Sol for the Soul

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to visit new places.  I love to find unique and special places to eat, shop and enjoy the local ways of life.  Going to chain restaurants or shops are fine when you are at home and want something familiar, although, even at home I try my best to not frequent chain restaurants or stores to often either.  But when I travel, I absolutely refuse to eat at a chain restaurant if I have any other choices available to me.  I do my best to support small, local businesses and artists as much as possible.  One such local find and gem was Cafe Sol, located in downtown Grand Junction, at 420 Main Street.  The food at Cafe Sol is all fresh and made from scratch daily.  They have an open kitchen that features the foods they prepare fresh for your viewing.  You actually get to see the foods they are preparing for you as they prepare them.  Their goal is “to serve fresh, wholesome foods to customers who are searching for something unique”.  They are very “passionate about sourcing local, organic and high quality ingredients” to serve their patrons.  Cafe Sol offers a good selection of foods that are accommodating to all palettes.  They offer a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes as well as foods to satisfy the meat-eaters too.  A trip to Grand Junction should most definitely include at least one trip to Cafe Sol as well.

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Fresh ingredients prepared for you as you wait.  You can see exactly what is being prepared and how.

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So many choices.  What to choose, what to choose.

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We all shared a piece of this fabulous green chili cornbread.  They tempted us by having it right out in front where we ordered.  We couldn’t resist, and we are glad we didn’t.  it was so moist and fluffy and absolutely delicious.

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We all ordered something unique and different.  Everything was scrumptious!  Traci ordered the Dutch pancake with bananas, walnuts and peanut butter.

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Taryn’s salad with eggs and avocado toast was definitely a feast.  By the time she had finished eating, it barely looked like she had even touched her food.

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Larry opted for a more traditional breakfast burrito, that was grilled to perfection.

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I am always up for new ideas, so it was eggs and cornbread with green chili for me.  Who knew this could be so good?!

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Our fabulous feast.  Brunch is served.  Time to eat.

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*** You can learn more about Cafe sol by checking out their website at http://www.cafesolgj.com

 

The Fruits of Palisade

Palisade, Colorado is an agricultural mecca for the state.  It is nestled in the Grand Valley Region of the Western Slope, just outside of Grand Junction, along the Colorado River.  It boasts of having 300+ days of sunshine and a growing season of about 180 days per year.  There is a wide variety of crops grown in Palisade, but it is really famous for two specific crops; peaches Peaches from Palisade and wine grapes.

About 75% of the acreage in Palisade is devoted to growing Colorado’s premium wine grape vineyards.  The most prevalent grapes grown in the region are chardonnay, merlot, sauvingon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, although there are other varietals produced there as well.  Grape growing for wines has been around the Palisade area since 1890.  When European immigrants settled into the Grand Valley Region, they brought their winemaking traditions and viticulture skills with them.  They produced wines in the region until the times of prohibition, which started in 1916 in Colorado, four years earlier than for the rest of the United States. This unfortunately abruptly ended winemaking in Colorado until 1968.  In 1968, a Denver dentist by the name of Dr. Gerald Ivancie, with the help of aspiring winemaker Warren Winiarski, from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, founded the first modern winery in Colorado in Dr. Ivancie’s cellar.  Dr. Ivancie and Mr. Winiarski were the driving forces behind reintroducing winemaking into the Grand River Region of Palisade and Grand Junction in the 1970’s.  The first bottle of wine made solely with Colorado grapes was produced by Jim and Ann Seewald in 1978.  This was history in the making, and grapes and Colorado wines were put on the maps for a place to try up and coming wines from thence forward.  Today, in the best of growing conditions, Colorado’s vineyards produce anywhere from 2.5 -3.5 tons per of grapes per acre.  Most other wine regions of the world produce 4-5 tons per acre.  Every year tough, more and more Colorado wineries appear and more and more Colorado wines are being produced.  We are catching up to the rest of the wine world.  Watch out world, here we come!

