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Summer Wrap Up

So here we are, summer is fading slowly and autumn is on our doorstep.  I want to take a pause before the warm afternoons slip away and share a few pictures and recipes that remind me of the summer that passed by so quickly (don’t they all do that?).  Please excuse my laziness at not writing out recipes, most are posted here as links and if not, I will post in the future!

 

I had a lot of great adventures this summer.  There was all that much needed time at my family’s place in Maine.

 

There were several visits with Madeline Rose, my favorite new niece.

There was a celebration to honor the 2nd anniversary of our book club, The Fabulous Ladies.  We also marked members’ birthdays and tearfully say goodbye to some members leaving NYC.

There was my five year college reunion, where I enjoyed the company of great friends.

 

There was a second round of goodbyes to Heather, leaving this time for Uganda and the Peace Corps.

There were goodbyes to our dear Rochambeau community in order to say hello to our new place in BK.

 

And along the way, there was good food (of course).

I made chocolate chip zucchini cookies for a coworker and his wife who have a new baby.

 

I made a beautiful, refreshing bulgar wheat lentil salad with feta and delicious zucchini pancakes I made last summer, mmmm.

 

I made a really yummy zucchini dish I’ve made before, courtesy of 101cookbooks (zucchini, feta, onions, dill, nuts–so easy and good!).

I made this roasted heirloom tomato sauce.

How beautiful are these tomatoes?

I’ve said it before, but there is nothing that says summer to me like a gorgeous tomato, thick and full from the summer sun.  Make this recipe while you can still find local heirlooms, it is so so very much worth the time and effort.  Your kitchen will smell amazing and I guarantee you have never tasted anything quite like it.  Satisfaction guaranteed.

 

I also made iced tea with fresh mint and candied ginger.  You should try that–just stick whole stalks of mint right in there and you can find candied ginger with dried fruit.  It’s really tasty.

 

And finally, there was the galette I made for my mom’s birthday.  According to wikipedia, the term “galette” is used in French to refer to any kind of free flaky cake.   I’d made it last summer, but I was still nervous about the undertaking.  It’s not the most intricate dessert I’ve ever made, but it does involve a homemade crust.  I also wanted my mom to love it since it was one of her birthday gifts.  Luckily, it turned out wonderfully (and tasted quite good too).

It’s raspberries and peaches and nectarines.  It’s heavenly, I promise to post the recipe soon in case you want to experience it for yourself.

 

Well isn’t it fun to take a little trip back to the summer gone by?  Wrapping up here, I feel a twinge of sadness at the thought of the summer produce, the vacations, the hot sun on my face, the lightness of my being, of all of that slipping by.  But a something else that is just as lovely is here to fill summer’s void–autumn’s colors and crisp air and happy traditions.  I hope your summer was relaxing and filled you up with enough memories to keep you warm through the winter.

 

Fiery colors begin their yearly conquest of the hills, propelled by the autumn winds. 

Fall is the artist.

~Takayuki Ikkaku

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What are you waiting for?  Sometimes I feel as though I’m constantly waiting for something.  I think as humans we are programmed to be forward thinking, always concerned with the future.  Maybe it’s what keeps us going, keeps us excited about life, all the good things to come.

Recently, I have been waiting for spring, and Mother Nature has kept all of us New Yorkers in suspense.  Hot then cold, sunny then rainy, but now it seems like it (might be) here!  In fact, I spent a good portion of my day out in a neighborhood park, attempting to read but mostly just sunbathing.

And now I am waiting impatiently, along with my entire family, for my sister’s baby to come along.  No one is more anxious for this event than my sister, as she has been on bed rest for a few weeks now.  The waiting is so difficult but as my sister has reported to me, an excellent exercise in patience.

