Carpathian Kasha with Browned Onions and Walnuts

Buckwheat kasha

Carpathian kasha – Vinny made this nutty gluten-free side dish for an Eastern European themed dinner party, with a shout out to Dracula. More

Vinny presents the 35 cent loaf – a video!

 

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Our first cooking video

One rainy day at the cottage this summer, Vinny and his crew decided to make a cooking video. This is our first attempt at doing such a thing.

Vinny’s cousin Sage will take you through the bread-making process, completely unscripted. Watch it full screen – fun!

This artisanal method of bread-making is so easy, even your kids can do it…. Just like Sage does. There’s no kneading, no waiting over night, and only about 10 or 15 minutes of prep time.

You end up with freshly baked deliciousness for only pennies a loaf. That’s really cheap eats. So lets get baking!

Print this: Artisanal bread recipe

Caution: An adult must  supervise children when putting the pot in the hot oven and taking it out again. Always use oven mitts. Pull out the rack for easy access.

Banana squash is economical as well as tasty

Banana squash - a winter squash

An unusal giant winter squash

On a beautiful family farm near Silver Lake Provincial Park (Ontario), where my parents used to take my sister and I to camp every weekend during the summer, I discovered an intriguingly large vegetable new to me. It goes by the name banana squash.

These cylindrical squashes can be gigantic, growing to sizes of up to 3 feet long and 35 pounds. Mine measured only 1.5 feet long and weighed in at 5.1 pounds, without the seeds.

The rind was thick and tough on this winter squash variety. I carefully dissected my monster on a bread board using a large chopping knife. The seeds were fatly impressive and I saved a few to dry so my daughter could try to grow some more of these things herself next summer. She likes experimenting with unusual plants.

How to roast this veggie

The orange flesh looked similar to Kabocha or Butternut. I decided to roast just half of my banana squash, flesh side down, on a heavy cookie sheet at 375F in the oven for an hour, bathed in a little water.

When it was fork tender, I turned it right side up and filled the cavity with some butter, a sprinkling of coconut palm suger, cinnamon, ground pepper, and a little salt and let it bake a few minutes longer.

Nutrition info

The taste is rather mild, so we liked it well dressed, with butter and a little sweetener, as well as salt and pepper.

Fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free, banana squash is an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C. It also provides the minerals iron and calcium. Without dressings, it has just 20 grams in a half cup serving. The butter and sugar are extra!

Like all colorful vegetables, this squash is beneficial for healthy skin and hair, as well as for its action as an antioxidant protecting against cellular damage.

As there are only two of us for dinner, I will use the left-overs to make soup or a filling. Stay tuned for future recipe ideas featuring squash, now in season.

 

An ancient Romanian wine starts off our evening with Dracula

Roumanian wine - Tamaioasa Romaneasca Cotnari DOC

An evening with Dracula

The idea for our Dracula-themed dinner party this year stemmed from a bottle of wine we received at Christmas. Tāmâioasā is an indiginous grape variety from Romania, the Eastern European country that harbors Dracula’s castle in the province of Transylvania.

The grape variety is related to Muscat. The name means ‘incense’ in Romanian. This is apparent from the first sniff, which gives off a strong floral and honey scent tinged with orange, acacia, apricot,  and hay.

This pale straw wine has a medium-sweet, medium-bodied taste, with flavors of stone fruit, pear, honey, and citrus, followed by a long finish with hints of white spices. You can get it in Ontario at certain times (like Christmas) for the reasonable price of $13.05 a bottle at the LCBO.

Pairing the wine

I would have liked to serve it with foie gras. It would have been the perfect sweet accompaniment to balance the richness of a goose liver pate. And liver would have been an appropriate ingredient for Dracula’s palate, right?

But instead we settled on grilled and skewered halloumi wrapped in prosciuto. The semi-sweetness of the wine worked well with the salty and creamy texture of the cheese and cured ham.

