Sauteed Cabbage Noodles

Sauteed Cabbage Noodles

Hi folks,

I know I’ve been AWOL. But I’m about to make it up to you with my biggest culinary discovery in years, hear me out on this:

A couple Passovers ago, I was trying to be a good Jew and keep strictly kosher. According to Ashkenazi culture, that means no chametz (leavened grain-based products) OR kitniyot (beans, lentils, corn, rice, many seeds etc.) As a vegan whose body can’t get down with gluten very well, that left me with virtually nothing to eat. I was hungry and broke, so one evening I cut up a cabbage, sauteed it with salt, olive oil and a little vinegar and threw marinara sauce on it. I figured it would be sad and gross.

But I realized something: cooked cabbage makes for some pretty great vegan/paleo/gluten-free/Kosher for Passover/no-spiralizer-required/super-easy noodles. No joke. I still went back to eating kitniyot after a day or two, but the cabbage noodles were a game-changer.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the zucchini noodle (“zoodle”) craze. Aside from being a pain to spiralize, one main issue is that you can’t really cook zoodles without having them fall apart into mush. With cabbage noodles, you can cook them as long as you want and serve them with piping-hot sauces and they’ll still hold together perfectly. Plus, the flavor of cabbage noodles beats the flavor of zucchini noodles every time.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cut up a small/medium green cabbage into long, thin strips (roughly the width of linguine)
  2. Heat up a large pot on medium-high with a little olive oil
  3. Throw in the cabbage with a teaspoon or so of salt, stir thoroughly, and let it cook for about 10 minutes (stirring occasionally)
  4. Add a splash of vinegar (white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar and balsamic all work well)
  5. Serve with your sauce of choice (puttanesca, bolognese, pesto, cashew alfredo OR pad thai sauce.) My favorite is a lentil-walnut bolognese (shown in the picture), and I’ll put the recipe for that below

Cooking the cabbage thoroughly with olive oil and salt gets rid of its sharpness and bitterness and gives it a warm, smooth flavor. The vinegar gives the flavor a boost and breaks the cabbage down further to aid with digestion. The texture remains al dente after being cooked rather than getting mushy, which is really nice (especially in comparison to all the mushy gluten-free noodles out there.) They’re even just as good re-heated.

Try it and tell me what you think. Regular pasta is great, but cabbage noodles have become a delicious regular addition to my dinner table.

cabbage noodles 2

Lentil-Walnut Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 jar tomato-basil pasta sauce (make your own if you’re feeling ambitious)
  • 1 cup green or brown lentils (or you can use 3 cups leftover cooked lentils)
  • 1 bouillon cube or 2 tsp Better than Bouillon
  • 1.5 cup walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (the Kroger generic brand is vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Note: If you don’t have one or a couple of the seasoning ingredients, it’s not the end of the world. Just season the filling with what you have until it’s nice and savory and you’re happy with it.

  1. In a small, covered pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the lentils and bouillon. Lower heat to medium and cook, covered, until lentils are soft but not mushy (about 20 minutes.) Remove lentils from pot and allow to cool
  2. Drain and thoroughly rinse the walnuts, then pulse in a food processor until broken into small crumbles. Add the cooled lentils and pulse until crumbly as well
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the lentils, walnuts and all seasoning ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking, then mix in the tomato sauce

 

Paleo Version: 

Use just walnuts and no lentils, and/or add soaked sunflower seeds/soaked pumpkin seeds. Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce

Nut-Free Version:

Substitute soaked sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for the walnuts

Budget Version:

Use just lentils and no walnuts

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Cooking Vegan with a Peanut/Tree Nut Allergy

Cooking Vegan with a Peanut/Tree Nut Allergy

I’ve had a number of people ask recently about plant-based cooking without peanuts and tree nuts. I typically rely heavily on soaked walnuts, cashews and almonds as whole, versatile means of adding meatiness and creaminess to dishes- not to mention as healthy sources of of fat and protein- and I use peanut butter and almond milk like there’s no tomorrow. So secretly, I used to get really stumped and panicky when I couldn’t use those tools. It turns out, though, that there are a lot of options when it comes to accommodating for these allergies. 