How can we make peace with waiting, with the fact that we simply cannot control everything and often must wait for life to unfold as it should?  Maybe the key is to enjoy the waiting itself.  After all it is part of living, and if we never had to wait or work for the beautiful things in life, I doubt they be as sweet upon arrival.  Enjoying the waiting, certainly easier said than done!  But perhaps somewhat less painful when we are surrounded by good company and good food.  And that has been the case with my sister as she has luckily had many visitors, often bringing food and treats, by her side during this time.

When I was last visiting, I made one of my favorite springtime soups for my sister and her husband.  I love making soups and stews and have discovered that they are not just for winter.  In the spring, I switch to lighter soups, clear broths, and enjoy incorporating springtime vegetables.  Now is the time for truly fresh, local asparagus, peas, and broccolini (a cross between the broccoli we all grew up with and a type of Chinese broccoli, it is sweet and tender and delicious).

This recipe is honestly one of the top 5 most delicious (and easiest!) soups I have ever made.  Seriously.  That is a pretty big deal considering how many soups I’ve made!  Here you go:

-8-10 spears of fresh asparagus sliced on the diagonal OR the same amount of broccolini
-1 cup snow peas
-1/2 cup frozen or fresh green peas
-3 medium carrots sliced thinly
-3/4 c. uncooked brown rice (Heidi called for brown basmati, but all I had was regular so you can go with either)
-6 cups of vegetable broth
-2 shallots chopped (or 1 medium-sized yellow onion)
-3 cloves of garlic
-ground black pepper
-dash of red pepper
-parmesan cheese to taste (if you like)


Chop up the onions or shallots.  In a soup pot, heat olive oil or clarified butter over medium heat.  Toss in the onions and garlic and once it is soft and smelling beautifully, toss in the rice and stir for a minute.  Add in the broth and bring to a boil then turn the burner low and cover.  Cook rice as you normally would–depending on which kind you use it will take about 35-40 minutes.  You want the rice to be tender but not too tender since you will cook it a bit longer once you add the vegetables.

Meanwhile, wash and chop the other veggies….the asparagus or broccolini should be cut on a diagonal into about 1 inch pieces.  Cut the the snow peas in half.  Carrots should be sliced in half or thirds and then sliced very thinly.

Once the rice is tender (but not too soft!)  add in the asparagus (or broccolini) and the carrots, 2 minutes later add in the frozen peas and snow peas.  Stay by the stove and let it simmer for about 3-4 more minutes.  The important trick here is that you do NOT want the vegetables to get too soft.  They are yummiest and have the most nutrients in them when they are still somewhat crunchy.  The asparagus or broccolini will turn bright green and you’ll know you can turn the burner off.  I enjoy this soup with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, but you can dress it up as you like.

A great dish for any springtime table and an especially lovely dish to enjoy while wasting the waiting time away. Enjoy!

(Also, I must wish a big Happy Mother’s day to everyone who is a Mom, or a mother to be, or plays a loving, maternal role in someone’s life.  I am at once all of my Mother’s experiences and my own, my Mother helped me grow my wings and let me fly and I thank her for that.)

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Hi there.  Deep breath.  Life moves quickly, sometimes too quickly to even think about sneaking away and sitting down to write.  But here I am, and boy do I have beautiful things to report.

The three things from the title of this post all happened and I want to tell you about them all, though not in that exact order.

The second big thing that happened as of late was that I had a birthday.  April 5. Sometimes it occurs to me that every single day is the birthday of some person, somewhere on this big old earth of ours.  How lovely is that?!  Think of how special and wonderful you feel on your big day–that is how someone is feeling right now.  Maybe I’m an eternal optimist, but if that thought doesn’t make the world seem a bit friendlier, then I don’t know what would.

It’s easy to bemoan the prospects of getting older, but as my mother always says, it sure beats the alternative.  After all, on the cusp of another birthday, we stand to be the recipients of the vastly simple joys of being in our bodies–the sight of springtime flowers, the pleasure of laughing deeply and loudly, the ability to fill our lungs with air and bellies with good food.  All of this if only we can bear the facts that the next year will undoubtedly bring us weeds in our gardens, some type of small or large heart break, a cold snow, a bad sun burn, and yes, the small pains of growing older.  It seems like a great deal to me, especially when it means another year to enjoy treats like these profiteroles.

