Thursday, May 31, 2012

Simple Snacks

Kind people and busy too, 

Nothing beats a simple snack.  Here are some of my current favorites. 

Fill a small bowl with applesauce and heat it in the microwave.  Top with a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar.  To make cinnamon-sugar: mix a ratio of 1 tablespoon cinnamon to 1/4 cup sugar.  

I keep a little shaker container full of cinnamon-sugar in the cupboard next to
the butter.  My little sister got me the shaker when I got married! 
Toast and butter a piece of bread; top with the cinnamon-sugar mixture listed above.

I steamed some raw milk in our milk-frother and added a little bit of hazelnut syrup
Cold Tea
Make according to these directions, or drop a bag or two of tea into a pitcher of cool or room temperature water and let it steep for at least 45 minutes.  Remove the tea bags (you can use them again) and enjoy the tea chilled or room temperature.

Some cool mint tea hits the spot on a hot day! 
Fruit Smoothie
Fill a blender or the cup of an immersion blender with any combination of the following: frozen fruit (strawberries, melon chunks, peaches, etc), fruit juice (I particularly like orange, cider or concord grape), milk, ice cubes, and a banana or two.  Blend thoroughly, adding ice or frozen fruit until it is the thickness you prefer.  To get real fancy, serve with umbrella straws!

Be sure to add the banana for a creamy, thick texture! 
What are your favorite simple snacks?  Share post-haste so we can all enjoy!

Snacking quickly,

Mrs H

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grilled Eggplant

Dear summer-seekers,

Grilled Eggplant is an easy-squeezy dinner side-dish that is extra nice to make in the summer, when you don't want to have a steamer rolling out heat in the kitchen or an oven cranking up the temperature.

Grilled Eggplant
You can peel it if you like!  Sometimes the skin is a little tough.  

Olive oil
Coarse salt
Caraway seeds

Slice eggplant into thick steak-rounds.  Brush both sides with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle one side with caraway seeds and a little coarse salt and set on the grill.

Grill until the underside begins to look soft and cooked, about 2 - 4 minutes.  Turn over and let them grill until a fork slides easily through the center.  Remove to a plate and sprinkle with additional coarse salt and caraway seeds.

Serve hot.

Eggplant goes with anything ... You can make a whole platter of grilled onions, peppers, and eggplants if you wish!

Fun fact: When I was little, I thought aid cars were called egg cars and this mystified me for a long time.  Ah, the innocence of youth!

Mrs H

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dinner Menu V (with special diet weekend!)

  The Original Mr H, that is to say Mr H's Dad, came from Washington to visit us for the Memorial Day weekend!

What a joy this has been for both Mr H and I, and most especially for Mr H as he spends time with his dad.  He has been looking forward to this with great anticipation, and has not been disappointed in the least! 

It's been hot, so all weekend long we've been enjoying iced tea! 
The Original Mr H has left dairy products, eggs, and cane sugar completely out of his diet in the interest of health, as recommended by his naturopath after some blood tests revealed sensitivities to casein, et cetera.  The Original has experienced a wonderful rejuvenation of energy and a significant absence of joint pain after adopting this new diet; so the meals we planned and prepared this weekend naturally reflected those dietary changes!  The Original arrived on Friday morning, so meals after that point (until his departure on the following Tuesday) will be dairy, egg, and sugar free.  

Chinese Restaurant Grand Opening coupon dinner! 

Tatsoi, Parmesan, and Garlic Pizza 
Applesauce with cinnamon
Chocolate Milk
Fresh-made Angel Food Cake
Cream, stirred (not whipped) with sugar and extracts

Swiss Chard Frittata
Homemade Bread with Rhubarb Jam
Salad topped with Cherries, Thinly Sliced Peach, and Strawberry Vinaigrette
Freshly Made Banana Custard 

Homemade Spring Rolls 
Arugula Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
Fresh Pad Thai with Peanut 
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream & Chocolate Sauce

Wok Fried Money Bags
Miz Carmen's Oven-Baked Brown Rice
Plum Sauce 
Arugula with Honey-Lime Dressing 
Cantaloupe Sorbet 

Grilled Pork Sausages
Homemade Buns
Piccalilli, Ketchup, Garlic-Ginger Mustard (all home-canned)
Vegan Potato Salad
Tossed Green Salad with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper
Apple Fritter Cups (from this book

The Original took us out for dinner at a local restaurant - such a treat!!
The Original had fish 'n chips.  Mr H had a burger.  I had an appetizer (potato latkes) and a milkshake! 