Of course, if you’re only allergic to one or a couple kinds of nuts, feegl free to rely on the ones you can eat (including unconventional kinds like brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, etc.)  But if you can’t have any at all, here’s a handy guide to the alternatives, with lots of links to great vegan and nut-free recipes.

Dressings/Sauces/Creamy Elements

Coconut milk (from a can)/coconut cream/coconut meat*– Great for sauces, puddings, soups, curries and desserts. It does carry a slight coconutty flavor, but not to an overpowering degree.

Avocado–  Great for dressings, puddings and to blend with cilantro, salt and lime and drizzle over tacos. Google “vegan avocado dressing” for delicious ideas. Just note that that avocado has a very short shelf life, so anything you use it in will need to be consumed within a few days.

Unsweetened soy or coconut yogurt– A versatile and creamy base for dressings, sauces, curries and desserts. You can make it yourself out of just two ingredients with this method.

Hemp seeds (aka hemp hearts)– So healthy and so good for blending into pesto, dressings and sauces.

Nutritional Yeast– This stuff is an amazing source of vitamin B-12 and lends a wonderful cheesy flavor to sauces and dressings.

Olive Oil– While not the healthiest option on the list, oil can add creaminess to sauces and even ice cream (vegan chef superstar and cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz uses olive oil for her restaurants’ ice cream recipes.)

Tahini (sesame seed  paste)– Tahini is a little bitter but very creamy and otherwise fairly neutral-flavored. The bitterness can easily be cut with an acid like lemon juice and/or a little bit of sweetness, then combined with other flavors and ingredients. It’s great for thick, creamy sauces and dressings (and even baked goods!) Most affordably found at Trader Joe’s.

Sunbutter (like peanut butter but made from sunflower seeds)– This stuff is cheaper than almond butter and has a nice neutral flavor and creaminess that works very well in sauces (this one too) and baked goods.

Silken tofu– If your digestive system can get down with processed soy (no shame if that’s the case!), you can blend this into creamy sauces, dressings and baked goods (omit the almond extract on this last recipe obviously.) It works well as a binder and thickener. Just to make sure to use lots of seasonings and other ingredients to cover up its blandness.

Aquafaba (chickpea brine)– This is seriously just the liquid you strain from a can of chickpeas, and it’s shockingly great for puddings, mousses, meringues, dressings and sauces. It’s neutral-flavored and can add an element of thickness or an element of fluffiness when whipped.

Chao Cheese– This nut-free store-bought vegan cheese (most commonly found in slices) is convenient, and I always hear that it’s actually good.

Meaty Elements

Great for chili, tacos, stuffed veggies, burgers, pasta sauces, lasagna fillings, etc.

Soaked  raw sunflower seeds and/or soaked raw pumpkin seeds– these are pretty interchangeable except for the fact that you’ll need to soak the pumpkin seeds a little longer than the sunflower seeds. You can substitute either or both of these for just about any recipe that uses walnuts as a meaty element (typically in “ground beef” contexts.) Soak them for a few hours or overnight, rinse them, pulse them in a food processor, then season and use them however you like. Raw, paleo, protein-rich and hearty. Check out this sunflower seed cheese recipe!

Lentils– I typically use a combination of soaked walnuts and cooked green/brown lentils to grind up as a substitute for ground beef. However, it’s fine to either substitute the walnuts with sunflower or pumpkin seeds or just use lentils. Cook them up with some veggie broth, pulse them in the food processor once they’re cool, then season and use them however you like. Or make this fantastic, easy taco recipe.

Milks

Each of these has a different flavor and different ideal usage, so try out multiple if you can and see which work best for you

Coconut milk*– this comes in can form and carton form. The carton version is watered down and homogenized, making it better for things like pouring over cereal, adding into smoothies and drinking straight from the glass (or the carton, if you’re me at 3am.) Coconut milk in a can is thicker and creamier with all that good natural fat from the coconut cream (although there are ‘lite’ versions as well), so it’s best for curries, sauces and puddings.

Oat milk– Not easy to find in stores, but very easy and cheap to make at home. Here are some recipes.

