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Vegetable and Red Lentil Soup

lentil soupTHE VERDICT:

I love a good vegetable soup, but this one puts a yummy twist on the classic. A touch of curry, some coconut milk, red lentils and zucchini dress up the usual round up of vegetables. It quickly became a winter favourite after the first time we tried this recipe a few years ago. The fact that it’s easy to throw together is another plus. If you’re good at chopping veggies, you can have this soup on the table in about 25-30 minutes.

It is a tasty, but low calorie soup, so it’s great for those whose new year’s resolution was to lose a few pounds, but it pairs well with grilled paninis or garlic toast if you’re looking for a more substantial meal. While the recipe calls for chicken stock, you could easily substitute in some vegetable stock and you would have a great vegan soup on your hands.

The leftovers taste amazing because the curry flavours have had time to develop, so this makes a great lunch for the next day as well.

In this house, it is also a very kid-friendly meal because Z loves anything with a touch of curry.

If you want to try it yourself…


Vegetable and Red Lentil Soup (source: Good Food Fast by Australian Women’s Weekly)

2 tbsp. mild curry paste

400g can of diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken stock

1 large carrot, chopped finely

2 trimmed celery sticks, chopped finely

1 medium potato, chopped finely

1 large zucchini, chopped finely

3/4 cup red lentils

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup light coconut milk

  • Cook curry paste in heated large saucepan, stirring, about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add undrained tomatoes, stock, carrot, celery, potato and zucchini; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 5 minutes.
  • Add lentils to soup mixture; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  • Add peas; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer soup mixture, uncovered, until peas are just tender.
  • Remove soup from heat and stir in coconut milk.

Serves 6

Total time: 30 minutes

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Old-Fashioned Beef & Root Vegetable Stew

Winter weather calls for hearty, comfort foods like this delicious stew. What is even better on a cold winter’s night is to come in from the rain (or snow) to the smell of your dinner ready and waiting for you. What better way to warm up and relax after a long, hard day than to be able to sit down to a steamy bowl of stew without having to do any cooking.

One thing that is nice about this stew is that it can be prepped in a fairly short amount of time (other slow cooker recipes have so many preparation steps that they hardly feel like time savers at all). Brown the meat, chop the veggies, throw it all in the pot and go. You can do this the night before and keep everything in your fridge over night if you are crunched for time in the morning.

Everyone in our house loved this stew. It’s a total classic and will definitely feature prominently in our winter slow cooker rotation. It goes great with crusty sourdough rolls for dipping.

The meat gets so tender from the slow cooking process that it is perfect toddler food as long as all the pieces are cut into reasonable sized chunks. It’s a little messy as finger food, but it is possible for your little one to feed this to himself…just make sure bath time is just around the corner. Otherwise use a spoon.

Leftovers of this stew reheat and/or freeze well.

If you want to try it yourself…


Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

2 lbs. stew beef cubes

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 each onions, carrots and parsnips, peeled and cubed

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup peeled rutabaga

3 cups beef broth

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried marjoram or thyme

3/4 tsp each salt and pepper

2 cups frozen chopped green beans or peas

  • Trim beef and cut into 1-inch cubes, if necessary. In large bowl, toss beef with 1/4 cup of the flour. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown beef. Transfer to slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup water to skillet; bring to boil, scraping brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and rutabaga. Stir in broth, bay leaves, marjoram, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low until beef and vegetables are tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Skim off any fat. Move meat and vegetables to 1 side of slow cooker.
  • Whisk remaining flour with 1/3 cup water; whisk into liquid in slow cooker. Stir in beans or peas.
  • Cover; cook on high until thickened and steaming hot, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Makes 8-10 servings. Requires a 5-6 L slow cooker.

Note: When a stew contains sweet vegetables like carrots and parsnips, it may need a splash of lemon juice, cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar to balance the flavours. Taste before you serve and decide.