A true Italian pizza is so simple to make, and so very good for your body!
A traditional pizza would most likely have none, or very little, cheese on it...
Although as you can see, I added some Parmesan and cheddar here!

It's easy to make dumplings/wontons/money bags!
Looking forward to another week!
Mrs H

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eating Part II: Practical Steps, Or, Why We Bought a Cow (Really, We Did!)

Dear conscious eater and happy-bite-taker,

So, you wanna start eating more consciously.  Not like, "Less fats," but more like, "Local, organic."  Sustainable eating, it is sometimes called.

We discussed the matter of Comestible Enlightenment in a previous post, so now we'll get down and dirty and talk about actual things you can do.

Since we just moved to Virginia, I'll walk you through what I did to re-establish our food supply here, so you can see where we are getting all our food; this may give you some ideas for how to find food in your area, since this is the same process I did in Chicago and San Diego (in Seattle, my evolution of food was a little more gradual and natural, and less intense).

Goals: Organic, locally grown, fresh, and lots of it
Supply: Preferably a CSA, or at least a good market where we could stock up weekly

1. I went to to look up farmer's markets and CSAs in the area.  Meanwhile, I shopped at Trader Joe's, a local natural market, and a nearby grocery store that all carried a small variety of organic produce.  

2. I found a few local farmer's markets and visited their websites.  Their websites listed which farms sold at the market.

3. I investigated which ones raised their produce organically.  I didn't necessarily look for the words "certified organic" - I looked for information on their growing processes.  A farm may raise their produce without spraying or chemicals, and yet not have been established on the land long enough to earn a certification of organickness.

4. I went to the market, and I talked to the farmers to hear them talk about how they raised their produce (more on this in a following post).  I chose produce based on what I learned was fresh and chemical-free.

5. Continuing my research online, I chose a CSA farm that I thought fit our lifestyle.  I visited with the farmer at a farmer's market and realized it was not what we wanted.  I kept on reading the websites of local CSAs and found another that I thought sounded appropriate.  It offered a work-share program (cheaper membership in exchange for working a given number of hours on the farm) and lots of educational days.   I was really looking for a work-share so I could gain some knowledge about farming practices!  They were not certified organic but their website proclaimed that they were spray-free/chemical-free.  I drove out to the farm and visited with the farmer; he told me they had just purchased this plot of land, so they hadn't been on it long enough to be certified - but he never uses any chemicals or pesticides.  This was fine by me.  We bought a membership; now we have 20 weeks of produce, and a whole lotta options for learning how to farm!

6. I'll be picking up my CSA basket once a week at the farmer's market near our home (conveniently, only half a mile away - back in Seattle, my farmer's market was about 15 miles away but well worth the trip!).  While at the market, I can purchase more produce if I wish; I can also pick certain items while I am out on the farm working my work-share, and pay for them buy the pound.

Always bring a cooler and ice when picking up items like meat, milk, or produce!

Bringing home the glorious feast - produce, milk, and more! 
Goals: Raw, grass-fed, pasture-raised, local organic milk, use it to make our own dairy products like butter, ice-cream, kefir, yogurt, whey, cheese, cheese curds, et cetera
Supply: Preferably a cow-share or delivery system, where we'd receive a set amount of milk each week

1. I went to and looked up farmer's markets.  I found milk suppliers at a few markets and started reading their websites.  One offered non-ultra-pasteurized milk - I gave them a call and found that their milk was shipped here from Chicago.  I was looking for local, so I moved on.  I found another farm, less than fifty miles from us, that offered a cow-share program with weekly installments of fresh, raw milk from pasture-raised grass-fed cows (the later stipulation is key to the nutritional content of the milk!).  Meanwhile ... we didn't drink much milk at all, because I didn't find any local suppliers of non-ultra-pasteurized milk until just about when we found the dairy farm.  We did go through a few half-gallon cartons of organic milk, which was not necessarily nutritious.  

