Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce

SP was looking through our Williams-Sonoma Mexican cookbook over the weekend and found this recipe for Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce. We had a pound of shrimp in the freezer so I decided to try this recipe last night.

I should have known better then to use 2 canned chipotle chilies. The heat level was through the roof. We were both sweating as we ate. And to make matters worse, I'd somehow managed to undercook the rice. That's never happened to me before; if anything I overcook it. Thankfully we had two avoacados that I'd made into guacamole:

... that we are with chips to cool the flames. I took the leftover shrimp and guacamole for lunch today, but I'm planning to make shrimp nachos with it to mellow out the heat. We both thought the recipe had potential, but with way less chipotle next time!

Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce

8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
4 ripe tomatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, chopped or 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each), chopped tomatoes (I used the canned tomatoes and it made a ton of sauce. I think 1 can is plenty)
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobe, with 1 tablespoon sauce (I would use 1 chile and no sauce, or maybe even half a chile, if you like moderate spice)
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

In a bowl, stir together the garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss until thoroughly coated. Let marinate while preparing the sauce, at least 5 minutes.

In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, until the color deepens. Using a slotted spoon, trasnfer the tomato mixture to a blender, allowing any excess oil to drip back into the pan. Add the chiles, cola and oregano to the blender and process until you get a textured sauce.

Remove the shrimp from the marinade and pat dry. Return the pan with the reserved oil to medium-high heat, until the oil starts to shimmer. Add half the shrimp and cook until opaque, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining shrimp.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the sauce. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the flavors deepen, about 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook fo 2 minutes, just to heat through. Serve over steamed white rice, spooning some of the sauce over the shrimp before serving.

UPDATE: I wish I had brought my camera to work so I could show you the beauty that was my lunch. Last night I took the leftover shrimp, wiped off the excess sauce, chopped them into pieces and drizzled them with lime juice. I also shredded some cheddar cheese, put the rest of the guacamole in a container with sour cream, put some tortilla chips in a bag and some salsa in another container. When lunchtime rolled around today I arranged the tortilla chips on a dinner plate I brought from home and topped each chip with some salsa and shrimp, then added the cheese. The plate got microwaved for a minute and a half before being topped with the guacamole and sour cream. This was an outstanding lunch! I love when I can take a meal that was just so-so and remake it into something incredible. I could really taste the lime in the shrimp and all the flavors went beautifully together. And the best past - the spice level was perfect. Yum!
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Vegetable Manicotti

I saw this recipe for Vegetable Manicotti in my Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine and decided to give it a try since we had a large zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used.

I ended up making some serious modifications because I was skeptical of how this would turn out. SP was not a fan, even with my modifications. He said it was too bland and there wasn't enough sauce. I'd make this again, but it still needs work.

Vegetable Manicotti
Inspired by Every Day with Rachael Ray
August 2008

Eight 6-inch-long lasagna noodles (I used a whole box and it was too much. Next time I'll stick with 8 noodles)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
(2 cloves garlic, minced)
1 pint cottage cheese, drained in a strainer (I used a pint of ricotta cheese since we aren't fans of cottage cheese)
One 16-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and 1/3 cup finely chopped (my supermarket doesn't sell 16-ounce jars so I used 12 ounces. It was fine)
1/4 cup finely chopped basil leaves, plus 8 leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1 tomato, chopped (I used 2 canned tomatoes and it wasn't enough. Next time I'd use a full 14 1/2-ounce can, at least for the way I prepared this)
(Shredded mozzarella cheese)
(Grated Pecorino cheese)

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles, stirring often, until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini (and garlic. Season with salt and pepper) and cook, stirring, until golden (and softened), about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Using a food processor, puree the drained cheese until smooth; add to the zucchini along with the chopped roasted peppers and chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper (and some grated Pecorino cheese.) Rinse the food processor bowl.

Lay the noodles flat on a work surface. Place an equal amount of the zucchini mixture at the end of each noodle, then roll up. Divide the rolls among 4 dinner plates. (Here's where I deviated - I put some of the sauce in a baking dish and put the rolls in there, topped them with shredded mozzarella and Pecorino and more sauce and baked them at 400 until the cheese melted.)

