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eG Foodblog: nolnacs (2011) - Pork, peaches and pie. Saying goodbye to

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#1 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:35 AM

Hello everyone and welcome to my foodblog.

I'm a relatively new member of eGullet so I will follow in EatNopales footsteps by providing a short introduction.

I grew up in rural Indiana on my parents' farm which my dad is still operating to this day. When I was younger we raised hogs (commercially) and chickens (our own use) as well growing corn and soybeans (~900 acres), but now he only does the corn and soybeans due to the plunge in the hog market in the mid to late 90s. Growing up in that place and time (80s/90s), my exposure to food was rather narrow. My mom taught me and the rest of my siblings how to cook and bake, but in mostly typical midwestern ways - cookies, cakes, pie, meat & potatoes. I had and still have a great deal of fondness for the desserts of my youth and I will certainly be sharing my pie making with you this week, but as for the savory side of things.... well... it's a bit different. I cook and eat more ethnic food than I had ever imagine existed as a child. For instance, I never had Indian food (what a revelation) until I was in college.

Speaking of college, I spent my junior year studying abroad in the island nation of Malta. For those of you who are not familiar with Malta, it is a small island south of Sicily with strong Italian/British/Arabic influences in the cuisine and culture. One of my fondest memories of my time in Malta was walking to the local bakery and devouring the still warm bread. As a side note, I like warm bread and I don't care what the experts say. It is so much more enjoyable that way. Cuisinewise though, Malta is rather forgettable. My apologies to any of you who are passionate devotees of Kinnie or pastizzi.

After college, I moved to Chicago which was where my interest in food truly blossomed. Living truly on my own for the first time, I began cooking to save money and to eat somewhat healthier. As time went on, I became more and more interested in cooking and attempted every more ambitious projects and dishes. I also began exploring the restaurant scene of Chicago - from fine dinning to the multitude of ethnic restaurants scattered throughout the city.

Two years ago, I moved to Philadelphia to be with my (now) wife who is in medical school here. While I was disappointed to leave Chicago in some ways, I was excited to be able to do a great deal of my shopping at the Reading Terminal Market. For all of its size and grocery options, Chicago lacks a great public market.

Enough history - on to the food. I don't really have a cooking philosophy or theme other than I like to do things myself so I tend to buy very little that has been prepared or processed already. In terms of cuisine, I tend to make whatever strikes my whim while doing my menu planning but most of what I make is Italian or Italian influenced to the dismay of my wife who sometimes longs for the Chinese food that she grew up eating and I have little notion how to make. Charcuterie has also been an interest of mine for the past 4 years or so hence the antique meat slicer. I've made, with varying degrees of success, guanciale, pancetta, salami, chorizo and a number of fresh sausages. I have noticed that many of the people who are interested in charcuterie are also interested in molecular gastronomy/modernist cuisine and I am no exception. I'm not sure if I will be doing anything in that vein this week, but it is something that I enjoy dabbling in.

One of my roommates in Chicago referred to me as the cookie monster due to my proclivity for vacuuming up any homemade cookies that were around. I must admit, I have an incredible sweet tooth and I enjoy making desserts. I have already mentioned my love of pie but I do like making other desserts as well. I have been making a tremendous amount of ice cream this summer ever since we were given an ice cream maker as a wedding gift. It's interesting how much I crave ice cream now since before I had the machine, I ate ice cream perhaps once a month and only during the summer.

This will be a mostly typical week from me. I tend to attempt more ambitious and time consuming projects on the weekends and cook simpler meals on weeknights. Since I cook nearly every meal my wife and I eat we usually only go out to eat a couple of times a month. That being said, we're going to be going out a couple of times this week to give everyone a taste of the Philadelphia restaurant scene.

#2 Anna N

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:46 AM

Looking forward to your week of blogging.
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#3 Darienne

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:15 AM

Interesting introduction, nolnacs.

Why Italian when you get a chance. No rush.

And as for Chinese food, it's no more difficult than any other cuisine and probably less than some. The secret is in the mises.
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#4 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:27 AM

Ah, morning. I don't really care for mornings as I would much rather stay in bed. However, during the week I work and during the weekends there are things to do so get up I must. To avoid getting up any earlier than I need to, each week I make a batch of steel cut oatmeal with fruit and portion it out ready to quickly reheat

This past week's oatmeal was cooked in whole milk with some brown sugar and cinnamon. I added some golden raisins towards the end of the cooking time as well so that they can plump up. I added the peaches after it was done cooking to keep more a fresh fruit flavor which I prefer that early in the morning

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#5 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:37 AM

Interesting introduction, nolnacs.

