Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 Release

The leaves are on the streets and no longer on their branches. Thanksgiving plans are being discussed, recipes are being chosen and shopping lists are being drafted. It is that time of year when we are on the brink of the holiday season; and we cannot escape it. One thing that I always look forward to, which eases me into the holiday spirit, is the anxiously-awaited release of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine. The third Thursday of November marks the traditional release of this very popular young wine made from the Gamay grape of the Beaujolais region of France. This wine is released after a short fermentation period and bottled for the holiday season. This fresh red has fruity tones and a clean and dry finish. You will find this wine extremely easy to drink, especially when cooled slightly. Beaujolais Nouveau is the perfect wine to drink from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 will be released this Thursday, November 17th. There is no better way to celebrate this event than to head to Midtown Village in Center City for all things Beaujolais and all things French. From 5pm-8pm, Midtown Village bars, restaurants and retailers will be offering an array of tastings, menu specials and retail items honoring this special day. Barbuzzo will be featuring - Winemaker's Picnic charcuterie, cheese and Beaujolais. Head to El Vez for Beaujolais Sangria and Zavino for Sparkling Beaujolais Cocktails. Check out Midtown Village for more information on this exciting French evening. Be there and be sure to get a few bottles or a case (wink) of the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau.


Meat Lovers Chili

Yesterday our lovely little block in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia had its own Chili Cook-Off. It was a lovely fall day, the perfect kind for cooking and eating chili. My husband and I both submitted chilis along with five other competitors on the block. This was my chance to recreate the chili recipe I made in 2008, when I won my mother-in-law's annual "Chili Bowl". On a regular basis, we prefer to make healthier chili recipes using ground turkey or lean beef but every now and then you have to pull out all the stops. I hold back nothing in this Meat Lovers Chili, giving you flavor sensations ranging from salty and sweet to smokey and spicy. Try this crowd-pleasing recipe for your next big gathering!

Lizzy M.'s Meat Lo
vers Chili


1/2 lb bacon, dic
ed (Dice bacon after it has been cooked and cooled.)
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground beef
(chuck or sirloin)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-16 oz. can crushed tomato
1 can tomato paste

1 bottle Chocolate Stout

1/8 cup m
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp Adobo sauce
(Add 2 tbsp to start and add the third if you want more of a kick.)
2 chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, diced
2 yellow onions
, diced
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced

Spice Mixture

1/4 cup dark bro
wn sugar
3 tbsp cumin

3 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

*Combine these dry seasonings together to make your spice mixture. Divide into 3 portions. This will make it easy to add the spice "dumps" when it is time.


1. Saute the bacon in a large skillet on medium heat until the fat cooks out. Remove bacon onto paper towels and set aside. Keep a portion of bacon grease in the pan.

2. Remove Italian sausage from the skin and crumble into the skillet. Brown the sausage in the bacon grease and break up with a wooden spoon. Saute for about 7-10 minutes.

3. In a large chili pot over medium heat, brown the ground pork and ground beef. Salt and pepper the meat while breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Add 1/3 or the first "dump" of seasoning at this time. Saute until the spices are combined with the meat. At this time add the crushed tomatoes, chocolate stout, Adobo sauce and the chipotle peppers. Keep on medium heat covered.

4. Add cooked bacon and sausage to chili pot. In skillet saute onions in bacon and sausage drippings on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Then add tomato paste to the skillet and saute until the paste is combined well with the onions. With a grater, grate in the garlic cloves. Stir well and saute for another 3 minutes. Finally add the vinegar. With a wooden spoon scrape up the bits and drippings on the pan and then cook for another 3 minutes.

5. Add the onion mixture into the chili pot and the second 1/3 "dump" of the spice mixture. Cook the chili on low heat covered for 3 hours stirring occasionally.

6. Remove from the heat after cooking for about 3 hours. Let the chili come to room temperature. Store chili in the fridge overnight.

7. Set the chili out to bring back to room temperature before putting over heat. Once it is at room temperature or close to it, then place on low to medium heat. At this time add the final 1/3 or third "dump" of the spice mixture and cook for at least 2 hours before serving.

Although I did not take home the bragging rights of a first place chili this time around, I came in at a close second with lots of happy tasters. Serve with tortilla chips and the toppings of your choice such as shredded cheese and sour cream. Dig in!


Philadelphia Marathon Eve Dinner Specials

As a new "runner", which I say loosely as I am nowhere near the ranks of those getting ready to run the Philadelphia Marathon next Sunday, November 20th, I am super excited that Phila Marathon has teamed up with local restaurants to offer pre-fixe dinner menus designed to get runners fueled for the big race. This is such a great concept especially knowing that so many will be traveling to our great city for the weekend.

Getting nervous for the 26.2 miles, then click on this link http://www.philadelphiamarathon.com/pasta-dinner-dine-and-explore to check out the many dining options you will have for Saturday night. Hopefully, imagining the delicious meals you could have the night before the race will help take your mind away from the enormity of it all. On this list, you have your pick of locations with some Center City, Old City and Fairmount restaurants. As a Fairmount resident, I must elaborate on the special offered at a local favorite - London Grill, located at the corner of 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue. For $35, your "Night Before" Marathon Dinner starts with a cocktail or mocktail (your choice), Ribolita Soup, your choice of House Made Uova Raviol0, House Whole Wheat Fetticini or 'Best of Philly' Potato Pizza, and last but certainly not least, Dark Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle Cake.

The cocktail is called "Sweet Tart 'Drinking Vinegar' Soda". Vinegar has many health benefits, so why not create a healthy runner's cocktail out of it. Sounds a bit odd but I have faith in the skilled bartenders of London Grill to make a fabulous cocktail or mocktail. The appetizer of Ribolita Soup is a Tuscan bread soup packed with vegetables, beans, Tuscan kale, cabbage, tomatoes and herbs. After this vitamin-packed starter, you will be good and ready to continue loading on the carbs. It will be difficult to decide between these three entrees, each one with its own character and wow factor.

