My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?! The holidays have come so quickly this year and I can’t believe they are here. I’m sitting down today to review my Thanksgiving recipes and make my shopping list, and I thought I would share my favorite recipes that I make for my family each year!

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Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I feel like on Thanksgiving you should celebrate with a full day feast, and I love starting the day with a special treat! Our family loves homemade cinnamon rolls, but it is such a long process to make them, that I only make them for holidays. Yes, it takes awhile to make these pumpkin cinnamon rolls…but trust me. Make them. I make them the evening before so they are ready to go in the morning and don’t add to my workload on Thanksgiving.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup whole milk

2 1/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree

3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature

2-3 tbsp whole milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for brushing

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 large egg, room temperature

Kosher salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Lightly brush a large bowl with butter, set aside. Heat milk and 3 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted & mixture is warm to the touch, about 120 degrees. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with the dough hook attachment, Immediately sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until a bit foamy, about 5 minutes. Add flour, granulated sugar, egg, pumpkin, and 1 tsp salt. Mix on medium-low speed, scraping sides and bottom of bowl once, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Brush a 9-by-13 baking dish with butter; set aside. In a medium bowl stir together remaining stick butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a large pinch of salt until smooth & fluffy. Set aside.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a 15-by-12- inch rectangle. Spread butter mixture over dough, leaving 1/4 inch border. Starting at a long edge, roll up dough like a jelly roll, then cut crosswise into 15 pieces. Place pieces in pan cut-side up, spaced evenly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until buns are almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake buns until golden brown and topping is bubbling around sides of pan, about 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 tbsp milk and beat until combined, about 1 minute. If glaze is too thick to drizzle, add more milk, 1 tsp at a time. Spread half the glaze over slightly cooled rolls. Serve warm or room temperature with additional glaze if desired.

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Martha Stewart’s Chestnut Stuffing

Martha Stewart again with another amazing recipe! I love the sage in this stuffing, and I also season my turkey with Sage to carry the flavor through the meal. I typically look for pre cooked chestnuts to make the recipe a little quicker and easier and am almost always able to find them at Whole Foods or you can order them online. Also this recipe makes an enormous batch of stuffing, so if you are feeding a smaller crowd you may want to halve this recipe. I do stuff our bird, and halving this recipe gives me plenty to stuff and still make an 8×8 side dish as well for those who don’t want the stuffing from the turkey. I typically dry my bread cubes out a few days before Thanksgiving by putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven on warm for several hours, and then transfer to large ziplock bags. And because there is so much chopping, I chop all the ingredients the day before Thanksgiving and store in the fridge, which makes prepping the stuffing much quicker on the actual day!

INGREDIENTS:

2 loaves good-quality white bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (about 20 cups)

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1 bunch celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 4 cups)

5 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

3 cups coarsely chopped flat-leafs parsley

1 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts (4 cups), scored with an X (or sub with pre-roasted Chestnuts)

4 small onions, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 3 cups)

3 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage

1 tbsp kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Spread bread cubes in single layers on baking sheets. Let dry at room temperature, uncovered, overnight.

Bring a medium saucepan or water to a boil. Add chestnuts; cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain; let cool slightly. Peel and quarter chestnuts; set aside. Peeled chestnuts can be refrigerated in an airtight container 2-3 days. (Or skip this step and sub with pre-cooked chestnuts)

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery; cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add sage; cook 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup stock/ cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl. Add remaining 4 1/2 cup stocks, the chestnuts, bread, salt, and parsley; season with pepper. Toss to combine. If not stuffing turkey, transfer to a buttered 17-by-12-inch baking dish. Cover; bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover, bake until hot and golden brown, 30 minutes more.

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Ina Garten’s Accidental Turkey

For years I didn’t brine our turkey because I really dislike a wet brine. One year I decided to try a dry brine, and I’ll never look back! It really gives that moisture needed to have a juicy bird. This brine is so simple, but makes all the difference. I stuff my bird with stuffing, but you could certainly follow Ina’s recipe and stuff with lemon, onion and seasonings. I also rub my turkey with a butter/sage combo rather than follow Ina’s recipe exactly.

INGREDIENTS

Kosher salt

1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 (12-to 14-pound) fresh turkey

1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths

1 lemon, quartered

8 sprigs fresh thyme

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 3 tbsp salt, the rosemary and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of the salt mixture in the cavity of the turkey and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish to catch any drips and wrap the whole dish tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one or two days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Be sure your oven is very clean!

Place the onion, lemon, and thyme in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tie the wings close to the body. Brush the turkey with the butter and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Roast the turkey for 45 minutes, placing it in the oven legs first. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and roast it for about an hour, until 165 degrees F for the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven, cover the turkey tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve with the pan juices.

