Easter Dinner For Two

Glazed Ham ~ Artichoke, Leek & Potato Gratin with Gruyere ~ Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Salt


This Easter, if you are not trying to feed a crowd and just want a simple supper to share with your significant other, this is the dinner for you. It's simplicity dressed up! You don't have to go crazy and try roasting a leg of lamb when a tiny piece of ham glazed and heated in the oven will do. In my case, I bought the tiniest ham I could find and we still had leftovers. This meal to be very satisfying and unusual enough that it kept my taste buds interested. I got the recipe for the Gratin from Epicurious but the rest is my creation. Enjoy!


Leek, Artichoke and Potato Gratin with Gruyere

3 large leeks, cleaned, trimmed and sliced into half moons
1 11 oz. can of Artichokes in water, chopped
5-7 Yukon Gold Potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup of grated Gruyere
2 cups of half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 Degrees.

Sautee your leeks in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper until they begin to soften but are still bright and green. Set aside.


Grease a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Add a layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom making sure the bottom surface is covered. You can overlap potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.


On top of the potatoes add a layer of filling. This will consist of half your leeks, half your artichokes and half your gruyere cheese.


Repeat by adding another layer of potatoes (seasoned) and another layer with the remaining leeks, artichokes and gruyere cheese. Cover with a final layer of potatoes. Slowly pour the half and half on top making sure it seeps into all the nooks and crannies. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Add to your oven making sure that there is a baking dish below to capture any over flow.



Bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese over the top and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes so the cheese and cream sets. This is really good at room temperature.

Glazed Ham

Tiny ham
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
Pineapple juice.

Turn down the heat of your oven to 375.


In a small bowl mix your brown sugar and dijon mustard. Add a tablespoon of pineapple juice at a time and incorporate. Keep adding until the mixture is a nice thick glaze. You'll probably only use 2 tablespoons or so. Pour most of your glaze over your ham. Transfer the ham to a baking dish that is lined with aluminum foil. Cover loosely with more foil. Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes or whatever the ham's package instructions indicate. Slice your ham into thin slices across and serve with a drizzle of the leftover glaze.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Salt

A bunch of asparagus with the bottom snapped off
light olive oil
sea salt
grated lemon zest

Keep your oven at 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and add your asparagus. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over your asparagus and mix to coat. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Most people roast their asparagus at higher temperatures, but I like to do it at a slightly lower temperature so I don't over-roast.

In a small bowl, combine 1 part lemon zest with 2 parts sea salt.

When the asparagus is done, remove from the oven and sprinkle the lemon/salt mixture over the top.

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Have a Happy Easter!




Peruvian Minestrone


This is another gem from the cookbook Daisy Cooks! by Daisy Martinez. She calls this recipe the true jewel of Peru (step aside Machu Picchu!). I modified her recipe and kind of threw it together, hoping it would come out well but not having too high expectations. I was pleasantly surprised. It's a hearty stew, full of good things and I enjoyed it even on a warm spring day.

Ingredients:

3 slices of bacon

1 leek halved and sliced into half-moons
4 carrots peeled and sliced
4 celery hearts chopped
1/2 onion chopped
5-6 yukon gold potatoes peeled and chopped

rind of a block of parmesan cheese

5 cups of beef broth

4 ears of frozen corn thawed and cut into 4 chunks each
4 small links or one large link of chorizo sliced

salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish

This recipe makes 4 servings

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In a large soup pot, add 3 slices of bacon, cover and cook bacon over medium heat. Flip the bacon occasionally, but keep the lid on the pot. When the bacon is nice and crispy, remove from the bacon and keep the grease and burnt bits in the pot.

Eat the bacon. Sure you could keep the bacon, break it up and sprinkle it on top of the soup. But you know you want to eat it. Immediately! It's okay. I won't tell anybody.

Turn the heat back up to medium and add your leeks, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. Cook for a few minutes then slowly add your 5 cups of beef broth and your parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the pot to a boil and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the parmesan rind and slide in your chorizo and cut up ears of corn. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until corn is done.

If you want, you can brown the chorizo in a pan separately and then add the chorizo to the pot a minute or so before you serve. If you have really good quality chorizo (the tough kind that's been smoked), you'll want to give it more time in the pot to soften a bit.

Serve hot or at room temperature. It reheats really well too so it makes great leftovers.

Sunday Roundup ~ March 28th, 2010

Today my beau, some friends and I are having dinner at the British Beer Works which is a local chain. It boasts a very unusual menu and although you wouldn't expect it, they have by far the best Greek Salad you'll ever have. I thought that I'd do today's roundup with a selection of interesting items from their menu. Some of these might inspire you to create your own versions at home. Enjoy!


