COOKBOOK REVIEW: Cravings

Cookbook review written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef

Cravings_cover

Cravings is available for purchase at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Penguin Random House Canada. 

Once upon a time there was a little girl born to a Thai mother and father of Norwegian decent who grew up and became a famous model and social media maven. Our heroine married musician John Legend and wrote a cookbook – which is where our story gets really good!

This cookbook has been getting a lot of attention online with skeptics converted into believers and a five-star Amazon rating out of more than 600 reviews. Oh and she looks like my friend Janakie (see below) so that kinda sealed the deal for me: this book must be reviewed.

My Friend Janakie

See what I mean? The resemblance is uncanny, right?!

After initially flipping through the recipes I headed straight for the gym. Warning! No low-cal diety recipes will be found in this book. Come on people – the title is Cravings – that pretty much sums up the recipe focus. Most of the dishes are meant to be indulgences.

In the introduction Chrissy writes that food has been her second language since she was a kid. Let me say this – you can tell. It quickly became apparent to me that this woman likes to cook. Everything I tried turned out super tasty and are dishes I’d make again in a heartbeat. The photos of her and John (I’ve made his famous chicken wings so I figure we’re on a first name basis) are fun and look like they belong in a fashion magazine. The writing and overall tone of the book is approachable and full of hilarity that will have you laughing like a crazy person in your kitchen.

I dare you to pick-up this book and not bring it home and start cooking right away. Divided into sections that include Breakfast All Day, Noodles and Carbs, Party Time and Sh*t on Toast – you’re bound to find something that strikes your fancy.

John’s Breakfast SandwichesJohn’s Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Honey ButterSweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

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COOKBOOK REVIEW: Quinoa Revolution

Cookbook review written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef

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Quinoa Revolution is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Penguin Canada.

Apparently 2013 was dubbed the “International Year of Quinoa” by the United Nations, in honour of its nutritional qualities and adaptability to different agro-ecological conditions. The popularity of this protein-packed seed has not slowed down since that year, with many cookbooks dedicated entirely to different ways of preparing this ancient superfood.

Quinoa. So hot right now.

This is the second book from the sister duo of Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming. I was first introduced to them through their cookbook Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, which has become a staple in our house. Their approach to quinoa is an educational one, with the first half of their latest book dedicated to detailing the health benefits of this versatile protein. From information on quinoa’s structure and nutritional traits to revolutionizing your overall fitness routine, tips for cooking a variety of forms of quinoa and notes on sustainability and fair trade practices in regards to production, Quinoa Revolution has it all. There is also a ten-page Q&A with frequently asked questions about quinoa and a quick reference guide to the basics of quinoa – including how to cook it.

Recipes are divided into easy to navigate sections that include breakfast, salads/sides/snacks, soups & stews, meals and desserts. Step-by-step instructions are clearly written but leave room for your own personal inspiration. Colourful photos are liberally littered throughout the book and compliment the overall design, which is clean and minimalist.

Learn more about quinoa in my interview with author Carolyn Hemming.

Baked Roasted Red Pepper DipChocolate Cream Mini CupcakesThai Chicken Fingers

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Goat cheese bootcamp

Written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef

I have a confession to make – I used to hate goat cheese.

It’s one of those dirty little secrets I’ve kept to myself for years. For as long as I can remember I always detested chèvre, to the point where I would force my goat-cheese-loving husband to keep his stash in the bar fridge downstairs in the basement far away from any food I would be consuming.

There was nothing I couldn’t find to hate about goat cheese: The texture, taste and smell. I remember getting food allergy testing done when I was in my 20’s and preying goat’s milk would get flagged – at least then I’d have an excuse. But, alas, the results indicated goat cheese fell in my ‘go ahead and eat as much as you can possibly cram into your mouth’ category.

Now fast-forward to when I first launched this blog and began to lead a more serious life as a self-proclaimed foodie. This passionate dislike for anything goaty started to really weigh on me. I felt it held me back as an epicurean and I was ashamed. Anytime I would politely decline chèvre people would stare at me and proclaim “but you’re a foodie!” Yes. It was true.

