Pineapple Basil Chicken Over Cauliflower Rice in Lettuce Boats

It has been hot hot hot where we live in the recent weeks and I have been craving the fresh, juicy and a little bit spicy tastes of summer. 

Last night I made pineapple basil chicken lettuce boats and they were…amazing. Light and refreshing but also totally filling. I will be making this a LOT this summer.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • half of a large vidalia onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • large handful of basil
  • 6 large romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 lemon

For the terayaki-ish marinade:

  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • ginger
  • lemon
  • brown sugar
  • mirin
  • rice wine vinegar
  • sesame oil

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The chicken cooks quickly so I prepared everything in advance while the chicken sat in the marinade for about an hour…but could be as little as twenty minutes. 

Cube the chicken and then prepare the marinade. I tend to eye and taste this to make it to my liking before adding the chicken so the measurements aren’t exact. About 1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce, a few squirts of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of mirin, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, the zest and juice of one lemon, a one inch knob of ginger grated, and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix it all up and add the chicken.

While that marinates, rice the cauliflower (buzz it in the food processor for a bit), slice the pineapple, cut the onion, slice the red pepper and finely dice the skin of one jalapeno pepper (and unless you are brave, avoid the seeds). I also wash the lettuce at this point, too.

When you are ready to cook, divide the cut onion into two batches (for cooking chicken and for cooking “rice”). You will need two pans for this part. I suggest a high sided pan for the rice and a saute pan for the chicken. Add oil to both pans and, once hot, add the onion. Let it cook until translucent. In one pan, add the rice with salt and pepper. In the other, add the chicken, reserving the marinade for later. Cook one side of the chicken until browned and then flip the chicken. It will cook quickly so don’t go too far. Pour in half of the marinade and discard the rest. When the chicken is almost cooked through, add the rest of the ingredients to the chicken and cook until the pineapple begins to brown. The rice will take about the same amount of time to warm through.

To plate, fill the lettuce boats with cauliflower rice and then top with the chicken mixture. Serve and enjoy!

 

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We devoured this spring salad

Is it a salad? I don’t really know. It is more like one of my standard mash-ups of yummy ingredients. A bit like the Ranch Salad. A bit of a variation on the Avocado Tartare from Food & Wine that I posted a few weeks ago.

And as usual, I wanted something easy, quick and healthy. This met all of those requirements.

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Ingredients (serves two):

  • One large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • One firm but ripe avocado
  • One large red shallot
  • A few fronds of curly kale
  • A heaping handful of spinach
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Two meyer lemons
  • A tablespoon and a half of dijon mustard
  • A few sprigs of curly parsley
  • A few drops of sriracha
  • A teaspoon of Worcestershire 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter/olive oil for cooking

Chop the chicken into 1″ cubes and salt and pepper all sides. In a pan, heat up (over medium to high heat) a pat of butter and a dollop of olive oil. When hot, add the chicken and cook until opaque and almost cooked through (about 135degrees). While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onion and kale by thinly slicing the shallot and removing the stems from the kale and chopping into tiny bits. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add a bit more oil and turn the pan to medium heat, and throw the thinly sliced red shallot and cook until starting to crisp. Add the kale and a dash more of the olive oil. Cook, turning often, until the kale is soft. While the kale is cooking, chop the spinach into smallish pieces (about 1/2″) and prepare the sauce. Juice two meyer lemons into your serving bowl. Add the chopped parsley, dijon, srirracha, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add the chicken back to the pan with the tomatoes and cook until the chicken is at 160 degrees. Pour the hot chicken, kale and onion (and all of the juices) into the sauce and add the spinach raw. I always add the avocado last as I hate when it starts to turn brown. So now cube your avocado and add it to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients gently until the sauce covers everything.

We scarfed this down. It was SOOO good. From start to finish it took less than 30 minutes and probably could be sped up if I used two pans (to cook the onions/kale and chicken separately). 

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Chicken tikka masala with cauli-rice, kale and red onion

Ever since I “discovered” cauliflower rice, I’ve been on a “I used to eat this with real rice and couldn’t imagine it without it” kick. Foods that needed to sop up the sauce, in particular. Or foods that need the bulk of rice to finish out the meal. Or, in the case with last night’s dinner, foods that have a little kick and can use some “rice” to temper the heat.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a tikka masala simmer sauce that didn’t use coconut and I just about ran out of the store with it to get it into my belly. And it is delicious. I couldn’t recommend Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce more. 