And I’m sure you immediately see that skewering the cheese through its heart and pairing it with an ancient Romanian wine was an ideal beginning for our Dracula-themed dinner. The recipe will follow at some unknown time…

Naval Museum, Albenga

A thousand amphorae recovered from a ship sunk to the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the 1st century BC… perhaps they once contained a good Romanian Muscat?

Ancient,  indeed it is

Tămâioasă Românească is a grape variety with a tradition of over 2,000 years in Romania. The grape comes from the South of Greece, and it is one of the oldest varieties in the world. During the Antiquity, Muscat wines like this one were the most appreciated from all countries located on the Mediterranean. The wine,  which at that time was transported in amphorae, was considered as currency in commerce.

Of course, being semi-sweet, you can also serve it for dessert. I like it better than the much sweeter ice-wine, myself. It is best served very cold, perhaps from the freezer or over ice.

Roumanian wine - Tamaioasa Romaneasca Cotnari DOC

Noroc!

I think this is how Dracula might say “Cheers!”

Red Currant Jelly – A Small Batch

Red currant jelly

This recipe’s ingredients are scaled to yield about 2 cups of jelly. It has taken a few years (and a few crops of red currants) to find the successful ratio for my jelly. If you don’t get it right, you either end up with rubber or syrup.

Although I have lived in my house for over 40 years, it was only maybe 10 years ago that I found I had a red currant bush on my property. It was hidden at the front of a long cotoneaster hedge. My neighbor had taken care of the hedge ever since we moved in. So I didn’t notice the bush until poor old Ted died and my husband got tired of trimming it, leaving the job to me.

Red currants grow underneath the branches and are well hidden by dense foliage. So unless you are fooling around under the bush, you won’t see the currants. I was so excited when I discovered I had an edible crop on my property!

Being against added sugar in my food, I tried sweetening it for the first few years with stevia. But it seems you need sugar in this recipe to get the liquid to set. The proportion is important. If you use less sugar, you end up with a syrup. That is OK if you want to use it only in cocktails. But if you want a jelly, here is what worked for me.

Red currant bush

Red Currant Jelly
makes 2 cups

  • 1.5  pounds fresh red currants (about 4 cups, destemmed and rinsed)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup white sugar per cup of juice you end up with
  • 2 tablespoons liquid fruit pectin
  1. Place the currants into a large pot, and crush with a potato masher or berry crusher if you have one.
  2. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the fruit through a jelly cloth or cheese cloth, and measure out 2 cups of the juice. You can press the berries and squeeze the cloth to get all juice possible. Squeezing doesn’t affect the clarity of the jelly with my currents. I added a little water to get the 2 cups I needed.
  4. Pour the juice into a large saucepan, and stir in the sugar. I added 1.5 cups because I had 2 cups of juice.
  5. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, and stir until the temperature on a candy thrmometer reaches 120F (104C). The candy thermometer proved vital for my success. Well worth the price.
  6. Stir in the liquid pectin immediately. Return to a full rolling boil, and allow to boil for 30 seconds.
  7. Remove from heat and skim any white foam off the top. Ladle or pour into sterile jars, leaving space at the top. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth. Cover with sterile lids and rings.
  8. Process covered in a bath of simmering water for 10 minutes or the time recommended by your local extension for your area. It should keep in the fridge for a year. But if you’ve done it properly, it wan’t last nearly that long!

If yours is more like a syrup than a jelly, mix a tablespoon into a glass of bubbly white wine. You get a homemade kir! Or dribble some over ice cream or pancakes. I like mixing it with yogurt and fruit or drizzling it over sponge cake. Or I might put a small piece of cheese on a whole grain cracker and top it with a dab of red currant syrup. All delicious. Nothing is ever wasted in our house!

Toasting nuts

Nuts

To get the most from your nuts, toasting is the way to go. How does that work? More

Easy, artisanal bread in five minutes

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Have you been afraid to make your own bread, thinking about how it used to take Grandma all day to bake a loaf? Well, here’s a recipe you can serve the day you make it.

More

Home-made Pie Crust Recipe

Chocolate pear pie-building the pie

Home-made pie shell, ready to fill.

