mediterranean turkey + spinach mini burgers.

mediterranean turkey + spinach mini burgers.

Remember how I told you that I’d give you another thing you could use your Greek dressing with? It’s these very small turkey burgers.

And don’t worry, you’re not seeing things: those burgers are green, because they’re made with a combination of spinach and turkey. Does that sound weird? Maybe, but they’re really good and actually pretty healthy for you: they come from everyone’s favorite Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook, It’s All Good. You know I love this cookbook too, almost as much as I love cookies.

Food perceptions and individual diet choices have been on my mind recently; I couldn’t really tell you why. Sometimes I get caught up in food documentaries and news reports and op-eds and all the other things swirling at me from the internets and it gets a little jumbled in my brain. Dana at Whisks & Words recently wrote a great piece for Food Riot regarding food documentaries with the glorious title “Everything I Eat is Wrong: Food Shockumentary Fall-Out,” which – if you get all messed up inside when you see a “call to action” food doc – you should read, and then read again. I read it again this morning, in fact. In my own life, I find these documentaries largely helpful with a side of frustrating: out of nowhere, I find myself questioning my own belief system regarding the food I feed myself and my family, and wondering if I’m slowly killing all of us, and frankly, people? It’s ridiculous of me to do so. Because I’m a smart person, an adult even, and I know food backwards and forwards. The choices I make are not uneducated, ignorant choices, nor are they based on reduced income, dietary restrictions, or limited access. The choices I make are mine.

mediterranean turkey + spinach mini burgers.

Am I Vegan? No. Paleo? No. Do I eat gluten? Yes. Do I eat sugar? Yes. Do I eat meat? Yes, although only occasionally, but it’s not borne so much from a belief but rather based on that I tend to enjoy vegetables quite a bit, and making them is my strong suit; meat preparation is not. Am I responsible when I buy meat to make sure I’m choosing a responsibly raised product? Yes. Do I buy exclusively organic? No, but I’d say that’s increasing by degrees, and I do buy certain key items organic-only. Have I eaten fast food in the past 5 years? Yes, I have, but probably a handful of times, and much less since I stopped working at an office and started working from home.

I don’t fall into any specific category. I make sprinkle cakes and kale salads and gluten-free cookies and these spinach-filled turkey burgers and I apologize for none of it. I don’t hate gluten and I’m not offended by sugar; I stand in awe of those of you with food allergies and sensitivities because I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have to abstain from whole genres of food and have zero choice in the matter. I like whole foods more than fake foods, protein more than carbs, good carbs better than bad carbs, eat eggs almost every day, and haven’t had a Dorito or Cheez Poof in probably a decade. For me, I think moderation and paying attention is key to my overall health. Here’s the thing: no one is perfect. Everyone could do better with eating. If you’re Paleo or Vegan or eat zero carbs and all protein (I don’t know if that has a title), I’m cool with that. You do what’s best for you. I don’t think I’m doing it wrong because I eat a cookie, or drive a car, or shop at places other than farmers’ markets. Because you know what’s not key to overall health? Stress. More specifically, stressing over other people’s opinions. Could I do better? Yes. But I’m not doing it wrong, and that’s sometimes how I feel after watching an “eye-opening, informative” food documentary. I’ve been feeling like that. Do you ever feel like that? It’s funny how even as adults we can turn right back into our 17-year-old, insecure little selves. Don’t get me wrong: bottom line, I think there’s an incredible amount of value in having the knowledge which comes from these sources, but I suppose the glaring downside I see to many of them is the ability to overwhelm and frustrate people into inaction by making it seem like it’s all or nothing with food.

I’ll give you an example: a few months back, I saw on Facebook that a friend had decided to really change her eating habits for medical and health reasons. She was so amped about it, and really did her homework on the matter; just completely full-spead-ahead in terms of her new food journey. She asked for advice on where to find a bunch of different grains and organic things, started frequenting the farmers market near her, and began the process of learning how to cook nutritious foods. Her enthusiasm was contagious; it was wonderful to see how good she felt and how confident she was getting with her choices until people started to nitpick. All the sudden, she was “silly” for buying this product because this product was better, and how dare she think she was healthy if she was still eating gluten because everyone knows that’s horrible, and how stupid she was for having a muffin because obviously that cancelled out her month of clean eating entirely. Many of these people referenced the most recent food doc they had watched.

