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Tag Archives: easter

Pasta with Ham and Mushrooms in a Creamy Spinach Ricotta Sauce

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If you celebrate Easter, it’s likely that come Sunday, you may find yourself with an excess of boiled eggs, some ham, and maybe even some candy. With that in mind, I’ve gathered up a few tasty ideas on how to make delicious use of those leftovers, including a brand new, super-simple recipe for pasta with ham and mushrooms in a creamy, cheesy spinach ricotta sauce.

What to do with Leftover Boiled Eggs…

Creole Deviled Eggs

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Deviled Egg Salad

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Pasta with Bacon, Eggs, and Spinach

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What to do with Leftover Candy…

Cadbury Creme Crepes

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What to do with Leftover Ham…

Ham and Corn Chowder

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Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing (use sliced ham in place of prosciutto)

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Grilled Brie, Prosciutto and Apricot Sandwiches (use ham in place of prosciutto)

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

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Pasta with Ham and Mushrooms in a Creamy Spinach Ricotta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if necessary
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups leftover ham, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, cooked al dente
  • Additional parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes until tender and lightly caramelized. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add a touch more olive oil to the pan, if necessary, then add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until tender and golden. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese, milk, and parmesan cheese. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until hot and well blended. Add the mushrooms, ham and spinach. Gently simmer for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Pour the sauce over cooked pasta and toss to combine. Garnish with crushed red pepper and additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Cheesecake-Swirled Carrot Cake

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Every so often, I get an idea for a recipe which I’m certain is so genius that no home cook or master chef has thought of it yet. 99.9999% of the time, it turns out that someone else has already covered that ground. It’s really challenging to come up with something truly novel and unique in the culinary field…at least for me it is.

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Such is the case with this cheesecake-swirled carrot cake. The idea came to me as I was brainstorming for some interesting twist on carrot cake to share as Easter approaches. The way I figured it, if carrot cake and sweet vanilla cream cheese frosting are delicious together (and they are), and cheesecake is also made with cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla (which it is), then carrot cake and cheesecake would be delicious together. If A and B, then C sort of logic…or something like that anyway.

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I initially contemplated stacking layers of carrot cake with cheesecake, but the idea seemed too similar to a basic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. That was the point where I decided I’d bake the two cakes together in one pan, intermingled to create one grand cheesecake-swirled carrot cake. It was in my research phase of concocting this delicious confection that I discovered The Cheesecake Factory already beat me to the punch. Having been to The Cheesecake Factory a grand total of one, maybe two times in my life, probably about ten years ago, this was news to me. Perhaps you’ve already had theirs??

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So, turns out my grand idea isn’t nearly as revolutionary as I’d initially thought, but it is spectacularly delicious, nonetheless. Rich, moist carrot cake gets twisted with a creamy classic cheesecake to create a treat which is sure to be the hit of the Easter dessert buffet. Ol’ Peter Rabbit might even forego his basket of candy in favor of a slice of this carroty beauty.

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Cheesecake-Swirled Carrot Cake

Ingredients

For the Carrot Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (plus more for greasing pan)
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (approximately 4 medium-sized carrots)
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (optional, but recommended)

For the Cheesecake

  • 3 8-ounce bars of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10″ springform pan with butter.

For the Carrot Cake: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the water, then beat for another minute. Add the carrots, then beat for another minute. On low speed, gradually beat in the dry mixture until well blended. Stir in the raisins.

For the Cheesecake: Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating until well blended.

To Assemble the Cake: Spread about 1/2 of the carrot cake batter over the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Drop large spoonfuls of about 1/2 of the cheesecake mixture on top of the carrot cake. Drop large spoonfuls of the remaining carrot cake mixture on top of and around the cheesecake. Pour the remaining cheesecake mixture over the top. Use a spatula to smooth the cheesecake on the top. Bake for about 55-65 minutes, until set.

Cool at room temperature for about an hour, then refrigerate for a few hours until completely chilled.

** Carrot cake portion of the recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake recipe, found HERE.

Spinach, Bacon, and Egg Pasta Salad

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So…big news here. You are now reading a food blog written by a real, bonafide tooth fairy. That’s right, folks. I earned my wings. And boy are they sparkly!

Thursday night, we put the boys down to bed like usual. My husband handles the two older boys while I tend to the baby. Once everyone was tucked in, my husband headed out for band practice. I poured myself a glass of wine and settled onto the couch to watch the American Idol results show. The baby whimpered for a few minutes, as is his routine, then drifted off the sleep. The two older boys, who share a room, were up to mischief.

