Cheese + Ginger

Ginger is our ingredient of the season. You can find a variety of drink, main dish, and dessert ginger recipes here. This is the second ginger spread pairing that we’re sharing.

Today we’re coming at you with a suggestion to spice up your holiday cheese plate.

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If you don’t know it already, putting out a good cheese plate, or taking one to your next party is a sure-fire way to gain admirers. Our trick is to pair your cheeses with the right condiment.

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Independence Day Eats & Treats

Happy Fourth Y’all! This post was originally published in 2015, but we think it’s still relevant 😉 Now I gotta go blast a Bruce Springsteen album while I consume and entire watermelon and light a bunch of sparklers.

JULY

As shown from top to bottom, left to right:

Watermelon Mint Salad     Mint Agua Fresca     Homemade Pizza Four Ways

Mint Simple Syrup Mojito     Cashew Fruit Dip

Watermelon Gazpacho     Mint Ice Cream     Rosemary Infused Bloody Marys

 

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Chive Blossom Fritters

It’s Pollinator Week, and we’re sharing pics of bees and one of their favorite early summer treats in our yard. Coincidence? Possibly.

Chive fritters, because it’s fair season, and just like pickles, cheese, and ice cream, even flowers can be fried. Classy? No. Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.

Our house came with large patches of chives that produce an overabundance of beautiful edible blossoms every spring. I love the chives, but they also drive me slightly crazy because I feel bad when I’m not making use of the bunch. One of the easiest things to do is sending Alex out to pick chive and dandelion blossoms for our salads. He loves the independence that comes with being sent to do a job like this. I’ve also experimented with chive-infused vinegar. Remember the dressing in our pollinator salad? These fritters are yet another good use for the blossoms. chive_fritters1

But as it often happens happens, when I’m outside picking the blossoms, the bees are buzzing. They’re gently collecting pollen as they move from one flower to the next, and it’s then that I’m reminded that it’s perfectly fine to take a handful or two and just let the rest be. {Look at that bee bum!}

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Thanksgiving Inspired Tapas

We’re republishing this yummy Thanksgiving inspired Tapas post from last year because it was so darn yummy.  Steal a recipe or two (or all five) for your big dinner this year.

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Happy Thanksgiving! I know, I’m a couple days early, but I wanted to show you how I celebrated Thanksgiving with my bf  last week.  I’m currently visiting a friend in Florida so I wanted to celebrate with K before I left.  I decided to create a tapas inspired Thanksgiving because it is perfect for couples, small families or those who are scared of cooking a turkey (me!). With some prep the night before, this all came together in under an hour.  Can you believe it?! I think my favorite part was the aioli tossed potatoes and the fact that everything is bite sized.  Eating tapas helps me slow down, enjoy the meal and talk between tiny bites.  We had a bunch of leftovers too and who doesn’t love that?!

One thing I try to do before starting to prepare a huge meal is to write a schedule.  I jot down all the names of the recipes in the order that I should start them.  That gives me a general guide so I’m not standing over the stove wondering what to do next.  At the end of the post, I’ll share my schedule with you.  I think it’d be easier to understand after you read the recipes.

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Garlic Tossed Green Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts

  • Half of an onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fill a tea kettle with water and turn it on to boil.
  • In a large sauté pan, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and turn the burner onto medium heat.  After a couple minutes, when the oil has heated up, add the pine nuts.  Toss the nuts every couple minutes.  When they start to pop or turn slightly brown, use a slotted spoon and place the nuts on a paper towel to drain. Turn the burner off for a moment. This should take no more than six minutes.
  • Place the trimmed green beans in a medium sized pot.  Pour the boiling tea kettle over the green beans and turn the burner on high heat.  Time the beans for seven minutes.  The green beans should be cooked, but still crisp. Once they’re done, drain them in a colander.
  • While the green beans are cooking, finely chop half an onion and two cloves of garlic. Add the onion to the sauté pan that you toasted the nuts in. Sprinkle a little salt over the onions.  Cook the onions on medium low heat until they are soft and translucent, about five minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté for two more minutes.
  • By this time the green beans should be finished boiling.  Add them to the sauté pan and drizzle the remaining tablespoon over the green beans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir the beans around to coat them with onions and garlic and add the pine nuts.  Stir for another minute or two to incorporate all the flavors and serve.

