Hannah’s Happy Hour- Old Moon Zinfandel 2012

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Hannah's Happy HourThis happy hour hasn’t been too happy.  I tried a Zinfandel from Trader Joe’s and I think I was expecting too much.  For the most part, I’ve been very happy with Trader Joe’s wines.  For the price, they are pretty amazing.  I tend to like them better than the other cheap wine brands such as Little Penguin, Yellow Tail and Barefoot.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still drink those wines, they just aren’t my favorites.

Back to the wine review.  I tried Old Moon Zinfandel 2012 and was not impressed.  It retailed for $5.99 so I wasn’t expecting too much!  Then again, I love the Two Buck Chuck.  You would think that this would be good too, right?

old moon zinfandel

Zinfandel is lighter than a Cabernet, making it more similar to a Pinot Noir than anything else.  However, its high acidity makes it much bolder than a Pinot.  If you want more info about Zin, check out this blog post by Wine Folly.

old moon zinfandel review

I was expecting this wine to have a bold taste like most good Zinfandels.  Unfortunately, this wine fell flat.  The bold taste wasn’t from the acid, instead it came from an overwhelming alcohol flavor.  If I wanted my wine to taste like alcohol I wouldn’t be drinking wine, I’d be drinking vodka.  I was disappointed with the alcohol aftertaste and the fruits tasted fake.  The only good taste came from the smoky flavor.  The wine tasted better once it aerated, but it still wasn’t great.

old moon zinfandel

Any Old Moon Zin fans out there?  If so, let me know why you like it.  Was I missing something?  I still think it is on OK choice for a cheap wine, but I know there are better cheap wines out there that I would rather buy.

 

Yummy fried green tomato recipe

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fried green tomatoesGreen tomatoes are one of those things that I have to buy when I see them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve planned to make fried green tomatoes only to visit every store and produce stand in a 20 mile radius only to end up empty handed.  I was very excited to find that these were 3 for a $1 last weekend at the farmer’s market.  Since I can’t let food go to waste and I have a love for fried green tomatoes we had to have them on the menu twice last week.

Fried green tomatoes with roasted cauliflower

fried green tomato blt with spinach

The first night we had them plane Jane with a side of roasted cauliflower.  Tom was NOT impressed.  He barely ate his and confessed to me that he hates cauliflower and only likes fried green tomatoes when they come in the form of BLTs.  The next night I knew I had to redeem myself.  We did a play on BLTs with prosciutto and spinach instead of bacon and lettuce, and served them with a side of truffle oil fingerling potatoes.

fried green tomato blt with spinach words

The sauce is vegan mayo with sriracha and sesame oil.  I’ve always made my own fake aioli with Greek yogurt instead of mayo.  Since I’m not doing dairy, the vegan mayo was my only option.  My brother in law’s girlfriend did this sauce on fish tacos for a pot luck a few weeks ago and I was hooked.  It is like spicy mayo from sushi restaurants, but better!  Thanks for the inspiration, Nutto!

Fried Green Tomatoes- makes 3-4 servings

  • 3 green tomatoes
  • 1 C. corn meal
  • 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning, we use Tony Chachere’s
  • 2 C. milk (I prefer buttermilk, but used goat’s for this recipe- any milk substitute will work)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 C. high heat oil such as canola

fried green tomato ingredients

  1. Cut tomatoes into 1 inch slices and place in a shallow baking dish.  Cover with milk and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix Cajun seasoning with corn meal.  Feel free to add flour if you prefer a different type of breading.  I’ve played around with different ratios of corn meal to flour and have found that I like it best without the flour.
  3. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat.  You want the oil very hot so it will fry the batter instead of making it soggy.
  4. Dredge the tomato slices in egg whites and then corn meal, add to skillet.
  5. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  I only cook about 3 at a time.  If you crowd the skillet you will reduce the heat of the oil and risk getting soggy tomatoes instead of crispy ones.
  6. Cool on a cooling rack.  ***This is key to keeping them crispy*** Do not cool them on paper towels or the grease will make them soggy.  Can you tell that I’ve had experience with soggy fried green tomatoes?  They just don’t taste good.  Trust me on this one!

fried green tomatoes in the pan

fried green tomato blt

What is your favorite way to enjoy fried green tomatoes?  I can guarantee I won’t be serving them without bacon or prosciutto again.

