Monthly Archives: April 2013

BBQ Pork Loin with Roasted Veggies

Some dinners are so simple that I wonder if they are blog-worthy. But then, I figure sometimes people are just looking for inspiration for dinner, rather than complicated recipes so if that is where you’re at today, this one is for you.

I made this pork loin once for my brother and he made us all laugh with his excessive yummy noises.  Pork + BBQ + boys = heaven.  Whether you’re a boy or not, this is one tasty dish.  I usually buy the large package of pork loins that has two inside, so I can have one for tonight, and the leftovers for dinner the next day.  This is also a great meal to make for company since you can stick it all in the oven and have all your time to visit with guests, instead of slaving in the kitchen.

Don’t be alarmed if your pork is slightly pink inside , it should be!  New food safety guidelines say it needs to reach an internal temp of 145˚ (down from 160˚), which means you no longer have to cook the life out of it to be safe.  Yay!

You can use whatever veggies you like to go with this.  I did potato “chips” and multi-colored carrots, cooked all on one pan, so easy and good.  It made for a pretty (and delicious) plate.

BBQ Pork Loin & Roasted Veggies

BBQ Pork Loin & Roasted Veggies

BBQ Pork Loin

2 pork loins (I buy the large package that has two in it, but you can make just one if you prefer)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (homemade or bottled)
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper

Roasted Veggies

4 potatoes, sliced thinly into disks (peel or not, it’s up to you)
1 bunch of multi colored (or regular) carrots, cut into sticks
Olive oil
Lemon pepper
Salt
Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375˚.  In a small bowl mix barbecue sauce and honey.  Slather on the pork loins and sprinkle with pepper.

Yummy pork loins, all ready to cook.  One for today and one for tomorrow!

Yummy pork loins, all ready to cook. One for today and one for tomorrow!

Lay out veggies on a baking sheet in a single layer (or pretty much).  Sprinkle with lemon pepper, dry Italian seasoning, and salt.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Mmmm...veggies.

Mmmm…veggies.  The roasting will bring out the natural sweetness in the carrots. Yum!

Put both pans in the oven and roast for 35-40 minutes until a meat thermometer reads 145˚.  During cooking, baste pork with extra sauce once or twice.  When you baste, give the veggies a little stir while you’re in there. Remove pork from oven and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Let it rest for a few minutes for maximum juiciness!

Let it rest for a few minutes for maximum juiciness!

While the pork is resting, leave the veggies in the oven to stay warm (you can turn it off if they seem done).  They are done when they are tender, and starting to brown on the edges.

Slice up pork and serve with roasted veggies!  Each pork loin is 3-4 servings.

BBQ Pork Loin

BBQ Pork Loin.  Gorgeous and delicious!

 

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Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry with a Twist of Orange

I won’t pretend this is any sort of authentic recipe, but it is one I make often.  It’s my healthier take on Chinese stir fry.  I usually use a small amount of meat, and a large amount of broccoli or other veggies.  I love the fresh udon noodles in this and use them often.  If you haven’t come across these before, I usually find them in the produce section with the refrigerated items such as tofu and wonton wrappers.  They also freeze well which makes them extra convenient in my book.  If you are on a low carb or low gluten diet, feel free to leave them out or serve the stir fry with rice instead.

I always find it interesting to note that when I eat with chopsticks I always eat less.  I think it’s because I have to concentrate a bit more on my food instead of eating mindlessly.  I also eat slower and take smaller bites.  Maybe I should start eating everything with chopsticks.

Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry with a Twist of Orange

Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry with a Twist of Orange

Pork & Broccoli Stir Fry with a Twist of Orange

1/2 pound boneless pork loin chops, sliced into thin strips
1 big bunch broccoli, cut into florets (I usually slice up most of the stems as well)
1-2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp. lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. chile garlic sauce (find in the Asian section of the store)
1 pkg. fresh udon noodles (find in the produce section in most stores)
Toasted sesame seeds

In a small bowl combine soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, cornstarch and chile garlic sauce.  Stir until cornstarch dissolves and set aside.  Set your noodles in a colander and rinse with warm water to separate noodles.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat.  Add sesame oil and let heat for a few seconds.  Add ginger and stir fry for about 30 seconds.  Add pork.  Stir fry until most of the pink is gone.  Add broccoli.  Continue to stir fry 4-5 minutes until broccoli is just tender (I prefer mine a little on the crunchy side, but feel free to cook a bit more if you like it softer).  Pour sauce over meat and veggies and cook for a minute or two until it is slightly thickened and coating everything well.  Add noodles and stir fry (gently so you don’t break up the noodles too much) another minute or so to combine.   Top each serving with a generous sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and eat!

