a little bit of the grill

The ingredients in the fridge were perfect for grilling, and so I decided to make a meal of it for the family.

First, I made Persian kabob kubideh and rice. People seem to think that kabob is so difficult, but it really isn’t.

For the vegetables, I decided to get a little creative. I sliced some tomatoes in half and placed them on the grill. I also peeled, sliced, and washed some eggplant, also placing them on the grill. I basted both with melted butter.

As soon as the vegetables were cooked (making sure to turn them over), I placed slices of mozzarella cheese on top. On the tomatoes I placed some leaves of fresh basil, and on the eggplant I put some garlic and fresh cilantro. As soon as the cheese was melted, I took the vegetables off the grill.

And yes, it was delicious.

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Okra?!

It is that odd little vegetable that most people don’t seem to know what to do with. In the southeastern United States, we put it in gumbo or breaded and fried. As a kid, I loved going to restaurants in South Carolina or Georgia, where I would pile my plate high with fried okra and mashed potatoes. In Persian cuisine, it is cooked in a stew of beef, tomatoes, potatoes, and onion. This is probably one of the most simple dishes to make, and I make it often.

Some people don’t like the consistency of okra…well, not much I can do about that! I try not to overcook the okra (I put it in at the very end), so it isn’t quite so slimy. Here is my recipe for khoresht-e bamieh. It serves about5 people, since I really only know how to cook for a family.

1 onion, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small can tomato paste (several tablespoons)
1 pound cubed beef
1 package of frozen okra, or 1/2 pound fresh okra
salt, pepper
1 teaspoon tumeric

If you have a slow cooker, just throw all of the ingredients in except for the okra, let it cook overnight, and then put the okra in for the last hour. If not, it takes a few more steps:

Fry onions, meat, and spices on low heat with a little bit of oil and water for about 40 minutes, until browned. In a separate pot, boil the potatoes at the same time. Combine all ingredients in pot and cook for another hour.

Eat as a stew by itself, or over rice.

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A dinner of epic proportions

Last night our friend Daniel B. invited me, my flatmate Sahar, and a few other friends to a dinner at his new apartment to celebrate his move from our building. We arrived at 6 pm and started helping prepare the food. We tried turning on the stove to start frying veggies…

and it wouldn’t light. No gas was coming out.

Sahar and I trooped around to the back of the building to see if the gas balloon had run out. As we turned the corner, we encountered a large dog chained on the hill above us. After consultation we decided to walk past him calmly and ignore the barking.

As I checked each of the gas ballons, Sahar chatted with the dog. It was impossible to tell which one was for Daniel’s apartment. We threw up our hands in despair and went back inside. Daniel called a few other Baha’is on that street and Adam C. kindly offered his stove. Sahar and Jayce took some of the food over to start the process.

As Daniel and I were preparing the rest of the food, the fuse blew. Twice. We couldn’t find the fuse box at first, finally locating it in the hallway outside his door.

Sahar called when she got to Adam’s house. “Um…the stove here isn’t working, the guys are trying to figure it out.” I started laughing. They eventually got it lit (someone had turned off their gas line!) and we ate dinner at 9 pm.

It was a wonderful adventure, and we ate a ridiculous amount of food when it was all over.

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Experiments in the kitchen!

Recently I’ve been trying to expand my repertoire of dishes. Last night I made Sholeh zard for the first time (literal translation: yellow flame), which is basically saffron rice pudding. It is usually made in remembrance of the dead, but honestly it is one of my favorite Persian dishes. I had a bunch of friends try it and I got pretty decent reviews…and it is pretty easy to make.

For dinner I was at a friend’s house after work, so I had a limited number of ingredients. I scrounged around (having brought slices of turkey lunchmeat and a red pepper), and this is what I came up with! Adjust amount according to how many people you are serving.

Ingredients:
olive oil
red pepper (also known as Capsicum), sliced into thin strips
mushrooms, sliced
onion, diced
garlic, diced
pinch of basil
salt
pepper
cheese (I used Laughing Cow wedges)
turkey slices (or bread)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Fry the olive oil, garlic, onion, and red pepper in a pan until the onion starts to turn clear. Add the mushrooms, basil, salt, pepper. At the very end, add the cheese on top and let it melt slightly (not too much).

