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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Childhood is Calling

Summer always reminds me of my childhood more than any other time of year. I think this is because for nearly 10 years after my parents divorced I would go back to my home state to spend the three months of summer. Which was great for a variety of reasons, but primarily because nothing beats summer in New England. Its the quintessential summer filled with watermelon, ice cream and backyard picnics.

My dad was... well still is.... a big fan of ice cream. Coffee is by far his favorite and its definitely in the top three of mine. BD is also a huge ice cream fan and you know what they say about little girls ending up with men like their fathers....

At this moment, it is safe to say I have four different kinds on ice cream in the freezer. Cookie dough, fudge brownie, caramel cone and lastly good ole strawberry. We also have leftover Carvel Ice Cream cake.

The strawberry is the newest addition to our little ice cream collection. The other night BD mentioned something about gummy bears and all of a sudden I had this craving: Gummy Bears on Strawberry Ice Cream. I probably hadn't it since I was a teenager and boy was it good.
If you've never tried gummy bears as a topping for ice cream, I strongly suggest you do. Best bet is to go with a fruity ice cream...chocolate doesn't take well to gummy bears.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tis the Grilling Season: Grilled Chicken and Eggplant Sandwiches

Grilled Chicken and Veggie Sandwiches

This past week I had a hankering for something grilled. More specifically, I was in the mood for a sandwich that was light, tasty, and full of flavor. I am not ashamed to admit that I actually spent most of the day at work brainstorming intermittently on what would accomplish this.

By the time I got home, I had it all planned out...all I had to do was convince BD to be "in the mood" for the same. I decided on making a grilled sandwich. Grilled chicken, grilled eggplant, grilled red bell peppers with mesclun greens and some melty cheese on some good bread.

To start, I sliced the eggplant and dropped it into a Ziploc baggy with some EVOO, S&P and garlic and onion powder to marinate for a few minutes.
While the eggplant was doing it's thang, I sliced about half a red bell pepper that I had in the fridge. Then I sprinkled on some S&P and EVOO and threw it on the fire. I wanted the to peppers to retain their texture and not get too mushy so I only left them on long enough to soften slightly and get a little charred on the outside. I knew the eggplant would be more on the soft side so I wanted a variety of textures and not just a "mush"wich.

For being a professional cook, BD is much more picky than I am. For example, he hates green peppers but will eat the rest. I'll eat them all but will gravitate towards the green for everyday sort of things such as chili or in with a sausage pasta dish. The main reason being they cost about a third of the rest of the other colors of peppers. But for this meal I knew red was the way to go. A little sweeter and not as strong in flavor and it was all about balance for this sandwich.
Next I prepped my chicken. After washing the breasts and patting it dry I rubbed on McCormick's Roasted Garlic Chicken Rub. I've always found this one to give a good flavor and add some color to the chicken.
Before placing it on the grill I drizzled it with EVOO to prevent sticking.
While the chicken was waiting, I grilled my eggplant. Mid way through the grilling process I rotated each slice so I would get some nice grill marks on them. Once they cooled down a little I sliced them into fourths.

For my tasty crusty bread I chose to use to go with Ecce Panis Roasted Garlic Italian. It has whole cloves of roasted garlic studded throughout the bread with a soft, dense inside and a nice outside crust. Love this bread.
For the sandwiches we sliced a hunk out of the middle so that we would actually be able to fit the sandwich in our mouths! The bread is VERY thick. Then we spread a little butter on the bottom slice and then topped the other half with sliced Havarti cheese and popped it in the toaster oven to get all melty. Mmmm... melty cheese!
When the cheese and butter had melted we placed the mesclun (mesclun is a mix of baby greens including lettuces, arugula, spinach, radicchio and various others -it depends on the brand) on the buttered side and the roasted red peppers and eggplants on the other.
After the chicken was fully cooked we gave it a few minutes to cool and then sliced it on a very thin bias. I think you can see in this picture how thin it was sliced.
After that the only thing left was to mush then two halves together, slice it down the middle and eat!