 

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Getting Springy with the Cupcakes

For my daughter’s 13th birthday (how did that happen??), we had a Spring theme.  Fruits, veggies, bright colors and flavors.  Pasta salad on a stick!  It was all good, but the best part was the cupcakes.  Not only were they delicious, but they were so darn fancy!

I’ll admit I used a box mix for the cake.  If you like to make cake from scratch, go ahead.  Since I was short on time, Ms. Crocker came to my rescue.  But the frosting was my own creation and let me tell you, with this frosting, cake is a complete afterthought anyway.  It’s so much better than anything you will buy in a can.  AND you can pronounce all the ingredients!

Since I was making these for two events – a sleepover and a party the next day, I made two batches of cupcakes.  Some large ones, and some mini cupcakes.  The large ones were perfect for butterflies and the mini cupcakes made beautiful bite size flowers.  So much fun and so delicious!

A little touch of Spring.  Hello Mr. Butterfly!

A little touch of Spring. Hello Mr. Butterfly!

Spring Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

24-48 cupcakes (I used a mix, but if you prefer you can use your favorite cake recipe)
2- 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tbsp. raspberry syrup (I used syrup you’d use for coffee drinks, find it by the coffee & tea in the store)

For butterflies:
Small pretzel twists
Sour gummy worms

For flowers:
m&m’s or jelly beans
sliced almonds

Make cupcakes and set aside to cool.

Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate cupcakes cooling off.

Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate cupcakes cooling off.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until creamy.  Add whipping cream and raspberry syrup.  Beat on medium high for 4-5 minutes until thick and fluffy and creamy.  Be sure to scrape down the sides from time to time.  Add more syrup for more of a more intense raspberry flavor if desired.  Frost cupcakes.  I scored some disposable piping bags with tips at Bed, Bath & Beyond that worked beautifully, but use whatever you’ve got. This easily made enough frosting for all of my cupcakes, with a little leftover for dipping…well whatever you want.

For butterflies, I used a gummy worm (sour ones are my favorite, plus they are pastel colored) for the body, and small pretzels for the wings!

So cute!

So cute!

For tiny flowers, use an m&m or jelly bean for the center, and place sliced almond “petals” around it in a circle.

So pretty!  And soooo tasty!

So pretty! And soooo tasty!

Present to your guests and prepare yourself for many accolades.  You may also want to plan an extra few minutes on the treadmill the next day to make up for all the scrumptious cupcakes you’ll probably eat!

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Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese food is one of my favorite cuisines.  I love the fresh flavors and the complexity of all the ingredients.  The little details are wonderful.  One signature dish is phó, a traditional soup full of flavor.  There are many ingredients in the traditional versions and one of these days, I plan take the time to do it up right.  This night, however, I was working with the fridge and pantry I had on hand, a short period of time and the inspiration of a beautiful dish.

While this is not a traditional recipe, this faux phó hits some of the high notes and comes together in no time for a simplified Asian-ish homey noodle soup that is wonderful no matter what the season or time of day.  If I had had bean sprouts I would have put a little bunch on top, but alas, I did not.  I made do with thinly sliced red bell pepper and the little cool crunch was just right.

Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

8 oz. sirloin, sliced very thinly across the grain
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups beef broth
6 oz. rice noodles
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1/2 cup green onion
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
Red pepper matchsticks and/or bean sprouts for garnish

In a soup pot heat sesame oil over medium high heat.  Add sliced sirloin and crushed red pepper.  Stir fry until beef is browned.  Add mushrooms and carrot and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, place noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.  Let them soak for about 5-10 minutes until soft.

Add beef broth, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add noodles and green onion.  Simmer another few minutes.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  Ladle into bowls and top with peppers and/or sprouts.

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Veal Parmesan Burgers

I went to the store to buy ground lamb.  I picked up a package of it and noticed it was all sticky (yuck!) so I put it down and picked up the one next to it and tossed it in the cart.  When I got it home, I realized I had bought ground veal instead.  Drat.  Somebody needs to work on their packaging.

Packaging FAIL.

Packaging FAIL.