So now the third thing that happened was that our family had a baby shower for my sister.  Take everything I said about the loveliness of a birthday and multiply it by one thousand.  That is the joy we already feel for this little one we have yet to meet.  My contribution to the party was facilitating a onesie decorating table.  This way my sister and her husband will see sweet messages when they are changing the baby.  Check ’em out, we have some talented loved ones!

And now the first thing that happened.  I made banana oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.  Boom!  Just like that, I was sitting at work and I started thinking about them.  Sometimes, I read a recipe and it stays with me in the back of my brain, slowly nudging at me trying to get my attention, like a hungry kitten paws at your leg.  But other times, it hits me like a ton of bricks, a food that I’m not sure how to make yet, a recipe I’ve never read but am sure exists somewhere out there, in the great expanse of cookbook land.

And so it was with these muffins.  I knew I had bananas at home–if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’ve been loving baking with bananas lately–and I was in serious need of a muffin.  But I wanted one that was more wholesome than sickly sweet dessert.  I combined a few recipes I had, tweaking and tasting until, I got this….


dry ingredients:

2 c flour- 1 ¼  cup whole wheat pastry flour ¾ white flour
½ c oats  (old fashioned)
½ c sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c dark choc chips
wet ingredients:

6 tbsp butter, melted
3 mashed bananas
1 whole egg, 1 egg white
½ cup yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Note:  I think that 1/2 cup sugar was actually too much for my taste buds (although this amount is considerably less than your typical muffin) so if you want to reduce it, please do!  I think the chocolate chips add a lot of sweetness anyhow.  Also, by all means play around with the flour, I am trying to do less and less white but everyone’s taste buds are different.

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter muffin cups or use papers.  This yields about 18 muffins of a good size.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and add to dry, stir until incorporated but don’t overmix.

Once everything is mixed up, fill muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake about 25 minutes or until they are firm in the middle.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

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Life is sort of weird right now.  I’ve been serving on a jury since last week.  My new routine is wake up, take the D train to the Yankee Stadium stop and report to the Bronx Supreme Court.  On Sunday, I’m running a half marathon.  My dreams have been filled with the worst case senarios.  I show up without my bib or without running shoes or worst of all with no idea why I am there.  My life could use a little normalcy right now, before I start thinking of “juror” as my new job title.  It’s times like these that baking therapy helps.

Recently, I stumbled across A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg’s memoir-cookbook that is just incredibly lovely.  Remember when I made some pancakes from it?  Mmmm I have to make those again soon.  Anyhow, the banana bread recipe in that book had been in my recipe queue for ages and was beginning to sulk and fret and beg that I make it.  This is the post on Molly’s Orangette blog that the recipe originally appears in.  I love Molly’s description of the bread, it is probably close to the description in her book but the recipe in the book is slightly different.

Well I am here to tell you, if you ever happen to find yourself let out of jury duty early on a rainy March day during which you were vexed by race anxiety daydreams, this bread will do the trick.  This bread was a miracle worker for my mood.  Ok, so it’s not bread.  It’s cake.  Let’s just lay that out there right now.  If you eat it for breakfast, as I definitely did, don’t try to kid yourself–you are eating cake for breakfast.  But I’ve made my peace with that, and so should you.

Here is Molly’s recipe, my substitutions are noted:

6 tbs unsalted butter, melted

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( I used 1 cup whole wheat plus 1 cup white flour)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips)

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)

1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt (all I had in the house was raspberry yogurt from my CSA, it worked great!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.  Make sure to melt butter first (in the microwave) and then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add chocolate chips and crystallized ginger, mix to combine.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly then add the banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir.  Molly stresses not to overmix….although the batter will be lumpy, you don’t want chunks of flour.  Pour batter into the pan you prepared and pop it in the oven.

