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Quickly leaving you today with something awesome I discovered in Hong Kong.  And it comes with a funny name, too, called Sandy Old Man!

I found it at a traditional Catonese-style pastry shop and thought to myself that it was just donuts, but as I bit into the sugar coated fried dough, this little fella instantly sank into an airy sponge with soft and almost custardy interiors.  After some much needed research, turned out that this thing which they call “Sandy Old Man”, are essentially pâte à choux donuts!  By frying this classic cream puff-dough, you get a slight crispier exterior with almost hallow interior, permeating a salivating aroma of eggs and butter.

Traditionally Sandy Old Man are only coated in granulated sugar, but come on, it’s Christmas.  Granulated sugar turns into light brown sugar, then festivity turns into a pinch of ground cinnamon, cloves and a slight sprinkle of salt.  Once the piping hot, light and airy donuts hit what I call the “Christmas sand”, the house will instantly smell like sweet, buttery and eggy holiday spirit.

I’ll take this sandy old man over Santa any day.

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UPDTAE 2015/12/14:  The original measurement of 1/2 cup of flour worked for me, but because many had commented that their batter was too thin, I adjusted the recipe to 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp.

UPDATE 2016/01/11:  About comments that mentioned the batter was too thin – I tested the recipe again (added some weight measurements in the recipe, too) and it worked great with me.  Please note the “dough” should actually resemble a very thick batter.  By the way, I also just found out from my trip to Lisbon that these actually came from Portugal originally, and are called “sonhos” there which sounds  a lot like “sandy old man” in Chinese!  All makes sense now… :)



  • 1/2 cup (118 grams) water
  • 3 tbsp (42 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (87 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. In a small pot over medium-low heat, add water, unsalted butter, sugar and salt, then cook until the water is hot enough to melt the butter (it should not boil). Turn off the heat and add the flour all at once, and stir with a fork until it comes into a smooth and even dough. Transfer the dough to a stand-mixer or into a large bowl, and stir for another min to cool it slightly. Add 1 egg and beat it into the dough until completely lump-free and smooth, then add the second egg and beat until the batter is shiny and smooth.
  2. Add enough canola oil to a small frying pot over medium heat. The oil's ready when it bubbles up gently around an inserted wooden chopstick. Scoop up around 1 tbsp of batter with one spoon, then scrape it gently into the oil with another spoon. Turning constantly and fry until the batter has puffed up (ALMOST DOUBLED in size, and will probably form a crack on the surface) and golden browned on all sides. This should take about 6 min to happen. If the donut browns too quickly before it puffs up, then the oil is too hot, and you should adjust the heat accordingly. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  3. Drain the donuts thoroughly and set aside on a paper-towel to cool for 1 min, then coat it all over inside evenly mixed X'mas sand. Serve immediately.


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Let's face it, most of us never took the idea of "sous vide" seriously as a realistic potential in our home-kitchen, now did we? But now there are so many sous vide devices on the market today that it's hard to ignore the growing popularity of it.

This French-sounding... European-ish words ("sus-vahyd"?) that refer to vacuum-sealing our ingredients and submerging them under a warm bath for a long period of time, thus resulting in the extraordinarily supple texture in any cuts of meat, okaaay, all sounds as wonderful as having little house-elf who rap us a Kanye song and clean around the house. Nice, clap clap, but who are we kidding right? Hey, believe me, I with you. Or... at least, I was with you... until a few weeks ago I swear.

I mean, as someone who loves to cook to a degree of obsessive nature, I'm all about humping a technique that, legend has it, could transform a cardboard-like piece of chicken breasts into something so juicy and tender that it defies my anti-faith for chicken breasts. But to acquire such wizardry, well, I'll need a wand of course, and it's called a sous vide-machine. Thing is I would gladly "sus-vahyd" everything - hey I think it totally makes total sense - IF ONLY I was sitting on a machine that sucks all the air-molecules out of the bags, and another that keeps my tub of water at a constant temperature without asking too many questions. But guess what, I don't have a sous vide-machine"s", and I'm guessing you probably neither. I guess, we're all just muggles! So in the end, the idea all goes back to resembling a fabulous Dobby who raps Kanye ? not a realistic potential. Or is it?