Some nights, the boys chat quietly before peacefully falling asleep. Some nights, antics involving a lot of mysterious banging and shouting ensue, before they crash into dreamland. Thursday was one of those nights. I’d already been in their room more than once to put the kibosh on the chaos (which was messing with my plan to relax on the couch with wine and Ryan Seacrest for the evening). So, when I heard the screaming again, I was not happy. I marched up the stairs and threw open the door, wearing my meanest Mommy face, to find the two boys excitedly jumping around, which left me feeling even less pleased.

But then, my first born…my sweet, little almost-five-year-old, says, “Today was the day!” as he held out his hand holding his first lost tooth. How had I not noticed the gaping hole in his mouth? The first tooth to come in was the first to come out. I remember when that tooth came in. When did he become such a kid??

Then

We hugged. We jumped around. We cheered. I told him how very proud I was of him and instructed him to stop growing up so fast. We took some photos and washed his mouth with salt water before climbing back into bed, with his tooth tucked securely under his pillow (in a little baggie to make it easier for the tooth fairy to find). I instructed the kids to go to sleep so that the tooth fairy could make her visit, then turned out the lights, leaving the boys snuggled in their beds, whispering about the tooth fairy. The last thing I heard, as I walked from their room, was my big kid telling his younger brother, “She’s very tiny.”

Now

I went downstairs and put on my wings. I placed three gold dollar coins into a baggie with a sprinkle of glitter for good fairy measure. There’s magic in this sort of stuff. And just before putting myself to bed, I snuck into my big kid’s room and swapped the tooth baggie for the baggie of gold coins and glitter. He’s been walking around with his goofy grin and baggie of treasure ever since.

Tonight, I’ll swap my fairy wings for bunny ears and a cotton tail. In the morning the boys will awake to a basket of candy and an egg hunt. We’ll be coloring eggs today. For the next few days, we’ll enjoy the colored hard-boiled eggs in deviled egg salad and this delicious pasta salad; another tasty option for using up all of those cooked eggs. I ate a ridiculous amount of this pasta salad this week. Seriously, I barely shared. A classic combination of spinach, bacon, and boiled eggs gets tossed together with al dente pasta and a sweet honey balsamic dressing…delicious!

Happy Easter folks!

Spinach, Bacon, and Egg Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small pasta
  • 1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chiffonade*

For the dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
*Click HERE for my chiffonade how-to photo guide.

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

To prepare the dressing, whisk (or shake) together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder until well blended.

Combine the pasta, dressing, red bell pepper, bacon, and spinach in a large container. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired.

Refrigerate until serving. Serve cold.

Ham and Corn Chowder

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Life is made up of a series of memories; some big, some small, some clearly life-changing, and some seemingly inconsequential. My wedding day, the births of my children, the loss of loved ones…all clearly consequential. But the little memories…like singing the soundtrack to Grease with my sisters while we played on our childhood swingset or selling candy bars outside the grocery store or riding our bikes in the park…turns out that those are just as consequential. We just don’t always realize it in the moment.

So, I’m lying on the couch last night, glass of wine in hand, playing around on my computer and distractedly watching American Idol, when two of the contestants come on stage and begin singing Islands in the Stream, a duet originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In an instant I was transported back to my childhood, in my parents’ room, where my sisters and I used to stand at the foot of their bed, with our toes jammed between the mattress and boxspring, so that when we’d lean forward, the edge of the mattress would catch our calves and we’d suspend there, bobbing forward with our arms outstretched. We’d sway back and forth, mock-gliding over the mattress singing Islands in the Stream at the top of our lungs…with all the wrong lyrics, I am sure.

Such a simple little memory and yet it’s etched in my mind. Because it’s more than the ordinary event of singing a song with my sisters. It was a matter of being together, of laughing, of loving, and of feeling at home. Those are consequential, life-altering sorts of things wrapped in a silly little memory and tied together with a country song.

Every morning, our boys come bursting into our bedroom. The baby is usually already there by that point, drowsily enjoying a morning feeding. But the older boys don’t wake drowsily. They wake with a lightening bolt and go 0 to 60 in the moment they open their eyes. They fly into our room in a flurry. They do not stick their toes between our mattress and sing a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet. They mostly just make animal noises and shout things like underpants. They climb into my armoire. They climb under the bed. They jump on top of the bed. (Just imagine if you released a couple of monkeys into an enclosed space…it’s exactly like that.) Every so often we can convince them to climb under the covers for a snuggle. And sometimes we’re inclined to just send them back to their room because the activity level far exceeds what we’re prepared to handle that early in the morning. But those morning memories, of waking to a family that loves them…those memories matter.