The first option, House Made Uova Raviol0, is filled with fresh ricotta cheese, Parmesan Reggiano and an egg served with brown butter and truffle. This dish will make all of that training and running worth it. House Whole Wheat Fetticini tossed with chicken, bread crumbs, goat cheese, pine nuts, herbs and extra virgin olive oil is your second entree choice, which will give you the perfect combination of carbs, protein and robust flavor. Finally, the 'Best of Philly' Potato Pizza is a thin crust pizza topped with sliced potatoes, Fontina cheese, Mozzarella, rosemary and truffle oil. With its 'Best of Philly' label, I really don't need to say much more. The only thing I will say is truffle oil. Sold!

While celebrating in the elation of courses one and two, the happiness will only continue with the finale of this marathoner's dream meal - a Dark Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle Cake. My only advice is to make reservations now and reserve for early in the evening to allow for plenty of time to digest before getting a good night's sleep. I am hoping it is not required to be a marathon registrant to get this deal because I am ready for London Grill's "Night Before" Marathon Dinner this Saturday. Or in my case, "Night Before" Sunday Dinner.


Apple-Cranberry Baked Brie

Last weekend I had the pleasure of co-hosting with my husband a Halloween Housewarming gathering. The gathering was lovely despite the rain, sleet and snow from a much too soon Nor'easter. The menu, my favorite aspect to any gathering, was in the works for quite some time. Inspiration came from an annual gift from my parents, our New Orleans Calendar. What makes this calendar so wonderful is that it not only shows a beautiful scene from my favorite city each month but it also has a recipe to along with it. September's recipe for Autumn Brie was the most intriguing yet. Ever since catching a glimpse of that recipe, I knew it would be the perfect addition for the Halloween Housewarming.

When shopping for the party, inevitably there were a few ingredients that I could not locate or did not have the time to locate. I decided I would just wing it and make my recipes work with a few substitutes and some creativity. The original recipe called for apple cider but instead I used a crisp white wine in its place. I also replaced the golden raisins with dried cranberries. To make up for the lack of sweetness, I just used more brown sugar than the recipe called for. In cooking, a hobby that I adore, there is nothing more gratifying than creating a new recipe that is a hit with your friends or family. I never tried the original recipe but I am sure it is just as good as my interpretation. I highly suggest giving this heavenly recipe for Apple-Cranberry Baked Brie a try for your next gathering. Serve this hot and bubbly with fresh baked bread such as a buttery Challah or a simple baguette. As soon as your guests taste this, thoughts of icy, frigid weather will melt away.


(1) 4" Round Wheel of Brie Cheese
1-1/2 cups dry white wine such as a Pinot Grigio
1 Red Delicious apple, sliced thin into bite size triangles
(2) 2 oz. snack size boxes of Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, divided into two
Pinch of salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large circular baking dish, place the Brie wheel in the center. Allow to sit at room temperature for up to one hour before cooking.

2. In a saucepan, combine white wine, apples, dried cranberries, and a 1/4 cup of the dark brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes or until apples are slightly tender.

3. Set saucepan aside to cool down for about 5 minutes. Drain off only half of the liquid from the saucepan. Then pour apple-cranberry mixture over the Brie wheel. Arrange some fruit on top of the Brie as well as around the Brie for a beautiful presentation. Sprinkle the remaining dark brown sugar and another tiny pinch of salt all over the Brie and fruit mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

4. Serve with hot bread or crackers and enjoy!

My guests and I loved this recipe so much that I cannot wait to make it again. I have faith that you will feel this way and be making Apple-Cranberry Baked Brie for your friends and family again and again. The weather might be getting colder but the bright side to that news is all of the warm and delightfully scrumptious recipes that you can savor this season. Get in the kitchen with your loved ones and a glass of red wine or a cup of steamy cider and get cooking.


Corn and Kielbasa Chili

Are you tired of using that same old chili recipe? As much as I love my classic chili recipes, typically made with ground beef, it is nice to change it up with something out of the ordinary. In fact, something extraordinary happened in my kitchen this Monday when I whipped up a stew now referred to as Corn and Kielbasa Chili. My initial concept for this dinner was not meant to become chili-like but this is how great recipes are born-by accident.

The concept originated with the giant bag of frozen corn ears leftover from our CSA summer farm share. If you are like me with summer corn in the freezer that needs to be used, then this is a great way to go. The other ingredients I had on hand were the basic items like beef and chicken broth, spices, Rotel (canned tomatoes and chiles), onion and red pepper. I picked up a fresh link of uncooked pork kielbasa from Whole Foods.

This dish came together quickly-simmering away on the stove while my husband and I enjoyed a mild fall evening in Philadelphia after a long weekend away. Along with fresh bread and butter, we indulged in this hearty stew, which is sure to please anyone who enjoys chili and a bit of spice.

Corn and Kielbasa Chili


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Dash crushed red pepper

1 medium onion
, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
Sea salt Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves
, grated
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika

Pinch of cayenne

2 large ears of corn, corn removed from cob
*Hold corn on its end and gently use a knife to scrape off all corn kernels.
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups beef stock or broth

2 cups chicken stock or broth

1 can RO*TEL (canned tomatoes and green chiles)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp liquid smoke
4 shakes of Cholula hot sauce or Tabasco

1/2 lb Kielbasa or Chorizo
*If sausage is not cooked, then simply place in stew once all other ingredients are in the pot and allow to cook all the way through. Remove from stew and let is rest for a 3 minutes. Peel away casing and dice up the sausage. Return the chopped sausage to the stew to continue cooking. If you use cooked or smoked sausage, then simply chop sausage and add to the soup at the same time as the corn.


1. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil at the bottom of a large pot over medium heat. Add a dash of crushed red pepper and allow to heat through for 30 seconds.

2. Add onions, red pepper, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Mix well and cook for another two minutes.