As you can imagine, she was really discouraged. It made her want to quit caring entirely. She didn’t, and I’m so proud of her because she stuck to it regardless of what people said, and she’s managed to not let the naysayers or the “that’s not good enough” people get her down. Had she been a different person, I think all that pressure and negative backlash would have caused her to just not care anymore; to throw up her hands and say “fine: I’m not doing it right.” She didn’t, but you have to wonder how many people out there just silently give up based lots of free-flowing information but a shortage of understanding, patience, and non-judgemental help.

mediterranean turkey + spinach mini burgers.

SO THESE GREEN BURGERS…*embarassed face*

All kidding aside, they’re pretty great: proof positive that a few herbs and some scallions go a long way to making turkey burgers more interesting. The spinach, in my opinion, is less about flavor and more about getting some good stuff in there, so I relate it to sneaking avocado into your kids’ smoothies (guilty! Don’t tell the Wee One); it’s there, but it’s not going to change anything in more than a very subtle way except, in this case, the color. With any turkey burger (except these, which need nothing and are incredibly delicious when left simple), toppings are encouraged to some degree, so I’ve topped this one with more spinach, a little cucumber-slice action, and yes, my favorite greek dressing. It just pairs so well with these burgers, and it’s thick enough to stand in for any other burger sauce. In the book, there’s a very simple sauce you can make involving yogurt, cumin, cucumber and a few other things, but I’m partial to my greek dressing, and I think you will be too. And you have some leftover from that quinoa and arugula salad, right?

Perfect. I’ll leave you to it then.

Burgers adapted from It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great by Gwyneth Paltrow. Haters gonna hate.

Mediterranean Turkey + Spinach Mini Burgers

Makes 8-10 burgers*

  • 3-4 big handfuls baby spinach plus more for serving on top
  • 3-4 small shallots, chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 10 large basil leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon (if you can, peel it in strips with a knife versus a zester for more flavor)
  • pinch or two red pepper flake
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey (you pick the fat content here: i used a 93%-7% ground turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 recipe Greek Dressing, recipe found here
  • small buns or bread for serving (they’re also pretty great inside pita pockets)

*it goes without saying, but you can make these as regular size burgers as well. Simply divide the mixture into four equal parts and shape into patties. Makes 4.

Make those burgers:

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the spinach a couple handfuls at a time, until it has all broken down into smaller chunks (Goal: make it smaller so the other ingredients have room to move). Add the shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flake, lemon zest, salt and pepper to the bowl and pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides as needed with a rubber spatula.

Place the ground turkey into a large bowl. Pour the spinach mixture in on top of the turkey, and use your hands or a spatula to work everything together until everything is evenly distributed. Using 2-ounce ice cream scoop (or something around that size, or just eye it up), scoop out the mixture and form into small patties. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight) to blend the flavors.

Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet to medium-high heat. Brush the burgers with olive oil on both sides and cook until firm to the touch and nicely browned, turning once, 5-6 minutes per side (although please use your powers of sight here versus timing to know when they are done). Transfer to a plate covered in foil to keep warm if you’re working in batches.

Assemble those burgers:

To serve, place each on a bun/in a pita and top with slices of cucumber, some baby spinach, and a nice dose of greek dressing.

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27 Comments on "mediterranean turkey + spinach mini burgers."

  1. Dana Staves says:

    Love this post!! And not just because you said nice things about my Food Riot article and linked it and made me feel all Super Writer this morning. (Although, for that, I thank you.)

    But this! : “I make sprinkle cakes and kale salads and gluten-free cookies and these spinach-filled turkey burgers and I apologize for none of it.” That’s the key, I think, and it’s what makes your blog super awesome. I’ve run aground a lot lately on the shores of nutritionism and rules and “am I doing it right”-ness, and at the end of the day, the healthiest thing I think I can do is to make smart choices (which, like you, I am fully capable and educated enough to do). And part of that “making smart choices” thing is to bring down the stress – to enjoy food. When eating kills the joy we usually find in food, something has gone wrong.

