Tag Archives: meal planning

Weekly Menus: It’s Finally Fall Edition, Week of 10/20/2013

Gentle Readers, wow, what a week. I managed to sit down to eat 3 or 4 actual meals in the span of a week–the rest were food grabbed on the run. Not to downplay the awesome that is Barcelona, but work travel is not the same as leisure travel. Being immersed in a different food culture always makes one think about their own.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Ham and cheese with a side of cafe con leche from Tapa Tapa in Barcelona.

Barcelona is driven by local, fresh, and reasonable portions. It’s a great concept, and one to which I subscribe. One of the best things I ate all week was this humble croqueta, which was akin to a mildly cheesy chicken pot pie in croquette form. We found it by turning down a side street in a non-touristy neighborhood famed for its cakes. (Guess what in that sentence prompted me to hop off the tour bus.)

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

My favorite from the week: a chicken, vegetable, and cheese croqueta from El Canalla.

In a random chance, I also had a rather interesting conversation about sustainable food with someone high up in one of the major international food corporations. We talked about Michael Pollan and the tension between profit and sustainable, especially as pertains to meat. I don’t envy him his job.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

Fresh ingredients fill the markets in Barcelona.

But I digress. Look for inspiration from Barcelona appearing in posts for the next few weeks. I respect a culture that is not fussed about diet crazes and every new trend. Barcelona has strong foodways that are built to be flexible and incorporate new traditions. I love that. Visiting always makes me want to go back again.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Eggplant fries with honey and lime from El Canalla. OMG good.

Which means my menus for the week are:

Sunday: Leftover surprise
I’ll be eating whatever TPC’s Mom left in my fridge. Surprise! Sometimes, even oatmeal or cereal is enough after traveling.

Monday: Tapas!
Figs and cheese? Tomato bread? Prosciutto and melon? I’m not sure what I’ll combine, but it will be small bites of whatever is in the store.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Fig filled with marscopone and jamon from Cervezeria Catalana.

Tuesday: Spinach Quesadillas and Beans
Simple and direct, one of our favorite easy meals. We’ve got a lot going on this day.

Wednesday: Bratwurst and Pierogie
Just add Brussels sprouts.

Thursday: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage in Brown Butter Sauce
One of my favorite easy meals courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Served with a green salad, and you’ve got a multi-colored delight for dinner. It’s worth browning some sage in butter–it’s just fun.

Friday: Nachos!
Using up the last of our leftover veggie chili, I’m pouring it over chips, topping it with cheese, and serving it up with a side of guacamole.

Saturday: Deep Fried Everything
This might be our N.C. State Fair Day, and we have a long list of things to eat. Apple fritters, corn, fried okra, and whatever the “it” thing is in deep-fried. We are so ready.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Ironically, I never saw this brand of water in Barcelona, but saw it promptly in NYC upon landing.

Have you been to your state fair already? What should we find and consume? No deep-fried goodness too strange. We’ll try it on video even. Post your challenge below!

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Farewell Barcelona, see you next time.

Send your winter squashes, your mad carving skills, and your airline miles to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Weekly Menus: Labor Day Edition, Week of 9/1/2013

Gentle Readers, never has a holiday been more confusingly named or welcomed with more open arms. Hello, Labor Day, we need you. A bit of a break after the bustle of school starting, recovery from travel season for me, it’s time to roll up sleeves and cook again. How to do so without too much labor? Invite yourself to someone else’s cookout.

Tea wth the Ladies Who Lunch: China Edition

Tea wth the Ladies Who Lunch: China Edition

I’m bringing a dessert, or a salad, or both. But I digress. The weather is getting cooler, and more cooking ahead is possible. Seize the day, or at least the weekend, between naps.

Turmeric Tea from Samovar: Gold, Spicy, Amazing

Turmeric Tea from Samovar: Gold, Spicy, Amazing

For this week, the weekly menus are:

Weekly Menus: 9/1/2013

Weekly Menus: 9/1/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery List is:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 9/1/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 9/1/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Rotisserie Chicken
It’s been too long. Great for eating and reusing in salads, plus stock from the bones. Will serve with Brussels sprouts and glazed carrots, or mac-n-cheese if I run low on time.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Speedy Salad: Strawberries, rotisserie chicken, almonds, goat cheese, greens.