So I came up with a plan of action that would force me to become a lover of goat cheese, creating a detailed step-by-step an approach that would not only acclimatize me to the taste but convert me into a fan. It was basically a glorified goat cheese boot camp.

And it worked.

I started off slowly; nibbling on über mild cream cheese textured options on salads, slathered on sandwiches or crumbled on pizza. At first I could only manage a bite or two, shuddering my way through and holding my breath. But ever so slowly I built up my tolerance and started experimenting with goat cheese dips served on top of strong flavoured crackers to help mask the taste, and then graduated to mild goat gouda and eventually more pungent flavoured cheeses masked under spreads and chutneys. With help from the cheese professionals at Benton Brothers Fine Cheese I discovered a newfound appreciation and love for chèvre. Not once did they bat an eye when I’d ask for a goat cheese for people who hate goat cheese. And not once did they steer me wrong.

Pepper-Glazed Goat Cheese Gratin

It might have taken me more than a year but I can now say I’m not only a fan of goat cheese – I’m addicted to the stuff. Mild, creamy, hard, soft – I love it all. But my ultimate favourite is paillot de chèvre from Quebec. Its soft interior is quite runny at the rind but gets firmer close to the centre, the flavour mildly aromatic and slightly tangy. Oh and in case you were wondering it goes great with a chill glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Here’s a recipe I’m currently obsessed with making: Pepper-Glazed Goat Cheese Gratin. This started as a favourite for my weekly date night at home with Mr. Spock, but the kids soon caught on and now help devour this fantastic appy.

Family of goat cheese lovers!

 

COOKBOOK REVIEW Saveur: the new classics

Cookbook review written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef

Stay-At-Home-Chef

Saveur: the new classics is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Simon & Schuster Cananda

Saveur: the classicsWhen it comes to encyclopedic cookbooks I am only willing to give up a limited amount of shelf space. I mean let’s be honest here folks – we’re talking about big, heavy tomes with a gazillion different recipes that throw you in a tailspin of indecision and to top it all off photos are limited (if included at all). But the classics do have a spot on my shelf, such as The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After weeks of rigourous testing I can truly say Saveur: the new classics has also earned a spot on my shelf.

Before selecting which recipes to test I read through each and every one – all 1,000 of them – and can say with authority that this book offers a wonderful variety of options guaranteed to inspire you. Short little intros to each recipe provide informative details about the origin of the dish and help bring the food to life. I really appreciate the obvious thought that was put into the index; you can search by ingredient or by origin – particularly helpful when you’re in the mood for a certain type of food but don’t know what to make. The ‘Pantry’ section at the back of the book holds a treasure trove of DIY basics; including stocks, pickles and preserves, spices, rubs, sauces and condiments that will compliment your efforts in the kitchen.

I’ve had a subscription to Saveur magazine for close to twelve years, and I’ve kept every single issue. This book is like an extension of our magazine collection, minus the stunning photography and editorial pieces, but with the same foolproof recipes that provide cooks with a creative and flavourful trip around the world. It is a celebration of everything Saveur stands for – culinary passion and knowledge – and I know I will be reaching for this book time and time again.

Jalapeño CornbreadPork Spiedies Spaghetti Carbonara

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COOKBOOK REVIEW: Alice’s Cookbook


Cookbook review written & photographed by Stay-At-Home-Chef


Alice's CookbookAlice’s Cookbook 
is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Lyons Press

I’m going to cut to the chase and announce right off the bat that I have a lot of heart for Alice’s Cookbook (Lyons Press $21.95 CDN). My crush on this book is unexpected as I picked it up on a whim, my purchase simply a reaction to the unusual thick cardboard cover with sketched illustrations on the front and back. The collection of recipes continue to inspire and motivate me in the kitchen. In fact, I’m having a hard time putting it aside and have a number of recipes earmarked to make in the near future.