You can see that I added a little salt and pepper to my greens first though!
My thoughts on this dish: I was really happy with how this little sandwich turned out. All the tastes blended together really well. I toyed with the idea of some kind of saucy topping for this but I couldn't come up with anything that sounded good. After eating it, I didn't think it really needed it between the butter, cheese and the natural moistness of the veggies and chicken. BD said it would have been better with something though.
I have a feeling that grilled sandwiches are going to be my new favorite food for the summer. Happy grilling!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

M is for Mmmm or Meh???

Mitchell's Fish Market
Tampa, FL
The other night, BD and I went out for a somewhat special occasion. We've eaten at Mitchell's a couple of times before, but usually just at the bar for some drinks and appetizers. However, since this was a celebration of sorts we decided to eat in the actual restaurant. Looking back, we probably should have just went to the bar. It was the only lively spot in the place. There was a wonderful jazz pianist and probably more people in there than the dinning area.
We were led by the hostess (who turned out to actually be our server) to a quiet table in the corner. After hemming and hawing over the menu for a bit, we settled on our choices. BD did mention he was a little disappointed with the fact that there were only 3 (I think) dishes on the
menu that did not have seafood at all. Granted we were in a "Fish Market" but I agree a little more variety would have been nice.
We settled on sharing the New Orleans Voodoo BBQ Shrimp. I think this dish was my favorite for the whole night. The shrimp were wrapped in bacon and then grilled. Very yum.

The shrimp were much larger than I anticipated. They were cooked perfectly (nothing worse than overcooked shrimp... ok well maybe there is but its still pretty bad) and very tasty. The VooDoo BBQ sauce was tangy and sweet and had a little bit of kick in the aftertaste. BD thought it was too "tomato-y" but I didn't think so. The sticky rice was also well done and perfect for sopping up some of the remaining sauce.
For the main course, BD ordered the Hoisen-Glazed Yellowfin Tuna with sticky rice and stir-fried vegetables. He loves stir-fried veggies but I can never get into them.
You can't really see it here but the sticky rice is served like a little rice pyramid which kinda made me giggle. It was cute. BD really liked the veggies and the glaze but felt the Tuna was a little under seasoned. I agreed when he shared a bit with me. Also, he requested the Tuna pan-seared and they grilled it instead. It was cooked to temp though which is always a plus.
I was really at a loss for what to order for dinner. I didn't feel like a full meal. So I decided on having a bowl of Lobster Bisque and then a Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake appetizer with a side of their scallion mashed potatoes.
If there is one variety of food I am most picky about, it is certainly seafood. I grew up in New England, where seafood - especially shellfish - is taken very seriously. Furthermore, my grandfather was a Lobsterman for all of his life and that really had its advantages. I got spoiled with some of the freshest seafood imaginable. When I was debating on my order I was torn between the Lobster Bisque or the Soup Du Jour, which was Tomato Bisque with croutons and Goat Cheese. I should have went with Tomato. Lobster Bisque is very hard to get just right and this one was kinda a let down. The consistency was good and there was plenty of lobster but the flavor was a little too bitter and something was missing.
Our server did time our food perfectly. Everything came out just a few minutes after we had just finished the previous course.
The appetizer is actually served over a sweet corn saute but I swapped that for some taters. The crab cake is 95% lump crab meat per our server. I believe it, there was hardly anything else but crab in it. It was cooked just how a crab cake should be - with a nice crust on each side. I thought the melted butter on top was a great as well. It was still a little bubbly when it came to the table. The tarter sauce was also exceptional. I know that's hard to say about tarter sauce, but they "jazzed" it up a bit with a little bit of dill, and something else I couldn't put my finger on. The scallion mashed potatoes had a wonderful flavor. The scallion flavor was present but not overpowering. When I ordered them, I assumed there would be scallions in the potatoes but this was not the case. I believe they sauteed them in the butter or cream/milk and then strained them out.
My only one complaint was the presentation. I know it was only an app, and a special order but a sprig of parsley or some confetti of some sort would have made it a little more attractive.
While the dinner didn't wow, or overly impress me in anyway, I know we will be back. And next time we will probably eat in bar area. I have found that there are some restaurants where eating at or in the bar is better than eating in the dining room.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Triple the Cheese, Please!: Parm Tater Tots and Phake Phillies

Last Wednesday night DB ended up having the night off. Usually he is working at the restaurant on Wednesday so I get a chance to relax, catch up on the DVR, be lazy, and NOT cook. My plan of rummaging in the fridge for something to eat and watching the Real Housewives of NJ was foiled. So I ended up whipping together some Philly Cheese steaks and some Parmesan tossed tater tots. Quick, easy and cheap.