    • shannon says:

      YAY! you know, sometimes i get the proverbial “bee in my bonnet” about things, and i write them, and then i’m all “hmmm…sooo…that felt good! hope everyone doesn’t hate me) about it, so it means a lot to me that you liked it and quelled my fears early in the day. :) I can’t imagine you need me to feel like a Super Writer: you ARE a Super Writer all day, every day. I love your FR articles: i actually have it on my calendar to spend some time reading the ones i haven’t had a chance to yet.

      Information is so great, but it does always make it feel like you’re just not measuring up most of the time in regards to food choices. I think it’s best to remember there’s no actual yardstick or “golden rule” of healthy eating; it’s the choices you make, period. I think there are lots of very old people out there who ate myriad different ways throughout their lives, and i bet there’s two things they have in common: one, time has been a friend to them, and two, they probably didn’t spend as much time as this generation worrying about “the right” way to eat. just an observation.

  2. I had no idea Gwyneth Paltrow had written a cookbook, much less several (I just Googled). I obviously don’t get out much. I’ve actually had greens in burgers before. They’re outstanding in a salmon burger (salmon, spinach, and feta in a burger = major yum). This looks great, too. On food and health? It isn’t actually all that complicated. Most of us eat too much (I do!) and it’s so easy to eat too many white carbs. Plus as we age, our metabolisms change, and it’s hard to adjust our eating. And I feel for those people who are gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant or whatever. Fortunately that’s not me, so I eat accordingly.

    • shannon says:

      She did! albeit with a private chef/cookbook author, Julia Turshen, who i think is the one responsible for the creation of lots of recipes in the book. But yes, there’s a few of them out there authored by Ms. Paltrow.
      now i really want that salmon/spinach/feta burger! sounds wonderful: i’m a huge fan of salmon, so i’d love that.
      Agree about white carbs: it’s easy to grab and we don’t think about it, and that’s the one pretty consistent thing i try to limit in my diet: it used to be harder for me, but it’s a habit to avoid them most of the time in my regular eating life. TRUTH about aging: i think sometimes (if you’re not careful) you slow down with activity and exercise at the same time your metabolism starts to slow down, and the combination of those things is HARD to combat if you let it get too far. I know i have to work harder and smarter in my workouts now to keep my weight in check, for sure.
      I also really feel for those who are forced to have restrictive diets: that’s tough, and i’ve seen it in action, and i can’t imagine having to be on guard like that 24/7. i feel lucky that none of us here have (at least so far) any allergies to food-related things.

  3. Ashley says:

    Brilliant, Shannon! Both the recipe (and more uses for that Greek dressing!) and your opinions. Oh, and the sneakiness of adding veggies to Wee One’s food. I’d try it on Eric if he weren’t so darned suspicious anyway… But you spoke your mind so clearly, so passionately (without sounding like a crazed zealot), and so authentically. I agree with you on so, so many of your opinions and wish there were more people out there like you, to support others without belittling them. Thank you.

    • shannon says:

      Thank you, Ashley! it’s tough to sneak the veggies into the Wee’s diet: i can’t go overboard, b/c she’ll spot the offending item, give me the side-eyes, and then she’s suspicious every time it shows up on her plate. :) it’s slow going with her, but she’s getting better.
      i’m happy i don’t sound like a crazed zealot! you seriously don’t know how many times i deleted/added things in order to make sure i wasn’t accidentally saying the wrong thing, or made it sound like i thought something i didn’t think, etc. it’s nice to have everyone being so encouraging, and i feel like because of all of your feedback, i must have said it (mostly) right.
      i think we’re all lucky b/c we live in a bubble of food which allows us to hear and see what goes on in the food world maybe more close-up than a non-food person would. I think all of us are pretty good at sifting through the sound bytes to get to the heart of things. not so easy for regular people just wanting to eat right, you know? SO much info out there, and so much misinformation, to be honest, that it’s hard to know what’s what. Even harder when all the sudden your “friends” want to tell you you’re wrong and not doing it right and it’s all negative: i’d give up too.