Monday: Not Dogs?
Since we’re heading to a cookout, we may do one lighter meal on this Labor Day. There are great options for vegetarians and for anyone looking to balance their caloric consumption.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Tuesday: Veggie Chili
Breaking out the Red, Gold, and Green Veggie Chili here, in honor of the fall that finally feels like it’s on the way. Perfect to make ahead and eat for a while in different forms.

Veggie Chili Simmering

Veggie Chili Simmering

Wednesday: Salmon and Couscous
Light and simple, I think I’ll pan-roast this and serve with confetti veggie couscous (aka, use the last bits of diced veggie up from previous meals, shhh, don’t tell).

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Thursday: Egg Sammies
If we’re short on time, the eggs will be scrambled or fried. More time = egg salad sammies. This was a favorite summer meal in my youth, and it’s fun to recapture a little of that feeling as we start the school year.

Eggs on their way to becoming egg salad.

Eggs on their way to becoming egg salad.

Friday: Leftover Delight
The Eldest asked what this was, and I told her it was marketing. She got that. Friday is a clean-up hitter today. Prep for Saturday practice, recover from a week of early rising, gather around the table and enjoy.

Saturday: Dine Out!
We’re on the hunt for a new country to visit. All suggestions welcome!

What’s on your grill this season? Send ideas this way, post a comment or send a Tweet!

Send extra hot dogs, hours of sleep, and brownies to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: Road Salad, A How-To Survive Guide.

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Weekly Menus on the Road: Week of 7/14/2013

Gentle Readers, this post will break traditional format as we at Team Practical Cook gear up for a week of field research. Many of you probably have similar experiences of needing to shut down a kitchen for a week during summer break, winter holiday, etc. How do you plan for both absence and for road eating?

Cafe con leche: Breakfast of champions

Cafe con leche: Breakfast of champions

Here’s The Practical Cook Method:

1. Stop shopping. This may seem obvious, but it’s my best tip. There’s more food in your house than you think. Stop buying more interesting things, and face up to whether you’re going to eat that rare Asian noodle snack pack from the 80s.

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

The Practical Cook’s Cereal Warehouse

2. Eat at home. The best way to prepare for time away is to commit to eating what you have. I’ve not been doing so well at that, but I did have 22 CheezIts and 1/2 a cupcake for lunch yesterday. Not my proudest moment.

Can you blame me for eating my babysittiing payment on the spot? Cupcakes for lunch, not recommended. #sugarcoma

Can you blame me for eating my babysittiing payment on the spot? Cupcakes for lunch, not recommended. #sugarcoma

3. Turn home snacks into road snacks. What can you take with you? If it’s a road trip, your options expand. On a plane, I heart Biscoff cookies, but sometimes one is stuck with just the pretzels. That’s not cool. I love Trader Joe’s Almond bars (like a granola cookie), dry cereal in any form, and trail mix. Do not be without food on a plane. Trust me.

Trail Mix Melted and Reformed = Trail Bark (Yum)

Trail Mix Melted and Reformed = Trail Bark (Yum)

4. Make a plan for road meals. I’m not advocating mapping your entire trip according to Yelp, but establish some targets for food while you travel. Are you going to eat breakfast out for every meal? Can you do sandwiches for some of it? What kind of food is the regional specialty? Are you allergic to the local fare? Do some research, ask friends, and open yourself to possibility, but avoid either eating fast food you could get anywhere or going 4 star everywhere and then entering the poorhouse afterward.

Barbecued pork bahn mi on homemade bread. Wow. Just wow.

Barbecued pork bahn mi on homemade bread. Wow. Just wow.

5. Don’t go it alone. If you’re traveling with family, no matter the age of the offspring or relations, run a benevolent dictatorship. If you’re going to a beach house, don’t agree to cook every meal, distribute the wealth. If you’re going to a destination, find out from each person what constitutes a food win. For instance, we’re going to try Burmese food, a birthday request from the Youngest (yes, TPCs Jr are awesome, thanks for noticing). We’ll also do CalMex for the world’s biggest taco fan, The Eldest.