A trip to the Grand River Region of both Grand Junction and Palisade would not be complete without at least a couple of stops to some of the local wineries.  We honored the grape growing tradition by stopping in at two of the region’s oldest wineries.  We definitely enjoyed the fruits of their vines, and of course, had to bring some home for later as well.  Our first winery of the region was Ptarmigan Vineyards, which is owned By Stoney Mesa Winery, in nearby Cedaredge, CO.   We stopped at Ptarmigan Vineyards before meeting with our friends Traci and Taryn, when we first arrived in Grand Junction.  All the wines were delicious, but I really enjoyed the Rojo del Mesa.  It was a rich and velvety red blend that was very smooth on the palette and will pair very nicely with a good, hearty steak.

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Here I am toasting with our Hostess and owner, Betty, with a taste of the Rojo del Mesa.

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The Ptarmigan Vineyards with a view of the valley.

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Our second winery was The Grand River Vineyards.  We stopped there as we started our homeward bound trek, at the end of our stay.  “Grand River Vineyards planted their first grapes in 1987 and bottled their first wine in 1990.”  Grande River is still considered a boutique winery, but is quickly growing.  Depending on how well Mother Nature cooperates, Grande River Vineyards produce a wide selection of award winning wines, numbering between “5,000-7,000 cases of wine each year using 100% Colorado grown grapes”.

Larry and I inside the barrel room at Grande River Vineyards.

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Some of the vineyards nestled at the food of the mesa.

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Again, all the wines at Grande River were very good and very tasty.  Of course, I had my favorites there too.  My favorites at Grande River were the Lavande Vin Blanc (lavender white wine, infused with hints of lavender); the Viogner, hosting hints of honeysuckle, peaches, pineapple and nectarines; and the Malbec, which had the taste and aromas of cherries, plums and berries.

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I also purchased a jar of some Palisade peach jam.  I just couldn’t resist.  After all, I love my peaches too and the peaches from Palisade are beyond comparison.  They are the best peaches I have ever tasted.

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You can learn more about both Ptarmigan Vineyards and Grand River Vineyards by checking out their websites.

 

***Ptarmigan Vineyards can be reached at http://www.visitgrandjunction.com/…/ptarmiganvineyards

 

Grand River Vineyards can be reached at granderiverwines.com.

National Drink Wine Day-Feb 18

This is my new FAVORITE day of the year! WHOOOOO HOOOOO!!!!!! 🙂

e-Quips

wine--monk sneaking a drinkNational Drink Wine Day is celebrated annually on February 18 across the United States.

The purpose of National Drink Wine Day is to spread the love and health benefits of wine.  Wine has played an important role in history, religion and relationships.  We embrace the positive benefits of wine such as new friends, reduced risk of heart disease and the enhancement of food and life.

Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine, when you going to let me get sober?

Red, red wine, goes to my head,
Makes me forget that I
Still need you so

You come on like a dream, peaches and cream
Lips like strawberry wine 
You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine

A Taste of Honey by Tom Jones
“…honey, much sweeter than wine”
Best of My Love by the Eagles
“wasting our time on cheap talk and wine, left us so little to give”

All…

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Make It Pretty

Presentation isn’t everything, but it sure does go a long way.   We “taste” with our eyes long before we actually taste things on the tongue.  If something looks pretty, we already have a preconceived notion that it will taste good too, just by looking at it.   Often times, though, we all know that looks can be deceiving, and just because something looks really pretty and appealing, it is not always the case.  Years ago, long before I went to culinary school, I was working at a public relations firm in San Francisco, CA.  Most of our clients were food clients, and we had our own test kitchen at the firm.  A large part of our job was to create recipes and present them in an appealing way in order to promote them.  One of my teammates was getting married and we had a bridal shower for her.  Our boss bought this absolutely beautiful cake for the party, and I had made a cake from one of our clients’ recipes to bring along as well.  Sadly while I was traveling to the party, the cake shifted all around and got slightly mushed and wasn’t nearly as pretty as I would have liked it to be.  After seeing the beautiful cake my boss had bought, I was very embarrassed to bring in the cake I had made, because let’s face it, it looked nothing at all like the beautiful “professionally made” cake did, and in fact, it was kind a sad little thing in comparison.  However, after a lot of prodding and convincing, I eventually brought the cake in to share with the group.  Even though, it didn’t look quite so pretty, everyone said it was a much better cake than the “professional cake”.  The bride to be was very touched that I had made her a cake from scratch for her special day too.  This was a very valuable lesson to me.  Ever since then, I have always said that no matter what it looks like on the on the outside, the most important ingredient to go into any dish or recipe is  love.  If something is made with love, it will always be better than something that is not.  However, if you can make it pretty too, then that recipe will definitely be a winner all the way around.