Rice milk– Fairly thin and watery (though maybe the homemade versions aren’t?), but can be really nice for horchata, cereal and smoothies. Rice Dream is the popular commercial brand.

Soy milk– If your body doesn’t do well with processed soy this isn’t the option for you, but some people do just fine with it and love the flavor. It’s moderately thick and creamy despite not having a high fat content, so it’s especially good in coffee and espresso drinks. It’s also the most common non-dairy milk to find in stores.

Flax milk– Rich in omegas and also easy to make at home

Quinoa milk– Go figure, you can make a protein-rich non-dairy milk out of quinoa.

Hemp milk– This omega-3 powerhouse can actually be found in some stores, but you can make it at home too.

Sunflower milk– I didn’t even know this was a thing, but lo and behold, sunflower milk is packed with selenium, magnesium and vitamin E.

 

 

*Technically coconut is a tree nut, but it’s very rare that people with nut allergies are allergic to coconut as well

For more info, check out this article and/or comment with your questions!

 

FAQ: “Why Are You Vegan and Not Paleo?”

This question comes up a lot.

A few years ago, for better and for worse, veganism was in vogue. Celebrities like Jay-Z and Ellen were going vegan, books like Skinny Bitch and The Kind Diet were all over bestseller lists, and there was a lot of buzz about documentaries like Food, Inc., Vegucated and Forks Over Knives. But like all pop culture fads, this one was fleeting. The past few years have even brought a cultural backlash- the cool thing now is to be as un-vegan as possible. The hipster obsession with bacon and pork belly has found its way all over everything from restaurant menus to t-shirts. And even within health and fitness communities, popular focus has shifted to the paleo, primal, Whole 30 and ketogenic diets. This means that rather than eating plant-based foods, the “clean eating” buzzword is now synonymous with cutting legumes (including peanuts), most carbs (potatoes, corn and all grains), most dairy, and instead eating a whole lot of meat, eggs and animal fat.

My intention here is not to just hate on the paleo diet and its relatives. I’ll admit that the return of the low-carb craze makes me want to tear my hair out, because science, but paleo is certainly not all bad. Cutting out dairy, refined sugar and processed foods will virtually always yield major positive results. For some people (myself included), cutting out gluten and processed soy can be incredibly beneficial too. But despite the popularity of the paleo craze, many people still have no intention in this great wide world of going back to eating animal products. So aside from “WHERE do you get your PROTEIN???” (from plants, y’all. Plants.) the big question I get all the time is “…Why? Why are you still doing this, and why did you start in the first place?”

Big Disclaimer: I’m 100% not here to be the kind of preachy, judgmental vegan who screams at you in the meat section of grocery store. I really don’t agree with that approach because I think it’s masturbatory and extremely counterproductive. But when people ask me questions about this lifestyle choice, I’m happy to answer. My answer to the big “Why” question can be broken into five parts, in no particular order:

 

1. The Environment

vegetables

When I learned about the environmental impacts of meat, dairy and egg consumption, I was floored. It blew my mind to learn that that going vegan reduces your environmental footprint even more than choosing not to drive a car. And that animal agriculture is the number-one contributor to climate change. It’s not just the carbon footprint of animal agriculture that’s a problem (though that factor alone is huge)- it’s also the mass clearing of land and rainforest for livestock grazing, the large-scale methane emissions from livestock farts (seriously), the contamination of water from animal fecal runoff, the grossly disproportionate water usage amidst global water shortages, the nitrous oxide emissions…the argument that animal agriculture is in any way environmentally sound is, frankly, absurd. Scientists know itthe UN knows it, and it’s long past time that we made some drastic changes. And in today’s world of rapid climate change and resource depletion, all of this is more pressing than ever. Oppressed populations in particular are already facing the deadly realities of environmental degradation. For the sake of all present and future living creatures on this planet, we can’t afford not to care about this.

2. World Hunger

The production of meat, dairy and eggs is one of the leading causes of world hunger.

Let me say that again.

The production of meat, dairy and eggs is one of the leading causes of world hunger.

