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Shauna M. Ahern  welcome to our table ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ writer + recipe developer dark chocolate & all the veg. 🍏🍒🍳🍰🍩🍪🥓🍑🍆🥑🧀

https://www.facebook.com/theglutenfreegirl

Early tomorrow morning, I'm headed into surgery. I'm ready. We feel so wonderfully supported and loved. I've made schedules and structures and lists. The bag is packed. It's time.
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Still, I know that the next couple of weeks will be tough, not only on me, but also on Danny and the kids. When Danny had his hernia surgery and had to stay in bed for 4 days, the kids were not sleeping and needing me. Cooking was hit and miss. Shopping was even harder. This time, we knew to ask for help in advance. We have a meal train going, with friends dropping by food for the first week or so. However, I know my husband. He's going to miss cooking. That's why @greenchef will be a great solution for us.
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(This post has been sponsored by @greenchef but the opinions and words are my own.)
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@greenchef is a meal kit service that delivers the ingredients, already prepped, for 3 full meals in one insulated box. (And there’s just enough chopping required to make a cook happy.) All the ingredients are organic. Every vegetable is vibrant. And the food truly tastes good.
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Danny and I have tried a couple of boxes of meals from the service. We've been pretty astonished, to tell you the truth, by the quality of the food. Black-eyed pea stew, tuna tinga with jicama fries, ras-el hanout chicken on a bed of tender roasted vegetables (last photo) — this is truly our kind of food. Each meal we ate made Danny say, "Wait, this is great. I mean, I wouldn't change anything here." When we cooked the Italian sausage ragu on a bed of polenta I've shared with you here, our kids ate it up happily. "Great meal, Dad," Lucy said as she took her empty plate to the kitchen.
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Best of all for us, @greenchef is the only meal kit service to be #certifiedglutenfree. I've been asked by half a dozen meal kit services to do sponsored posts. I've turned them all down. Not one of them could guarantee that the ingredients were prepared in a gluten-free kitchen. I certainly don't want to be recovering from surgery and have a gluten reaction. These meals are joy for me.
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We think you will love them too.
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#100daysofmakingfood #sponsored #mealkits #certifiedglutenfree #greenchef

Somehow I forgot this was a day off school for the kids. We’ve all been so focused on Danny coming home and my surgery that it slipped my mind. So when Danny reminded me this morning that the kids would be home, I took one look at the list of work tasks I had written on the white board and thought, “Well, there goes that.”
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When Lucy asked if we could watch a segment of the Great British Bake Off together, then create what the bakers had made, but gluten-free? I said yes. Both of my kids love baking with me. And baking is the steadying activity I needed. So we gathered at the baking station.
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The contestants made roulade, a roll of sponge cake with filling. It’s what Lucy wanted to make too. I’d never made one before. Why not?
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Desmond wanted to help but quickly jumped down from the chair to run upstairs to play dress-up from Daddy’s closet. Lucy joined him during a pause.
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But she stuck with it, mostly. She’s deeply creative, this kid. She wants to make it all up, freehand. I keep trying to convince her that using a recipe means joining a community of bakers, centuries long. She compromises now by following a recipe but doing it her own way. She beat her cake batter in the mixer, for a long time. As you can imagine, this made the cake tough. But we talked about it. She learned from it. And she dusted pineapple with nutmeg and maple syrup for the topping, so no harm there.
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Mine came out a little fluffier. I separated 3 eggs, put the whites in the mixer with 55 grams of sugar, and beat them to stiff peaks. I whisked the yolks with another 55 grams of sugar, with a tiny splash of vanilla. I put the yolks on top of the egg whites and folded them, then added 90 grams of gf flour, and folded it all gently together. Prepared pan. 350. 15 minutes.
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It was a beautiful sponge. But it cracked when I rolled it. I think I baked it too long. It was fully set in the oven. And next time, I’ll drizzle in 20 grams of melted clarified butter to make it a bit more pliable. (One of the contestants did that. Why didn’t I?) Still, chocolate ganache covers a multitude of cracks.
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This was better than sitting at the computer ever could have been.
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#100daysofmakingfood

When in doubt, get outside.