2. I e-mailed them and learned about how they raise their cows.  We drove out to the farm to see the operation and sign paperwork; we bought part of a cow (a "share" of a cow, hence the term cow-share) and set up payments to pay a monthly fee for them to care for the cow.  I left them with a couple of sterilized half-gallon jars and took home a gallon of fresh, raw milk.

3. I am still learning how to make many dairy products at home, and so I look up books on, check them out at the library, and search blogs for recipes, tips, and ideas.  I try not to be overwhelmed!

Bonus Information - provided for FREE!  Why did we buy part of a cow?  Because it is illegal to sell raw milk in the state of Virginia; so, if we buy part of a cow, we can do whatever we want with what comes from the cow.  That just happens to involve drinking the milk.  Cow-shares are legal.  If you are curious about unpasteurized milk, read more here, or explore this book, or find a supplier near you.

Goals: Pasture-raised, local, organic eggs
Supply: Could be a weekly subscription like the milk, or a varying amount based on farm or market

1. I went to and found some farmer's markets that offered eggs.  I researched the farms by reading their websites, and made a selection based on what I read.  Meanwhile, we purchased organic, free-range eggs at the local grocery store & farmer's market

2. The farm I chose happens to be the same farm that supplies our milk; so I established a regular egg-supply as a part of our milk-supply.

3. Prior to establishing this resource, I was purchasing pasture-raised, organic eggs in the grocery store.

Meat (beef, pork, chicken, processed meats such as sausages) 
Goals: Pasture-raised, humanely treated, grass-fed, organic, local meat
Supply: A resource where we could order meats on an infrequent basis, as we don't have the freezer-space or cash-flow for a yearly meat supply yet

1.  I went to and found some farmer's markets that listed meats as part of their offerings; I looked up the farms that sold meat and made a selection based on what I read.  Meanwhile, I purchased organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed meats sparingly from a local Trader Joe's.  

2. The farm where we procure our meat is also the farm where we get our eggs and milk.  I can order my eggs and meat on their website and choose to pick it up at the farmer's market, or with my milk supply once a week.

Go Pigling Bland, Go!
Dry Goods
Goals: Organic bulk suppliers for nuts, grains, baking supply, cultures, et cetera
Supply: Probably through a co-op or group-buy system with monthly ordering

1. Previously, when living on the West Coast, I ordered everything through the group-buy system offered by Azure Standard.  I purchased my spices and some of my teas through the local markets of Penzeys and MarketSpice (and I still do, since they both ship via online orders).

2. I contacted Azure and asked if they ship this far East - they said no, but suggested a few other group-buy websites.  I have been exploring both these, and a few other natural co-ops that are in the local area.  I've started purchasing through a group-buy website for our area, that is similar to Azure Standard - Quail Cove Farms.

3. Meanwhile, I am using the supplies I brought with me from Washington and supplementing with small purchases of organic baking supply through the local natural market.  This is not a sustainable option though, because organic supply in small batches is pretty expensive.  With bulk, we can enjoy better health and still save $! 

A sterilized (boiled) turkey baster is a great way to skim cream off milk!

King Arthur Flour has been a nice stand-in while I try to find an organic bulk supplier!
There are many ways to find food supplies near you, and as you explore and branch out you'll find your groove.  Visit natural markets - check their boards for information on farms, brochures, and co-op events.  Talk to people and get connected with farmers or home-egg-raisers.  Hit up Google.  Check Craigslist. Many of my Virginia sources I found directly through because, since we had just moved here and I wanted to find food fast and it was already a part of our budget, I didn't have the time or need to gradually network and build up to a new foodstyle.  Now that I am plugged in to some local farms, I've been chatting it up with everybody and making more and more connections, finding more and more resources.

Additionally, if you are looking into changing over some of your external products like soaps and lotions, and are wondering what all the hubbub regarding chemicals is about, you can start with this easy read and go from there.

More on "chatting it up" later in this series!

For now - do you have some more great resources and insight you could share with us?

Mrs H

This series is linked up at Monday Mania

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Like Convenience: Mind-Blowing

Dear handy helpers,

While I am a firm believer in make-it-yourself, do-it-yourself, all-from-scratch and all-natural, I still like to make things as handy and convenient as possible.  While still being scratched and natural and all that.

