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lemon-roasted potatoes & Jerusalem artichokes with bay & garlic

Who played loose with the facts and came up with  the name “Jerusalem Artichoke”? It’s neither artichoke nor does it hail from Jerusalem. They look somewhat like ginger root on the outside, all knobby, more like a small potato when you cut them open. Texture more like water chestnut, crisp and crunchy when raw. Flavor, sweeter than a potato, far more flavor than a water chestnut. And when paired with potatoes, scrumptious!

If you can’t find these little tubers, use all potatoes instead. You might try pairing reds and Yukon golds for extra color on your plate.

I’ve roasted them together here, in good olive oil, slices and juice of lemon, aromatic bay leaves and garlic. (Did you know how very well lemon goes with potatoes? In light of how delicious, it’s surprising how well-kept a secret that is.)

To the nearly finished potatoes, you could add halved cherry tomatoes, or Kalamata olives. You could increase the garlic to 4 cloves if you and your love agree to eat them together. You could add dried mint or oregano. You have options, depending on which direction you’d like to take your meal. But here’s a very delicious beginning…

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes & Jerusalem Artichokes with Bay & Garlic

(about 4 servings)

  • 1 pound (500 g) Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 pound (500 g) Jerusalem Artichokes
  • 2 lemons, washed, then sliced in ¼-inch slices (seeds removed)
  • 2 Tablespoons very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 bay leaves (fresh, if possible – if they’re more than a year old, they’ll have little flavor left)
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, crushed (but not chopped)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Optional additions: dried mint or oregano, cherry tomatoes halved, Kalamata olives, more garlic.

Wash the potatoes and put them whole into a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes then pour the pot’s contents into a colander. When potatoes have cooled enough to handle, cut them in half or quarters, depending on their size.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the Jerusalem artichokes. Peel their skins and cut in approximately 2-inch pieces (5 cm). Don’t worry if you can’t remove all the peel. It won’t matter in the end at all.

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some new flavors for an old favorite – marinated turkey breast

Marinate a turkey breast for 24 hours in the flavors of the Mediterranean, and you no longer have our pilgrims’ roasted turkey. You have instead something that feels like it was infused with sun, bright and fresh and right for Spring.

Marinated Turkey Breast with Cumin, Coriander & White Wine

serves 4 to 6

  • 4 Tablespoon mint leaves
  • 4 Tablespoons parsley leaves
  • 4 Tablespoon cilantro (fresh coriander leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) olive oil
  • 4 ounces (125 ml) white wine
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ small organic or free-range turkey breast (about 2 pounds or 1 kg)

Put all the ingredients except the turkey breast in a food processor or blender (of course, YOU knew not to put your turkey in the blender!) and process for 1 to 2 minutes to get a smooth marinade. Put the turkey in a non-metallic container and pour the marinade over it. (My preferred method is to put the turkey in a zip lock freezer bag – gallon size – and pour marinade over top. Zip tight!) Refrigerate for 24 hours. Be sure that the turkey is immersed in the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Remove the turkey from its marinade (but reserving the marinade for later. Put the turkey on a roasting tray. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 390°F (200°C). Continue to cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature again to 355°F (180°C). Cook until the turkey is done – another 30 to 45 minutes. To check for doneness, you have a couple options – insert instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast ~ ~ ~ 165°F ( 74.5°C) indicates done. Or insert a small knife all the way into the center; it should come out hot.) If the meat browns too far in advance of doneness, cover with a tent of aluminum foil and continue cooking.

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spreenkle #6

With Easter 10 days away, now seems like a good time to talk

Eggs!

Separating whites from yolks – contrary to what you watched your mother do, it’s not the best idea to separate using the shell. Why? Eggs can transport that nasty nasty salmonella bacteria – where would you see those little uglies lurking?  yup. The shell.

A better (safer) way – there are several:

1. Use your (clean) hands – break the egg into the palm of your hand, gradually open your fingers enough to allow the white to slip between them into the bowl beneath, while the yolk stays put. 10-year-old Sicily especially loved this method! It’ll work even better when her hands are 12. 🙂  Wash your hands well after. I know, not YOU, but somebody out there’s going to forget, lick their fingers and get real ugly-sick. 