This is a standard pie crust recipe. But I have never made a pie crust in my life. So I decided to start with an easy, classic recipe and see where it takes me. Here it goes. More

Magical ice cream loaf – 2 ingredients!

Ice cream loaf

Make a delicious tea loaf with just two ingredients.

Here’s something fun to try with your mini chefs. Bake a sweet loaf using just ice cream and flour, and enjoy it warm from the oven. Or slice it and make an awesome peanut butter and jam sandwich. You can also use a slice as a base for strawberries and whipped cream or bananas and chocolate sauce. Let your imagination take you on a taste safari! More

Etouffée – Smothered chicken and shrimp with Cajun seasonings for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras centre piece

Mardi Gras colors are purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Beads are thrown from elaborate floats and costumed people riding the floats must disguise their faces, by law.

Mardi Gras is coming soon, offering a fun way to celebrate Spring with friends or to welcome Lent as a prelude to Easter. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, has its origins in the French Catholic church. The custom was brought to the French colonies in North America in the 1700s, specifically New Orleans, and is now a legal holiday in Louisiana.

Over the years specific dishes featuring Cajun and Creole cuisine have become traditions. More

Bruno’s Truffle Omelette

 

Truffle omelet a la Bruno

Vinny loves all things “eggs,” but a morning omelet is one of his favorites. So when he found a recipe for a truffle omelet from Bruno, Chief of Police of the fictional village of St. Denis in the heart of the Dordogne in France, Vinny couldn’t resist. More

Smoked-salmon chowder for Robbie Burns Day

Robbie Burns Day!

Robbie Burns Day is an annual tradition in our house. Falling on the Scottish bard’s birthday, January 25th, the day is usually marked by a savory steamed pudding called haggis, which at one time came wrapped inside a sheep’s stomach. Bagpipes, Scotch whiskey, kilts, and an “address to a Haggis” are all part of the celebrations. More

Easy tourtière, a traditional meat pie

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Family traditions are especially important at Christmas. Tourtière is one of them. Vinny just wouldn’t feel right without this savory meat pie for the holidays. More

Fat-burning bedtime soother

Moon at halloween

What if we could lose weight while we sleep…

That idea sounds almost miraculous. But it might just be possible. Here’s the theory.

At night, our body burns the fat we have accumulated during the day. We can speed up that process while we sleep by stimulating the digestive system and increasing our metabolism. Drinking in some of nature’s stronger metabolism boosters can prod our digestion system to be more efficient. More

Annie’s improbable fruit crumble

Apple Brown Betty

This delicious dessert owes its existence to Hannah Rothchild’s comic novel The Improbability of Love, a satire of the art world served up as a sensory experience fit for royalty. I was presenting this novel to our neighborhood book club. More

Gramma’s easy dry-brined roast turkey

Steaming turkey fresh from the Egg

Steaming turkey fresh from the oven

Vinny has invited the whole family for Chrisrmas. They all said YES!

That’s when his sleepless nights and bad dreams began. He had never in his life before tackled a humungous roast turkey. Vinny’s nightmares starred dry stringy white meat and rubbery drumsticks as a centerpiece for his big night.

What to do! Then he remembered Gramma More

Making butter – a food experiment

 

 

A butter-making model

 

You’d butter believe it!

Where does butter come from? Milk, of course. People discovered butter thousands of years ago. Methods for making butter all involve some kind of whipping or churning to separate the fat from the liquids in milk. We can make butter easily for ourselves at home. Seeing is believing! More

Mini cheesecakes with stevia

Minni cheese cakes with stevia

Try our homemade liquid stevia solution to make these sweet little cheesecakes and you might become hooked on stevia forever. The cakes are moist, creamy, and flavorful. But most of all, without adding any sugar at all to the cheese filling, they taste sweet and tangy. More

A Kid’s Favorite Crab Spread

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Alaskan king crab – a true giant

Crab is a mild-tasting shellfish that most people like, even the kids. It is low in fat, containing only  82 calories in a 3-ounce serving, while supplying a third of your daily protein needs. Crab is a brain food, More