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People: Buy this. It has a good balance of spice and savory-ness. And it really couldn’t be easier.

Behold! Chicken tikka masal over cauli-rice with kale and red onion!

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Ingredients:

  • Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
  • Three small chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • Half of a red onion
  • One head of cauliflower
  • Handful of kale
  • Tumeric
  • Salt/pepper

 

Put one teaspoon of salt into a bowl of hot water and mix until the salt dissolves. Cut the chicken into one inch cubes and add it to the water to brine. Let it sit while you prepare the cauliflower. 

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and chop the entirety of the cauliflower into smallish pieces. Cut the stem into one centimeter pieces. In a cuisinart and in small batches, pulse the cauliflower until it it resembles the consistency of rice. Don’t keep on pulsing if there are a few larger pieces. Take those out and add them to the next small batch. You don’t want to make the pieces too small or it becomes more like mashed potatoes (also delicious, but not what you are going for). 

You will use two saute pans for this meal. Have them set up side by side on your stove as once you start cooking, it will go quickly. 

Cut the onion into thin, two inch pieces. Saute them in a bit of olive oil until they are starting to soften and char (we like our onions on the crispier side so will leave them longer than you probably will). 

Chop the kale leaves (after removing the spines) into TINY pieces…almost a mince. You want the kale to intermingle with the rice, not overtake it. Once the onions are ready, add the kale and a bit more olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat up a bit of olive oil in the other pan and drain the chicken and pat with paper towels to dry. Add salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on one side.

While the chicken browns, add the “riced” cauliflower to the pan with the onions and kale. Heat should be on medium. Mix the cauli-rice, kale and onions together and sprinkle tumeric across the top. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I usually put in a bit more salt that usual on this dish. Mix it all up and let it sit while you tend to the chicken. It should look like this:

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Flip the chicken to the other side and brown for a short time. Pop the top on the simmer sauce, put it back on and shake. When the second side of the chicken is starting to turn opaque, pour the entirety of the simmer sauce over the chicken. Turn the heat to medium low (depending on your stove) to a low simmer and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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Keep on turning the cauli-rice to make sure all of it is heated through and keep it over low heat while the chicken simmers. Pour yourself a drink. Set the table.

Add hefty amount of the cauli-rice to a bowl and cover with the chicken tikka masala. Pour on extra sauce if that is to your liking. I like to mix it all up so that the cauli-rice covers the chicken.

I always have to make more of this than I think because EVERYONE wants second helpings. It is delicious.

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Spiffed up boxed butternut squash soup

Hubs wasn’t feeling a hundred percent the other day. I offered butternut squash soup for his aching throat and, while it sounded good, he wanted something more like chicken noodle…without the noodles. I figured, why not jazz up the butternut squash soup with the leftover chicken tenders from a few nights previous and the giant leek I had bought at the farmers’ market the day before.

It was a HUGE win. For both of us.

Ingredients:

  • one box of butternut squash soup
  • chicken tenders cut into one inch cubes (or close to it)
  • one leek: green and ends removed, cut against the grain in half inch rounds
  • “pumpkin” spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika
  • salt/pepper/oil

Pour the box of soup into a sauce pan and heat on low, stirring occasionally. I use Pacific brand soups.

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Heat a dollup of oil in a saute pan and add the leeks. Make sure the rings of leeks are separated out so that they cook evenly. Meanwhile, rub the spices and salt/pepper into the chicken cubes. When the leeks are beginning to soften, move them to the outside edge of the pan and add in the chicken.

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The chicken cooks quickly so keep an eye on it. Turn it when the bottom side starts to brown and the edges begin to whiten up. 

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Et voila! Serve the soup and then add a hefty serving spoon full of chicken and leeks. It really adds something special to an already delicious soup. Perfect for a quick lunch.

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Last minute, scrounged up dinner for six

We are on the east coast for a month visiting my family and, well, because there are six or seven adults and four kids running around (and as many different schedules), dinnertime has been hectic. When we do cook at home, there is a lot of grilling and a bit of each team taking a dish.