In the midst of the party we had dubbed So Long, Tatas!, I looked over at Danny and saw tears in his eyes. I sidled over to him, making my way through the room full of people, and put my arm around him. “You okay?” I asked him.
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“Yep. Of course. It’s just that...well, I’ll tell you later.” I pressed him a bit, worrying he was scared about the surgery in a few days. Instead, he said, “it’s just this. Look at the people here. I feel so supported going into this.” I hugged him and nodded into his shoulder. I had been feeling the same.
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This afternoon, we threw a party, a going away party, a celebration of letting go. One friend made bye bye boobies cupcakes. She also brought a bowl swathed in two bras she bought at the thrift store. Another plopped down an old bra and filled it with cashews and gummy bears. We all laughed as the kids ran circles around the building in the sunshine. My friend Sam had loaned me a bakery sheet cake pan, which Lucy and I filled with three batches of cake batter this afternoon. I made the easiest dairy-free frosting: 2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips, covered in 1 can’s worth of hot coconut milk. Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir. Let it sit for 30 minutes and it’s ganache. Let it sit for 3 hours and it’s thick frosting. (Lu and I made it for cupcakes for her class the other day too.)
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Some of my women friends brought bras for me: the bad-decision bra, the one that never fit, the one I never liked wearing. I had all my bras, except one sports bra, in a bag. At a certain point, we went outside together. I put all the bras in a tin foil turkey pan. Danny doused them in lighter fluid. And we whooped and hollered as they all burned away, only the curves of the underwires remaining. I took photos and said goodbye to them, gleefully. And then we all went inside and ate cake.
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There’s not much in this world we can control. Terrible things happen every day. But we can control how we react to those moments in life. Throwing an absurd party, inviting our friends, and celebrating the voluntary loss of my breasts, in community, laughing? It’s more joy than I could imagine.
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#100daysofmakingfood

When I was a kid, I didn’t understand most other girls. I was always a tomboy, happiest climbing trees and smacking a baseball down the 3rd-base line. Dresses seemed unnecessary, an annoyance not nearly as good as jeans. So the way girls started competing with each other for boys’ attention and talking behind their friends’ backs made no sense to me. I had individual friends who were girls, but mostly I hung out with guys. (That always made me the friend instead of girlfriend, but that’s a different story.)
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It took me until I was in my 40s to find the group of women who have become my grounding. I feel beyond grateful to have this tribe of women, both on Vashon and all over the world. They are all fiercely funny, no nonsense, and ineffably kind. I adore my husband. My kids are my heart. Other than those three, the people whom I trust most are my women friends. We laugh, we share everything about our lives, and we hold each other up.
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So I was astonished, but not surprised, to find out recently that one of girlfriends is having a mastectomy a day before me. Same hospital. Same surgical team. We met in the elevator by surprise as we were each heading for our surgeon’s appointments. We laughed and dubbed ourselves #breasties. Sadly, my friend has cancer. I wish it weren’t so. Oh I wish it weren’t so.
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We have been talking, texting, sharing research and stories. Last week, I baked a new version of the chocolate-banana cake Danny and I made for our wedding (shorthand recipe in the 2nd photo), put Lu in the car, and drove to Seattle for dinner at our friends’ house. Lucy is great friends with my friend’s daughter, so they played all evening and talked a bit about it. I’m so glad they have each other. My friend and I sat on the couch, glasses of wine in hands, talking and consoling each other, coming up with plans and lists and questions to ask. We ate slices of this cake with our girls, who both had seconds. We were there for each other.
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I wish I could tell that 5th-grade girl to keep her mind open about other girls. It gets so much better, kiddo. Good women will be your world.
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#100daysofmakingfood

A teacher I worked with years ago, a man I respected, had a motto he shared with his students. Do the best you can in the time available to you. I have it hanging on the wall of my office. I sometimes have irrational ideas of being able to accomplish far more in a day than is humanly possible, then I end up feeling let down. It’s ridiculous, of course. It was never possible to finish 17 major tasks in 8 hours. When I remind myself of that motto, I slow down. I do my best.
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When it comes to cooking, I say this: do the best you can with the resources you have. I think cooking that way often produces the most creative meals.
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The other night, the kids asked for pasta for dinner, something simple. We’ve all been a little off this week with Danny gone and my surgery upcoming. Lucy burst into tears about something and wailed: “There are just so many big things happening all at once!” We all hugged and talked it out. I knew some simple comfort food would help. So I set some pasta water to boil.
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Except, when I went to the refrigerator to grab the tomato sauce, I found we were out. Oops. Time to make some, fast.
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I set a pot on the stove, on low, and put in a bit of clarified butter. And then I chopped up 3 cloves of garlic. We were out of onion? What? Small can of diced tomatoes. A good pinch of smoked paprika, then the leaves from the last 5 stems of fresh thyme. I set it to simmer while I searched through the fridge.
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I found half a red onion in a drawer, already peeled. I looked at it, remembered Marcella Hazan’s onion tomato sauce, then put it cut side down into the sauce. Turned it up to medium-high so the sauce around the onion could reduce quickly. Shook the pan once in awhile so it wouldn’t burn.
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After 10 minutes or so of the sauce reducing, I tossed the onion and put the sauce in a blender. Tasted it. A tiny bit bitter from the char on the onion. So I grabbed the bowl of dates I was soaking and drizzled in some of the water. Sauce thinned and sweetened.
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Lucy ate 3 bowls, her mood brightening with every bite. “This is the best sauce, Mama! Can you make this again?”
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I will.
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#100daysofmakingfood

