The Biltmore Hotel

The lovely Biltmore Hotel in The City Beautiful, as Coral Gables, Florida is fondly called, is a prominent national historic landmark. It is not hard to spot the imposing tower of the hotel which was inspired by the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain as you drive down the beautiful boulevards lined with tropical foliage, majestic oaks, banyan trees and Mediterranean revival-style homes.

The Biltmore Hotel, A Historic Landmark In Coral Gables, Florida

The Biltmore Hotel, A National Historic Landmark In Coral Gables, Florida

On a recent trip to south Florida, my husband and I returned to the cosmopolitan city of Coral Gables where we lived before moving to New England. The Biltmore Hotel was a large part of our social life as the hotel is not only one of the most famous landmarks in the city but it is also a wonderful supporter of the arts, civic and charitable events. We decided to stay once again at the hotel, reliving nice memories and enjoying all the great facilities the hotel offers before flying back home to New Hampshire.

I believe you would enjoy this beautiful hotel that has welcomed royalty, heads of state and Hollywood celebrities since the 1920’s.  It is very convenient to not only the Miami International Airport but also the Port of Miami as they are both just a few miles away. Let me share my photos from our stay with you and I think you will agree with me that the hotel is a wonderful place to do as little or as much as you would like.

The View Of The Pool And Golf Course From The 7th Floor Of The Biltmore Hotel

The View Of The Pool And Golf Course From The 7th Floor Of The Biltmore Hotel

Our room was on the 7th floor where the hotel’s 12,000 sq. ft. full service spa is located. We arrived just after a rainstorm ended and the sun broke through the clouds. The windows were still covered with raindrops but the view of the pool and the 18 hole championship golf course was still wonderful.

Our Room Had A Sitting Area And King Sized Bed Separated By A Room Divider With TV's, Mini Bar, Drawers And Desk Space

Jr. Suite With A Sitting Area, Room Divider With 2 TV’s, Mini Bar, Drawers And Desk Space And King Size Bed

Biltmore Hotel Kingsize Bedroom

Biltmore Hotel King Size Feather Bed

As you can see, the room we had was as nice as the view. The Jr. Suite which has a nice sitting area was divided by a double sided bookcase with two flat screen TV’s, drawers, desk and minibar. The small bathroom had a great massage shower in the tub, thick, soft towels, and Frette bath robes.   The feather bed and pillows were covered with the softest Egyptian sheets you can imagine.

The Fountained Courtyard Of The Biltmore's Fontana Restaurant

The Fountain Courtyard Of The Biltmore’s Fontana Restaurant

After admiring the view, we went downstairs for a bite to eat and a cocktail. The hotel has four restaurants…the Palme d’Or (award-winning French), the Fontana (Italian) with its beautiful fountain courtyard, the 19th Hole Sports Bar, and the Cascade located at the edge of the largest pool in the continental U.S.

The Cascade Restaurant At The Edge Of The Biltmore Hotels Pool…The Largest In The Continental U.S.

The Cascade Restaurant At The Edge Of The Biltmore Hotel’s Pool…The Largest In The Continental U.S.

We didn’t want to spoil our evening meal so we enjoyed a couple of small plates of tapas while sitting in the shade at the Cascade restaurant which is next to the large pool.

The Palme d'Or Gourmet French Restaurant With Windows Looking Out At The Pool

The Palme d’Or Gourmet French Restaurant With Windows Looking Out At The Pool

Dinner was enjoyed at Palme d’Or, the Biltmore’s  gourmet restaurant. The room has a wall of windows looking out to the pool and is decorated with large mirrors to reflect the soft light and large black and white photos of some of the famous guests who have stayed at the Biltmore.

