I’m Such a Slacker – Catching Up

I’m Such a Slacker – Catching Up

Yeah, yeah…I know, I know…where the hell have I been, right? I’ve had a lot going on lately, as I’m sure everyone does, but my work schedule has changed as well. I am now working 12-hour days Mon-Fri so by the time I get off work, I don’t feel like cooking very often and I haven’t gotten the drive to post about the meals we’ve made since my last post. However, tonight is the night that the drive returned after an easier day at work.

Spicy Shrimp and Cheddar Grits

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So this Blue Apron meal was a spin-off of a classic Southern dish, and one of my favorites, Shrimp N Grits. My wife and I agreed, though, that although this looked pretty, it did not taste as good as the real thing. The shrimp was cooked in a tomato paste sauce with some spices and the grits were cooked with cheddar cheese and sweet corn. I liked the corn in the grits a lot, but my wife was not impressed. Basically, we’d rather have the shrimp sauteed with onion, green bell peppers, chilis, creole seasoning, and bacon.

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Spicy Hoisin Chicken with Rice and Asian Cucumber Salad

This one was one of the best meals I’ve gotten from Blue Apron. It was great to make sticky white rice the way it’s supposed to be made along with some delicious, spicy, Asian-style chicken and a fresh salad.

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The salad was made with cucumbers, scallions, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper.img_20160912_133919919_hdr

The hoisin chicken was made with sesame oil, chicken, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, hoisin sauce, scallions, bok choy, and sambal oelek chili paste.img_20160912_133853960_hdr

All together now:

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Barbecue Sloppy Joe with Green Bean Saladimg_20160913_205717317

This one was browned ground beef and garlic, all cooked and simmered in barbecue sauce, on a grilled bun. The green bean salad was dressed with diced shallot, apple cider vinegar, diced tomatoes, and whole grain mustard.

 

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted, all. I’ll try to make sure it isn’t a regular thing :p

Sláinte!

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Irish Pork Chops with Champ Potatoes

Irish Pork Chops with Champ Potatoes

Ok, now just so you know…being Irish and caring a LOT about how well my food is presented and tastes while trying to make sure that it’s done correctly…this is one of my FAVORITE dishes (to eat and to cook). Make these for your next gathering or family meal and you’ll be sure to impress.

Ingredients:

Kerrigold Irish Butter (unsalted)

4 pork chops (or bacon chops if you’re lucky enough to be near an Irish butcher)

2 cooking apples – peeled and diced (I use Fuji apples, but if you like more tartness, you can try Granny Smith)

3 cloves of fresh garlic – minced

2/3 cup hard cider (I love using Magner’s Irish Dry Cider if I can find it, but any will do)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I use Lakeshore Whole Grain Mustard with Irish Whiskey)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Tarragon

Salt and Pepper

Russet potatoes – peeled and cubed

Heavy Cream or milk (the heavy cream will be a little more rich)

Scallions (green onions) – finely chopped

For the Chops:

  1. In a cast iron skillet, melt a pat of the butter once the skillet is hot (on about 6 or 7 for an electric stove top). Clean and dry the chops with paper towels then season them with salt and pepper on both sides. Brown the chops in the butter until almost done; still a little pink in the middle. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Leave the pork drippings, or fond, in the pan and melt another pat of butter. Put the diced apples in the melted butter and cook until the apples release their juices and the juice starts to brown.
  3. Put in the minced garlic and sugar and cook for about 60 seconds until the garlic is aromatic.
  4. Stir in the hard cider, apple cider vinegar, mustard, thyme, tarragon, and salt and pepper. Let this boil for a few minutes until it thickens up into a saucy consistency. Stir occasionally.
  5. Put the chops back into the sauce to finish cooking. This allows the chops to take on more of the flavor and warms them back up at the same time. Cover the chops with the sauce and apples to get the most flavor into your chops.

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For the Champ Potatoes:

  1. Put your milk or cream into a pot with the finely chopped scallions. Bring to a boil, slowly, and then turn down the heat to simmer for about 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit while the potatoes cook.
  2. Fill a pot with salted water and put the cubed potatoes in and bring to a boil. Boil the potatoes until they can be pricked through with a fork to show that they are soft.
  3. Mash the potatoes and stir in the warm milk/cream and scallion mixture. Stir in butter and salt/pepper to taste and serve with a pat of butter on top. Garnish with some of the green scallions.

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Sláinte!