Written by Alice Hart, a British chef and food stylist, this book bridges a years worth of seasons and holidays with recipe options that include an autumn movie night, New Year’s brunch, hot summer barbecue and a light, post-Christmas dinner. The book is divided into five separate sections: breakfast and brunch, picnics and happy camping, seasonal Sunday lunch, supper and lunch to share and – simply – party. It is geared toward creating feasts to be shared with friends and family at leisure and in celebration. If you’re looking for prepared food or quick-fix ideas this book isn’t for you. That’s not to say that Alice believes in slaving away in the kitchen up until the last minute guests arrive, but instead spending time a day or two beforehand to make a marinade or bake a cake. In other words, taking what she calls an intelligent and enjoyable approach to cooking and entertaining.

Each section of the book contains a collection of recipes for a particular menu (e.g. spring breakfast for six on the weekend) and provides make ahead suggestions to help avoid that dreaded last minute rush in the kitchen. I really appreciated the fluidity with which the recipes are written…and this coming from a self-professed rule follower. Alice include all of the relevant detail one looks for in a recipe, but keeps it open to interpretation in a way that really makes you feel in control of the dish as if you are co-creating it together. It’s more of a guide, leaving room for your natural culinary instincts to take charge. Don’t get the wrong idea here folks – precise baking measurements are included along with oven temperatures etc. – but instead of dictating one tablespoon of chile Alice leaves it open to your own interpretation. You pick the type and amount of chile that suits you. Don’t like a particular root vegetable suggested for a dish? Swap it out for whatever root you fancy more. It’s a liberating approach to recipes that went over quite well with me.

Two thumbs up from me!

Sautéing frittata goodiesRice Pudding Squares with Star Anise PlumsGrilling off skirt steak

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COOKBOOK REVIEW: The Preservation Kitchen


Review written & photographed by Helena McMurdo
All images © Helena McMurdo. Do not reproduce without permission.

The Preservations Kitchen is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Random House Canada

The Preservation Kitchen

The Preservation Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, $29.99 CDN) is written by Paul Virant, the Michelin-starred chef behind the Vie, in Western Springs, Illinois. He’s known for his local, seasonal cuisine and has an awards list as long as your arm including Food & Wine 2010 Best New Chef and a James Beard Nomination. I admire his approach to food, which embraces the seasons and uses preservation methods in order to showcase local flavours and ingredients.

He is joined by food writer, Kate Leahy who you may know as the co-author of A-16 Food+Wine, the ICAP2009 Cookbook of the Year.

As the name suggests, this book paints a picture of a kitchen that is organized around the bounty of the seasons, where food is put by for future use. It has two main sections: Preserving methods and various types of preserves are tackled in the first section while the second section is dedicated to menus to make with the preserves. Paul Virant’s philosophy that food is part of the good life, is evident in the way he has approached the recipe section, featuring an array of seasonal and occasional menus. His menus paint a picture of life enjoyed around the table with family, friends and conversation, whether it be through a refreshing light summer meal, an abundant thanksgiving menu, or a delightful charcuterie platter to share with friends who help out on a fall day of canning.

My favourite things about this book are:

The variety of preserves – This book has recipes for lots of different types of preserves and has different chapters for acidified preserves such as pickles and relish, conserves (including mostly fruit-based jams, marmalades, butters), bittersweet preserves including Aigre-Doux and Mostarda) and finally fermented and cured preserves such as sauerkraut and cured meat.

The sophisticated flavours – I found that flavours in the preserves to be subtle and multi-layered, not the sour, acid pickles I remembered from home canning of the past. With most of the pickle recipes calling for champagne vinegar, I found the results to be more delicate.

Aigre-Doux – This group of sweet and sour French preserves was a lovely discovery and the recipes in this category are ones that I’ll be taking advantage of to add wow to my cheese plates. I fell in love with the tangy, zingy flavours in these preserves.

The small batch recipes – I’ve been daunted in the past by canning because I felt like I needed to go out and procure 100lbs of tomatoes, and assemble a huge team of helpers, something my tiny kitchen would groan at. The recipes in this book allow you to try many different preserves in batches of 4 or 6 pint jars. So it’s not a huge investment in canning equipment or space. I liked the fact that if something grabbed my fancy I could put it together quickly in a few hours.