Wedding scones for Harry and Meghan

wedding

With much fanfare this morning, Prince Harry married an American woman whom he met in Toronto, Canada… the beautiful Meghan Markle. In honor of this marriage, a blending of two cultures, Vinny presents the traditional British scone with a twist. We’ve added a little color and lots of spirit to create a delicious breakfast treat that represents the best of both worlds. Easy to make, I whipped this up between hymns, while taking in the Royal wedding. Best wishes to the bride and groom! More

Chocolate oatmeal and nut cookies for stuffing hollow Easter egg-shells

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Vinny wanted to make an Easter treat he could use to fill the pretty hollow Easter egg-shells he found at the dollar store. “I’d like something without any chemical additives, but sweet and chocolatey, and filled with fiber and nutrients that make eating them as good for a kid’s health as they are sweet on the tongue,” he said. More

Hurricanes Kick Off Mardi Gras Party

 

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Vinny seems to have abandoned his post in the past months. This has meant a noticeable dearth on this site of healthy but delicious recipes for growing families. In his wake, there is only… me.

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras recipes were featured in my most recent cooking class in the run-up to Lent. I served some of what we learned at our annual gourmet evening, celebrating Mardi Gras style. I think Vinny would approve, though. Cajun cooking in New Orleans is rife with fresh seafood, hot spices, garlic, and a wild array of fresh veggies. Chicken is also an option. More

Hochepot de Queue de Boeuf, otherwise known as Oxtail Stew

Oxtail stew

They say third-time lucky. I admit I’ve posted this recipe twice before. But this time, I’ve deviated from the simple instructions found in an old French cook book intended for experienced chefs. Here, I’ve set out all the ingredients off the top. Then I’ve broken down the steps in a sensible order.

You can find my reworked recipe in my post of November 11, 2013, sadly, a few weeks late for Remembrance Day 2017. Better late than never. More

All-flavors bread

Every-flavor bread, halloween candy

Vinny’s come up with a yummy way to use left-over Halloween candy that helps keep sugar spikes at bay. We’re borrowing from Harry Potter, Bertie Botts in particular, to create a treat that offers a surprise in every bite. More

Pumpkin pie punch

Pumpkin Pie Punch - rum julip

Try this delicious glassful of nutrition with your little tricksters on Halloween this year. It’s a treat that can’t be beat!

Instead of adding sugar, I use stevia in the whipped cream topping, a natural no-calorie sweetener that won’t add a single gram to your little one’s sugar load this Halloween season. More

Maple glazed sweet potato dish

Maple crusted sweet potato dish

Sadly, I haven’t had much time of late to devote to my blog. But as Vinny loves sweet potatoes for their healthy goodness, I thought I’d share this simple recipe that I’m serving tonight in honor of our Canadian Thanksgiving… More

Chocolate raspberry birthday cake

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Our traditional family birthday cake is chalk-full of chocolate. But thrown in are other flavors like raspberry and coffee that make it a hit with young and old alike. I use healthy ingredients besides chocolate, like coconut palm sugar, coconut oil and eggs. More

Your key to using Stevia

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Why stevia?

If you love sweets, this natural, no-cal sweetener from the leaf of the stevia plant is incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response. Whereas sugar damages your pancreas, the organ that regulates blood sugar, stevia’s sterols and antioxidants actually nourish this essential organ. More

Banana ice cream desserts two ways

Strawberry banana ice cream

A nutritional bonanza from our friendly banana

This dessert is so good, people call it Nice Cream. The riper the banana, the sweeter the dessert.

Ripe bananas also have higher levels of antioxidants, which as any frequent reader of Vinny’s blog will know, fight chronic disease and inflammation.

One interesting thing about fully ripened bananas is that they also produce a substance called tumor necrosis factor (TNF).  TNF combats abnormal cells to help shrink cancer tumors.  The more dark patches a banana has, More

Cleaning silver, easily, once and for all

Gourmet dinner - red theme

Setting a nice table

I like to set a pretty table, especially for family celebrations. It adds to the festivities and sets off all the hard work in the kitchen. I have some silverware I inherited from my mother, which I love but rarely use. That’s because whenever I go to use it, I discover it has tarnished. Black silver tends to spoil the presentation.
More

French toast sandwiches

Serving and eating French toast sandwiches

March madness!!!