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Chef Steps, a great blog that promotes "Modernist Cuisines for home-cooks", and at the top of its honorable agenda, is the mission to teach everyone how to sous vide at home, without any machines that is. It gave me hope, it really did. I considered it as an invitation into Hogwars. So I immediately dove into the first experiment, which was to tightly wrap salmon in a zip-lock bag and cook it in a pot of 120 F/50 C water that they said could be maintained over the stove... Okay, I would elaborate the experience in meticulous details for you but it could pretty much be summed up in one word, well, impossible. On gas-stove, on induction-stove... whatever, not even the lowest possible setting/flame could keep a pot of water at 120F/50C without heating it up eventually, not to mention the obvious impracticality and side-effect of babysitting a pot of lukewarm water for 40 min, or worse, hours... Chefs, it's not you, but it doesn't work on my stoves.

But to their credit, the effort wasn't spent in vain. The episode curiously reminded me of how, a long time ago, I used to babysit a pot of water in oblivion for my hot spring/onsen eggs, only until the moment when I found out that... wait, I HAVE A HOUSE-ELF!

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Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to - Dobby, no, THE OVEN. Uh-humph, sorry, have you met? Yeah, it's this really old piece of technology, dinosaur really, that was designed to, guess what, creating an environment at a... yes, constant temperature! OK, at this point, we're not even gonna pretend that we're "sous vide-ing" anything, which means "under vacuum" in French. We're not vacuuming anything, but just keeping to the principle of cooking foods under low temperature for a prolonged period of time. And I don't know if you know this about earth, but in most cases, the temperature of water will eventually level to the temperature of its surroundings. What it means is that a pot of 120F/50C water sitting inside an oven that is constantly at 120F/50C, will stay at... YES, 120F/50C!! Do you see where I'm going with this? Do you? With a little adjustment to the oven-setting to make up for the heat that goes into cooking our foods, my friends, this is your new kitchen-revelation.

Results... the salmon, was a bite of the softest and warm embracive epiphany you could ever put in your mouth. I would replace it with how I cooked salmon in this recipe and gladly eat it for the rest of my lives. Then the chicken breasts... what chicken breasts? It transformed the chicken breasts into something... not of this earth, okay. This is not chicken breasts, not even chicken, because planet earth does not breed this type of animal which has an unbelievable texture as if a chicken screwed a water-balloon and had a baby on Mars that spoke French. The texture, the suppleness and bounce, is for a lack of better words, infuriating. It means to tell me that for the past 35 years of solemn hatred for white meat, the chicken-sawdusts that I've been clawing out of my throat, all along, could've been this succulence?!! Is this a joke?!!

But to my own surprise, amidst the simultaneous anguish and enlightenment, the wizardry didn't stop here. Remember my sauna eggs? A little experiment I conducted based on the theory that, with a little adjustments in temperature and cooking-time (difference in air and water heat-conductivity and such boring sciences, blah blah blah), the same water-bath results can be replicated by using dry-heat only as well. But does it work with things other than eggs? YES. The chicken breasts and salmon cooked inside a water-bath in the oven, VS the same ingredients being cooked simply wrapped up in parchment in dry heat at a different temperature/time, are essentially, undistinguishable.

You can "sous vide" in the oven, with or without water-bath.

It very much seemed like something only the pros used but with the knowledge of having the UK's leading sous vide specialists in this very field, this idea may not seem as out there as some of us used to think. So here, my friends, screw being muggles, come to Hogwarts with me. With a simple thermometer and oven thermometer, let's do magic. Okay, I also know that people's ovens may not heat up correctly, or the thermometer may be off, etc. If you're looking to continue this recipe correctly, then you will want to make sure your oven gets to the correct temperatures. Ensure to look at the likes of https:www.justin-appliance.com and similar websites to find repair options for your oven, then continue your magic! I will continue this experiment with more ingredients and do a Part II or perhaps even Part III, but for now, I think you'll be too busy eating - can't believe I'm saying this - chicken breasts. I guess it's true, nothing is impossible.