Bake until the bread is golden and firm in the center.  This takes about 1 hour.  Cool the bread in the pan 5 minutes and on a wire rack until completely cooled off.  I ate it all before I had any to freeze, but Molly says it freezes very nicely as long as you cool it completely first.

Enjoy!

Oh, and a little jury duty humor to brighten your day, you’re welcome!

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Hi folks!  Here in New York spring is starting to make an appearance.  On Saturday, I was with my running group in Central Park and everywhere there were signs of her–little hints and glimpses that were just enough to make my whole being feel lighter.  The sun seemed warmer, people and dogs were out in full force, and the snow had given way to green grass.  I even seen the tops of spring flowers poking their heads through the soil.  All this is to say, it looks like the season of hearty soups is winding down to a close.  It seems like just the other day, a chill in the autumn air had me all excited to dust off the big soup pot in preparation for a lovely lentil and veggie stew.  I think the following recipe might actually be the last lentil soup I make of the season!

Although I am such a soup fan that a piece of me is sad to see soup weather go, I am definitely welcoming the spring with arms open wide.  Also, I am starting to drool over the thought of a FRESH tomato!  Ok, ok, I might be getting a little ahead of myself here, given that in the Northeast we won’t be getting our hands on any locally grown tomatoes for quite a few weeks.  But fresh spring veggies are lovely too–I’m really looking forward to mixed salad greens, garlic scapes, and oooooh fresh asparagus!  Come on, you know that asparagus grown overseas during winter just doesn’t taste right!  I’m already planning two spring time soups–garlic scape and potato soup and springtime minestrone (in which lovely in-season asparagus plays a starring role).

But let’s jump back to the present.  Every time I make a new lentil soup, I feel as though I’ve broken the mold, hit the jackpot.  I’m so certain that I’ve found my favorite recipe that I pretty much never want to try a new one.  And then, I do…..and I realize that each is more spectacular than the rest!  That’s because the lentil is delicious, filling, versatile, and (luckily) very nutritious.  This recipe is based off of one my mother gave me.  She found it in a low glycemic index cookbook.  It is a good platform for you to express yourself since it is somewhat bare bones.  I took the outline and ran with it.  It’s yummy, spicy, and best of all, super easy.  Here goes:

olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 medium carrots, chopped

3 medium potatoes, whatever kind you have laying around

lots of garlic minced (say about 4-6 cloves)

1/2 tsp tumeric

2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cumin

cayenne pepper to taste

6 cups water

1 1/2 cups veggie stock

1 cup red lentils

1/2 cup pearl barley

1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes, undrained

salt and pepper to taste

Chop all the veggies, warm the oil in your soup pan.  Add onion and cook for about 10 min, until they brown slightly.  Add the garlic, carrots, potatoes, and spices.  Stir up and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the water, stock, lentils, barley, tomatoes and salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 45 minutes until everything is tender and looks good enough to eat.

Note:  red lentils are different from their other lentil cousins–they break down a lot.  Don’t be worried if they look mushy or even disappear.  That’s what happens but the texture ends up being a lovely partner to the denseness of the barley.

I hope you can make this warming, fragrant soup on a damp winter-spring-in-between day.

Enjoy!

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Mmm.  I’m eating pancakes right now.  No, I’m not eating them for dinner.  I had pizza for dinner.  I guess you might say they are my dessert or else they are my second dinner.  No matter, they are the best pancakes I’ve ever had. YES.  You read that correctly.  They are THE BEST pancakes I’ve ever had.

Let’s start at the beginning.  I’ve always been more of a pancake kind of gal.  French toast is nice, I enjoy it now and again especially if it’s made from challah bread.  But for some reason, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always gravitated toward pancakes.  Growing up, we didn’t have pancakes on a regular basis–my parents are the kind of parents who allowed us to have treats on Fridays/vacations/holidays/birthdays but not on a regular basis.  Even soda was banned from our house.  Thank goodness!  At the time I didn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to have a junk drawer, but now I am so very grateful for my lefty-hippie parents.