The Jrs take on the Big City!

The Jrs take on the Big City!

Last tip: if you have a chance to eat an avocado in the wild, buy tamales from someone selling them in a back alley, or try ice cream flavored with foods you can’t identify, do it. And then send me a picture. This is vacation time!

Got ideas, suggestions, or can’t-miss eats? Post in the comments, Tweet me, or email! I look forward to sharing the adventure with you. Perhaps even a stray video review or two. 🙂

Restaurant recommendations, bacon samples, and good ideas can be sent to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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**Team Practical Cook is taking a rare break and leaving the laptop behind. Follow our field research on Twitter and Instagram! We’ll be back, recipes at the ready, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.**

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Weekly Menus, Al Fresco Edition: Week of 6/2/2013

Gentle Readers, summer is a great time to establish some goals. The Practical Cooks Junior have established theirs already, and they are as follows: eat outside as often as possible, take night walks no less than 2 times a week, swim daily, travel often. The Youngest is still convinced she can sell the team on Australia as the big vacation, but alas, that will have to wait.

Outdoor dining for the win!

Outdoor dining for the win!

The last week of school is a Herculean push of activities, many of them popsicle-based. Please note, I checked, and the “fruit-based” had more grams of sugar than the store-brand red/purple/orange pack. Read the labels, and when you can, make your own.

Al fresco requires gear: hat, sunglasses, bug spray, SPF.

Al fresco requires gear: hat, sunglasses, bug spray, SPF.

In the spirit of al fresco dining, with a side of last week of school, here are this week’s menus:

Weekly menus: 6/2/2013

Weekly menus: 6/2/2013

And the Four Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/2/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/2/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Italian!
Crostini and a light lemon sauce on pasta for the win! Carbs can be warm weather friendly, don’t fear them. It’s a great one-pot dish, ideal for transporting outside. If some falls on the ground, toss it to the birds. Goat cheese on crisps is the simplest appetizer in the world, and wow is it good. Damn you Whole Foods Cheesemongers–I’m a sucker for a sample.

Linguine with slightly creamy lemon sauce and asparagus. I wanted to swim in it.

Linguine with slightly creamy lemon sauce and asparagus. I wanted to swim in it.

Monday: Dine Out!
Lots of obligations this week. I’ll be doing some field research though, so stay tuned.

Tuesday: Salad
It’s hot, and I crave lettuce and watermelon. Sometimes at the same time. Tie it together with feta and a white balsamic, some basil in chiffonade form, and you’re in business.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

Wednesday: Pasta with broccoli
A request from TPCs Jr, the key here is to put more broccoli than pasta.

Cheese Rainbow Pasta Toss, Unicorns Not Included

Cheese Rainbow Pasta Toss, Unicorns Not Included

Thursday: Burritos
Another request from my offspring. To dine outside, simply assemble inside, wrap in foil, and transport. Spicy food in hot weather is your friend.

Friday: Frozen Pizza
School is out, time to party! Oh wait, was that my out loud voice?

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

My other weakness, padron peppers. They are not spicy, just salty and delicious.

Saturday: Dine Out!
We’ll be visiting a new country, I don’t know which one yet. If you have ideas, let us know! Summer is a great time to try new things–without the time pressure, life gets simpler. And dining culturally is an easy way to keep the learning going without being so obvious. When your child names the food she’s eating in French, run with it.

I will admit, I’ve fallen off the CSA and Farmer’s Market bandwagon, strictly because of time. However, outdoor dining is inspiring me to rejoin the flock. Our meals are simple and portable, so fresh ingredients are a must. Help us out with our field research, challenge us to try your favorite ice cream. Post it in the comments box below! There’s plenty of room.