This weekend we’ll be making more memories, the kind that add a bit of mystery and magic to childhood. Though I’ve expressed my half-hearted support for the Easter bunny, he will be visiting our home, hiding eggs, and leaving a basket filled with soft, stuffed-bunny toys, bubble wands, chocolate-dipped marshmallow Peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and animal crackers hidden under the cellophane grass. We’ll color eggs and make a coconut-covered bunny cake with shoe-string licorice whiskers and a jelly bean nose. It’s tradition. And tradition matters too.

For dinner, we will most likely enjoy slow-roasted lamb with a fresh mint sauce, along with roasted red potatoes, roasted asparagus, and slices of warm French baguette. Our family prefers lamb over ham, but for many families, ham is the star of their traditional Easter feast. With that in mind, I came up with this ham and corn chowder, which would make perfect use of leftover Easter ham. This satisfying soup is worth making, even if you don’t have leftover ham on hand! It’s hard to go wrong with sweet kernels of corn in a warm, creamy broth. Use fresh corn, cut from the cob, if corn is in season or use frozen when it is not. I used frozen corn kernels and it was perfect.

P.S. I just purchased Islands in the Stream from iTunes and have been listening to it on repeat as I write this post. I’m considering teaching it to the boys and showing them how to stick their toes under the edge of my mattress.

Ham and Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 15-ounce cans vegetable broth (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups ham, diced (approximately)
  • 2 1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 6-8 green onions, sliced
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Additional sliced green onions, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly golden and tender. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for another minute or so. Whisk in the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. (The broth should begin to thicken slightly.) Add the ham, corn, green onions, potato, and half and half to the pan. Bring the soup to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Ideally they should just be beginning to break down (to add extra thickness to the soup) but not so mushy that they’re falling apart. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm, garnished with additional sliced green onions.

Deviled Egg Salad

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I have an easy time getting behind the whole Santa Claus thing. The spirit of good ol’ St. Nick practically courses through my veins. As a tradition, it makes sense to me. I can make the connections between Santa Claus and the true meaning of Christmas. And I’m all about sharing the tradition of Santa with my children for as long as they choose to believe.

I have a much harder time getting behind the idea of a giant man-bunny, like the ones sitting at the mall waiting to take pictures with sweet children dressed in their Easter best. I admit, I just don’t really get it. I just don’t understand the connection between the Easter bunny and Jesus rising from the dead. I can’t connect the dots.

Santa makes sense to me. (Even the tooth-fairy makes sense.) A candy-giving, egg-hiding rabbit does not.

So, around here, our discussions of Easter have focused mainly on the true reason for the holiday. We’re low-key on the rabbit stuff. Sure, we’ll color eggs, the Easter bunny will hide them, and there will be an Easter basket waiting in the morning. (There will even be animal crackers hiding under the green cellophane grass, just like there always were in my Easter basket.) But our celebration on Sunday will be more of a religious one.

Regardless of your feelings on fuzzy rabbits, if your family celebrates Easter, the odds are that you will be left with dozens of colored hard-boiled eggs come Sunday morn. Please heed the USDA’s advice and do not leave hard-boiled eggs unrefrigerated for more than two hours…the last thing anyone needs on Easter is food poisoning. Either sneak around in the early morn to hide those eggs or hide plastic eggs and leave those pretty colored eggs in the fridge.

And if you’re looking for an easy, delicious use of those purdy eggs, give this tasty deviled egg salad recipe a try. It’s a classic egg salad, with the addition of dijon mustard and pickle relish for a deviled egg flare. (Be careful though..if you’re not watching, your spouse might steal the last of it for his lunch. For real…it happened to me.)

Deviled Egg Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 /2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Peel the eggs, cut in half, and remove the yolks. Place the yolks in a medium sized bowl. Chop the egg whites and place in a separate bowl. Use a fork to smash the egg yolks, then combine with mayonnaise, mustard, relish, parsley, and paprika until smooth. Stir in the chopped egg whites. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Fishy Friday – Lenten Round-Up

The kids have been home from school this week for their mid-winter break, which I’m now convinced is some sort of cruel joke on parents. I mean, seriously…whose idea was it to schedule a week off from school in the middle of winter, leaving me stuck inside with three very loud, very active, and very needy children?? I’ve been jumping through hoops all week trying to keep everyone sufficiently content, which has left little time for things like thinking or writing…hence the lack of blog posts this week. Even now, as I attempt to type, the baby is grabbing at my fingers, while the other boys are playing a game which seems to center around making an unusually loud and abrasive growling sound.