2. Break the whole egg into a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, dip into the bowl, lifting the yolk and gently transferring to a separate bowl. (Don’t try to do this with multiple eggs at once, unless … well, just don’t.) 

3. Use a slotted tool specifically made for this purpose. There are a number of them on the market if that’s your pick. From $6.00 to something ridiculously more. While on topic, I must include this : years ago my sister-in-law bought me an oogley critter-head, cup-shaped, made of pottery. It has a rather wide frowning slit for a mouth. Break the egg inside, tip him over a bowl and he drools egg whites.

I alternate between using my hands and the ogre. My psychiatrist thinks I was repressed as a child and wasn’t allowed to play with my food enough. But honestly, who DID? Good news: I’m on meds. They’re helping.  😉   Would love to hear your method.

The perfect hard-boiled egg – 

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olive oil & red grape cake

If I were to name my sweet weakness, cake wouldn’t be it. Once every blue moon though comes a cake with that certain something that causes my knees to wobble and my will to crumble. Enter this cake.

Generally cakes tend to be a bit sweet for me, sugar muscling out every other taste sensation. This cake is sweet enough to be called a cake, but doesn’t overpower the palate with sugar. My own sweet weakness is for fruit desserts and most cakes are rather wussy in the fruit department. This cake is deliciously fragrant with citrus, both lemon and orange, and has purply bursts of fresh grape. Many cakes are made of more than a dozen ingredients. This has 8 very simple ones. There’s only 1 cup of flour in this 9-inch cake. The lightness and golden color come from eggs. The exquisite richness, from a fruity olive oil (to name another weakness.) This is a fine-textured, delicately scented, out-of-the-ordinary cake quite perfect for finishing a meal.  And if sweet tea-time be your weakness, could I suggest…

Citrusy Olive Oil & Red Grape Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup (155 g) sugar, with more for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, more for brushing*
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup (125 g, 5 ounces) cake flour sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces (250 g) seedless red grapes

You’ll need a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. 

* I recommend a light or sweet & fruity sort – avoid the pungent peppery kind you might love dipping your bread in.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Rub the springform pan with a little olive oil, and line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.

Grate the zest from the lemon and orange, and then juice the lemon. (One means of getting more juice from the lemon is to roll it back & forth on the counter first, applying medium pressure with the palm of your hand. Or put the lemon in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds to help release the juices. Slice in half and juice.)

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick, pale and ribbony. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice and the zest of both the lemon and the orange. Add the flour, and stir to combine.

Beat the egg whites with the salt ’til stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the lemony batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Plunk in half of the grapes, fairly evenly throughout the batter. (These will sink to the bottom.)

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april’s green

I’m a sometimes-fan of raucous saturated vibrant in-your-face wild and wonderful jungle colors. But there’s something so gently sweet, so calm and mild about April’s green that fills me with a quiet contented peace. I love it when a color can do that.

Things have been busy around here, and are about to get noisy and busier still. I’m a creature of habit. I reach for things in certain places and expect to find them there.  I’m trying to ready myself for many of the common little things in my life trading places with each other ~ and for flying by the seat of my pants ~ and for setting aside comfortable knowns for “I wonder where?”s.  I’ll explain in a post coming soon. For now, I’m quite content to feast on nearly-April’s quiet. Of course, no sooner do I say that than I realize this isn’t just about me…but generally this blog does tend to be about what we eat around here. I hope you’re alright with that…I haven’t discovered a better way.

Last night I pulled some of those pale greens and creamy whites from the fridge and they became our salad. It was good enough to fix again for my lunch today, and even so good as to make me want to share it with you. So, here you are…

A salad of shaved fennel bulb – crisp and with its tinge of licorice-ness ~ thinly sliced apple, crisp and tartly sweet ~  Romaine lettuce, crisp and clean ~ (you’re getting the idea) ~ very thinly sliced red onion, just a touch to add a gentle bite (more like a friendly nip) ~ and shavings of fairly smoky, salty pecorino Romano cheese. Tossed in a bright vinaigrette ~ flavored with a just touch of roasted and crushed fennel seeds. Scatter a shower of a few more toasted fennel seeds on top if you like.

