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Archive for Food Facts – Food History

TIP OF THE DAY: Beurre Blanc, Beurre Noir & Beurre Noisette

Yesterday we wrote about LoveTheWild, a line of frozen fish entrées with pats of flavored butter (compound butter) that melt into a sauce.

The concept of compound butter comes from French cuisine, but French butter sauces don’t stop there.

Today, we take on three butter preparations that are used as sauces—sauces that you can easily make to spruce up your evening meal. You don’t need a lot of it to add richness to your dish.

There are other French butter-based sauces, of course: Check them out in our Butter Glossary.
 
 
BEURRE BLANC & BEURRE ROUGE (WHITE AND RED BUTTER SAUCES)

French for white butter, beurre blanc is a hot emulsified butter sauce made popular in Loire Valley cuisine. There it is made with Muscadet, the region’s best-selling white wine, which has been made since the late 16th or early 17th century.

The ingredients of beurre blanc—and the other sauces in this article—are simple:

  • White wine.
  • Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar.
  • Shallots.
  • Chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, basil, parsley or chives.
  • Optional: bay leaf and peppercorns.
  •  
    It is a popular sauce for fish and shellfish, including poached fish and Coquilles Saint-Jacques; as well as vegetables, such as asparagus. With the latter, a splash of tarragon vinegar or a bit of fresh tarragon is added——not part of the original recipe, nor are any fresh herbs. Nor are the bay leaf and peppercorns added by some cooks (photo #1).

    To make the emulsion, cold, whole butter is blended into the hot reduction of wine and vinegar. It is similar to the mother sauce hollandaise in concept, but is considered neither a mother sauce nor a compound butter.

    Beurre rouge, a variant of beurre blanc sauce, is made by substituting a dry red wine for the white wine and red wine vinegar for the white wine vinegar. The red wine supplies color and more of a tang.

    Here’s a recipe for beurre blanc.

    Some beurre blanc history: The chef Clémence Prau Lefeuvre of the Loire restaurant La Buvette de la Marine, is credited with the invention of beurre blanc. Cooking at the beginning of the 20th century, she developed the recipe by accident.

    The story is that she intended to prepare a béarnaise sauce for a pike dish, but forgot to add the tarragon and egg yolks.
     
     
    BEURRE NOISETTE (BROWN BUTTER SAUCE)

    For more depth of flavor, the butter is cooked longer. A step up from beurre blanc is beurre noisette (photo #2).

    Literally meaning hazelnut butter, but commonly referred to as brown butter, it is melted butter that’s cooked until the milk solids turn the light golden brown color of hazelnuts and the butter gives off a nutty aroma.

    Beurre noisette is popular for sautéeing and saucing meat, poultry, fish and fruit; as a sauce for pasta and vegetables; and in baking biscuits, cakes and cookies. We like it with polenta and grains.

    Here’s a recipe for beurre noisette.

     

    Oysters In Beurre Blanc
    [1] Oysters in beurre blanc (photo courtesy Oyster Club | CT).

    Ravioli With Beurre Noisette
    [2] Ravioli in beurre noisette, brown butter (photo courtesy David Venable | QVC).

    Beurre Noir

    [3] Beurre noir is butter cooked until it turns a very dark brown (photo courtesy Alchetron).

     
     
    BEURRE NOIR (BLACK BUTTER SAUCE)

    French for black butter, the butter is cooked over low heat until it turns dark brown (not literal black—photo #3).

    When the sauce turns brown, a few drops of red wine vinegar or lemon juice are added. Some recipes add capers and parsley or thyme. Modern cooks have amended the recipe to include balsamic vinegar, garlic, even minced hot chiles (essentially, sauces that should be called balsamic beurre noir, garlic beurre noir, etc.).

    Two famous classic dishes are calves brains in black butter (a dish, alas, that is not served much these days since the spread of Mad Cow Disease) and skate in black butter. Here’s a recipe for skate in black butter.