Which is why my mind was blown when I accidentally stumbled across this.

Order wide-mouth here, ... and regular-mouth here.

Can I have, like, fifty?

Mrs H

tweet us @_mrs_h for chewy nuggets
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P.S. As the owner of well over a thousand mason jars and the user of them for everything imaginable, I can think of limitless thousands of ways to put this Item of Amazingness to use ... but in case your mind isn't blown enough, get more ideas here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shopping Fun for Young'uns

Dear readers of the parental status and those with young children readily available to them,

Here is a fun idea from Katie at Simple Homemade for shopping at the farmer's market (or grocery store, really!) with your bright-eyed, wet-eared child - Farmer's Market Bingo!

You can use the sheet provided, or create your own.  You can spot items to make BINGO, or you could make a (handwritten or fancily printed) sheet out of your grocery list and purchase items to reach the BINGO!

We saw a beautiful butterfly at a recent farmer's market here in Virginia
It obligingly unfolded its wings and posed for a picture!
I really just want to play Farmer's Market Bingo myself now, do I get a prize if I win?

Mrs H

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eating Part I: We're Thinking About It, Or, When a Pig Sty Comes in Handy

Dear conscious readers,

And I hope you are conscious (my blog isn't that boring, I hope!)...

It seems as though most of us are making an effort to eat better, or more nutritiously, in some way.  Whether it's trying to cut back on fats and sugars, transition into a vegetarian diet, or choose organic foods, everybody is becoming more and more conscious of the choices involved in eating.

Living the whole foods/chemical-free lifestyle can be a daunting task to look at.  Suddenly we're being told to avoid all dairy, or only buy raw dairy, or make our own dairy (OK, that last only applies to new moms).  Produce should be organic.  No, local.  No, fresh.  Or all three.  Actually, if you are really serious about this, just hang some buckets from the rafters, and put some pots in the windows, and grow your own broccoli sprouts.  Make your own pots, by the way.  Here's a pamphlet on how-to.  Whole wheat flour, red not white, ground by unifine process to preserve the nutrients, or better yet buy the berries and grind it yourself!  No, just go outside and grow a mini wheat field in your backyard.  Have a backyard farmstead!  Buy organic eggs.  No, buy free-range eggs.  Better yet, raise your own chickens.  Hide them from the neighbors if it's illegal in your city.  Can produce.  Better yet, dry produce.  No, freeze it.  No, just buy a ton of onions and stow them under the bed.  Eat kefir every day.  Make it yourself, store-bought kefir is of the devil.  Get lots of enzymes; learn about intestinal flora.  Wash your hands.  Don't wash them.  Thirty seconds - make it two minutes!  Bring your own soap.  You can't trust the soap they put in plastic bottles ... it might have parabens.  You'll die.  Sodium laureth!  Toothpaste?  Mouthwash?  Hand lotion?  Your deodorant is killing you ... You shouldn't use plastic containers - no, just not that kind of plastic.  Are you serious about your health?  Make curds and whey!  Eat the spider, too, it contains living enzymes critical to health ...

Needless to say ... it is a little overwhelming to try to change everything in your life at once.

So, don't.  Don't change all at once.  Change one thing at a time.  This is not a blog about what you need to change, should change, or what is best for you.  This is a blog providing helpful ideas, based on my own arduous journey so far, for those of you who are interested in updating your foodstyle.  

Pick what's important to you!  I started with produce.  When we got married three years ago, I decided to transition us over to completely organic produce.  That took time - about three years, actually.  Even now I don't buy every twig and stem organic, but 95% of our plant intake is organic.

Why did it take time?  I had to learn a lot about organic produce.  I had to develop the motivation.  It's not enough to say, "Hmm, organic is cool and hip, I think I'll pay triple the price for tomatoes today."  You need to be seriously motivated - internally motivated.  So motivated that it moves your mini-ballots (a.k.a. your dollars).  "Hmm, pesticides are leaching into our groundwater and every year I pay taxes to have them cleaned up.  I'm also paying taxes to subsidize illegal farming practices.  Slaves in Florida are picking the conventionally-grown tomatoes; the cheap tomatoes aren't actually cheap, they're just paid for by somebody else.  I think I'd rather pay more to buy them from the guy who grew them just a few miles from here and picked them with the help of his son and his family.  I'll pay triple the price for tomatoes, and happy to do it!"