A Few Meals to Catch Up

Hi everyone. It seems like I’ve done a few of these “sorry I’ve been a slack-ass” posts lately, doesn’t it? So, to catch up since I’ve been lazy about posting anything, here are a few of the meals I’ve done lately.

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

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So my wife and I decided to try to start eating healthier and being more active and although spaghetti isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, changing the BIGGEST no-no, the pasta, definitely doesn’t do anything but help one’s cause. So here, I made a homemade Italian-style meat sauce and served it in spaghetti squash halves.

So, first thing’s first. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, drizzle the cut sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them cut-side-down on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. Pull them out of the oven and use a fork to shred the insides of the squash, simply pulling the fork down the center and it will come out in strands like spaghetti noodles. Scoop some of the “noodles” out and either discard or save for something else and fill with whatever sauce you’d like. Top with shredded cheese and bake until the cheese is browned and bubbly.

To make my sauce, I diced a red onion and minced 3 cloves of fresh garlic and sauteed them in a pot with hot olive oil for about 60 seconds. Once they were a bit softer and aromatic, I put in a can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes with basil and olive oil, 1 lb of ground beef, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley. I stirred the mixture well and let the sauce simmer for about 2-3 hours. This was the final result:

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Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Steak with Grilled Yellow Squash and Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad

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To marinate the tuna steak, put the following into a gallon-size Ziploc bag: 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper, fresh or dried thyme. Mix the marinade well and put the tuna steaks in the bag, pushing out all of the air and zipping it closed and covering the tuna steaks completely with the marinade. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and grill for about 2 minutes per side, leaving the center rare (as tuna is supposed to be served).

For the salad, just dice half an onion, 2 tomatoes, and 1 cucumber. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, Italian dressing (creamy if you have it), salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and thyme.

For the squash, simply slice the squash however you’d like so that it’s easy to grill, put in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

 

Blue Apron: Thai Chili Chicken with Tinkerbell Peppers Over Rice

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This meal was delicious. Blue Apron provided just the right amount of spice for someone like my wife who doesn’t like lots of heat, while delivering tons of Thai-inspired flavor. This was one of my absolute favorite meals that I’ve gotten from Blue Apron.

 

Blue Apron: Empanadas and Mexican Crema with Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad

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I had never tasted real Mexican empanadas before this dish; the only ones I’d had were the apple ones from Taco Bell haha! So, I was pleasantly surprised when these were filled with ground beef, Mexican spices, tomato paste, fresh diced tomatoes, and scallions all cooked together. The pastry dough was so flaky and delicious when they came out of the oven and the crema cut the spice of the empanada with its dairy and lime flavors. This dish also ranks high on my list of favorite Blue Apron meals.

 

Well, thank you for coming back to read, all! I know I’ve been sporadic with these postings and for that I apologize. I hope I don’t make you think that I’m just not that into this blog because that’s really not the case. I just need to make sure that I make time for it because I really do enjoy writing these posts for you all to read and I hope that I’ve been able to bring some of you some joy in new recipes and delicious food from my table to yours. Until next time…

 

Sláinte!

Alton Brown’s Cheerwine Sangria

Alton Brown’s Cheerwine Sangria

Hey everyone! I’ve been getting slack about posting here, haven’t I? Not much excuse…just enjoying the summer and haven’t blogged much, but I will rebound! Anyway, my wife and I had the pleasure of having a dear friend, at this point, she’s family (Love you Amy!) come to visit us on her excited adventure across the country for the summer.

Anyway, I wanted to post Alton Brown’s recipe for Cheerwine Sangria that he created after having it at a tapas bar in Durham, NC. If you haven’t had Cheerwine…go on Amazon any buy some if you don’t live in North Carolina. If you do live here, what the hell are you doing with your life!? Cheerwine is a cherry soda that is unlike any other. It is not just a cherry soda, it is the nectar of the Gods made right here in NC.

Without further adieu, here is Alton Brown’s recreation of Cheerwine Sangria (it’s delicious):

Ingredients
1 bottle of red wine (any Spanish blend will do but, Rioja is especially appropriate) – [I used garnacha de FUEGO]
4 ounces triple sec
2 ounces brandy
1 teaspoon cherry bitters
4 ounces frozen peaches, chopped
4 ounces frozen mango, chopped
1 small lemon, halved and thinly sliced
1 small lime, halved and thinly sliced
2 (12 ounce) bottles Cheerwine, chilled*

Instructions
Combine the wine, triple sec, brandy, bitters and fruit, and stir to combine.

Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

To serve, spoon a bit of the fruit into large wine glasses, top with 4 ounces of the wine mixture then top that with 3 ounces of Cheerwine.

Drink and repeat (responsibly of course, which means hide all the car keys).

NOTE: If you’re not a big fan of red wine like Amy and my wife, you can add a little more Cheerwine to your glass for a bit more sweetness and fizz.

I hope you all enjoy it on your back porch on a hot summer evening as much as I did!

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Battlefield 4 and Cheerwine Sangria after work!

Sláinte!

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee

Hi all. Sorry for the absence, though I’m sure I don’t have enough followers to be missed :p BUT, I am back with a great recipe for my absolute favorite morning ritual: Irish Coffee!! Now, since I’m a responsible adult (lol) and need to be professional for work, I leave the Irish Whiskey out of this one, but on the weekends and for enjoyment, I’m all about the Whiskey in this coffee.

Ok, so first things first. Are you listening? I hope so. Take your drip coffee machine or instant coffee and just put it in your cabinet. You won’t be needing those any more. I’m serious about the instant coffee, but if you want your coffee to taste the best that it can, you should try something other than your traditional coffee drip. I use a French Press and a Mr. Coffee coffee bean grinder for mine and it’s the freshest, best tasting coffee that I’ve ever had.

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Here’s what you need:

Dark roasted coffee (whole bean)

Irish Whiskey

Brown sugar (2 tsp or so)

Heavy cream

Ok so here’s what you do. Buy whatever type of roast and coffee beans, WHOLE BEANS, that you’d like. I prefer something dark roasted, and yes, I know that has less caffeine in it because it’s roasted longer (look it up, it’s true), but because the flavor is a bit deeper and stronger, it goes best with this traditional Irish Coffee. I bought a bag of fresh French Roast dark roasted coffee at my local Lowe’s Foods and ground the beans in a coarse grind for the French Press. Do you see where the filter is in the French Press in the picture? Fill your grounds up to about that point. Then boil your kettle of water.

When your water is done boiling, pour just enough water in the French Press to come to the top of the grounds and let this sit for about 60 seconds. This is called “blooming” the grounds. Now, at this point, assuming you’ve had your coffee before, if it tastes bitter to you, put in a pinch of salt. Yes, you heard be right, salt. The salt brews with the coffee and “sucks out” the bitterness of the coffee without putting a salty taste into the coffee. Try it, you won’t go back to the way you used to drink coffee, I guarantee it.

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Ok, so now it’s been 60 seconds of blooming the grounds, so pour in the rest of your water to about the top of the top handle in the picture above (or the top silver band on the outside of the French Press).

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Put the plunger into the French Press, put the top on, but let the plunger rest on top of everything. DO NOT PUSH THE PLUNGER DOWN YET!! Let the coffee brew for 4 minutes.

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After the coffee has brewed for 4 minutes, slowly push the plunger down to filter the coffee and push the grounds to the bottom of the French Press.

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Now, grab your Irish Coffee glass, put 2 teaspoons of brown sugar in the bottom, 1.5 shots of Irish Whiskey and stir well so that the sugar is dispersed. Now pour your coffee into the glass of Irish Whiskey and brown sugar and stir well, leaving about 1″ at the top of the glass. Now, take your carton of heavy cream and SHAKE THE SHIT OUT OF IT!! This will whip the cream into a light whipped cream consistency. Once you’ve reached the right consistency, pour the cream over the back of a spoon so that it rests on top of the coffee. Your final product should look like a pint of Guinness 🙂 (Disclaimer, I used medium roast coffee in some of these pictures and it wasn’t as good. The instructional pictures were done the right way with dark roast 🙂 )

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I finished mine off with drizzling designs into the cream with homemade Irish Butterscotch sauce.

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Sláinte!

Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil

If you’ve never had a Low Country Boil…man, you’re missing out. It’s one of my favorite meals with a little something for everyone and it’s great for big dinners with guests (as long as you can get good seafood on sale lol).

