Friday, April 29, 2016

Flashback Friday - Linguini and White Clam Sauce

Mr Minx loves his pasta. I love his pasta, too.


This post was originally published on September 11, 2009.
Linguini and White Clam Sauce

Mr. Minx here to talk about our dinner from Labor Day: linguine and white clam sauce with shrimp thrown in for good measure.

Most of my favorite dishes involve pasta and liguini and white clam sauce is probably my second favorite thing to eat next to spaghetti and meatballs. It was a bit of a revelation for me when I first had it as a teenager because, up to that time, I thought all pasta dishes had to have a thick, heavy sauce and/or a heavy meat component like beef or pork. When made properly, liguini and white clam sauce is light and creamy with a mild seafood flavor enhanced with bright parsley notes.

I started making liguini and clam sauce after I had it at a family get-together. My Aunt Kathleen made it for us, which was a bit of a shock since her culinary ball park was more meat and potatoes. I was sitting next to my Uncle Al and, midway through the meal, he leaned over to me and said, "This is the kind of dish I just want to keep eating and eating." I had to agree as the flavors had an almost hypnotic effect on me. He and I polished off the very last remnants of liguini in the kitchen after the rest of the family had left the table. When I asked my Aunt Kathleen about the recipe, she said, "Oh, it's really easy. You just follow the recipe on the can of clams." I did just that for many years.

There are several recipes out there, but the simplest way to make white clam sauce is to saute two cloves of chopped garlic in about a 1/4 cup of olive oil. Once the garlic is lightly cooked, pour in the juice from a can of chopped or minced clams and bring it to a simmer. Let is simmer for a few minutes and then add the clams and some chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over some cooked liguini and you're all set. This should make enough sauce for two average people or just me. If Minx wants to eat, I double the recipe.

Over time, familiarity has led to experimentation, adjusting the flavors to suit my personal taste. For example, the standard recipe tells you to saute two cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil. I always tend to burn my garlic, leading to a bitter taste, so I chop up some onion and saute that in olive oil first. Then I add the chopped garlic along with the clam juice reserved from the can of chopped or minced clams. This way you get some extra texture and flavor from the onions and the garlic cooks without burning. I also like to throw in extra shell fish if they are available. In this case, I added some shrimp.

The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, but more is better in my book. When I haven't had parsley, I've used fresh basil, but it creates a different flavor. Everything with basil in it tastes strongly of basil, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but parsley is less dominant. It just gives a bright, herbal note without overpowering. Some lemon juice can't hurt either.

Liguini and white clam sauce is one of those fun dishes because it is insanely easy to make, comes together in less than one half hour, and can be riffed on in so many different ways. I could never understand ordering this dish in a restaurant when anyone can make it well at home. You just have to make lots of it because, once you start eating it, you can't stop.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament!

Back for the 6th year, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament pairs local chefs against each other in a one-on-one, single elimination, bracket-style competition. The first battle begins on June 7th. All events will be held at the Inn at the Colonnade.

Minxeats is proud to be a media sponsor for the 5th year in a row. Hope to see you at a match!

This season's competing chefs are:

Christopher Vocci, Alexandra’s at Turf Valley
Kurt Peter, Azure
Chad Novak, Das Bier Haus
Fabio Mura, Grille 620
Brian Wells, Hard Yacht Cafe
Francois Giovanni Merle, KitchenCray
Kitty Ashi, Monsoon Siam
Bill Kelley, Renditions Golf
Niko Negas, Roasthouse Pub
Brett Arnold, Smokin’ Hot Bar & Grille
Terence Tomlin, SoBe Restaurant
Jeffrey Barillo, Social Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Brendan McKinney, Tark’s Grill
Darius Jones, That’s My Favorite Catering
Sean Praglowski, The Point in Fells
Greg Mason, The White Oak Tavern

Tournament Details
Tickets for all 15 dates of this summer-long single-elimination chef competition are available for purchase at: Tickets for most matches are $25 for general admission and $45 for judging experience (including all taxes). In addition, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament donates 10% of the net proceeds of each ticket sold directly to their charity partner Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (

Competition Dates 
June 7, 8, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28
July 11, 12, 18, 19
August 1, 2, 14

Event Timeline
5:30 p.m. – Happy Hour with Complementary Hors d’oeuvres and Wine Tasting by Boordy Vineyards, plus Drink Specials
6:30 p.m. – Cold Prep Begins for the Competition
7:00 p.m. – Chef Competition
8:00 p.m. – Judging Begins, Complementary Dessert and Coffee Served

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Chile Chili

A few weeks ago, I realized that the entire winter had gone by without my making a batch of beef chili. While it is Spring (believe it or not), and chili might be thought of as cold weather food, cooking it up is a snap and it tastes fine all year long.