One of our food staples is frozen Philly steak meat. I'd never had it before and honestly was a little grossed out by it when BD wanted to buy some. Then a couple of years ago on X-mas Eve he made a couple for us before we went out. I was pretty shocked at how quick and yummy it was.

Philly Cheese steaks - A fast and loose recipe!

- Sliced Onion
- Sliced green, red, yellow (whatever color!) bell pepper
- Sliced Mushrooms
- Philly Meat (or left over steak sliced really thin)
- Garlic - powder or minced
- Rolls
- Cheese! I used Provolone and American

1- Slice your veggies and saute in a little EVOO or butter till tender. Remove from pan and set aside.
2- *Some brands want the meat thawed and others don't so be sure to check for that.* Throw it in the pan, sprinkle with S&P and garlic to taste. Cook until thoroughly done.
3- Throw veggies back in the pan and toss together.
4- Place mixture on bread and top with cheese. (as much or as little as you want)
5- Throw under a broiler until cheese is melty.

Parmesan Tater Tots
*This is sooooo easy and makes tater tots even better than they already are.

- Frozen Tater Tots
- Parmesan Cheese - grated
- S&P
- Garlic and Onion powder

1- Take tots and place on a sheet pan.
2- Lightly coat in melted butter or EVOO
3- Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder to taste.
4- Bake according to package.
5- When done sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toss to coat.

What I like about this meal is that even though its not fancy, hard or takes a lot of time - it still have a homemade quality to it. Plus its great comfort food.

While I was at the grocery store picking up a few things I needed for dinner that night I wandered into the bakery. BAD IDEA. I came across these Brownie Cookies. Soft cookies with walnuts and chunks of white chocolate in them. Sooooo good. And with a cold glass of milk I was in heaven.

I made DB hide the other two from me so I wouldn't eat them too!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ongoing Index

If you see me using an acronym and you are unsure of what I mean - here is a list! I'll be sure to update it regularly.

BD - My boyfriend and fellow cook and "photographer".
HD - roommate and brother of BD, taste tester and dishwasher.

S&P - Salt and Pepper

EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I know, rip off of Rachael Ray but I don't feel like typing the whole thing out every time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Memories...light the corners of my mind

Whiskey Joe's
Tampa, FL

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with a dear old friend this evening at a place that is very important to our history. Whiskey Joe's has been open now for about a year. Prior to that, at same location was a different restaurant owned by the same corporation - The Castaway. About three years ago my friend JD and I were both managers at The Castaway. JD was the GM and I was an Asst. MGR/ Event Manager. When I started there, I did it for the money. Little did I know I would end up making some great friends and meet my current boyfriend there.

JD and I had worked at a previous restaurant but it was at The Castaway that we became very close. He and I are very much the same thread, just a different pattern. While I have been to Whiskey Joe's since they renovated it, JD had not.

I arrived about 20 minutes before and found a comfortable seat at the marble top bar. The place was busy but not overly packed for 8pm on a Friday night. One of the bartenders on duty, Martha has been here for nearly 20 years. She is as much a fixture in this places as the beach the restaurant sits on. After a brief catch-up, I simply asked she make me a "good" margarita. And she certainly delivered. Tall, cold, perfectly mixed with a Grand Marnier floater on top. No way could you go wrong with that.

While I was waiting for JD to arrive, I glanced around and took in a great sunset. By far - bar none - the biggest plus of this restaurant has and always will be its location. Its located right on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, sitting on Tampa Bay and out of all the restaurants on Rocky Point this one has the best view of the sunsets. Not only the outside deck, that jets out off the beach and over the water, a perfect spot to view a Florida sunset but the restaurant has huge windows (nearly floor to ceiling) so that every seat can get a front row view. While I didn't snap a shot of this particular sunset, I will enclose one that I took from the deck a few years ago while I worked there. The best sunsets are in the Winter and this particular picture was taken in December.