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Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup Glazed Carrots

  • 1/2 lb of baby carrots or large chunks of full-sized carrots
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • Whisk together the maple syrup and the brown sugar.
  • Put the carrots in a cast-iron pan or a vessel that is able to be baked.
  • Add the carrots to the pan and pour the glaze over them.  Don’t worry if the carrots aren’t completely covered or saturated. The glaze will bake into the carrots just fine.
  • Cover the pan with tin foil to create a steaming effect.
  • Time for thirty minutes. Check the carrots by piercing them with a fork.
*These measurements are based on baking carrots for 3 people – increase as necessary.

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • Stalk of brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 375°
  • Optional step: Wrap the stalk of brussels in plastic wrap and microwave for three minutes.
  • Whisk together olive oil, cayenne, salt and pepper.
  • Place the brussels sprouts in a glass baking dish and drizzle with olive oil mixture.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
*I like my brussels sprouts nice and brown, if you don’t, check the sprouts every ten minutes.

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Aioli Tossed Potatoes

  • 1 egg – room temperature
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • sprinkle of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 lb of very small potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Bring a medium-sized pot of salted (add the tsp of salt) water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook until just soft.  Test the potatoes by piercing them with a fork.  About ten minutes.
  • Whisk together the room temperature egg, pressed garlic cloves, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice.  Sprinkle some pepper into the aioli.
  • Slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil, little by little while whisking the aioli.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and put them in a large bowl.
  • Toss the warm potatoes with aioli and parsley.
  • Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving so that aioli soaks into the potatoes.

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Warm and Spicy Grilled Pork Skewers

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Juice from one large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 – 1 lb pork
  • skewers
  • The marinade must be made the night before; please keep that in mind.
  • Whisk all the spices, garlic, lemon juice, parsley and olive oil in a bowl.
  • Cut up the pork pieces into quarter-sized chunks and place in a single layer in a shallow nonmetallic dish.
  • Pour the marinade evenly over the pork pieces, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Ideally, you should stir the pork two or three times over the course of 8-12 hours.
  • 8-12+ hours later, place the pork pieces onto skewers.  If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least twenty minutes prior to grilling.
  • Place the pork skewers on the grill or broil them.  I used a George Foreman grill and it took approximately 6 minutes to grill each group of skewers.

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Also shown in the photos are cranberry goat cheese topped crackers and mini no bake pumpkin pies.  I picked up the goat cheese from Trader Joe’s; served at room temperature, it is the perfect appetizer. The mini pumpkin pie recipe will be shared tomorrow, so stay tuned 🙂

After typing all those recipes, I realize that seems like a lot to do, but with a little preparation it comes together quickly.  The night before you can prep by washing the carrots, brussels, green beans and potatoes.  Chop a big pile of parsley and make the marinade and the aioli as well.  I also did a mental walkthrough of all the recipes and pulled out garnishes, gadgets, pots, pans and serving dishes for everything.  It’s a small step, but it really helps on the morning of.  That way everything is sitting out on the counter ready to be grabbed at a moments notice.

The day of, start by making the brussels sprouts and carrots.  Then bring several pots of water to boil for your beans and potatoes.  After your green beans are completely finished and the potatoes are tossed with aioli, quickly grill up the pork skewers.  By that time the oven veggies should be finished up and you are ready to serve dinner!

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Pollinator Power Salad

Continuing to celebrate Pollinator Week, today we have a recipe for a salad that is jam-packed with good ingredients, and every single one, from the mustard in the dressing to the pumpkin seeds, required pollination to help them grow and reproduce. As you’ll see, the salad looks absolutely beautiful and represents everything that is good about summer. But before you dig in, say thanks to every pollinator that played a role in bringing this food to your table.