I wasn’t about to throw it away.  Or trek back to the store to exchange it.  So…I was challenged to come up with dinner using an ingredient I have actually never cooked with.  No problem.  I just pretended I was on one of those cooking competition shows and had just been given something weird like sea urchin.  Veal was my sea urchin.  I had an idea for a gourmet-ish burger.  For some reason Veal Parmesan popped into my head.  Which is weird, because I’ve never made that either.  So I combined the two ideas.  Veal Parmesan Burgers were born.  And they were out of this world!  Next time I may just have to buy veal on purpose!

Veal Parmesan Burger

Veal Parmesan Burger

Veal Parmesan Burgers

1 pound ground veal
2 cloves garlic, minced & divided
1/4 cup onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
Salt & pepper
2 slices of bread, any kind (or you can use panko)
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, pureed in a blender
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. pesto or chopped basil
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
Ciabatta bread or Kaiser rolls
Olive oil

Mix veal, 1 clove minced garlic, onion and mushrooms.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper.  Mix well and form into 3-4 patties.  I made my patties oblong to fit my bread better.

In a food processor, pulse the bread and 1 clove of garlic to make coarse bread crumbs.  Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 400˚ for a few minutes.  Stir every couple of minutes.  Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn, you just want them to get light brown and a bit crunchy.

Dredge the patties in the bread crumbs and set aside.

Burgers & Breadcrumbs

Burgers & Breadcrumbs

In a medium saucepan, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add sliced garlic and crushed red pepper.  Stir until fragrant.  Add pureed tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper.  Simmer for 15 minutes or so until slightly thickened.  Stir in pesto or basil.  Set aside.  Note: this is going to make more sauce than you will probably need for this recipe. The leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days, or they freeze well for future use.  Yay, spaghetti for lunch tomorrow!

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and let it get hot.  Flick a few drops of water in the pan.  If they sizzle you are ready to go.  Add veal patties and cook about 4 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Cook the burgers.  I made mine oblong to match the bread shape.

Cook the burgers. I made mine oval instead of round to match the bread shape.

Heat broiler.  On a large baking sheet, lay out slices of bread or buns, and the veal patties. Lightly drizzle the buns with olive oil.

Burgers before they get all dressed up.

Burgers before they get all dressed up.

Top patties with marinara sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan.  Put until the broiler for a couple of minutes until cheese is melted and bread is toasted.

Broil bread and burgers on separate pans if you want.  I just stuck them all on one.

Broil bread and burgers on separate pans if you want. I just stuck them all on one.

Build your burger and enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

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The Sleepover Solution: Build Your Own Pizza Bar

The giggling still echoes in my ears.  Four thirteen-year-old girls can make a lot of noise.  And apparently require almost no sleep.  In any case I know one thing:  A key element of a successful sleepover is the food.  The build your own pizza bar is one we’ve done a couple times and it’s always a rousing success.  Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a fun activity for the kids, no matter what age they are.

While this is perfect kid food, I’ve been known to do this with my grown up friends too.  Everybody gets just what they like, and it’s great if you have a group that includes vegetarians, or others on a special diet.  I love to use the little ciabatta rolls, or a french baguette cut into pieces. If you have gluten-free or low-carb folks in your group you can use gluten free buns, stuff toppings in a pepper half or toss with salad greens for a pizza salad.

We followed up with Frost Your Own Cupcakes for dessert. Yum!

Our masterpieces!

Our masterpieces!

Build Your Own Pizzas

Ciabatta rolls or French baguette, cut into 3-4″ pieces.
Pizza sauce
Pesto (I like to offer an alternative to tomato sauce in case of allergies, etc.)
Mozzarella
Assorted pizza toppings of your choice.  We used:
Banana pepper rings
Sliced red & yellow peppers
Pepperoni
Olives

The pizza bar.  It can be simple or elaborate.  Basic or gourmet.  It's up to you!

The pizza bar. It can be simple or elaborate. Basic or gourmet. It’s up to you!

Put all the ingredients out, make sure you have plenty of utensils for spreading and scooping ingredients.  Have everybody wash their hands first and then make their own pizzas.  Preheat the oven to 400˚.  Lay out a baking sheet or two on which to place the finished masterpieces.  I always recommend they put some sort of marker on their pizzas so they will know which ones are theirs, or just remember where they put it.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.  Remove from oven and let cool a minute or so.  Clear out while the hungry horde descends.