Newcastle Ale Chili
Stout Onion Soup
Crispy Panko Encrusted Green Beans
*eat your heart out TGI Fridays!
Wensleydale Chicken & Pear Salad
Chicken & Leek Pasty
New England Pasty
*turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy.
Big McPizza
*Hamburger, Russian dressing, lettuce, cheddar, pickles, onions, sesame seed crust
Maui Wowwie Pizza
* chorizo, mozzarella, tomato sauce and pineapple chunks
All It's Cracked Up To Be Burger
* pepper encrusted burger, red onion jam and brie cheese
Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich
* fontina, cheddar, apples and mango chutney

Lettuce-Less Fattoush with Grilled Chicken


Emphasis on "Lettuce-Less".

I have a love-hate relationship with lettuce (with the exception of mesclun mix) and right now it's just pure hate. Lately, when I've had salads, I feel like the lettuce just serves as a filler. It's been annoying me to the point that I just want to yell at the lettuce and say "Get out of the way! I want to get to the good stuff."

In my attempt to make more international dishes, I thought I'd try making a Fattoush. Fattoush (or Fatouche) is a Lebanese salad that consists of various fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, toasted pita bread and a light dressing with sumac. I always mean to order it when I go to my local Lebanese restaurant but cave in to the temptation of the other menu items. With the glorious Spring weather we've been having, I decided it was time to make a salad!

You can go ahead and add lettuce to this recipe. Just know that I'll be secretly judging you for it.

Ingredients:

2 pickle cucumbers halved and cut into half moons
2 plum tomatoes cut into strips
1 green pepper cut into strips
1/2 small onion thinly sliced
1 bunch of radishes sliced
chopped parsley
chopped mint
1/2 lemon
extra light olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

6 chicken cutlets/4 chicken breasts
1/2 lemon
extra light olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

3 whole-wheat pitas
cooking spray

* if you have sumac, add a bit to the dressing

This makes 2 servings.
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Season your chicken cutlets (3 per person) or chicken breasts (2 per person) with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the chicken and mix until coated. On a hot grill pan, grill the chicken. Let cool and cut into strips. Set aside.



Stack your 3 whole wheat pitas and chop them into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.



Prep your vegetables and herbs and mix them in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. When it's time to serve the salad, squeeze the juice of half a lemon and drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of your olive oil and mix the salad until the vegetables are fully coated in the dressing.



Preheat your oven's broiler. Spray cooking spray onto a non-stick baking sheet. Spread your pieces of pita over the sheet and spray those pieces with cooking spray. That way you have the pieces lightly coated in oil on both sides. Add to your oven and broil for 3-4 minutes (or less depending on your oven's broiler). Flip the pieces over and broil again for 3-4 more minutes. The pita chips should be nice and crispy.

Add your salad to a plate and cover with pita chips and chicken. Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley. 

I highly recommend toasting whole-wheat pita chips (the ones I used had flax seed) as a healthy alternative to croutons!


Lettuce-Less Fattoush Salad With Grilled Chicken

Greyhounds & Carlos' Birthday Dinner


Tuesday was Carlos' birthday and we celebrated by having a quiet dinner at home. The menu consisted of Carlos' favorites. Pastel de Choclo, a Chilean casserole with beef, chicken, eggs, olives, raisins and a special corn topping. For dessert, it was Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread. For an after-dinner drink, I made Carlos' favorite cocktail, the Greyhound. These were very easy to make and were absolutely delicious. So delicious in fact I may have over indulged a bit. If you make these, please drink responsibly because they are pretty strong.

Greyhounds

Ingredients:

2 parts vodka
5 parts grapefruit juice
ice cubes

Add the vodka and grapefruit juice shaker with a few ice cubes thrown in. Shake shake shake. Pour into highball glasses that have a few more ice cubes in them. Or you can serve them in cocktail glasses with or without ice.




Back in Carlos' bachelor days, his friends got him a Bachelor-style set from Funusual which contained a shaker, a jigger and two cocktail glasses. It's such a fun set. The shaker has pick up lines printed on it and the cocktail glasses have the male and female symbols. Invite a lady over to your place, mix her a drink, use some of the pick up lines and maybe get a little frisky later. Oh well. Too late for Carlos. He's stuck with me! He never used the set and I pulled it out of the original box and packaging (the receipt was still attached!) and am now putting it to some good use.