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Paint your own wine glasses

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wine glasses

My most popular post of all time is the DIY painted wine glass tutorial.  I realized that I never did an update to let you know how the bridal party liked their bachelorette party favors.  It was a fun weekend and everyone enjoyed sipping beverages out of their wine glasses.  I’m only 2 years late on that update.

I can’t believe the pics from the original post have made their way around Pinterest so much.  I decided to put the tutorial in a better picture format.  I just started using Photoshop (free 30 day trial) and thought I’d have some fun with these images.

Paint your own wine glasses

Check out the full tutorial here.

I also realized that I never blogged about a shower that Irene and I (along with some other talented women) put together for our good friend, Lauren.

 

chalkboard painted wine glasses

I wish I could say that I made these, but I didn’t.  The talented Irene, from Adventures in Polka Dots, put these together.  I like to consider myself more of an idea person than a do-er.  I helped shop for the glasses and paint, gave Irene directions, and she showed up at the shower with them.  Originally I had planned to help her make them, but my big pregnant belly was too lazy to drive back up to St. Petersburg from Fort Myers to help her.  Didn’t she do a great job?  Here is her post on the wine themed shower.  It was beautiful!

chalkboard painted wine glasses

She made it sound pretty simple, but I know it must have been time consuming.  We bought all the glasses at Ikea for dirt cheap.  Irene brushed chalkboard paint onto each wine glass and let them dry upside down.  All the guests were able to personalize their wine glasses with chalk and take them home as a party favor.  We had enough left over to give to the bride a set to start her stemware collection.

I love how both of these painted wine glass ideas take away the need for wine charms.  These make for good favors or could be a DIY craft for your own stemware collection.

Have you ever tried painting wine glasses?  Please share your tips and ideas!

 

 

Is your tax refund costing you money?

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Warning:  This isn’t a typical blog post for me.  My target audience usually visits this site for cheap and easy DIY ideas and it feels strange to stray away from my normal posts.  While this may be different from my usual posts, it is something that I think everyone needs to think about since today is Tax Day.  Please keep reading, I promise this advice can save you money and possibly even make you money.

tax refund

If you have ever had a legitimate job then you’ve seen this before.

w4Has anyone ever been overwhelmed by all the questions?  I know I have!  Starting a new job is stressful and the last thing I want to do on my first day is fill out paperwork.  I’m usually too busy wondering if my hair and makeup looks good for my employee ID.

I’m here to tell you that taking the time to correctly fill out this little form can possibly help you make money.  Stay with me here.  I’m afraid I’m going to lose you since I don’t have any Pinterest worthy pictures in this post.

A tax refund is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a REFUND.  It is not a gift from the government, it is not extra money that you get at the end of the year.  It is money that you earned from your job that the government took because YOU gave them the authority to take it when you filled out your W-4. 

I don’t want to get political in this post.  I don’t want to debate whether taxes are good or bad.  But I do want to stress that if you withhold too much money then you are losing an opportunity to have money in your pocket throughout the year.  As Tom’s Uncle Mike puts it, you are essentially giving the government an interest free loan.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a little extra money every month instead of getting a lump sum back at the end of the year?  Imagine what you could do with that cash every month.  If you took that money and put it into an IRA, you could start saving for retirement.  You could be MAKING money instead of letting it stay stagnant.

It takes time to get your taxes just right.  Tom and I had just figured out how to come out even on our taxes and then we had several big life changes.  Moving, becoming landlords, having a child and quitting my job all threw big wrenches into our well oiled tax machine.  We ended up with a sizable return this year and for that I am grateful.  We plan to use our return to pay off one of Tom’s loans because we realize that the money is NOT a gift from the government, it is our hard earned cash and we should put it to work for us instead of treating it like Monopoly money.

