Taste of Summer in December

Last week, Adam looked out at the very snowy backyard and said, “I wish it was summer. I miss the garden. I wish we could go out there and work in it.”

He has been saying things like this for the last two months just about every other day. He has mentioned that he misses having variety fresh vegetables to eat. He even has been looking into green houses so we could have produce growing throughout the year.

… I think the root of this particular instance was that he didn’t want to go to spinning.

But, we did.

And, thank goodness we did because we had a feast waiting for us.

It was Adam’s Birthday!

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Inspired by his desire for summer and fresh garden produce, I dug deep into our freezer and prepared a meal entirely using produce that came from our garden.

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… With the exception of steaks. It was his birthday after all.

Our freezer is still pretty well stocked thanks to the time and effort we made to preserve vegetables from this summer’s garden. For Adam’s birthday meal I was able to use snap beans, cherry tomatoes, grated zucchini, sweet corn and poblano peppers. And a couple of the backyard eggs!

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Here is what I made:

Balsamic Peas and Tomatoes with Feta

In the summer, I do this as a raw salad. It’s light and has great crunch with the vibrant flavors. But, because the vegetables were frozen, I sautéed them. Warm, this combination of flavors is excellent because the feta melts just a little for a touch of creaminess.

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1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup snap peas
1 cup cherry tomato
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Feta Cheese crumbles

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and begins to golden.

Add frozen peas and tomatoes, stir to coat with garlic and oil. Lower heat to medium and cook for three minutes. Add balsamic, salt and pepper, and cook for three more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Plate and top with crumbled feta cheese.

Spicy Skillet Corn

In case you are new here… Adam likes spicy food. And, this corn dish packs some heat!

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1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
½ red onions
1 ½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen poblano pepper, diced
½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add red onion and stir to coat with oil. Add corn, peppers and cayenne pepper, stir to combine with oil and onions. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Serve immediately.

Zucchini Cake

Zucchini Cake is essentially just chocolate cake, but the grated zucchini makes the cake super moist. Plus, you are getting some veggies while eating cake… life doesn’t get much better than that!

I have seen recipes for Zucchini Cake with lots of different seasonings added to the cake batter, such as cinnamon or ground cloves. It gives the cake good flavor, but for this occasion I kept it simple because I made Bourbon Butter cream Frosting. I did this wanting to give it a little “manly” touch (Adam’s a big fan of bourbon, if he is drinking a cocktail) and thought plain old chocolate cake would be best with the flavors of the spririt.

This recipe is based on the recipe Adam grew up with thanks to his mom. (… And, it probably was made for her by her mom!) Her recipe also calls for cinnamon, nuts and chocolate frosting and is fantastic.

Love/Romance Tip: Find out favorites from your man’s childhood and cook them. Often.

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3/4 cups oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 T baking cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated zucchini (I froze grated garden zucchini’s in ½ cup portions. Made this SUPER easy.)

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Combine oil and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk. Mix well. Mix in dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini.

Bake in a greased pan (I used two cake pans) at 350 for 1 hour.

Once cool top with this:

Bourbon Butter Cream Icing

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3 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
Two sticks of butter, room temperature
1 (… or two) tablespoon bourbon, room temperature

Mix egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Heat mixture to combine, stirring occassionally. (I placed my Kitchenaid bowl over a simmering pot of water. The steam heated the sugary mixture.)

Once combined, remove from heat and hook up to mixer. Mix on medium speed, add butter, one tablespoon at a time until combined and fluffy. Add bourbon, mix throughout.

We also had some champagne from our August trip to Oliver Winery to complete our "Summer" Celebration!

We also had some champagne from our August trip to Oliver Winery to complete our “Summer” Celebration!

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Merry Christmas!

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Happy Holiday’s!

We have had a ball celebrating the season with our first live Christmas Tree… ever!

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It’s beautiful. We found it thanks to the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association: http://www.indianachristmastree.com/

They sort all the Christmas Tree farms in the state by county, tree height and tree type. Our tree came from a farm the county just south of ours.

