Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Macaroni Salad with Bacon, Peas, and Creamy Dijon Dressing

July 7, 2011
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When the fabulous Lemmonex came to visit me for my birthday, we threw a deck party of epic proportions (okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but it was a darn good time).  She and I wowed all of our guests with homemade deliciousness, including this awesome pasta salad.  It had just enough bacon and creaminess to be really satisfying, but it also had plenty of veggies and herbs and other punchy flavors to keep it fun and healthy (well, healthier, anyway).  It was great on its own, but it was also good leftover with some grilled chicken on top.


  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 8 ounces uncooked large elbow macaroni
  • 2/3 cup fresh green peas
  • 2/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 2/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 lower-sodium bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

To prepare dressing, combine first 9 ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Cover and chill.

To prepare salad, cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add peas during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain. Combine pasta mixture, bell pepper, and next 4 ingredients (through rind) in a large bowl. Toss pasta mixture with half of dressing. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Toss salad with remaining dressing, and sprinkle with crumbled bacon; serve immediately.

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Garlic Puttanesca

April 6, 2011
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Unfortunately, our last Week in a Day dinner was our least favorite of the bunch – so much for going out with a bang!  This recipe had all of the makings of a successful pasta dinner, but it just seemed to fall flat.  The tomatoes and garlic smelled amazing while they were roasting, but once they were blended into the sauce, they lost their depth.  I thought that serving this dish last would allow all of the flavors to stew and mesh and intensify, but I think the opposite happened – so, maybe if you eat the sauce right away it will live up to its promise!  If someone tries that, please let me know how it turns out.

As far as the experiment as a whole, I was really pleased with the results.  I was able to spend more time with my hubby and critters while still putting satisfying, home-cooked meals on the table.  We didn’t eat out for the whole week.  We even wound up with leftovers (bolognese and lentil soup) in the freezer for a proverbial rainy day.  I will definitely continue to watch the show, and I hope she throws more menus out there that will work for our tastes.

  • 1 head garlic
  • 12 to 14 large Roma or plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked and chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup pitted oil-cured olives, loosely packed
  • 6 flat filets anchovies
  • 3 tablespoons drained Capote capers or stemmed caperberries
  • 1 small Fresno chile or Italian red cherry pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound penne or bucatini
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Arrange a cooling rack over a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet for easy clean up.  Cut the ends off the entire head garlic to expose all of the cloves. Season the garlic with a little salt, some black pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, then wrap in foil.  Cut the tomatoes in 1/2 and place in a bowl. Lightly dress the tomatoes by drizzling with extra-virgin olive oil. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and marjoram, and arrange on the baking sheet cut-side down. Bake the tomatoes 20 to 25 minutes, then flip the tomatoes, and roast 20 minutes more. Roast the garlic 45 to 50 minutes alongside the tomatoes.  Place about 2/3 of the tomatoes in a food processor. Coarsely chop the remainder of the tomatoes, and reserve. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin, and add to the food processor pulsing until smooth. Add the mixture to a Dutch oven and add the olives, anchovies, capers, and chile. Cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Transfer to a small container for a make-ahead meal and refrigerate, or transfer to a serving bowl. Store the chopped tomatoes separately, or add to the serving bowl.  To serve, bring water to a boil, salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente. Reheat the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce for 1 minute, to coat. Serve in shallow bowls with lots of parsley, and drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil.

Recipe: Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts

February 21, 2011
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Howdy, howdy!  I’ve missed you, bloglets.  Here is the 30-second update: we stopped playing Fantasy TCAS because I was kicking my hubby’s ass so badly (and relatedly, that Target challenge was el stupido), I’ve been to Winston-Salem and back TWICE over the past two weeks, and now we are in NYC for the long weekend (thanks, dead Presidents).

In an effort to get back in the swing of things, I figured I’d write up this recipe while looking at the snow fall over Manhattan.  This is a nice winter dish, since the warm pasta is so comforting and it’s relatively easy to find golden beets (they had them aplenty at my local Whole Foods, where I was accosted by another shopper who wanted to know what they were and what I was going to do with them).  Husband and I both wished there were more greens in the dish – like all greens, they cook down a ton – but otherwise we really enjoyed the meal.  You could make the dish with regular beets, but the end result will be very pink pasta.