Per serving: 256 calories; 23 g protein; 8 g total fat (3 g saturated fat); 22 g carbs; 3 g fibre; 44 mg cholesterol; 480 mg sodium

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Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup

I was a little skeptical when we decided to make this soup. I’m not the biggest fan of ground meat in soup. Chili I can do. Stew I can do. But soup, not so much. I am so glad I didn’t listen to my gut. This soup is AMAZING! There is no way to effectively describe just how good it is in words, so I will just have to insist that you try it yourself.

It is easy to prepare. All you need to do is brown the meat, chop and sauté the veggies and throw it all in a slow cooker and let it cook while you’re at work or out running errands. It’s a great soup for hardworking families and busy days. While the recipe asks you to add frozen peas and lemon juice at the end of the cooking process, we have forgotten this step both times that we have made this soup and it still tastes great. In fact, it tastes so good, we will probably never try it with lemon juice and peas—why mess with a good thing?

Our little soup loving boy was all over this soup the first time we made it. The second time he wasn’t thrilled with the ground beef (guess he takes after me), but toddlers are finicky and unpredictable when it comes to food, so we’ll say he gave it one thumb up instead of two.

Leftovers of this soup reheat well. It’s so good there probably won’t be anything left to freeze.

If you want to try it yourself…


Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

8 oz. lean ground beef

2 large carrots, diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

Half sweet red pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp crumbled dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

6 cups beef broth

2/3 cup parboiled whole grain rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 tbsp lemon juice

  • In large skillet, sauté beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with fork until crumbly and no longer pink, about 8 minutes. With slotted spoon transfer beef to slow cooker.
  • Drain fat from skillet. Fry carrots, onion, celery, red pepper, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the broth to skillet; bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with remaining broth, 2 cups water and rice. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender, about 5 hours.
  • Stir in peas and lemon juice. Cover and cook on high until steaming hot, about 15 minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings in a 4-6 L slow cooker.

Per serving: 129 calories, 8 g protein, 4 g total fat (1 g saturated fat); 16 g carbs; 2 g fibre; 13 mg cholesterol; 629 mg sodium

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Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry


Not the most authentic curry out there, but a warm and tasty meal nonetheless. It was fairly easy to throw together and the only time-consuming part was waiting the 30 minutes for the potatoes to cook. On a weeknight, you could easily leave this to simmer on the stove while you take care of other chores–a plus for any busy household.

There is lots of potential for easy experimentation here as well. Michael Smith suggests trying other nut butters, using squash instead of sweet potato or varying the spice with different curry pastes, but I think mixing up the citrus juice (lime or lemon instead of orange) would really brighten up the flavours of this dish. I think experimenting with different kinds of veggie combinations could also lead to some tasty results.

The use of peanut butter (or in our case, imitation peanut butter) really thickens up the sauce in this dish. If you prefer a saucier curry, you may want to skip the nut butter altogether.

If you shred the spinach into small pieces and make sure they are soft and wilted before removing the pan from the heat, this dish can be served as is to a child who is experienced with eating solid food (about 9 months and older).

If you want to try it yourself. . .


Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry (source: The Best of Chef at Home by Chef Michael Smith)

a splash of vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

a small knob of frozen ginger

1 tsp. of Thai curry paste

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

one 19 oz. can of chickpeas

one 14 oz. can of coconut milk

1 cup of orange juice

1/2 cup of peanut butter or any other nut butter (we used imitation peanut butter and it worked out fine)

a sprinkle or two of sea salt

1 cup or so of frozen peas

several handfuls of spinach

a bunch of chopped cilantro (if you like that sort of thing)

  • Add a splash of two of vegetable oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and saute them until they’re lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so.
  • Grate the frozen ginger into the pan with a Microplane grater or standard box grater and add the Thai curry paste. Continue cooking until the spices are heated through and fragrant, another few minutes.
  • Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, orange juice, peanut butter and salt. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and continue simmering until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the peas and spinach and cilantro.
  • Serve over rice.
  • Freestyle variation: There are three basic types of Thai curry paste, each with its own distinctive flavour. You may choose one based on your tolerance for spicy heat: yellow is the mildest, red is a bit spicier and green is the spiciest. This dish cooks very well in your slow cooker. You may use any type of hard winter squash instead of sweet potatoes; butternut and acorn work well.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Curried Bison Biryani with Broccoli Spears