Light As Air Amuse Bouche

Light As Air Amuse Bouche

Marinated Langoustine, 24 ct. Gold Covered Osetra Caviar, Passion Fruit  Tapioca, And Vodka Gelee

Marinated Langoustine, 24 ct. Gold Covered Osetra Caviar, Passion Fruit Tapioca, And Vodka Gelee

Foie Gras Terrine, Cherries And Five Peppers Toast

Foie Gras Terrine, Cherries And Five Peppers Toast

Maine Lobster, Corn And Sour Cream Sauce, Corn Bavarois, And Fresh Corn

Maine Lobster, Corn And Sour Cream Sauce, Corn Bavarois, And Fresh Corn

Royal Sea Urchin, Bay Scallops, Fennel Confit, Kefir Lime Sauce

Royal Sea Urchin, Bay Scallops, Fennel Confit, Kefir Lime Sauce

Black Cod, Potato Tasting, Brandade, Squid Ink Sauce

Black Cod, Potato Tasting, Brandade, Squid Ink Sauce

Wild Caught Trout, Purple Artichokes, Cilantro Sauce

Wild Caught Trout, Purple Artichokes, Cilantro Sauce

Buffalo Tenderloin, Rosemary Panisses, Nicoise Ratatouille, Buffalo Mozzarella

Buffalo Tenderloin, Rosemary Panisses, Nicoise Ratatouille, Buffalo Mozzarella

Chef Gregory Pugin created a seven course meal that featured an exceptional level of quality ingredients that were presented beautifully. With an amuse bouche, pre dessert, and post dessert courses added to the seven courses, the meal would make any foodie happy. After saying “goodbye” to chef Pugin, we headed to our room full but not overly stuffed as each course of the meal was just the right size.  It was a truly memorable meal.

Nine Foot Tall Mahogany And Brass Birdcages In The Biltmore Lobby With Beautiful Painted Vaulted Ceiling

Nine Foot Tall Mahogany And Brass Birdcages In The Biltmore Lobby With Beautiful Painted Vaulted Ceiling

Early the next morning, we paused to listen to the birds singing in the two nine foot tall mahogany and brass birdcages in the lobby with its beautiful vaulted ceilings one last time before heading to the airport. It is amazing how nice even one day at the Biltmore can be. There is a saying that you can’t go back home but as far as the Biltmore Hotel is concerned, I could return time and time again. The people who work at the hotel may change over the years but the experience will always be wonderful.

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Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Summer is in full swing and on a hot, humid evening we like to eat a little lighter. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, which are a popular appetizer served in many restaurants, are easy to make and serve at home. The wraps are great served as an appetizer but they also make a delicious meal. The hot, sour, salty and sweet flavors of herbs, chilies, fish sauce and lime, which are those typically found in Thai cooking, are mixed with sautéed ground chicken. Served alongside a platter of lettuce leaves and limes, a dipping sauce, some sticky rice and perhaps a thinly sliced Thai cucumber salad, you have a great tasting summer meal.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

As with other ethnic dishes, there are as many variations of the wraps as there is the spelling of its name.  If you visit a Thai, Laotian or Vietnamese restaurant, you might see it listed on a menu as Larb, Larb Gai, Laab Gai or even Laph Gai among other names. I just refer to them as Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 head of Boston lettuce (butter, bibb or other soft lettuce may be used), separated
  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb. coarsely ground chicken (You can also use turkey, beef or pork that you coarsely chop yourself in a food processor)
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (I use low sodium)
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp. sweet chili sauce or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil

Rinse lettuce, separate into individual leaves, set aside to dry.

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and sauté, stirring often to break up the meat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook an additional minute. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce and lime juice. Cook until the meat is crumbled and cooked through. Stir in the chopped cilantro and sesame oil at the end of the cooking time.

To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves around the edge of a platter then spoon the chicken mixture in center. To eat, spoon a small amount of chicken onto a lettuce leaf,  drizzle with a little dipping sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, or Thai sweet chili sauce, add a squeeze of fresh lime, roll and enjoy.

Dipping Sauce

Mix 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. fish sauce, 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, and 1 tsp. sesame oil, and crushed red chili flakes, ground chili or shiracha to taste.

Another Dipping Sauce that you might enjoy:

Thai Dipping Sauce

Mix 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, 1 tsp. each of brown sugar and soy sauce, 1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red chili flakes, and 1 green onion thinly sliced.

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Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps With Dipping Sauce

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps With Dipping Sauce

If you would like a little crunch to the wraps, you can add chopped water chestnuts, red bell peppers, julienned carrots or chopped peanuts to the dish. As I mentioned, there are endless variations of lettuce wraps to suit your taste. I hope you will try making the Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps as an appetizer or part of a light and very flavorful summer meal.