Here is my advice:  if you find that you got a big return on your taxes this year, revisit your W-4 and make changes so you can have that money in your pocket every month.  Also, make sure to use that return in a smart way instead of blowing it like fun money.

Maybe you make too much to get a big return and you end up owing taxes every year.  You, too, can revisit your W-4 if you find that you don’t have the money to pay taxes at the end of the year.  Maybe you would rather have more money in your pocket each month for investments and pay off the tax bill on April 15th.  Find what works best for you.

Here is the biggest take away I want you to learn from this post:  take the time to properly fill out your W-4.  Here is the official IRS withholding calculator.  I promise that you can do it by following the directions on the form.  You really don’t need an extra online calculator.  If you get confused by the math, ask your human resources director for help.  I promise, asking for help on this and doing it properly can save you money.

Happy Tax Day everyone!  If this post leaves you feeling overwhelmed, check out my post from Sunday about all the Tax Day Freebies.  I hope that can cheer you up!

 

 

You CAN throw a birthday party on a budget!

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throw a first birthday party on a budget Brittany Knappik Photography

This is a guest post written by one of my bestest friends, Mary.  She did an amazing job throwing her daughter’s first birthday party.  Below is a picture of Mary and our friend Kayla.  Read her tips for saving money on a first birthday (or any) party. 

Mary Cosgrove and Kayla Schoen

Thank you, Hannah for allowing me to write a guest post on your blog! I’m excited about the opportunity to share my experience planning my daughter’s first birthday party. I know, I know, she’s only one, she’s never going to remember the party, she has no idea why the house was flooded with people and presents and food. I get it. But I wanted a day to celebrate our first year as a family, for making it through one of the most difficult and challenging years of my life. I’m sentimental, and a party felt like a fun way of capping off a year as a mother.   As new parents, me and my husband don’t have a tremendous cash flow. We are budgeted pretty tightly here in the Cosgrove household, so I wanted a fun party without having to spend too much money. I itemized each aspect of the party and identified where I could cut expenses.

Invitations:   I wanted to have paper invitations, honestly. There are so many darling designs that I could have customized to perfectly fit my theme, which was “You Are My Sunshine,” which me and my husband sing to Leah each night before bed. I calculated the cost of ordering a design, having them printed and then mailing them and it was around $75. Way too much for invitations! That’s the smallest, and most forgettable part of the party! Instead, I decided to do online invitations through Paperless Post and saved $50. It wasn’t free, mind you, but it was much, much cheaper. I did my own photo shoot with my daughter so I could have a picture invitation. So much more fun that way! It would have been way more expensive to have a photo paper invitation, and really, people want to see photos! All in all, it was a pretty easy thing to give up.    You are my sunshine themed birthday party food | eat drink and save money blogFood: Originally, I had grand ambitions of food. Catering, mainly. I wanted the party to be a brunch, so I was thinking mini chicken biscuits from Chik-Fil-A, mini bundt cakes from a local bakery, things of that nature. But, my parents and I decided to tackle the food ourselves to save money, and we could also buy bulk using their membership at Costco. I made four batches of mini muffins, using the bags of muffin mix from the grocery store at less than $2 a piece, pigs in a blanket, which are also cheap, and my parents made mini BLT sandwiches, hashbrown casserole and mini fruit pizzas. We kept everything simple, and we didn’t make truckloads of food, because as my mom reminded me, people were just coming expecting a taste of food, not a whole meal. Making things miniature also made it look like we had more food! As far as the cake, well I decided to leave that to the professionals. Publix cakes are extremely reasonably priced and delicious. We got a massive, half-sheet cake for less than $60, and for the first birthday, you get a free smash cake!