I wrapped the finished mixture in turkey slices to eat since I can’t eat bread, but you can experiment and see what you like to do.

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Potato Soup

so there are helicopters fluttering in my soul
unimpressed with this current state of mind.
retreat, retreat!
the horns blow,
and I know that the spaces after words are
settled in their designated places.

——————————————

I invested in a slow cooker in order to be more efficient in my cooking endeavors (as well as a kitchen timer to avoid burning food, especially when I bake). The other day I adapted a potato soup recipe that I found online, and it turned out very well. I thought I would share it here. It is very rich, so if you want to substitute things, feel free to play around with it.

Ingredients:
3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can of white beans, drained
2 bunches of spring onions, diced
1 pint heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour (I used bean flour to make it gluten-free)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Put all ingredients in the slow cooker at once, adding about 1-2 cups of water, and stir. You can use whatever setting you want, I used the slower setting and let it cook all night (about 12 hours). Check on it occasionally at the beginning you will want to check on it, stirring it to make sure the ingredients mix together.

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Things I am discovering

– Red, yellow, & green peppers aren’t quite as bad as I thought. For as long as I can remember I have picked them out of dishes and avoided them. The other night I made chicken fajitas for a party and realized that I actually DO like them.

Labneh is my new addiction…since I can’t eat pita bread, I usually eat it with corn chips. YUM.

– I know how to make Maki-zushi now. Funny that I had to come to Israel to finally learn. I miss Cafe J.K. Sweet (the rather odd restaurant we used to frequent back home), but now that I can make my own california rolls I’ll just be sure to stock my fridge with ice cream for that wonderful J.K. Sweet experience.

-Speaking of ice cream, unless you manage to get ahold of some Ben & Jerry’s or gelato, the major brand here just isn’t very satisfying…it melts rather quickly and has an odd consistency. Ah well.

– I love my flatmates.

In conclusion, I realize that this entry is mostly about food (during the Fast!). I am ok with that.

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I know, I’m crazy.

One thing they don’t tell you about Haifa is its lack of good Mexican food. You can find decent Thai food, which is a relief.

But after having lived near Pilsen and the amazing little taquerias that are scattered around Chicago, it is nearly heartbreaking to realize that you can barely find a restaurant that serves such delicious menu items that cause you to sweat grease for days. mmm.

My friends back home in the States (yeah, I call it “the States”. I also call my apartment “my flat” and am switching over to “flatmates” from “roomies”) think I’m crazy to be missing Taco Bell, but really I miss everything on the range from that to Nuevo Leon.

I actually don’t eat out much here. It is relaxing to cook at home, and I have so much more control over what I eat that way.

———
So I picked out my next book to read: Muhammad and the Course of Islam by Hasan Balyuzi.

Also, I still can’t believe this is where I work every day:

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How to make kabob…for real.

I am in Los Angeles right now (so warm!!!) but I’m posting some pictures from Minnesota last weekend. We grilled outside in 34 degree F weather. Now in LA it is going to be in the 70s.

The assembly line to make the kabob. We formed the ground beef onto flat skewers, propped it on the boards while we waited for the braziers to heat.

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Gastronomical delights…

First of all, let me point out that Culver’s Chocolate Raspberry custard is all kinds of delicious. Real raspberries. Oh my.

Again, thanks to the intrepid Adam L, we have…(drumroll please)

MEATCAKE!!

Yes, cake make out of meat, mashed potatoes, and ketchup. I am strongly tempted to make it, just to say I have.

Speaking of trying new things, I got a chance to sample some beef tongue at Nuevo Leon the other night after Feast (a group of us went out). It just tasted like overly tender beef, except that Myk kept saying things like, “You know the tastebuds are still on that.” and “I don’t eat anything that can taste me back.”

I go through snack addictions…make up something quick, live on it for a few weeks. My current obsession is:

++

sour cream
a few spoonfuls of salsa
black olives, sliced

Eaten with corn chips, of course. The sour cream is the base of the mix. mmm.

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Default snack

Gluten-free bread + Kraft singles + sliced onion + toasting = DELICIOUS

My current food obsession. Grilled cheese onion sandwiches, open face. Can you tell I’ve been lazy recently? 🙂 My sandwiches, however, don’t have any images burned onto them.

(For those of you who would like suggestions for gluten-free bread, I suggest the Rice Almond bread, and the Brown Rice one after that. Look under the “Gluten free” section of this website.)