Chilaquiles ~ Mexican Crispy Tortilla Casserole


When I read Daisy Martinez's cookbook Daisy Cooks!, I hear her sweet voice in my head narrating to me. And because of this, it's one of the most entertaining cookbooks I've ever read. Have you ever seen her on TV? She is a lively persona with a friendly approachable demeanor. She'll win you over for sure.

 I've always been intrigued by her recipe for Chicken and Crispy Tortilla Casserole with Tomatillo Sauce "Chilaquiles" especially since she proclaims that the reader will be so happy with the recipe that they will want to send her flowers. I guess I owe her a nice bouquet of roses.

I simplified the recipe and this is more of a method/technique then it is a proper recipe. Don't be dismayed by the vagueness of the ingredient amounts. It'll be okay, I promise.

Ingredients:

A stack of 6 inch corn tortillas cut into 2-inch strips
canola oil

shredded rotisserie chicken

2 12 oz cans of mild Salsa Verde

A bag of shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cut a short stalk of corn tortillas into 2-inch strips. Cut more as you need them. Heat up a skillet with about 1/2 inch of canola oil. Daisy suggests test the oil by dipping a corner of one tortilla strip to see if the oil sizzles. If it does so immediately and with a fury, your oil is hot enough for frying.


Fry your strips in small batches and set aside on paper towels. Do not fry them until the get brown, just until they get golden. Also, flip them over quickly so that they lie flat. If you wait to long, they'll start to curl, making it difficult to layer them.

Grease a casserole dish with cooking spray. Layer the bottom with fried tortilla strips until covered.



Add shredded chicken to the top of the layer of tortilla strips.


Cover the top of the shredded chicken with some Salsa Verde.


Sprinkle shredded Monterey Jack cheese on top. Repeat the process once.


Once you have the two layers done, cover the top of the casserole with plenty of fried tortilla chips. Cover with the remaining Salsa Verde and Monterey Jack Cheese.

Cook for 35 minutes in your oven until the top gets nice and brown. Let cool for a few minutes then serve hot. Do not cover with aluminum foil otherwise the casserole with get soggy.

This is a very unique recipe that I think everyone should try!



Casserole

Sunday Roundup ~ March 21st, 2010

Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Menu ~ Film & Foodies - This is an absolutely amazing website. It's fairly new but I'm already a huge fan. Erin is an enthusiast of both food and film. She is a professionally trained chef and she's smart as a whip. Each of her posts is an entire dinner theme based off a particular movie. For the Alice in Wonderland dinner (which also serves as her birthday dinner), she puts together an amazing tea party themed menu:

Pineapple and Mandarin Orange Pasta Salad
Chicken Salad Croissants
Butternut Squash and Macintosh Apple Soup
Chocolate Chip Scones (with Almond Whipped Topping Spread)

She also has a guide for making the perfect cup of tea.

I'm completely gobsmacked! Head on over to her blog now. NOW!

Pineapple-Lime Mojitos



I'm really branching out here and I have to admit, I'm a bit proud of myself. Pineapple-Lime Mojitos? No hay problema! (problemo is incorrect Spanish by the way) I found this recipe on Food Network and I like how Ingrid Hoffman incorporated pineapple with the mojito to give it a tropical kick. She also suggests using sugar cane as a stirrer. If I could get my hands on sugar cane during the summer months, I'll make sure to make these mojitos again to have an excuse to use them.


Ingredients:

a bunch of mint leaves (around 24)
8 tablespoons of sugar
2 limes quartered
1 cup of rum
2 small 6 oz cans of pineapple juice
1-1/4 cup of soda water
Ice cubes
4 pineapple rings (I used canned)


Makes 4 mojitos

In the bottom of a pitcher, add your mint leaves, sugar and lime sections. Mash with a wooden spoon and swirl. Add the rum, pineapple juice and soda water and stir. Add ice cubes to four medium-sized glasses. Add a lime section to each glass. Remove the extras from the pitcher. Pour mixture into glasses. Break into each pineapple ring and hang each on the rim of the glass. Serve and drink responsibly.

Mojito

Flan ~ A Story of a First Attempt


Flans are difficult to make. The process requires much delicacy and it's so easy to turn it into a dessert disaster. First there is the caramel. If you don't get the right heat, your sugar water could turn into a dry crystalized cake or into a super thick burnt caramel. Gosh forbid that you stir! Then there is the egg custard. It's so easy to make an egg custard taste like sweetened scrambled eggs. Bleh. You need to temper the eggs and slowly add the hot milk mixture or otherwise you risk the irreversible curdling of the eggs.