March in Ontario has us all looking forward to spring. And along with that comes a welcome school break – a whole week of free time!

Let’s help Mom and Dad survive March madness by getting creative. We’ll make them lunch!

Start with a loaf of fresh whole-grain bread. Add eggs, low-fat milk and some nice seasonings. Then fill with fruit or low-sugar jams,  and cheese or nut butter. More

Oregano tea is good for what ails you

 

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Oregano grows like crazy in my garden. I use it as an ornamental ground cover. Then I discovered you can make a tea from it that is useful in curing sore, bothersome throats. Since that is what I have, I’ve given this drink a shot. I love herbal teas and this is a pleasant one. Only time will tell as to whether it heals my sore throat. More

New recipe for a delicious miso soup

Miso soup

Readers will know how much I’ve been struggling with miso. It’s been a challenge finding flavor combinations that compliment a miso soup base and are both healthy and delicious. But I think I’ve now got something that works for me. The health benefits of miso are worth the effort. Maybe you should give this a try? More

Apple Brown Betty Cake

Apple Brown Betty

Vinny suspected something was amiss when he began to smell a decidedly strong odor of apples, wafting from the cupboard whenever he opened the door. He pulled out his brand new bag of apples for inspection. Alas, three of the apples were  already beginning to, well, rot. Out they went into the compost. But what to do with all the rest? More

Making miso soup tastier

Miso soup

Another attempt at creating a delicious miso soup

Vinny and I have a lot in common. I’ve heard that kids often need to taste a food 10 times before they learn to like it. That’s me to a T with miso. More

Easy miso soup

Miso's Christmas toy

Miso’s Christmas toy

“Here, Miso,” called Vinny, holding out his hand to his fluffy caramel kitten, who gladly came over for a gentle rub behind the ears.

“Why did you call him Miso,” Isla asked as she threw a small toy mouse for the kitten to chase.

“I suppose it was because I like Asian food,” said Vinny, “and this little guy is the exact same color as miso, a food used in Asian cooking. More

Cook Up A Story for the Holidays

Cook Up A Story - craft fair

I enjoyed participating in a few holiday craft sales this year, showing off my book Cook Up A Story. I met many wonderful people who bought up most of my stock and all of my aprons and chef hats.

I only have a few copies left. In Canadian dollars I can offer a better price than that at the Blurb Book store, which quotes American dollars. Because of the current exchange rate,  Canadian prices are lower than those quoted on Blurb Bookstore on-line. And conversely prices are 33% lower yet if you are paying in US dollars. As of Dec 17, I’m down to my last three copies: More

Easy peanut butter cookies

Will makes peanut butter cookies - just 3 ingredients

Recipes from labels

Vinny and I had the greatest time at the cottage this summer. One of the things we did was experiment with recipes on the labels of foods we brought with us.

“Let’s try peanut butter cookies,” said Will, studying the label on the jar of one of his favorite foods. “There’s only three ingredients. And we have them all!” More

Holiday Open House, Sun Nov 27, 1-4pm

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‘Tis the season, whether we like it or not. I personally love it! So much fun getting together with old friends, sharing some sparkly, sampling baking made at special times of the year, remembering happy days from years past… and meeting new neighbors! I even love the whole shopping thing, searching out little baubles to put under the tree and surprising the people I love.

That’s why I happily agreed to help my daughter Kristina host an open house at her place this year to launch the holiday season. More

Five foods to cure a sore throat

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Despite what the Internet says, forget about tequila as a cure for a sore throat. Snopes says it’s wishful thinking.

If you want to boost your immune system and speed recovery from a sore throat, cough, or sinus congestion, think instead about honey, vinegar, green tea, sea salt  and fiery spices. More

Copper penny cooked carrot salad

Carrots

Turn carrots into a delicious, make-ahead party salad.