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Sometimes, we wait for the perfect recipe-publishing moment to present itself.  Iced dairies to fend off the heat in August… festivities to baste in the spirit of October… chocolates to sweeten the tones of February, and austerities to bring in those bikini-lines in May.  Recipes, like romance, like good stories.  I get it.  But sometimes, most times actually, the birth of a certain recipe comes as forcefully and inevitably as the bad news it carries.  Sometimes, we just have to make something, quite simply, because it’s Monday.

I hate Mondays.  And please note, that coming from someone who is technically unemployed, that is saying a lot.  Because Monday feels like standing at the bottom of an endless stairwell, and a monkey is holding a $20-bill at the top.  Monday feels like watching the prelude of a documentary on counting alphabets in a foreign language without subtitles.  Monday feels like powering through the infuriating hunger on the last day of a juice-cleanse, but only that it is still the first day.  Monday feels like a brand new sandbag.  Monday makes my coffee tired.  So even though I’ve came up with this buttery scone stuffed with honey-whipped ricotta a while back, and have been waiting for the perfect timing to tell you all about it, it dawned on me that today, which is a Monday, is actually when your joy-deprived souls will need it the most.

This time-tested, my go-to scone-dough (or biscuit dough, whatever, who knows the difference really) is crispy and flakey on the surface, but its moist and crumbly interior houses a good dollop of creamy, slightly salty, zesty whole milk ricotta whipped with mascarpone and floral honey.  Eaten hot out of the oven, the oozy filling bursts enthusiastically to lift your most stagnant Monday-blues.  Eaten cooled with rewarded patience, and the thickened and embracive ricotta-mascarpone will moisten the crumbs like a scone carrying its own clotted cream.  I don’t know about you, but my Monday is nearing its end, and I haven’t yet raised the first thought to smash my computer on the pale wall.  And I say no human should go another Monday without it.

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There are a lot of rumours out there about cooking rice without a rice-cooker. Obviously, it will be much simplier with a rice cooker. This is why a comparison of the best rice cookers, or comparatif meilleur cuiseur à riz as the French would say, could be very useful. And when I say “rice” in this particular case, I’m specifically referring to the Asian short-grain white rice, or mostly known as, the Japanese sushi rice (but not exclusively for making sushi). Whether or not you grew up cooking/eating this type of rice, that for every different reasons, the idea of cooking it on the stove can be a very confusing matter. Because if you did, like every other sensible Asians out there, you’ve been deferring this task to a trusty rice-cooker and the idea of doing it without one, for as long as you’ve been eating rice, has never even occur to you as a potential reality. But if you didn’t, like every other typical non-Asians out there without a rice-cooker, the assortment of instructions for cooking this type of rice on the stove with bare flames and pots, is a maze laid out with conflicting informations, false promises, and more often than not, guaranteed failures.

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And when I say “failure” in this particular case, I’m specifically referring to anything but the state of its optimal textures. Look, it’s fairly easy to cook rice, or anything for that matter, until it’s no longer raw and passably edible. You can find a lot of helpful cooking tips on sites like https://preparedcooks.com to do it a little better as well. But it’s something else entirely to do it “properly“, or perhaps the proper word is “professionally”, as in restaurant levels of good. Asian short-grain rice/sushi rice, when cooked properly, should glisten with a gentle shimmer on the surface, where every grains are consistent with a soft but bouncy mouthfeel, moistly sticky but ease gracefully into individual selves when being chewed. Now this, this is not something easily obtainable, not even for some less competent rice-cookers out there, let alone if you did it on the stove following many of the wrong directions online, which is to say, almost all of them. Of course, it could get even worse, your stove may not be working correctly either and the rice won’t cook properly at all. If you do find there could be an issue with your stove or cooker, looking at a website like https:www.GreenacresApplianceFix.com for your local area can be massively beneficial for those that like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking! You never want broken or faulty applainces.