Why Italian when you get a chance. No rush.

And as for Chinese food, it's no more difficult than any other cuisine and probably less than some. The secret is in the mises.


Why Italian? I think that it is partly because it was one of the first cuisines I started exploring, but it is also because of the flavors - garlic, rosemary, basil, tomatoes, cured meats and so on. All of those flavors really resonate with me in a way that flavors typical of other European cuisines (for instance tarragon, dill & mint) don't. It may also be that I just really like pasta (and pizza).

You're probably right about the difficulty level of Chinese food. I just haven't devoted the time and energy necessary to understanding what I need and need to do. That being said, my wife has convinced me to try my hand at mapo dofu this week so I will be making a trip to the Chinese grocery store to pick up the necessary ingredients.

On the subject of Chinese food, we are going to be stopping in Chinatown for lunch. Either soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) or hand pulled noodle soup. Any votes for one or the another?

#6 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:53 AM

Part of my Saturday morning routine is a visit to the Reading Terminal Market to begin my grocery shopping. I do almost all of my grocery shopping at the Terminal Market, the Italian Market and the Headhouse Farmers Market. A few staples like sugar and flour I will go to Superfresh or Target to pick up, but that is about it. As I mentioned in the intro, I like to work with raw ingredients and supermarkets (at least the ones around here) are not the best place to do it.

As I briefly mentioned in the intro and have discussed in other threads in eG, I am a menuplanner. Every Friday night, I decide what dishes I will make for dinner for the rest of the week and create a shopping list.
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#7 weinoo

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:14 AM

On the subject of Chinese food, we are going to be stopping in Chinatown for lunch. Either soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) or hand pulled noodle soup. Any votes for one or the another?

Dumplings first, followed by noodles. No wimping out when you're blogging... :laugh: .
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#8 Darienne

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:48 AM

We love a good Hot & Sour Soup...but only if it's good. :wink:
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#9 heidih

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:50 AM

A menu planner! Foreign concept to me unless I am entertaining. This will be interesting. I am impressed that you put pen to paper rather than using software :biggrin: I love lists.

Regarding the make-ahead oatmeal - do you cook on the stove and reheat in the microwave?

#10 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:57 AM


On the subject of Chinese food, we are going to be stopping in Chinatown for lunch. Either soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) or hand pulled noodle soup. Any votes for one or the another?

Dumplings first, followed by noodles. No wimping out when you're blogging... :laugh: .



Sorry, wimped out. Only noodles - pictures will be forthcoming.

#11 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:00 AM

A menu planner! Foreign concept to me unless I am entertaining. This will be interesting. I am impressed that you put pen to paper rather than using software :biggrin: I love lists.

Regarding the make-ahead oatmeal - do you cook on the stove and reheat in the microwave?


I find the paper list is easier to deal with while shopping. It's easy to strike out items as I pick them up.

For the oatmeal, yes, I cook on the stovetop and reheat in the microwave

#12 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 11:24 AM

I decided to go with noodle soup for lunch so we walked from the Reading Terminal Market (I'll try to get those pictures posted later today) over to Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Chinatown.

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While they are best known for their hand drawn noodles, they also do knife cut noodles which is what my wife decided to get with her beef tendon soup. I went for the lamb with the hand drawn noodles. Here are a few shots of them making the hand drawn noodles.

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The soups come topped with cilantro, spinach and pickled Chinese vegetables. I added some chili pepper oil to mine.

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My wife does not care for extremely spicy food so she passed on the chili.

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Both soups were delicious although I don't have the same love for tendon and cartilage that my wife does. The taste is okay, but I have a hard time getting past the texture. It just doesn't do it for me.

I have to say that I prefer the knife cut noodles to the hand drawn. The knife cut ones I find more texturally interesting.

#13 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 12:24 PM

I skipped ahead of shopping to show lunch. My wife and I took a bunch of pictures at the Terminal market and we only hit a small number of stalls. It truly is a wondrous place well worth a visit if you are ever in Philadelphia.

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No grumpy people allowed, got it?

My first stop is Iovine Brothers' Produce which has a wide selection of fruits and vegetables from near and far.