Thank you. It's going to take me days to respond to everyone, but I will be writing thank you notes. Your comments, concern, and encouraging words made me feel even more secure going into this surgery next week. Surgery? It's a hard thing that is sure to pass. But this feeling? It will rebound.
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After I posted yesterday, I sat at Tita’s kitchen table, talking, watching her cats chase after deer. And she offered me 3 little satsumas. On my doctor's advice, and several other medical folks I know, I've been power eating anything with vitamin C before my surgery. It is said to help the immune system. I've also been taking zinc, vitamin D (I always do during the winter), a good multivitamin, and fish oil for the past month. I've stopped that now, a week before the surgery. As my breast surgeon said, we don't have complete scientific studies on all this, but the anecdotal evidence in her office has been clear. Besides, why not? I have yet to have the sniffles. (Knock wood.)
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On my doctor's suggestion, I have also been doubling up on my protein. The surgical instructions in the packet I received said, "Adequate protein has been shown to improve post-surgery recovery and helps maintain strength and muscle mass." Eggs, quinoa, pork, lots of salmon, and beans every day. My body loves beans. My kids do too. These are doctored-up black beans, a trick I learned from @mollyorangette: can of beans, a nub of clarified butter, and a dozen shakes of hot sauce. These beans feel sumptuous.
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Finally, for the last few months, I've been eating food that seems to improve the microbiome. After reading The Good Gut, I've thrown away any other group's notions of how I should eat. I'm only focused on what feeds me. I started adding food, instead of taking it away. Lots of fermented foods, in particular. With all this goat's milk kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar? I'm strong these days. Throw in a cup of tumeric-ginger milk? I feel like Wonder Woman.
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I don't know how long it will take me to recover from the mastectomy. But I'm going in clear and strong. Determined. Breathing. Bring it on.
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#100daysofmakingfood

Sometimes life surprises you. Sometimes you plan the surprises yourself.
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One week from today, right about this time, I’ll be heading into surgery. Next Wednesday, I’m having a bilateral mastectomy.
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Here’s the good news. I’m not doing this because I have cancer. As far as I know, I don’t have cancer. My surgeon is taking a few nodes to be sure, and there will be lab analysis of the flesh that will soon-no-longer-be my breasts. But as far as I know, I do not have cancer. Thank goodness.
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Still, next week, I will no longer have breasts.
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I’ve written an essay about my ridiculously high genetic risk, the talk with my oncologist that persuaded me to do this, why I’m sharing this here, and what our plans are for this project, going forward. I’ve posted it on our Facebook page (direct link in profile), because Instagram only allows 400 words. This one took more.
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Just know this.
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I want to be here for moments like this, when I taught my kids how to cut a hole in a piece of bread with a biscuit cutter to fry an egg in clarified butter on medium heat.. And my piece singed a bit, because the toilet overflowed and needed immediate plunging when it was cooking. And Desmond is stuffing bobby pins into a dinosaur’s mouth, and Lucy is reading, and I can’t wait for Danny to come home so I can talk with him about all this. It’s life I want. This life.
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#100daysofmakingfood

Danny has been in Arizona for 2 days, on a much-needed visit with his aging parents. I sent him with my blessings, of course. Desmond? Not so much. He’s turning 4 in 2 months, so he’s at the most volatile time of his life thus far: 3-about-to-turn-4. All day long, he either cuddled with me and didn’t want to move or screamed at me from the top of the stairs. And then he would walk down toward me, crying, and say, “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m just so sad and mad that Dada’s gone.”
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Those two are such good buddies. It’s a tough week for the little fella.
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Lu’s okay. She’s 9. She knows that Dad will come back. But D? He doesn’t remember when Danny went away last year. He’s not sure Dada is coming back. So there has been sobbing, ornery behavior, refusal to put on boots, and some kicking. And I tried, every tired time, to ask him if he wanted a hug, then say as I held him: “I know. You have so many feelings in there right now.”
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He’s asleep. Lu finally fell asleep. And then I finished a big project that needed to send tonight.
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So the best bite of the day happened a few moments ago: two squares of @theochocolate cherry-almond chocolate with a slather of peanut butter between them.
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Time for bed.
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#100daysofmakingfood