  4. Deb says:

    Thank you for your bravery Shannon! I also still eat sugar and butter and agree that moderation and portion size is the key to a more balanced diet. I haven’t tried any recipes form Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook but the Turkey Burgers would be a great weeknight meal. Filling and full of flavor for those hungry workday warriors at the end of their busy day!

    • shannon says:

      yay for moderate amounts of sugar and butter! it’s all about balance, i think, and you always do “balance” really well, with an equal amount of sweet treats and good-for-you fresh salads as well. here’s to moderation (and quick weeknight healthy burgers!). :)

  5. Faygie says:

    Can I just say how much I love this post? I am SO sick & tired of people preaching about how the only way good, healthy, whatever, way to eat is whatever wacky diet-of-the-month they happen to be following. It’s ridiculous.

    And happen to be making TWO dinners from It’s All Good this week! We’re having the vegan shepherd’s pie tonight (with a salad), and later in the week I’m making the baked beans with maple & molasses (which I’m going to serve on top of baked sweet potatoes, alongside a broccoli salad). I realized over the weekend that’s it’s been too long since I used that cookbook, so I made myself add a couple recipes to the week’s menu.

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Faygie! Me TOO: especially because it really does become “The Only Way To Eat…THIS Month” with each new diet trend and fad. It’s so great to have so many styles of eating out there, for sure: there are weeks i’m “paleo” too, but there are weeks i’m “oreo,” you know? It’s just the way my life works, and i’m a pretty healthy girl, and i work out, and therefore, i feel okay with myself most of the time, but seriously…so much pressure to eat according to what the latest trend is.

      I saw your photos of the mini shepards pies…so cute! i meant to try that recipe this winter and didn’t get around to it, but it sounds so delicious. And thank you for reminding me about the baked beans, b/c i bet those show up at our Memorial Day festivities, for sure.

      I rented Gwyneth’s “My Father’s Daughter” cookbook from the library the other day and since i know you like It’s All Good, i’d see if you can rent MFD from your library: i think you’d really enjoy it. lots of healthy stuff, but also some really just totally delicious stuff. And even some crossover between the two books (Lee’s Sriracha, for instance). Let me know what you think if you get a chance to pick it up.

  6. I so agree with you. Could you hear me cheering as I read the post? I am fine with people eating what they want, for whatever reasons they want (I’m not talking food allergies here, but whatever the current food trend is), but I am not fine with those people sneering at my food choices.

    Prime example, though it wasn’t me, but my husband: we had a bumper crop of tiny cherry tomatoes last year. Hubby took them into work to share and people were popping them like candy and thoroughly enjoying them. Then a co-worker who was doing some low-carb thing walked by and commented that those tomatoes were the worst possible thing to eat, since they were so high in sugar. What?! Tomatoes: lycopene, vitamins, a whole food from an unsprayed garden.

    Moderation in all things for me, but if you want to gorge on vegetables or fruit, go for it, I say! My personal problem is the gorging mostly happens with baked goods. I’m still working on the moderation thing. :)

    • shannon says:

      yay! i did a little victory lap when i read some of the first comments and no one was unsubscribing. ;) i didn’t make anyone mad, THROW YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR, THEY GET ME, THEY REALLY GET ME!

      Same: i think it’s a simple request that if i’m respecting and not at all making fun of your diet choices, that you respect and not at all make fun of mine. you know? i think that’s just being human and decent. And your husband’s coworker completely illustrates my point: tomatoes? BAD FOR YOU? erhm…no. If you are allergic? sure. if you are aiming for zero carbs per day? okay…for you. but none of that translates into “worst thing you could eat.” it’s like when people start knocking all the fresh fruit because “OOOO, ALL THAT SUGAR!” Because here’s what, and i was just telling the Wee One this the other day. when i was a kid, my grandma had a HUGE pool, and me and my sister and all my cousins would be over there every day, all day, in the summer. you know what we had for snacks and dessert? watermelon. cantaloupe. cherries. blueberries. and i have never been healthier, sugar or no sugar, because FRUIT. it’s just when i really start to roll my eyes when people get like that.

      hey: it’s a process. it’s hard to resist baked goods. i can barely stay away from chocolate chips if they’re around. :)

  7. elizabeth says:

    I hate labels too–I like trying things that intrigue me, and the way I see it I can add things to my culinary repertoire rather than take other things away. Diversity of options, not deprivation!