    Beurre noir is not to be confused with Jersey black sutter, an English speciality made by slowly cooking apples with cider, licorice and spices. It’s generally eaten on toast.
     
     
    BONUS: BEURRE MONTÉ, A COOKING TECHNIQUE

    Beurre monté is not a sauce, but a method of infusing meats and fish with the flavor of butter. Solid butter is an emulsification of butter fat, water and milk solids; beurre monté is a way to manipulate the emulsification into liquid form.

    A few drops of water and chunks of butter are whisked over a moderate heat to melt the butter and keep it emulsified—a solid, creamy sauce. Foods are cooked in it, meats are rested in it, sauces are made with with it. “It’s an extraordinary vehicle for both heat and flavor.” says chef Thomas Keller.

    Here’s his recipe.

      

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    RECIPE: Coffee Cake Mug Cake & The History Of Mug Cakes

    Mug Cakes Cookbook
    [1] Get a book on mug cakes, and have an almost-instant cake fix whenever you need one (photo courtesy St. Martin’s Press).

    Coffeecake Mug Cake

    Coffee Cake Mug Cake
    [2] and [3] Coffeecake Mug Cake from Ava’s Bakery.

    Cup Of Coffee

    [4] While the cake bakes, make a cup of coffee (photo Sxpng | Canstock ).

     

    Mug cakes have been around for a while. They’re a handy solution when you’re jonesing for a piece of cake. Simply combine some basic ingredients in a coffee mug and microwave for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Yet, a survey among our cake-loving friends and colleagues indicates that few of us make mug cakes. So today, National Coffee Day, we’re encouraging the practice with the Mug Coffee Cake recipe below.

    If you like mug cakes as much as we do, there are several mug cake cookbooks. Start with Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth (photo #1).
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF MUG CAKES

    While unleavened cakes date back to ancient Egypt, most were savory cakes, some garnished with honey. Without leavening, they did not rise.

    It took another few millennia, until the 18th century, for bakers to discover the technique of whipping eggs to make cakes rise. While it required many hours of beating, the wealthy had enough labor in the kitchen. These unsung bakers heralded the dawn of modern baking.

    By the 1840s, baking soda had been invented, followed by baking powder in the 1860s (the difference). These chemical leavening agents meant that most cooks could make a cake rise.

    With cakes came cupcakes. The original cupcakes were baked in coffee cups; hence the name. They were actually mini “test cakes,” to test the heat of the oven.

    From the prehistoric dawn of the oven to the latter half of the 19th century, there were no thermostats to regulate the temperature of the oven, which was fueled by a wood or charcoal fire. Delicate cooking like baking required great technique (the history of ovens).

    In 1851, the Bower’s Registered Gas Stove debuted at the Great Exhibition in London, featuring a revolution: a thermostat. It became the basis for the modern gas oven.

    As ovens with regulated temperatures became available, and sugar became affordable to most people, more home cooks were able to bake to their hearts’ content. This resulted in more creativity in recipe development. The modern cake as we know it began to take shape in the mid-19th century.

    Finally, The Microwave!

    The next great leap forward, the consumer microwave oven, was launched in 1967. But it took another 50 years or so to popularize a microwaved cake-in-a-mug. Finally, in the Information Age, it quickly gained popularity via online cooking forums.

    The technique uses a mug as the cooking vessel and takes just a few minutes to toss the ingredients into the mug: flour, sugar, baking powder, seasonings and fats (butter, cream, oil). The mug goes into the microwave; as the fat in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets that cause the cake to quickly rise.

    Here’s a fun idea for National Coffee Day: a coffee mug cake filled with coffee cake (photos #2 and #3).

    If that sounds like too much of a tongue twister, let us explain:

    Ava’s Cupcakes, a winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, has created a tongue-in-cheek cake for National Coffee Day. It’s a mug cake—made in a coffee mug. And that’s a streusel-topped coffee cake in that mug.

    You’ll also need a separate mug of coffee to drink with the mug cake (photo #4)…but what a memorable coffee break!