4. Place corn and tomato paste into the pot. Stir well and cook for 3 minutes.

5. Next, add all liquids to the pot (beef and chicken broth, RO*TEL, red wine vinegar, liquid smoke and hot sauce). Mix the stew together well. Cover with lid and simmer on low for 5 minutes.

6. Add uncooked sausage link and continue to simmer with the lid on until sausage is firm and cooked through, approximately 12 minutes.

7. Remove sausage from pot and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Remove the casing and chop the Kielbasa. Place the chopped Kielbasa back in the stew. Continue simmering on low for 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy this Corn and Kielbasa Chili on a cool, crisp fall evening. Serve with crusty bread or cornbread and butter. Go vegetarian by omitting the sausage and using a vegetable based stock or broth and extra veggies. Chorizo, shredded chicken or smoked sausage would be excellent substitutes for Kielbasa. For seafood lovers, replace the sausage with jumbo shrimp and mussels toward the end of the cooking time. No matter how you do it, you will love the warmth and spice that this dish will bring you and your family.


Po Po Restaurant

During a recent visit to Boerne, TX, the home of my parents who relocated from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina as well as the home of my sister and her family, I was introduced to a Texas classic family restaurant, Po Po Restaurant. Every time my husband and I visit, my family says we should to Po Po's, as they call it. Often on the phone with one of my Texas-residing family members, I hear, "we just got back from another great dinner at Po Po's". Then they will say, "you've been there, right?" Again and again I had to remind them that they had not ever taken us to Po Po's, so finally on this trip we had our special evening at this historic place.

In 1929, this structure was originally built as a dance hall, called the Nelson Dance Hall after the owner Edwin Nelson, a rancher and dairyman. During those days this establishment provided cheap burgers, moonshine during the Prohibition and a place for folks to dance and be entertained even during the Great Depression. During such hard economic times, people hardly had enough money for gasoline to get anywhere let alone to cut loose at the Nelson Dance Hall. Eventually Nelson sold the property in 1932 to Ned Houston, a rancher and exporter to locations such as Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic. Houston decided to make Nelson Dance Hall into a restaurant. Wanting a memorable and simple name, he named his restaurant Po Po after the Mexican volcano called Popocatepetl. Houston's name choice has certainly withstood the test of time.

In 1934, Houston sold Po Po's and the restaurant had various owners until 1950 when Luther and Marie Burgon bought the place. This is when Po Po's truly became a family establishment where prominent families would come to dine. The Burgon's, a well-traveled family, decorated their restaurant with plates collected from every new place they visited. Po Po Restaurant currently has over 2,000 plates displayed on its walls. Current owners, Sam Bounias and Mark Admire, plan to continue the traditions of Po Po Restaurant in the Texas Hill Country.

Located in Boerne, Texas, approximately 30 miles from the San Antonio area, Po Po Restaurant stands proud serving customers authentic Southern cuisine from chicken fried steak to a dynamite seafood platter. Po Po's is not a place for dieting, cares or worries; this is a place to sit back and enjoy the laid back atmosphere while enjoying comfort food with family and friends. That is just what my husband and I did during our Po Po's visit with my parents and sister.

On a hot, bone-dry summer evening followed by a day spent at the pool, we relaxed with cocktails while reading over this traditional Southern menu. Being from New Orleans, we were all very comfortable and delighted with all of our meal options. While getting into the basket of Captain's Wafers crackers, a staple at Southern spots and seafood restaurants alike, I spotted okra on the menu immediately and ordered Fried Okra for the table. My mom ordered her favorite-Chicken Livers or Gizzards w' Gravy. With these two items on the table along with a few house salads to make us feel better about the fried food, we indulged and enjoyed good conversation. Getting slightly stuffed already, we prepared ourselves for what was to come. On its way to our table was a Seafood Platter-Jumbo Shrimp, Boiled Shrimp, Fried Oysters and a Catfish Fillet, a Chopped Steak with Grilled Mushrooms, French Fries and Gravy, Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy and, finally, a plate of Homemade Biscuits.

We had our work cut out for us but truly had a memorable meal. Po Po's frying techniques come from 1950's owner, "Ma" Burgon's original, award-winning recipes. Menu options at this spot are endless starting with Po Po's Famous Fried Chicken menu with a side note that says, "1987 winner, San Antonio Restaurant Assocation's Taste's of the Town-Best America Taste. Ma Burgon's Original Recipe! Fried the way Ma Burgon taught us". Po Po's continues to please with items like hamburgers, ribs, turkey, and a full steak and seafood menu. Dessert at Po Po's does not disappoint with Homemade Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, Popocatepetl Special Dessert-homemade chocolate brownie with pecans topped with Blue Bell Ice Cream, Chocolate Topping, Whipped Cream and a Cherry, and Home Baked Cobbler-Blackberry or Peach.

Spend a day in the Texas Hill Country and end it with a satisfying, comforting meal at Po Po's. Do not miss Po Po's welcome sign out front, which reads:

"WE ARE NOT FAST! We try hard to be good, cheerful and courteous, but, we are not fast! For fast go to New York. Here we are South of the 'Tension Line' --- So relax. Take time to smell the flowers and give us the time to prepare your order with tender loving care."

Po Po Restaurant
829 FM 289

Boerne, TX 78006



Cheesy Chicken Chorizo and Potato Stuffed Peppers

As summer sadly comes to an end, we are also facing the end of our vegetable farm-share. After a full summer of delicious recipes inspired by the fresh vegetables from the local farm, there are many that I must share. My favorite creation this summer was by far the Cheesy Chicken Chorizo and Potato Stuffed Peppers. This recipe developed from an overabundance of both peppers and potatoes. Beautiful, dark green bell peppers were just sitting in the fridge drawer with no purpose until I hit a chicken sausage sale at Whole Foods. I like to stock up on a variety of chicken sausages. I find that one large link is the perfect portion for my husband and I to have for a dinner with veggies and rice or pasta. Examining the contents of my fridge and freezer, I eyed up the chicken chorizo I had bought along with the peppers and thought this combination could be a match made in heaven. With the surplus of Yukon gold potatoes and red potatoes, I added those in the mix.