So, what is a Low Country Boil? It is a pot of boiling water with spices, and you drop in small potatoes, corn on the cob, andouille sausage, shrimp, and crab legs. You can do crawfish instead of crab if you want to, but I like crab more, personally. There are many ways to spice the brine for the boil, but I like my way:

4 Qts of water

12 oz Beer – Preferably Pale Ale, ESB, or Pilsner

Old Bay Seasoning

Louisiana Cajun Seasoning

If you’ve spiced it right, you should get something that looks like this:

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Now, you put the potatoes and corn cobs (halved) into the rolling boil for about 8 minutes before you put in the crab. Then after about 4 minutes or so, put in the shrimp for another 4-5 minutes. Then drain the water out, plate your meal (or do it right and dump out the drained food on the table with a couple of newspapers covering the table.) Top with more Old Bay and Cajun seasoning if you like.

For this particular one, I didn’t have the potatoes or sausage on hand, so I rolled without it.

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Sláinte!

Anniversary Trip: Part 2 -The Boundary House, Calabash, and Holden Beach

Anniversary Trip: Part 2 -The Boundary House, Calabash, and Holden Beach

We had a great time in Myrtle Beach on Tuesday night, Wednesday, and Thursday morning, but it was time to head up the coast to North Carolina. We headed up Hwy 17 North toward Little River, SC and drove right on through to Calabash, NC for some shopping and to grab some famous Calabash seafood for lunch.

Calabash

Callahan’s Nautical Gifts and Christmas Shop

We walked into the side entrance of Callahan’s Gift Shop and turned to the right and there it was. Although it was April, it was suddenly December and Christmas punched me in the face with its music and smells of cinnamon and Santa Claus’ musk. Every year for our anniversary, my wife and I find an ornament for our Christmas tree from wherever we went on our anniversary trip; that’s the only reason we ended up at the Christmas store. Sorry, not my thing. We found our ornament, regardless, and had it personalized with the year so that we could remember our trip.

We then went through the rest of the gift shop, finding t-shirts for ourselves and family, looking at stickers and trinkets, and tasting fudge when we got to the fudge shop. Oh man…the fudge. Not only did they have the traditional chocolate, peanut butter, and vanilla flavors, but they also had may unique flavors to taste. We sampled their seasonal strawberry flavors, made with real, local strawberries. These flavors were strawberry, strawberry walnut, and strawberry cheesecake. They were all so fresh-tasting and delicious. The server even said that they have someone that orders their strawberry fudge all the way from Montana when it is in season. Now that’s dedication! There was no way we could walk away from trying their other flavors as the strawberry was so delicious. We continued trying the others: pecan praline, divinity (oh my God this one…it was marshmallow fudge and it was so chewy!), dreamsicle, and chocolate praline. If you are ever near Calabash, you’d be doing yourself a great disservice to not stop by Callahan’s fudge shop.

**The Boundary House**

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When arriving to The Boundary House the first thing one notices is the beautiful white building surrounded with a colorful array of flowers and shrubs. Walking through the front doors, one will feel like they have entered the innards of an elegant ship with polished wood everywhere around. There is a sunken dining area in the center of the restaurant with two rowboats suspended above  in a lofted area. The decor and atmosphere truly gives diners the feeling that they have just entered a sea vessel to enjoy some of the freshest seafood that they have ever tasted; and they certainly deliver.

We were seated by the hostess and provided with our menus and wine list and were promptly asked for our drink order. My wife had a specialty drink called The Mae West made with frozen piña colada, frozen strawberry daiquiri, and rum. I ordered one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails; a Cherry Limeade, made with cherry vodka, sprite, and some other flavors, garnished with a lime wheel, cherry and the glass was rimmed with sugar; it was amazing! We also ordered a basket of freshly baked croissants, drizzled with honey butter, freshly made clam chowder, and a caesar salad as appetizers.

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The clam chowder was delicious; the best I’ve had outside of New England, with plenty of chunks of clam meat, potatoes, and LOADED with flavor. No extra salt or pepper was necessary and that says a lot for a soup. The croissants were amazing; hot, fresh, soft, and flaky and the honey butter made them unbelievably good. We couldn’t get enough.

For our entrées, we ordered the Clark’s Combo where you can pick from Large Shrimp (blackened, fried, or grilled), Fried Select Oysters, Carolina Flounder (blackened, fried, or grilled), or Fried Calabash Crab Cakes. We chose Fried Flounder, Grilled Shrimp, and Fried Calabash Crab Cakes. The combo was served with homemade hushpuppies, tartar sauce, aioli for the crab cake, and  a fresh-made side item and we selected the garlic and cheddar mashed potatoes. At this point, I have thought about just leaving the photos to speak for themselves because I’m not sure that any words of mine could express just how delicious this meal was.

