Category Archives: Snacks

Sweet and Savory Side Dish: Spinach with Bacon and Pomegranate

Tis the season for pomegranates! I used them in a salad a couple weeks ago and was trying to find a way to use up the other pomegranate I had in an equally delicious, but more creative, way.

My good friend (we’ll call him D) told me he made spinach with pomegranate seeds in it, and I deemed him the genius of our time. It adds a nice crunch and sweetness to an otherwise soft and bitter green. And, as we all know, bacon makes everything delicious.

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You could try this dish out with mustard greens or kale and pair it with roast chicken. Or use it as a side dish at the Thanksgiving table at the end of the month and breath a sigh of relief that those creamy green beans finally have a replacement. (No one actually likes that green bean casserole, right? Don’t answer this if you lived through the 70s…)

Happy side-dishing! (Hint: Here is my tutorial on how to extract pom seeds)

Sautéed Spinach with Bacon and Pomegranate Seeds

Serves 4 side dish portions

What You Need

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 12 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Dash or two of cayenne

Saute It

  1. In a large pan, cook the four slices of bacon until crisp over medium heat. Remove from pan once cooked and let drain on a paper-towel covered plate. Crumble once slightly cooled.
  2. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and turn the heat to medium-low and add the spinach, tossing to fully coat in the grease.IMG_6979
  3. Add salt, pepper and cayenne and toss again. Cook until spinach is just wilted, about two minutes.
  4. Plate the spinach and add the crumbled bacon and pomegranate seeds on top, tossing to evenly distribute.
  5. Serve and be amazed at how delicious poms are in spinach.IMG_6980

Tips and Variations

  • Cut the bacon into one-inch pieces prior to cooking to avoid crumbling afterward.
  • Use mustard greens or kale
  • Not a bacon fan or going meatless? Add smoked paprika to the spinach and sauté in olive oil instead.
  • If you want some more sweetness, add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the end.

 

Meatless Monday: Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Frittatas

For some reason, things are just cuter when they’re smaller: children, bills, bugs.

Oh, and frittatas.IMG_6828

It’s strange, but whenever I make frittatas in my favorite cast-iron skillet (like this other meatless one), they never get finished. So I decided my hand out mini-versions, because we seem more inclined to go back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) when the item is smaller. And l get offended at leftovers.

These mini frittatas — or crustless quiches — are satisfying for lunch, dinner or pre-curser to a large meal. With frittatas, you can add anything in and they’d be delicious. I paired goat cheese with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, sautéing the spinach with some garlic first to enhance the umami of the dish. Simple ingredients that don’t require much preparation.

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Disclaimer: I made 12 of these with the recipe provided below, but after careful consideration, I think you can make 24 by filling the muffin tins half full instead of two-thirds. Either way, you’re going to end up with something deliciously satisfying.

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach and Goat Cheese Mini Frittatas

Makes 12

Gather These Up

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 12 oz spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 oz goat cheese, divided
  • Baking spray, such as Pam
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk Them Together

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a muffin tin generously with the baking spray of your choice.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin tin cups.
  4. In a large skillet, heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium hear with the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and cook for three minutes. Add the spinach and toss, cooking until wilted — about 6 minutes. Drain the spinach once it’s wilted, squeezing out any excess moisture.IMG_6811
  5. Divide the cooked spinach among the egg-filled muffin tin. You may have some leftover, which I encourage to snack on while these guys bake.
  6. Divide the chopped sun-dried tomatoes evenly among the cups.
  7. Divide the goat cheese in big crumbles among the cups. IMG_6815
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting around the edges to help release the frittatas.
  9. Serve, savor, sigh.IMG_6839

Tips and Variations

  • As we fall into the new season, add mushrooms for an earthier, comforting flavor.
  • Make this on Tuesday and add crumbled, cooked bacon or sausage to the mix.
  • Add red or yellow raw bell peppers for added crunch and color.
  • Use fresh tomatoes instead of sun-dried.
  • Use feta cheese instead of goat and marinated artichoke hearts instead of spinach for a more Mediterranean flavor.
  • Use caramelized onion and blue cheese for a decadent appetizer.IMG_6835

Meatless Monday: Pita Patter, Goes My Heart

I needed to use up the rest of my pesto from Friday’s blog. I was also craving hummus.

Enter: Pita.

It’s the perfect vessel for everything but the kitchen sink. Throw in what you got and eat up. It’s the Greek man’s burrito.

