Archive for the ‘Recipes for Passionate Eaters’ Category

I call myself a southern gal, yet I must confess my shortcomings. Not only do I lack that sweet-as-honey delta drawl, I also make sub-par biscuits. Yes sadly, my poor spicy sausage gravy just doesn’t have that buttery, flaky partner it deserves. In my opinion it’s wrong to use a canned or frozen biscuit if you live South of the Mason-Dixon line. (I must admit, can-opening pop is quite fun, but 5 seconds of elation doesn’t stand up to the remorse of consuming them.) So, here I am confessing (a bit bitterly) that I can’t make a perfect biscuit. We all know that the first step in change is admitting you have a problem…Now that I’ve done that, let’s learn what gives the southern biscuit its prestige.

The Biscuit Deconstructed

A. Flour–Yes, although Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose” the same cannot be said for flour. When talking Southern biscuits, there are two important words to remember concerning flour–White Lily. We all recognize that Northern and Southern accents are as different as night and day, but few people realize that the type of flour grown in each part of the country is just as different. The type of flour defined the type of carbalicious creations that could be made from them. Southern flour, with White Lily being the most referenced brand, has less gluten that Northern flour. Gluten is the protein in flour that gives a French loaf or bagel it’s crustiness. The idea of a crusty biscuit is enough to make the entire batillion of Southern Belles turn over in their graves in protest. So lesson numero uno, be a flour prude if you want light, fluffy biscuits.

B. Fat- Why of course fat makes a biscuit taste better, but it also gives the biscuits the characteristic flakey layers that are perfect for layering with fruit preserves or my personal favorite, butter (more fat please.) But as with flour, our ancestors relied on what they had, which wasn’t margarine or an omega-rich, heart-healthy oil. No, they used lard and lots of it! For those of you who have been brainwashed to tout this perfect fat, reconsider! Although vegetable-based shortening is an adequate substitute, it lacks the richness and depth of lard. Lesson numero dos, say yes to lard.

It’s all in the technique

With two biscuit commandments under my belt, it’s now time to master the technique. This is probably where the majority of my past problems occur. I tend to rush through baking. I just get so excited about the final product that I don’t follow recipes to the “T.” What can I say I’m a lover not a baker. But, after much past disappointment I’m turning in my lazy card and getting down to business.

  1. Cutting- It’s the only way the flour and lard can get cozy without activating those pesky gluten proteins. Becoming a master cutter is vital to produce a light biscuit. To begin, make sure the fat is cold. Rather than adding the fat in a large lump, small pieces work better. From here it’s necessary to your two god-given hands or a pastry cutter to combine the fat and flour until it resembles small crumbs.
  2. Next comes the addition of the liquid. This step also requires restraint, because over-mixing is a cardinal sin. First, make a hole in the center of your mixture and add all the milk at once. Use a fork to incorporate flour from the outer edge until a soft dough is formed. Whatever you do, don’t go haywire, less is always more. It won’t be a cohesive ball like yeast bread, so just use your gentle fingertips to combine the crumbly stragglers.
  3. Remove dough ball and knead 2-3 times. Dust the rolling surface with all-purpose flour, self-rising will leave the golden tops with a bitter aftertaste. Lightly pat or roll out biscuits to 1/2 inch thickness.
  4. Cut the biscuits into circles. Rather than twisting the biscuit cutter, press down and lift up.
  5. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Make sure the biscuits are touching. If they are touching they are less out to spread out. Because they don’t grow horizontally they rise more!

Well, I now have biscuit facts popping out of my ears and the flame of desire is lit. Tomorrow morning, I have a date with White Lily + lard + buttermilk and I’m quite sure it will be a long-term love affair.  Wish me luck because if all goes right I’m going to be a real Southern belle after tomorrow, damn it! And as always..tips are appreciated!