You are my sunshine themed birthday party | eat drink and save money blog

Decorations:  The decorations were very low key. I got two packages of fluffy tissue paper pom-poms to hang from the ceiling from Party City. They were $6 a piece and had three in a package. I hung them up in our dining room where we kept all the food. I got some paper plates to match the theme colors of yellow and white and a plastic tablecloth for the cake table and that was it for my expenditures on decorations. I put my mother-in-law, who knows the best places to get flowers and always gets the freshest, most beautiful arrangements, in charge of florals, and it was a very nice touch. The rest of the decorations I reused from my wedding two years ago. I had two burlap runners on the food and bar tables, mason jars that once held flower decorations were reused to hold fixings for the Bloody Mary bar and I used a chalkboard sign from the wedding to list out the fixings. Galvanized buckets from my wedding (one even was from a floral arrangement) held ice to chill the beer, champagne and vodka. I found a large, blank canvas at my parents’ house, painted it yellow and wrote You Are My Sunshine in white paint and hung it on the dining room wall. Two other canvases with the lyrics to the song were purchased at Walmart for $4 a piece.  Cups for the bar were another way I cut some money. At first, I envisioned having glassware, but instead, I bought clear plastic Solo cups and spent $15 on Zazzle buying stickers that said You Are My Sunshine, which I stuck on each cup. It was a cute add on that jazzed up your basic Solo cup.    Bloody Mary Bar |  eat drink and save money blog The bar:  Here is where I didn’t go cheap. I’m sure there are corners to cut here, but having a really nice, well stocked bar was on my priority list. I think when planning a party — and I did the same for my wedding — you can find ways to cut costs on things that aren’t that big of a deal. For my wedding, I just wanted good food and good drinks, so I didn’t kill myself trying to do that cheaply. But everything else, whatever. Dress from David’s Bridal, okay! A start up photographer friend I knew from school — sure! I digress. The point is, prioritize what is most important to you and everything else, find ways to cut. The bar was important to me because I know how lame it can be to go to a child’s birthday party, and I wanted our guests to have fun. The Bloody Mary bar was a huge hit. We had pickled okra, bacon, celery, olives, lemons, limes, horseradish and hot sauce. People could grab a cup and make their own drink. I also had champagne and orange juice for the mimosa drinkers and beer.

All in all, it was a huge success and it didn’t break the bank. My daughter might not remember the party, but I certainly will!

What tips do you have for a first birthday party? 

Share the Wealth Sunday- save money on hair dye, tax day freebies, and more!

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share the wealth SundayThis has been such a busy week.  I feel like I have so many tips that I want to share with you.  Share the wealth Sunday is fun because I get to share a few things I’ve heard as well as things that I’m doing without the pressure of putting together a formal post.  Don’t forget to leave a comment here, on my Facebook page, through Twitter (@eatdrinkandsave) or email (eatdrinkandsavemoney AT gmail.com) if you have a good idea you want me to share.

1.  I’ve made my own laundry detergent several times now and I’ve always used the same recipe from the DIY Natural website.  This website is such a great source of inspiration for any natural products you want to try making yourself.  Here is my finished product:

DIY laundry detergent

My food processor broke in the middle of it and the pieces of Fels Naptha were too small to grate by hand.  I found that microwaving the Fels Naptha for 30 seconds made it easier to flake the soap into pieces.  I LOVE the smell of Fels Naptha, it makes me feel so clean.

2.  Tom’s Uncle Mike shared a good tip with me this week.  He told me that when our aunt dyes her hair she only uses half of the box since her hair is short.  What a good idea!  No point washing that money down the drain.  Ha ha.  Get the pun?  Seriously though, dyeing your hair yourself is already a money saver and using only half the box is even better.  Way to go Aunt Sophie!

3. Tax day is this Tuesday!  While it sucks to pay taxes, it feels great to get freebies.  Check out this list of freebies compiled by True Couponing.

 

Tax Day 2014 Freebies

Looking for ways to save money this Easter?

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I can’t remember if Easter has always been this commercialized or if I am just now noticing it because I’m a parent.  I’m starting to think it has always been this way and I’ve never noticed.  Pinterest has given me mini panic attacks with all the fun activities that I’m not doing with my child.  Robert isn’t even one yet and I’m already feeling the pressure to do unique and interesting Easter activities with him.  Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?

Don’t worry, I’m not really going to have a panic attack.  And I’ve stopped putting pressure on myself.  I’m going to have a laid back and relaxed Easter weekend with these ideas to save money.