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OVERHEARD IN MY OFFICE:

Office drone #1: Can I help you?
Office drone #2: I’m looking for the matrix.

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Amaranth & Quinoa

I found this article on CNN about the growing demand for amaranth and quinoa, as well as other alternatives to wheat.

“One reason for the fledgling demand is a growing awareness of celiac disease, which is triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat.”

My frustration with trying to find alternatives to bread substances is that it can get very expensive. The American market is not yet at the point where obtaining gluten-free meals is inexpensive. If I want to eat a quick meal, I am often reduced to salad (and I’m am completely sick of salad).

I don’t mind when people forget I can’t eat bread/pasta/pizza/etc, but it is frustrating when I try to take responsibility for my food and it STILL has allergens in it. Although the recent requirements to list common allergens helps, I am still very limited in my food options at times.

Sometimes I slip up and eat a cookie, or a piece of cake. I don’t have an life-threatening allergic reaction, so it can be difficult to resist when a piece of pie is calling my name.

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Whoosh!

Whipped up rice pasta and green beans in a homemade garlic butter cream sauce for dinner. Made up the recipe as I went.

whoosh!

Made gluten-free brownies from scratch.

whoosh!

Cleaned out the fridge & microwave.

whoosh!

Ran to the grocery store for a friend.

———–
Even though I still have a pile of clean clothes to put away and I haven’t everything on my to-do list done…I still feel productive and happy. I spent the evening by myself, and away from my computer (except for the few minutes I am taking to write this).

I’ll explain the “whoosh” thing now. Every family has their own made-up words and funny stories…well, for us it means to clean in a frenetic and somewhat haphazard way. Used in a sentence:

“I whooshed the house so that when people came over it was pretty clean. I only had 15 minutes to do it!”

Does your family have made-up words or phrases that only make sense to you? Share!

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Crazy food!

My food habits are getting stranger. Part of it is influenced by work, of course.

Example of Monday’s “meals”:

1. Corn on the cob/beef/chicken/baked beans/can of Coke
2. Bag of chips
3. Veggies w/dip
4. Candy bar
5. Another can of Coke
6. Bowl of cereal with strawberries in it
7. Hot dog (no bun) with all of the toppings, and fries
8. Fresh strawberries dipped in yogurt

The caterers are wearing hard hats. I think maybe it is supposed to be cute/themed. Right…

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The Dilemma of Lunch

I contemplate my upcoming hour of lunch with trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my freedom and food. But it seems like it takes more planning than I really want to deal with these days.

Have I become more picky? Sure, I can’t eat the usual fare of burgers/pizza/sandwiches, and so I must find alternatives. The cafeteria at work, bless them, has good breakfasts but often has below-par lunches.



(my ideal lunch)

I used to be more critical of those who eat out on a regular basis. But my exhaustion and hunger when I get home from 9 hours at the office often prevents me from making a full meal from scratch. I have to scramble (haha, get it?) to even get a lunch together for the next day…and forget breakfast at home! Sleep is much more important.

I have sampled most of the restaurants in the 10 minute driving radius around my office. Thai, Mexican, Chinese buffet, the hot dog stand down the street from my house, Japanese, and Greek. I’ve also lived in the same 2 sq mile area for the last 5 years. The lady at the Thai restaurant asks about my family every time I go there, and the guys at the hot dog stand know that I like curly fries with cheese on top…and that I rarely order anything else.

I am organizing my recipes now, though, and am trying to jump back into cooking. I need a personal robot cook. And while I’m at it, can I have a pony and a castle?

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Shrimp & Pasta (Gluten-Free!)

Cheddar Cheese Sauce
INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon potato starch flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

PREPARATION:
Melt butter; remove from heat. Stir in flours and seasonings. Gradually add milk, stirring until well mixed. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Cook for 5 minutes longer; add cheese. Stir until smooth and well blended.
Makes 2 cups.

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Shrimp fried in butter!

INGREDIENTS:
4 tablespoons butter (oil if you’re trying to be healthy, but it isn’t the same!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon yellow curry
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
dash of ground ginger
chopped garlic (2 pieces)
chopped green onion

In a small bowl, combine the spices. Stir well. Melt butter, add garlic and onion. Fry for 30 seconds, then add shrimp (fresh or frozen). Add bowl of spices. Cook on low, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to over-cook the shrimp. A maximum of 10 minutes is really all that is necessary.