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Near

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Far

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They also have a great selection of mushrooms - fresh and dried

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Peppers of all sorts

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A plethora of produce

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#14 heidih

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 12:53 PM

Beautiful market. As a meal planner, versus impulse shopper, is it hard to restrain yourself from grabbing glorious looking items that are not on the menu?

#15 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 03:35 PM

Beautiful market. As a meal planner, versus impulse shopper, is it hard to restrain yourself from grabbing glorious looking items that are not on the menu?



Sometimes it is, and if something looks good enough I may decide to make some impromptu changes to my menu. Generally though I tend to be pretty focused in on what is on my list that I need to buy.

#16 ScottyBoy

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 04:13 PM

Glorious market, places like that are pretty much my Disney Land. Keep up the good work!
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#17 Shelby

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 04:45 PM

I'm pea green with envy over the hand cut noodle place. Seriously, I'm droolingly jealous!

#18 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 04:57 PM

Some pre-dinner projects:

Vanilla bean ice cream
My wife requested that I make some ice cream for a friend of hers who is currently dealing with cancer. I decided to make some vanilla ice cream and send it off with some peach compote to top it.

I've tried a number of different recipes since I've gotten my ice cream maker earlier this summer and the only one that has really worked well has been Jeni Britton Bauer's recipe which uses cornstarch, corn syrup and cream cheese to help produce a soft, smooth & scoopable ice cream. The results have been far superior to anything else that I have tried.

The magic three ingredients
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Cream cheese waiting patiently
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Cornstarch
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Sugar, salt and corn syrup
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The sugars have been dissolved in some milk and I've scraped some vanilla bean in there to steep for about an our
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Corn starch slurry - this gets mixed in with the milk and sugar and heated until thickened
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The hot mixture then gets poured over the cream cheese and whisked until smooth. I then put it in an ice bath and added the cream
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Final product.
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Even though I am giving it to someone, I have to try it to make sure it is good, right? Right? It is very good. I kind of don't want to give it away now....

Giardiniera
I'm going to attempt to make roast pork sandwiches tomorrow which has gotten me thinking about sandwiches in general and how much I want an Italian beef like I had in Chicago. Therefore I decided to get some giardineira going for next weekend.

All of vegetables chopped up finely - cauliflower, carrot, jalapeno, garlic, celery & red bell pepper
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All mixed up and in the brine
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#19 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:03 PM

Time for dinner!

Immersion circulator? Ready!
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Scallops? Ready!
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Frying pan? Ready!
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Go!
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Oh, and there was some quinoa salad with corn, tomatoes and avocado as well.
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#20 Genkinaonna

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:07 PM

Looking forward to the week, Nolnacs! That market looks incredible. What kind of ice cream maker do you have? And do you actually TASTE the cream cheese, or is it just to stabilize the ice cream?
If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

#21 KatieLoeb

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:13 PM

YAY!!! Hometown blogging! You've already been to several of my favorite places. We've likely passed each other at the Head House Farmers Market. It's about 2 blocks from my house. Are we neighbors too? I'll be there tomorrow, probably around noon or so. Feel free to PM me if you'd like to meet up. I think lunch from the Taquitos de Puebla stand at the market would be an awesome addition to your blog! Really looking forward to the rest of the week. It's Restaurant Week next week so you could eat out with abandon and find some great bargains too. Show off our fair city and all the wonderful eats. Maybe then everyone will finally commit to having the 2012 Heartland gathering here... :smile:

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#22 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:27 PM

Looking forward to the week, Nolnacs! That market looks incredible. What kind of ice cream maker do you have? And do you actually TASTE the cream cheese, or is it just to stabilize the ice cream?



I have a Lello Junior. The cream cheese is there as a stabilizer. I haven't tasted it in any of the ice creams I have made that way so far.

#23 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:35 PM

YAY!!! Hometown blogging! You've already been to several of my favorite places. We've likely passed each other at the Head House Farmers Market. It's about 2 blocks from my house. Are we neighbors too? I'll be there tomorrow, probably around noon or so. Feel free to PM me if you'd like to meet up. I think lunch from the Taquitos de Puebla stand at the market would be an awesome addition to your blog! Really looking forward to the rest of the week. It's Restaurant Week next week so you could eat out with abandon and find some great bargains too. Show off our fair city and all the wonderful eats. Maybe then everyone will finally commit to having the 2012 Heartland gathering here... :smile:


I love the tacos al pastor from Taquitos de Puebla... I was planning on eating some leftovers for lunch tomorrow, but tacos do sound better.