This past weekend, my husband and I went out to Grand Junction, CO, to meet up with some friends who were there too.  I did not have any time to make anything special, and we were having our house sitter come stay with us so she could get used to the routine for all our fur babies.  I bought a Boston cream pie, which would have been totally fine all on its own, but it looked, and therefore tasted, so much better after I added a few personal touches to it to make it really stand out.

The plain version of a store bought Boston cream pie.

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I quickly whipped up some whipped cream and sliced some strawberries.

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Elizabeth did some quality control and approved of the whipped cream.

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And voila!  Dessert was served.

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Thoughts of Food

I will be out of town this weekend, and therefore will not be posting anything on my blog for a few days.  But have no fear, I won’t be gone for too long.  So in the mean time, I will once again leave you with some thoughts of food from those in the know.

 

Serve the dinner backward, do anything – but for goodness sake, do something weird.

~ Elsa Maxwell ~

Gossip Columnist from The New York, “Herald Tribune”, 1963

 

The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker; an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance.

~ Bryan Miller ~

Food Critic, New York Times, 2/23/1983

 

My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me.  It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future.

 

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~ Pearl Bailey ~

 

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Sir, respect your dinner:  Idolize it, enjoy it properly.  you will be many hour in the week, many weeks in the year, and many years in your life happier if you do.

~ William Makepeace Thackeray , 1811-1863 ~

 

 

Green Chili Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto over Pasta

Yesterday, I left you with a teaser.   I showed you how to make the sun-dried tomato pesto,  Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto but only showed you the sauce.  Today, I will give you the whole meal deal.  We love sausages of all kinds and eat them fairly regularly, in a variety of different ways.  Sometimes sausages just hit the spot.  I often serve sausages and pasta together.  They are a perfect combination.   And that is exactly how I served it last night, with the sun-dried tomato pesto, some garlic cheese bread and a fruity Pinot Noir from Carhartt Winery, in Los Olivos, California, sent to me by my best friend, Andrea, as a delicious birthday present.  (My birthday was last week).  Pasta is probably one of the most versatile dishes around.  I love pasta and can eat it all the time.  You can serve it with any type of sauce and any type of toppings, with or without meat, hot or cold, and you can even serve it as a dessert.  You just can’t go wrong with pasta.

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So I already gave you the recipe for the spicy sun-dried tomato pesto.  I made that ahead of time, then cooked everything else and combined it all together for a delicious, yet simple meal.  There is no right or wrong way to prepare this meal.  You can use any vegetables you like to enhance the meal as well.  You can also use any type of sausage or chicken as well.  We love mushrooms, and use them in a lot of our meals.  We also love tomatoes of kinds, as well as onions.  Mushrooms, yellow tomatoes and red onions were what I added to the sauce to give us a few extra vegetables and a bit more color and texture to the meal.  Saute the mushrooms and onion slices in olive oil, adding salt & pepper to taste, and cook until the onions are translucent and soft and the mushrooms are done, about 5 minutes or so.  Cook the sausages.  You can grill them or pan fry them.   We do both.

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When the vegetables are done, add the sun-dried tomato pesto sauce and the yellow tomatoes.  Mix everything together and cook just long enough to heat the sauce.  Add the sausage and top with chopped cilantro.  Easy-peasy!  Dinner is served.

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My best friend, whom I have know since I was in 7th grade sent me these two great wines for my birthday.  One was a delicious Pinot Gris and the other was a mouth-watering Pinot Noir.  These wines are from Carhartt Winery, in Los Olivos, California.

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**** You can find out more about Carhartt winery and many other California wineries by clicking onto the website.  https://californiawineryadvisor.com/winery/carhartt-vineyard

A vote sante!

Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Pesto sauce is a favorite all over the world.  Pesto, as it has become known, is a sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, salt, pepper, pine nuts, Parmigiano cheese and olive oil.  In Genoa, in the Liguria region of Northern Italy, where it is believed pesto sauce was invented, this is the traditional way of making pesto as well, along with the addition of another type of cheese called Fiore Sardo, which is a cheese made with sheep’s milk.  However, the term “pesto” itself, means to pound or crush, which leaves it open to the imagination and interpretation of the person making the sauce, thus allowing for it to be made in many different ways, with a multitude of different ingredients.

I don’t always set out to completely reinvent the wheel, but I do look for alternative ways of making that wheel go round.  If the result is that the wheel has been reinvented, then so be it.  That just makes my day.  As I mentioned above, traditional pesto sauce is a world wide favorite, and it is one of my favorite sauces as well.  But I like to “play with my food” to much to only settle for one type of anything.  I am also very creative and imaginative, and LOVE all kinds of food.  That creative combination and sense of adventure allows me to reinvent new dishes and recipes all the time.  Fortunately, my husband is a pretty adventurous eater as well, which makes cooking all that much more fun.

Costco is my favorite place to shop, and as anyone who has ever shopped there knows, their foods come in LARGE quantities.  The other day, when I purchased a Costco sized bag of walnuts, my husband asked what was I going to do with all those walnuts, especially, since out of all the nuts out there, they are my least favorite type, and I LOVE nuts.  I decided to make a sun-dried tomato pesto using some of those walnuts.  The sauce came out great.  I will be serving it over pasta with green chili sausages tonight (tomorrow’s post).  Any type of pesto sauce is so easy to make, especially if you have a food processor.  Just put all the ingredients together in the food processor, and process until it becomes your desired consistency, and voila!  Presto, Pesto, your sauce is made.

Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce

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I cup sun-dried tomatoes, marinated in olive oil

1 cup fresh basil

1 jalapeno, seeds removed

1/2 cup walnuts or nuts of your choice

1 heaping TBSP garlic

salt & pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

1/3 cup Parmigiano cheese

1 cup olive oil (more or less depending on the consistency you are looking for)

 

Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend.  Sometimes I like a nice thick pesto and sometimes I like it a little thinner.  To make it a little thinner, just add more olive oil.  It just depends on what I am using it for.  Serve over cooked pasta, vegetables, or meat and Mangia!

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Interview time! Ep 1

I had my first interview as a blogger, from Asham at SASE Girls. I am so honored. Thank you so much for thinking of me.

SASE Girls

Hey, guys welcome back to my blog today we are talking about an interview with Jeanne in the kitchen on the series INTERVIEW TIME!

Jeanne in the kitchen is a swim teacher and a blogger with dogs and a husband! She loves food and can cook up an appetite!

1. What do you like and dislike about blogging?

I guess it is kind of double-edged sword, but I’d have to say all the e-mails.  I am finding it so difficult to keep up, but at the same time, it also means my blog and my fan base is growing.

she is really busy!
2. How much time do you spend on a blog post?

Usually, it takes about 1-1/2 hours per blog post.

wow, this girl is really dedicated!
3. When did you first start blogging?

I have been blogging a little less than a year.  The middle of…

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Walnuts – The Healthiest Food Around?

There are a good number of people who have come to think that walnuts are the healthiest food around, and who knows, they just may be right.  There are so many health benefits associated with eating walnuts as part of your regular diet, yet there are way to many to list; the biggest health benefits from walnuts are that they are good for your heart, they are loaded with minerals and vitamins, they are loaded with antioxidants and help prevent cancer and heart disease, and they are full of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Walnuts are also very rich in phenols, and about 90% of those phenols are found in the skin.  Phenols are found in a wide variety of medicines.  Walnuts are used in many different ways.  Obviously, they are used as food and are used in a multitude of ways in the kitchen.   But they are also used for making medicine, shelter, dyes and lamp oil.

Walnuts are grown all over the world and there are many different varieties.  The biggest walnut producer in the world is China, producing about 360,000 metric tons per year, with California as a distant second, producing about 240,000 metric tons per year.  Most of the walnuts grown in the United States come from either the Central Mississippi Valley and Appalachian areas or the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California.  Walnuts have been around for 1000’s of years.  They were introduced to many different European countries by the Ancient Romans in the 4th century.  Though there are many different types of walnuts, there are really only three types that are predominately eaten.  They are the English or Persian, the black and the white varieties.  Each of these have many different varieties and variations within as well.