The recipe was very organic, meaning completely unplanned (as well as the other kind of organic). Not knowing exactly how to incorporate the potatoes, I began with dicing one large Yukon gold into small chunks and then boiling the diced potato pieces for just a couple of minutes. After caramelizing Vidalia onion slices, I added the chicken chorizo to the saute pan. I decided to throw the diced potatoes in the pan as well. As the onions, chorizo and potatoes cooked together, a hash formed, which turned out to be the perfect consistency for a stuffing. With a punch from some chili powder, cumin and cilantro and the satisfying creaminess of cheddar cheese, this hash was stuffed into each bell pepper.


1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Dash crushed red pepper
1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, grated
1 link Chorizo sausage-chicken or pork, removed from casing (Half link per person)
1 large Yukon gold potato, diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Juice of half of a lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 large green bell pepper, cut in half and seeded (Half large bell pepper per person)


1. On a preheated grill, place the bell pepper halves face up in a glass or metal baking dish. Place dish in center of grill not directly over an open flame. Cook in closed grill for 10-15 minutes or until slightly tender.

2. While the pepper cooks, bring a pot of water to boil on the stove top. Once water boils, add a dash of salt and the diced potatoes. Boil potatoes for about 3-5 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

3. While the potatoes are boiling. On a stove top, heat 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium to low heat. Add a dash of crushed red pepper, diced onions, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix ingredients together well, cover pan and allow onions to caramelize for about 10 minutes.

4. In the saute pan, grate the garlic clove with a microplane and mix in well. Also, crumble the chicken Chorizo into the pan. Break up well and cook for about 5-7 minutes or until about done.

5. Add the diced boiled potatoes, chili powder, cumin and another pinch of salt and pepper into the Chorizo mixture. Cook on medium heat and stir frequently. Once potatoes start to break down and mixture turns into a hash, add the the lime, cilantro and half of the shredded cheese. Mix well.

6. Stuff the Chorizo and potato hash into each bell pepper. Return peppers to grill and cook for about 10 minutes. Top each pepper with the remaining shredded cheese. Cook for another 7-10 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Serve this beautiful dish with a vibrant green salad and corn on the cob or freshly baked corn bread. You will love the smokey flavor brought to this dish by utilizing the grill. Use this method of creating a potato hash with any ingredients you have on hand to create an amazing stuffed bell pepper. Try potato, ham and cheddar stuffed peppers or a "baked potato" stuffed pepper by using potato, bacon, chives and cheddar. I think I will try that one next. Enjoy!


Grilled Zucchini Boats

Of all the recipes I have tried during our summer membership with a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) or farm-share, my favorite is a fresh, tasty recipe for Grilled Zucchini Boats. I got the idea by flipping through one of my cooking magazines. With beautiful green zucchini, deep purple-red onion and red and yellow cherry tomatoes-all fresh from the farm, I was looking for something interesting to do with all of these items. The recipes I have seen for stuffed zucchini or zucchini boats are generally cooked in an oven. Temperatures were holding strong in the 90s in Philadelphia, which meant that it was not much cooler in our kitchen. Turning on the oven in our home is not an option in 90 plus degree heat, so I decided that the zucchini boats would have to be cooked outside on the grill.

For the filling, I simply sauteed the ingredients on low heat indoors and then filled the boats to be grilled outdoors. The result was undeniably delicious. What would normally be a tasty dish anyway turned into an even more flavor-packed creation by using the grill. The smokiness from the grill penetrated the entire dish creating a rich, intense flavor.
Grilled Zucchini Boats

2 medium green zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil Dash of crushed red pepper 1/4 cup red onion, diced 1 garlic clove, grated
Pulp or inside of zucchini 1/2 cup red and yellow grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp tomato sauce, prepared or homemade
4 basil leaves, slice in long, thin ribbons
Cooking spray 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella 1 oz. feta cheese crumbles


1. Remove the inside flesh of each zucchini half with a melon baller, scooping out little balls to create a cavity within the zucchini. Make sure the outer edge is at least a half inch thick, so it stands up to the heat of grill without falling apart. Dice the balls of zucchini.

2. Heat a drizzle (or 2 tbsp) of extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once heated through, add a dash of crushed red pepper and the diced onion. Saute the onion on low heat until slightly caramelized-about 7 minutes. Then add the zucchini and garlic. Mix well and continue to saute on low heat for another 7 minutes.

3. Add in the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes. Turn heat off and add the basil and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese (reserve the remaining for the topping).

4. With a spoon fill each zucchini boat with the filling. On a heated grill, place a large strip of aluminum foil coated with cooking spray on the grill. Place the zucchini boats on the foil, close the grill and cook on medium to low heat for 25 minutes or until tender. Adjust heat if the zucchini browns to quickly on the bottom.

5. Add 1/4 cup of the mozzarella and feta cheese crumbles on top of the zucchini boats. Continue cooking on low until the cheese is melted.

6. Serve with grilled chicken, a pesto pasta or a green summer salad with crusty Italian bread.

With the zucchini season at its height, pick up plenty of these as they will likely be priced low. Add this recipe to your summer repertoire!


Farm Share Organic Vegetables

Mid-May my husband and I joined our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with Wimer's Organics, a farm in Lancaster County just a couple of hours from our Philadelphia residence. We were so pleased with our first box of vegetables but it just keeps getting better and better.

Our second pick up included a bag of mixed greens, a huge bunch of kale, red leaf lettuce, radishes, broccoli, spring onions and a cucumber. During that week, it was so warm out that I would simply make a plate of crudite (raw vegetables) with a home made light ranch dip using sour cream. The radishes were so crisp, peppery and bright. I found a way to actually grill kale. I placed a large handful of already washed and roughly chopped kale in a tent of aluminum foil. After drizzling a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, I closed up the foil tent and put on the grill. The kale cooked down in the foil leaving a nice smoky flavor from the grill.