When @glutenfreechef and I first fell in love, we ate in restaurants often. He was a chef in a restaurant, so it was easy to go out for a bite at the end of his shift. White tablecloths, braised pork belly, dots of sauce on a plate, dessert of course — this was our world.
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That’s almost 12 years ago now. Time has glided and stuttered and sung to us, and somehow it is more than a decade since we ate in restaurants as habit and hobby. These days, eating in a restaurant is pretty rare for us. Partly it’s because we have a 3-year-old who wants to skitter away from the table after 5 bites of food. Partly it’s because we have grown tired of fine dining, which is really the atmosphere of the rich. We’re much more invested in neighborhood places and family-owned businesses, here on Vashon.
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It’s also because we live on a tight budget, joyfully. Creating a clear budget and sticking to it has allowed us to freelance, cater, and still have breakfast and dinner with our kids every day. Having a strict structure for our budget is how we go to restaurants on dates now. .
We sit down each week and predict where we will spend every penny, on bills and the expecteds. And part of that budget is a cash allowance. The cash allowance is for us: cups of coffee with friends, a movie, a macaroon at @vashonbakingco. If we forgot a kid birthday party and need a present, it has to come out of the allowance. And whatever money is left over at the end of the week goes into the restaurant fund.
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As soon as we have saved up $100 in our restaurant fund, we go out on a date somewhere we love. It means more to us this way.
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That’s how last night we ended up at May Kitchen, our favorite Thai restaurant in the world. Pork satay, vegetable rice rolls, red Thai curry, and each other. We were celebrating my book deal, something upcoming, and the fact that we still laugh down the street together. Saving up and waiting made that dinner even sweeter.
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This morning, Danny left to spend the week with his parents. For lunch, I poured about a cup of the leftover red curry sauce and a cup of chicken stock. I brought them to a boil and sat down with my memories, savoring.
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#100daysofmakingfood

Lately, Desmond has been asking, on repeat, to watch a skit from Sesame Street with Michelle Obama. She sits in front of Hooper’s store, then thanks Chris when he brings her a “healthy” breakfast: oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, and orange juice. Just as she starts to eat, Grover appears.
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Now Desmond loves Grover. Of course he digs Elmo. But Grover is starting to overtake Elmo. Grover is so silly, so earnest, and a little bit of control. He’s a lot like Desmond at 3. In this skit, he wants to help. He decides to march back and forth to make sure no one eats Mrs. O’s breakfast. But he grows tired, fast. Mrs. O suggests Grover eat some breakfast. What does he eat? Mrs. O’s breakfast. Grover!
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This is the point at which Desmond starts giggling. And later, several times a day, he comes up to me and offers to protect my breakfast. And I have to pretend to be upset while he eats my pretend healthy breakfast. Grover! I was going to eat that!
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Funny thing is, since we started watching this on repeat, Desmond has been talking about vegetables by name, eating more, and asking if we can eat a healthy breakfast. It works. Talking about food with intention and joy can change minds.
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These days my breakfasts look like this. I make a kale salad the night before and let it sit in a strong vinaigrette all night. In the morning, it’s just right for eating. Sauerkraut. Avocados. A bit of potatoes. A smidge of hummus. It doesn’t look like a regular breakfast. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Desmond starts to want to steal it soon. Desmond! That’s my breakfast!
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#100daysofmakingfood

Last week, as an experiment, Danny made duck confit using our @joule sous vide machine. We’ve enjoyed playing with it this year. He wanted to try this traditional French dish in this way.
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“I cured it in salt, with just a little bit more salt than you would use with a steak. Then I added chopped garlic, probably 5 cloves, smashed. ¾ of an ounce poultry seasoning (thyme, sage, and rosemary). And 2 tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds. I mixed it all up, covered the duck legs with the mixture, and put them all in a gallon bag and let them sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
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After I let it sit, I scooped about ¼ cup of duck fat into the plastic bag. When the water bath came to 158 degrees, I sealed the bag, lowered it into the water, and walked away. The machine kept burbling away for 16 hours. (If you have questions, check with the @joule folks. We didn’t make the tool. We just use it!)
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When I cook duck in fat, straight up, in a 250 degree oven, it’s tender and really amazing. And the meat falls off the bone far more with that traditional method than with the sous vide. The sous vide is great, especially because you can set it and walk away. I like playing with it. And you only need a bit of duck fat for sous vide duck confit.
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But there’s a reason why a cooking tradition has lasted hundreds of years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Playing is great. But what is new isn’t always best. Next time I make duck confit, I’ll probably make it the old way.”
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#100daysofmakingfood #52grams #thefeedfeed #bonappetit #foodandwine #buzzfeedfood #eater #onthetable #thefeedfeed #thefeedfeed #eeeeeats #huffposttaste #feedfeedglutenfree #duckconfit #sousvide #sousvideduck #joule #frenchclassics

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