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Today, I’d like to thank the sun for shining and the cool breeze for blowing. I’m sitting outside. The sun has begun to set and the sky is unmasking the comforting orange-hue that becomes more pronounced as fall arrives. As the cool weather bustles in, it brings some of my favorite vegetables- winter squash and greens, apples and pears, and colorful roots and tubers. Although my fall-favorite food changes quicker than the leaves go from green to orange, burgundy, and golden yellow…today, I’m in love with arugula.

Maybe I like it for it’s fiery pepperness. After all, arugula gained nationwide recognition after conservatives touted it as a pretentious liberal green eaten by then Mr. America hopeful and now president,Obama. I’ve pondered who decided to label arugula as a holier-than-thou green in the first place. After all, it is just low-calorie vitamin and mineral-rich bunny food. Sadly, the average grocery store choose to promote its popular cousin loved first by popeye and now favored by health-conscious citizens nationwide—>Spinach.

It’s not that I have anything against Spinach, but it’s so…what’s the word: dull, overused, lackluster or just plan blah. If you really want to treat your taste buds to something exciting, arugula is your vegetable. Arugula lasagna has more depth than the traditional Italian favorite. Arugula pesto makes you forget the heady basil version. And don’t get me started on arugula pasta with walnuts, white wine, and Manchego. Lordy, I’m too hungry to think about this without going to the refrigerator and stuffing my mouth with the tender green leaves.

If there’s anything you should do this fall, it’s branch out and discover your arugula wild side. When it gets cold, we all need a little excitement in our lives, rather than relying on your boyfriend, just eat some arugula. Too cheesy, too cheesy. I sincerely apologize, but that’s what happens when I listen to Robinella and munch on a lemon cookie simultaneosly. But let me leave you with this. It’s my favorite arugula recipe for you to try, so you don’t have to find a sub-par recipe that fails to put arugula on the pedestal it belongs upon. And please, if you have a favorite arugula recipe share it with me. After all, I have so much arugula and so little time.

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Some girls collect coach purses or fancy high-heeled shoes, but not me. No, I prefer practical over pretty. A good cookbook or food magazine consistently make appearances on my Christmas or birthday wish lists. I’ve had numerous favorites over the years including Cooking with Curtis ( beautiful blond hunk in the kitchen…yes please!) or Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book (beautiful flavors featuring global classics). Not to mention the oh-so-Southern Dining with Pioneers given to me by Memaw, but whose delicious recipes I’ve eaten since childhood. But, as much as I love this culinary beauties, I’ve never had a go-to book for any day of the week–a book where even the random produce items lurking in your fridge have a purpose. I didn’t have one of these books in my life, until Sunday.

Local Flavors by Deborah Madison has changed my world- I feel lighter, healthier, happier, ethereal even.

I love this book more than…
Kettle Black Pepper Potato Chips
Fine Boxed Wine from a Recycled Container
Getting the mail
Hunting for Easter Eggs
Dancing Crazy at Sassy Annes
My family (only kidding…)

But really, this book is worth buying because it features beautiful seasonal recipes that utilize local nutritious produce to make aromatic, colorful, and delicious food. Two-days post purchase, I’d already whipped up three dishes. I’ll share these three as a teaser, but you’ll have to buy the book to create the other magical recipes. Enjoy!

Blueberry Lavender Compote

Ingredients: 2 pints blueberries, juice from one lime or lemon, 1 tsp. corn starch, 1/2 cup of sugar, pinch of sea salt, 1 tsp. lavender blossoms

Directions: Pick over the berries, removing any stems, leaves, or rotting berries. Rinse. Then, in a large saucepan, mix the juice with the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the berries and lavender and cook over medium high heat until the fruit gives up its juice and the liquid thickens. It should be ready when the liquid sticks to the spoon without dripping back into the saucepan.