Our third pick-up of farm fresh veggies included collard greens, red butter lettuce, tons of long green onions, garlic scapes, a bunch of oregano and basil, sugar snap peas and green cabbage. Salads with the red butter lettuce were incredible. Not knowing what a garlic scape is or ever eating one, we were pleasantly surprised when we put these long thin green asparagus-like veggies on the grill with some extra virgin olive oil. The garlic scapes, which are what garlic bulbs grow from, have a mild garlic flavor enhanced by sauteing or grilling. Garlic scapes found their way in a few of our pesto pasta dishes in the last few weeks. Pestos have been blending up a storm in my kitchen with not only the huge bundle of basil from Wimer's Organics but also from my basil plant that is successfully growing outside my front door. The collard greens turned out perfectly after I referred to my own recipe, http://off-my-plate.blogspot.com/2009/09/collard-greens-from-garden-to-plate.html. This recipe brings together garlic, onion, mustard, extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar to make a quick and tasty version of collard greens. This time I simplified even more and skipped the pancetta.

Along with all of those vegetables, we received a dozen jumbo eggs-all of which were twins (two yolks in one egg). Our green cabbage is still going strong. I have mastered an easy slaw salad recipe. I shred the green cabbage with thinly sliced red and green onion tossed in a home made mustard vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made with a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a teaspoon of light sour cream mixed with a splash of red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. With a pinch of salt and pepper, I toss the slaw with the vinaigrette and refrigerate for an hour or two. This crisp and satisfying salad is a refreshing compliment to any meal.

Our latest delivery came from Wimer's last Wednesday. The vegetables continue to get more abundant and vibrant. Napa cabbage, green leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, two crowns of broccoli, a bundle of sage, a hefty green and yellow squash, and three large red tomatoes came with this week's delivery. We have already enjoyed the Swiss chard sauteed simply and topped with freshly grated Romano cheese. I am so excited to cook a variety of Asian-inspired meals with the Napa cabbage. Eating salads everyday for lunch truly has been a pleasure. I thought I may get tired of eating so many greens, but it is the opposite. When I ran out of greens for salad and ate a sandwich for lunch instead, I felt so full and tired. Eating a salad for lunch fills you with out weighing you down. I am ready for a beautiful salad today and all next week.

Stay tuned for more details on the CSA!


Oyster House

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine suggested that we go out to check out Oyster House, formerly known as the Sansom Street Oyster House. Ever since moving to Philadelphia, I always wanted to try this place. Being from New Orleans, an oyster house seemed like it would be the perfect fit. Recently, the Sansom Street Oyster House was bought back by its original owners, the Mink Family, who began their concept of the oyster house in 1976 after operating the original Philly oyster house, Kelly's on Mole Street since 1947. With much experience and a clear concept, the Sansom Street Oyster House successfully was operated by the Mink family up until 2000 but they are back! 10 years later, the Mink family, has created a fresh take on the classic oyster house offering classic seafood with a modern spin.

I was so excited on a mundane Tuesday to be heading out to dinner that evening with a great friend of mine, Holly, who also appreciates good food like I do. She kept reminding me that we needed to go on a Tuesday as there would be some kind of special. Not really knowing what the special would be, I agreed - after all, a night with a dinner special is better than no special at all. We exited from the cab in front of the chic, modern Oyster House. Upon walking through the entrance, I was hit with one of the most familiar smells, a smell that reminds me of childhood and my hometown. The smell of freshly boiled seafood brought me right back home to New Orleans. Literally this smell captured the feeling of a warm summer day in New Orleans sitting on the lawn at a picnic table covered in newspaper dismantling crawfish for hours with family. For me personally, I could not have had a better first impression of Oyster House. As we were seated, I noticed tables covered in newspaper with giant bowls of seafood and knew immediately that we had to order whatever that was.

Cool grey tones fill this chic restaurant with walls covered in collections of oyster dishes combined with a warmth from rustic dark wood tables. A large square bar sits practically in the center of this large open space. While examining the menu, I started with a dirty martini, which was so outstanding that I had another one before the night was finished. There was much discussion over whether or not to try the raw oysters. I, a New Orleans girl born and raised, had never tried a raw oyster. In fact it took me quite a while in life to try all kinds of seafood. It wasn't until I went to a tasting at Mother's Restaurant in New Orleans shortly after college that I had a fried oyster. Ever since then, fried oysters and oyster po'boys are first on my list when I return to my hometown. Before this evening at Oyster House, I had never tasted a raw oyster or a mussel. Needless to say, we ordered the raw oysters. With a tinge of cocktail sauce and squeeze of lemon juice, these salty and fresh oysters were incredibly refreshing and tasty. I couldn't believe what all the fuss was about. What was behind the big fear of eating raw oysters? With the good advice from my friend to actually bite into the oyster and not try to shoot it, I found this little pearl from the ocean to be quite outstanding and I am ready for more.

After the adventurous raw oyster app, we moved on to a sampler of roasted oysters which included "Oysters Rockefeller-spinach, pernod, herb butter", "Oysters Marrakesh-preserved lemon and ginger breadcrumbs", and "Oysters Toscana-garlic parsley butter, lardo". The tastiest by far were the "Oysters Marrakesh"- something about the crispy ginger bite on top of the roasted oyster made for an unforgettable dish. The Toscana was also incredibly delicious with its garlicky, savory parsley butter. The "Oysters Rockefeller" were slightly disappointing as this was a dish that I have enjoyed many a time at Antoine's in New Orleans - nothing compares.