The association also has a bunch of tips for selecting a tree and caring for it throughout the Holiday Season.

Enjoy your time around your tree with family and friends! I will be back on Bloom by the weekend because we celebrated another big holiday this week: Adam’s Birthday!

The 2013 Trost Christmas Card!

The 2013 Trost Christmas Card!

Root Loot

During our visit to my parent’s home in Michigan earlier this month, my mom took Adam and me to Holland’s Farmer’s Market. Holland is about twenty five minutes away from my parent’s house and is a really neat little town.

The Farmer's Market/dish crew.... got to love family dinners.

The Farmer’s Market/dish crew…. got to love family dinners.

Holland is home to Hope College, where my little brother is a freshman and a strong backstroker on the swim team. The community plays up the connection to the country, Holland. It is decorated with traditional windmills and hosts a Tulip Festival each spring. There are also a bunch cute boutiques and unique restaurants that I cannot wait to check out on a future visit.

But, it is clear the town value’s the farmers market. A whole street is set up for the market which is open twice a week from May to December.

And even during the first weekend in December, the market was full of produce, baked goods and beautiful Christmas décor.

One vendor was offering a deal where you could fill a large department store bag full of any root vegetables of your choice. Adam and I took him up on this offer and filled our bag with Red, Yukon and Sweet Potatoes, lots of carrots, yellow and red onions, beets, and a celery root.

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The following are recipes showing what we did with some of these great root vegetables.

Homemade Terra Chips:

I love Terra Chips. If I buy a bag, it rarely makes it into my home unopened because I always seem to “need a snack” on my drive home.

But, I hate how they are so expensive.

So, using some of my beets, sweet potatoes, and Yukon potatoes from the Holland Farmer’s Market, I decided to make my own.

They were great and really easy. The beet chips were sweet and balanced the more savory flavors of the potatoes.
I loved having them around as a snack. Can’t beat getting a serving of vegetables but feeling like you are eating chips. (And saving you the $8 Terra bag…!)

The colors were amazing!

The colors were amazing!

Ingredients:

3 medium beets
1 large sweet potato
3 medium Yukon Potatoes
Olive Oil

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.

Slice all veggies ¼ inch thick. I used my mandolin. Toss sliced vegetables with oil.

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Lay vegetables on a large cookie sheet.

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Bake for thirty minutes and place on a cooling rack. Chips will continue to harden as they cool.

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Consume within 48 hours.

Turning up the Beet on Risotto:

I recently was asked what my favorite thing to cook is. And honestly, I was stumped. I love to cook. Eggs, dessert, breads, vegetables, large roasts, soups, stir fry’s, homemade pizza… I could go on and on.

Then, it came to me at work when I was assisting a chef at my Alma Mater: I love to cook risotto.

I came to this discovery while cooking risotto for eighty sorority women. Even though the muscles in my shoulders burned from stirring the massive amount of Arborio rice, I knew this was my love.

It’s great anytime of year, but there is just something so cozy about it when it’s chilly outside. It is also so versatile. Risotto prep starts the same every time, but you can add all sorts of ingredients towards the end to make it your own. My mom often adds parmesan and scallops. That evening on campus we added coconut milk and toasted coconut flakes to the risotto as it served as an accompanist to some island style chicken.

I was searching for something to do with our farmer’s market beets other than roasting them and through my searching, found that goat cheese pairs great with the sweetness in the beets. Inspired by my risotto at the sorority, I thought it could be a great combination.

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And it was.

Ingredients:

3 medium beets
1 shallot, chopped
1 Tablespoon of butter
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup of Arborio rice
6 cups of chicken stock (… It may take less. I have found with any risotto recipe that I use far more broth than is called for. It is just a lot easier to be prepared and have more ready. I can easily use any leftover broth with something else. Also, for this, we actually used our turkey stock…worked just fine!)
4 ounce log of goat cheese
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse any dirt off beets, pat dry. Roast Beets for 40 minutes. Easy way to do this is just place on a sheet of foil. Doesn’t hurt to drizzle a little olive oil on the beets. Once complete, let cool and remove skin. Cut into ½ inch pieces.