Fennel & Apple Green Salad with shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese

for 2

  • ½ of a large head of romaine lettuce
  • ½ apple – fresh, crisp and tart
  • ½ medium to large fennel bulb – stalks removed
  • about ¼ red onion, very thinly sliced (you could replace with green onion if you like)
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese – shaved – in whatever quantity pleases you

Fennel Vinaigrette

for 2

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar of your choice – not balsamic)
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (dry roasted in a small skillet over medium low heat) – OPTIONAL – if you’d like a scattering of toasty fennel seeds on top your dressed salad, roast up to 1 teaspoon of seeds, grinding half for the dressing and scattering the rest whole

Prepare the vinaigrette in a small jar by adding all dressing ingredients, shake, and set aside for flavors to blend.

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spreenkle #5

Why we love our cast iron pans – they’re one of the most affordable pans on the market ~ they conduct & maintain heat incredibly well ~ are great for high-heat situations such as frying and searing ~ working on stove-top or oven, gas, electric or induction, even on the grill  ~ they go camping with us ~ they’ve been around forever and have a certain nostalgic charm ~ and when cared for properly, they’re virtually indestructible, non-stick, and something your someday-grandkids will love to have.

Caring for the cast iron pans we love – to clean stubborn food remnants: SALT & a bit of OIL! (Don’t use soap.) Kosher salt (Morton’s is cheap, coarse and great for this purpose.) With the pan still warm, add ½ to 1 cup of coarse kosher salt and a touch (maybe 1 teaspoon) vegetable oil. Using a rag or folded dishcloth you reserve for this purpose, scour the pan. Rinse with hot water and dry immediately. (You can clean up with far less salt if your pan isn’t coated with food. A little salt and paper towel may do the trick.)

Seasoning the pans we love – nothing could be simpler. Rub a light coat of vegetable oil into the clean pan, about a Tablespoon for a larger skillet (flaxseed or grapeseed work especially well), starting with the inside, with anything remaining on the cloth continuing to the outside also; place in a low-temp oven (say 250°F for ½ to 1 hour). The heat will help the pan absorb the oil. A well-seasoned pan will perform better (especially as a non-stick surface) and will greatly resist rust that iron is otherwise prone to.

more questions than answers & tasty little fritters

Change it up. Keep it fresh. Variety’s the spice of life. So clichéd, but the same can be said of many of our food choices.

Are we guided by some intention around food and nutrition or do we fall into the habits that we developed growing up? Do we “fear” change, and is that evidenced by what we eat, and refuse to eat, as well? What would it look like if we ate “outside” the boxes we tend to create for ourselves? What would our dinner table feel like if we decided to be adventuresome spirits when it came to food? What if our dinner table became a place we had fun, played, experimented, made a bit of “art”, didn’t fear making “mistakes”? I hope you know, I’m not preaching…just pondering possibilities.

At least once a week we’re trying something very new to us. It’s not always “successful”, but we rarely regret having tried something new. And at least once a week around our house, it’s vegetarian meals only. Do we feel deprived when those days come, like we’re sacrificing something? Oh not one bit!  So long as food is full of flavor and easy on the eyes, it satisfies. (Satisfaction turns out to be an important principle, and not just from a pleasure standpoint. Studies have  shown that we actually tend to eat less when the foods we eat are flavor-full as opposed to bland or one-dimensional, because they satisfy more quickly. If we’re battling our weight, there’s something to consider.)

These tasty little fritters showed up on our vegetarian menu the other night with cumin-roasted carrots and beautiful green salad…(and then again the next morning for breakfast – can you believe it?) and we were smackin’ our smiling lips…both times.

This recipe comes from Ottolenghi…one can hardly go wrong…

Cauliflower & Cumin Fritters with Lime Yogurt Dipping Sauce

  • 1 small cauliflower (about ¾ lb. or 320 g.)
  • about ¾ cup flour (4 oz. or 120 g)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more to garnish
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • neutral (high-heat) oil for frying – canola, sunflower or grapeseed – about 2 cups (500 ml. or 16 oz.)