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Get brown rice pasta from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer’s

Serve cheese sauce over pasta, and you can either mix the shrimp in, or make it a completely different dish. I got rave reviews today from the family.

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mmm Pasta…

A recipe! Feel free to adjust as you wish. I made it up while contemplating the contents of my refrigerator, realizing that I was limited in my choices.

Ingredients:
1 clove fresh garlic
4 chopped green onions
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
1 large tomato
salt
pepper
dash of tumeric
olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Cook pasta until done, drain and set aside (I use brown rice spaghetti, which works very well if you’re on a gluten-free diet).

Put garlic, cilantro, and onions in a small food processor. If you don’t have a small processor, chop all ingredients very fine. Set aside. Dice tomato by hand.

Put some olive oil in a non-stick pan, warm up. Put green mixture in, fry 1 minute on medium. Put in salt, pepper, and tumeric. Add balsamic vinegar. Fry for 30 more seconds, then add tomato pieces. Fry just until tomato gets slightly cooked, then put on top of pasta!

Makes 2 servings.

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A tasty combination

Zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and onions, fried in some canola oil with salt, pepper, garlic. Simple, fast, healthy, yum. Serve over rice or as a side dish.

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The weather was so beyootiful today!! I was ecstatic, and celebrated by purchasing some summer clothing. Summer makes me very happy. I feel rejuvenated.

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Frozen dinners

Today I resorted to eating a frozen dinner. There were several reasons for this:
a) laziness
b) busy working on things and studying
c) laziness

Anyways, it was a Michelina’s Pepper Steak & Rice entree (although it really is more of a snack). I decided to check out the ingredient listing (which I really should have done before I purchased it, but oh well).

Over 35 ingredients. In that tiny little package.

Now, if you know me, you know that I love to cook, and I do it nearly every day. I have never, EVER needed more than 20 ingredients for a dish. Often I need only 10. It kind of blew my mind.

Also, even though it was a rice dish, it had wheat products in it (allergy, remember?), so that is no good. So much for quick and easy food! It looks like I’m going to spend a majority of my lifetime cooking.

Time for a poll: What is a dish that you love to eat but simply do not have the time, facilities, or skills to make?

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Cheese sauce

There are ways to make the food you love to eat, even if you have a gluten allergy. It isn’t very severe for me, as I can eat bread once in a while without problems. But I love being able to share the knowledge I’ve acquired with people who might need it.

I’ve modified my mother’s cheese sauce. It is really good, by the way. 🙂 You can usually buy the special flours at large grocery stores like Jewel.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon tapioca flour
1/2 tablespoon potato starch flour
4 oz shredded cheese (Any kind, depending on what flavor you want. I use cheddar.)
1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a deep non-stick saucepan, stir in the flours as it melts. Stir constantly until mixed, then pour milk in. Continue stirring, then when milk is hot, slowly add cheese. As you stir, the sauce will thicken. When the cheese is completely melted into the sauce, it should be ready. Remove from heat.

Tastes great over broccoli (or most steamed vegetables), or over rice.

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Emus and food

“And a third emu is currently on the loose.”NBC 10 pm news.

We’ve got some cooks in our neighborhood. Everyone contributed to make a wonderful meal the other night. (click to make it bigger)

Chicken w/garlic, lime, and something else, brown rice, beets, pasta with cream sauce, yellow acorn squash with brown sugar & butter, & zucchini & asparagus with ginger, garlic, and some other things I couldn’t identify. YUM.

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Coconut Chicken

Another creation!

Ingredients:
Chicken breast (cut into pieces)
onion (diced)
tomato (diced)
zucchini (sliced)
1/2 can coconut milk
salt
pepper

Fry chicken in a large wok or non-stick pan with onions, salt, and pepper. When chicken is fully cooked, add zucchini and tomato. Fry for a few minutes. Drain oil, then pour in coconut milk. Cook for a few more minutes. Eat over rice.

yum.

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Assorted nonsense

The prairie is now a nice light brown, dried up, fall color. And home is always changing…the construction out there has nearly reached a feverish pitch.