Using the food processor, puree the remaining roasted peppers with the tomato until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the rolls. Top with the sliced basil.
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Buffalo Chicken Pizza

SP asked for Buffalo Chicken Pizza on Sunday, but nature conspired against us with one of the worst storms we've had this summer. I actually got a glimpse of what a hurricane might be like. Our neighborhood lost a lot of trees and a few homes had siding ripped off, but the main problem was the loss of power. We lost power around 1:30pm and didn't get it back until around 6pm, just long enough for us to give up on making dinner at home. We hadn't had a real breakfast or lunch since we were running errands, which meant we were starving by the time we got take-out at 4:30.

So...the buffalo chicken pizza had to wait until Monday.

I don't usually make pizza during the workweek, but as luck would have it I got to work from home Monday afternoon because we had no Internet at work after the storm fried our modem. This left plenty of time to make the pizza.

I did things a little different this time, but here's the basic recipe:

Buffalo Chicken Pizza
A Taste of Home Cooking Original

Pizza dough
1lb chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup Frank's hot sauce
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 scallions, chopped on a bias
Blue cheese crumbles or Marie's blue cheese dressing
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven, with the pizza stone inside, to 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go). This can be done up to an hour before you cook the pizza. Put the Frank's and butter in a small saucepan. Add the chicken and heat over medium until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then boil the Frank's. Pour over the chicken and let cool.

Roll out the dough and place on a sheet of parchment paper large enough to hold the pizza, with a little extra so you have something to hold onto when you move the pizza to the stone. Top with a little mozzarella cheese. Add the blue cheese or Marie's, spread into a thin layer. Scatter a few scallions on top. Using a slotted spoon add the chicken, being careful not to put on too much of the Frank's (it will get soggy/greasy). Add just a few dashes of the Frank's here and there on the pizza, then top with more mozzarella cheese and the remaining scallions.

Remove the stone from the oven (I usually put it on the stovetop). Holding on to either side of the parchment paper, move the pizza on the stone. Put the stone back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese starts to brown in spots. Remove the pizza from the stone and let cool slightly before cutting.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trip to New York City

SP loves going into the city and since our vacation was coming to an end we decided to head in on Saturday. We like to drive in since we can park at the Port Authority and not have to worry about train schedules. We made good time until we got to the Lincoln Tunnel. As we were sitting in traffic I took a few pictures of the skyline:

We got into the city and made a quick pitstop. I've always liked this artwork outside the bathrooms and I finally had my camera with me to take a picture:

We wandered around Greenwich Village for awhile before deciding on a place to have a late lunch/early dinner. We'd walked by Paul's a few times and in the end, their claim to make the best burger in the city lured us in. We immediately liked the feel of the place, with the old-fashioned signs on the wall, small tables and a simple menu. We knew we wanted burgers, but first we ordered a root beer for me and SP had an iced tea. We asked for pickles when we ordered and were given a huge bowl of half-sour slices. They were addictive. SP is a huge mushroom fan, so he got the Saint Mark's burger deluxe (burger with Alpine Swiss cheese, mushrooms and fried onions) with fries and a side of mayo:

Look at how many mushrooms are on this burger! We were amazed when the plates were put in front of us. I decided to keep it simple so I ordered a cheeseburger deluxe (burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and raw onion) with fries and a side of mayo:

This was one fantastic burger. It was juicy and incredibly flavorful. The American cheese was perfectly melted, the toppings were very fresh and tasty and the fries were extra crispy, just the way we like them. The bun couldn't quite hold up to the juciness, but it was still one of the best burgers I've ever tasted. Here's an inside shot:

SP all but licked his plate clean. We both felt very satisfied, full but not overly stuffed, and all for less than $30 including tax and tip. That's amazing for a meal in NYC, especially one this good. I couldn't wait to come home and see what other people thought of Paul's and we were shocked to see so many negative reviews like this one, this one and this one. I guess it just goes to show that different tastes abound on the Internet. I'm glad we didn't read these before we went because we might not have stopped at Paul's. Regardless of what other people think, we had a fantastic meal there and would definitely go back again.