This easy meal is perfect for a lunch in the office or a quick throw-together after a busy Monday. It combines fresh produce, protein-packed chickpeas and leftovers.

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Who the hell needs meat when you can have that?! And if you’re wondering what that sound is, it’s your heart. Going pita patter.

Tomato-Cucumber Pita with Hummus, Pesto, Feta and Crispy Chickpeas

Serves 2

Gather Them Up

  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 2 Pitas
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 7.5 ounces (half a can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Pesto, to taste (see recipe here)
  • Your favorite hummus, to taste (I used a tomato-basil variety)
  • Feta, crumbled, to taste
  • Tajin, to taste
  • Lemon juice, to taste

Wrap It Up

  1. In a small pan, pour the EVOO and heat over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and season generously with Tajin. Cook for about 20 minutes, tossing often to avoid burning, until crispy. Set aside to cool.IMG_6583
  2. In a toaster oven, toast the pita for about 5 minutes at 450 degrees, or until warmed through. Slice open the pita half way, to reveal the pocket.
  3. Spread the hummus on the lower part of the pita pocket.IMG_6584
  4. Spread the pesto on top of the hummus.IMG_6585
  5. Add, in layers, the cucumber slices and tomato slices. IMG_6587 IMG_6590
  6. Season with Tajin.
  7. Add the feta cheese and crispy chickpeas, squirt on some lemon juice, roll up and enjoy!IMG_6591 IMG_6594 IMG_6597

Tips and Variations

  • Things get messy with pitas. Doesn’t make things less delicious. Have a fork on hand just in case.
  • Add your favorite lettuce or greens
  • Use chili powder instead of Tajin
  • Substitute a regular or English cucumber for the small Persian ones.
  • Make your own hummus (look out for a recipe from me in the future)
  • Roast the chickpeas in the oven in advance the night before in bulk.

Free-for-All Friday: Cheez-Its

Today’s post was supposed to be about my adventures in pasta making, but that’s going to wait until next week (Virtual apology to Stacy Z. over in Sweden!)

The reason why pasta is being put on hold is because I experienced something this week. I think it’s called nirvana, but I can’t be sure since my dictionary is M.I.A. (missing in action, not the entertainer who loves flipping the bird).

Anyway, you know how thankful I am for Pinterest, right? Well, I came across a homemade Cheez-It pin, went to the original blog where it was posted and thought, “I can, like, totally do this!” My thoughts are all in Valley-girl dialect. I don’t make the rules.

My friend Kate volunteered to be taste-tester and fellow Cheez-It maker, so on Monday, we used her awesome kitchen (check out the granite counter tops below) and made Cheez-Its. From scratch. And they.were.nirvana.

Color Me Cheezy

Everyone loves Cheez-Its right? Everyone else here can finish off a box in one sitting? Everyone reading this also loves licking their fingers after eating the white cheddar ones? Ok, whew!

Here’s the blog where the recipe I used came from. It’s a guest post from this woman. I’d love it if you paid her a visit to find out how to make these tasty squares.

Kate and I both have an aggressive affinity for white cheddar cheez-its. Like, if there’s a box hidden in the room, we can sniff it out. And fight to the death à la Hunger Games for it. So we used aged white cheddar cheese with a bit of regular sharp cheddar thrown in.

After you combine all your ingredients, which are really just cheese, flour, butter and milk, you roll out the dough and cut some 1×1 inch squares.

Notice my lack of experience in rolling dough...

Trying to be precise

Starting to look like cheez-its

Kate punched cute little holes in the center with a skewer and then we baked them.

This is after we flipped them over

We flipped them, hoping to brown them a little on top.

The first batched looked beautiful. But they were more like a flaky, puffy biscuit than a crunchy cracker used for after-school snacks…

B-e-a-utiful

So we burned the next batch.

Still tasty

And it was an accidental triumph. You know when you reach in the Cheez-It box and happen to pull out a slightly browned Cheez-It and you eat it as quickly as humanly possible so the person you’re eating Cheez-Its with doesn’t see it and steal it? Well, it’s like we made a whole batch of those ones so everyone could get in on the action.

Are you guys swooning yet? The first one Kate tried, she tasted it, nodded her head with a smile and said “Cheez-It!”

Make a batch (no, make 4) this weekend. They’re super, super easy and twice as yummy. Plus, no preservatives.

Only downside is, there’s no cheese dust to lick off your fingers.

And for your weekend pleasure:

This is well-behaved Wayne, Kate's dog, who helped us make cheez-its. Isn't he delicious?!