#24 nolnacs

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:50 PM

After eating dinner and relaxing for a bit, I had some quick prep work for tomorrow to do. I whipped up a biga for the italian bread that I will be making for my roast pork tomorrow.

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I'm going to be using the recipe from the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Reinhardt. I haven't made this particular bread before, but the other ones I have made from that book have been quite tasty. I particularly like the pain a l'ancienne and the pane siciliano.

Since I restrained myself from eating the vanilla ice cream, I had a peach for dessert.

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Personally, I find peaches to be tastier sliced instead of just taking a bite out of them. I'm not sure why that is the case, but whenever I have the opportunity to slice a peach, I do.

You might notice that there is one slice of peach away from all the others. I removed the skin from that slice as it will be going to Terry the turtle.

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Sorry for the blurry picture, but he is not interested in being still when there is peach to be had!

#25 heidih

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:01 PM

That is interesting on the format of the fruit affecting how much you enjoy it. As we come into pear season I know that sliced will be the optimal way. With dead ripe fruit there is a certain whole body experience in biting in and having the juices gush, the rush of sweet and texture of the flesh and the pull of the skin. With decent but not just before it is too ripe stone fruit like peaches and nectarines I also find the slicing more enjoyable.

On your earlier quinoa salad - it looks great - are you a recent convert to the grain?

#26 Shelby

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 06:28 AM

Awwwww, I love Terry! I didn't know turtles would eat peaches. He's a lucky guy :biggrin:

#27 Jenni

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 07:04 AM

Aha, there is a turtle involved! (though in the UK we would call Terry a terrapin - so your name is well picked!)

Love the market photos.

May I ask you about your ice-cream? I have always gone out of my way to find ice cream made with good cream, sugar and whatever natural flavour additions are desired. Nothing else. That's also how I make ice-cream when I do it at home. My vanilla ice cream is good fresh double cream, sugar and vanilla (from high quality pods, not extract or "flavouring"). I am curious as to why you find cream cheese and cornstarch (or cornflour - damn us Brits eh?!) to be so much better?

I am by no means an ice-cream expert (I make it maybe twice a year) and this is an innocent question. You're going against everything I ever held to be true!

#28 nolnacs

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 07:59 AM

That is interesting on the format of the fruit affecting how much you enjoy it. As we come into pear season I know that sliced will be the optimal way. With dead ripe fruit there is a certain whole body experience in biting in and having the juices gush, the rush of sweet and texture of the flesh and the pull of the skin. With decent but not just before it is too ripe stone fruit like peaches and nectarines I also find the slicing more enjoyable.

On your earlier quinoa salad - it looks great - are you a recent convert to the grain?


I wonder if the juice is a factor in why I like sliced peaches better. Perhaps more juice escapes from the flesh of the peach when it is torn by teeth instead of sliced by a sharp knife.

I've made quinoa on occasion for a few years now. It's a nice change of pace but I wouldn't want to have it frequently (1/week).

#29 nolnacs

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 08:01 AM

Awwwww, I love Terry! I didn't know turtles would eat peaches. He's a lucky guy :biggrin:



Yep, he loves fruit and seafood. He also likes vegetables that are not bitter (carrot or sweet potato). He refuses to eat lettuce and instead just tears it into shreds.

#30 nolnacs

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 08:06 AM

Aha, there is a turtle involved! (though in the UK we would call Terry a terrapin - so your name is well picked!)

Love the market photos.

May I ask you about your ice-cream? I have always gone out of my way to find ice cream made with good cream, sugar and whatever natural flavour additions are desired. Nothing else. That's also how I make ice-cream when I do it at home. My vanilla ice cream is good fresh double cream, sugar and vanilla (from high quality pods, not extract or "flavouring"). I am curious as to why you find cream cheese and cornstarch (or cornflour - damn us Brits eh?!) to be so much better?

I am by no means an ice-cream expert (I make it maybe twice a year) and this is an innocent question. You're going against everything I ever held to be true!


Well, I tried making more traditional ice creams initially, but I had problems with them ending up icy and rock hard once I put them in the freezer. The texture was only good when they came out of the ice cream maker. That is why when I saw this technique using corn starch, corn syrup and cream cheese I decided to give it a try and it worked so much better (texturally) and I didn't notice any diminishment in the flavor. I'm not opposed to additives when they improve the quality of the product so it doesn't bother me to add those ingredients.

That being said, perhaps I didn't do a good job with the more traditional custard base. Others might be able to pull off that more successfully.





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