Yogurt Lime Sauce

  • 10 ounces (300 g.) Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • grated zest of 1 lime
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Taste – you’re looking for a vibrant, tart, citrusy flavor. Adjust the seasonings accordingly. Chill or leave at room temperature for up to an hour.

To prepare the cauliflower, trim off any leaves and use a small knife to divide into little florets. Add them to a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain into a colander.

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spreezza!

Oh, you’ve not heard of it? Spreezza’s that immensely popular little dessert pizza, covered with marscarpone cheese, topped with juicy fresh fruits, drizzled with  some delectable sauce or other, some even scattered with herbs. Oh, you’ve not heard of them?  I guess I must have made it up.

It begins with a good pizza dough….

This No-Knead Pizza Dough is bubbly, chewy, crispy and better than you’ll find at most pizza parlors. It can be used for ALL manner of pizzas – nothing at all about it restricts it to the dessert realm – in fact I’m the one who’s taken it there. It’s a take on the now-famous No-Knead Bread of Jim Lahey (owner of Sullivan St. Bakery in NYC) who introduced it a number of years back to rave reviews. I posted the bread late last year but if you missed the post and would like to take a look, you can check it out hereThis pizza dough, like the bread that inspired it, derives its wonderful complex flavor from its overnight fermentation. So the only thing you have to consider moving forward is to start it the day before you plan to enjoy it.

Now if you’ve got a hankering for a spreezza and you don’t want to wait til tomorrow, you can always begin with a store-bought dough (Trader Joe’s has a very good one), skip all this that I’m about to tell you about the dough, and move quickly to the spreezza recipe further down. But you might want to return to this dough another time, because it really is wonderful.

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(Each of the following 10 to 12″ pizzas will make about 4 portions of dessert, 2 slices per person. About the same amount would hold true if being served for brunch with accompanying eggs and/or meats and other items. For breakfast, I’d allow more per person…maybe half a Spreezza per person. You can halve the recipe easily if you like. Or make the whole thing, break it into portions, wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days to use in other ways…like a traditional pizza. Or stay tuned because I’ve got another fun idea coming up very soon! Flavor and texture of the dough will not suffer at all for the extra time spent in the fridge. If you want to wrap and chill ahead, just allow 2 to 3 hours once they come out of the fridge for unwrapped dough balls to rest before forming into pizza pies.)

No-Knead Pizza Dough

makes six 10″ to 12″ pizzas

(about 20½ hours, with only 90 minutes active time)

  • 7½ cups all-purpose flour (3 lb. 1.5 oz. or 1000 grams) plus more for shaping loaves later
  • 4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast

Half recipe of the No-Knead Pizza Dough

makes three 10″ to 12″ pizzas

  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour plus more for shaping loaves later (1 lb. 14 oz. or 850 kg.)
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

Whisk flour, salt and yeast in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add 3 cups water (1½ cups if halving the recipe!). Stir until well incorporated. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring together  and form into a rough ball. Transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover with plastic and allow the dough to rise at room temperature in a draft-free place until the surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size. About 18 hours time, though time will vary depending on the temperature of the room. 

Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Divide into 6 equal portions (or 3 if halving the recipe.) Working with 1 portion at a time, gather 4 corners to the center to create 4 folds. Turn seam-side down and mold gently into a ball. Dust the dough with flour; set aside on the work surface or floured baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining portions.

Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, until soft and pliable, about 1 hour.

To Bake the Pizza Dough

During the last hour of the dough’s resting, prepare the oven. If using a pizza stone, place a rack in the upper third of the oven, put the pizza stone on it and preheat oven to its hottest setting, 500° – 550°F (260° – 290°C.) (If using a baking sheet, no need to preheat that.)

Working with 1 dough piece at a time, dust the dough generously with flour and place on a floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a 10″ to 12″ disk (25-30 cm.)

If using a pizza stone – Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless (or inverted rimmed) baking sheet lightly with flour. Place dough disk on the peel or prepared baking sheet, and, using back-and-forth movements, slide pizza from peel onto the hot pizza stone. Bake the pizza, rotating halfway through, until the bottom crust is crisp and the top is blistered, about 5 – 7 minutes total. If using this pizza dough for a Spreezza, brush with melted butter when you rotate the pizza. 

Spreezza! 