Teriyaki-Glazed Garlic Eda-yum-me

My college roomie (Stef) and I found a pretty awesome sushi place down in SD. It’s a hole in the wall (literally. I’m pretty sure the fire code only allows 12 people in there at a time) and their sushi is inventive, fresh and fun. I’m sharing the secret with you, so click here to find out the name of this amazing find.

I love Stef for many reasons–she’s been my cooking accomplice for years, her family owns the renowned Weiser Family Farms (have you tried their potatoes?? Look out for them in San Diego farmers markets.), and she loves the same foods I do, to name a few.

So Stef and I had no problem picking sushi to share between the two of us. And we chose a Japanese appetizer staple–edamame. Garlic edamame to be technical. We both agreed it was our favorite dish of the night, that’s how well done it was.

Edamame is a young soy bean that’s often served steamed in its shell with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt.  It’s known as a health food, due to its high amounts of protein and omega-3 levels, among many other things.

Steamed edamame

I tried to recreate the garlicky, glazed edamame dish Stef and I had at this sushi joint. It’s not perfect, but just as delicious. And, per usual, it’s simple to throw together.

Teriyaki-Glazed Garlic Edamame

  • One 16-oz package of frozen edamame
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. water plus 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, mixed together to form a slurry
  • Toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling

Assembling

  1. Bring the water and garlic to a boil over high heat in a deep pot.
  2. Dump the frozen edamame in and stir occasionally for about 5-8 minutes, until the pods are hot and softened. Most of the water will be evaporated at this point.
  3. Turn the heat to medium. Toss in the teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and soy and stir to combine.
  4. Let that cook down for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and turn the heat to low and let thicken, about a minute.
  6. Serve on a platter and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.
  7. Tell wandering hands to get their own.

The slurry

Thickening Up

The finished product

Tips and Variations

  • After you steam them in the water and garlic, remove them from the pan and sprinkle with salt for a lighter version.
  • Add some sriracha (spicy chili sauce) to the teriyaki sauce for a spicy kick
  • Double the garlic for a health and flavor boost.
  • Some people get snap peas confused with edamame. You can’t eat the shell of edamame like you can snap peas and…um…they’re just completely different.
  • Frozen edamame is just as good as fresh–in fact, frozen food tends to be higher in nutritional value because they’re frozen when they’re nutrients are at their highest levels.

Teriyaki-Glazed Garlic Edamame

My Favorite Foodie Friend

Bean, I Am Your Fava

I have a deep love for roasting food. Potatoes, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, fish, carrots, parsnips, chickpeas, chicken, garlic. You name it, I’ll roast it.

My college roomie and I used to roast asparagus with some olive oil and already-roasted garlic and hot pepper flakes as a snack while we watched guilty-pleasure t.v. shows (i.e. The Hills. Please remember, this is a no-judging zone.) The flavor of the asparagus was so completely different from steamed or sauteed asparagus and the tops were always nice and crunchy. It was the perfect savory snack to be mindlessly eating–it even made your fingers “greasy” like potato chips (of course, this “grease” was considerably healthier than those found in fried products).

So, a couple weeks ago at the farmers market, I stumbled upon these:

Fava Beans

A farmer let me sample them raw, despite my hesitation. I’ve never had fava beans, but they seem to get a bad rep on cooking shows for reasons unbeknownst to me. Anyway, they taste buttery and smooth raw, so they must taste 1,000 times better roasted, right?

I put my theory to the test and shelled out the beans. I only had a couple handful of fava beans and each pod contains about 5 beans. I love the inside of the pod–it’s fuzzy and cushy, like that plastic they wrap stuff in so that it doesn’t break (maybe the picture will explain it better)…

Inside of the fava bean shell

tossed them with some EVOO, salt, pepper, cayenne, and a pinch of brown sugar…

Tossed with EVOO, spices and sugar.

Roasted those babies at 400 degrees Fahrenheit  for about 20-25 minutes and tried them out…

Roasted Fava Beans

I was expecting them to get more crunchy, like a nut. But instead I got a pleasant surprise! They were caramelized and crispy on the outside, but remained buttery and chewy on the inside. They totally brought me back to my college days with Stef (said roomie) and our indulgence of roasted asparagus. Except these were much more of a “finger food” and easier to snack on. Definitely will be making these again, but I’ll be sure to get much more than a couple handfuls of the favas.

They were delicious. I’ve heard of people grilling these inside of their pods, too. Might have to try that out. Until then, I have completed yet another roasting success!