Last night we were supposed to be having dinner at the snack bar at the beach while the kids competed in beach games. “Supposed to” be the operative words. They snack bar ran out of food.  At 6pm.  And as we are eating out tonight and the next night, we didn’t have a lot of food in the house. I beat the rest of the family home, got the kids fed and then scrounged around until I found some dinner for us to eat. Normally I wouldn’t even post something like this, but my sister ate it…and liked it. And she usually doesn’t really like food…she eats because she has to. I know, I know. Isn’t that just bizarre? Not loving food?! ANYWAY. I told her I would give her the recipe. It wasn’t really much. But everyone seemed to enjoy it so here ya go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large breast of chicken (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/2 bag of Trader Joe’s 10 minute Farro
  • 12 oz chicken broth
  • 12 oz water
  • 3 zucchinis
  • 2 precooked beets
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • herbs du provence
  • salt/pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • two teaspoons balsamic
  • cherry tomatoes
  • grated peccorino cheese
  • a head of romaine, cleaned and spun, for the plating

 

In a large pot I put the broth and the water and brought to a boil. Meanwhile I chopped the chicken into one inch pieces, trying to keep the size consistent. I also chopped the onion finely. Once the water/broth was boiling, I added the farro and cooked it in the still boiling broth/water for 10ish minutes, until chewy. In a skillet, I heated the oil, added 1/4 of the onion into the pan when it was shimmering, let that cook for a minute, pushed the onions to the outer ring of the pan and then added the chicken to the pan. I added salt and pepper and the herbs du provence as then hit the pan, let them cook until the outer edge of the chicken was white and then flipped each piece. I let it cook for a minute or two more and then mixed all of the onions and chicken together. Once cooked through, I poured the chicken into a bowl to save for later.  While the chicken cooked, I chopped the zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces and, after trimming the ends off of the asparagus, chopped that into 3/4 inch pieces. 

I added a bit more oil to the pan and, as it was warming back up, drained the farro and left it on the over, no heat. Once the oil was shimmering, I added the rest of the onion and cooked until translucent (medium heat). Then I pushed the onions to the outside. I poured all of the zucchini and asparagus into the pan and let it cook for a few minutes. While that cooked, I cut the beets into small pieces (I usually do this INSIDE a bowl so that everything doesn’t turn red) and the cherry tomatoes in half. 

Once the veggies in the pan started to soften, I added the white wine and let it cook down, having stirred the veggies so they evenly were covered. I put in a bit of salt and pepper (more pepper than salt…a few turns of a salt mill, about ten of the pepper mill) and then the balsamic. 

Once the asparagus was cooked through and the zucchini softened, I dumped in the rest of the veggies (the beets and tomatoes) and then re-added the chicken and the farro, letting the farro soak up all of the delicious juices at the bottom of the plate. It was honestly beautiful. Really colorful and smelled amazing. 

I added two leaves of romaine to each bowl and then spooned in about a cup and a half of the mixture. My dad then took the honors of adding a bit of peccorino to each bowl. I wish I had taken a picture. But everyone was starving at that point (and also trying to put babies to bed) so no picture this time. 

This would be a great one-dish meal for a dinner party, too. 

Pea, Avocado and Mint Dressing Used Two Ways

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I’ve seen a few versions of this recipe floating around but I knew it wouldn’t be hearty enough on its own for a meal for my family (I kept on seeing it on toast or as a dip for chips). So tonight, as usual, I am going to MacGuyver that recipe and make it something the Suhlizis would eat.

As our au pair isn’t the biggest fan of chicken, I made two versions: veggie and chicken.

Ingredients (leave the chicken out if cooking the veg version):

  • Two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One bag of frozen peas
  • One avocado (peeled and seeded)
  • One cup of mint leaves
  • Jalapeno, finely diced, to taste
  • Half of a red onion, roughly chopped
  • One can of chickpeas (more will go into the veg version than the chicken version)
  • A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • A few stalks of raw dinosaur kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Limes (both zest and juice)
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • Half a cup of toasted pine nuts

Chop the boneless, skinless breasts into one inch chunks. Add salt and pepper and marinate in yogurt, sriracha and lime juice, covered and in the fridge, for a few hours.