    If you’re in the neighborhood, Ava’s Bakery has a retail bakery in Rockaway, New Jersey. If not, there’s a large selection of products available online at AvasCupcakes.com.
     
     
    RECIPE: COFFEE CAKE IN A MUG (MUG CAKE)

    Ingredients For The Cake

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  •  
    For The Crumb Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Optional garnish: powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN the butter. Place the sugar in the mug, add the butter and combine. Add cream, vanilla and cinnamon, and stir.

    2. MIX the flour, salt and baking powder together in a separate bowl, and add to the cup. Blend.

    3. MAKE the topping: Soften the butter, add flour, cinnamon and brown sugar, and mix until crumbly. Crumble the top onto flour mixture, patting down gently.

    4. MICROWAVE for 2 minutes, let cool for 1 minute. Garnish as desired and consume!

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Collectible Tequila Cazadores Bottle

    Mr. Cartoon Cazadores Tequila
    [1] Tequila Cazadores’s limited-edition Mr. Cartoon bottle for El Día de los Muertos (photo courtesy Tequila Cazadores).

    Mister Cartoon Skull Bandana

    [2] 100% of proceeds from bandana sales go to Topos México earthquake disaster relief (photo courtesy Mister Cartoon).

     

    Get ready to add this bottle of tequila to your collection, and to stock up for holiday gifting for Halloween, El Día de los Muertos and Christmas.

    Mexican-American artist Mister Cartoon, has created the art for this limited edition bottle of Tequila Cazadores blanco.

    It celebrates El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a traditional Mexican holiday. The skull illustration honors the memories of lost loved ones.

    Since pre-Colombian times, Aztecs and the Mexicans who followed have celebrated El Día de los Muertos, a ritual in which the living remember their departed relatives.

    The holiday starts the evening of October 31st through November 2nd (see more below).

    To commemorate the release, the artist has also created a set of skull bandanas (photo #2), from which 100% of proceeds of sales will go towards disaster relief in Mexico.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF EL DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

    Celebrated for thousands of years, this Aztec holiday was originally a month-long festival called Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of The Dead.

    When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and imposed their Catholic religion, the celebration became joined with All Saints Day, November 1st, and and All Souls Day, November 2nd.

    The celebration begins the evening before, October 31st—coincidentally, the Irish-American celebration of All Hallows Eve, Halloween. While people fear the Halloween spirits of the dead, El Día de los Muertos honors the deceased.

  • On November 1st the souls of children that have passed away, known as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). .
  • On November 2nd, the adult souls arrive.
  •  
    Graves of the deceased are visited decorated, and families expect a visit from the spirits of loved ones who have passed.

    Celebrants create brightly-colored home altars honoring these family members. They are decorated with ofrendas (offerings), gifts for the dead: candles, sugar skulls (calaveritas), flowers, food and drink, photos, even items of the deceased’s clothing or a child’s toy.

     
    The altar has mixed imagery of both indigenous origin and Catholic influences. It is not an altar of worship but of honor, to welcome the returning spirits to their homes. Here’s more about it.

    The skull imagery dates to the Aztecs, who kept skulls as trophies and used them during rituals.

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: LoveTheWild & More Finds From The Freezer

    This week’s Top Pick is Love The Wild frozen fish, with runner-up Orca Bay Seafood and an honorable mention to Mrs. T’s Pierogies.

    1. LOVE THE WILD FROZEN FISH ENTRÉES

    Only one in five Americans meet the USDA recommendation for fish intake*, a vital high protein dietary component that’s high in protein and healthy fats.

    Home cooks and restaurants have been finding more ways to nudge it into our diet, From fish tacos to smoked salmon pizza (white sauce, salmon caviar, yum!) to sushi rolls.

    We try to eat fish several nights a week. But on frequent occasions, we lack the energy to stand in line at the fish counter, or sit down at the sushi bar.

    And sometimes the kitchen is too much of a mess to bring out more pots and pans.