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Heat up stock in a sauce pan. You want the stock just to steam, not boil.

In a large, high sided skillet (We have found our wok works better than a skillet… I had forgotten about this when I made this risotto.) heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add the shallots and cook for about three minutes. You don’t want them to brown. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil.

Reduce heat to medium and add a half cup of stock, stir until absorbed. Continue with a half cup of stock at a time until rice is cooked through.

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Remove from heat and stir in beets, butter, and goat cheese. Top with chopped chives.

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Roasted Whole Chicken and Root Vegetables:

So, the oddball in out root loot was the celery root.

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I had never cooked or had one, so we decided if there ever was a good time to give it a try, this was it.

It is a weird looking vegetable. And, really, not all that pretty. But, I read that what it lacks in looks, it makes up in flavor.

I also read online to prep it you need to remove the skin. I used a vegetable peeler and it worked okay. The skin is a bit thicker than anything on a carrot.

We had just had fifty of our free range chickens processed and we were eager to give them a try. We decided to roast one of the birds so it just made sense to roast some veggies as well. Using a few other of the root vegetables on hand we made a great meal when a couple friends were joining us for dinner.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (Ours are about six pounds… Chickens at the store are typically smaller than this.)
1 Onion cut into 1/2 inch pieces (We used a yellow onion, but I wish I had grabbed a red one instead. It would have added great color.)
5 Carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Celery Root, cut into ½ inch pieces
Salt and Pepper
Juice of one lemon
Red Pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425.

Rub salt and pepper onto chicken. Place on baking sheet and cook for twenty minutes.

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While cooking, season vegetables with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Toss to coat.

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Add vegetables to baking sheet, turning to coat in the chicken drippings.

Continue to roast until vegetables are tender and the chicken is reaches at least 165 degrees internally and the juices run clear. (Should be about forty more minutes.)

Let chicken rest about five to ten minutes before serving.

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Pairs well with an oakey Chardonnay... and fun friends.

Pairs well with an oakey Chardonnay… and fun friends.

Savory Sweet Potato Fries:

Sweet potatoes seem to be all the rage these days. They are even showing up on menu at fast food restaurants!

But, I can’t knock them. They are full of nutritional benefits. For starters? They are a great source of Vitamin C, which is great this time of year because it helps ward off the cold and flu viruses. And another reason to eat sweet potatoes this time of year is because they are full of Vitamin D. Which, most popularly, we get from sunlight. Which, also happens to be in short supply as we near the Winter Solstice.

So, all those (self diagnosed…) Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder sufferers out there? Sweet Potatoes are for you us.

I think sweet potatoes already are pretty sweet, so I wasn’t looking to jazz mine up with brown sugar like they are traditionally done. So, I went the savory route with these fries based on a recipe from the Williams Sonoma blog and they were spot on.

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Ingredients:

About 2 large sweet potatoes cut into batons about ½ inch thick
2 Tablespoons of grape seed oil
Salt and Pepper
3 Tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place sweet potato batons on baking sheet with oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Make sure the potatoes are spread out so that they cook evenly.

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Roast for about twenty five to thirty minutes, stirring halfway through. You want the potatoes to be tender and a little browned.

While roasting, combine parmesan, parsley and garlic in a bowl.

Add the warm fries, toss gently to coat. Serve right away.

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Homemade Winter Brews

The weekend after Thanksgiving, Adam and I went to my parent’s new home. They moved to Saugatuck, a small beach town in Michigan this summer. They moved in this summer and I was there quickly in September, but have grown up spending summer’s in Saugatuck. It was Adam’s first time to the house and to the town.

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My dad had lined up an afternoon of craft beer making with a brew master at a local brewery. He wanted to create a beer brand for their new home (he is an ex-marketer, for those of you who might be thinking that’s weird…) so, he befriended the Brew Master at Saugatuck Brewing Company, Dexter.

Saugatuck Brewing Company is similar to any other brew pub: Big wooden bar, traditional pub food, only serving good home brews, so on and so on. One major difference is that Saugatuck Brewing Company shakes up the traditional feel with an area for creating your own unique microbrew, literally from start to finish. Or, from milling grains and barley to bottling.