This morning I took the boys to meet up with some friends at  a local bounce house, followed by lunch (which turned into second breakfast, since we vacated the bounce house sooner than planned) and ice cream at Friendly’s. It was a feeble attempt to encourage the kids to burn off some of their excess energy so that I had a small chance of a calm afternoon. Though I think the ice cream may be working against my plans. Ugh…this parenting thing is hard!

New recipes coming up next week, but for now here’s a round-up of fishy recipes, which may come in handy for any of you who are observing meat-free Fridays during lent.

Pan-seared Scallops with Pina Colada Salsa and Coconut Rice

Pan-seared Cod over Bean and Basil Puree

Creole Fish Tacos

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

Asian-style Fish Tacos

Lobster Pot Pie

Lobster BLT Sandwiches (skip the bacon)

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad

Codfish Cakes

Shrimp Scampi Flatbread Pizza (and last year’s Lenten recipe round-up!)

Roasted Rack of Lamb

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Tis the season to eat lamb! Falala, lala, la, la, la, laaaaa... Or perhaps it should be, Bababa, baba, ba, ba, ba, baaaa!

Easter is just around the corner. Children everywhere are sporting conspicuous dye-stained fingers and carry the faint aroma of boiled eggs. Their schoolwork is distracted by daydreams of the sweet treats the Easter bunny will soon deliver. Adults are counting the days until they’re released from their Lenten resolutions. And my home smells of Marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Cream Eggs.

Traditionally, lamb and ham are popular selections for Easter dinner. For some people, Easter may be the one time a year they eat lamb. We are not those people. Around our home, lamb finds its way onto our menu on a semi-regular basis. We enjoy Greek-style lamb burgers with tzatziki sauce, shepherd’s pie, and roasted leg of lamb with fresh mint pesto. I even won a contest earlier in the year with a recipe for tender braised lamb shanks with brown-braised onions and mushrooms.

I’m so sorry adorable little lambs, but we really do appreciate your delectable contribution to our dinner table!

With Easter quickly approaching, I thought I’d share another lamb dish with you; a classic roasted rack of lamb, crusted with sweet roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. We’ll set our perfectly roasted lamb chops aside slices of toasted sourdough topped with a white bean and kalamata olive puree and a side of roasted asparagus.

Sounds kinda fancy, right?? I promise you that it’s a cinch to make! The combination of naturally flavorful ingredients does the brunt of the work. You just need to do a little arranging and then sit back and take credit for this elegant spring meal!

White Bean and Kalamata Olive Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic*
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slices sourdough bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

*Click here to see my photo guide on roasting garlic.

Directions

Puree the beans, olives, and garlic using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Refrigerate until ready to use. To serve, spread each slice of sourdough with a generous amount of the bean puree and top with a few pieces of sun-dried tomatoes and a touch of fresh parsley.

Leftover puree makes a delicious dip or spread on veggies or bread!

Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Crust

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic*
  • 1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched
  • Olive Oil, for browning lamb
  • 1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard

*Click here to see my photo guide on roasting garlic.

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until moist. The mixture will still be slightly crumbly. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Set aside.

Trim the lamb of any excess exterior fat or silver skin. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium heat in an oven safe pan. Place the lamb in the pan. Cook the lamb for a minute or two on each side, until lightly browned. Rub the top side with the dijon mustard, then press the bread crumb mixture into the mustard. Place the pan in the oven. Cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and cook for another 8-10 minutes for medium-rare/medium doneness. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing into chops.

Serves 2


Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the asparagus and trim off the tough end. (A little trick for determining how much to cut is to hold one asparagus spear by the ends and bend. The point where the asparagus snaps is generally a good place to trim off.) Toss the asparagus in a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Meal Timing Tips:

  • Prepare the white bean puree and crust mixture for the lamb ahead of time. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Brush the sourdough slices with a bit of olive oil and place directly on an oven rack while the lamb is cooking. Once they’re toasted, you can prepare the bread with the white bean puree and sun-dried tomatoes while the lamb finishes.
  • Place the asparagus into the oven during the last 5 minutes of the lamb’s cooking time. They will finish cooking as the lamb rests.
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