A Reflection on Catholic Fasting

 “Man does not live by bread alone…” -Matthew 4:4

With Lent quickly approaching, the practice of fasting is an important topic to reflect on. Fasting is an age-old practice for many religions. In the Catholic faith, fasting, prayer and almsgiving are three forms of penance*. These are often referred to as “The 3 Pillars” which Catholics are encouraged to focus on during the season of Lent to help develop a deeper relationship with God.  

Fasting for medical purposes has also been used for many centuries for various therapeutic reasons. Intermittent fasting has become a hot topic in the nutrition world gaining more attention in the 2000s. With this rise in popularity, it seems the lines have become blurred in terms of spiritual fasting and fasting for physical reasons. The science and research on intermittent fasting is still lacking especially over the long-term. It appears to have health benefits for some people but like all eating patterns, it’s not the answer for everyone and does come with potential risks. The problem is that even if someone chooses to fast for physical reasons, the importance and benefits of spiritual fasting should not be forgotten.

Fasting is a powerful gift that when used with purity of intention can bring us closer to God. Discerning our underlying motives for fasting is important. Using fasting to try to change poor habits or behaviours is not wrong. But if we are using fasting to try to lose weight, get “fit”, or change our appearance, etc. then discerning our intention is beneficial as likely our intentions are more about ourselves and less about God.

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6: 16-18

Spiritual Reasons for Fasting:

There are many different reasons for fasting. First, fasting is one of the precepts* of the church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The fifth precept (You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.”  (CCC 2043)

Rev. Daniel Merz wrote on reasons for fasting in a reflection for Lent. He noted many reasons from a Christian perspective.  “Christian tradition can name at least seven reasons for fasting:

  1. From the beginning, God commanded some fasting, and sin entered into the world because Adam and Eve broke the fast.
  2. For the Christian, fasting is ultimately about fasting from sin.
  3. Fasting reveals our dependence on God and not the resources of this world.
  4. Fasting is an ancient way of preparing for the Eucharist—the truest of foods.
  5. Fasting is preparation for baptism (and all the sacraments)—for the reception of grace.
  6. Fasting is a means of saving resources to give to the poor.
  7. Fasting is a means of self-discipline, chastity, and the restraining of the appetites.”

(Excerpt from “A Reflection on Lenten Fasting” USCCB website)

Father Mike Schmitz also discusses why Christians should fast in his video “4 reasons for fasting”:

  1. Self-mastery – freedom to say no to ourselves (our sense of pleasure), sacrificing not for ourselves but for others
  2. Obedience and discernment – follow the precepts of the church and opens us up to listen to God’s guidance  
  3. Worship – by sacrificing a sense of pleasure for love of God
  4. To be a Co-redeemer with Jesus. Unite our suffering with Jesus for the redemption of the world.

 (YouTube Ascension Presents: “4 reasons for fasting” Feb 17, 2016)

Last but not least, there are many reasons for fasting found in the Bible. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells us that fasting is an important weapon to fight evil. Jesus’ disciples ask him why they were unable to cast out an evil spirit and he said to them: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” -Mark 9:29

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the days of fasting1 and abstinence2 in Canada are: (Note: Eastern rites of the church have different rules for fasting.)

  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Fridays are days of abstinence, but Catholics can substitute special acts of charity or piety on this day. (See “Keeping Friday” article)

1 Fasting: this refers to the quantity of food taken, thus also refraining from eating between meals.

2 Abstinence: this refers to abstaining from meat.

Who is bound to observe these laws? 

  • The law of abstinence binds all Catholics, beginning on the day after their 14th birthday.
  • The law of fasting binds all adults (beginning on their 18th birthday) until the midnight which completes their 59th birthday.

Who else is Exempt?

  • Those with physical illness ie. diabetes and mental illness ie. eating disorders.
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • “In all cases common sense should prevail and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.”

What is forbidden and allowed to be eaten? 

  • The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat. This does not apply to dairy products, eggs, or condiments and shortening made from animal fat.
  • The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day and two smaller meals (snacks). The two smaller meals should not equal the quantity of the main meal (which in the United States is customarily observed as the evening dinner).
  • When fasting, eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed, including milk and fruit juices.
  • On fast days, fish and all cold-blooded animals may be eaten (e.g., frogs, clams, turtles, etc.).