UPDATE: I went onto A Hamburger Today to see if they'd ever featured Paul's and low and behold, they just did a write-up today! How funny. Sadly it was another negative. Bummer. I wonder if our visit was a fluke or if our tastes really vary that much from other burger lovers.
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Saturday morning I made a quick breakfast before my mom headed out for the day. She requested scrambled eggs and bacon, and SP loves breakfast potatoes, so that's what I made:

We also had some tomatoes from my garden.
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Fish and Chips

On Friday my mom came over to watch the first part of the season finale of Doctor Who with us. I wanted to make something British for the occasion. Fish and chips seemed like the most obvious choice.

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Gifts from Louisiana

My friend Amy lives in Louisiana. We recently decided it would be a lot of fun to do a gift swap of a sampling of local, regional foods. I got my package on Friday:

It included beignet mix, king cake mix, jambalya mix, apple and chocolate pies:

Seasoning mixes:

... and pepper jelly:

I can't wait to use some of these goodies. Thank you so much, Amy! You're an amazing friend. I promise my package is on its way.
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Beet, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad

When I bought two bunches of beets at the farmer's market last week I had no idea they'd last so long. After two arranged salads I still had enough beets leftover to make a quick salad for my lunch on Friday:

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Dinner with C & T

On Thursday our friends C, T and baby J came over for dinner. SP and I went to the local farmer's market and an Italiam market to get provisions. Dinner was a smorgasboard of summer, including tomatoes and basil from my garden with fresh mozzarella:

We also had more of the beets I roasted last weekend with some fresh goat cheese and arugula:

C & T aren't fans of goat cheese, so I made half the salad without it:

SP thought macaroni salad would be good:

After all the hubbub about Cook's Country recipes I feel guilty for using one of their recipes, but it worked out well. I found this recipe by simply Googling the title.

In keeping with the summer theme we decided to have burgers. We bought some fresh ground beef at the farmer's market:

... which were juicy and flavorful from the grill. We had them on rolls from the Amish bakery, which is also where we got the pumpkin gems for dessert:

It was good to see C, T and baby J. Thanks for a lovely evening!
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spreading the Word

My friend Melissa over at Alosha's Kitchen recently had an interesting experience that I think all food bloggers should know about. The post is here. Please read it and chime in on the discussion.

As a side note, I find this particularly interesting because I've always been a fan of Cook's Country recipes, highlighting them often on my blog. In fact, the recipe that started all this hubbub in the first place is one that Melissa got from me and decided to make after seeing me rave about it time and again. It's one of my favorite recipes - All-American Potato Salad.

Her post provides some much-needed food for thought. The post goes into all legalities and such, but my take on this is simple - it is my belief that the ATK/CI/CC empire could avoid all this negative publicity if they just made their recipes free. Then all the blogging world would simply link to the ATK/CI/CC websites and drive traffic there. They could keep other aspects of the site paid (the tasting lab, equipment ratings, etc) but the recipes would be free. I'm sure people would pay for the other stuff and the traffic being driven to the site from the recipes might even...gasp...encourage someone to subscribe to the site for the other info.

It's good to know that this issue is being talked about throughout the blogging community. We're a tight-knit group and word spreads fast. It'll be interesting to see where this leads.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grilled Chicken and Veggies with Thai Pineapple Rice

I love grilling, especially on a day like yesterday when it was so hot we didn't want to cook indoors. I had planned this meal for the weekend, but when our plans changed I just pushed it back to Monday.

Grilled vegetables are nice and simple, but they taste fantastic. I skewered the vegetables so it would be easier to handle them on the grill:

Just a little salt, pepper and oil went on the vegetables, but I marinated the chicken in pineapple juice, soy sauce, oil, and pepper for about 2 hours before I skewered the pieces.

This was the first time I can remember the chicken actually tasting like the marinade. It was perfectly cooked, juicy but with a slight char, and the pineapple and soy sauce flavors really came through. The vegetables were also perfectly cooked. We both really like grilled zucchini.

To go along with the skewers I made the Thai Pineapple Rice I first tried last summer:

I'm not sure what makes it Thai, but this is some seriously addictive rice. Even SP, who isn't a huge fan of rice, ate a few helpings. I had to use red pepper flakes instead of the jalapeno because of the salmonella scare, but it ended up working just fine.