Anyhow, pancakes.  When I was young, they were a treat.  Summers we always spent at least a week in Maine at the family cottage.  Often that vacation fell within blueberry season and we would pick as many as possible.  I’m talking about wild berries–the small, sweet ones not the huge, tasteless factory farm guys!  Now, my Dad doesn’t cook much but he makes a mean blueberry pancake.  It was a special treat to enjoy his berry pancakes on the deck of the cottage (come to think of it, we still enjoy them from time to time even though we’re all grown up)!  Another pancake memory that I hold dear is eating a whole plate of silver dollar pancakes at IHOP with my Mom.  It was very late at night after one of my Nutcracker performances when I was in second grade.  Another little girl who had happened to have seen the show was there with her mom too.  She recognized me and I felt like such a star!

Ok, so now you understand my pancake past.  Let me tell you about my pancake present.  Lately, a few things have reignited my love of pancakes.   First off, I found some incredible recipes that I’ll share with you now.  But also, New York is getting a huge amount of snow and I think pancakes are perfect for snowy mornings when all you want to do is be lazy on the couch.  Finally, I’m training for a half marathon and my body is craving carbs like never before.

But enough about all that, on to the actual recipes!

Pancake Number 1

I’ve been hanging onto this recipe for a while now–wow, I think for almost a year and a half.  Perhaps some part of me knew I’d be going through a pancake period later on down the road.  These cakes cook up beautifully.  In fact, I thought they would be my favorite until I made the recipe I’m eating right now.  However, these are a very close second favorite. Now here is the link to it, on a food blog called 5 Second Rule but it is modified from The Silver Palate Goodtimes Cookbook.

They are yummy.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that they are “multigrain”.  Although they seem to be much healthier for you than a standard pancake, they are very very yummy.  These are sort of crisp and have a crunch and weight to them.  But they are still light enough to be a pancake.  I added cinnimon to them and I would have added apples if I had had them on hand.  Also, I had blue corn meal and since I used it they all had this nice purplish hue.  Good news!  The recipe makes quite a lot but the batter freezes splendidly.  So if you are a single gal such as myself, go ahead and make enough for a few days and freeze the rest of the batter.

Pancake Number 2

Ok so on to my new favorite pancake recipe.  I was hoping I could find it online since the recipe is Molly Wizenberg’s of Orangette but apparently it is just in her book, A Homemade Life.  I can’t really get into it right now, seeing as this post is already too long, but I almost couldn’t start reading this book.  It wasn’t because I didn’t want to–after all it is a memoir/cookbook, two things I love–but rather because I knew I would be so jealous of her life.  I’m actually not jealous, but moreso in awe of her story.  If you are intregued, look into it later…right now, you have pancakes to make:

-2/3 cup all purpose flour, unbleached

-1/3 cup buckwheat flour

-2 tsp sugar

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/2 tsp baking powder

-1/4 tsp baking soda

-3/4 c buttermilk

-1/4 c milk plus 2 tbsp

-1 large egg, separated

-2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit

-frozen berries

-vegetable oil

-maple syrup or powdered sugar

NOTE: if you do not have buttermilk (as I almost never do!) then subsitute 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/4 cup milk but don’t forget you also need to add the extra 1/4 plus 2 tbsp as the recipe calls for.  Try to use real butter, not margarine and use something other than skim milk if you can.  I had 1% milk and 2% plain yogurt.

1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a  large bowl.

2. Whisk butter milk (or plain yogurt plus milk) with the regular milk in a small bowl or a 2 cup liquid measuring cup.

3. Beat the egg yolk into the cooled melted butter and then whisk this into the milk mixture.

4. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just combined, don’t overmix!  The batter is pretty thick.