My preferred method of making chili involves chunks of beef, canned tomatoes, and no beans. This time, I went the opposite direction by using ground beef, no tomatoes (at least not many), and a can of black beans. Why? Because sometimes we need change in our lives. Change is good.

Beef and Black Bean Chili

4 New Mexico chiles
2.5 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 chipotles en adobo, mashed
2 tablespoons cacao nibs, ground or 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 bottle beer of your choice (not too hoppy)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 tomatoes, diced (optional)
Lime Juice
Additional spices for re-seasoning
Grated cheese
Scallions or spring onions for garnish

Put the chiles and 1 1/2 cups water in a large glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and set aside. If the chiles aren't submerged, put a small plate over to keep them under the water.

Cook the ground beef in a dutch oven, stirring regularly, until it begins to brown. Drain any accumulated fat, then add the onions to the beef in the pot. Cook, covered, 5-6 minutes until onions soften. Combine the next 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Once onions have softened, stir in the spices and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the garlic, then add the tomato paste, chipotles, and cacao or cocoa.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles put them in a food processor or blender with enough of the soaking liquid to make a puree. Add to the pot, along with the beer and the strained soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Cook, covered, for at least one hour, or until ground beef is tender. Add the beans and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add sriracha, lime juice, and salt to taste.

Sometimes, when a dish like chili has been cooking for a long time, it needs a bit of re-seasoning. Add pinches more of cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika to taste.

Leftovers taste great on a hot dog.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Flashback Friday - Eating Las Vegas: Part Three, Day Four

I was reminded of this trip recently, and thought I'd share (again).


This post was originally published on January 13, 2006.
Eating Las Vegas: Part Three, Day Four

So why do I skip from day two to day four? Well, day three was spent on a 17-hour bus extravaganza to the Grand Canyon, and lunch consisted of a buffet somewhere in West Bumblefuck, Arizona, and dinner was a sandwich from a Subway in Kingman. Nothing worth writing about.

Day four, however, was my birthday. Our plans consisted of wandering through more casinos, souvenir shopping, and dinner at Mesa Grill. But first, lunch.

My Dad had been all excited about a pastrami sandwich he ate in a chain deli called Jason's. He rhapsodized over the flavor so much, Neal and I decided it was a must for our eating itinerary. After all, Neal hadn't had a good pastrami sandwich in ages. We had passed the restaurant on one of our sojourns around town earlier in the week, so after sleeping in a bit longer than usual, we made lunch at Jason's our first meal of the day.

Obviously a California-style deli, the place offered salads and soups as well as various sandwiches. We ordered hot pastrami, on rye, with mustard. When the woman taking our order looked at us funny and asked if we didn't want lettuce and tomato too, I said, "no, we're purists." She made some comment about it not looking that way to her and shooed us towards the cashier. Pastrami on rye with mustard isn't pure? What the hell else do these freaky west-coast-type people put on pastrami? Oh, the horror of it all!

And the verdict on the sandwiches? Eh. They were ok. The meat was cut too thickly, and there was plenty of fat on the edges. It was warm in spots and cold in others, due to the nature of microwaving food. It made me long for a corned beef sandwich from Jack's or Attman's, back in Baltimore (we never ate pastrami as a kid, just corned beef or beef brisket). There we could get the meat extra lean, sliced paper thin so one doesn't pull a slab of meat out from between the bread while taking a bite, with just the right amount of yellow mustard on fresh slices of rye. And a well-done pickle. Ah, the memories....

Out of all of the restaurants in Las Vegas, why did I choose Mesa Grill? Because I was familiar with the place; we had eaten in the New York restaurant a few years ago, and it still remains one of our favorite dining experiences. The food was amazing, the service excellent, and the atmosphere casual and hip. This time, I was turning 40 and didn't want to be disappointed by my celebratory meal.

We had seen the Food Network special on Mesa Grill LV and were pleased to have the chance to actually go inside the place. A shame they never got those giant flaming grill/rotisserie gadgets working, but they probably would have been: 1) dangerous; 2) too hot, which might affect the climate of the place.