JD finally arrived and we spent a few hours catching up on old times and each others lives. Whenever the two of us have a chance to get together I know that a few things are bound to happen:

- I will drink way too much

- I will enjoy some great food

- I will leave feeling inspired about life

- I always have a fantastic time filled with good conversation

Without fail, JD took a walk around to view the changes and then suggested we order. We settled on the Calamari and the Oysters Rockefeller.

I've had the Calamari a couple of times before and its probably one of my favorites in the area. Instead of the traditional rings and tentacles, you get the strips which almost resemble fries. The breading was crisp and didn't overwhelm the taste of the calamari. Included is fried red and green bell peppers and red onions as well. At first, you wouldn't think fried peppers would be any good but surprisingly they are. To top the dish off there is a drizzle of a spicy chipotle remoulade. I would personally prefer the sauce on the side so I can dip each bite in it but I'm a whore for dipping sauces...

The Oysters Rockefeller are equally as delicious. Oysters baked with spinach and a creole brandy sauce on top - simply divine. And to be truthful... I don't even like Oysters.

I also love, love, love the presentation for this dish. Its fun and trendy but it really does make the oysters stand out.

To my dear friend, JD - Thank you for being a mentor and confident in my life. I look forward to many more rendezvous, margaritas and food for the soul. And thank you for a great evening.


Whipped Potatoes

Creamy Whipped Potatoes

Inspiration: Nothing special really. I wanted to do something different because I generally will only eat plain mashed/whipped potatoes when I have some tasty gravy to pour over them. Still this is my basic recipe I use either for "as is" or as a jumping point for something with a little more pizazz.

*This recipe is technically for two though we did have a decent amount of leftovers.

- Two large Idaho potatoes
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- approx 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- Lots of Salt and Pepper

1. Peel and chop potatoes and then drop into a pot of boiling water. (Be sure to rinse the potatoes after peeling them)

2. Stir occasionally until potatoes are done. They are done when they are fork tender. The amount of time depends on how big or small you chopped them. 15 minutes for mine for example.

3. Drain potatoes and then place back in the hot pot for a few minutes.

4. Add two tablespoons of butter and using a masher - mash potatoes until most of the chunks are gone. **I do this first because its then easier to whip them and you don't have potato flying across the kitchen - true story.

5. Add about 1/3 of the cream and using a hand mixer (or beater you might call it) start to whip the potatoes. Slowly add more cream and butter until you get your desire consistency.

6. Add S&P to taste.
*Serve immediately or place on a warm burner to keep warm.

My thoughts on this dish: Its pretty standard and really simple but it comes out tasty. I prefer to use buttermilk instead of heavy cream but DB hates buttermilk.

Side note: If you use buttermilk and reduced fat cream cheese you can make a lower calorie mashed potato.

Pizza and Beer fit for a Queen!

Queen's Pizza
Clearwater, FL

I have been to Queen's several times over the years. I first learned about them from my parents. Its their favorite pizza in the Tampa Bay area and they have been going there for well over 10 years when it was just a little hole in the wall. Personally, if there is one thing about the South and Tampa in general its the lack of really, REALLY good pizza. I come from CT where pizza is *almost* as good as NYC or Chi-town. Still, in Tampa you can find a few pizza joints that don't do half bad and Queen's is certainly one of the top ones on that list.

Before I go further, I apologize for the crap pictures - I only had a camera phone to work with.

BD and I do not live close to Queen's Pizza by any means but we were in the area and made the decision to have dinner here. It's probably been a year since we've had the chance so we took advantage.

*Queen's Pizza also has two other locations: Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs.

I already knew what we would be having but I took a peek at the menu anyway. I know I should probably try some of their other menu items but when I come here - I come for Pizza! Its a pretty standard Italian menu with Pizza, Subs, Pasta and apps.