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Cook the peas as directed on the package. As mentioned previously, I like the steam in the bag kind. Cooks for five minutes and little to no mess. While that steams, in a dry sauté pan, toast the pine nuts and set aside.  The picture here shows the before and after. A lot of times I toast them up a bit darker as hubs REALLY likes that, um, burnt flavor. Not my thing. I went a bit less toasty tonight.

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In a food processor or using a stick blender (whichever is handy…I made the mistake of being TOO handy and using my vitamix. NOT the best tool suited for the job), puree the cooked peas, the avocado and mint and a few pine nuts until smooth. Tasting it along the way, I also pureed in some jalapeno, lime juice, some lime zest and salt and pepper.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil and a pat of butter into the pan over medium high heat. When the oil is glistening, add the half of the red onion and then, a minute or so later, the chicken. Turn the chicken once the panside is slightly browned. If the yogurt becomes too liquid-y in while you are cooking, drain it out and put it back on the stove. The more liquid, the less browned. Continue to turn and cook through (using a instaread thermometer if needed) and remove to a separate plate. Dollup on a few spoonfuls of the pea/mint/avocado mixture to the chicken.

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Add a bit of olive oil to the pan and add the rest of the red onion and the chiffonaded, stemmed kale, cut into small pieces. If you have any handy, pour in a 1/4 cup of wine (any color) when the kale starts to turn color. It really adds a depth of flavor and cuts the sharpness of the kale. Add the cherry tomatoes whole and chickpeas to the pan to warm. Cook the kale until tender but not wilted.

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Because two plates of the three will be non-veg, put this together on/in the plates/bowls you will be using. Chop the spinach into one inch pieces and then put the fresh spinach on the bottom of the bowl. Top with a bit of the pea/mint/avocado mixture. If you are adding the chicken, add it now. Then top with the veg mixture. More chickpeas for the veggie dish. Then add some more of the pea/mint/avocado mixture and top with a boat load of toasted pine nuts and more sriracha.

This was INCREDIBLY filling. I could have had half a bowl and been satisfied. But it was so GD healthy, that I stuffed it back guilt free. This would be fantastic for a group of people (luncheon, shower, etc.) and could probably be improved by grilling the chicken instead of sauteeing it. I might also consider thinning out the pea/mint/avocado mix by making it more of a dressing…maybe some vinegar/olive oil? More like a salad dressing. It was so thick, it was a bit difficult to mix.

Thyme and Lime Chicken with Crispy Leeks and Spaghetti Squash and Kale

I have more thyme than I could ever possibly use. The garden is absolutely being taken over. I use it here and there, normally, but have never cooked a meal that was heavy on the fresh thyme…now was the (wait for it) time (commence groaning now).

In my refrigerator I had chicken that needed to be cooked, a stalk of leek that was just holding on to life and a bunch of dinosaur kale. In my window I had a bag full of persian limes, a small spaghetti squash, a basil plant just screaming to be used and a gorgeous farmer’s market yellow onion.

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The chicken:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Thyme
  • 2 or 3 limes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 of a thinly sliced leek
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

The spaghetti squash and kale:

  • Small to medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • Half of yellow onion
  • The other half of the leek
  • 1/4 cup of red wine (leftover wine is fine)
  • Handful of basil
  • Thyme
  • Feta
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

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I knew we wanted to eat early last night (our au pair was going to a concert) so I prepped the chicken and the marinade just after lunch and roasted the spaghetti squash.

After collecting a VERY large handful of thyme and washing it, in a glass bowl I put probably a cup full of thyme and the juice of two limes (three if they are not very juicy).  I added a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

The next step was the slice the chicken into smaller pieces (the better to soak up the marinade in my opinion…and it spreads out the portion so that people can take what they want to eat) and then cut the leek. To thinly slice the leek, cut off the green top, leaving the bottom root intact. Using a very sharp knife and tucked away fingers, cut the leek, from the top into a checkerboard (see picture).

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And THEN cut off the bottom, “rooty” portion. It should fall apart into long, thinly sliced leek. Usually about 3 inches long. If there are any pieces that aren’t cut through, tear them apart with your hands or with a paring knife.

Put the half of the leeks into the bowl with the rest of the marinade, saving the other half for the other part of the meal, and then add the chicken, pushing the chicken into the juice and squishing it into the bottom of the bowl so that all of the chicken got the yummy marinade. Put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, about 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner.