 

 

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Moving Is Never Fun

Moving Is Never Fun…it’s stressful. For weeks you seem to sort through your life as you pack up boxes…deciding what you will take with you when you move, what will be donated to charity and what needs to be left behind. If you are like me and are trying to consolidate furniture and other items from a previous home that was decorated in a totally different style, the task can feel a little overwhelming. If the situation happens to you, what would you do?

I thought I would take you “behind the scenes” and show you how I am trying to take two complete and different households and turn them into one manageable home by selling some of the pretty objects I have accumulated over the years. It’s not easy sorting though the contents of hastily packed boxes and bags and at times the whole process has felt very daunting. It almost feels like being caught in a spider web. The more I have struggled with decisions, the more tangled the situation seems to have become. There are so many projects that need to be taken care of in addition to my normal routine of caring for our home, garden and orchard and yet there are no more hours in the day in which to get it all accomplished.

My Tiny Little Antique Shop

My Tiny Space At A Local Antique Shop

When you own antiques or art work that you no longer have space for, you have a limited number of people who might be interested in buying them. With that in mind, I found an antique store two towns over that had a tiny five by five foot space that was empty that I could rent on a month to month basis. It is so little that I can only display a rather small collection of items I wish to sell at any given time. Hopefully there will be a few buyers who will fall in love with some of my treasures and then I’ll add more items to the space.

Our Barn Is Large Enough To Hold Our Furniture Until It Can Be Sold

Our Barn Is Large Enough To Hold Furniture And Household Items Until They Can Be Sold Or Donated To Charity

We are lucky to have a large barn that I have cleaned of unneeded items and rearranged over the last week. The tractors and other equipment have been moved around and packed into tighter quarters so that I ended up with two empty bays. The barn has been swept, vacuumed, and filled with furniture and other household items. When you now walk into the barn, it  looks like a mini furniture store or a small rendition of a Bed, Bath and Beyond instead of a working orchard barn.

Our Barn Now Looks Like a Mini Furniture Store

Our Barn Now Looks Like a Mini Furniture Store

Hopefully Someone Will Buy This Table And The Antique Chairs, Perhaps Even The New Orleans Iron Work

Hopefully Someone Will Buy This Table And The Antique Chairs, Perhaps Even The New Orleans Iron Work Planters

Our Large Barn Filled With Furniture Awaiting To Be Sold

Our Large Barn Filled With Furniture Awaiting To Be Sold

This is where I am going to try to sell some of our belongings that came from our cottage in Maine and other items that have been stored in our basement that I couldn’t part with from our previous move. I’ve tried to display everything in room like settings so that it will give people an idea of how things would look in their own home. I’m hoping people will buy the little treasures that I have collected over the years but unfortunately only if they are priced at a fraction of what I originally paid for them. That seems to be the way used items are sold in our area…pennies on the dollar in many cases.

Click on any photo below to see a slide show.

From large pieces of furniture to small decorative items, kitchen ware and dishes, rugs, antique blankets and linens, artwork, books and baskets, I seem to have it all. As soon as the rest of the boxes are unpacked, I’ll be having a big barn sale…probably more than once to find homes for the many items that must go.

I may be taking a bit longer between my future posts and visiting other bloggers. I want to see if I can get my “house back in order” so to speak. Wish me well in my new endeavor as I try to and create calm out of the chaos that has become my life recently. Moving is never fun…it’s stressful. I’m sure many of you have been in the same situation. I would enjoy hearing about any helpful hints you might have to offer.

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Maine, Where Memories Are Made

It Must Be Maine; The Way Life Should Be

After spending five delightful summers at our lakeside cottage in Maine, I have to say that the above state slogan is very appropriate although I think it could be, Maine, Where Memories Are Made. My husband and I have enjoyed experiencing the natural beauty of its rugged ocean coastline, lakes and mountain vistas and indeed have wonderful memories of our time spent in Maine.

Click on any of the photos in the photo galleries to see a slide show.

In my first post on Back Road Journal, Let’s Take A Ride I wrote,  “many people wish they could have a little place to escape to…by a lake, in the mountains, on a sandy beach or wherever their dreams take them. No matter where, no matter how small a place we find, we all enjoy a little freedom from our everyday life.” When we found our little cottage, we thought the location was perfect…on a lake with its own little beach, in the picturesque small town of Naples in the Lakes Region of Maine only two hours from our New Hampshire home.