Pot luck party time

“What are you bringing to the pot luck picnic tomorrow, Vinny?”

Vinny looked at his super slim and very athletic friend. “Think I’ll bring a crunchy curried cauliflower salad, Val. It’s easy. I took it to a party on the weekend and it was a hit. I just added curly lettuce leaves and my own cabbage slaw to Farm Boy’s offering and I was done.”

“Crunchy?” asked Val. “Does that mean uncooked?”

“Why, yes,” said Vinny.

“Guess I won’t be eating any, then.” Val smiled.

“Oops, I forgot! You can’t eat uncooked fiber! Sorry!” said Vinny.

“No problem,” said Val. “There will be plenty of other things there I can eat.”

But Vinny loves a challenge and began to think how he could turn his salad into something his friend Val could eat too. Easy, he thought. Cooked carrots. Just peel, slice, and add a  dressing. More

Back in a bit

Hotel Mignon, Trieste

Malware is the high fructose corn syrup of our computer family.

Vinny took a breather over the summer to do some travelling. He’s been as far away as Slovenia and Italy, visiting with family in England en route. And back home he’s roamed as far as Saskatchewan in Western Canada and as near as White Lake in Ontario.

When he got home, he was in for a bit of a surprise. Vinny couldn’t load photos into Cook Up A Story any more. Even worse, he couldn’t load photos into his Facebook page. More

Dorothy’s amazing tomato salad

tomato

Vinny pays homage to the tomato

Vinny has been remiss! That means he’s made a big mistake, has been careless, or both. For although he has featured tomatoes in many posts, especially those where he is extolling the virtues of a bunch of super foods, he’s never devoted a post solely to these delicious vegetables… er, fruits, actually. More

Bled cream cake makes dreams come true

Wedding at Bled castle

We just got home from a wonderful visit to Europe. One of our pleasures this trip was a leisurely tour of the small country of Slovenia. It’s a land where fairy tales come true. And to prove it, I’m posting a recipe for the heavenly Bled Cream Cake. More

Moroccan chicken stew

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Vinny’s summer vacation

Summer is in the air and Vinny and I are heading for the great outdoors. That means you won’t likely be hearing from us here again till September rolls around.

We leave you with a one-pot dinner idea that you can make for a crowd over the summer. More

Yoda soda summer punch bowl

Punch bowl

May the fourth be with you!

Enjoy a replay of a recipe we posted a few years back for a summertime drink that’s as good for you as it tastes. Fresh lime juice gives this cooler its Yoda color, and sparkling water adds the bubbles. For a gourmet touch, add some lime sorbet.

Click here for the recipe.

Vinny’s on Yum Goggle

Ile de Re: Fish market

Vinny’s been updating older posts recently and putting them up on Yum Goggle. Yum Goggle features food photography from contributors around the world. The photos whet your appetite for the recipes you can get simply by clicking on the pictures or the words GET THE RECIPE. It’s a great site and we’re proud to be a part of the team. More

Healthier Happy Birthday cake-pie

Chocolate cream pie with figs

It’s Sharon’s birthday today, so Vinny brings you a rich, chocolatey tart with no  flour in the filling, that you can stick candles in and sing happy birthday around, merrily. With this dessert, you can enjoy a slice and know that along with your birthday calories, you are also getting a decent helping of nutrition. More

Rhubarb and Ginger Fool for April 1st

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What is an April Fool?

The only surprise I was treated to on April Fool’s Day was Alex Trebek, walking onto his game show set without his pants! I did, however, write this post for you on April 1st, which should entitle me to name my fruit pudding recipe April Fool. It’s a tasty British fruit “Fool,” in the traditional sense.

More

Shrimp gumbo rocks the year of the pulse

Shrimp gumbo with ancho chile spice rub

Year of the pulse…

In honor of this versatile food group, we present a dish starring beans, lentils and dried peas. We served our spicy shrimp gumbo as the opening course for our Spanish tapas gourmet dinner this year. But it works well in larger amounts as a main course, too. More

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