My Dad’s new pal and our Brew Master had prior conversations about what we would be creating so we started our afternoon with a few samples of similar brews. My dad wanted to make winter beers, so we opted for a stout and IPA, but he also wanted to incorporate flavors that have a connection to the new house and our family’s journey to the west coast of Michigan.

The new house is named “Blue Water Lodge” (Yes. The house has a name… And this was done well before the branding extraordinaire knew it even existed, so he can’t take total credit for it.) It sits on the wooded east end of a long property that sprawls westward to the sand dune cliffs that drop into Lake Michigan. Because of all the trees around the home, we added hints of Pine to the IPA.

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The view to the west is the main focus of the exterior, but on the interior the hearth is the focal point.

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The whole home is very open thanks to a large living and dining area that connects to the kitchen. The hearth is large and made of stone, warming the whole space. We added a light smoky flavor to the stout, in addition to Quaker Oats. My parents worked together at Quaker in Chicago during the eighties. There, they met great friends that took them over to Saugatuck for long weekends and they fell in love with the area.

Dexter lead us to the back where we pulled our grains and barley needed to create each beer.

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His knowledge and passion for beer was impressive. He had precise measurements based on his recipes for each.

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Then we ran the grains and barley through a mill that made them fine, catching them in a long, mesh colander, and headed out to the main room to get brewing.

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We used the kettles the brewing company used years ago before they expanded production. This was very cool because we were using the same tools they started with.

It was here that I realized making beer is kind of like making tea, at least that’s how it seemed to me.

We put the mesh collander full of dry grains into hot water where we let it basically “steep” for an hour. To help spread the flavor we twisted and mashed the grains, discovering muscles in our forearms we never even knew existed.

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After the first hour, honey, molasses, Irish moss and hops were added to the kettle at different times throughout the next hour. Hops bring in a bitter, tangy flavor and help balance the sweetness. We learned here that hops are actually flowers related to cannabis flowers. In the dry state, it looked like green little pellets we used to feed my sister’s hamster, but it did have a definite smell similar to marijuana… Or, so I have been told.

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So, hot water. A sieve of dry ingredients put into the hot water adding flavor. Then adding sugar. It’s just like a cup of tea! (Okay, so minus the hops thing…)

But, what is happening in the next thirty days is what makes it beer: The sugars in the liquid mixture (now called wert) will turn into alcohol.

Each batch of beer will make about seventy two bottles and my dad will come back to bottle our brews around the New Year. He also has been working with my younger sister, who is a graphic designer in Chicago, to create a logo for the Blue Water Brews.

While at Saugatuck Brewing Company I tried two of the beers they create in house. I had the Oval Beach Blonde Ale, which was perfect for me. I am not too daring when it comes to beer and this was light and drinkable. I also tried the Michigan Wheat which was 100% made from Michigan grains, barley and hops.

But, the weekend didn’t end with just local Michigan beers. We also visited Fennville Winery, which is maybe seven minutes from my parent’s new house. Um, amazing?

The wine was great. They make them at the estate and use only Michigan grapes, 80% of which are directly from their vineyards.

Fennville Winery Vinyards

Fennville Winery Vinyards

We enjoyed a free tasting of six different award winning wines of our choice and even got to try some warm, mulled cherry wine that seriously tasted like Christmas in a glass.

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Based on the event calendar, there is often something unique going on at Fennville Winery. Adam and I were particularly interested in a chili cook off in January. Wine and Chili? Can you say heaven?!

But, even if there isn’t an event the next time we visit the Michigan coast we will be sure to visit Fennville Winery again. There is a great tasting room and they offer a big discount when you purchase wine in bulk. Their prices per bottle are incredibly reasonable and they are really tasty!

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And with all this booze, we of course needed a little sustenance. My mom took Adam and me to the Farmer’s Market in Holland. The market runs year round and my mom loves it.

I was a little skeptical because I couldn’t imagine there being much there the first week of December, but I was way wrong.