“Why I love the suburbs”
Reason #1: Wide open spaces & plenty of parking.
Reason #2: To go shopping, one does not have to drive all over the city to go to 3 stores. They’re all on one long street with 500 stores.
Reason #3: People are much better drivers, although there is an overabundance of SUVs and minivans (hey, I drive a van, and its great. I’m just saying…)

I made stir fry chicken in one pot, and tumeric/lemon/garlic chicken in another. Simmer on the stove for 1 1/2 hours each. yum.

One of my roommates asked me why I didn’t go to culinary school instead of business school. My first response: “I really don’t know.” But then I thought about it…and honestly, I cook for fun, and I cook for people I love. I have trouble learning a “certain way” of cooking…I just get frustrated. Also, with a business degree, I can open my own restaurant if I want.

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Partially Eaten Food

Goya Flan is the best stuff in the world. You can buy it at the local grocery store for about a dollar, boil 4 cups of milk, and voila! You’ve got flan. I’m such a flan…I mean, fan….obviously.

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(I ate that in about…5 minutes flat.)

I walked into the kitchen tonight and a large chicken said, “what up” from the counter. He was chillin by the stove. He said it was ok for me to take a picture, as long as he got 50% of the profits. He drives a hard bargain. The flan merely sniffed and rolled its eyes.

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Aww

Chewy the caterpillar died. He had formed a chrysalis, but then…death. We’re sad.

Luckily, our fish are still alive. Hmm…perhaps we need more pets?
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Neda and I were eating tacos for lunch at my house today, and she made a fun creation (with my help) that I thought I’d share.

Ingredients:
Ground beef with taco seasoning
shredded cheddar cheese
diced tomatoes
shredded lettuce
sour cream

Fry beef with taco seasoning. Sprinkle cheese over hot beef, then put tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream on top after the cheese has melted a bit.

yum…and so easy. Yeah, its basically nachos, but we mixed it all together and didn’t use chips. 🙂

Anyone out there have a favorite, easy recipe that doesn’t have bread, pasta, or flour in it that they would like to share? Please leave it in a comment, or email it to me. I am always looking for fun things to experiment with!

Also, my dinner two nights ago was heavenly: 2 eggs with cheddar melted on top, 3 slices of bacon, and tater tots. I was very full and happy after that meal!

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Orange Roughy

I have discovered that I really like Orange Roughy, a white fish. This discovery comes about as I am trying to clean out the fridge by eating everything (which makes for some very random meals), since I move out on Friday. I discovered some frozen food I didn’t even know I had.

To cook a frozen fillet, I did the following:

1) Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
2) Place fillet in a small baking pan or casserole dish
3) Squeeze lemon juice over it.
4) Sprinkle some paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (a very tiny bit of that!)
5) Put in oven for about 10 minutes, turning it over halfway through to cook a bit more.

Ta da! I enjoy eating it with broccoli and mashed potatoes, but side dishes are negotiable. 🙂

I am finding that this blog is turning into a place to put recipes that I discover. I’m cool with that. This is not its only function, but I’m enjoying sharing the things I make up.

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experiment with food

I looked into my (now empty) fridge, and realized that I had to cook this chicken breast. I decided to make something up. It turned out pretty well, I think!

Soy Sauce & Peanut Butter
Garlic, chopped finely
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon butter
a pinch of basil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons peanut butter (the smooth kind)
Sugar snap pea pods or something similar (1 small pkg)

make some rice to put it over.

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Saute garlic, then pour in soy sauce and peanut butter (you can heat the peanut butter a bit before in the microwave to make it easier to mix). Mix until blended on low, then pour in lemon juice. Stir, take off the heat immediately.

In a small pot, boil water, put pea pods in. Cook for 5 minutes, no more. Make sure they don’t get overcooked and soggy. Drain.

In a large pan, pour some vegetable oil, heat on medium. Put chicken slices in, cook for a few minutes. Pour sauce in, mix. Add 1 cup water, stir. Put top on, checking every few minutes and stir to mix everything together. Be careful that the peanut butter doesn’t burn. When the chicken is nearly done, put the pea pods in and cook on low for 10 minutes.

Eat over rice!

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Not having to cook

Just to illustrate exactly how much I don’t have to cook this week, I took a picture of my fridge. I love it when my mom cooks for me. She is the best cook EVER.

(click on it to make it bigger!)

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