 

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Herb Roasted Turkey

When I lived in the middle of the country, far away from my family, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner most years for my own little family and in-laws.  And although many people complain about such a task, I always loved it.  I enjoyed having people enjoying my food, and of course when you’re the cook, you get all your favorite dishes. 🙂  Now, I’m back in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by family and thrilled to be here.  But since Thanksgiving is no longer at my house, I’ve found that I rarely cook turkey.  Which is a shame, because it’s pretty darn good.  And it’s not just for Thanksgiving.

I had a turkey in my freezer that I bought around Thanksgiving when it was on sale.  I decided there was nothing wrong with eating turkey in springtime so I roasted that sucker the other day.  The rest of the meal did not resemble Thanksgiving, since eating like that should definitely be limited to once a year.  But this is pretty much how I cook turkey for any occasion.  What leftovers don’t end up on a sandwich the next day get packed in ziplock bags in my freezer to be used in soups, pot pies and whatever else.

Everybody has their favorite method for cooking turkey.  Some brine, some smoke, some deep fry.  I am a huge fan of roasting bags.  They reduce the cooking time and always yield a perfectly roasted, juicy turkey.  Plus they make clean up a snap.

Herb-Roasted Turkey

Herb Roasted Turkey

Herb Roasted Turkey

1 whole turkey
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp. fresh rosemary
2-3 tbsp. fresh sage
2-3 tbsp. fresh thyme
Salt & pepper
Roasting bag – turkey size
1 tsp. flour

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Finely chop all herbs.  In a small bowl mash together the butter, olive oil, and chopped herbs, along with a pinch of salt & pepper.  Set aside.

Butter & herb mixture.

Butter & herb mixture.

Get out a turkey size cooking bag (I use the Reynolds bags) and lay it in a large roasting pan.  The directions on the bag say to add a spoonful of flour to the bag so I always do, although I’m not sure if it’s actually necessary.  I figure it just contributes to the good gravy in the end.  If you’re gluten-free you can probably skip it or use gluten-free flour.  Place the turkey in the bag.  Using your hands, loosen the skin over the breast and drumsticks, wherever you can reach.  Be gentle, and try not to tear the skin.  Rub the butter and herb mixture under the skin and all over the outside of the turkey as well.  I usually add another few grinds of salt & pepper on the outside as well.

Don't be shy, get that butter and herb mixture all over under and over the skin for maximum flavor.

Don’t be shy, get that butter and herb mixture all over under and over the skin for maximum flavor.

Seal bag and tuck end down into the pan.  Cut a couple of small slits in the bag so steam can escape.  Cook according to the bag instructions.  For my turkey (14 pounds, unstuffed), this meant 2 – 2 1/2 hours, until a meat thermometer in the thigh hits 180˚.  Then take it out and let it rest at least 20 minutes.  This is an important step, do not skip it!  Letting the turkey rest will result in a more juicy bird.  I use this time to make gravy, mash the potatoes, make the salad, etc.

To make gravy, cut off one corner of the cooking bag and drain turkey juice into a saucepan.  Mix up a bit of water or milk with a few tablespoons of cornstarch.  Bring liquid to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch mixture.  Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.  Serve with turkey (and mashed potatoes of course!).

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Another Dinner on a Cookie Sheet

On nights I’m home alone, sometimes it seems like a lot of effort to cook a whole dinner.  But I’m trying to eat less take out and I’ve stopped buying cereal, so lately this has been my go-to solo meal.  I spread a few things out on a cookie sheet and bake or broil it.  No fuss, real food, and best of all, no dishes!

Now don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t only a method that works when you’re cooking for one.  I do this when the kids are home too.  It’s just so easy and versatile.  The possibilities are endless.

Dinner on a Cookie Sheet, take 2

Dinner on a Cookie Sheet, take 2

Dinner on a Cookie Sheet – Broiled Salmon, Asparagus, and Peppers

1 salmon filet
Lemon pepper
Salt
Olive oil
Lemon slices
6-8 spears asparagus
1/2 red pepper, sliced in thick strips
1 oz. goat cheese (optional)
1 tsp. pesto
1/2 tsp. mayo
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat broiler.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Spray with cooking spray.  Place salmon on the pan.  Spread out asparagus and peppers in a single layer.  Sprinkle everything with lemon pepper and salt.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Dot peppers with goat cheese. Top salmon and asparagus with lemon slices.