Little by little, motivation and interest grew.  Did an organic pear taste different than a conventionally-grown pear?  I don't know; not like there was a staggering difference.  But did I do some research and find out how many different poisonous chemicals I'd be consuming with the conventionally-grown pear?  Yes.  And then, believe you me, then I could taste the difference (not literally.  We're speaking in intangibles here).  By the way, there are on average 28 chemicals on a pear when you eat it.  This includes six that cause cancer.  (As a general rule, though, local. organic and non-genetically-modified produce will ALWAYS taste better.)

I know conventionally grown produce doesn't make you sick, personally, but have you noticed things like cancer on a general upswing in our country, lately?  Infertility?  Early puberty?  Mood disorders?  Allergies?  Asthma?

Mandatory carved a kiwi hedgehog ... she begged me not to post the picture
and I listened respectfully and obviously heeded not. 

What do I do?  
Pick one thing that interests you, that you can change.  I picked organic produce to start.  Inch by inch, we transitioned over.  I met farmers.  I collaborated with friends to buy organic in bulk and split purchases.  I went to farmer's markets.  I did things that were inconvenient, like going produce shopping on Saturday morning at the market instead of just picking it up while I was at the grocery store.  I canned a lot; I dried a lot.  (I didn't freeze a lot, 'cause I didn't have a big freezer in the beginning.)  The key is here, I did a little at a time, progressing as I learned, and learned more and more every day!  It didn't happen overnight.  

Don't be intimidated.
There's a lot of knowledge out there.  There's a lot of information, pamphlets, books, blogs, flyers, websites, and leaflets.  You could literally drown in a sea of words and research.  Don't feel like you have to read everything and highlight every Michael Pollan quote today.  You'll get there ... in time.  Don't be scared when somebody acts like you need to be living the "whole lifestyle" this very moment.  Everybody started somewhere, and is learning bit by bit.  No matter how snobbish they act, they started somewhere, too.  You'll do what you can, as you are able.

It is hard to act snobbish while carrying a ginormous watermelon

If you already know a few things you want to change, make a list and start checking them off. 
Interested in upgrading your food diet?  Make a list of things you want to change and how you want them to be changed.

Eggs - free-range (or organic; or locally raised; or all of those things)
Milk and Dairy Products - non-ultra-pasteurized (or raw, or local/non-ultra-pasteurized, or all homemade from one milk supply)
Meat - grass-fed, no hormones/antibiotics, pasture-raised (or local, or just organically raised, or grass-fed)
Produce - organic, locally grown (or part-home-grown, or start with frozen organic)
Dry Goods - buy organic flours, sugars, etc
End result: Eliminate everything processed and pre-made!

If you want to get more intense, you can have another list of external products that will eventually change:
Lotions, soaps, deodorants, perfumes, hair products (gel, hairspray, mousse), toothpaste, mouthwash, diapers, wipes, plastic containers...

Don't start with the most complicated thing! 
Want to change over to pasture-raised, organic eggs, 'cause you can't stand the thought of factory eggs no mo'?  Maybe you are thinking of having your own chickens at home.  Great!  Just don't start with the chicken house, please.  It may take months to implement and meanwhile, your goal of changing over your egg-source will remain unfulfilled.  Maybe start by finding a local supplier, while you do your chicken-house research.  Take graduating steps.  

For instance: When I wanted to change our meat supply over, I started with just purchasing organic meats.  Then, as I got deeper into the research, I decided organically-raised, grass-fed, non-injected meat was better.  Then, as I progressed even further down the road of Comestible Enlightenment, I decided that organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, non-injected meat raised by a small farm within 100 miles of my home would be even better, so I found a local farm that fit the bill.  My next step, I suppose, will be staking a butchering hog outside of our apartment.