Serving Suggestions: bread, oatmeal, bread pudding, ice cream, or a lemon pudding cake

Nettle Frittata with Green Garlic and Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

Ingredients: 1/2 lb. nettles or spinach (1 plastic bag full), 1 head green garlic (or 2 mature garlic cloves), 1 small white onion finely chopped, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 6-8 market eggs, 1/3 cup pecorino Romano cheese (can substitue Parmesan or Manchego), 1/2 cup sheep or cow’s milk ricotta cheese, 1.5 Tbsp. butter

Directions: Preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot of water to a oil for the nettles. Dump nettles into boiling water until they turn bright green and limp. Do not touch nettles with bare hands or you will be stung. The heat kills the stinging mechanisms. After a minute or two of cooking drain water and chop finely. Then, chop the garlic and onion. Warm 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low and add the garlic and onion and cook until softened. Add the nettles and cook until all water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.  Next, beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add nettle mixture and pecorino cheese. Add ricotta but leave it streaky.  Wipe out the skillet that held the nettle mixture and return it to heat with butter. When the butter is warm, pour in the egg mixture. Slide the pan back and forth a few times, then turn the heat to medium-low and cookin for several minutes of until the eggs have set around the edges. Slide the pan under the broiler and cook until set and browned. Cool slighltly before serving.

Nutritional Benefits: Nettles are an extremely healthy green used throughout Europe. They are praised for their immune-building properties and positive cardiovascular health properties.

Three Beat Caviar with Endive and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:6 beets (preferrably 2 golden, 2 Chioggia, and 2 red but any combination of the three or six of the same works just as well), 1 very small red onion diced, 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp. parsley or chervil chopped, 2 Belgian endives sliced thinly, 4 oz. fresh goat or herb cheese crumbled.

Directions: Leaving an inch of the stem and all of the root, steam the beets until they’re tender when pierced with a knife or for 25-40 min. Cool, then peel the skins and cut them into chunk and pulse in a food processor 6-8 times (try not to mush the beets). You can also chop them finely. While the beets are cooking, toss the onion in the vinegar with 1/4 tsp. salt and set aside. Then, toss  each of the beet varities seperately with 1/3 of the onion and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss again with parsley and chill. To serve, mound each beet mixture seperately on each plate. Place the sliced endive in another pile and the cheese in a pile in the center. Drizzle with olive oil.  Add pepper and servce. Before eating, toss everything together (if not it will all be beet red!)

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Despite being blessed with an easily pleased palate, there’s no denying that beets taste like dirt. I do not like beets, their noted sublime sweetness absolutely stupefies me–what I taste is minerally, earthy, and undesirable. But, I no longer want to be the girl that doesn’t like beets (the only food I opt to abstain from my diet). It seems the higher power(s) have granted my request, because low-and-behold I saw the magenta vegetable at among a sea of leafy greens at the farmers’ market Saturday. Was it fate? I’d like to think so. Well there I was with a bunch of beets and no clue how to cook them. I wanted to make something that hopefully masked their potent flavor and may even fool my tastebuds into actually enjoying the beets. I remembered my former professor’s love of Borsht, a beet stew. I found a recipe for Borsht at Eating Well, and decided to give it a try. It’s purple broth richened by beef stock and thickened with starchy potatoes is currently bubbling away on my stove.

While the soup thickens, I realize I am left with beautiful green leaves attached to delicate pink stems that haven’t been used. After a quick Google search, I learned beet greens are not only edible, but they are highly nutritious. So, as a graduated nutrition major, let me convey to you the facts about beets, the nutrition facts that is.

Beet Leaves and Stems- 1 cup

  • Calories: 8
  • Protein: 0.84 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.65 g
  • Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Sugars: 0.19 g
  • Total Fat: 0.05 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.008 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.010 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.017 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Micronutrients: large amounts of Vitamin K and Vitamin A,  as well as large amount of the antioxidants beta carotene and lutein


  • Calories: 58
  • Protein: 2.19 g
  • Carbohydrates: 13.00 g
  • Fiber: 3.8 g
  • Sugars: 9.19 g
  • Total Fat: 0.23 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.037 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.045 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.083 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Micronutrients:  Calcium, Vitamin C, folate, and benatin (a phytochemical that’s praised for its immune function)

Beets are healthy, but I can’t help but wonder what gives them the dirt flavor, especially when they have the highest sugar content of any vegetable? From researching, I’ve determined it’s a simple preference, maybe genetically determined. Beets either taste sweet or earthy, it just depends on the consumer.