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Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the tail off of the spaghetti squash and then, with a very sharp knife and the squash standing on the cut end allowing for it to be flat, cut the squash lengthwise.

Then clean out the seeds and the wet pulp with a spoon. I sometimes save these seeds to roast and top the meal but today I wasn’t into separating it all out.

Spray or rub the inside of the cleaned out squash  with some olive oil. Get out a cookie sheet and either cover it with parchment paper or a silpat. I used a silpat. You will be putting the squash cut side down on here. But before you do that put a few sprigs of thyme on the inside. The spaghetti squash on its own can be pretty bland. A healthy dose of herbs really does a lot to add flavor…as well as the other ingredients that we will mix in later.

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Place them face down on the cookie sheet and into the over about halfway up. Depending on how soft you want your spaghetti squash, time it from there. I wanted this to be pretty soft…but actually cooked it just a bit too long (40 minutes instead of my usual 30). I got distracted by the kids and so the squash, when I forked it out later, wash more like a mass instead of individual threads. You can tell when it is done by sticking a knife into the skin. If it goes in easily, it is finished. After roasting it looks like this:

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Let the squash cool for about 20 minutes (or longer) before “forking” it. Then using a pot holder to hold the outside of the squash, run a fork through the inside, forming spaghetti like threads. Set this aside.

A few hours later I came back to finish up the meal before our au pair prepared the food for the kids.

I chopped the onions and prepared the kale. The easiest way to do this, I have found, is take the stalk of kale in your hand by the white end and then pull back the towards the green leaf and the kale will separate easily. I then tore the kale into bite size pieces.

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In a 12 inch saute pan, I put a pat of butter. Once hot and slightly browned (YUM!), I added the chopped yellow onion and let that soften. When the onion was close to translucent, I added the kale and the rest of the leeks.

I let this cook down for a bit, until the kale was beginning to wilt. I tore the basil into small pieces (no need to be precise here…it will blend in with the kale) and threw those into the mix. I then added in a splash of red wine (OKAY, okay, I’ll admit it…it was more like a 1/4 cup. No? Alright. 1/2 a cup) to help the kale cook down and offset some of the bitterness.

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I cooked it over low heat until the leaves were bright green and wilted, the onions soft and the wine absorbed.

This is a good time to turn off the greens until you are ready to cook the chicken. While the chicken cooks you will add in the rest of the ingredients.

Pull out another saute pan, big enough to fit all of your chicken with about an inch between the pieces. Heat up a pat of butter in the pan and swirl it around. The chicken has been marinating with grapeseed oil so you don’t need to add more oil to the pan.

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My husband likes his onions, especially leeks, incredibly crispy (and practically burned…much to my chagrin). So I add them in at the beginning with the chicken and cook them at a medium temp. If you want them less crispy, add them a bit later. Save the marinade to pour back over the chicken when you flip. I don’t flip until the first side is browned. As these pieces are smaller than a full chicken breast, they take less time. Keep an eye on them. Also, make sure that you push the cooking chicken and leeks around in the juices.

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While the chicken is cooking, turn the kale mix back on at a low temp and add to it the spaghetti squash and sprinkle on some feta cheese and a splash more of the red wine and a squeeze of lime juice, should you have any left over.

Break up the feta so that it is throughout the dish. Same goes for the spaghetti squash…try to break it up so it isn’t in big clumps. Also, if you see any random thyme stems, pull those out. Nooooot tasty those stems! Taste and see if it needs any more salt. It may. Spaghetti squash can be WAY undersalted.

Let the feta melt, the rest of the dish heat up and all of the yummy goodness to absorb that last splash of wine and lime. As I am completely dependent on my istaread thermometer, when both sides of the chicken are properly browned, pull them off the heat when they reach 160 degrees. I usually test the smallest pieces first and pull them off if they are done before the big guys.

We served in a shallow bowl with the kale and spaghetti squash under the chicken. It was incredibly fragrant and the chicken majorly juicy with the savoriness of the thyme and leeks and the citrus of the lime.  OH! I almost forgot. I felt like it needed a bit of crunch so at the very end I also added a dash of Onion Crunch. Totally finished it right.

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