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Sweet Potato Soufflé

I’ve been making this recipe for many years and it was originally given to me by a family member. I roast my sweet potatoes the day before, and also mix all of the soufflé ingredients right after the turkey goes in the oven, and then just pop it in the fridge until I’m ready to add the topping and bake! This one is so simple I can get the kids involved in helping and is always a huge hit!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature, plus more to grease pan

5 medium sweet potatoes

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

pinch salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) softened

DIRECTIONS

Four the shuffle: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with butter

Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake on a foil-covered baking sheet until they are soft, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, place the flesh in a large mixing bowl, and mash until very smooth. Add the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, milk and salt. Combine well with an electric mixer or hand mixer. Turn the mixture into the baking dish.

For the topping: in a medium bowl stir together the pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture over the sweet potatoes, making an even layer. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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Creamed Corn

So I know this isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but my kids are all about the side dishes and they absolutely love corn. I know Mac & Cheese is a popular Thanksgiving side, and I wanted to start adding something creamy like that to our menu, but something vegetable based with more of a “harvest” feel to be more cohesive with the menu. This is a huge hit at our house, and when we hosted friends last year, they absolutely raved about it! It’s another super simple dish that is easy to whip up while the turkey is cooking!

INGREDIENTS

2 (10 oz) packages frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp butter

1 cup whole milk

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

In a skillet over medium heat, combine the corn, cream, salt, sugar, pepper and butter. Whisk together the milk and flour, and stir into the corn mixture. Cook stirring over medium heat until the mixture is thickened, and corn is cooked through. Remove from heat, and stir into the Parmesan cheese until melted. Serve hot.

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German Chocolate Pecan Pie

Confession…I’m not much of a pie person. I love everything pumpkin but loathe pumpkin pie. My kids do love pumpkin pie, and so we will be sure to have on on our Thanksgiving table for them! As for other types of pie, I’ll occasionally eat a fruit pie, but it’s still far from being my favorite dessert. But this pie is incredible. It is super rich, but making room for a small slice for dessert is a must!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tbsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold salted butter, cubed

1/4 cup cold shortening, cubed

4 to 5 tbsp ice water

1 (4-oz) German’s sweet chocolate baking bar, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup (4 oz) salted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 (5 oz) can evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups pecan halves and pieces, lightly toasted

2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

35 toasted pecan halves

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the Crust: Stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut butter and shortening cubes into flour mixture until mixture resembles small peas. Using a fork, gradually stir in 4 tablespoons ice water, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened and dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from sides of bowl, adding up to 1 more tablespoon of water, if necessary. Turn dough out onto a work surface; shape and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 1 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Unwrap chilled dough disk, and place on a lightly floured surface. Let dough stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle dough with flour, and roll into a 13-inch circle. Fit dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang; fold edges under, and crimp. Prick bottom and sides 8 to 10 times with a fork. Freeze 20 minutes. Line piecrust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in preheated oven 14 minutes. Remove weights and parchment paper, and bake until crust has lost its raw dough sheen, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Prepare the Chocolate Filling: Microwave German’s sweet chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in a microwave-safe bowl on HIGH until melted and smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla until blended. Pour chocolate filling into prepared piecrust. Shield edges with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. (Pie will be partially baked.)

Prepare the Coconut-Pecan Filling: Whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until blended. Stir in pecans and coconut. Beginning at the outer edges of the partially baked chocolate filling, carefully spoon coconut-pecan filling over chocolate filling, and immediately return pie to oven. Bake until crust is golden and center is set, 35 to 40 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool pie completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours.

Prepare the Chocolate-Covered Pecans: Microwave chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl on HIGH until melted, 30 to 45 seconds, stirring until smooth. Dip the lower half of each pecan into the melted chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into bowl, and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Arrange Chocolate-Covered Pecans decoratively around outer edge of pie. (You may have some left over.)

And there you have it! A few of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving! Of course the hardest part of preparing a huge meal like Thanksgiving, is timing things correctly so the dishes all finish at the same time. My biggest tips that I’ve learned over the years is to make everything that you possibly can ahead of time, and prep everything else in the day or two prior. Cranberry sauce keeps in the fridge for several days, so that is always made 1-2 days prior. I also roast sweet potatoes & chop everything that needs to be chopped the day before. Casseroles can be assembled ahead of time as well, and left in the fridge until it is time to bake. I also like to get the mashed potatoes done while the turkey is still cooking, so I make them & then just pop them in the crockpot to stay warm! The turkey should also rest for about 30 minutes before carving, so that is the perfect time to pop all of the assembled casseroles into the oven as most of them need about 30 minutes to cook.  I hope this list helps give you a little inspiration for your Thanksgiving table this year!