What can we do instead if we are exempt from fasting?

In these circumstances there are many other things to fast from other than food. Ideas: ie. social media, shopping, snooze button, TV, etc. If you are having difficulty deciding, consider asking yourself: What do I often turn to in place of God?

Can we overdo fasting?

Yes. Even Jesus insists that fasting is inappropriate in times of joy. Matthew 9:14-15 Then the disciples of John came to him saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Remember that both feasting and fasting can be forms of worship to our God.


As Catholics we have laws for the minimum fasting and abstinence days. However, we have the option to include more if it will help us to deepen our relationship with God. Spiritual fasting does not only change our hearts but we can unite our suffering with Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of the world.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Is fasting from food appropriate with my current physical and mental health? (Unsure? – ask your doctor, psychologist and spiritual guide)
  2. If fasting from food is not appropriate, what else can I fast from that will draw me closer to God?
  3. Why do I fast? What are my motives or intentions?
  4. Is there a specific intention I would like to offer my fast for?
  5. When fasting, what thoughts, emotions, or behaviours arise? (ie. Am I fasting with a joyful spirit or do I get moody?) What can I learn from these moments? What is God trying to teach me?
  6. If fasting from food, are there ways to improve our fasting practice? Examples to reflect on: Eating simpler meals? Eating foods that aren’t your preference to prevent food waste? Not complaining about food or being picky about what is made?
  7. Am I including extra prayer during fasting? Is it allowing me to open myself more to God? Do I hunger or long for time with God?
  8. Is fasting allowing me to open myself more to my neighbour? ie. Are there ways I can use the extra time and money saved while fasting to benefit my neighbour?

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” -Isaiah 58:6-7

*Penance: “Doing penance is not a form of self punishment, or an unhealthy desire to inflict pain on ourselves. Rather, we do penance in order to discipline ourselves (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) and to live in union with Jesus who suffered to save the world. We offer our penitential actions in obedience to the gospel commands, so that our Lord may purify our love for him and make us stronger in the service of God and the people of God. We freely offer our penances to help make up for sin in our own lives and in the lives of others.”(From the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Keeping Friday”)

*Precepts: (CCC 2041) “The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbour”

Christ-Centered Self-Care

Happy New Year! For 2022 I will be sharing a new eBook: Christ-Centered Self-Care, releasing a new chapter and reflection each month for the first half of the year. Here is the introduction to give you a preview. Please sign up with your email below and the next chapters will be emailed to you once released in the upcoming months.

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Free Lenten Cookbook

With the Lenten season upon us this week, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the 2021 Lenten Cookbook! This eBook includes 13 fish, seafood and meatless recipes to help you with meal ideas on days of abstinence.

*Warning: Not appropriate for those suffering from an eating disorder. Remember that those with physical and mental illness are excused from fasting and abstinence. (ie. chronic disease such as diabetes or mental illness such as eating disorders). Pregnant or nursing women are also exempt. “In all cases, common sense should prevail and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.” (USCCB)

Join the Faithfull Eating community to receive updates when new recipes are available and your opt-in gift – the 2021 Lenten Cookbook eBook will be emailed to you.

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Sheet Pan Salmon with Broccoli and Bok Choy

Sheet Pan Salmon with Broccoli and Bok Choy

  • Servings: “6”
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This Hunan inspired salmon and vegetables is an easy meal with quick clean up!


  • Salmon
  • 4 cups broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
  • ~350g baby bok choy (~3 whole), quartered lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup peanuts, chopped
  • Rice 
  • (if desired)


  • ¼ cup Hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced


  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Start cooking rice (as per package directions) if desired with your meal.
  3. Prepare sauce by combining the above sauce ingredients, mix and set aside.
  4. Line a sheet pan (cookie sheet) with tin foil for easy cleanup.
  5. In a large bowl, combine broccoli, bok choy, peanuts and half the sauce. (reserve the other half of the sauce for the salmon)
  6. Place the bowl contents onto the sheet pan. Roast in the oven for ~5minutes. Remove from oven.
  7. Rearrange vegetables so that you can fit the salmon in the middle of the sheet pan. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the salmon.
  8. Roast an additional 10-15min or (depending on thickness) until the salmon is cooked. Do not overcook the salmon or it will be dry.
  9. Remove from oven and enjoy! We like ours served over rice.  