Curried Bison Biryani with Broccoli SpearsTHE VERDICT:

I think in the future we should remember that curries do not make good 20-minute meals. Good curries need time to simmer and stew for the flavours to develop. This quick curry was foul to say the least. The cooking liquid mentioned in the recipe never materialized (looking at the ingredients, I’m not sure where it was supposed to come from), so instead of a nice saucy curry, we ended up with more of a pasty spice rub. It was a huge disappointment because all the ingredients (bison, mango, delicious curry spices) sounded so promising.

As I managed to boil the pot dry when cooking the barley and the curry in general was a massively disappointing bust, I can only conclude that this recipe is cursed. At the very least, they must have left out a liquid on the list of ingredients. Once we have put this sad affair behind us for a bit, Justin may try to improv a better version of this curry using similar ingredients. If that’s a success, we’ll post it.

If, for some reason, you want to try it yourself. . .


Curried Bison Biryani (source: Clean Eating magazine)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup dry quick-cooking barley

1 medium onion, sliced into rounds

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

5 cloves garlic, sliced into thin rounds

1 cup fresh mango, cubed or 1 cup frozen mango (about 1-inch cubes)

1/2 cup frozen peas

16 oz. bison sirloin tip, trimmed of any visible fat and cut into 1/4 inch strips

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

BIRYANI SPICE BLEND: 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. ground turmeric, 2 tsp. ground ginger (or substitute 5 tsp. of curry powder)

  • In a medium pot, bring 1 cup water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, add Biryani spice blend and salt to a small bowl, mix and set aside. When water comes to a boil, add barley, stir, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
  • While barley is cooking, in a large nonstick sauce pan over medium heat, saute onion in oil for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent garlic from burning.
  • Stir in spice-salt mixture, mango, peas and bison. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir again to make sure all ingredients are nestled in cooking liquid. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Combine barley with bison mixture before plating, then top each portion with tomatoes and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Hands on time: 20 minutes. Total time: 20 minutes.

Nutrients per serving: 354 calories, 11 g fat, 37 g carbs, 29 g protein, 305 mg sodium, 80 mg cholesterol

Nutritional Bonus: 1 Tbsp. of paprika has 71% of your vitamin A requirement.

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Rotini with Peas, Carrots and Goat Cheese and Wilted Spinach & Arugula Salad

Rotini with Peas and Goat CheeseTHE VERDICT:

This meal was edible, but not amazing. The pasta dish was bit bland and the arugula overwhelmed the spinach in the salad. We liked the saffron broth base for the pasta dish and will probably try using it in other dishes before we completely write it off. As for the salad, we were just trying to use up some leftover greens from last week’s shopping trip, so we weren’t hugely disappointed when it didn’t turn out. To fix for next time: twice as much red onion, half as much arugula and some other ingredient (bacon?) to round it out.

If you want to try it yourself. . .


Rotini with Peas, Carrots and Goat Cheese (source: Clean Eating magazine)

8 oz. pasta

2 diced carrots

2 cups fresh shelled peas

1 1/2 cups Simple Saffron Broth (see recipe below)

2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  • Cook pasta according to package directions adding peas and carrots to the pasta water during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
  • Drain and toss with saffron broth and goat cheese.
  • Top with fresh parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Simple Saffron Broth (source: Clean Eating magazine)

2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

4 tsp. arrowroot flour (corn starch may be substituted)

1/2 tsp. saffron threads, crushed

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

Fine sea salt, to taste

  • In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together broth, arrowroot and saffron, set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm oil. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in broth mixture, increase heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens slightly and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and season with salt. Cover and set aside to steep for at least 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

Yield: About 2 cups. Hands on time: 15 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes.