An animal-based diet can feed 35% of the world while a plant-based diet can feed 100%. This, too, is a multi-faceted issue: it takes exponentially more water to produce a pound of  meat than a pound of plant food (if you want to use this one LA Times article to contest that, it was thoroughly de-bunked here.) And while you can feed many people with 13-20 pounds of plants, you can yield just a single pound of meat by using those plant calories as livestock feed. If you want to argue that grass-fed beef circumvents the world hunger issue, you have to confront the reality that livestock grazing causes soil erosion/desertification (rendering agricultural land no longer viable for growing crops) as well as habitat destruction and displacement that effects people and animals. There is just no way to make animal food production nearly as efficient as plant food production in terms of water use, land use and overall yield.

world hunger

3. Animal Ethics

You knew I was going to say this. But let me admit something: when I first went vegan, my choice wasn’t particularly motivated by opposition to the countless forms of rampant, abhorrent cruelty employed in all branches animal agriculture from pork to leather. Like most people, I loved animals, and on some level I knew that there was cruelty going on. But I still held that classic disconnect that kept me from fully recognizing the realities of animal product consumption. We as a society have decided that it’s not weird to drink breastmilk as adults so long as it’s bovine breastmilk, and we’ve decided that eating one kind of animal corpse (like cow) is fine while eating another kind of animal corpse (like dog or cat) is barbaric. We’ve decided that yeah, animal cruelty sucks, but it’s ok to just not think about it because the taste of steak is more important. Like most people, I didn’t want to think critically about this.

Maybe it was the documentaries that made things finally click, or maybe it was the fact that once I stopped consuming said animal corpses and secretions, I lost hold of the illusions and disconnects that conditioned me to normalize them. I learned a lot, like the fact that even the labels “free range”, “organic”, “grass fed”, etc. are largely unregulated and largely meaningless in terms of animal treatment. I hear a lot of paleo folks waxing on about how they feel so morally at ease because they purchase products with these labels, while in reality they are purchasing nearly the same amount of suffering, just at a higher price. I’ll admit that I really don’t know how to talk about these atrocities in a way that people will listen, so I encourage you to see for yourself.

4. Health

What shocked me the most about veganism were the massive impacts it had on my health. All of a sudden I had so much more energy and mental clarity than ever before, my immune system skyrocketed and I never got sick anymore, I got so much stronger and had so much more endurance and athletic capacity than ever (bragging moment: becoming vegan allowed me to become a triathlete and marathon runner), and the case of pre-osteoporosis that I’d developed as a teenager was reversed once I started getting my calcium from plants instead of dairy (no joke.) My healthcare costs went way down, which has made a huge impact on my cost of living. Going vegan unfortunately didn’t get rid of my pre-existing neurocardiogenic syndrome, but the improved overall state of my health meant I was no longer having cardiac episodes triggered by colds, viruses and general disruptions of medical homeostasis. My skin was clearer and brighter, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt, and I finally had a positive and liberated relationship with my body and food. After six years, I’m still enjoying the same benefits.

It’s important to note that there are countless different ways to eat as a vegan, and not all are healthy. You can be a gluten-free vegan, a raw vegan, an 80:10:10 vegan, a high-protein vegan…you can also be a vegan who just eats pasta, soy nuggets, vegan cookies and PB&J sandwiches all day. And while “junk food vegans” have the same amazing ethical impacts as any other vegans, they obviously don’t get the same health benefits. You easily can get all the nutrients and calories you need as a vegan, but whether or not you choose to is up to you; different vegans have different priorities and that’s ok.

At the end of the day, I’m not here to tell anyone what to eat or to disparage junk food vegans. But I will say that like for countless other people, choosing to eat and cook with whole plant foods has revolutionized my health and overall quality of life in ways I never thought possible.