The Waterfront Lawn Of The Cottage Has Been Professionally Landscaped

Our Little Maine Cottage On Long Lake, Naples, Maine

Our Private Little Beach

Our Private Little Beach

The small house which everyone referred to as a camp needed “a little work“. We turned the camp into a cute little cottage decorated with a mixture of old and new, making it an easy to care for summer getaway.

Summers were spent enjoying the slow pace that Maine seems to be all about. Countless books were read in the shade, gardens were tended and short excursions to other parts of the state were enjoyed.

Living on the lake meant that there was always the opportunity to spend time on the water with our family or friends boating or jet skiing.

A cocktail was often had at the end of our dock as we watched loons swim by, spectacular sunsets or the evening fireworks celebrating the 4th of July.

Of course there was great eating involved. Foremost on everyone’s list when they came to visit us at the lake was lobster and chowder, followed closely behind by steaks, burgers and chicken hot off the grill and a few s’mores made around the fire.

Each fall when we closed down the cottage, we would say a little “goodbye” and hoped the cottage, gardens and the little critters we befriended would survive though the hard winter snows. Come spring, we were always anxious to open the cottage for another year of summer fun in Maine.

View Of The Mountains At Sunset From The Dock

View Of The Mountains At Sunset From The Dock

This summer will be a little different as we have sold the cottage. The rooms may be empty of furniture and art but as we head back to New Hampshire we know that we are leaving the cottage a much better place than it was before. It is now time for others to come to our little place on the lake in Maine, Where Memories Are Made.

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Southwestern Salad

Summer has officially arrived and during the hot weather people often enjoy a salad for lunch or dinner. Salad plates piled high with fresh vegetables will fill you up but can sometimes be boring but they don’t have to be. A Southwestern Salad, a Cobb salad with a Mexican flair, is a great meal for warmer weather. It is a colorful, great tasting and good for you as it has a larger ratio of vegetables to protein.

Southwestern Salad

A Southwestern Salad, A Cobb Salad With A Mexican Flair

If you are grilling over the weekend, add a few extra chicken thighs or breasts to use for this salad during the week. A rotisserie chicken from your local market is also good in this dish. You can prep many of the ingredients ahead of time (except the avocado) and keep them in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad. The recipe is easily doubled or even tripled to feed a large group and served either as a main course or side dish to go along with a Mexican themed dinner party.

Southwestern Salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side, adjust the recipe accordingly

Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine 1/3 c. olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime (3 Tbsp.), 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and a few shakes of green Tabasco. Whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Grilled Chicken: Pound a large chicken breast to even out the thickness, generously season with salt, pepper and cumin, drizzle with some olive oil, and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice over it. Let the chicken marinate for 10 minutes while you heat the grill to medium high. Grill the breast about 3 minutes, turn and cook until done, about another 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then slice. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette.

Corn: Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a skillet and sauté 1/4 of a small red onion, chopped until translucent. Add 1 red or green jalapeño pepper, diced and 1 clove of garlic, minced and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 c. frozen corn, thawed (canned may be substituted) and season with 1/2 tsp.  cumin, then salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for a few minutes until the corn is cooked. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Tomatoes: In a small bowl, combine 1 c. grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered, 1/4 of a small red onion, chopped, 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro and 1 Tbsp. of the vinaigretteSalt and pepper, to taste. Stir and let rest for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Black beans: Wash and drain well 1 can of black beans and season with 1/4 tsp. each of oregano, garlic powder and onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Add some of the vinaigrette, toss well and let rest for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Avocado: Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, peel and cut into chunks. Squeeze a little lime juice over it to keep it from turning brown. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette and gently mix. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Eggs: Peel 2 hard-boiled eggs and cut into quarters.

Cheese: Crumble or shred a small block of cheese. You can use a Mexican cheese such as Cotija or queso fresco, feta, Monterey jack, cheddar or a blue cheese.

To Prepare The Salad: Add about 4 – 5 cups of romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into bite size pieces to a large bowl, season with a little salt and pepper and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. Place the lettuce on a large platter and arrange the chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, tomatoes, eggs and cheese in neat rows on top. Serve with wedges of lime and any remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Southwestern Salad Served In A Crisp Tortilla Bowl

Southwestern Salad Served In A Crisp Tortilla Bowl

You can serve this salad with everything tossed together but I prepared it in a large bowl with all the ingredients layered over the greens. I put crisp tortilla shells on individual plates and let each person create their own salad. Enjoyed along with a cooling pitcher of iced tea or margaritas, a cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine while sitting outdoors on a warm summer evening, you’ve got a filling and flavorful meal. I believe your family or guests will enjoy this colorful salad as each and every mouthful is a little bit different.