Shortly after being sat the waitress came to take our order. We ordered the Queen's Special: Pepperoni, Sausage, Hamburg, Ham, Onions, Green Peppers and Mushrooms. However, we 86'd the Ham and asked for extra cheese. DB ordered some AmberBock and I did the same. I am by no means a beer drinker and AmberBock is one of three beers that I will actually enjoy on a rare occasion. This happened to be one of them because for some reason a beer sounded really tasty right then. (Queens is wine and beer only)

The beer was ice cold and served in a frosty mug which made my day. When I do drink beer it needs to be ice cold for me to enjoy it. I made a comment to BD how good it tasted and he explained that its because I just got off work and "the harder you work, the better the beer tastes". I kinda liked that little saying.

One thing about Queens that you should know is that it will take at least 25 minutes for your pizza to be ready. They don't rush the cooking process and that is perfectly okay with me.

25 minutes later......

The picture really doesn't do this justice. We ordered a Medium or 14" pizza.

The first thing I love about Queen's Pizza is that if you ask for extra cheese - they make sure you get it. I feel that the cheese on any pizza can make it or break it. Skimpy topping, icky sauce, whatever can all be forgiven if the cheese is good and plentiful.

The crust is also very good here. Crisp and thin enough on the bottom so that it doesn't feel like you are eating a breadstick but thick enough so its not like a thin crust pizza. The edge is also that perfect balance of being firm an not flimsy but not as hard as a rock. The crust is also light and airy.

The toppings:

Cons: I personally would have liked a little more hamburger. Hamburger is a topping rarely seen on a menu in FL but in CT - its everywhere. One of those small things I miss from back home. I don't need or want my pizza to be overloaded (that would distract from the cheese of course) but in the two slices I had I could only taste it once. Also, while everything else on the pizza is very fresh the mushrooms seem to be either canned or sauteed prior to being placed on the pizza. Some people don't like the earthy taste the mushrooms have when they are fresh like that (DB doesn't) I however do.

Pros: Obviously as mentioned above - the cheese! Also, they put just the right amount of sauce on the pizza. I hate it when a pizza has too much sauce, the cheese slides right off= fail. The sauce also has a good flavor - not too sweet or acidic. One thing that really impresses me about QP is they very finely shave the green peppers and onions. This ensure they don't overpower the pizza and cook thoroughly while in the oven.

BD and I eat had two slices and were stuffed. We only ate half and now I have two slices of my own waiting for me at home for dinner tonight and I can barely concentrate at work now. I can't wait for 5 0'clock!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kitten with a Whisk Investigates

BD and I were having a conversation the other night regarding Hamburgers. I asked my "know-it-all" boyfriend why it was called a hamburger when there is no ham in it. Why this never occurred to me before... I can't say. Furthermore, I can't believe I didn't already know the answer. Especially when I exercised my favorite thing to do when in search of the truth - Google it!

I love Google - it almost never fails me.

Here is what I learned: (In a very short and sweet version)
Hamburgers are said to come from Hamburg, Germany. Eventually the Germans made their way here, bringing hamburger steak with them which soon lead to making a sandwich of the meal. Wow, simple and logical. Who knew?

BD said when he was little he thought they were called HANDBURGERS because you ate them with your hand. Too cute.

Comfort Food Heaven: Stuffed Meatloaf

At the request of DB I made some simple, homemade comfort food. We rarely eat at home on Monday night's as we opt to get out of the house and have a few drinks instead but this week was an exception. Monday nights do seem to be a good night to partake in some soul-warming food though. I decided on making Stuffed Meatloaf, Whipped Potatoes and Corn. I had been craving this meatloaf for a good while now and luckily I remember how I did it before. (I've only made it once before).

One of the main reasons I wanted to start a blog was so that I would HAVE to write down my recipes. I never write them down, hardly ever follow one and refuse to share them - till now. I love looking at recipes for inspiration but its a very rare instance that I would follow one to a T when it comes to cooking. I also don't measure, so most everything is a "guesstimate" as to the proportions but close enough.

Stuffed Meatloaf

Inspiration: This recipe is actually derived from one Rachael Ray does. I caught a 30 Minute Meal and this was the main dish. This was well over two years ago so I have no clue what her recipe is.