Next came the main course, the "Dump", the Tuesday night dinner special for two. Our table got covered up with newspaper (unfortunately not the Times Picayune). I guess the New York Times did the trick. In a giant heavy duty bowl the waitress dumped a large boiled portion of oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, crab, kielbasa and potatoes. We ripped through this bowl in no time. Every bite was phenomenal with the perfect balance of spice. The mussels turned out to be my favorite while the oysters and shrimp came in at a close second. I would recommend the "Dump" dinner to anyone. The other menu items look out of this world as well. Next time, I must try one of the "Small Plates" like the "Southern Fried Oysters with chicken salad" or perhaps the "Sauteed Mussels-roasted fennel, leeks and garlic, tarragon". For the "Large Plates", on the top of my list are "Sauteed Soft Shell Crabs-warm fregola salad, arugula, spring onions, romesco", "Lobster Roll-New England style with hand cut fries" and "Seared Scallops-smashed sunchokes, English peas and shoots, roasted lemon". For the meat eaters out there, you can sample the "OH Burger-grass fed beef, blue cheese, fried oyster, grilled onions with hand cut fries".

Oyster House does not only offer dinner but also lunch, midday and brunch menus. For brunch, I am highly intrigued by "Oyster Scrapple - 2 sunny side eggs, horseradish creme fraiche, cocktail sauce" and of course "Shrimp and Grits - poached eggs, spicy shrimp sauce". Oyster House does serve dessert as well but if you are still hungry, then I suggest eating more oysters! When my New Orleans family and friends are in town, we are definitely making a stop at Oyster House but I look forward to another "Dump" night even sooner.

Oyster House
1516 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Monday - Saturday
11:30am - 11pm



CSA Week One

After much consideration, my husband and I joined a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) or farm-share program. We decided to join up with Wimer's Organics, a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. With a pick up location a block from our home in Philadelphia, this process could not be any easier. Opting for the bi-weekly egg and vegetable share, we had our first pick up last Wednesday. Although the initial cost seemed like a lot, once you have to do the math you realize that you are really just paying up front for items that you probably will purchase anyway. The main difference is that we know where our produce is grown; and that is at Wimer's Organics, a certified organic farm just a couple of hours from our front door. It gives you comfort in knowing that you are not buying lettuce from Mexico or spinach from California that has to be shipped across the country before it even gets to a store near you-how fresh can that be? And how much gas has to get guzzled for me to eat my tomatoes that are not in season?

These are the questions we asked ourselves when making the decision to buy local. Convenience also plays a huge role in our busy lives, which is why joining this CSA is the perfect solution. Sure, there are items in my pantry that are made in other states-certain canned foods, pastas, etc. but buying a larger portion that is local is the ultimate goal. Our farm sends weekly newsletters to its members describing what is happening on the farm. Wimer's keeps us posted on how the weather affects growth and cultivation on the farm what to expect in our boxes (each pick-up location is slightly different). After our newsletter, we were super excited for our first pick-up.

After work, we took a stroll to the pick-up location, which is literally a block and a half from our front door. We walked into a condominium building into a large lobby area. Looking confused, the lady behind the desk asked if we were there for our CSA pick-up. This friendly woman explained that she offered to host at this location for our neighborhood-she was just as excited about it as we were. She showed us to a kitchenette, where we immediately saw the CSA boxes lined on the counter and ice chests filled with farm-fresh yogurt and eggs. She gave us the giant bag inside of the box filled with our vegetables and a carton of eggs from the ice chest. We carried our items home quickly. On the table at home, we laid out each vegetable from the bag to check out our treasures from the farm. We found one giant head of Romaine lettuce, one large sealed plastic bag of spinach leaves, one colorful bunch of rainbow chard, one bunch of spring onions measuring at about 18 inches in length, four bulbs of bok choy, and seven sweet potatoes.

Immediately, we were concerned that we would never be able to eat all of these veggies before they wilt up but so far, so good. It has been four days and we have already indulged in our veggie supply for a multitude of meals and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast, the farm-fresh eggs and wilted spinach make for the perfect protein and vitamin combo to start the day. At lunch, salads are key. Not only do I utilize all of the fresh tender greens but also create light nutritional fare to enjoy during the day. A salad is the perfect dish for lunch-satisfying enough to get through the day but it will not weigh you down or make you tired. Dinnertime brings fresh, healthful recipes, when I can bring together hearty greens and rich proteins for a filling meal.

There are so many options when it comes to greens. You really can use them in any meal or recipe. Check out the creations I have made so far with this week's vegetable share from Wimer's Farm.

Breakfast: Wilted Spinach and Eggs

2 eggs, cooked sunny side up
1 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
Cooking spray
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of garlic powder


1. Cook eggs sunny side up in heated saute pan coated with cooking spray. Once egg is in pan, season with salt and pepper and bring heat to the lowest setting possible. Cover the pan with lid and continue to cook eggs until they are firm on top.

2. When eggs are finished, move to serving plate. Next fill warm pan with spinach. Season with salt, pepper and pinch of garlic powder. With tongs gently move the spinach around the pan until wilted. Top eggs with spinach and enjoy this delicious and healthy breakfast.

Lunch: Rainbow Chard and Greens with Mustard Lemon Vinaigrette

1 cup rainbow chard, chopped and washed
1 cup green lettuce, chopped and washed
1/2 spring onion, diced
1 hard boiled egg, chopped

Mustard Vinaigrette:

1 tsp dark mustard
1 tbsp light sour cream
Lemon juice of half of a small lemon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of dill
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


1. Mix all ingredients (except for olive oil) well until thoroughly incorporated.

2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and whisk at the same time until dressing comes together.

3. Toss salad ingredients with dressing. Serve with pita chips.

Dinner: Pepper and Onion Sausage with Tomato and Chard

Extra virgin olive oil
Crushed red pepper
1 large sausage link (Use any kind of sausage that you like of the Italian variety. Turkey and chicken sausage will work well in this dish. Use 1 link per 2 people.)
1/2 large onion sliced thin
1 spring onion (green onion), diced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
Splash of red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp oregano
3 cups rainbow chard, largely chopped
Freshly grated Romano cheese


1. In a large pan, heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add a dash of crushed red pepper and sliced onions. Saute on medium heat for 3 minutes. Then add sausage and cover. Allow sausage to cook for 5-7 minutes, turning at least once. After the sausage is browned, remove from pan to cutting board to rest.