5. Sociological Ethics

Weirdly enough, the event that led me to start reluctantly flirting with veganism was accidentally stumbling into a lecture about dairy industry advertising. Once I realized I was in the wrong lecture hall, I was too fascinated to leave. The lecture presented study after study that broke down the ways in which the dairy industry has spent the last century successfully convincing the American public that bovine mammary secretions (dairy) – which exist solely to turn baby cows into 2,000-pound mammals- are both appropriate and healthy for humans to consume. From taking apart every iteration of the “Got Milk” campaign and the “dairy can aid weight loss ” claims that were scientifically de-bunked and legally banned, to explaining the American government’s role in subsidizing meat and dairy corporations since World War I, to illustrating how the dairy industry bought its way into medical school textbooks and even grade school nutrition education, the lecture introduced me to a whole lot that even vegans don’t often mention. If you find this fascinating too, I highly recommend reading Marion Nestle’s Food Politics. If you don’t find it interesting at all, just know that the meat, dairy and egg industries have gone to (and continue to go to) wildly corrupt lengths to influence what we view as “healthy food.” At my last marathon, the Colorado Beef Council bribed a group of runners to represent them as “Team Beef” so as to help improve the image of red meat among health-conscious folks.

For me, veganism means standing in opposition to a lot of interconnected systemic problems that link the greed of corporations, government and healthcare systems to mass detriment in public health and wellbeing, especially among marginalized populations. There are reasons why low-income black and brown communities typically have very little access to food that isn’t heavily processed and animal-laden, and there are reasons why diet-related chronic health problems are especially prevalent among such communities (spoiler: it’s not those communities’ fault.) It’s nearly impossible for communities to be empowered without access to wellness, and it is impossible to have access to wellness without access to whole plant foods. Intersectional veganism opposes the institutions that enact oppression through food supply, it opposes the oppression of women through animal agriculture industries (for more info on this, check out Carol J. Adams’s The Sexual Politics of Meat), and it stands for the rights of people and animals who are exploited by cruel and corrupt industries.

———————————————————————————

So I get it. There’s a lot of terrible vegan food out there (to be fair, there’s just as much terrible non-vegan food) and a lot of preachy vegans who make you want to close your ears, rip them off their soapbox and eat an entire steak right in their face. I get that veganism isn’t the “cool” thing to try anymore, and I get that it sounds really hard and potentially really miserable. I get that you really, really love cheese. But spoiler alert: if you do it right, you can end up eating and feeling better than ever and what’s more, you get to live in a way that’s aligned with your ethics on so many different planes.

I’m not someone who believes in any one-size-fits all diet; I’m a firm believer that different bodies have different needs (though again, veganism actually allows for a ton of flexibility to  tailor your diet to your own body’s needs.) While studies have shown massive widespread benefits of a vegan lifestyle on public health, I’m not qualified and it’s not my place to make the claim that any singular diet is definitely best for every human body. Regardless, it is abundantly clear that veganism is the best choice from an ethical, sociological, humanitarian and environmental perspective, and there’s simply no getting around that. To pick on paleo and keto specifically, nothing can ethically or environmentally justify the consumption of that much animal product. This is a fad that draws in large crowds with pallid pseudoscience while having not an inch of responsible moral ground to stand on. As a chef, I’m not here for it. As a person trying to not be a crappy person, I’m not here for it. As an athlete, I’m not here for it. As a wellness nerd, I’m not here for it. And neither are scientists.

 

The Dealbreaker Technique

The Dealbreaker Technique

I wasn’t sure how to make this post not sound like clickbait, because it really is the #1 biggest secret, dealbreaker and tool for success in my cooking. I’ve talked about this a little with the barbecue sauce, but it’s a technique deserves being explained in detail, particularly the way the salt is used.

At least 90% of my savory dishes start out the same way: onions go into the pan to get sauteed, followed by garlic. This is the foundation of nearly every savory flavor profile in my kitchen; the cooked onions and garlic give beautiful depth and create a base that hold the rest of the flavors together. This is nothing revolutionary- professional chefs and amateur home cooks saute garlic and onions all the time. But how you do it makes all the difference, and it’s something that even most professionals don’t do very well. 

Onions are great raw (with all that sharpness and crunch), and they’re great fully cooked (with all that savory-sweet depth and richness), but they’re pretty gross in the in-between stage. Believe it or not, onions contain natural sugars. And when your onions have just been cooked for a couple minutes and are in that limp-and-translucent stage (which is the stage many recipes tell you to cook them to), those natural sugars haven’t had a chance to caramelize and develop into that rich, savory, smooth depth.