Spinach Pasta Salad with Chickpeas


Spinach Pasta Salad with Chickpeas

  • Servings: “~6-8”
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Have you ever put leafy greens in your pasta salad? This is a great recipe to try it out and then mix it up with different greens!



  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Salad:

  • ~5 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • ~400g pasta, uncooked (I used Fusilli Bucati Corti)
  • 1 can (19oz/540ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 c feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 c red onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), diced
  • 1/4 c fresh basil, chopped.


  1. I find it works best to make the dressing first and pour some over the spinach while putting together the rest of the ingredients to let the spinach soften and marinate.
  2. Cook pasta according to package. Drain and add 1 Tbsp olive oil so it doesn’t stick. Let cool.
  3. Add all other ingredients and the rest of the dressing to the pasta. Stir to combine. Let it sit in the fridge for better flavour. (great leftover as well!)

Tomato Artichoke Baked Fish with Orzo


Tomato Artichoke Baked Fish with Orzo

  • Servings: ”4-5”
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A different and delicious idea for cooking fish!


  • ~2-3 cups dry orzo pasta (more or less depending on your household appetites!)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ~1 lb or ~450g frozen white fish fillets, thawed (sole, cod, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ cup (~170 ml jar) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives (~12 olives), pitted and cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp capers (optional)
  • ¼ cup feta or parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Cook orzo as per package directions. Drain and stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil so it doesn’t stick together. Set aside.
  3. While the orzo is cooking, heat the other Tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and black pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for ~5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest into an oven safe 9”x 13” casserole dish.
  4. Lay the fish fillets on top of the tomato sauce. Drizzle the lemon juice on top of the fish.
  5. Place drained artichokes, olives and capers (if using) on top of the fish. Pour reserved 1 cup of tomato sauce on top.
  6. Bake in the oven for ~20min or until fish is cooked through.
  7. Top with feta or parmesan cheese.
  8. Serve with orzo and enjoy!


Sheet Pan Lentil and Veggie Dinner


Sheet Pan Lentil and Veggie Dinner

  • Servings: ”5-6”
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Here’s a delicious and easy meatless meal for something different!



  • 2-4 Tbsp canola or avocado oil
  • ½ red onion, sliced into wedges
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large broccoli crown, divided into smaller pieces
  • 2-3 large Kale leaves chopped into smaller pieces, with big stems removed
  • ~½ tsp black pepper


  • 1 – 540mL (19 fl oz) can of lentils (drained, rinsed and patted dry)
  • 1 Tbsp canola or avocado oil
  •  1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt


  • 3 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp hummus


  1. Preheat oven to 400˚ (You will need 1 sheet pan and 1 bowl that you can keep reusing to save on dishes.)
  2. Mix sweet potatoes and 2 Tbsp oil in a bowl until well coated. Sprinkle with black pepper. Transfer to your sheet pan. Place onion wedges around the sweet potato.
  3. Using the same bowl, mix together the lentils, oil, spices (all the lentil ingredients). Spoon lentil mixture relatively even over the sheet pan as well.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile place broccoli in the bowl and drizzle a bit of oil on it. Remove sheet pan from the oven and now add broccoli. Continue baking for another 10 minutes.
  6. Then add the kale to the bowl and drizzle oil on it as well. Massage the oil into the leaves. Add the kale to the sheet pan and bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. While the lentils and vegetables are baking, prepare the sauce. Stir together all sauce ingredients until it’s a smooth consistency.
  8. Place sheet pan on the table for everyone to dish their own or you can serve dinner in bowls by dividing it up and topping with a drizzle of sauce!


Buffalo Shrimp Tacos


Buffalo Shrimp Tacos

  • Servings: ”5”
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

This is an easy meal using frozen shrimp and whatever is in your fridge!


  • 1.5 lbs (~680g) Frozen precooked (or raw) shrimp, thawed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ¼ cup Buffalo Sauce ie. “Frank’s” (or just enough to coat shrimp)
  • Taco shells (I used corn tortillas) but you can use flour wraps or even lettuce wraps if you prefer
  • Toppings: Grated cheese, lettuce or thinly sliced cabbage, cilantro, hot peppers, red bell pepper, ranch or blue cheese dressing, and/or any other vegetables in your fridge!