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As we mentioned on Monday, about 75% of the food we eat required pollinators to grow and produce seeds. That seems like a lot, but when you look at this salad, it’s so easy to see how that’s possible. In making this salad, I used information from this USDA document to determine which foods required pollination. As you’ll see, I got a bit creative with this salad, but if you have a family of cautious eaters, you can look at Table 1 in that document and find ingredients that suit your household. For example, I didn’t even put tomatoes, which are such a common salad ingredient, in this dish, but they are on the list!

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Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts

Nuts are our ingredient of the season. We’ve been using them for sweetsdrinkssnack bars and savory condiments!

With summer approaching I began fantasizing about the hiking, camping, and other outside fun that we’re going to have. I also started thinking about snack ideas for those adventures, and having nuts on hand are a great, healthy option, but to keep things interesting, I like to swap out basic roasted nuts for this sweet and spicy option. A bag of roasted or spiced nuts holds up much better than our favorite fruit and nut snack bars, when stuffed into a pack, but those snack bars do make a great fast breakfast when you’re running out the door to get an early start on that hike!

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Rosehip Jam

While roses and treats are synonymous with Valentine’s Day, we wanted to turn that tradition on its head by suggesting you make a sweet rosehip jam instead! Plus, you can get around those thorny environmental and social impacts by skipping the bouquet this year. And, if you’re about to tune out because we’re suggesting making a jam, hang in there because this jam contains only two (2!) ingredients and doesn’t require any cooking. It’s that easy, folks. liveseasoned_w2015_rosehipjam4-1024x954 copy

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Roasted Root & Squash Soup

Last week Sarah shared her fantastic recipe for squash soup with a citrus zing. Then we debated: should share another soup recipe this week, especially another one that uses squash? The answer was yes, because for us, it’s most definitely soup season and squash season! I was also jumping at the bit to share this recipe before Thanksgiving because I think it could make a fantastic addition to your feast, but it’s also a great way to use up leftover roasted vegetables, turning them into a completely new dish so you’re not eating the same leftovers for days.

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I made up this recipe a few years ago, and I never make it exactly the same way twice. I truly believe that anything goes when it comes to the vegetables. In this post I’m giving you an example of a typical vegetable mix in our house, but you could easily add more vegetables to the mix and subtract the ones you don’t like. The same goes for the garnish. I don’t buy anything special for the garnish and always make a point of using what I have on hand. If you do the same, I’m sure you’ll come up with some pretty surprising and delicious combinations.

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Soup Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth + additional water
  • 1 medium/large butternut squash
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 medium/large onion
  • 2 large beets
  • 3-5 medium potatoes

Garnish Suggestions

  • beet or chard greens
  • tuffle oil
  • parmesan cheese
  • sour cream

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 How To

  • Prepare the vegetables for roasting. Cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Coarsely chop the beets, potatoes, and two carrots. Place all vegetables on an oiled cooking sheet or baking pan and roast until soft (about one hour), stirring halfway through.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, dice the onion and remaining carrot and saute them in olive oil until the onions are translucent.

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  •  When the vegetables are done roasting, add them to the soup pot (removing the squash from its rind) with the broth and enough water to reach the top of the vegetables. Bring this mixture to a boil and then turn down to low heat for blending.
  • Carefully puree the soup using either an immersion or upright blender. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and then you’re done!

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About the Garnishes

I think garnishes add a special touch to what is otherwise a homogeneous soup (not that that’s a bad thing). As I mentioned, there’s no particular right or wrong when it comes to the garnish, but you may want to think about using things that will add a different color, texture, or flavor to the soup. I often use some cooked greens because they add both color and texture to the smooth, pureed base. I like parmesan or cheddar cheeses for their nutty taste, but the tang of yogurt or sour cream is also a great compliment to the sweet flavor of the vegetables. And, as you know, I love the taste of truffles, and a dash of truffle oil works really well on this soup.

If using greens, saute them in some olive oil to prepare them. You can do this with a touch of salt and some diced onion and/or crush garlic or garlic powder.