    Were we happy to discover LoveTheWild, a line of sustainably-sourced fish entrées that take no more energy than pre-heating the oven.

    It’s fool-proof, and there’s no messy pan: The parchment paper holds the fish and the sauce (from the seasoned butter) tight.

    Delicious seafood from traceable sources that consumers could trust.The brand is sold at major retailers across the U.S., including Whole Foods Markets, Wegmans, Sprouts, and Mom’s. The line currently includes:

  • Barramundi With Mango Sriracha Chutney
  • Rainbow Trout With Salsa Verde
  • Red Trout With Salsa Verde
  • Striped Bass With Roasted Red Pepper Almond Sauce
  •  
    Each variety comes with three pats of seasoned butter (heart-shaped) and parchment paper (also heart-shaped). Put the fillet in the parchment, top with the butter, fold and place in the oven. The butter melts to create the sauce. In short order, you have a delicious entrée.

    Here’s a store locator.

    Also noteworthy: this infographic on aquaculture, fish farming and photos of the fish farms.

    Discover more at LoveTheWild.com.
     
     
    2. ORCA BAY SEAFOOD FROZEN FISH FILLETS & DISHES

    Like many people we know, we try to cook fresh food daily. And we try to eat a mostly pescatarian diet.

    But on those days of sheer exhaustion—no will to battle lines at the fish market—we turn to the freezer.

    Orca Bay Seafoods sells a dozen different frozen fish fillets, mostly wild-caught (the swai† and tilapia are farmed).

    The country was launched in 1985 by seafood executives. At the time, the frozen fish options were not as good as they knew there could be. They established the company to provide higher quality, all natural frozen seafood.

    There are choices from mild to meaty:

       

    Love The Wild Red Trout
    [1] Love The Wild’se fish fillet and sauce are wrapped in parchment, leaving a clean cooking dish.

    Love The Wild
    [2] Compact boxes fit easily into the freezer (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Love The Wild).

    Orca Bay Seafood Cod Fillets

    [3] Orca Bay cod fillets in a noodle bowl with veggies (photo courtesy Dana Sandonato | Killing Thyme).

  • Fillets in cod, flounder, halibut, mahi-mahi, perch, scallops swai, swordfish, tilapia, tuna and three different salmon fillets—keta, pink and sockeye.
  • King crab legs and scallops.
  • Three prepared dishes: albondigas, a Mexican seafood soup; cioppino, a seafood stew; and kjamppong Korean seafood noodles (all delicious).
  •  
    The products are portioned and packed at facilities with rigorous quality control standards, “so rest assured.” the company says.

    How can you resist a five-ounce serving of meaty cod, with just 90 calories, 1 g fat, 110mg sodium and more than 30% of your DV of protein (17g).

    There are recipes on the website, and many bloggers have embraced the brand. Check out this Orca Bay Cod Reuben Sandwich.

    There’s a store locator on the website, and e-tail options including Orca Direct.

    Discover more at OrcaBaySeafoods.com.
     
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    *The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends two eight-ounce servings of seafood weekly,to get at least 1,750 milligrams of two omega-3s, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

    †Swai, along with related species basa and tra, belong to what’s called the Pangasius family of fish. They are native to the rivers of Southeast Asia, where they are heavily cultivated for food. Pangasius fish are similar in character to catfish: sweet, mild white flesh. The breed has been introduced into other river basins around the world as a food source. Since price is partly based on demand, these “new” fish is a bargain—often just $3.99 a pound. Orca Bay Seafood’s swai is farmed in the U.S.

     

    Szechuan-Style Pierogies
    Szechuan pierogies recipe.

    Pierogies Piccata
    Pierogies piccata.

    Pierogie Pot Pie
    Deep dish pierogi pot pie.

    Pierogies Primavera
    Pierogies primavera (recipe).

    Mrs. T's Classic Cheddar Pierogies

    Look for the blue box (all pierogi photos courtesy Mrs. T’s).