Thai Pineapple Rice

1 1/2 cups basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
1 large onion, red or white, cut into large dice
1/2 jalapeno pepper, or 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large can pineapple chunks, cut into smaller pieces
Soy sauce and cilantro to taste

Heat a few tablespoons oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the jalapeno or red pepper flakes and cook until softened. Add the cooked rice and pineapple and stir to heat through. Add a few splashes of soy sauce and a handful of chopped cilantro, stir and then taste. Add more soy or cilantro until it tastes good to you. The rice can be served hot, but it's also great at room temperature.
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Midnight Snack

We're on vacation (actually a staycation) this week, which means we've been staying up late every night. Sunday night we were watching a movie on TV when I realized I was hungry, so I made myself a breakfast sandwich:

A toasted, buttered English muffin held one scrambled egg topped with cheddar cheese and two slices of crispy bacon. It really hit the spot.
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Lunch on Sunday was a quesadilla:

... filled with cheddar cheese, cilantro, garlic powder, salt and pepper. After giving it a light fry, I cut it into wedges and topped it with sour cream, chopped grape tomatoes from my garden and more cilantro.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tapas Dinner

Last night we went to my parents house for dinner. When I called my mom to ask what we were having she said so many things had looked good at the farmer's market and the grocery store that dinner had turned into a kind of tapas party. She asked if I'd mind helping get everything ready when we got there, and of course I had no problem with that.

During the week I'd gotten some beets at the farmer's market near my office, so I made a beet and goat cheese salad:

... with a shallot and lemon vinaigrette over spicy arugula. The bitterness of the arugula paired nicely with the sweet beets and tangy goat cheese. My mom got beautiful tomatoes from her local farmer's market so she cut them up with some fresh mozzarella and basil for a simple salad:

Next up were some baby red and Yukon gold potatoes, which we halved and put in a cast-iron pan to cook slowly until they were tender and slightly caramelized. I seasoned them with thyme from my garden and rosemary from my mom's garden, along with salt and pepper:

My step-father got a pound of gorgeous fresh-caught shrimp at the local seafood market. Lately my parents have loved cooking shrimp in anchovy butter so that's what I did:

The shrimp were perfectly cooked until bursty, with a fantastic salty nuttiness from the anchovies. We had a few on toothpicks while we sat out on the deck with our cocktails before coming inside for the rest of the meal. My plate, starting at the top and going clockwise:

...potatoes, half a queso tamale, beet salad, tomato salad and anchovy shrimp. My step-father also grilled some burgers for sliders (mini hamburgers):

I had mine with just ketchup and mayo and it was perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of char to let the flavor of the beef shine through. For dessert I'd made cupcakes:

We all know I'm not a baker, so in the interest of full disclosure these were made with Duncan Hines boxed cake mix and frosting. I have to say, though, that these were some of the moistest, lightest cupcakes I've made in a long time. I always buy whatever cake mix is on sale, which is rarely Duncan Hines, but I think I prefer this brand. Everyone said how much they loved the texture and flavor. Quite impressive, for pre-packaged ingredients.
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Yogurt with Granola

I needed a snack yesterday so I had a small bowl of vanilla yogurt and some of the yummy granola from my Spring Gift Swap goodies:

I'm not 100% sure what all is in that granola but it's really, really good. It made for a very tasty snack, just enough to hold me over until dinner.
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Fried Eggs with Avocado

This was my breakfast on Saturday:

If it looks like a lot of avocado, that's because it was. We bought a bag of avocados at the wholesale club and then forgot about them. Unfortunately I had two left by Saturday and one had gone bad. So as to not loose another one, I cut up the remaining avocado, sprinkled it with salt, pepper and lemon juice and had it with two fried eggs for breakfast. As it turned out I couldn't eat it all myself so SP helped.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beef Stroganoff

Tonight we revisited an old favorite - Beef Stroganoff:

I love the simplicity of this dish, and the fact that it's easy to fix later if you aren't happy with it. After I took this picture we started eating and both realized it wasn't creamy enough. A few dollops of sour cream mixed in later and we were both happy.
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Shrimp and Scallop Scampi

When we stocked up at the wholesale club this past weekend we bought frozen shrimp and scallops along with our usual meat and fish. We both wanted something light for dinner so SP suggested scampi:

So as not to overcook the seafood, I got the pan pretty hot, added some oil and quickly seared the shrimp and scallops. I think I crowded the pan because they didn't really sear (more like steamed) but they were still sweet and bursty so I didn't mind too much.