2. With onions still cooking on medium to low heat, add the tomatoes, spring onions, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and vinegar. Stir well and continue to cook on low covered for about 10 minutes.

3. Once sausage has rested, slice in thin discs and put back in pan with tomato mixture. Continue cooking with sausage for another 7 minutes.

4. Add in the rainbow chard. With tongs incorporate the chard into the dish until slightly wilted.

5. Serve piping hot and top generously with grated Romano cheese. Enjoy with garlic bread.

From these simple recipes you will realize just how easy it is to incorporate any kind of greens into your meals. I look forward to many more "green" meals with this week's supply from the farm. We still have a ways to go until it is all consumed. Next on the menu...bok choy and sweet potatoes along with many more salads.


John's Roast Pork

After living in Philadelphia for almost 9 years, it was not until last month that I experienced John's Roast Pork, a South Philadelphia staple for out-of-this-world cheese steaks and roast pork sandwiches. Ordering lunch at this hot spot is an experience in itself. To be a part of the ultimate Philadelphia experience, stand in line at John's Roast Pork and take it all in. In typical Philly style, the location is on a random corner across from a busy South Philadelphia shopping strip with a Target, Shop Rite, IHop and Marshall's on one side and a factory and railroad tracks on the other. One thing you don't realize as you drive up to this unassuming corner "lunch shack" is that this place was here well before any Target or IHop was even a thought. Since 1930, this family business has stood on this corner of Weccacoe and Snyder Avenue. You are lucky to get a nearby parking spot during peak hours but somehow I did. With my parents in town helping me prepare to move into a new home, we planned to fuel up at John's Roast Pork before hitting South Philly's Home Depot for our long list of household items.

On that one unseasonably warm day in February, when we all thought maybe winter was over, my mom claimed a table for us outside and basked in the sunshine and clear skies while my dad and I got in the line that extended about 15 feet outside the door. We were just in time because as soon as we got in line about 10 more people did. A John's employee came out with a long hoagie roll and handed it to the last guy in line. He said, "No more cheese steaks for anyone after this guy with the roll!" The folks that trickled into line after him were clearly disappointed. As we inched closer to the door, we could here orders being shouted out. My dad, a New Orleans man through and through, was ready to fearlessly holler our cheese steak order to these Philly guys.

Suspense was rising as we got inside the door. The line twisted up and around this small store. Walls are lined with "Best of Philly" awards as well as numerous newspaper and magazine clippings from over the years praising the goodness of John's Roast Pork all dirtied up by the grease in the air from the constant cooking of cheese steaks and sandwiches on the grill. Beverages, chips and Tastee Cakes also line the walls, designed so you can get your drinks and chips while waiting in line. The man in front of us shouted his order and then it was time; the spotlight turned toward us. The hard-working, red faced cook behind the counter looked us in the eye and yelled out, "Next for steaks!". That was our cue. I coached my dad a bit and he was ready. He embraced the moment and yelled out in this small space packed with locals in a no-nonsense voice with just a hint of his New Orleans accent, "Steak with PROVolone, fried onions!" He did it. Our big part was over and now it was all business. Up to the counter, our steak was just about ready and it was time to order the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and provolone. About 20 minutes after getting in line, the process was over; we paid in cash and headed back to the sunshine to indulge in these highly acclaimed Philadelphia specialties.

Even though this place is called John's Roast Pork, we were most impressed by their cheese steak. This was no surprise as this place has been known as "the home of the ultimate cheese steak". The steak is seasoned to perfection and topped with sweet fried onions and sharp provolone cheese, although any cheese would make this steak scream. The seeded roll adds a crisp nuttiness that finishes off this winning sandwich along with tiny dollops of hot cherry peppers with each bite for a kick. With this said, the pork sandwich still makes quite a statement. This business boasts homemade roasted pork made right in house with their commercial oven and their secret family recipe that has been used for generations. The succulent, moist pork soaks right into the roll complimented by the bitterness of broccoli rabe, the sweetness of roasted peppers and sharpness from the provolone cheese.

These two sandwiches are worth the trip to this corner in South Philly. But that's not all you can get from John's. If you work nearby, then stop on by for a divine breakfast sandwich that will keep you running all day. Any kind of egg sandwich that you can think of is served here started as early as 6:45am Monday through Friday. Tough day ahead, then maybe try the Italian Sausage and Eggs or Steak and Eggs sandwich on a long roll. For lunch, any kind of hoagie or steak sandwich is available...Cheese Steak, Pizza Steak, Bacon Cheese Steak, Mushroom Cheese Steak, Steak Milano, Chicken Steak, Chicken Steak Italiano, and Bruschetta Cheese Steak. And that's just the steaks!

This place cooks and serves bright and early Monday through Friday and ends the day at 3:00pm. Don't expect to get a cheese steak close to 3pm-be sure to arrive early if you want one of these. Stop by John's Roast Pork to experience the "ultimate cheese steak" and a roast pork recipe also known as "Pop Pop's Recipe" that has been going strong since 1930. You know its good if Pop Pop made it!

John's Roast Pork
14 East Snyder Avenue - South Philadelphia
Across from Snyder Plaza
Philadelphia, PA

Amazing Tuna Avocado Salad for 2

Check out this awesome recipe from my talented sister, Christina. She posted this one on her blog, which features her beautiful photography, paintings and designs.

Check out this link to view her recipe for Amazing Tuna Avocado Salad for 2.


This is the kind of recipe that turns an average lunch or dinner into something that you would order in a restaurant. I know it will taste delicious but it is also a feast for the eyes. Presentation is key in making a simple meal extraordinary. This is also a great way of combining and showcasing healthful ingredients. She combines the lean protein of albacore tuna, vitamin-packed greens and cherry tomatoes and the healthful fat of avocado to create a filling and satisfying meal.