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Alex loves this soup, I’m sure it has something to do with the sweet/savory combination from the roasted vegetables and the easy-to-eat pureed texture. I love knowing that he’s eating such a wide variety of vegetables with every bite. Oh, and I already have two quarts of this frozen for when I’m too tired to cook!

There you have it! A relatively simple soup that is so easy to prepare, packed with flavor, and with so many different veggies! Try making this for friends and family over the holiday season and I’m sure it’ll be a hit… if not, just send it to my house, I have a freezer that I’m looking to fill ;-).  
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Sampling Cheese from the Nibble Nook

We’re snacking on a lot of cheese this season. So far we’ve talked about our favorite way to eat a few staples, but today we’re going out on a limb and trying some new varieties!
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There really are so many cheeses out there, and while I’m an adventurous eater, I often find myself sticking to a handful of cheeses that I know and love. Just walking up to the cheese counter is overwhelming ~ so many varieties, where do I even start? And then I would look at some of the prices and just shyly turn around and pick up my Cabot or Brie Supreme and go on my merry way. Or, that was the scene until I discovered Whole Food’s Nibble Nook!

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The Nibble Nook is a little basket of cheese ends/remnants (you can see it above tucked in between their off-the-shelf cheddar, feta, and mozzarella). My guess is that many grocers selling cuttings of large cheese wheels may have their version of a nibble nook. If you’re open to trying some new cheese and flexible as to the options available, the Nibble Nook is a great place to look. The selection within the basket is constantly changing as different cheeses are cut and as shoppers pick out their favorites. And the cuts are small, so while I would be hesitant to be a large wedge of a cheese that’s priced at over $20/lb, I’m happy to buy a small bit for nibbling.

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I always approach the bin with an open mind and pick out any cheeses that look promising (that’s every cheese), and right now I’m also sticking to only those made with pasteurized milk. On this particular visit, the bin was overflowing with two varieties of hard cheese from Uniekaas, a Dutch company: a 3 year Gouda and a Parrano. I’m sad to say, I had to pass on a beautiful looking cheese that had bits of black truffle throughout but was made with unpasteurized milk. From the labels, you can see that each of the cheeses I picked has a big price tag ($22 and $15 per pound), but the wedges are both close to a tenth of a pound, making it an affordable splurge (is that a thing?).

liveseasoned_fall2014_nibblenook2_wmI also love Whole Foods visits for their constant sample tables, on this particular day a table of raw uber-local honey (from hives within our county!), was perfectly positioned at the end of the cheese aisle. They even happened to be serving up the samples with a variety of Parrano, so I had to pick up a jar. And as you’ll see, it ended up making such a perfect treat!

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A little bit about the cheeses. Both of these cheeses are considered great snacking cheeses in the Netherlands, their home country.

Gouda

(The orange cheese in these photos)

Gouda is a Dutch hard yellow cheese made from cow’s milk. The cheese may be aged anywhere from a month to many years. This particular Gouda was aged for three years, classifying it as a “very old cheese”.  As a Gouda ages it acquires a caramel sweetness and develops a slight crunch from cheese crystals that form as water within the cheese evaporates. The cheese’s sweetness is due to removing some of the whey, which also removes some of the lactic acid, early in the cheese-making process and replacing it with water.

Parrano

(The white cheese in these photos)

Parrano is also a technically a Dutch Gouda, but with a flavor similar to aged parmesan. Parranos are aged for about 5 months, giving them a semi-firm texture. As described on the company’s website, Parrano is “slightly sweet, a little bit nutty but still with a deliciously strong flavour”.

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As is common, I like to include some fruit on my cheese plates. Continuing with my adventurous ways, I’m not too picky when it comes to the fruits I choose. I’ll often look for anything in season and deliciously ripe (there’s no point in serving out-of-season strawberries that taste like water, right?). On this particular day, I already had some raspberries and pomegranate in my fridge. As it turns out, their slight tartness was a perfect complement to the sweet honey and sharp cheeses!