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

Send patio furniture, insect repellant, and actual feedback to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Up next on Wednesday, Obika Mozzarella Bar Reviewed!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 5/12/2013

Gentle Readers, sometimes one must say “uncle.” Last week, in the midst of an extremely busy period, I failed to post the blog as promised. I heard no roar and outcry, and instead opted to grab an extra hour of sleep, thus doubling my total. I wish that last were a math flub. Life is busy, incredibly so, and I’m always looking for another way to stretch time and do one more thing.

My favorite food critics: The Practical Cooks Junior

My favorite food critics: The Practical Cooks Junior

So apologies for anyone who was counting on the Chorizo Hash Recipe, it’s coming your way soon. Confession: I am human, extremely so, and trying to manage an awful lot while spending time with my kids and trying to stay healthy. Sometimes I succeed, other times I don’t.

Life on the road is challenging. Quick calories are often the only choice.

Life on the road is challenging. Quick calories are often the only choice.

However, as the Jrs and I celebrate Mother’s Day today, fresh off a week where TPC’s Mom (and TPC’s Dad, a hero in this story) watched the kids while I traveled, I am reminded of what actually matters. Thanks to all for making this journey count.

My not glamorous breakfast of choice.

My not glamorous breakfast of choice.

And now, courtesy of input from the team, the weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 5/12/2013

Weekly Menus: 5/12/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 5/12/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 5/12/2013

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Fish and Greens
At the suggestion of The Youngest TPC Jr, it will be salmon. Possibly with a citrus glaze, beside couscous and greens.

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Monday: Salad
Detox begins again. I actually ate a number of delightful kale salads in Las Vegas, much to the merriment of my burger eating compatriots.

Tuesday: Quinoa with Chickpeas
From The Eldest, no idea why this popped in her head, but let’s go with it.

Quinoa with Beets, Chickpeas, and Dill

Quinoa with Beets, Chickpeas, and Dill

Wednesday: Meat loaf and Mashed Potatoes
On occasion I like to be extremely traditional. Let’s see how the Jrs take to it.

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
A family classic, we will be working on biscuits and grits again soon.

Fluffy little buttermilk biscuits!

Fluffy little buttermilk biscuits!

Friday: Vegetable delight
Fridge cleanup, and I’m thinking Mediterranean as the tying element.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Raleigh perhaps? Time to explore new ground!

Working on a series of food travel adventures. Post a comment below for areas you’d like to see covered! Nominate your town or a place you love to eat. I’m listening.

Send your lattes, questions, and good wishes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, this time I mean it, Chorizo Hash Recipe!

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Weekly Menus: 4/28/2013

Gentle Readers, it’s about to get real here in TPC-land. We are finishing an amazing weekend of back-t0-back birthday parties, soccer practice and book club (woot!), and we are tired. May is one of the most challenging months for me professionally, because the tech event circuit kicks into extreme high gear.

My Life: Half of Calories Consumed Are in Transit

My Life: Half of Calories Consumed Are in Transit

So for the month of May, starting now, I’m dialing back to posting twice a week: Wednesday and Sunday. I’ll focus mainly on recipes and reviews, the two most popular categories, with video when I can manage it, along with the standard Weekly Menus. If you have an objection, or better yet an idea for a guest blog and the content for it, speak now.

5K Training Continues: The Eldest is still in the lead.

5K Training Continues: The Eldest is still in the lead.

My time has been focused on bringing TPCs Junior ever more into the process of planning, cooking, and cleaning, and it’s fantastic. This is time-consuming, as I can do it faster myself, but incredible rewarding long-term. We are efficient when we work as a team, and all of us learn from it. Highly recommended if you’ve been doing lone wolf in the kitchen.

Enough preamble, now for the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/28/2013

Weekly Menus: 4/28/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/28/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/28/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Potato Hash
I haven’t quite decided what this means, but I have leftover baked potatoes, sausage in the freezer that needs to be cooked, and a dream. I sold it based on the name–there is such power in naming things, as my friend and fellow podcaster is teaching me–the idea will surely follow.

Time Flies: Retro Picture Alert,The Annual Planting of the Potatoesotatoes

Time Flies: Retro Picture Alert,The Annual Planting of the Potatoes

Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs + Salad
This week we are eating around the world a bit. When I make menus with TPCs Jr, it provides a great frame for creativity.