Here are some recipes I found for beets and beet greens

Beet Greens Daal
Beet Greens
Beet Green Casserole with Mozzarella Topping
Orange and Beet Salad

Also, if you eat beets are your pee is beet-red, don’t freak out, don’t call 9-1-1, and don’t be embarassed, it’s  just beeturia–the betacyanin (what gives beets it’s luscious color) paired with iron-deficiency somehow results in red pee-pee.

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Mediterranean and Smoky Provolone Pizza by Elise Baskett

Mediterranean and Smoky Provolone Pizza by Elise Baskett

As much as I love hanging out with my boyfriend and his posse of gentleman, sometimes it’s nice to be away from the fart jokes, dirty kitchens, and testosterone-fueled behavior. A few of my closest friends and I decided the prescription for our need for an estrogen-only environment was to have a girl’s night.  Of course, I was in charge of all things culinary. I really wanted to include the staples of a girls night: full-of-fat, sugary, crunchy and straight-to-your-thighs types of food. I recruited the freshman gals to bring tortilla chips and salsa. My sister and I planned pizza for the entree. Pizza at our house isn’t your typical dial your favorite pizza place and have piping hot, greasy pizza in less than an hour. No, we turn pizza into an art.  The mantras of Pettigrew pizza include: homemade crust, homemade tomato sauce, and locally-produced cheese. We base our pizza creations around the seasonal ingredients we find at the Three Rivers Market. Here are the recipes we came up for girl’s night.

Mediterranean Pizza

  • Crust was made from Tyler Florence’s Basic Pizza Dough Recipe (look at the bottom of the page)
  • 3/4 cup of sundried tomato vegan pesto
  • 4 artichoke hearts, deconstructed 
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 package of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • Directions: Follow Tyler Florence’s recipe for basic pizza dough. Once pizza dough rolled out and ready for jazzing up, add the pesto as your base. Sprinkle on the sundried tomatoes and artichokes. Then, sprinkle feta and parmesan cheese. Brush crust with olive oil to yield a crispy, browned crust. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 10-15 minutes. Pizza should be bubbly and slightly browned when ready. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle on pizza before serving.
  • Ideas: Try adding freshly sliced tomatoes, olives, or squash 

Smokey Provolone Pizza

  • Pizza crust from Tyler Florence’s basic pizza dough recipe
  • 2 Tbsp. of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1, 28 can of whole, peeled tomatoes in basil juice, drained
  • 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste and more if needed
  • 4 oz. of smokey provolone cheese, thinly sliced (it’s important to buy smokey provolone it really makes the dish)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Fresh Basil
  • Directions: Follow Tyler Florence’s recipe for a basic pizza crust. While crust is rising, saute garlic in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add drained tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce heat. The sauce should slowly simmer and thicken as time progresses. Add more tomato paste if sauce isn’t thickening. Once dough and sauce are ready, roll out dough and place sauce on the crust. Cover with the cheese. Brush olive oil on the crust to yield a golden brown, cripsy crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  The pizza should be bubbly and brown when ready. Add basil to the pizza while cooling.


The icing on our girl’s night was my friend Amy’s creative rainbow cupcakes. It takes a plain white cupcake and transforms it into a baked-good masterpiece. The vibrant colors were layered and topped with creamy, sweet icing. Amy said she simply divided the batter into seperate bowls, added food coloring, mixed, and layered the different colors in the cupcake tin.