    One of the many reasons why I’m bummed that No Reservations (among other Scripps shows) is no longer streaming for free on Prime is that whenever I needed some inspiration for dinner, I’d turn on an episode and invariably be inspired by whatever Bourdan’s hosts would be making for him, because so often it was just very simple food made from scratch. To be honest, even though I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Gwyneth Paltrow, I will own that there are several recipes of hers that I’ve tried with great success because they are simple and surprisingly unfussy in their approach. Maybe I’ll head to the library and check it out for a bit to see if it’s really worth adding to our own library, because you’re making it sound way better than my initial perceptions.

    • shannon says:

      Elizabeth, you totally hit the nail on the head: Diversity of options, NOT deprivation. I agree completely. and how great is it that there IS so much info out there about different diet options; i love trying recipes from all over, i just don’t think that it means i need to pick one now, or ever. Life is more fun with options.

      Agree: No Reservations is a GREAT go-to for inspiration in cooking. The things he gets to feast on! there’s a few exceptions to this (mostly in the nordic region and then some of the extremely remote places he’s visited) but i would try anything anyone made for me without hesitation. And to have that right in front of you to draw from always is so inspiring: really gets you into the right frame of mind to be creative in the kitchen.
      Give the book a whirl: if nothing else, it’s as you described: simple and unfussy, and more often than not, very casually elegant. Also (and i said this above to Faygie but i’ll mention it to you too), i just rented her “My Father’s Daughter” book from my own library, and it’s one written prior to It’s All Good. It’s done with the same co-author, and it’s very similar in feel, except that along with the healthy, there’s some “healthy-ish” and “hey, just delicious” things in there also. So you may enjoy that one as well: i certainly have enjoyed looking through it, and plan to make a few things for the blog from it soon.

  8. OMG I LOVE THESE!!! They look so good and the addition of your greek dressing…. I can feel my knees going weak…. Now I need to pull out this book again because I had bookmarked these to make and never got around to it…. and here you are always kicking me in the butt to motivate me! :)

    • shannon says:

      Always time for the Gwyneth book in the spring/summer: so much good light food in here! and remember; there are the agua frescas inside along with these burgers. so…

  9. Brianne says:

    I’d make these burgers in a heartbeat. I eat what I want. I’m way in over my head with shockumentary-style learning lately with the bees. There is so much political activism based on bees, and for many of the same reasons people get so worked up about food: organic-only, non-GMO, big ag…UGH! I think it’s important as individuals to make educated choices and discuss them (if necessary) in a open, non-judgmental manner, just like you’ve done here. I think that’s the only way real change in the way we eat will ever happen. Thanks for the great read, friend :)

    • shannon says:

      oh my goodness, i had no idea bee struggles were so political! But i can definitely see the connection, now that you say that. UGH, totally: it’s all too much sometimes…too noisy, too confusing, SO many sides to everything that you just want out of the entire conversation. I’m happy you liked the post: i struggled writing it because i wanted to make sure i wasn’t insulting anyone or that i wrote something someone could take the wrong way, and from all of your comments, i feel extra good about it. I agree: i feel like if food choices and options could be discussed in a more open-minded, non-judgemental forum, it would be easier for non-foodcentric people to join in. It’s always so intriguing to me when the experts start the hand-wringing questions like “why aren’t people getting it WHYYYYY?!?!?!” and you just want to shake them a little and say “because, you are confusing the DAYLIGHTS OUT OF EVERYONE, that’s why.” Sheesh.

  10. Shannon, this is a great piece! I long ago decided that there is something wrong with just about every way of eating. So short of killing yourself by starvation, one must find what works for them. Obviously, we all know what not to go overboard with; well, I think we all do! I gave up eating moomoo’s and bahbah’s a long time ago. I don’t eat too many oinkers very often but i do love bacon. I say this because this is what I feel suits me. I don’t judge anyone, because unless you’ve walked in their shoes, it is just too hard to know. And white stuff? Totally love it, but not too often! Great burger, by the way. And those answers are coming tomorrow. Promise!