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, quartered lengthwise through root end, sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bunches 2-inch-diameter golden beets with fresh healthy greens; beets peeled, each cut into 8 wedges, greens cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 12 ounces farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving

Heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil and onions to same skillet and sauté until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to sauté until onions are tender and browned, about 30 minutes longer. Add garlic and stir 2 minutes. Scatter beet greens over onions. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over; cover and cook until beet greens are tender, about 5 minutes.Meanwhile, cook beets in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beets to medium bowl. Return water to boil. Add pasta to beet cooking liquid and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Stir onion-greens mixture and beets into pasta. Add pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Divide pasta among shallow bowls. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve, passing additional cheese.

Recipe: Meatballs with Pappardelle

December 27, 2010

For my birthday, my dad stood in line at Williams-Sonoma so that he and my mother could present me with an autographed copy of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.  I literally squealed with joy when I opened it – look, isn’t it awesome???

The book is really gorgeous, and the recipes are all super enticing.  However, as I flipped through the pages, I realized that even though the dishes were more accessible than, say, the ones in the French Laundry cookbook, they were still pretty complex and detailed.  In other words, I probably wasn’t going to be making any quick weeknight meals out of Ad Hoc.

The next free weekend I had, I decided it was on like Donkey Kong.  I chose this recipe first because it didn’t require any unusual ingredients, and, well, I love pasta and meatballs.  It turned out that the most time-consuming part of the dish was the tomato sauce (which I will post separately) – the meatballs themselves were actually pretty straightforward and, dare I say, easy.

Easy as they were, these meatballs were fantastic.  The moistness and flavor were just right, thanks to the excellent mixture of meats (I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of veal, which I don’t normally love).  The cheesy center was just plain decadent – you really don’t NEED the mozzarella, since the meatballs are plenty rich on their own, but if you can say no to cheese, you have much more willpower than I do.

So, the first Thomas Keller experiment was a success – the dish was even a hit leftover, reheated in the microwave the next day.  Even though technically it was just “spaghetti and meatballs,” I was very proud of myself and couldn’t wait to try the next recipe on my list.

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces boneless beef sirloin
  • 12 ounces boneless beef chuck
  • 8 ounces boneless pork butt
  • 8 ounces boneless veal shoulder or top round
  • 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound pappardelle
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Heat the canola oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat.  Cook gently for about 20 minutes, to soften the vegetables without browning them.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next step: meat.  If you have a meat grinder, the cookbook has a great breakdown of how to set things up and run the meat through.  I have a grinder attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer, but I really just didn’t want the hassle of DIY grinding.  So, I had the butcher at Whole Foods grind everything for me fresh.  I know, I’m a cheater, but I’m relatively sure that Thomas Keller would have wanted me to enjoy SOME time with my husband that day.

In a bowl, combine the ground meat, onion and garlic, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of parsley, and the egg and mix gently to incorporate evenly.  Do not overwork the mixture.  To check the seasoning, put a small patty of the meat on a plate and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds, then taste and add more salt if desired.

Divide the mixture into 12 equal balls, using a scant 1/2 cup (4 ounces) for each.

Cut the cheese into 12 cubes, about 3/4 inch.  Shape the meatballs, stuffing a cube of cheese into the center of each one.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Put the meatballs on the cooling rack and bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through but still juicy.  Remove from the oven and let the meatballs rest on the rack for a few minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle; drain and put in a large bowl.  Toss with the melted butter, the remaining tablespoon of parsley, and the lemon juice.

TK’s Serving suggestion: Spoon the tomato sauce into a gratin dish or shallow serving dish.  Top with the meatballs and garnish with fried oregano.  Serve the pappardelle on the side.

Recipe: Rigatoni with Shrimp, Calamari, and Basil

October 25, 2010
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While I detox from my sister’s gluttonous wedding weekend and ponder tasty diet dinners, I want to share this recipe from the wayback machine.  I made this pasta dish a month or two ago, and it really hit the spot – it was hearty and satisfying, but the seafood and veggies kept it tasting fresh and light (well, light-er).

When I made this dish, I could not find calamari ANYWHERE (I can usually get it at a small local market, but they were all out when I visited), so I just doubled the shrimp.  And speaking of shrimp, my only issue with this recipe was the processing/blending of half of the seafood.  I don’t really understand the point – I mean, it certainly imparts great shrimpy flavor, but why can’t you just leave the little guys whole?  I will definitely omit that step next time – though, maybe the calamari would make the difference?