I was a bit afraid of drinking wine because of my maybe-allergy to grapes, so I ordered a cosmopolitan with Absolut. Neal, no longer afraid to spend some money in a restaurant, ordered a Glenfiddich and water. They were very generous with the scotch, and the cosmo was excellent. The best part was the price - only $7 apiece with a $2 surcharge for my premium vodka. Definitely one of the best deals in all of Las Vegas!

Unfortunately, it's been so long since this dinner, I can't remember what my appetizer was, but it may well have been the roasted pumpkin soup. I'm pretty sure Neal had the bbq duck on a blue corn pancake; he can't pass on duck if it's on a menu! If memory serves, both were terrific. For entrees, I went for the Sixteen Spice Rotisserie Chicken with Caramelized Mango Sauce and Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes, and Neal had the Coffee Spice Rubbed Rotisserie Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom-Ancho Chile Sauce and Horseradish Potato Gratin. I had seen Bobby Flay make a sixteen spice chicken dish on Iron Chef, and was intrigued. It was amazing - a tender, juicy leg portion of chicken, absolutely coated with a suprisingly delicate spice concoction, sweetened with mango sauce. The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious. Neal's filet was huge, tender and perfectly cooked. The coffee flavor didn't stand out, but the sauce was exquisite and the potato gratin was a dish I'd want to have in my Last Meal. Wow.

We couldn't decide on dessert, as there were far too many choices, so we tried the sampler - what I thought would be three half portions of blueberry shortcake, caramelized apple cheesecake, and molten chocolate cake. But nooo...three full-size desserts (full-sized these days thankfully means pretty small) arrived on a boat of a plate, each garnished with various scoops of sorbet and drizzles of sauce. We managed to finish all but one bite of the cheesecake.

What a fabulous meal. The service was great, the food decadent. I don't know why people hate Bobby Flay so much - the man knows how to design a menu.

Jason's Deli on Urbanspoon
Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill on Urbanspoon

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, April 18, 2016

New Spring Menu at The Rusty Scupper

Besides its breathtaking view of the Inner Harbor, The Rusty Scupper has long been known for its clean, straight-forward seafood dishes. While those are always welcome, new executive chef William Wilt is adding some twists to the Scupper's menu with bold flavors and clever combinations. We were given an opportunity to experience this approach first hand while trying some of his dishes from the restaurant's spring menu.

Since April is tuna month at The Rusty Scupper (which features a different seafood each month), we started off by sharing the tuna tartare appetizer. The chilled ahi tuna was fresh and refreshing, accompanied by a wasabi aioli, a spicy red sriracha-style sauce, and a salad of greens tossed in a sesame vinaigrette. Crunchy sesame-dusted crostini were the perfect vehicle for transporting tuna to mouth, adding both texture and a flavor profile complimentary to the Asian-style sauces,

For her entree, the Minx chose the sea bass stuffed with a mixture of chorizo sausage and crab and served with whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus. Pairing such a powerful flavor as chorizo with the mild sweetness of crab seems counter-intuitive, but the combination works quite nicely. The whole dish is bathed in a slightly sweet dijon tarragon beurre blanc that is at once rich and herbacious. The creamy and garlicky red bliss potatoes had some of the skins left in--just the way I like them--and the asparagus was perfectly cooked. I kept sneaking nibbles off of the Minx's plate until she had to pull it aside, wanting to save some for her lunch the next day.

I opted for the blue crab ravioli. When serving ravioli, it seems that many restaurants are skimpy, providing only an unsatisfying four or five pieces. Chef Wilt offers seven plump pouches of perfectly cooked pasta holding a tasty filling of blue crab, topped with Roma tomatoes, asparagus tips, fresh herbs, and chunks of jumbo lump crabmeat. The firm crab lumps were an especially nice touch, providing a textural contrast to the creamier crab in the ravioli.

Although we were quite full, we had to try out some of their desserts. I went for the Callebaut chocolate indulgence: a slice of nearly-flourless chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a raspberry coulis. The cake was truly decadent, like rich fudge or a dense chocolate truffle, while the fruit sauce and blueberries added the right acidity and brightness for a spring dish. 

The Minx's Fuji apple bread pudding was stuffed with dried cherries and apples and doused in a pecan praline sauce. The pudding was moist and buttery with a welcome crispiness on top, like a really exceptional French toast. A bit of vanilla ice cream on the side aided in cutting the unctuousness of the dish. Alas, it was too large to finish after the rest of the rich meal (as was the chocolate cake) but it made for a lovely sweet treat the following night.