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 The Honey

This is a raw, unfiltered, and unheated honey. As a result, it has a cloudy appearance from the honey crystals that have begun to form (it may also have some bits of wax, pollen, bee wings, and such in the jar). If you put a dollop of raw honey on a plate, you’ll find that it spreads more slowly than crystal clear honey. It turns out that this is really useful for gluing some fun cheese/cracker/berry combos together! And here you thought raw honey was just good for its enzymes.

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Look at how beautiful that cracker looks with a bit of cheese, dollop of honey, and a few perfectly placed pomegranate seeds! There’s no way those seeds will fall off on the way from the plate to your mouth. This is a particularly handy trick for cocktail parties if you want to make a few fancy cracker/cheese combos rather than having guests make their own. You definitely don’t have to worry about the appetizer falling apart before it’s served. I also found honey to be particularly useful for keeping the crumbly gouda on my cracker. You can see that I double-dipped in the last photo – starting with a slice of Parrano and then adding crumbles of Gouda over the honey. indulge much?

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I can’t emphasize enough how delicious these particular combos were. The crackers were just a basic wheat thin. Both cheeses had a bit of a nutty flavor. The honey added that touch of sweetness. And then, as I already mentioned, the fruit added a bit of a tart note. Plus it was extra fun to get that little spray of juice and crunch when biting down on the pomegranate seeds.

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And this adventure all started with a quick trip to the Nibble Nook. Who knows what next week’s visit will hold… and I can only hope that come April they add some of that truffle cheese back to the bin!

So tell us – does your grocery store have their own version of the nibble nook? Did you find any really outstanding cheeses there?

 

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Fall Cheese Trifecta

While apples may be our ingredient of the season, cheese is definitely our snack of the season. So far we’ve spent more time exploring condiments to pair with our favorite cheese rather than the vast world of cheese varieties, but we’re ok with that, because these combinations are top notch!

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With today’s combination, I’m not sure who’s the star. Our delicious homemade apple butter? Carr’s hearty whole wheat crackers biscuits? Or the ever reliable bite of Cabot’s Extra Sharp cheddar? I do know that when you put the combination together you create a hearty snack that evokes the flavors of season and will satisfy the hunger you build up while outside on these crisp fall days.

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If you haven’t had a Carr’s whole wheat cracker yet, add them to your next grocery list. You’ll find them to be much more substantial than a typical cracker. The whole wheat really fills you up, but they also have a touch of sweetness that makes it seem like you’re eating more of a cookie than a cracker. It’s hard to explain, but I know that I can eat two or three with a cup of tea and consider it the perfect mid-morning snack. 

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We’ve already raved about our love of apple butter in this post, so there’s not much more to say there. Other than to remind you to pick up a sack of apples and get yourself a jar.

Then there’s the cheese. Do you have a favorite cheddar? Whenever I want a basic, not too expensive cheddar that has that perfectly sharp bite, I look for Cabot’s Extra Sharp. The description on their site says it best, the cheese is “creamy white in color with an almost crumbly texture and has a sophisticated, citrusy tang”.

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Cheddar gets its name from an extra step in the cheese-making process called cheddaring where loaves of curds are allowed to set until they reach a certain acidity, they are then cut into loaves, stacked, and turned every 10 minutes until further acidity points are reached. While changing the acidity, this process adds flavor and creates the crumbly texture that cheddars are known for. After the batch has been cheddared and salted, the curds are placed into cheese molds and aged for anywhere from 1 month to over 10 years, depending upon the type of cheddar being made. The Cabot Extra Sharp is aged for anywhere from 9 to 14 months (whereas their mild cheddar is aged for just 2 to 3 months).

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Want a few more fun cheddar facts?

  • It’s the second most popular cheese in the US behind mozzarella
  • Our average annual consumption is 10 lbs per person!… my personal consumption is more like 20 lbs (minimum)
  • The cheese originated in the English village of Cheddar in the 12th century
  • Easy Cheese is not cheddar
  • A single 1 oz serving gives you 20% of your daily calcium requirements
  • And what do you call the hunk of cheddar sitting in my fridge? Nacho cheese! ha!
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