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My Weekly Food Diary

My Weekly Food Diary

As I blogged about last week, I’ve been on the Ketogenic or “Keto” diet for 5 months now. When I first began the diet, I had no idea what to eat every day and I remember constantly asking my friend who had told me about the diet what she ate everyday. I probably drove her nuts – but I really did feel a lot of confusion in the beginning about what to eat! Now that I’ve been doing the diet awhile my feeling is that while Keto is strict, it’s not restrictive. By that I mean, this is not a deprivation diet like so many diets are. The focus is not restricting calories and you should eat to satisfaction, so not only will you will feel full after and between meals, but there are so many delicious foods on the table it sometimes feels crazy to call this a diet! I wanted to track a week of everything I ate to give you an idea what this diet looks like. Each week varies because I do like to experiment with making new dinners and mixing things up, but I do have some favorite go-to’s for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Here’s what last week looked like:

Sunday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream, sausage patty with egg & cheese

Lunch – None

Dinner – Greek Salad with salmon

Monday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream, 2 scrambled eggs cooked in 1 tbsp butter

Lunch – Cheese, salami, and olives

Dinner – Noodle-less lasagna (this can be served over noodles for the kids!)

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream, 2 fried eggs cooked in 1 tbsp butter

Lunch – Leftover lasagna

Dinner – Taco salad (lettuce, ground beef, cheese, tomato, onion, olives, avocado) – you can add beans and/or tortillas for kids!

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream

Lunch – Leftover lasagna

Snack – Cashews

Dinner – Keto Chili (which is a simple bean-less chili and you can add beans for kids!) – top with cheese, onion, and sour cream

Thursday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream, 2 eggs fried in 1 tbsp butter

Lunch – Leftover taco salad

Dinner – Leftover Keto Chili

Friday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream, 2 eggs scrambled in 1 tbsp butter

Lunch – Tuna salad over lettuce, iced coffee with heavy cream

Dinner – Bun-less double cheeseburger (no ketchup, add mayo)

Saturday:

Breakfast – Coffee with heavy cream

Lunch – Cheese & pepperoni toppings from 3 small slices of pizza (we were at a party so I had to make do with what I could!)

Snack – Shared to-go taco salad with hubby after party, iced coffee with heavy cream

Dinner – Tuna salad over lettuce

As you can see, I occasionally skip meals. Since starting this diet, I really don’t believe in eating when I’m not hungry & don’t force myself to eat at regular times. Rather, I listen to my body and typically only eat when I’m actually hungry. Sometimes if I skip a meal, I find I’m hungrier later in the day and will have a snack. I also love leftovers! There is a lot of cooking on this diet, so anytime I can make a large portion of something that still tastes great on the 2nd day I will! Chili, lasagna, spaghetti sauce (you can have this over zucchini noodles) are great options and it’s so helpful having leftovers for busy weekend nights. I also use my instant pot whenever possible and there are so many amazing recipes on Pinterest! Also, it’s very easy to adapt so many non-keto meals to make them keto friendly. You can eat any sandwich lettuce wrapped without the bun, sub “zoodles” for noodles, sub mashed cauliflower for potatoes, or riced cauliflower for rice. It’s also very simple to make small adjustments to add carbs back in for the little ones! If you are considering the Keto diet, I hope you find this information helpful!


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The Lifestyle Change to Make in the New Year

The Lifestyle Change to Make in the New Year

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions made by people is to lose weight and/or be healthier. I do believe the key in succeeding in this resolution is making lifestyle changes rather than looking for “quick fixes”, and today I want to share a little bit about the change I made five months ago that has been completely life changing for me!

Over the summer I got together with a friend of mine who had seriously undergone an amazing transformation. After putting on some weight, she was introduced to the Ketogenic diet and successfully lost 40 lbs over a 5 month period. If you haven’t heard of it, the Ketogenic diet or “Keto” is a low carbohydrate, moderate portion, high fat diet. Not only did she look incredible, but she was telling me all about how good she felt and never wanted to go back to her old way of eating. I was super intrigued and had a million questions about it. At first when she was telling me the things you can & can’t have I immediately was thinking “oh my goodness there is NO way.” No sugar, very limited fruit, no milk – therefore no lattes?! It sounded overwhelming but seeing her outward success combined with how she described feeling made me decide to look into it more, and I ultimately decided to give it a shot. Now that I have been doing it for 5 months myself I want to share a little bit about what I have learned about the diet:

You will experience the flu, the Keto Flu. Sugar is super addictive – some studies show it is just as addictive to the body as cocaine. And the body’s natural state is to utilize blood glucose (sugar) as fuel. When you stop providing your body with carbohydrates and sugar, your body switches to burning fat for fuel. However during this transition you can feel absolutely miserable. Headaches, fatigue, lethargy, irritability…it really can resemble flu-like symptoms. The length of time varies from person to person and how sugar addicted you are. For me the worst of the symptoms were about 2-3 days, but for my husband who started the diet with me (and who had a much bigger sweet tooth than me!), he struggled for several weeks & also had intense sugar cravings.