For decades, we've heard about "the runner's high." I never experienced such a thing during all those miles I clocked in my youth, but I have had on occasion experienced an eater's high, when all the elements of a meal are so fine that I feel euphoric about the experience. This was one such meal. We're elated that the Rusty Scupper, which has been a workhorse serving visitors to Baltimore's Inner Harbor area for decades now, has upped it's culinary game. It's about time that locals get in on the action. The views are spectacular, the exceptional service and white tablecloths make the place perfect for a fancy dress-up occasion, but the rustic architecture and menu of seafood favorites also makes the restaurant ideal for a weeknight dinner. Pay close attention to the Chef's Specials, which are a cut (or two) above the expected. 

The Rusty Scupper
402 Key Highway
Inner Harbor Marina
Baltimore, MD 21230

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Flashback Friday - Compost Cookies

To tell the truth, I never did try to make anything like these again.


This post was originally published on August 24, 2010.
Compost Cookies

When I was in New York in April, I stopped by David Chang's bakery, Milk Bar, to pick up a couple of their lauded cookies. The "compost cookie" that I had read so much about was tooth-achingly sweet and had a weird gritty texture from crushed breakfast cereal. Fail.

Although the cookie did not impress me, I thought I'd try my hand at baking them after discovering that the recipe was online. And my cupboard was chock-full of miscellaneous add-ins like white chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, a plethora of dried fruit, and about nine boxes of cereal. It seemed like a good way to get rid of last Christmas' left-overs before I started thinking about baking for this year's winter holiday.

Christina Tosi's recipe, as presented on the Regis and Kelly Web site, admonishes bakers to portion the dough then refrigerate it for a minimum of one hour before baking. Lacking the fridge space for baking trays and dough balls, I refrigerated the entire bowl of sugary goodness for about three hours. The first batch resulted in cookies that spread into a massive greasy mess, a uni-cookie, one which required refrigeration in order to achieve some sort of vaguely crisp texture.

It made a fine ice cream topping, but that was not my goal.

After that disaster, I froze the remaining dough, thinking that extreme cold would definitely help.

A few weeks later, I decided to attempt a two-cookie batch in the toaster oven. I set the temperature and the timer for the required 400º and 11 minutes. About eight minutes later, I removed two quite burnt specimens. They were, however, the proper size and shape. After letting the oven cool slightly, I tried again, this time ending up with two flat puddles, a near repeat of the very first try.

A week later, I went at it again, this time photographing the results. After 8 minutes in a toaster oven set at 350º, I had cookie-shaped cookies, albeit with very uneven coloring.

So why were the cookies such a failure each time? This clever blogger deduced that Tosi's recipe was for a professional kitchen with snazzier ovens. And that the flour should be increased by about 1/2 cup. While the home version seemed less cloyingly-sweet, they were overly greasy, which an increase in flour might alleviate. I had a suspicion that the dearth of flour compared to the amount of butter and sugar called for would create the spreading cookie issue, so I overcompensated by adding more than the required 1 1/2 cups of starchy add-ins (like pretzels and cereal; I used Cocoa Krispies, corn flakes, 2 crumbled Wheatabix biscuits, and dry oatmeal). Still, I could not overcome that problem.

While I like the idea of using a multitude of ingredients in a cookie recipe, I'm thinking this isn't the recipe for me. I should continue to experiment with a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, maybe one with slightly more butter and sugar than the typical Toll House version, but not as much as the compost cookie recipe. Does anyone have suggestions?

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Tortilla Espanola

You might remember a few weeks back reading about our boxes of various Calbee snacks. Rather than just eating them as they were, I thought it might be fun to use them in recipes. First, I employed shrimp chips as an extra-crisp crust for fried tofu; for this post, a bag of potato chips was transformed into something both simple and elevated.

Ok, mostly simple, but elevated in that the recipe is a riff on a dish by famed Spanish chef, Ferran Adria. The omelet-like tortilla espanola is a popular tapas dish made with fried potatoes and eggs. Adria simplified the dish by using potato chips in place of sliced and fried raw potatoes. His recipe called for Serrano ham and pequillo peppers; I omitted both and added simply sliced green onion in their place.

Now when the recipe calls for a "small" skillet, that means 8". Any larger than that, your omelet will be a pancake. If all you have is a 10" oven-safe skillet (as was our issue), lower the cooking time a skotch so your tortilla won't get dried out.