1.  Reuse an old basket as an Easter basket.  I refuse to buy an Easter basket.  I love, love, LOVE all the cute fabric ones in the shape of animals.  I also really adore the monogrammed ones.  Wouldn’t Robert look good with a cute monogrammed fabric basket that he could use year after year?  But I refuse to do it.  All of our decorations are in storage and I can’t justify bringing more junk into our house.  Let’s face it, a specialized Easter basket is junk.  I love them, but it’s junk.  It isn’t a necessity at all and it is a complete waste of my money.  Instead of buying a new one I decided to up cycle a strawberry basket by weaving some ribbon through it.  Robert seems just as happy with this one.

make your own Easter basket

2.  Don’t buy new Easter clothes.  We didn’t purchase new Easter attire.  Or shall I say, we didn’t purchase any brand new clothes.   I only paid $14 for this Ann Taylor dress and I got Robert several Spring outfits for $8 each at our consignment stores.  The three piece outfit is brand new with the original tags.

IMG_6439IMG_6425

3.  Pass on Easter candy.  We aren’t buying Easter candy.  Robert is less than a year.  If I buy Easter candy it would be for me, not for him.  There is no point for me to buy jelly beans other than cute decoration.  I love decorating with jelly beans so this one has been hard for me.  Remember this centerpiece from a few years ago?

jelly bean centerpiece

4.  Decorate eggs with household items.  When we decorate eggs we will only use products we have in our house.  There are tons of fun ways to decorate eggs without purchasing an Easter egg dyeing kit.  A quick Pinterest search is all you need for inspiration.  I’m thinking about doing a black and white theme this year and using a Sharpie for decorating.

5.  Make Easter dinner a potluck.  There is no need to go all out for Easter food.  If we get together with our family or friends we will make sure to plan it potluck style so no one has the financial burden of feeding a crowd.

What are some other ways to save money around holidays?  Do you do any of these things? 

Here is a sneak peak at Robert’s Easter photo shoot!  I’ve had a blast making him my little test subject.

Easter EditEaster edit 2

 

 

 

 

Hannah’s Happy Hour- Blue Fin Petite Sirah 2012

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Blue Fin wine review

This wine is easily my new favorite.  I purchase one bottle of this every time I go to Trader Joe’s.  For $4.99, it is an absolute steal.

It is medium bodied (meaning it is heavier than a pinot and lighter than a cab).  I would consider this to be a little lighter than most Petite Sirahs.  A Petite Sirah is not the same thing as a Syrah.  Traditionally, a Petite Sirah will be richer and stronger than a Syrah (same grape as Shiraz, different region and climate).  If you are looking for a lighter Petite Sirah, this is your wine.  I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as full bodied as most Petite Sirahs.  It is a perfect starter for someone who isn’t ready to take on the boldest and strongest red wines yet.

blue fin tasting

The official tasting notes include blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, cedar, and espresso.  I had a hard time picking up the cedar and espresso and picked up the fruitier notes first.  I found that as it sat out it had a bolder espresso finish.  Taking tasting notes is my favorite part about wine.  Don’t be afraid to sit down with a glass of wine and write down the flavors you taste.  There are no wrong answers!  Ok, if you are a sommelier, I am guessing there are wrong answers.  But for a hobby, just have fun!

Here is how happy hour looks in my house.  Not as relaxing as it was before kids, huh?  Can you see the fire truck in the background?  Robert almost ran over my wine with it.  Photo shoots are getting a little tougher these days.

happy hour with a kid

What is your favorite Petite Sirah?  Are there any out there that I must try?  You know that I don’t mind doing this research!

Side note:  While I enjoy doing this “research”, I understand that alcoholism is a real disease.  Tom and I have family members on both sides who have battled addiction and I recognize that it could happen to me too.  Mommy happy hour is becoming more and more popular with young moms and I understand that crying children can make anyone want to drink.  Please remember that you don’t have to partake in happy hour to be happy and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think you are drinking too much.  Ok, public service announcement is over :)

Cheap Bath Toys

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A quick stroll through Target yesterday brought me to the baby bath aisle.  Can you believe there is an entire aisle devoted to overpriced bath toys?