Anyone else here a fava bean lover? How about a Star Wars fan?

Oscarworthy

The Oscars are creeping up on us. I love Oscar night, especially when there are some decent movies actually nominated! I always print out Oscar ballots and my S.O. and I (and anyone else we have over) fill out our picks for all of the categories. It makes things fun and exciting, even on categories you wouldn’t normally care about (like art direction, or sound mixing).Want to have everyone fill out an Oscar ballot at your Oscar party this year? Click here and print away! Give away a small prize for the person who had the most correct categories!

Oscar night is not just about the movies at my house. It shockingly obviously is also about the food that accompanies the awards. I love making finger foods so people can pick and choose a couple things and munch away on a small plate while they watch. Last year, I made beer-cheddar fondue with a ton of dippers (cauliflower, carrots, bread, celery, tomatoes, bellpeppers, broccoli, steamed fingerling potatoes, etc). We had my boyfriend’s sister and her S.O. over. She brought the homemade bread and some great Chianti. I love fondue and it’s the perfect Oscar party food if you’re “party” is small enough.

If you’re having more than 4 people over, or if you want something a little more casual and a lot less work, set out the usual types of finger foods–mini quiche, queso dip in the crock pot, veggie tray, fruit salad, salsa, dip, chips, and GUACAMOLE!

Guacamole

Avocados don’t last very long in my house, and guacamole goes even quicker. Here’s an “oscar-worthy” recipe for guacamole that will please everyone’s palate.

Halved Avocado

Oscar-worthy Guacamole

What you need

  • 3-4 ripe avocados
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Simple Guacamole Ingredients

What you do:

  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados into a mixing bowl, saving 1 or 2 of the pits.
  2. Sprinkle on the garlic salt, lemon pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mash together with a potato masher until thick and creamy, leaving some chunks for texture. (Mash until it’s the consistency of your liking)
  3. Add the Worcestershire, Tabasco and lemon juice. Stir well to mix in.
  4. Put the pit(s) on top of the guacamole and cover tightly with saran wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Tips and Variations

  • Keep those pits! They help keep the guacamole bright green, as opposed to the dirty brown they get when they’ve oxidized.Simply sticking them on top of the guac helps prevent browning.
  • Make your guacamole chunky. Add diced tomatoes and red onion at the very end and stir to mix!
  • Use lime juice instead of lemon juice
  • Use fonly resh minced garlic and kosher salt with some lemon juice
  • Spread the guacamole on your bacon and turkey sandwich
  • Make this pasta with your avocados instead of guacamole for the Oscars!
  • Buy avocados from your local farmers market–they’ll last longer and have more flesh and thinner skin, depending on variety
  • Add in season salt
  • Replace the Tabasco with Tapatio

Dig In

Get Your Zinc On!

The one and only reason I love Halloween is roasted pumpkin seeds.  I hate the dressing up, going out, and while I love the candy, I hate what it does to my teeth and body.  So pumpkin seeds take the cake on this holiday, and rightly so.  They can be crunchy, chewy, slightly sweet, salty, and spicy.  They’re a great snack for munching on and they pack a punch when it comes to zinc–a necessity for our bodies.

Zinc is an essential mineral that’s great for hair, skin, eyesight, and most importantly, our immune system!  I take it daily via pill but it’s always best if we get our essentials from the actual source, rather than a supplement.

 

The intimidating insides

Wanna up your zinc intake?  Now’s the perfect time!  Go to your local farmers market or pumpkin patch, grab a few of the orange squashes, and dig away!  While the process of extracting the seeds can be somewhat tedious (and sticky!) the end result is well worth it (as is the baby-soft hands you’ll have when you’re done!)  Check out my pumpkin seed recipe and my article on pumpkins on patch!

My Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

  • Pumpkin seeds, rinsed and thoroughly dried (Need to dry them out fast? Put a hair dryer to ‘em. Just make sure the speed is on low to prevent flying seeds!)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Coarsely ground sea salt, to taste
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. smoked sweet paprika

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Spread out dried pumpkin seeds onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet
  3. Drizzle a thin line of EVOO over the entire batch of seeds
  4. Liberally sprinkle with the sea salt
  5. Lightly sprinkle with the garlic salt
  6. Sprinkle on the paprika and toss to coat
  7. Heat in oven for about 25-40 minutes. (Since ovens vary, check seeds after 25 minutes. If they aren’t done, check back every two minutes, until they are crispy to your liking.)