The clear and precise preserving instructions – Preserving can be daunting. I certainly don’t want to poison my friends or family with any unsafely canned food. In addition to the separate section outlining safe preserving instructions, the individual preserve recipes are very clear and have a good step-by-step sequence. I also really like how the authors have included equivalent measurements in volume oz, grams and percentages for all recipes.

My main criticism of the book would be that for most preserves, there was usually just one recipe to work with in the accompanying menu section. I found that certain preserves were really interesting to me, and while Virant definitely offers some additional suggestions for ways to use a preserve, in addition to the menu recipe, I would have appreciated additional menu recipes to work with. Despite the delicious and inspiring menus it was the preserves that really inspired me and I would have enjoyed other ways to use them.

That said, I think I’ll refer back to this book frequently. It’s basic methods and instructions for preserving are invaluable and the flavour combinations are truly inspiring. This is a book for the long haul, to sit with and plan with. The seasonal menus need some thinking out and I’m sure I’ll enjoy this book more in years to come as the seasons change and I’m able to take full advantage of more of the recipes.

Green Bean Salad Final Plate_© 2012 Helena McMurdoPanzanella Fennel Salad_© 2012 Helena McMurdoPear Vanilla Aigre-Doux Jars_© 2012 Helena McMurdo

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Monthly Butter Challenge: Saturday Morning Cinny Buns


Interview conducted & written by
Stay-At-Home-Chef

The second recipe in our monthly recipe challenge was Saturday Morning Cinny Buns – specifically, peach pecan with bourbon glaze – one of many rotating flavours the folks over at the Butter Café make for their addicted customers once a week.

Getting ready to roll

Unfortunately, I experienced ‘one of those days’ in the kitchen. You know the ones; no matter what you do something goes wrong and you start wondering if what the universe really wants you to do is get out of the kitchen and put your feet up with a big ol’ glass of vino.

A brief recap of my efforts:

During my first attempt I failed to read the instructions carefully (insert gasps of shock and horror here). I mean I did skim the steps, reading how flour and yeast were mixed with a melted combo of butter, milk, sugar and salt. What I didn’t read was that not all of the flour and butter quantities were to be used at once. So when I mixed the dough my ratios were off because I followed the total amount of listed ingredients and not what was specified in the instructions. Lesson learned.

Fresh Okanagan peaches and pecans

My second attempt fared much better, but I have to say I decided to take a bit of risk with this recipe. Probably not the best idea when you’re already having ‘one of those days’. Because my eldest daughter is gluten-intolerant I decided to substitute a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix. I’ve had much success with swamping flours before, but it didn’t work out this time around. The dough barely rose which wasn’t too much of a surprise considering I was working without gluten. But the dough was incredibly sticky and difficult to work with when rolling out, and in the end although they looked pretty the results tasted rather ghastly.

Cinny buns - voila!

The good news is that while I failed miserably this time around, Tina from The Pink Spatula enjoyed great success! You can read her post here.

The Pink Spatula

Want to join in on the fun? Pick-up a copy of Butter Baked Goods and send me a photo of the month’s recipe challenge or send a link to your blog post. Recipe reviews must be posted before the 20th of each month.

Next Monthly Butter Challenge: I told Tina from The Pink Spatula that her two daughters – Lauren and Katie age 12 – could choose the recipe for our next challenge. It was a difficult choice to make but the girls settled on (drum roll please) Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cupcakes (page 177). Nice choice Lauren and Katie! For those of you baking with us don’t forget to send your pics or blog post links before September 20!