After I removed the seafood from the pan I deglazed with a little white wine and then added some grated garlic. That cooked together for awhile before I whisked in some chicken stock, lemon juice, butter, and a mixture of chopped parsley, thyme and basil. It all came together nicely, although we both wished there was more sauce. That's always the problem we have with scampi over pasta - there's never enough sauce. Although I will say that I took the leftovers for lunch and since that consisted of the pasta at the bottom of the pan, it had a lot more sauce and was actually perfect. I guess I need to keep adding to the sauce until we can get that much in every serving.
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Return of the Rabbits

Last night, when I got home, I opened the back curtain and saw this little guy hanging out in the backyard:

A few minutes later I turned around and found him chilling out:

Too bad I needed some herbs, which meant going out into the yard. Apparently that upset his delicate sensibilities and he hopped off.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Grilled Chicken and Cheesy Orzo with Tomatoes and Basil

We love orzo, but it isn't usually on my radar for weeknight dinners. I had a box of it in the pantry, ripe tomatoes and basil in the garden and no idea what to make. Then I remembered a dish my friend C Laz turned me on to called Bruschetta Chicken. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but it was the same basic idea.

After cooking the orzo with the onions and garlic, I added it to a bowl where I'd tossed chopped tomatoes from my garden with basil, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I added in some grated cheese and cubes of mozzarella. SP manned the grill and dinner was served.

You might be wondering what sliced avocado is doing on the plate in the above picture. Well, we bought 4 avocados on Saturday, put them in a paper bag on the counter and promptly forgot about them. Until last night, when SP encouraged me to see if they were ripe before they went too far. One of them was almost overripe, so I cut into it last night:

Isn't it gorgeous? We both love avocado plain so we each had half the avocado sliced, drizzled with lemon juice, salt and pepper. It didn't quite go with the theme of the meal, but it was certainly tasty.
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Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Beef and Potato Salad

We really enjoyed these sandwiches the last time I made them, so it's hard to believe it's been almost a year since then.

It was just as good as we remembered. This time I served it with my potato salad, which turned out to be an excellent pairing:

Slow-Cooker BBQ Shredded Beef
Cook's Country

1 5-pound boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed and cut into 4 pieces (I used pot roast since I couldn't find beef chuck eye)
4 slices bacon, chopped fine
1 onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Salt and pepper
10 sandwich rolls, split

1. Place beef in slow-cooker insert. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to slow-cooker insert. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan and cook onion in remaining bacon fat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in coffee, ketchup, sugar, and 1 tablespoon mustard and simmer until reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Add half of sauce to slow-cooker insert and refrigerate remaining half. Cover and cook on low until meat is tender, 9 to 10 hours (or cook on high for 5 to 6 hours).

2. Using slotted spoon, transfer meat to large bowl and cover with foil. Transfer cooking liquid to large skillet, skim fat, and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in reserved sauce, remaining mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, and liquid smoke.

3. Pull meat into large chunks, discarding any excess fat or gristle. Toss meat with 1 1/2 cups sauce and let sit, covered, until meat has absorbed most of sauce, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on rolls, passing remaining sauce at table.
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A Well-Stocked Freezer

I love a well-stocked freezer. We went to the wholesale club over the weekend and bought a month's worth of meat, which we packaged up on Sunday.

We bought ground beef, bone-in pork chops, chicken breasts, scallops, shrimp and tilapia. Just looking at all this food makes me anxious to get into the kitchen.

My mother-in-law bought us a FoodSaver quite awhile ago and this was the first time we actually remembered to get it out of the garage. We used it to package the ground beef and pork chops. It worked well, so I'm anxious to see how the meat does in the freezer.
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Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Sunday morning SP asked for pancakes, so I whipped up a batch of plain for him and chocolate chip for me:

We had some bananas that were going bad so I sliced one up for us to have with the pancakes.
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