Variations:

  • Drizzle melted butter on the seeds instead of EVOO for a decadent treat
  • Keep it simple with just some sea salt
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth by using melted butter and a cinnamon-sugar mixture
  • For the indecisive: Make it sweet and spicy. Use butter or EVOO, some brown sugar and some cayenne pepper. Adjust to your hotness level!  (Careful!  A little bit of cayenne goes a long way.)

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt, Garlic, and Smoked Paprika

Have I convinced you yet?

Homemade Croutons

It’s been a salad week for us, here at home.  We’ve had steak salad, arugula and potato salad, chicken salad, and more.  And what’s the first thing that people think of when they hear salad?

CROUTONS!

I, personally, am a big fan of the crunchy little accomodations to salad.  I could sit and eat a whole bag of them.  But I often find them to be a little overpriced and usually don’t buy them.  For some reason, it never occurred to me until this past week to make my own.

We had some old french rolls that were on their way to being hockey pucks, so instead of throwing them out, I decided to cube them up and throw them into a hot pan with a some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of garlic salt.

The result??

They are absolutely delicious.  10 times better than store-bought ones.  They’re full of flavor and melt in your mouth.  Who would’ve guessed stale bread could produce something absolutely delectable??

These are a few of my favorite things…

Yes, it’s been a while.  I’ve been ignoring my foodie duties–both in the blogging sense as well as the cooking one!  I am ashamed; but life gets busy and hectic and laziness takes over.  Not that I’m making excuses—for there should be none when it comes to the one thing that makes life worth living——foooood.

My boss excitedly handed me over a recipe last week with wide, shimmering eyes.  I saw the picture first….

Bars from Heaven

Then, I proceeded to grab the recipe from her and ask what they were.  She told me they were “so me”

Oats? Yum

Pine Nuts? Um…only perhaps my FAVORITE thing in the whole wide world!!!

Honey? *cue salivation*

White Chocolate?!?!?!  Yes, please!

So I took the recipe home and vowed to make the bars this past weekend (which I dutifully did!)  Now, I must warn you, that the price tag for making these bars can be a bit scary.  Things you need that you will probably have on hand already (although I did not) are parchment paper (don’t know why I didn’t have this in the kitchen. we all know how magical that stuff is) and Canola Oil.  You’ll probably have honey on hand too, as did I, but I went all out at Henry’s Market and bought some really awesome orange blossom honey.  Most of my honeys are partially crystallized and I didn’t feel like liquidizing them.

The rest of the items needed I also bought at Henry’s because that place kicks ass booty.  However, if I had a Costco membership or if Sam’s Club ever carried the things, I would have gotten the pine nuts there.  My palate not only nearly-discrimatory free, but it’s also expensive.  Pine nuts at Henry’s were about $31 a pound.  I believe the bag of them at Costco is about a pound and a half for either the same price or lower, depending on the season.  If you do buy more than you need, freeze them! (Do this with any nuts to extend their lives)

Below is the recipe for the bars, taken from Food and Wine Magazine who got the recipe from Pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez of San Francisco’s Absinthe Brasserie & Bar.  There are some notes to be made about the recipe:

1) I didn’t want to overdue it on the pepper so I halved it.

2) Next time, I would add a pinch more of salt to get more of a salt/sweet taste

3) I totally forgot to stir the Canola Oil into the white chocolate, but everything turned out A-Ok!

4) I drizzed more white chocolate on top to make it look pretty and help myself consume even more white chocolate

5) My bars didn’t turn out half as pretty as the ones in the picture.  I blame my crappy oven and cheap pan

Ingredients

  1. 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  2. 3/4 cup honey
  3. 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  4. 2 cups old-fashioned oats, preferably thick-cut
  5. 1 1/2 cups pine nuts (8 ounces)
  6. 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. Pinch of salt
  8. 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  9. 1/2 teaspoon canola oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the honey and sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oats, pine nuts, pepper and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the pine nuts just begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and browned around the edges. Let the bars cool completely in the pan.
  3. Run the tip of a knife around the edge of the pan and lift the square from the pan. Cut the square in half, then cut each half into 6 bars. Discard the parchment paper.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate at high power at 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Stir in the oil and let cool slightly. Dip the bottom half of each oat bar into the white chocolate and set the bars on the baking sheet. Refrigerate just until the white chocolate is set. If the chocolate looks thin, dip the bars a second time.

Make Ahead

    The bars can be refrigerated for 1 week or kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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