Oh, and anyone who poo-poos the idea of cheese and seafood together?  Well, let’s just say those people are no friends of mine.

  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, divided
  • 14 ounces cleaned calamari (bodies only; tentacles reserved for another use), divided
  • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 3 large)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese plus additional (for serving)
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

Place half of shrimp in medium bowl. Slice half of calamari crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide rings and place in small bowl.

Coarsely chop remaining shrimp and calamari; place in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until shrimp mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to another medium bowl.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 5 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and crushed red pepper; sauté until leeks are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add chopped shrimp mixture; stir until shrimp and calamari are just opaque, about 2 minutes. Add clam juice and peas; simmer until flavors blend, about 3 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside; cover to keep warm.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add reserved whole shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Add calamari rings to shrimp; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until just opaque, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add chopped shrimp and calamari sauce, 1/2 cup cheese, and 1/2 cup basil and toss to blend.

Divide pasta among 4 bowls. Top each serving with sautéed shrimp mixture; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil. Pass additional cheese separately and serve.

Recipe: Spaghetti with Sausage and Simple Tomato Sauce

May 27, 2010
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Sometimes, after a lousy crap-fest of a day, it is incredibly tempting to adopt the “eff it” mentality and order a pizza or get take-out.  I had one of those horrible, terrible, very bad, no good days about two weeks ago, but I (shockingly) remembered that there are quick and wholesome meals that can be made out of standard pantry ingredients.

This dish was cozy and comforting enough to chill me out, but it was also on the table in under 20 minutes.  It didn’t require any funky ingredients – aside from the basil, which I happened to have on hand because it looked particularly nice at the store, these are ingredients I try to stock regularly in my kitchen.

The resulting dinner was warm, flavorful, and satisfying.  I served it with a small green salad, and it was exactly what I needed to put things in perspective and gain a new lease on life.

  • 8  ounces  hot Italian turkey sausage links
  • 8  ounces  uncooked spaghetti
  • 1  (28-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 5  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  cup  torn fresh basil
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat broiler.  Arrange sausage on a small baking sheet. Broil sausage 5 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pan from oven (do not turn broiler off). Cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Broil sausage slices 2 minutes or until browned.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Place tomatoes in a food processor (I used a blender); process until almost smooth. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, and salt; cook 4 minutes or until slightly thick. Add sausage and cooked pasta to pan; toss well. Top with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Recipe: Pasta with Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Prosciutto

January 11, 2010
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Before flying home from DC last week, I hit up the local Borders for some foodie reading material.  I was heading for my usual picks (Bon Appetit and Food and Wine) when I saw an America’s Test Kitchen publication that promised nearly a hundred tasty meals (all printed on glossy detachable recipe cards) that could be prepared in 30 minutes or less.  I grabbed it and spent the entire flight clipping the cards and trying to decide which dish to prepare first.

I settled on this pasta dish, since it looked fresh and light (which was exactly what I needed after our gluttonous honeymoon) – I adapted it slightly, and it turned out beautifully.  The sweetness of the squash is tempered by the saltiness of the prosciutto, and vice versa.  There’s no real “sauce” to speak of, but the wine/stock and butter coat the pasta and give it some moisture and flavor (you can also reserve some pasta cooking liquid and add it if you feel that the dish is too dry).  Everyone really enjoyed this quick and healthy weeknight meal, and you can certainly tweak it to suit your taste.

Sorry there’s no photo – this meal was scarfed down way too quickly!  If you’re really curious, it should look something like this.

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
    6 slices deli prosciutto, cut into quarter-inch strips
    1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled & cut into half-inch chunks
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
    1/2 cup white wine
    1 cup chicken stock
    1 pound campanelle pasta (I couldn’t find campanelle, so I used farfalle)
    4 cups baby spinach
    kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil & cook the pasta according to the package instructions, until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in large skillet, over medium heat.  Add the prosciutto & cook for about 10 minutes, or until brown & crisp.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate & set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet & add the squash.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until softened & beginning to brown.  Add the thyme & cook for an additional minute.  Stir in the wine & simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth & cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.

Drain the pasta & pour it back into the pot.  Add in the spinach, the butternut squash mixture & the reserved prosciutto.  Toss until the spinach wilts.  Season with salt & pepper to taste & serve.