Nutrients per 1/3 cup serving: 37 calories, 2 g fat, 3 g carbs, 0.25 g protein, 67 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol

Wilted Spinach & Arugula Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

3 cups baby spinach

3 cups arugula

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. pepper

  • Wash and dry spinach and arugula. Add to salad bowl. Set aside.
  • Saute onions in a splash of oil. Add remaining ingredients and heat until it is bubbling.
  • Just before serving, pour hot dressing over salad, tossing gently to wilt the greens.

Makes about 4-6 servings.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash RisottoTHE VERDICT:

This recipe is definitely a keeper. Of all the clean eating recipes we tried this week, this one is by far the best. We’re big fans of risotto, but have only found a few recipes we truly love and this tasty veggie version will definitely be part of the regular risotto rotation. It’s not a speedy dish to prepare, but you can easily cook the risotto while the squash roasts so your time can be used very efficiently. The recipe calls for fresh herbs, but we used dried and still ended up with great flavour. The final result is a hearty, healthy, veggie-laden dish that doesn’t require a side because it is so filling on its own. Overall, an excellent dish. Treat yourself on a night when you have a little extra time to make dinner or impress your friends at a dinner party.

If you want to try it yourself. . .


Butternut Squash Risotto (source: Clean Eating magazine)

3 cups peeled, diced fresh butternut squash

Extra-virgin olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (2 cups)

1 tbsp. garlic, minced

1 cup arborio rice

1 tbsp. fresh sage, minced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed if frozen

1/4 cup shredded fontina or Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted (we skipped this ingredient due to food allergies)

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Toss squash with a little oil or mist with cooking spray; season with salt and pepper. Spread squash in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Set squash aside.
  • Meanwhile, bring broth to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat; keep warm.
  • While broth is heating, saute onion in 1 tbsp oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until they start to soften, 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add rice and stir to coat with oil and vegetables.
  • Add 1/2 cup warm broth; simmer and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Stir in another 1/2 cup warm broth; simmer stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost all evaporated. Continue adding broth in 1/2 cup increments, adding more only after previous addition has been absorbed. Taste rice after 3/4 of broth has been added. Rice is done when it’s tender but still slightly firm and white in the very centre (not chalky). Continue adding broth until only 1/2 cup remains.
  • Add thyme, sage, peas and cheese to pan with last 1/2 cup broth; stir until cheese melts, 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat before all liquid is absorbed. Gently fold in cooked squash and walnuts. Season risotto with salt and pepper. Garnish with additional thyme, if desired, and serve warm.

Makes 4 servings. Hands on time: 45 minutes. Total time: 1 hour. Nutrients per serving: 359 calories, 9 g fat, 60 g carbs, 14 g protein, 163 mg sodium, 8 mg cholesterol

Nutritional Bonus: Squash is an excellent source of phytonutrients and vitamin A and a very good source of vitamin C, fibre, manganese and potassium. It also packs a good punch of vitamin B6, folate and niacin.

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Spanish Pork and Redskin Potatoes

Spanish PorkTHE VERDICT:

This was one of the first recipes we tried from Clean Eating magazine. It promised to be a 20-minute meal, which it would be for anyone who is good at prepping vegetables. Most of the veggies are frozen or need only to be sliced, but the mincing of the tomato and bell pepper will slow you down a bit and will take most casual cooks beyond the 20 minute mark. But it is definitely quick to prepare regardless.

My feelings towards this dish are lukewarm. I liked the simple flavours of the potatoes, but didn’t find that two redskin potatoes yielded 2 cups of potatoes as the recipe claimed. Even if they did, I think a 1/2 cup of potatoes is a pretty stingy side dish and a 1/4 oz. of goat cheese is pretty skimpy too. Unless you are on a strict diet, I would prepare a few more potatoes and add a little extra cheese to them.