5. Heat up a griddle and brush with oil.  When it is about hot (I set my to medium-high heat) ladle out the batter no more than 1/4 c at a time.  When the underside starts to set after about a minute, add some frozen berries–I added blueberries and raspberries.  After about 3 minuets total on the first side, flip and let sizzle for 1-2 minutes on the other side.

The recipe yields about 10-12 pancakes and I didn’t freeze any of the batter since I’m sure I’ll have no problem eating all these within the week.  I think these are my favorite because they are so moist and dense and full of flavor.  I actually ate them without any syrup or jam, just a sprinkling of powdered sugar.  I can’t vouch for how they taste without berries, but with them, each bite packs a sweet, tangy punch of yum.

Trust me, whether you are preparing for a half marathon or sitting lazily on a the couch on a snowy afternoon (or if you are doing both!), you are going to love these. Enjoy!

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I just got back from spending 5 days in San Fransisco with some lovely friends.  What a rejuvenating time but how difficult to come back to cold, snowy New York.  I’d love to share more about my trip but I’ll save that for later.

Right now, I’m making some roasted root vegetables but I’m so very hungry I just can’t wait for them to be done.  Luckily, a few weeks ago I made some nice soup that I froze and am presently enjoying to tide me over until my veggies are done!  This is not just any soup, this is the first recipe I’ve tried out of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I got the cookbook for Christmas.  Not this Christmas, but last Christmas!  I don’t know why I never got around to making any of the recipes I had dog-eared during my first read through of the book.  There are so many yummy recipes and despite what you might think after seeing Julie and Julia, several are simple and require few ingredients.

Perhaps I was inspired to finally make a recipe from the cookbook after my Mom and I watched Julie and Julia for the second time over the holidays.  It is a sweet movie but the books it is based upon are much much better (isn’t that how it always works though?).  What an incredible thing Julie Powell did, cooking her way through the whole book.  I’m not sure I would survive that task, given how much meat is in the book and how long the book is, so I truly admire her feat.

When I arrived back in the Bronx, I remembered we had some leeks from our CSA that were languishing away in the vegetable drawer.  All I had to do was pick up some potatoes since luckily the recipe only calls for a few ingredients and I had the others on hand.  This soup freezes pretty nicely although it does separate a little bit when it thaws–just add a little extra milk or butter and heat it up, it tastes great!

This is an easy recipe that really any cook of any skill level can complete.

-2 large russet potatoes

-3 cups chopped leeks (both white and green parts), about 2 medium leeks

-3 small shallots or onions, chopped

-4 carrots diced***

-2 quarts of water

-salt and pepper, to taste

-rosemary, to taste**

-3 TBSP butter or 1/3 c. heavy cream

***I added this to the recipe as per Julia’s suggestion.  She includes several variations on the basic recipe, this is something I just love about her cookbook.  Aren’t all of us cooks always adding our own twist and experimenting?   It is one of the joys of cooking!  Check out her book to see this and other variations on the potato leek soup.

1.     Chop all the veggies and put them in a big soup pot with the water and some salt and pepper and a few pinches of rosemary.

2.     Simmer partially covered for about 45 minutes or until they pass what I call “the fork test”—are they soft when you stick a fork in each type of veggie?  The carrots take the longest.

3.     Using a blender or food processor, blend everything until smooth and return back to the pot (this is where an immersion blender would come in handy!).

4.     Add in the butter or cream (or milk if you’d like) and adjust seasonings.  (I added butter.  You have to know that Julia LOVED real butter, remember when I posted about how much I love it to?  Mmm!)

What could be more simple than that?!  You don’t really need to stand over the pot watching it so you can set the veggies to boil while you do other things around the house.  I hope you can make this recipe or run out and buy Julia Child’s first cookbook.  It is worth the cost—the illustrations are gloriously detailed and the manner in which the recipe flows is helpful and clear.  The soup is a delight and even better when you have a cold.

Enjoy!

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