Thanks Christina for making a beautiful recipe. Also check out her beautiful art and designs at http://rsvp-ink.blogspot.com/.


Roasted Fennel with Romano Cheese

After months of preparing, renovating and moving into a new home, it is finally time for me to cook and enjoy my new kitchen. Coming from our old apartment with one of the smallest kitchens ever, I am now in heaven in this open, rehabbed kitchen space. The small, old kitchen never stopped me from cooking though. I made the space work using a little butcher block for all food prepping needs and learned the idiosyncrasies of the 1970s oven and stove. Even years of hunching over the low, porcelain sink hand-washing dishes did not seem too bad, that is, until I cooked for the first time in our new kitchen. New cabinetry, all new stainless steel appliances including a dishwasher and a beautiful, deep stainless steel sink with a garbage disposal. This may seem normal to most but after living with out these little perks for so long, you really get thrilled over a working garbage disposal.

The first few nights of cooking I kept things basic with meals like spaghetti and meatballs, quesadillas and ham and macaroni and cheese. Actually, those are the only three meals I have cooked so far. I am ready to start experimenting and really see what I can create with the help of this new kitchen. The most recent recipe that I made was one of my favorite vegetable dishes, roasted fennel. Roasting fennel mellows out the bold anise flavor and brings out a divine, nutty sweetness. Roasted fennel can be delicious all by itself with a sprinkle of fresh Romano cheese. Pile the roasted fennel on a flat bread with fresh spinach leaves and melted mozzarella cheese to create a full meal. Take your favorite pasta and toss it with the roasted fennel, Romano cheese and crushed red pepper for a flavorful, spicy dish. Try it in a green salad with chopped olives, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

Roasted Fennel with Romano Cheese

1-2 Fennel Bulbs (sliced thin)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Prepare the fennel bulb by slicing off the long stalks of the fennel and leaving just the bulb. Cut off the very bottom of the bulb, then slice in half. In the middle of the bulb, you will see a core. Carefully cut into the bulb diagonally to remove the core. Slice the fennel into long, thin pieces and rinse well in a colander.

3. Once dry, place the fennel on a large baking sheet. Drizzle the fennel with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. With tongs mix the ingredients thoroughly, so all fennel has a nice coat of oil and seasoning.

4. Roast in middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, use tongs to redistribute the fennel, so all pieces are cooked evenly.

5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with freshly grated Romano cheese.

Enjoy this easy and elegant vegetable dish all by itself or add it to a salad, pizza or pasta for a fabulous addition to any meal. More recipes to come from the new kitchen.


The Bishop's Collar

The Bishop's Collar or just The Collar is a place I have come to know well in my 8 years living in Philadelphia. In my first years of living in Philly, it was the fun place to go out with a group, meet people and watch football. Over the years, it has become more of a place to dine for a casual lunch or dinner. No matter how many times I go to The Collar, I can always count on a good meal and a great beer selection. Located on the corner of Fairmount Avenue and 24th Street in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, Bishop's Collar has been a staple in the neighborhood since 1999. The name comes from an old Celtic phrase for a pint of Guinness poured to perfection. Nothing beats a warm and sunny spring day enjoying a leisurely lunch at one of The Collar's many outdoor tables.

To the outsider, Bishop's Collar may appear to be like any other corner bar but they would be wrong. What makes this place stand out from all the other corner bars is its menu. The Collar's menu is a spin on the classic pub fare. This menu combines satisfying standards like the classic burger, crab cakes, old bay fries, and wings with quirky comforting additions such as meatloaf, hot turkey with stuffing and cranberry and beef stew. Items like hummus and pita, chicken spring rolls, and chipotle chicken fingers add an eclectic international touch. Other Collar specialties include their flank steak sandwich with provolone, burger wrap with ranch, tomato and mixed greens and my favorite, the veggie quesadilla.

The veggie quesadilla never disappoints. For the last few years, every time I visit Bishop's Collar I must have the veggie quesadilla. I know that many other menu items are tasty and satisfying but I just can't veer away from the consistently delicious veggie quesadilla. This appetizer on the menu (hefty enough for an entree), is comprised of two large white flour tortillas stuffed with a generous mix of vegetables including roasted red pepper, fresh spinach, onion, tomato and meaty portobello mushrooms combined with oozing melted cheese. Finished off on the grill for a slight crisp around the edges, the quesadilla masterpiece is topped with the Collar's signature fruit salsa. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and melons are diced fine and perhaps macerated in vinegar, a squeeze of lemon or lime and a touch of salt to create a sweet, fresh touch on this hearty, savory dish. Along with generous dollops of sour cream and guacamole, the veggie quesadilla is the highlight for me at this Fairmount establishment.

Whether it is the veggie quesadilla or the burger wrap, you too will find your own favorite menu item at the Bishop's Collar. This cozy corner bar is perfect in all seasons. The deep red walls and the dark wood bar along with the old church pews used for seating along the walls exude warmth even on the coldest of days in Philadelphia while the many windows and outdoor seating make this spot perfect for warm weather. Forty-five more days until spring, when all the bitterness of icy snow melt, dirty snow mounds, and pale skin ends, I plan to basque in the warm sunshine at a sidewalk table at Bishop's Collar with a plate full of Veggie Quesadillas and a cold Hefeweisen or an Allagash White or a Bloody Mary-I can't decide.

Bishop's Collar
2349 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130-2515
(215) 765-1616


It has been 2 months to date since I have published a blog entry. Each and every single one of those days I thought about writing; I wished I were writing; I craved the moment where I would have the freedom to focus and write. The same goes for cooking. Sometimes in life, priorities shift and in the last couple of months my priorities were set on my job and the renovation of my new home. But too much time has past and I know deep down that I need to be writing and cooking because those two things are a part of who I am. Without further ado, I apologize to my followers, friends, family and myself for not making the time to write. I apologize to all the food that has not been written about and all of the recipes that were not prepared. You deserve better! And I will do my best to write and cook as much as I possibly can.

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