The main dish was pretty tasty and definitely packed in a lot of veggies, but it’s not something I would typically make again because it wasn’t a really standout meal. But I will probably make an exception in this case because it is so healthy and because Zayden enjoyed it so much. For parents looking to feed young babies table food, this is a great recipe because all you have to do is pick out the big rings of onion and slices of zucchini; the other ingredients are all small enough for baby to chew and swallow without difficulty. Babies with a good pincer grasp could even feed the little chunks to themselves though it can be a little messy because of the paprika. The paprika and lemon juice give the dish lots of flavour without adding tons of extra fat, salt or sugar like many sauces–definitely baby and parent friendly.

If you want to try it yourself. . .


Spanish Pork with Redskins (source: Clean Eating magazine)

2 redskin potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

1 medium onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 cloves garlic chopped into slivers

3/4 lb. extra-lean ground pork

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

1 red bell pepper, minced

1 medium tomato, chopped

Juice 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 oz. goat cheese

  • Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Pierce potatoes with a knife to make sure they’re tender, them remove from heat and drain.
  • While potatoes are cooking, saute zucchini and onion in 1 1/2 tsp. oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning. Stir in pork, peas, corn and paprika. Cook for 5 more minutes, making sure that all ingredients are distributed evenly across the surface of the pan.
  • Remove pork mixture from heat and stir in bell pepper, tomato and lemon juice. Cover with lid to keep warm while finishing potatoes.
  • Gently toss potatoes with remaining  1 1/2 tsp. oil. Add sage and thyme and season with salt and black pepper. Place about 1/2 cup of  potatoes alongside quarter of pork mixture on each plate, then crumble quarter of cheese over top before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Hands on time: 20 minutes Total time: 20 minutes

Nutrients per serving: 350 calories, 9 g fat, 35 g carbs, 33 g protein, 156 mg sodium, 26 mg cholesterol

Nutritional Bonus: Herbs and spices don’t simply add flavour. When combined, 1 tsp. of sage and 1 tsp. of thyme contain 32% of your daily vitamin K and 1 Tbsp. of paprika has 71% of your vitamin A requirement.

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Ma Po Tofu with Brown Rice and Garlic Sauteed Pea Tips


This is one of our staple Asian dishes.  We’ve experimented with different incarnations throughout the years and seem to make it slightly different every time.   That being said, the key ingredients are the same, so it usually ends up being consistently tasty.  You can make it more or less spicy depending on your preference, as well as substituting any small green vegetable (peas, green onions) as you desire.  The key is to use soft tofu, which melds well with the sauce and provides a contrast to the pork texture.

The pea tips were from the Trout Lake Farmer’s Market, and were cooked as simply as possible, as there’s not much need to add flavour to the already-tasty vegetable–other than garlic, of course.

Because of the consistency of this dish, it is suitable to serve to an older baby who is more proficient with solid food. If you have a younger baby who is just starting solids, like Zayden, set aside some of the pork and garlic after it has been thoroughly cooked. Using a hand blender or mini chopper, you can then puree it with some water and rice cereal until you get a smoother consistency. Zayden’s verdict: edible, but he still doesn’t like the texture of ground meat as much as he likes other food (like steak).

If you want to try it yourself…


Ma Po Tofu (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

Splash of Vegetable Oil

Few cloves of garlic, minced

400g lean ground pork

2 packages soft tofu

5 green onions, or a couple of handfuls of peas

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp brown bean paste

2 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 Tbsp ginger

2 Tbsp Corn Starch

Chili Oil to taste

Kosher Salt to taste

White Pepper to taste

  • braise tofu in barely simmering water over low heat.
  • heat oil in Wok over medium-high heat.
  • add garlic and cook until brown.
  • add ground pork and cook through, stirring to break up.
  • meanwhile, mix chicken broth, brown bean paste, dark soy sauce, ginger and corn starch in a small bowl until corn starch is dissolved.
  • once ground pork is cooked, add sauce and cook until sauce thickens, usually a few minutes.
  • add green onions and tofu, mixing well.
  • add chili oil, kosher salt, and white pepper to taste.
  • serve over rice.

Sauteed Pea Tips (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic

Pea Tips

  • saute garlic in vegetable oil until brown.
  • add pea tips, mixing constantly until leaves are soft.

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