As much as I love learning about these other uses for walnuts, for now, I really only know how to cook with them.  After all, I know about food and cooking is what I do.  I made a tasty spinach and pear salad with a walnut dressing, using my Organic Walnut Butter from Living Tree Community Foods.  A Delicious Relationship   I served it as a side salad with the rest of our dinner, but if you would like to make it a main meal, you can add the protein of your choice.  Chicken would be a great addition to the salad.

I made two slightly different versions for this salad.  I am not a big cheese eater, so I rarely use a lot of cheese for my meals.  My husband, on the other hand, loves cheese.  So his salad has bleu cheese crumbles and mine does not.  My salad has dried cranberries and his does not.

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Spinach Salad with Pears

 

about 2-2 1/2 cups baby spinach, stems removed

1 pear, sliced thin

1/3 cup green onions, sliced thin

1/2 cup candied walnuts

bleu cheese crumbles

Craisins, or dried cranberries

walnut dressing

 

Toss all the ingredients together, unless making different variations, then leave the bleu cheese crumbles and the dried cranberries out and top the the salads with those individually.

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Candied Walnuts

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1 cup walnuts

1/3 cup Living Tree Community Foods Organic Walnut Butter

2 tsp Sweet and Spicy Rub from Pod & Bean

1-2 TBSP honey

1/3 cup butter

Mix everything together and cook in a hot skillet for about 5-7 minutes, or until most of the butter has been absorbed into the nuts and spices, stirring constantly.

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Once the nuts are ready, cool them on parchment paper.

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Walnut Dressing

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1/3 cup Living Tree Community Foods Organic Walnut Butter

2 TBSP rice vinegar

2 TBSP lime juice

3 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP soy sauce

2 TBSP honey

2-3 TBSP sugar

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

dash of salt

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

 

Combine all the ingredients together and mix well.  Chill before serving, then right before serving, shake well.

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***You can learn more about Living Tree Community Foods and their products by checking out their website at http://www.livingtreefoods.com and Pod & Bean products by checking out their website at http://www.cocoaexchange.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Delicious Relationship

Recently I was introduced to the wonderful products from Living Tree Community Foods, based out of Berkeley, CA.  I have been very privileged to have been sent so many fantastic and delicious nut butters to sample and to create new recipes with.  More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods and New Products to Sample .  Everything I have tried is absolutely amazing.  All their products are fresh and organic, made mostly from ingredients coming from local California farmers, as well as farmers from Oregon, Texas and Vermont.  I have no shortage of ideas on how to use these wonderful products.  My only problem is that there are way too many recipes to create and not nearly enough time.  Lack of time has always been my nemesis.  So far, I have created a chocolate almond butter tart, using the almond butter and the almond meal Chocolate Almond Butter Tart , cashew cookies Frosted Cashew Butter Cookies and cashew shrimp and vegetables Cashew Shrimp and Vegetables with the cashew butter and today, I will be creating something with the walnut butter that was recently sent to me.  The February edition of the Living Tree Community Foods Newsletter has showcased my recipe for the frosted cashew cookies.   WOW!!!!  Thank you so much.  This is a huge honor for me.  Please check it out.  You can find their newsletter, as well as all their delicious products on their website at http://www.livingtreecommunity.com.   Living Tree Community Foods and I have entered into a very delicious relationship that I hope continues to grow and prosper.  I am so very grateful for this opportunity to work with Living Tree Community Foods.  I hope you are all enjoying these dishes and recipes as much as I am enjoying creating them.   Most of my recipes allow for you to be creative too.  For instance, most, although not all, of my savory dishes can easily be converted to either vegetarian or vegan dishes simply by substituting the meats for vegetarian/vegan friendly proteins, or  by just eliminating the meats entirely and using only vegetables.  I can easily cook and adjust menus to please all palettes.  I just need to know who I am cooking for, and what their dietary requests are, then I will stir my magic wooden spoon and make it happen.

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My most recent package of tasty nut butters came just a few days ago.  I will be busy creating more delicious recipes with these new products as soon as time allows.  Be patient.  Many, many more good things are still yet to come.

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I will be creating something from the walnut butter tonight.  Stay tuned.  You don’t want to miss it.

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