Flans are scary.

I was brave and tried one anyways. I have to say that it came out pretty decent. Your regular flan would be a little darker on top. Mine was very light because I couldn't get my caramel to come out to that dark amber color that I wanted it to. However, the custard came out smooth and creamy and it set perfectly. I was very nervous about flipping the custard and breaking the flan. But when I turned it over and it came out of the baking dish without any breaks, I gasped with delight. I jumped up and down in my kitchen doing my special happy dance, much to my boyfriend's amusement.



The original recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse from the Food Network site. This one called for vanilla bean and orange rind but I stuck with vanilla extract to simplify.


Ingredients:

1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water

3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 quart of milk

6 egg yolks
4 whole eggs


You'll need a 2 quart baking dish and a larger baking dish that the 2 quart can fit inside of. I only had a 1-quart baking dish so I used half of this recipe.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium sauce pan, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water until the sugar is fully dissolved. Heat over medium heat until the sugar becomes an amber brown. Whatever you do, DO NOT STIR. You can stir initially to combine but as the caramel heats up make sure you only swirl the sauce pan. Once the caramel is done, quickly pour it into your baking dish covering the bottom thoroughly and moving a little of the caramel up the sides. Set aside.

In another pot, add a quart of milk, 3/4 cup of sugar and the tablespoon of vanilla. Stir and heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Turn off heat and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, add your yolks and whole eggs and whisk. Slowly add the hot milk mixture. Be very careful. You don't want those eggs to curdle. Take it little by little constantly whisking.

Pour the mixture into your baking dish. Place the smaller baking dish into the larger one. Fill up the sides with hot water until it reaches half way up the smaller baking dish's sides.

Add to the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and let side for 20 minutes. Then remove from the larger baking dish and let cool for 20 more minutes. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When cool, run a knife along the edges to loosen up the flan. Take a plate and flip it over onto the top of the baking dish. Flip the baking dish and plate and tap the bottom of the baking dish to loosen up the flan so it comes out. Remove the dish. Serve cold.



Flan

Sparkling Sangria with Raspberries and Peaches


I am venturing out into brand new territory here. I have never made a mixed alcoholic beverage and I really wanted to try one. There is a brand new liquor store that just opened in the same plaza as my favorite Market Basket. The store is run by a sweet older gentleman and it's a cute little store. It's so convenient that it will be really easy for me to pick up wine, rum and other things to test out new recipes with (like those Guiness cupcakes I made recently). The gentleman helped pick out a nice bottle of champagne and I made some sparkling Sangria with it.

My friends Alicia and Dana make a killer sangria which they serve in a bucket and it's alcohol content is so high you are sure to be drunk after one glass. My version is very very tame in comparison. Because this is champagne I'm using instead of regular white wine, you have to make it right before you serve it. Flat champagne is no fun. It's a great dessert too because the fruit soaks up the champagne and it's a nice sweet treat for afterwards.

Ingredients:

one bottle of chilled champagne or sparkling wine
half a bag of frozen peaches
half a bag of frozen raspberries
4 heaping tablespoons of sugar

Serves 2 people

To a pitcher, add your sugar and champagne. Swirl with a spoon so the sugar can dissolve. Add your fruit and gentle stir. Pour into wine glasses making sure you get a good amount of fruit in there too. You can always just add the frozen peaches and raspberries to your glass first and then pour the sweetened champagne.

This isn't rocket science but it was good for my first try. I probably shouldn't have gone with an Extra Dry Champagne but oh well! It came out good anyways.



Sangria

St. Patrick's Day ~ Irish Soda Bread


How do you like your Irish Soda Bread? With carraway seeds or without? I prefer without because I feel that the carraway seeds take away from the flavor of the bread, which by itself is delicious. I was really excited to make Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day. Irish Soda Bread is a traditional bread that uses baking soda for rising rather than yeast and it's usually filled with raisins or currants. I decided to make mine with raisins, orange zest and no carraway seeds. The result? Delicious! It's even more delicious when you take a slice, toast it and add some butter (and a dash of salt) to it. Mmm... I really hope you take an opportunity to make your own Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day! It's well worth the effort.

Ingredients:

4 cups of flour
4 heaping teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons of salt

4 tablespoons of cold butter diced

1 egg beaten
1-3/4 cups of cold buttermilk
orange zest (to taste)

1 cup of plump raisins (don't get the boxed ones)
1 tablespoon of flour

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.



Dust your raisins with the flour. Set aside.



Mix all your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Again, for you baking snobs you can sift to your hearts' content.