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A Tribute To Fathers

Fathers everywhere are being celebrated this Sunday. I would like to join in with A Tribute To My Father. I know how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to grow up knowing the love my father had for me. As we celebrate Father’s Day,  hopefully we all have had a chance sometime in our lives to tell our fathers how much their love, nurturing and guidance has meant to us and how it helped make us who they are today.

My Father, My Daddy

My Father, My Daddy

My father was always my Daddy, not Dad or father and I loved him like most little girls love their father. He always joked that I was his special gift as I was born on Father’s Day, I was my Daddy’s little girl.

He was not a famous person, just an ordinary man who did his best in life. He served his country with honor and provided a good home for my mother, brother and myself, like most fathers do.

He was a gentle and kind-hearted man who I never heard complain about anything. He was a strict parent but in a loving way. I was brought up to be respectful of others, always saying “please, thank you, yes ma’am or yes sir and may I be excused”.  He always made sure that I apologized if I had done something wrong and taught me the importance of saying “I’m sorry” if I had hurt someone else’s feelings.

He was the person I knew I could go to with a problem because he was a good listener and gave good advice. He used to always say, “just because you are a girl, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it”. His encouragement is one of the things that has guided me though out my life.

My Daddy was special to me but also to so many others in his community. Everyone used to call him “the mayor” because of his commitment to the neighborhoods that surrounded our ranch in Texas. He seldom missed a County Commissioners Court meeting, he served as bailiff, and was a volunteer at the local hospital.

I’m lucky to have had a good father in my life. He is gone now but certainly will not be forgotten. I am lucky to have another man in my life that is special and that is my husband. He too, is a father whose children love him and will be remembering him on this special day.

I want to wish each father a “Happy Father’s Day”. Whether you spend the day at an outdoor barbecue with family and friends or perhaps playing a round of golf, I hope you enjoy your day. I’m sure your loved ones will be remembering you today.

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An Italian Frittata, A Quick Meal With Lots Of Flavor

An Italian Frittata, A Quick Meal With Lots Of Flavor is great any time of the day. It is similar to an omelet but is much easier to prepare as it doesn’t require being folded over onto itself so it is a good recipe for even a beginner cook to try. A slice of this tasty egg dish is wonderful served hot but is also delicious at room temperature or even cold.

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata

Sautéed, garlicky spinach, sweet sun dried tomatoes and creamy goat cheese were mixed with farm fresh eggs from our friends free ranging chickens and then baked to create this easy and very flavorful dish.

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Frittata Hot From The Oven

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Frittata Hot From The Oven

This is another one of those recipes that comes together quickly so I would suggest that you have everything prepped before you start cooking.

Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. half and half or cream (milk may be substituted)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 oz. (about 1/4 c.) sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
  • 8 – 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped (frozen may be substituted)
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. each of garlic powder and onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 oz. goat cheese ( 1/2 of a small log), sliced

Whisk the eggs, half and half, Romano cheese, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Heat the butter and olive oil in a 10 inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sun dried tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add the spinach, season with oregano, garlic powder, onion powder,  salt and pepper and sauté until wilted and any liquid from the spinach has evaporated. Taste and adjust for additional seasoning, if necessary. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook, lifting the edges of the frittata to allow the uncooked egg to flow underneath, until the mixture begins to set around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Dot the top of the frittata with the goat cheese, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until puffy and golden on top, about 10 – 15 minutes. Slide onto a plate and let rest for several minutes before slicing. The frittata can be served either hot or at room temperature.

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If you love eggs but have trouble making an omelet, try making a frittata. This flavorful Italian egg dish is very versatile and can be made with left over pasta, meat, vegetables or cheese that you want to use. Remember, eggs are not just for breakfast and can be part of a quick and easy meal anytime of the day. Serve the frittata with a green salad and a piece of crusty garlic bread and you will have a nice lunch, dinner or a classic brunch item to serve you, your family and friends.

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