Onions also contain a lot of water, and that water both inhibits the caramelization of the sugars and keeps your onions really unpleasantly mushy.

Most people (including professionals) don’t cook their onions long enough to develop the sugars or sweat out all the excess water, and that’s simply because of the time it takes. And I get it, nobody wants to spend more than a couple minutes on something as mundane as cooking onions and garlic. But while it does take much longer to do it right, it doesn’t necessarily add to your total cook time because you can use that idle time between stirs to prep the rest of your ingredients. 

Ingredients:

  • onions (preferably yellow)
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • garlic

Step 1: Prep your onions. How many depends on your dish and your batch size, and how you cut them depends on what you’re making as well. Generally, you’re going to want to dice your onions in most cases, but if they’re going into a sauce or something that will get blended up, you can rough chop or slice them (as shown in the pictures below)

Step 2: Heat a pan on medium heat. Don’t add oil to the pan, just let it heat up.

Step 3: Once your pan is hot, add your onions and your salt. Do not add oil. I generally sprinkle in about 1/2 tsp of salt for one onion, but this is flexible. Because I use salt in cooking the onions, I generally don’t add any more salt later on in the recipe unless it tastes like it needs it. Stir thoroughly so that the salt coats the onions; this will draw that excess water out of the onions, which is crucial.

 

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onions freshly dropped into the pan and coated in salt

Stir occasionally, allowing the water to sweat out and evaporate.

IMG_20170712_160411_471
starting to get to the “flaccid and transluscent” stage

Step 5: After the excess water has been sweated out and the onions are beginning to stick to the pan, stir in your oil (finally.) I generally add about a 3/4 teaspoon for one onion. You basically want to go as long as possible before adding the oil, because the oil coats the onions and forms a barrier that inhibits the water from sweating out.

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just before adding the oil

Stir occasionally as the onions continue to cook for a while

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about a minute after the oil was added

Keep stirring occasionally, keep letting them cook. If at any point you get a bunch of residue building up on your pan, you can de-glaze by moving the onions aside and pouring a little bit of water directly onto the residue. The water will release all those caramelized sugars from the pan and re-coat the onions with them, making them more delicious.

IMG_20170712_160419_628
still not done yet…

Step 6: Once they’re really deeply golden, you can either keep going and cook them until they’re a deep brown color or you can finally call it a day and add your minced garlic*. When your garlic goes in, make sure it cooks until it starts to turn golden-brown too. This won’t take nearly as long as your onions, but the half-cooked stage is gross for garlic too, so it’s important to make sure it’s also cooked fully.

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ya done.

 

 

*In terms of garlic, I highly highly highly recommend using the fresh stuff rather than the pre-minced stuff that comes in a jar with oil. (I call this “trash garlic” because it tastes like trash.) I know that mincing garlic is a pain, but there are a lot of other shortcuts that won’t ruin the flavor of your whole dish like trash garlic will. If you want to make it a little easier on yourself, you can usually get pre-peeled bulbs of fresh garlic in the store that taste fine. In my kitchen, I have a mini food processor that I got for cheap and use just for mincing garlic, ginger and jalapenos- it lives right next to my cutting board and saves me a ton of time.

No Trash Garlic

No Trash Garlic

When it comes to garlic, I highly highly highly recommend using the fresh stuff rather than the pre-minced stuff that comes in a jar.

I call this “trash garlic” because it tastes like trash.

trash garlic 2

I know that this stuff is extra convenient. I definitely know that mincing garlic is a pain. But there are many other shortcuts that won’t effect the flavor of your whole dish like trash garlic will. The flavor of trash garlic permeates through the finished product like there’s no tomorrow.

In my kitchen, I have a mini food processor that I got for cheap and use just for mincing garlic, ginger and jalapenos- it lives right next to my cutting board and saves me a ton of time. You can usually also find pre-peeled bulbs of fresh garlic in the grocery store that taste fine.

Whatever you do, make sure to only put your jars of pre-minced garlic where they belong.

trash 2