Potato Chip Tortilla (adapted from Ferran Adria in Food & Wine)

5 large eggs
2 cups coarsely crushed Calbee Hot and Spicy potato chips (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon finely sliced green onion
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Beat two eggs in a medium bowl and add the potato chips. Let stand until slightly softened, five minutes or so. Beat the remaining eggs in a separate bowl, then stir into the potato/egg mixture. Add the scallions and season with pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a small non-stick ovenproof skillet. Add the egg mixture and cook over medium high heat until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Broil for about 2 minutes more, until the top is golden and the center is just slightly jiggly.

Slide onto a plate, cut into quarters, and serve with a nice salad or bowl of soup. (Gazpacho would be perfect here.) Depending on the saltiness of the chips used, you may or may not need to add a pinch at the table.

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Flashback Friday - Hot Fudge

Is there anything better than a hot fudge sundae?


This post was originally published on May 13, 2011.
Hot Fudge

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite treats was a hot fudge sundae from Read's. Read's was a local drugstore chain, and the one in my neighborhood had a full-service soda fountain/restaurant. If I went shopping with my grandma, I could almost guarantee a sundae was in my future - because she also enjoyed them. Although in those days my favorite ice cream was chocolate, I preferred my sundaes with vanilla because it didn't affect the flavor of the hot fudge. And a maraschino cherry on top, along with aerosol whipped cream, were de rigeur.

The other day, I was craving some hot fudge. I had just received two bags of sweetener with which to experiment, and I chose to use one of them, Xylitol, in the sauce. Xylitol, widely used as a sweetener in chewing gum, is a sugar alcohol sweetener that is roughly as sweet as sugar, but has only about 60% of the calories and a very low glycemic score, making it good for diabetics. I found that when tasted raw, on a damp finger, Xylitol tastes remarkably like sugar - more than artificial sweetners - with only a vague aftertaste. I found that when I cooked with the product, it tasted pretty much like the real thing, and worked like a charm in a basic hot fudge recipe.

Not that hot fudge sauce will ever be a diet recipe, or particularly safe for diabetics! I just wanted to play with the Xylitol and see if I noticed any difference in flavor. You may use 1/2 cup of regular sugar in the recipe, instead.

New-Fashioned Hot Fudge Sauce
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
1 tablespoon salted butter
1/2 cup Xylitol
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix cocoa powder and water in a sauce pan, stirring until it forms a paste. Turn heat on to medium; add butter, Xylitol, corn syrup, and heavy cream, stirring to combine. Bring mixture up to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Yields about 3/4 cup sauce.

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Monday, April 04, 2016

Loaded Baked Potatoes

Your idea of a loaded baked potato might be entirely different than mine. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it. Bacon and cheese, while tasty, is just so done, you know?

A potato is a blank canvas that can accept pretty much any combination of toppings. And it's a great way to use up dribs and drabs of things that are leftover from other meals. Like those random sausage links, half dozen shrimp, and that wee bit of corn (or peas) that are cluttering up the freezer. Make room for another half gallon (actually 3.5 quarts) of ice cream by getting rid of those plastic bags of tidbits and putting them to use in a tasty and filling dinner. You still want to add bacon and shredded cheese on top? Fine. Anything goes, really, except maybe leftover mac and cheese or risotto, unless, of course, you really really like carbs.

Loaded Baked Potatoes a la Minx

2 Russet potatoes
1/2 medium onion, sliced
(2) 3-4 ounce links of your favorite raw pork sausage (Italian, chorizo), removed from casings
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Honey, to taste
1/2 cup corn kernels
6 medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and chopped
Salt, pepper, and hot sauce, to taste
3 tablespoons sour cream
Adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Scrub the potatoes and rub them with a little vegetable oil. Place them directly on the oven grates and bake for one hour, until tender.

While the potatoes are baking, add a little oil to a skillet and cook the onion and sausage over medium heat. Break up the sausage into small chunks as you're cooking it. When the sausage pieces are well-browned, stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two. Then add the vinegar and honey. Stir in the corn and the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are opaque. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. The mixture is going over a bland baked potato, so it should be strongly flavored.

Stir a little adobo sauce into the sour cream to give it a little flavor, if you wish.

When potatoes are done, cut an X into the tops of each and smush the potato a bit by holding the outside edges in both hands and pushing toward the center. (This breaks up the potato flesh.) Top with some of the sausage filling and a dollop of sour cream.

Eat with knife and fork. You may have extra filling, which will be tasty on a salad for lunch the next day.

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Friday, April 01, 2016

Chopped Junior is Casting

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