  1. Ensure your shrimp is thawed (you can run it under cold water in a strainer to thaw quicker). Dry excess water by dabbing with a paper towel if needed.
  2. Add garlic, paprika and black pepper to shrimp and mix till evenly dispersed.
  3. Heat a frying pan over medium low heat. Add the canola oil.
  4. Once oil is heated, add shrimp. If shrimp is precooked, heat until just warm or if shrimp is raw, heat until pink. (Do not overcook or shrimp will become rubbery.)
  5. Add buffalo sauce to pan and mix to coat shrimp.
  6. Make your tacos by adding shrimp and toppings to your taco shell or wrap of choice!

How to Naturally Dye Easter Eggs


Natural Easter egg dyeing has become a family tradition in our household! This week will be our 5th year experimenting and practicing our techniques. We did a lot of research online and tried our own experiments to see what worked and what failed. It has taken us several years to figure out our best methods so I thought I’d share what we’ve learned so far!

*Warning: Before you commit, please note this is not a quick process, it does take some time and patience!

“Must have Ingredients”:

  1. White vinegar – 2 Tbsp for each dye
  2. Red cabbage – 4 cups chopped
  3. Turmeric – 3 Tbsp
  4. Brown onion skins – from ~ 10 onions
  5. *Peeled Beets – 4 cups chopped

Natural Dye Colour: 

  1. BLUE eggs = Red cabbage dye
  2. YELLOW eggs = Turmeric dye
  3. ORANGE eggs = Brown onion skin dye
  4. GREEN eggs = Turmeric dye then red cabbage dye (double dip)
  5. PINK eggs = *Beet dye

*Note: We have had mixed results with beet dye over the years. Sometimes it works and other times the eggs look pinkish-brownish. We are trying some different pink dyes this year so I will update this post if we find something that works better.


  1.  Prepare each dye by mixing 4 cups of water with 2 Tbsp white vinegar in each pot. (If making all of the natural dye colours you will need 4 pots.)
  2. Next place your dyeing agent in each pot and mix well.
  3. Bring each dye to a boil and then simmer for ~30 minutes.
  4. Strain the dye into bowls. (we just use recycled and washed yogurt containers) Let the dye cool before using (at least to room temperature).
  5. Gently drop the precooked hardboiled eggs into the dyes with a spoon (we just do one at a time for best results).
  6. For most colours it takes about 30 minutes in the dye. (Except for the green eggs: try turmeric for 30 minutes and then red cabbage for 10 minutes.)
  7. Pull egg out of the dye but do not wipe. Place on a cooling rack with a paper towel underneath to dry.
  8. Enjoy!

Additional Tips:

  • We found it made no difference whether we cooked the eggs first by boiling them in water or cooking them by boiling them in the dye. Therefore, we just find it easier to boil them all first in water then dip them in the dye after.
  • Don’t waste your time on a single green dye using spinach or parsley, etc. They don’t work!
  • Don’t waste your time on a coffee dye – why would you spend time on this when you can just buy brown eggs?
  • Berries like blueberries and raspberries did not work for us either.

How to Eat More Vegetables


March is Nutrition Month and this year dietitians are encouraging people to consider not only what they eat, but how they eat too.

One example is people often say they want to increase their vegetable intake (what they eat) but it’s often a challenge to put into practice (how they eat). Some reasons include: preparation time, fear of waste, the expense, boredom, family preferences or lack of planning (vegetables are an afterthought).

When looking at how to eat more vegetables, find ways that you ENJOY eating them.  Enjoying the taste of your food is such an important part of healthy eating and creating healthy habits. Eating something you dislike the taste of will not be sustainable. Also, find strategies that work well for you. This may take some experimentation and planning from the beginning but it will be well worth the effort for nutrition and health.

Here are some tips and ideas to help get you started:

10 VEGETABLE TIPS (How to eat):
1. Batch cook and freeze individual vegetable soup, stew or chilli servings for a quick lunch.
2. Use a veggie tray as your pre-dinner appetizer while you are cooking supper.
3. Try growing your own vegetables indoors or outdoors in containers or a garden bed.
4. Have a “build your own” salad bar for a meal (a great way to introduce new vegetables to kids without pressure and satisfy the whole family).
5. Continue to expose yourself and your family to new and different vegetables. Also, try different textures by cutting or preparing them differently. (ie. Cubes vs. mashed)
6. Prepare a variety of vegetables: The more variety you prepare at a meal, the more you will eat!
7. Aim for half your plate of vegetables. It’s an easy visual goal instead of measuring food.
8. Buy vegetables in season and look for stores that sell cheaper “ugly, misshaped or blemished” vegetables that can help cut down on the cost.
9. If you need help time-wise, buy convenience vegetables: pre-cut, pre-washed, bagged salads, frozen, canned, etc.
10. Aim for both green and colourful vegetables. We get different nutrients from the different colours of vegetables.