TRainbow Cupcakes by Amy Morgan

Rainbow Cupcakes by Amy Morgan


In addition to the pounds of food we consumed, we played over 60 rounds of apples to apples. If you’ve never played this addicting vocabulary game, you must. It’s a good way to figure out your friends true colors. If you have any ideas for my next girls night, please share.

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I went home over Easter weekend for a much needed rejuvenation- no school, no traffic, no social obligations…just peaceful bliss. My break was filled with togetherness in the kitchen, games of Rummicube, and vintage shopping. I gained a lot over the break- new clothes, 5 pounds, and a beautiful puppy. Here are some highlights from my wee holiday.


Thursday night: Arrived in Jackson, TN and met my mom at the best restaurant in town- SAKURA. I got my traditional seaweed and cucumber salad paired with a mermaid salad. The mermaid salad features sliced raw yellowtail tuna, white fish, roe, cucumber, and avocado with a spicy mayo kick. Since I’m not a huge fan of rice, but love raw fish, this dish is an all-time favorite.


Breakfast- I am now addicted to Kroger’s Naturally Preferred Golden Flax High Fiber Cereal. Not only did I eat 2 servings for breakfast, I ate 2 more after my bland, unfilling portabello sandwich lunch.  

Dinner:  Ladies and gentlemen, asparagus has arrived at my local grocery store, and I plan to take full advantage of it’s nutty-deliciousness as much as possible in the next few weeks. I haven’t eaten asparagus in months, but after reading Barbara Kingslover’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I began to salivate at the mere thought of this phallic-looking green stalk. Luckily, Kingslover shares my asparagus enthusiasm and included a recipe for and Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding.  The recipe featured bread crumbs soaked in green onion-flavored milk, mushrooms sauteed in butter, blanched asparagus, and seasoned with parsley and oregano. We halved the recipe making one bread pudding by the book, and another half using sweet potato for my sister.  As the smell of Italian bread and oregano wafted under our nostrils, it was all we could do to wait for the pudding to become a bubbling, crispy masterpiece. It was delicious, and it was even better the second time around.


Breakfast: Polished off the remainder of the crack-cereal with my mom

Dinner: Made Epicurious’s Fresh Tuna Tacos. The taco seasoning-marinated tuna combined with a red onion, chipotle pepper, sour cream, lime and cilantro salsa was perfect after I added homemade guacamole. The zesty sauce really packed heat,  so the cool guacamole seasoned with cumin and the remaining taco seasoning really rounded out the dish. We completed the meal with black beans and Spanish rice. It was hearty and satisfying on the surprisingly cold April evening.

And on Saturday, the newest Pettigrew joined our family. Here is our hairy little Australian-Shepherd son who enjoys chewing on pens and yogurt containers, refuses to jump off couches or walk down stairs, and is slowly learning to answer to the name Gulliver.

Gulliver Pettigrew at 4 months by Lisa Adkins

Gulliver Pettigrew at 4 months by Lisa Adkins


The Happy Pettigrew Family by Lisa Adkins

The Happy Pettigrew Family by Lisa Adkins

Sunday: I generally agonize over menu planning. For days (sometimes weeks) on end I strive to put together the perfect menu. For Easter, I focused on making something special for my meat-loving sister who temporarily delved into pescatarianism over the Lenten period.  Bacon and beef tenderloin were the stars in our entree and side, and it may have been the most successful menu I’ve planned to date.

Entree: Pioneer Woman’s Roasted Beef Tenderloin a.k.a Heaven on a Fork. My grandmother decided this was the best meat dish she has ever had in her 70+ years of life. The reason is butter, butter, and olive oil. The beautiful piece of local beef tenderloin was seasoned with freshly crushed peppercorns, Lawry’s seasoning, coarse sea salt, and lemon pepper. It melted in my mouth. This is why I could never be vegetarian.