     

    MRS. T’s PIEROGIES

    Pierogies‡, also called as varenyky, are semicircle filled dumplings that are a popular in Central and Eastern European cuisines. They are served as appetizer, main courses and, even as dessert.

    Pierogies are variously filled with cabbage, cheese (farmer’s cheese or quark), fried onions, ground meat, mashed potatoes, mushrooms, sauerkraut and spinach.

    Dessert varieties are filled with sweetened cheese, fresh fruit or jam.

    The original condiments for pierogies were sour cream and butter. By the end of the 20th century, queso (cheese sauce), buffalo wing sauce and others had been added to the list.

    Mrs. T’s has turned pierogies into scores of delicious recipes, from Greektown Pierogi Salad to Pierogi Scampi.

    For National Pierogi Day, October 8th, there’s new set of recipes by Iron Chef America star, Jose Garces.

    Chef Garces created four restaurant-inspired recipes featuring Mrs. T’s Pierogies that you can enjoy as a main course:

  • Chicken-Fried Pierogies
  • Pierogies Piccata
  • Pierogies Poblanos
  • Szechuan-Style Pierogies
  •  
    Mrs. T’s Pierogies are available stuffed with creamy whipped potatoes and other classic ingredients like aged cheddar cheese. The current line includes:

  • American Cheese
  • Broccoli & Aged Cheddar
  • Classic Cheddar
  • Classic Onion
  • Feta & Spinach
  • Five Cheese Pizza
  • Four Cheese Medley
  • Garlic & Parmesan
  • Loaded Baked Potato
  • Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil
  • Savory Five Cheese Blend
  • Sour Cream & Chive
  • Spicy Jalapeno & Sharp Cheddar
  • Traditional Sauerkraut, plus
  • Minis in Classic Cheddar, Onion, Four Cheese and Cheddar Seasoned with Bacon
  •  
    Pierogies can be baked, boiled, deep-fried, grilled, microwaved, sautéed, even prepared in a slow cooker.

     
    Mrs. T’s Pierogies are certified kosher (dairy) by the Orthodox Union with the exception of Broccoli & Aged Cheddar, which is certified by Kosher Overseers.
     
    Discover more at MrsTsPierogies.com.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF PIEROGIES

    Pieróg is a generic Polish term for filled dumplings.

    One belief is that pierogis—filled pasta—came from China through Italy with Marco Polo’s return, at the end of the 13th century. He brought back the Chinese concept of the filled pasta (think Chinese filled wontons and dumplings) that inspired Italy’s agnolotti, ravioli, tortellini and other stuffed pasta varieties.

    While boiled noodles (ribbon pasta) were known in the Middle East since the fifth century C.E., and made their way to Italy during the Arab invasions of the 8th century, stuffed pasta pillows were not known before Marco Polo.

    Another version of the story contends that pierogi were brought to back to Poland from Russia by Saint Hyacinth of Poland, or by the Tartars—also in the the 13th century (here’s the history of pasta).

    However and whenever, pierogi became a culinary staple Belarusse, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Romania and Russia. Whey were garnished with bits of bacon, fried onions and/or mushrooms.

    Dessert varieties were topped with apple sauce, jam, or preserves.

    It took a while for pierogies to cross the pond. The introduction of the pierogi to the U.S. occurred at the onset of the Great Depression in the late 1920s.

    The first-known documented sale of pierogi occurred in May 1928 at the Marton House Tavern in Cleveland, when proprietor Andrew Marton served them to unemployed steel mill workers [source].

    Mrs. T’s was founded in 1952. The company currently makes some 14 varieties of pierogies and produces more than 500 million pierogies annually.
    ________________

    ‡The word pierogi in Polish, Russian and other central European languages is plural. However, in English it is typically used as the singular form, with “pierogies” used as the plural.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 25 Ways To Serve Avocado Boats

    A BRIEF AVOCADO HISTORY

    Spanish explorers in Mexico encountered new foods, including avocados*. Martín Fernández de Enciso (ca, 1470-1528) was the first European to describe them, in a book written in 1519.