And finally, a big congrats to the winners of the Butter Baked Goods giveaway contest! Sandra, Buffi, Natalie and Sonja copies of the book will be sent to you courtesy of the wonderful folks over at Random House of Canada. Please email your mailing address to info@cookthatbook.com  

Monthly Butter Challenge: The Dream Slice


Interview conducted & written by
Stay-At-Home-Chef

The past year has held a lot of change, including a big move into the city and a return to the world of full-time employment, and while all of these new adventures were welcome additions to our lives somewhere along the way I lost my food writing mojo. Looking for inspiration, it was while I was flipping through the pages of Rosie Daykin’s Butter Baked Goods book that I came up with the idea of baking my way through each of the heavenly looking recipes. There are a lot of baking challenges in the blogosphere, but there was just something oh so charming about Butter that inspired me and made me want to make (and eat) everything in its pages.

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The first recipe we tackled was The Dream Slice. Described as the Butter Café’s most popular bar, I thought this was as good a place to start as any. And I was right. What a fun, tasty treat to kick things off! There are three separate elements involved in this recipe but the instructions are straightforward and approachable, even for those who may be just picking up their whisks for the first time.

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A shortbread type base is quickly baked off before going back into the oven with a filling of walnuts, maraschino cherries (I used cherries that were naturally coloured – no chemicals here folks!) and coconut, and once cooled a topping of whipped buttercream icing is spread overtop as the finishing layer. Voila. Guaranteed to make your taste buds happy, The Dream Slice was easy to prepare and served up beautifully, perfect for that afternoon tea party or baby shower or simply eaten out of the pan at night after the kids and hubby are asleep. Not that that would ever happen. Ever.

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So here we are – the first month of this exciting new challenge and I am happy to say I’m in fine company!

Tina from The Pink Spatula was the first person I mentioned the monthly challenge to, and once she said she was ‘in’ I knew this was going to be fun.

Dream Slice - Pink Spatula

Kimberley from pinksiren.blogspot.com has previous experience with the Butter book and jumped right into the monthly challenge with tasty results!

Dream Slice - Pinksiren

Christina also kept us company this month and had the following to say:

Delicious bars that I would probably never have made on my own accord. 
They taste nothing like you would imagine with the ingredients listed. 
Everyone who tried them loved them. The crust was easy and turned out 
lovely. I will definitely make these gems again!
Dream Slice - Christina

And finally, I’d like to give a shoutout to Deborah who was having ‘one of those days’ in the kitchen while attempting this month’s challenge. You know those days – where nothing seems to go right? But she’ll be back for next month!

Want to join in on the fun? Pick-up a copy of Butter Baked Goods and send me a photo of that month’s recipe challenge or send a link to your blog post. Recipes reviews must be posted before the 20th of each month. To get things started, the wonderful folks over at Random House of Canada are providing five lucky readers with a giveaway copy of Butter Baked Goods! To be eligible for the draw, simply leave a comment below telling us what your favourite treat to bake happens to be. Winners will be announced during next month’s recipe roundup. Good luck!

Next Monthly Butter Challenge: Ooey gooey Saturday Morning Cinny Buns (page 53). Don’t forget to send your pics or blog post links before August 20!

INTERVIEW – Rosie Daykin (Butter Baked Goods)


Interview conducted & written by
Stay-At-Home-Chef

Attention bakers! Looking for some culinary excitement in your life? Why not join our monthly Butter Baked Goods cookbook challenge and bake your way through this beautiful book one recipe at a time. Each month we will be baking a recipe and comparing notes until all of the delicious treats have been made.

Described as a pink-and-pistachio slice of heaven, the Butter Baked Goods bakery first opened its doors in Vancouver in 2007 and owner Rosie Daykin’s childhood dream of owning a bakery came true. Famous for their homemade marshmallows, this bakery now has two locations in my stomping grounds. Last year’s release of a compilation of Butter’s favourite recipes has met with much success and just flipping through the pages you can see why. The whimsical look and feel of the cafe is carried throughout the book, with a variety of recipes ranging from muffins, cookies, bars & slices, cakes, cupcakes, pies and tarts as well as a variety of confections. Wanting an excuse to bake pretty much everything from this book, I came up with the idea of a monthly challenge and hope you join in on the fun!

To kick things off I had the opportunity to ask author Rosie Daykin some questions.