Butter basted heaven on a fork photo by Carey Ellen Pettigrew

Butter basted heaven on a fork photo by Carey Ellen Pettigrew

Side item: In addition to meat, my sister has an unhealthy addiction to sweet potatoes. She sneers at the sugar-coated sweet potatoes and favors the savory version. Essentially Healthy Food’s Sweet Potato Linguine with a Bacon, Tomato & Artichoke Sauce featured the sweet potato just how she likes it. With a bacon-grease base not much can go wrong, but when you add sundried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, capers, red onion, garlic, parsley, and oregano you achieve anti-sweet sweet potatoes. No flavor was overpowering. The perfect balance was hearty, rustic, semi-healthy, easy to prepare, and restaurant-worthy. I’m just saying, it’s a keeper.

Sweet Potato Linguine with a Bacon, Tomato & Artichoke Sauce photo by Carey Ellen Pettigrew

Sweet Potato Linguine with a Bacon, Tomato & Artichoke Sauce photo by Carey Ellen Pettigrew

Dessert: As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve fallen in love with the taste of blood oranges. I finally made Smitten Kitchen’s Flaky Blood Orange Tart with Deep, Dark, Salted Caramel Butter Sauce. Although mine didn’t look as elegant and refined as hers, it was superb. The grape-scented blood oranges were juicy, and the bitterness was cut with a sprinkle of sugar. The stick-o-butter tart was slightly sweet and reminiscent of a shortcake. The caramel sauce was a rich brown, and the taste had a hint of chocolate. Overall, it was a great dessert. I’ve already planned to use the tart base to pair with summer berries and homemade cinnamon whipped cream.


Blood Orange Tart with Deep Dark Salted Caramel photo by Carey Ellen Pettigrew

Blood Orange Tart with Deep Dark Salted Caramel photo by Carey Ellen Pettigrew

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Blood Orange from the Local Co-op

Blood Orange from the Local Co-op

I love winter–stews, kale, warm flavors, spiced tea, slow cooking, and soup.  But there is one thing Winter lacks, fruit. Apart from crispy apples, the season really lacks ingredients that satisfy the need for sweet, juicy, fleshy fruit. After feeling deprived for most of the Winter, I was ecstatic to see blood oranges at the co-op. Good gracious I’d never had one, but they immediately beckoned me to buy them and learn about what they had to offer.

What isn’t there to love about these juicy crimson-blushed fruits? Their simultaneous tart and sweet flavor yields a joyous flavor combination that excites the taste buds to no end. The majority of these succulent delicacies are grown in the Mediterranean, but of course, the United States must have a piece of the blood orange pie…California grows them too. 


Blood Oranges are Healthy Too

The blood-like pigment of these lesser known oranges is from anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins have a variety of health benefits–anti-inflammatory, protection against oxidative damage, collagen and nervous system health, better vision. Blood oranges are also rich in Vitamin C which helps your body absorb iron and reduces the risk of cancer. Blood oranges also contain 3 grams of fiber which helps lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of cancer. These oranges have approximately 70 calories per serving, are have no fat, sodium, or cholesterol.

Types of blood oranges

  • Moro:  This variety has the most vibrant hues with a deep purple flesh that originated in Sicily. The flavor has a hint of berry with sweet and sour notes. This more aromatic and more flavorful varietal is the most popular blood orange in the US.
  • Tarocco: This variety is most popular in Italy because of it’s sweet and juicy characteristics along with it’s nutritional value. It has more vitamin C than any other orange in the world. The color is less vibrant than the Moro, but the lack of bitter notes make this variety more desirable to some. 
  • Sanguinello: This variety is very similar to the Moro, but traces it’s origins to Spain. 

How to Use Blood Oranges in Your Kitchen

Although my favorite method of consumption is the peel and pop into my mouth, I also love using the juice and zest in a basic dressing. Blood oranges can also be used for cocktails, marmalade, chutneys, desserts, appetizers..it’s endless really. Here are a few recipes that sound amazing


Check out this ode to blood oranges from my favorite radio station:

NPR’s All Things Considered: The Juicy History of Blood Oranges



Sources: http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Anthocyanins.shtml



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