Keto is strict. Everyone’s carb threshold to attain and stay in ketosis is different, but for most people it is under 20 net carbs a day (this is carbohydrates minus fiber). This is approximately the amount of carbs in a small apple. When you start the diet I highly recommend tracking your daily macronutrients because it is surprising how much sugar/carbohydrates are in everything! Processed foods must be completely eliminated from your diet, and vegetables should essentially be your only source of carbohydrates. There are lots of lists available online which show you approved foods for the ketogenic diet and this is very helpful in getting started.

Fat is your friend and should make up about 70% of your daily calorie intake. (So bring on all the butter!) Being a child of the 90’s I was raised believing that fat is the enemy. New studies have totally debunked all of that information, and have shown how truly toxic sugar is. Now all of the most recent studies show that fat does not make you fat and the old adage that a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from candy or a vegetable – just isn’t accurate. Sugar affects the insulin response which has a direct correlation with weight gain and obesity, whereas fat does not have this effect. Also sugar is sugar whether it comes from fruit or candy – your body cannot tell the difference and metabolizes it the same way. This was a very difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around and I spent the first several weeks on keto terrified I was going to put on 20 lbs eating all these “forbidden” foods and so much fat. It was shocking to see the scale quickly start going in the direction to say the least! I do try to keep my sources of fat as healthy as possible and things like grass fed beef, avocado, olive oil, and fatty seafood are great sources. Another key part of what makes the diet so effective is that fat has a satiating quality and it is very difficult to overeat fat, whereas carbohydrates will not make you feel full (and why it’s easy to eat excessive portions of chips or sweets!). Your calorie intake will go down, simply because you will find you are full much more quickly and won’t experience hunger between meals.

Keto is a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s not really something you can dabble with & have regular cheats or it will throw your body out of ketosis. Once you get out of ketosis it can take days (or longer!) to get your body back into an efficient state of fat burning. Everyone’s carbohydrate threshold is different, and just slightly going over your daily carb allowance can throw you out of ketosis. Also, calories still count and if you are eating lots of fat, and still sneaking in carbohydrates you can absolutely gain weight on Keto. While I do have cheats here and there for special occasions, I do not have regularly planned cheats or days off, and I also didn’t have my first cheat for about 2 months after starting keto. That said, I know some people find it easier to stay on keto long term if they have a weekly cheat, while for others who truly struggle with sugar addiction, going off for one meal can put them in to a days long binge.

You will feel great! After the initial keto flu and the difficult first month or so of really figuring out what you can and can’t eat, I started to experience all the perks of this diet. In addition to losing about 10 lbs, the insomnia I had been struggling with went away, I didn’t get sick once, I had more energy, and my skin became extremely clear. I also found that it became easy because I truly like the food I can eat, and when I do have cheats I actually feel very sick after (bloating, indigestion, headaches, fatigue) which makes me actually want to stay on track! It’s also amazing how your tastes will change, and sweet things will start to taste too sickeningly sweet after a time. I did take three days off Keto over the Thanksgiving holiday, and a week for Christmas because we were doing some traveling and I also wanted to enjoy all of the foods we traditionally have during these celebrations. During this time I came down with the first cold I’ve had since starting keto, my skin broke out, and I was feeling incredibly lethargic. I’m actually super excited to be back on track and starting to feel my energy return!

Keto is such a big part of my life now, and I want to continue to routinely post about my experiences, tips I’ve learned along the way, and favorite recipes! Even if you don’t think Keto is for you, simply taking steps to reduce sugar intake is a lifestyle change that is guaranteed to make you healthier and feel better! Most people do eat too much sugar, and once I started Keto and truly looking at the amount of sugar in foods, it was pretty shocking to say the least. I was also surprised to discover that Keto has been around for a long time and used therapeutically to treat cancer, certain types of epilepsy, and Alzheimers. If you are interested in learning more about Keto, I highly recommend reading some of the excellent beginners guides available online to help you get started!

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Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions or before undergoing any diet changes.