    The Aztec name for the fruit is ahuacatl (ah-hwa-CAH-tay); the Spanish pronounced and spelled it it aguacate. The returning conquistadors brought avocado trees back to Europe [source].

    In 1653, a Spanish padre, Bernabe Cobo, described the different varieties of avocado in Guatemala, Mexico and the West Indies.

    Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish naturalist, is believed to have inadvertently coined the word “avocado” in 1696, when he mentioned the plant in a catalogue of Jamaican plants. He also called it the “alligator pear-tree” after the fruit’s pebbly skin.

    George Washington was one of the people who described eating avocados in the West Indies. He visited the Barbados in 1751, and later wrote that the “agovago pears” were a popular food.

    Avocados Come To The U.S.

    Henry Perrine, a horticulturist, first planted avocados in Florida in 1833. However, they didn’t become a commercial crop until the early 20th century.

    The fact that avocados on the tree looked like testicles (in fact, the Aztec word ahuacatl means “testicle”), and were purportedly an aid to sexual prowess, kept them off the tables of polite society.

    In time, they gained acceptance. By the 1950s, avocados began to appear in salads; and avocados stuffed with chicken, crab or shrimp salad became a popular ladies’ luncheon choice.

    Stuffed potatoes and squash also became known as “boats”; hence, the avocado boat.

    Here’s more history of avocados.

    We love avocado boats, and have compiled 25 different stuffings. Other recipes, including baked and grilled versions, cook eggs in the boats. But these options simply require a ripe avocado and the filling.

    Whatever you choose, a garnish of fresh herbs—basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, thyme—adds an extra flavor dimension, Lovers of spice can add a sprinkle of red chile flakes or a spicy seasoning blend.
     
     
    AVOCADO BOATS AS A FIRST COURSE

  • Caprese salad with grape tomatoes and perlini mozzarella balls
  • Chickpea salad (recipe)
  • Citrus salad (optional feta or goat cheese)
  • Israeli salad
  • Tropical fruit salad (coconut, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple in honey-lime juice)
  •  
     
    AVOCADO BOATS AS A LUNCH COURSE

  • Asian chicken salad
  • BBQ chicken (recipe)
  • Buffalo chicken
  • Ceviche
  • Chicken taco salad (recipe or pulled chicken)
  • Crab, shrimp or shrimp salad
  • Egg salad
  • Salmon poke or smoked salmon salad, topped with salmon caviar
  • Seafood salad in vinaigrette (shrimp, mussels, clams, squid)
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Sloppy joe (beef or turkey)
  • Tuna poke (recipe)
  • Turkey BLT with bacon, chopped tomato, fresh spinach
  • Veggie pizza (chopped veggies of choice, pasta sauce topped with mozzarella, plain or melted)
  •  
     
    AVOCADO BOAT SIDES

  • Chopped salad
  • Corn and bean relish
  • Cucumber salad
  • Grain salad (quinoa, etc.)
  • Pico de gallo or other salsa (Chopped tomato, red onion, garlic granules, jalapeño, cilantro, sea salt, and lime juice._
  • Seeds and sprouts (recipe)
  • Three bean salad
  •  

    Stuffed Avocado With Curried Chicken Salad
    [1] Avocado boat with curried tuna salad. Here’s the recipe from Kara Lydon.

    Tuna Poke Avocado Boat
    [2] Trendy poke is delicious in an avocado boat. Here’s the recipe from Anya’s Eats.

    BLT Avocado Boat
    [3] A BLT avocado boat. You can make it a chicken or turkey BLT. Here’s the recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

    Caprese Avocado Boat
    [4] A Caprese avocado boat. Here’s the recipe from Souffle Bombay.

     
    If we’ve overlooked your favorite avocado boat filling, let us know.

    ________________

    *Avocado, beans, bell pepper, cacao, chile peppers, corn, potato, pumpkin and other squash and vanilla are some others.

      

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