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Recipe: Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions and Radicchio

November 10, 2009

As much as I like to cook impressive, complicated, time-consuming dishes, I also work a full-time job and sometimes just don’t have it in me after a long day at the office.  So, I’m always searching for recipes that are at least mildly creative and interesting (at least, more so than boxed pasta and Ragu) but that don’t require a ton of prep and cooking time.

This dish, which I saw in a recent Cooking Light magazine, seemed to fit the bill for a quick and tasty weeknight meal.  Other than some slicing and chopping of veggies and herbs, there really wasn’t much prep work involved at all.  You could definitely stick to the recipe as-is and have a delightful vegetarian meal; however, I had some big, beautiful shrimp on hand that I grilled (seasoned with olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper) and served on top.  My one caution: don’t be stingy with the seasoning on this one!  Since there’s no real sauce, and since the onions and radicchio mellow out once they are cooked, don’t be afraid of the salt and red pepper flakes–you don’t want to wind up with a big pot of bland pasta.  This is a great dish to make in bulk and then eat leftover, as the flavors mingle together in the fridge and taste even better the second time around.  Enjoy!

  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 6  cups  thinly sliced yellow onion (about 1 3/4 pounds)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 6  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2  cup  dry white wine
  • 1  pound  uncooked spaghetti
  • 3 1/2  cups  thinly sliced radicchio (about 1 head)
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2  teaspoons  chopped fresh oregano
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 15 minutes or until almost tender, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until deep golden (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add red pepper and garlic. Cook 3 minutes; stir occasionally. Add wine; cook 4 minutes or until liquid evaporates.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add reserved cooking liquid, pasta, radicchio, parsley, and oregano to onion mixture. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper; toss to combine. Top with cheese.

Spaghetti with caramelized onions

Playing with pesto

April 28, 2009

Over the past few months, I have used a company called The Vegetable Husband in order to procure fresh, local, organic produce.  Each week, I get a basket of whatever has been recently harvested–and then I get to figure out how to incorporate everything into our weekly meals!  I feel good that I’m supporting local agriculture and business while also expanding my veggie horizons.  I’ve definitely eaten more greens this winter than ever before!

Last week, the basket included some absolutely beautiful mint.  If I was a rum drinker, there would have been some VERY delicious mojitos consumed!  Instead, I decided to throw together a homemade mint pesto.  Into the blender went the mint (two decent-sized bunches), 4 cloves of garlic, the zest and juice of one lemon, some kosher salt, and enough olive oil to bind things together.  I tossed the pesto with some whole wheat spaghetti, sauteed shrimp, tomatoes, and goat cheese–and it was delicious!  No recipe, no measurements, just quality ingredients and a very small amount of imagination.

As spring and summer roll on, I encourage all of you to throw caution to the wind and play around in the kitchen.  Make the most of your locally available produce, and let the flavors of the season shine through!


Recipe: Pasta with Arugula and Lentils

February 12, 2009

On our last outlet shopping excursion, my mom bought me this cute little cookbook stand (since I complained that my recipes were getting splattered with assorted cooking debris).  Unless I’m actually preparing a recipe, I usually just keep a random cookbook up there, flipped to a pretty page.

After looking at this recipe (from my Good Food Fast cookbook) for a couple of weeks, I decided to give it a try.  It is a healthy dish that has infinite possibilities: you could switch out the arugula for spinach, parsley, or really any green you prefer.  You could use fire-roasted tomatoes rather than fresh (for more flavor, or if tomatoes are out of season).  You could substitute another kind of pasta.  My only complaint was that the end result lacked the oomph that I was hoping for.  Next time, I’ll add some garlic and/or red pepper flakes.  Some fresh herbs could amp up the flavor, too.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 12 ounces plum tomatoes, cored and diced (about 2 cups)
  • ¾ cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • 1 bunch (8 ounces) arugula, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and ½ teaspoon salt; cover, and cook until onions wilt, about 20 minutes. Uncover; raise heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until onions are dark brown, 20 to 25 minutes more.

Add ¼ cup water; stir to loosen any browned bits from pan. Stir in tomatoes; remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover lentils with water by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer. Cover; cook until lentils are tender but still holding their shape, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain; stir into onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot.

Add lentil mixture, arugula, cheese, and reserved pasta water; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with more cheese, if desired.


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