There were huge bunches of kale. Lots of apples. Baked goods. Christmas décor including wreaths made from blueberry branches, which turn red after blueberries are harvested. And this one particular vendor that caught my eye… at this booth you could fill up a department store bag with any and as many root vegetables that you wanted.

I told Adam this was a deal so we got busy selecting carrots, onions, beets, potatoes, yams, celery root and loaded up our bag so much that Adam had to carry it in his arms versus using the handles.

Some of out root  veggie loot... Spuds!

Some of out root veggie loot… Spuds!

More on this and what we did with these veggies next time… 🙂

Adam and I had a ball in snowy Michgan. And we are so looking forward to a lot fun and local food on future visits!

A chilly, winter sunset our last night on the lake.

A chilly, winter sunset our last night on the lake.

Be Grateful, Not Wasteful.

Hope everyone is winding down from a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend!

We had a great time and were able to visit with both families over the weekend.

While making the trek from Adam’s parents to mine, I read that “Some five million tons of food—enough to fill the John Hancock Building more than 14 times—will be wasted between Thanksgiving and the end of 2013.”

The post used “shocking” to describe this fact.

Sure, yes, shocking.

How about disgusting?

And horrible?

And, as crazy as this might sound, I can only believe it.

Reading that I could only help but wonder how could that be changed? What would people have to do?

Here are a few little things Adam and I did, along with the help of our parents, to minimize the waste created by our Holiday celebrations.

1. Go Full Circle

Composting is awesome anytime of year. Adam built our compost bins in September and we plan to mix our compost into the top soil for next season’s garden.

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We have found that well over half of our kitchen waste is compostable. Egg shells, fruit and veggie scraps, baked goods (i.e. Bread, cookies), even coffee grounds and tea bags. I have a large Tupperware container in the fridge where I toss these items throughout the course of the day and we run them out to the bins when we collect eggs. We also compost plants from our garden, leaves, and the chicken’s droppings.

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Some things you wouldn’t want to compost: meat, dairy products, pet waste, and grease.

I love that composting helps to control the amount of waste we produce, but it also comes with an added benefit: it will also help ensure our garden soil is full of nutrients helping to create amazing plants.

Plants that will have scraps that will be composted to start the cycle all over again!

2. Eat The Bones

Okay, not really.

But don’t waste them!

Make great use of the leftover ham, turkey, and chicken bones and make stock at home. Homemade stock has unbelievable flavor and far less sodium than anything you could get in the store.

Adam and I managed to score both my mom’s and his mom’s turkey carcass this year.

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They both have been simmering in crock pots all afternoon in my kitchen, creating smells that have made me reconsider “detoxing until Christmas.”

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Stock is so easy to make and we were able to make if from things that were already in our fridge. (If you don’t have all these specific vegetables on hand, don’t feel like you have to run out to the store. We have left things out before and even added things like tomatoes. Worked out great.)

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Here is what we do when making stock:

Ingredients:

1 Turkey carcass
10-12 cups of water (needs to cover the carcass)
½ onion in large pieces
½ cup sliced carrots
1 rib celery sliced
Two to three cloves garlic
Tablespoon of peppercorns
Handful of herbs (Today we used a few sprigs of thyme, but have used parsley or a bay leaf before)

Combine all ingredients in a stockpot or slow cooker. If need be, breakdown the carcass so it can fit.

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Stockpot: Bring to a boil, and then simmer for two to three hours

Crock pot: Cook on low for eight to ten hours

Strain liquid and skim off any fat.

Portion out stock and either put in refrigerator or freeze. Mason jars are great for this. I have also read that some people put them in ice cube trays for when they need just a little flavor.

Keeps for about six months if frozen, about 3-5 days in the fridge.

I cannot wait to use this stock for fresh made soups and risotto throughout the winter. So good.

3. Eat Up!

Isn’t the best thing about Thanksgiving the left over’s?

You are completely justified to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Soak your sandwich bread in gravy, creating a “Moist Maker” a la Monica Geller from Friends.

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And if you happen to have any wine left over, you can bring it to my house.

Because, well, we didn’t.

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