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Now the photo above does not show the crab cake well, but you can see just how large the Flounder was as well as the Grilled Shrimp and the rest of the meal. Let’s start with the Flounder. Not only was it one of the largest Flounder filets I’ve ever had, but the breading was spiced just right and the fish, itself, was juicy, soft, flaky, and more delicious than any I’ve ever had. The Grilled Shrimp tasted like most Grilled Shrimp, but what put these above the rest was the freshness. These shrimp tasted like Forest Gump had just brought in a fresh catch on the dock down the street and sold it to The Boundary House just because I was coming to town. It was that good. Now, to the Crab Cakes.

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Oh. My. B’gah…the Crab Cakes. As you can see from the photo, these were no ordinary, microwaved, more-filling-than-crab-meat crab cakes. These were just-caught-by-Bubba-Gump-packed-with-REAL-crab-meat Crab Cakes. These Crab Cakes were not only stuffed with real crab meat, not that imitation crap, but they were also seasoned and fried to perfection, leaving the outside crispy with a light crunch and leaving the inside juicy and fall-apart delicious. These were hands-down the best Crab Cakes I have ever had and that’s saying a lot. There’s only one other place that can match these crab cakes and that’s at Belford’s in the City Market in Savannah, GA; but that’s a story for another time. 😉

Our waitress asked us how we enjoyed our meal and the manager, Rey Mikhail, came over to ask the same. I told them both that this dining experience was one of the best we had ever had; not only because the food was so delicious, but also because the service was above and beyond good, with a focus on our satisfaction. The manager was very pleased to hear this, as one would imagine, but he began asking us what brought us to the restaurant and so on. We explained that we were celebrating our Anniversary during this trip and I told him that I was definitely doing a write-up of the restaurant on my blog. He then asked if we would allow him to bring us one of their award-winning desserts for our Anniversary. We couldn’t stand to take another bite, but he told us that he’d be happy if we only took a taste because it was that good. I’m not one to turn down award-winning desserts so we said bring it on. And ho-lee-shit was it the right decision.

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Their award-winning dessert is a house-made Bread Pudding. This bread pudding is no ordinary bread pudding, however. This bread pudding is made with their delicious croissants and topped with cinnamon and a homemade Vanilla Bourbon sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. There aren’t words to describe this dessert so we’ll use a non-word: uh-may-zing. The bread pudding was light and fluffy and filled with flavor all by itself, but once you get a taste of the Vanilla Bourbon sauce, melted ice cream, and whipped cream, it’s a flavor overload and I’m not sure that my tastebuds have recovered, or if they ever will.

Luckily, we were in Calabash during the off-season and were able to be seated as soon as we walked into the restaurant. However, if you know you’re going to Calabash during the tourist season, give them a call about a week beforehand and make a reservation if your party is 4-10 people or so. If your party is larger, give them about a month notice. This may sound like a bit much to you, but trust me, it is MORE than worth it. You won’t regret it. If you do, I’m not sure you know what good food is :p

 

Holden Beach

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After having such an amazing dining experience at The Boundary House we decided it was time to head up to Holden Beach and relax for the next few days with my grandparents. We stopped at a few surf shops and gift shops, and a pet store for our girls on the way up, but we were ready to get to Holden and just kick back and relax after having such a busy couple of days. Here, we walked on the beach, talked with my grandparents, ate at a local favorite, Jerome’s Steaks and Seafood for lunch, and relaxed.

Jerome’s Steaks and Seafood

Jerome’s was a great experience. We went for lunch on a Friday for their buffet and boy, did it had a full spread. The buffet offered something for everyone: corn, southern green beans, rice, mashed potatoes, gravy, fried chicken, fried whitefish, fried shrimp, pot roast with carrots and potatoes, kielbasa and potatoes, pork roast and gravy, turnip greens, hushpuppies, biscuits, a full salad bar, and a dessert bar with brownies, cobblers, and soft serve ice cream. This buffet was a southerner’s dream and it was filling and delicious. If you’re in the Shallotte area and want a good home-cooked, southern meal with a sweet tea and a smile, this is your spot, but get in there early because their buffet is only open until 14:00.

Overall, this vacation for our Anniversary has been everything we wanted it to be; filled with fun, food, relaxation, and a lot of love.

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Sláinte!