Butter Image 1Butter Baked Goods (published by Random House of Canada, $35 CDN) is a compilation of recipes from one of Vancouver’s favourite bakeries.
Photo courtesy of Random House of Canada 

Rosie DaykinYou first opened Butter Baked Goods in 2007. What was the inspiration behind starting your own bakery?
A love for baking. Just as simple as that. I wanted to spend my days doing something I loved that I hoped would bring others the same enjoyment.

Six years later, what made you decide to publish a cookbook?
It seemed like a natural extension and evolution to the work that I was doing at Butter. I enjoyed the idea that Butter could reach far and wide so people could enjoy our treats even if they couldn’t make it to Vancouver and I love the creative challenge of it all.
Photo courtesy of Random House of Canada

Butter is a gorgeously illustrated cookbook. When you first came up with the concept for this book did you have an idea of what you wanted it to look like?
I wanted the book to feel and look exactly as Butter does. I wanted the reader to feel as though they were walking through the doors of Butter.

Butter is a collection of classic, nostalgic style baking recipes. There seems to be quite a trend around classic/nostalgic baking. Why do you think that is?
I don’t see it as a trend so much. I see it more about a desire for simple pleasures that are very achievable in an ever changing world moving at warp speed.

Define the art of old-fashioned family baking.
The “art of old fashioned baking” sounds a little intimidating to me. I think it is more about simple ingredients used to create memorable moments with family and friends.

The bakery’s marshmallows have earned a reputation as being some of the very best gourmet marshmallows in North America. What makes them so special?
Our marshmallows are truly hand made, from start to finish. Right down to the little bow that is tied on every bag. Just like the goodies we produce at Butter everyday, nothing is automated. Things that have had human touch are special like no other.

Your recipes are designed to be approachable for everyone from the experienced baker to baking newbies. How did you accomplish this?
It is the only way I know how to bake. Many of my recipes are the very ones I have been making since I was a little girl. They are simple and straightforward, just like me.

What’s your favourite recipe in the book?
Oh that’s a bit of a Sophie’s Choice! How could I possible choose just one of my recipe children? Though the Peanut Butter Marshmallow Slice is pretty damn fine.

You have no formal pastry training. To what do you attribute your baking success?
Practice, practice and practice. No better way to learn than by throwing yourself in and digging your way out.

In the book you say success “breed confidence and confidence is a baker’s secret weapon.” What are your top tips for baking success?
Remove all self doubt from your mind and if it doesn’t work out the first time just get back on that horse and try it again.

Our first recipe challenge is the Dream Slice – what should we make next?
The Dunbar is pretty delicious but a pie is always a good challenge.

In your book you say that your theme song would be The Cape by Guy Clark; “life is just a leap of faith, spread your arms, hold your breath and always trust your cape.” What’s your next leap of faith?!  
I just planted my first vegetable garden and fingers crossed I’ll have something to show for it come summers end.

Any final advice/words of encouragement for our merry band of bakers?!
Just enjoy it and remember to share your treats.

Interested in joining our monthly Butter Baking Challenge? Leave a comment below!

Butter Baked Goods - Cover Image - HIGH RES

Butter Baked Goods is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this cookbook please visit Random House of Canada

To read more of our interviews with professional and celebrity chefs, please visit the Sound Bites section.

COOKBOOK REVIEW: Veggie Burgers Every Which Way

Niki Shewfelt
Review written & photographed by Niki Shewfelt

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit The Experiment

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way

When I first picked up Lukas Volger’s Veggie Burgers Every Which Way (published by The Experiment, $12.68 USD), I was not sure I could really enjoy a cookbook featuring only burgers. I mean, how many burgers can a person eat anyhow? I was wooed by the colorful cover, and the photos inside quickly inspired me to add veggie burgers to my weekly menus, as well as nudge me into making my own burger buns, from scratch. This book will definitely be the only burger book your family will need – even for those carnivores looking for a new palate-pleasing experience. I promise, you will not miss the meat in these recipes.

finished burgerburger cookingsalad

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