Meatballs in the Oven

Meatballs in the Oven

Tuesday: Sammies
Busy day, simple menu. Toasting sandwiches, putting them on a platter, adding fruit: all of these tricks turn the mundane into the profound. (See Simple Sandwich Ideas for more.)

Summer Sandwich Platter

Summer Sandwich Platter

Wednesday: France, Visiting
Fine, we’re not really breaking out our passports, but we are going out to eat French food. We have a tradition of “visiting” countries via their food. We started this game with the cantankerous Waldorf, who challenges everyone with trivia about the country we’re in. Great fun is had by all. More on this in Wednesday’s Blog.

Thursday: Mexican
Nacho night! This is a huge crowd favorite, a fast and delicious meal that everyone can help prepare.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Friday: Leftover Surprise!
Time to clean out the pantry. And I do adore a challenge. I’ll let you know what happens.

Saturday: Dine Out!
I’m heading to dinner with a friend who likes to try new places like I do. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide a review of a new find!

What’s your favorite kind of food (ethnicity/culture/etc) to eat? We’re always looking for new ideas! Post a comment below. I’m listening.

Send your extra hours of sleep, kitchen challenges, and general mayhem to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: It’s a Small (Food) World: Traveling by Way of Cuisine

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/7/2013 (with actual meal plans!)

Gentle Readers, what a long strange trip it has been. By that, I mean business and vacation were back to back in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve eaten my way along both coasts of these United States. Strangely, I now have intense cravings for Malaysian food, perhaps because BestieForce has been in both places. Yes, those are unicorn chopsticks.

BestieForce! Just add unicorn chopsticks.

BestieForce! Just add unicorn chopsticks.

And yes, I woke up in the middle of the night, jetlagged and craving this, Roti. Reviews of the two Malaysian restaurants are pending, and rumor has it I may learn to cook the sticky dessert rice I kept eating as well. Stay tuned.

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

Roti from Banana Leaf in San Jose, CA

But back in realityville, I came home to a reasonably clean kitchen and a fairly blank slate. You can see I’m not done globetrotting from the menus though. There’s an international festival at school this week, but we tend to eat that way all the time.

Sticky Rice with Mango from Banana Leaf

Sticky Rice with Mango from Banana Leaf

Without further delay, here are our weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/7/2013

Weekly Menus: 4/7/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/7/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/7/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Salad!
I’ve been craving this for days. Though I managed a few of them over the last couple of weeks, it was not as often as it should have been.

Monday: Indian
I have some cauliflower that needs roasting, and I may try my hand at the sauce that goes with the roti pictured above. Plus chickpeas. Though my recent trip to Roti Boti has spoiled me on this front. Sigh, food memories . . .

The largest, fluffiest naan I've ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

The largest, fluffiest naan I’ve ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

Tuesday: Stir fry OR Breakfast for dinner
Depending on time and leftover supplies, I’ll make the call. I feel certain I know which the Jrs will choose. I have a half gallon of milk that needs to be consumed quickly, and eggs too. I’m thinking it’s time to make Waffles in bulk. Perhaps to be served with chicken?

36 Waffles

36 Waffles

Wednesday: Dine Out (Germany!)
We’re celebrating someone cranky’s birthday (cough cough Wadorf), and the Jrs have decided to go German on this one. Our tradition is to visit a new “country” (via food) and then ask a lot of trivia questions about that country during dinner. It’s great fun, give it a try.

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Spinach Quesadilla and Ranchero Beans

Thursday: Mexican
It’s been too long since we have had our simple and traditional spinach quesadillas at home. Perhaps I’ll make sopapillas to go with. Mmmm. Dessert.

Carbonara from NYC!

Carbonara from NYC!

Friday: Pasta and Salad
Clean up hitter for the week. I may attempt carbonara again to polish off the last of the eggs. The Jrs are big fans, especially now that they are eating bacon again.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Looking forward to this one.

Questions, comments, topics? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next on Wednesday, Reader Questions and Feedback! (Submit Yours Today!)

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