100 VEGETABLE IDEAS (What to eat):
1. Borscht
2. Minestrone
3. Butternut squash
4. Miso-Vegetable
5. Cheddar broccoli
6. Garden Vegetable
7. Tomato soup
8. Pumpkin soup
9. Vegetable Pho
10. Gazpacho

11. Chimichurri
12. Beet hummus
13. Salsa
14. Tomato sauce
15. Baba ghanoush
16. Pesto
17. Guacamole with tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic
18. Antipasto sauce
19. Sambal Kecap (Indonesian dipping sauce) with tomatoes, peppers, chiles

20. Veggie tray with dip
21. Cucumber rounds with whipped cream cheese on top
22. Tomato, Basil, Bocconcini cheese skewers
23. Stuffed mushrooms
24. Buffalo cauliflower bites
25. Stuffed jalapeno peppers
26. Parmesan zucchini sticks
27. Tomato and garlic bruschetta

28. Omelette with spinach, mushrooms, peppers
29. Scrambled eggs with leftover veggies
30. Shakshouka (Mediterranean egg and vegetable dish)
31. Spinach quiche (or any other vegetable)
32. Stir pumpkin puree into oatmeal
33. Breakfast burrito with eggs, peppers, salsa
34. Veggie savoury waffles: shredding zucchini, carrot, etc. into your waffle
35. Smoothie with spinach or kale
36. Vegetable frittata

37. Vegetarian chilli or any meat chilli with extra vegetables
38. Stuffed bell peppers
39. Zucchini boats
40. Buddha bowl with loads of vegetables
41. Lettuce wraps with a lentil/meat stuffing
42. Portobello mushroom with cheese burger
43. Pad Thai with red peppers and extra bean sprouts
44. Collard green wraps
45. Eggplant parmesan
46. Blend veggies into meatloaf
47. Chana masala (Indian dish with a tomato base and chickpeas)
48. Fajitas with any roasted vegetable
49. Stew with extra vegetables added
50. Pile extra vegetables on your pizza
51. Chinese hot pot with lots of vegetables
52. Vegetable lasagna
53. Sheet pan dinners: oven roasted vegetables (and protein) with herbs and oil.
54. Additions to a stir fry: artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, bamboo shoots

55. Vegetable curry
56. Cauliflower rice
57. Zucchini noodles
58. Roasted acorn or spaghetti squash
59. Tomatoes stuffed with lentils
60. Baked or roasted beets or turnips
61. Roasted bok choy with peanuts
62. Sauerkraut
63. Chakalaka (South African vegetable relish dish)
64. Kimchi
65. Roasted carrots with honey and lime
66. Roasted brussel sprouts with garlic and parmesan
67. Ratatouille
68. Roasted radishes and asparagus
69. Baked green beans with slivered almonds
70. Minted peas
71. Sautéed kale or spinach with garlic
72. Braised red cabbage
73. Grilled veggie kebabs
74. Cabbage rolls
75. Zucchini fritters
76. Broccoli with cheese sauce
77. Grilled romaine wedges

78. Celery with peanut butter
79. Kale chips
80. Snap peas, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks and hummus
81. Cucumbers and tzatiki
82. Seaweed snacks

83. Greek salad
84. Broccoli slaw
85. Caprese salad
86. Coleslaw
87. Spinach salad with berries and pine nuts
88. Beet, goat cheese, balsalmic vinegar salad
89. Tabbouleh
90. Waldorf salad
91. Sliced cucumbers with onion, dill, vinegar and oil
92. Warm arugula salad with quinoa, roasted peppers and squash
93. Seaweed salad
94. Kale salad with apples and sliced almonds
95. Caesar salad
96. Pear, pecan and blue cheese salad
97. Panzanella
98. Nicoise salad
99. Kachumbari (East African tomato and onion salad dish)
100. Taco salad

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