro, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish, optional)
juice of 1 lime
12-15 tortillas
1-2 large (28oz) cans of enchilada sauce (or make your own)*

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, pepper and carrots and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in black beans and cumin, cook an additional 3 minutes.  Stir in cilantro and squeeze in lime juice, stir until well-combined.   This filling is awesome on it’s own, I had leftovers and am planning to eat it just with some rice…

enchiladafilling

But back to the recipe…

Pre-heat oven to 375F.  Next start to assemble enchiladas, pour some of the enchilada sauce in to the bottom of whatever baking dish you use (I used 3 small ones, only made 9 enchiladas and had left over filling as another meal with rice).  Heat tortillas in the microwave to soften (if they break when you try to roll them, just microwave for a few seconds), place some of the filling down the middle, roll tortilla and place seamside-down in the baking dish.  Repeat until you’ve filled your dish or you run out of tortillas and filling.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 20-30 minutes or until the sauce bubbles.  Remove from oven, allow to cool a few minutes then serve with sour cream, cilantro and avocado.

*Note: I like a lot of sauce, I used one big (28 oz can) for 9 enchiladas, so if you’re making more you might want to get 2 cans.  If you like it less saucy, then one can would be enough.

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These were a great dinner two nights in a row.  I still have leftovers for tonight, which is great!

This weekend, I’m not making dinners, because Saturday I’m having a chicken and waffle party and I’m wayyy too excited.  Can’t wait to tell you about it!

What are your plans for the weekend?

Caldo de Pollo (Guatemalan Chicken Stew)

If you asked me what my favorite food is, I would spend forever trying to decide and ask you a million follow up question… is it my favorite food to eat all the time? or for a special occasion? Savory or sweet? Appetizer? Main dish?

If you were my boyfriend you’d probably just say, “answer the question.”

To which I would respond “Caldo de Pollo, if we’re talking about what I like to eat on a normal day.”

I have a habit of not answering questions, or if I do, qualifying that response with a million follow up excuses as to why I can’t really answer the question.

I’m very indecisive.  So here it is.  If I had to choose a favorite food to eat all the time, it would be this: Caldo de Pollo.

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That just means chicken stew, but this is how my family (and I think most Guatemalan families) makes it.

The vegetables are all in big chunks and there’s a bit of chicken in there.

vegetables

It’s probably the easiest thing in the world to make.  It’s also delicious and healthy.  Whenever I go home, I want my mom to make two things: black beans and caldo de pollo.  It’s just delicious.

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Caldo de Pollo

1 lb chicken thighs, bone in (boneless is fine too)
1 bunch cilantro
1 tomato, whole
1 onion, ends cut off and peeled
1 chayote (güisquil), quartered
1 cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
3 carrots, peeled and cut in half
1-2 celery ribs
a few pieces of fresh or frozen corn*
2-3 small potatoes
1 small bag frozen yucca
salt
Avocado, Lime, Sour Cream (for serving)

Fill a medium saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil.  Add frozen yucca.

frozenyucca

Boil until tender, it should take about 30 minutes.  This is crucial.  If you put the yucca in the water before it boils, the yucca will stay tough.  Make sure your yucca is tender and keep it in the freezer until the water is boiling, then add it to the water.

While the yucca cooks, start the rest of the soup.  The beauty of this soup is that it’s fast and doesn’t involve a lot of chopping.

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Big chunks of carrot and güisquil (güisquil in Guatemala, but chayote in Mexico so that’s what you’ll probably see it labeled as in US grocery stores) are appreciated.  But the cabbage is my favorite part.  Not familiar with guisquil/chayote?  It looks sort of like a pear from the outside:

chayote

And sort of on the inside, just quarter it and cut out the seed in the middle

chayote2

In a large post, add all of the ingredients.  Add enough water to cover the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes or until cabbage and potatoes are cooked through.  The take a fine mesh strainer, take out the tomato, peppers and cilantro.  Pour some of the broth on it and using a spoon, mash the tomato, peppers and cilantro to get the most flavor out of it, then discard.  Add yucca you cooked separate to the pot.

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Serve with lime, sour cream  and avocado.  I usually just eat it with lime and avocado, but sour cream makes it super tasty, just mix it into your bowl just before eating.

*I don’t like corn, so I never use it, but most people (including my mother) add it.

I like to pack mine up into 6-7 containers (that’s how many meals a big pot makes), and take them for lunch for the week.

Healthy and delicious lunch that is totally Paleo friendly if you omit the potato and yucca.  Even though yucca is a root, I think it’s too starchy for Paleo.

But seriously, what makes this delicious is the lime and avocado.

avocadolime

It takes a regular soup and makes it out of this world.  Don’t skimp on that!

So what’s your favorite food?  Something you could eat everyday and not get tired of.