(pronounced spreé-tza)

Now, here is where this whole thing turns so fun! I’ll give guidelines for 2 versions here. I’ll share others as seasonal fruits appear. This isn’t science. This isn’t hard-and-fast measurements. This is Playing with Food! 

for each 10-12″ pizza, you will want – approximately:

Marscapone Layer

  • Marscarpone cheese – 8 ounces
  • zest of ½ lemon (about 1 Tablespoon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons (to 3 tsp.) powdered sugar

Berries

  • Fresh strawberries – ½ – ¾ cup, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons (to 3) powdered sugar (for strawberries)
  • zest of ½ lemon added to strawberries
  • Fresh raspberries – ½ cup
  • Fresh blueberries – ½ cup
  • lemon thyme – a couple sprigs
  • blueberry balsalmic vinegar – or good quality aged balsamic vinegar
  • OPTIONAL: Additional Powdered Sugar, sifted – you may want this especially if you’re serving for dessert as opposed to a brunch or breakfast


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insanely good buttermilk pancakes

Our breakfast choices are one of the ways we set the weekend days apart and call them special. Call them restful. Call them sweet. Call the family together, or call a friend. I think we need a day every once in a while in which we can find no good reason to change out of our pajamas – until maybe mid-afternoon in time for dinner.

Alton Brown – you know him? The quirky celebrity chef-author, droll sense of humor, with the  fascinating scientific why’s for everything that takes place in the kitchen. Have you seen all his visual aids? They’re crazy! He’s like “teacher of the year” for foodies! This is from him…

Put together the dry ingredients here, seal in a container, and then simply add a couple cups of this mix to a few wet ingredient when you’re ready for pancakes. Less to measure, less to wash, more reason to eat more pancakes. More reason to stay in pajamas.

These are incredibly light and the flavors perfectly balanced. I think you might love…

Ingredients for the “instant” pancake mix

(yields a bit more than 6 cups, making for 3 batches of fresh buttermilk pancakes)

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake very well to mix. And be sure to do so before each use – (otherwise the ingredients will tend to settle out, heavier on the bottom, and what you’ll get won’t be what you’ll want.)

Use the mix within 3 months. That should be no problem. 

“Instant” Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk *
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups “Instant” Pancake Mix, recipe above
  • 1 pat of butter, for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired
  • zest of ½ to 1 whole lemon finely minced (optional, but wonderful)

*  have you made yours yet? you can follow the link to see how.

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350° F (175° C). Heat oven to 200°F (95° C).

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. (Just long enough to beat a little air into the them. Not looking for much of a change.) In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter along with the lemon zest. (Alton Brown makes the case for what might be seen as a bit of “fussiness”. You should trust him though. Just do as he says.) 

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk these together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don’t try to work all the lumps out. You WANT lumps, because you want light-as-a-cloud fluffycakes.

lumpy like me

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lemon buttermilk sorbet

I have a weakness for lemons. (Had it all my life – have learned to live with it.) Pair them with the delicate lactic tang of creamy buttermilk and you have (or I do) chilled perfection on a spoon. It’s that simple.

Refreshing, light and (as desserts go)  as low fat as you’d like it to be. I made mine with a whole milk buttermilk (freshly-homemade) – but you could also use a low-fat buttermilk – and in either case, compared to whole cream, it’s a waist-watcher’s dream.

NOTE : Ice-cream makers are relatively inexpensive.  Good ice-cream, gelatos and sorbets on the other hand, are not. But they’re very inexpensive to make. With fresh fruit season nearing us, with all the berries and peaches, and need I go on, it might be something you want to consider? Mine is a simple sort – a canister remains in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. Pull it out, put the cooled liquid in, set it on its base, turn on the machine, leave it 20 to 30 minutes as it whirs away. Return to a well-churned, additive-free, fresh and frozen treat.

Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet

about 12 scoops – you decide how many portions that is 🙂 

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 to 1 lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar (you might be able to get away with slightly less)
  • 1/4 cup neutral-tasting honey or coconut nectar (a syrup) or agave syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
  • 2 cups fresh buttermilk, shaken to blend

Place a container (about quart-size) in the freezer to chill.

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