(printable recipe)
- 1.5lbs of ground beef
- 1 shallot
- 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic (I use a regular large spoon)
- 1 tablespoons of dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 3 slices of prosciutto
- 5 sliced of provolone cheese
- Two handfuls of fresh baby spinach
- 1/3 cup of bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- few dashed of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and Pepper to taste

You will also need: Cooking spray, parchment paper and two cookie sheets


1. Mince garlic and shallot.
2. In a large mixing bowl, crack and whisk the egg.
3. Add meat, garlic, shallot, oregano, parsley, basil, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, worcestershire and S&P (salt and pepper). Mix well with hands until well incorporated but don't over mix it.
4. Take two cookie sheets and two pieces of parchment paper. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Lay one piece of parchment over the cookie sheet. ****I forgot I was out of parchment so I just sprayed the pan but parchment makes this A LOT easier.**** Place meat mixture in the form of a ball in the center. Then take 2nd sheet of parchment and lay over it. Take the second cookie sheet and press down until the meat is about 1/3 - 1/2 of an inch thick.
5. Remove top cookie sheet and parchment paper. Layer the three slices of prosciutto, then the provolone cheese and finally the spinach straight down the middle.
6. Start at one side of the meat and slowly roll the meat to the other side. Remove parchment and flip the meat so that the seam side is down. Mold and pinch the ends to create a seal to keep the cheese inside.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. ** I prefer to take mine out when its still just a little bit pink.

8. Let stand for about 5-10 minutes and then cut into 1" thick slices to serve.

My thoughts on this dish: Its super simple and a nice twist on a pretty standard comfort food. I was very happy with the flavor of the meat. All the flavors blended really well and it was super moist. I was a little concerned that I put too much garlic (which is very rare for me because I love it) but BD said he couldn't even taste it. If you aren't a garlic fan you might to use a little less just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Sweet Tooth

I should be doing homework but eh, who cares? Yesterday, my day started off with a sleepy boyfriend asking for breakfast - in bed no less. I had my heart set on making a new dish that I stumbled across not too long ago but he wanted a Breakfast Burrito. We raged in a foodie battle for what seemed like hours when your tummy is growling, your hungover and you want what you want.

He won, I lost. I'm too easy. They ended up being meh. We were out of some of the usual ingredients for them. I should have just made what I wanted.

Today, I finally caved into my weakness of Junk Food and the pop can of Pillsbury Cinabon Cinnamon Rolls in the fridge. Man.... these things are dangerous. I have a great recipe for cinnamon rolls but when your lazy and in a sleepy daze...these things will fill in nicely.

I popped the can, (I secretly love popping it by smacking it on the edge of the counter) sprayed some cooking spray (butter flavored of course) on the cookie sheet and threw them in. This is what I sometimes call "fake-out baking" when you just throw what ever you want on a cookie sheet and into the fire. Nothing wrong with it but baking is usually a LOT more labor intensive than that.

Now the house smells like a cinnamon wonderland and all of a sudden I am thinking about snow falling and Christmas lights....Its 88 degrees today! So my cinnamon rolls are "baking" and I've got a nice glass of milk chilling in the freezer. I think there are few drinks that satisfy me more than a nice glass of really cold milk.

All I need to do is frost those babies down with icing after they come out of the oven and life will be simply divine for the 2.3 minutes it will take me to devour one.

5 minutes later.....

Call me crazy but these are better than I remember. I can't figure out if its because I haven't had them in about 6 or 7 years or because I really wanted a cinnamon roll. They puffed up nicely and the middle was soft, gooey and sticky just as it should be. I've got cinnamon and sugar all over my fingers....mmmmm.

Now its time for a Red Bull and some homework.

Happy Sunday!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why didn't I think of this?

A friend of mine shared this link with me the other week. I honestly think the "Banana Bunker" is a rather GENIUS idea. Sure, it looks a little suggestible - like a condom - but if it does keep my daily banana from being what? One of the reasons I hate bringing a banana to work is because they get all bruised up before I have a chance to enjoy it as my mid-day snack. If I see one in the store I am totes going to buy it.... I'm too lazy to order it online at the moment.
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