Why is there such a huge market for bath toys?  The better question may be, why do we as consumers give into buying overpriced baby stuff?

When I was growing up I didn’t have fancy bath toys.  My parents were way too cheap to buy me stuff like that.  I remember playing with plastic Mardi Gras cups, Barbies, and shaving gel.  Most baby toys are plastic and can go in the bath tub even if they aren’t marketed as bath toys.  I’ve even heard of parents “bathing” their kids stuffed animals with the kids to get them clean followed with a trip to the dryer.  Here is a look into how I save money on bath toys.

cheap bath toys

Cheap bath toy ideas:

  1. Use any plastic toys that baby already likes.  Robert loves having plastic balls to throw in the bathtub.
  2. Measuring cups and plastic cups are fun for pouring water.
  3. Kitchen gadgets can be fun in the bath.  We are currently using my metal sieve.  A colander would be fun too!
  4. Craft store foam shapes are WAY cheaper than foam shapes marketed for bath time.
  5. Be creative!  You can see that we have Easter eggs in our bathtub right now.  Why not?  If baby likes it out of the tub, chances are, he’ll like playing with it in the tub.
  6. The Dollar Tree has a few plastic tub books similar to the one pictured in the bottom right frame.  Bath books seem to be hot right now.  I see them everywhere and was happy to see them for only $1 at The Dollar Tree.

As I was putting this post together I read my latest issue of Parents Magazine and was horrified when I saw them endorse a bath toy that retails for $20.  I like to think that even if we had tons of money we wouldn’t waste it on a $20 bath toy.

What other cool household items are fun for the bath?  I have a good friend who bought some bathtub coloring tabs on sale.  Such a cool idea to change the color of your bath water!

 

Deconstructed Lasagna a.k.a Busy Mom Lasagna

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deconstructed lasagna

Doesn’t “deconstructed lasagna” sound fancy?  I had never heard the word deconstructed used to describe food until I started watching Top Chef.  Honestly, I think the term is pretty stupid.  Can’t we call a spade a spade and call this “lazy day lasagna”?

Tom and I don’t like pasta too much.  I would never think about ordering pasta when I go out to eat and I don’t enjoy making pasta at home.  Even though we don’t love pasta, we end up having it about every other week.  Pasta is one of those things that I can get dirt cheap or free when I am couponing.  I buy the whole wheat and hidden veggies kind, so I consider this to be somewhat healthy, even though it is processed.  I still have tons of pasta and pasta sauce in my stockpile from the last time I was couponing.  That was over 6 months ago and I still haven’t made much of a dent into our supply.

Confession:  I actually LOVE cheesy pasta with alfredo sauce.  Unfortunately, my tummy can no longer handle dairy so it is easier to say I hate pasta than to think about what I’m missing.  Why does the Olive Garden alfredo taste so good?

I’ve been trying to spend less money at the grocery store so I knew I needed to come up with some pasta recipes in order to chip away at our stockpile.  The lasagna noodles inspired me to make a veggie loaded (dairy free) lasagna.  I had big plans when I took the supplies out for dinner.  I was even going to try making a ricotta like substance with tofu.  Three hours, one fussy (teething and weaning) baby and two hungry parents later and this concoction was born.

deconstructed lasagna

If Top Chef contestants can call a piece of toast next to bacon, lettuce, and a tomato a deconstructed BLT, then I can call this thing deconstructed lasagna.  We all know that this is nothing more than seasoned beef and spinach in a tomato sauce over some lasagna noodles.  Is it Pinterest worthy?  Probably not.  Will I pin it anyway?  You betcha!

The moral of this story is that you can be creative with your meals and still save money.  The sky is the limit!  Don’t be afraid to take a chance when making dinner.  It is ok if you have big plans and end up with something completely different.  Story of my life!

Have you ever started out making one dish and ended up with something entirely different?  This happens to me all the time.  Maybe I should pay attention to recipes a little more.  Nah, that would take away from the creative experience.

 

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