Cut veggies so everything is a similar size for more even cooking.

Cut veggies so everything is a similar size for more even cooking.

Broil 7-10 minutes until fish flakes easily and veggies are tender.  While dinner is broiling stir together pesto, mayo and lemon juice for a quickie sauce to top the salmon and asparagus.

Want another option for Dinner on a Cookie Sheet?  Check out Honey Mustard Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Green Beans!

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Fried Egg and Avocado Sandwich

Fried egg sandwiches are one of my favorite foods.  Not only are they delicious, but they have great sentimental value for me.  My Grandma and Grandad both made them for me when I was young.  My mom made them for me (and occasionally still does).  It was one (if not THE) first foods I cooked for myself. And now, whether I’m dieting or not dieting, sad or happy, it’s one of my favorite things to make.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I don’t eat them every day, but when I do, I enjoy every single bite.

At my favorite fruit stand today, I discovered a new thing, a Bacon Avocado!  Now you, like me, may be all excited about the seeming hybrid of bacon and avocado, but alas, that is not the case (although that would be awesome). They are just named after somebody named Bacon who discovered them.  But, although they have nothing to do with actual bacon, they are really, really delicious!  Very creamy and good.  And more importantly, they paired beautifully with a fried egg on my sandwich.

My mom might be appalled that I’m messing with the traditional fried egg sandwich, but then again, she’s an avocado fan, so she may go for this one.

Fried Egg and Avocado Sandwich

Fried Egg and Avocado Sandwich

Fried Egg and Avocado Sandwich

2 pieces good bread (I prefer rye or sourdough)
1-2 large eggs
1 tsp. mayonnaise (optional)
1/2 avocado
Salt & pepper

Heat small skillet over medium heat.  When pan is hot, rub the surface with a bit of olive oil or butter.  Break egg(s) into pan.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.  Cook a minute or two on each side, until they are done to your liking. I like mine over easy, still yolky in the middle.

While the eggs are cooking, smear a little mayo on the bread if you like that sort of thing.  Slice up the avocado and spread out on one side.

Yummy avocado!

Yummy avocado!

Gently place the egg on top of the avocado, top with the other piece of bread and dive into bliss!

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Creamy Crunchy Berry Bites

This weekend I challenged myself to come up with a creative dessert for Easter dinner.  Okay, okay… I just didn’t want to go to the grocery store so I made up something with the odd collection of ingredients I had on hand.  Same thing!  Sometimes you discover the coolest things when you’re playing in the kitchen.  Like wonton skins!  And how they are not just for wontons!  In fact, they can be transformed to the perfect receptacle for tasty treats.

I was actually really happy with how these delicious little morsels turned out, and two dozen of them disappeared in a flash, so I think others agreed with me.  I’ll definitely be making them again.

Creamy Crunchy Strawberry Bites (or as my daughter calls them, Creamy Crunchy Yummy Thingies)

Creamy Crunchy Berry Bites (or as my daughter calls them, Creamy Crunchy Strawberry Yummy Thingies)

Creamy Crunchy Berry Bites

2 dozen wonton skins
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
1 pint strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Lightly spray two mini muffin tins with cooking spray.  Poke one wonton skin into each well.  Kind of fan out the edges making a little bowl shape of sorts so you’ll be able to fill them.

Wonton skins.  You can find them in the produce section at most grocery stores.

Wonton skins. You can find them in the produce section at most grocery stores.

Bake shells for 5-8 minutes.  Watch closely to make sure they don’t cook too long (my first try was a bit on the crunchy side), you just want them a golden brown and crispy.  Take out and let cool in the pan.

Watch closely so they don't burn.  They don't take long!

Keep an eye on these so they don’t burn. They don’t take long!

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat until creamy.  Add whipping cream and beat several minutes until thick and fluffy, scraping down the sides once in a while.

Fill a piping bag or ziplock bag with creamy mixture, snip off the corner and pipe cream into the wonton shells.  If you have extra filling, it will keep in the fridge for several days, if it lasts that long.

You could do this with a spoon, but much easier to fill the nooks and crannies with a piping bag.  If you don't have one, a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off works just fine.

You could do this with a spoon, but it’s much easier to fill the nooks and crannies with a piping bag. If you don’t have one, a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off works just fine.

Top with strawberries and serve.  Makes 24.

I could eat this whole pan myself.

I could eat this whole pan myself.

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