    • shannon says:

      Thank you! you know, that’s an excellent point: almost every diet (at least the reasonable ones, i’m not talking Twinkie Diet) has some upside and some downside to it, period, and it totally depends on the individual doing it, in my opinion. I think our bodies tell us what we need, and although sometimes we translate that incorrectly (probably when i’m craving oreos it’s maybe that i just need sugar, so strawberries would be a better choice), i think if we listen and apply some common sense to our diets, we’d all win.
      i was just about to send my next “reminder” email: i look forward to hearing what you have to say!

  11. Brilliant! Why can’t we just let peeps eat what they want to eat? Be who they want to be? Even if it’s just for a moment. Is there a rule about commenting that I haven’t heard? As in: if we have nothing nice to say, do we STILL have to leave/utter a comment? As someone who is equal parts inspired and depressed by the internet these days, it’s all a bit much. Where is the happy? What happened to: treat others as you would like to be treated? Or just: be nice? Always be nice.

    That said, these burgers are making me salivate. I’m really into spinach these days. Mostly because I bought some frozen spinach to add to a pasta sauce, and was delighted to see that the spinach had been frozen in little… pellets. Mini-cupcake-sized pellets of spinach that can be added to ANYTHING! I know this doesn’t have much to do with your post, but I was really, really excited about the spinach pellets, and 2.0 didn’t seem that interested in discussing them.

    • shannon says:

      Amen: let’s all treat others as we would like to be treated; why is that so difficult? I also get very depressed/inspired by the internet, depending on what i’m looking at. is it mind-blowing to have instant access to so much information and beauty and all of it all the time? sure, but we all remember when there was no internet, and i was pretty cool with that too. sometimes better, because you’re right: sometimes, it’s far too much. There’s a commercial on right now here that’s got these little vignettes of house parties in clear boxes a la museum, and it shows someone walking around them and peering in, and the voice over is about how “it used to be that doorbells rang more than cell phones, and people connected it was over dinner and not over the internet…” and it sort of makes me sick inside. b/c truth. too easy for people to nitpick and be mean and cruel electronically; almost none of those people could do it to someone’s face, and that’s the part of the internet that’s gross.

      whoa, tangent! whoops.

      spinach pellets, you say! that’s wonderful! Mr. Table is never interested in discussing the shape or portability of food products either, so let’s just be there for each other in that way.

  12. Monica says:

    I’ve pretty much learned to tune out “negative noise”; I don’t want to waste my time/energy. I do want to say that I’m shocked you’ve not had Doritos or cheese puffs in a decade (no judgement in that comment)! Cheese puffs are a guilty pleasure for me, for sure – wish I could remove the “guilty” part of that but I enjoy in moderation, as I do with many other things and I’m very happy living that way and letting others do as they please. Now….these burgers are really perfect for Memorial Day weekend! They just shout ‘summer’ burgers and I’m looking forward to good eats like that all summer long.

    • shannon says:

      is that weird to not have had cheese puffs and doritos in that long? i’ll say it’s less a conscious choice and more of a “i’m used to not buying them and never need them for baking or cooking” choice, in a way: certainly many other questionable food products find their way in (and out) of my pantry, so i’m no angel there. :)

      thank you! they sort of are a summery burger: a little more virtuous than a big beef patty, for sure.

  13. Why choose a category when you can have it all. I’m all for these gorgeously green turkey burgers. These are perfect for wee ones who fear veggies.

    • shannon says:

      i know! although the spices in this version are a little troublesome to a 3yo (at least they are to my 3yo), that’s easily adjusted. now i just have to explain away the color… :)

  14. These are so cute!!! I love mini things. I think that it’s important to eat a variety of things, not-so-healthy ones included. I also hate people thinking they know everything about certain food trends or diets, when they’re usually so ill-informed. People can and should eat however they want to, provided they’re not heading down the road to obesity, diabetes and heart disease…and really even then, it’s their choice. I try very hard not to comment on people’s dietary choices. I’m sure you eat perfectly…and by perfectly I mean not perfectly ;) Aaaaanyway, these burgers look delicious no matter what your way of eating :)

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