Visiting the local farm ... 
Trader Joe's has lots of options; other organic grocers will also have many options. 
Remember, don't drown in information.  However, as you tackle each item, do your research and due diligence on it.  Find a book at the library or watch a documentary to learn about it, and you'll find your inspiration and motivation growing.  Food Inc, Food Matters, and other documentaries like that are easy, interesting (albeit one-sided and biased), educational, and motivational ways to get started.  Learn about what you are investing in.  

Talk to people.
Find other people who support your New Alimentary Habits.  They will know People.  They will know Books.  They will know Farms, Stores, Secrets.  They will know Information.  And you'll only find them by blabbering, so start spreading the word (as a word of warning, for every Nice New Supporter with Information you meet, you will meet on average 4 - 10 people who will Ridicule Your Decision, possibly because they are embarrassed about their own eating habits).

Remember that you aren't a bad person because you eat conventional produce or ultra-pasteurized milk.
Everybody does what they can with the information they have.  (Maybe you know in your head that you want to eat organic, but you can't afford it - well, do research until your mind is so full of disgust with conventional that you can't not afford it!)  Make sure you are informed and aware.  Don't assume that only hippies eat organic; don't assume it's out of your budget; don't assume you have to shop at Whole Foods; and don't assume that you know anything about pesticides or what's on your food if you haven't done the research for yourself.  And for those that do eat organic, don't assume that your Costco-produce-shopping neighbor hates the world, doesn't care about their body, is a sinner spiraling to hell and is trying to kill you with pesticides.

Both of you, please, just don't slam it before you understand it!

Now, what are some practical steps to eating better and better food?  I'll share some information in the next post in this series!

For now, I don't want to drown you!

Mrs H

Eating Part II: Practical Steps, or, Why We Bought a Cow (Really, We Did!)
Eating Part III: At the Farmer's Market, or, (One) Way to Be a Blabbermouth!

This series is linked up at Monday Mania

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dinner Menu IV

Once again, our week (in dinners) in review!

Trader Joe's Pulled Pork
Trader Joe's Italian Loaf Bread
Shari Salatin's Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing
Black Bean Dip and chips
Banana Split

Mr H's Layered Nachos and sour cream
Arugula, Spinach, and Strawberries with 3-2-1 Dressing (Annie posted it in a comment)
Chopped Cantaloupe
Sparkling Cider (all sparkling drinks are home-mixed with water from our SodaStream)

[Mr H is doing a fast-cleanse so I am enjoying various leftovers]

Lo Mein Noodles with Trader Joe's Satay Peanut Sauce
Sauteed Celery and Mushrooms
Sriracha Sauce and Sweet Thai Sauce
Chopped Fresh Peaches
Sparkling Grape Juice

Slow-Cooked Teriyaki Chicken and Pineapple
Steamed Rice
Salad with Dried Cherries and 3-2-1 Dressing
Home Canned Applesauce with Cinnamon-Sugar
Chocolate Milk (Raw Milk + Trader Joe's Midnight Moo Chocolate Syrup)

Cold Overnight Salad
Homemade Whole-Wheat-Rye Bread
Strawberry Jell-O Mousse
Beryl's Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (provided by guest)
Beryl's Glazed Yellow Cake (provided by guest)
Home-Canned Sunshine Rhubarb Concentrate + Carbonated Water
Black Caramel Tea (with dessert)

Dutch-Oven Chicken Pot Pie (from The Best One-Dish Suppers)
Arugula and Buttercrunch Lettuce with Honey-Lime Dressing
Beryl's Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (thank you Beryl!!)

I loaded this honey-lime salad down with strawberries, mushrooms, and some shredded Parm!
Hot Black Bean Dip leftovers came in handy the next day when we made layered nachos
Stand back when Mr H is mixing spices for his nachos! 
3-2-1 Dressing was a quick assembly, and fresh with dill weed!
Our table is still of the floor variety, owing to the fact that we don't have chairs yet...

The vegetables for the lo mein noodles with peanut sauce were lightly, lightly
sauteed in sesame oil
The Trader Joe's brand did not disappoint, although I added a few tablespoons
of peanut butter for extra peanutty-ness
Cold Overnight Salad
It behooved Young Master J to sit on the table at supper!
Six of us gathered 'round for a meal on the floor, followed by Mama Beryl's
exquisite desserts.  She is welcome in my home ANY time!  
Blessings as you plan your menu this week!

Mrs H



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