Chop up your butter and add it to the dry ingredients. Get your hands in there and smush the pieces of butter with your fingers.



Add your buttermilk, egg and orange zest and with a large spatula, incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry. Then take a handheld mixer and at a low speed, incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. Add the raisins and work into the dough with your hands. Your hands will get sticky so you can dust them with flour beforehand to make this process easier.


Scoop out the dough and lay it out on a well-floured surface. Knead the dough and dust it with flour as you go. Knead it until it forms a nice lump that you can form into a round, but flat ball of dough. Make sure not to over-knead.



Add your round and flat dough ball to a greased baking sheet. With a knife, cut an X on the top of the bread. This will help create a nice surface as it bakes.



Bake in your preheated oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle (not the sides please!) comes out clean. It's good to eat while hot with some butter but is just as delicious when eaten at room temperature.



Irish Soda Bread

Sunday Roundup ~ March 14th, 2010 St. Patrick's Day Edition

Top o' the morning to ya! There are lots of treats on the net, just in time for St. Patrick's Day!

Beef & Guinness Pie ~ Epicurious
Champ ~ Epicurious
Irish Cheddar and Stout Fondue ~ Epicurious
Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza ~ Food Network
Layered Cabbage Casserole ~ Kraft Foods
Bit-of-Irish Cheesecake ~ Kraft Foods
New Potatoes in Dill Cream Sauce ~ Kraft Foods
Liam Neeson's "Glens of Antrim" Irish Stew
Collection of St. Patrick's Day friendly recipes

St. Patrick's Day ~ Irish Lamb Stew


Lamb and I are not friends. The first time I ever attempted to cook a leg of lamb, I overcooked it, it shrunk considerably, was barely edible and my home reeked of lamb for a good straight week. I have attempted grilled and broiled lamb chops but to no avail. I just can't seem to get it right.

Lucky for me, this Irish Lamb Stew recipe from Healthy Eats is so simple that I couldn't possibly mess it up. In fact, I simplified it even more by using pre-cut Lamb stew chunks insteading of processing a big piece of lamb myself. In the early morning, I processed all the vegetables and threw everything in a crockpot and later that evening I had delicious Irish Lamb Stew. Can't get easier than that.

Ingredients:
2 pounds of lamb chunks for stew
5 yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 celery stalks and celery leaves sliced
3 carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 leeks sliced
2 cups of chicken broth
thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
parsley or chives to garnish

You'll need a crockpot/slow cooker for this recipe. Set it at 8 hours or at the lowest heat setting.




Process your leeks by removing the other piece, rinsing the stalks, slicing them down the middle then slicing them across until you get half-moon slices. Add the slices to a bowl of cold water and swish them around with your hands, separating the slices with your fingers. This will help get the grit out.

Peel and chop your potatoes and carrots into one inch chunks. Slice your celery. Season your lamb chunks with salt and pepper. Add to your crockpot.

Add your 2 cups of chicken broth and your thyme leaves. Stir.

Cook for 8 hours in your crockpot. If you have time to stir, do so every couple of hours. It's not absolutely necessary though but it does help distribute the heat.

Garnish with chives and enjoy with a nice slice of Irish Soda Bread.

 
Next up: Irish Soda Bread (after the Sunday Roundup)

St. Patrick's Day ~ Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes


This is the first of three entries I'm doing in preparation for St. Patrick's Day which is nigh on our heels. I really wanted to make homemade Irish Soda bread so I decided to accompany the bread with other Irish-based fare.

This recipe is based on Dave Lieberman's Chocolate Stout Cupcakes. I pretty much kept the original recipe with the slight change of reducing the sugar content and not making the frosting. If you think you would like cream cheese frosting on these, go for it! I didn't have powdered sugar available, otherwise I would have made a nice glaze with sugar and Guinness.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
2 cups of flour
1-1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 14.9 oz Can of Guinness
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3 eggs beaten
3/4 cup of sour cream

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. If you are a baking snob, sift your dry ingredients together.



In a separate medium bowl beat your 3 eggs, add sour cream, vanilla and Guinness and incorporate. Then slowly pour in the melted but cooled butter. Mix.



Add the wet ingredients little by litte to the dry and incoporate. On a low setting, take a handheld blender and mix the batter thoroughly. Be careful because this batter is very wet and will splatter everywhere.

Grease 2 muffin tins or line them with cupcake liners. Fill until the batter reaches the top barely. This batter won't puff up very much so it's important to fill as much as possible.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.




Next up: Irish Lamb Stew
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