So today, let’s set the record straight, once and for all. Here’s how to actually cook sushi rice on the stove.



The ratio between rice : water is perhaps the single, most confusing information on cooking sushi rice. Most recipes out there ranges from 1 : 1.1 (too much water) to 1 : 1.5 (waaaaay too much water!). But the correct ratio should always, and I mean always, be 1 part rice : 1 part water BY VOLUME. Always! It doesn’t matter if you are cooking rice for sushi, or just for plain eating. Always. And when it comes to the right pot, I would highly suggest using a small, heavy-bottomed non-stick pot with clear glass lid. There is a reason why all rice-cookers uses a non-stick inner-bowl, because when rice sticks (and it will stick), it breaks. Broken rice = bad rice. Then, instead of flying blind, the clear glass lid allows you to get a good idea of what’s going on inside. Also, we don’t want a steam-hole for the lid, so if yours comes with one, simply block it with a damp paper-towel. So:

Makes about 4 cups cooked rice:

  • 2 cups (400 grams) Asian short-grain white rice, or Japanese sushi rice
  • 2 cups (429 grams) water

UPDATE 2015/08/04: You may be able to tell that the type of rice used in this particular example, was a typical Asian short-grain rice, which took 15 min in STEP 2. But if you were using an even stubbier short-grain variety, specifically for making sushi, with a wider and rounder body, then please increase the duration of STEP 2 to 20 min.

* The instruction is for 2 cups of rice only. Anything more or less by 1/2 cup will require adjustments on the cooking time.

UPDATE 2015/12/1: Months after I tested this recipe on the gas-stove, I finally had a chance to test it on induction stove, and the heat-setting turned out to be a bit different. It seems that induction stove requires a slightly higher setting to reach the description of each steps. In STEP 2, instead of 1~2 for heat-setting (on a scale of 10), induction stove needs around 3~4. Then for STEP 3, instead of 2~3, induction stove needs around 5~6. So whatever stove you’re using, adjust the heat-setting to get you to the description for each steps, instead of relying on absolute heat-settings.

STEP 1: Put the rice in a large sieve, then rinse under running cold water. Gently rub the rice between your fingers, removing the excess starch, until the water runs clear. Drain very very well, until the last drop of water seem to have been shaken off, then transfer the rice to heavy-bottomed non-stick pot. Add the water and give it a stir, then put on the lid (if there’s a steam-hole, block it with a small piece of damp paper-towel.

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If you were those who like to travel to unfamiliar places, see unfamiliar pictures, eat unfamiliar things, chances are that for many times, you have been caught up in moments where I’d like to call – the encounters of food paradox.  Foods that don’t make sense, shouldn’t make sense, but the moment we put one in our mouth, the argument between logics and instincts all quiets down, and the only sensation left with any capacity for thoughts, is how defiantly delicious it stood against our prejudice.   It changes everything, on top of the very least, our palette henceforth, will never be the same.  This post, I hope, is about exactly that.

I have been longing to find a way, an accessible angle, to tell you about a thing called, ice cream-spring roll.  It’s a common street-food in Taiwan, not particularly flashy or groundbreaking.  In fact, among the immensely competitive and ever evolving Taiwanese street-foodscape, one may even argue, standard stuff.  But if you have no affiliation with the food-culture from this island proud for nothing but, the concept of this ice cream-spring roll, with its deceivingly predictable name, may just very well be your next big revelation.  Up front, what is expected surely is that there’s ice creams, most likely local flavours like taro or mango but could also include strawberry and vanilla, which are rolled inside a chewy crepe made with simply flour, water and salt.  No innovation there.  But to make things more interesting, a tall pile of sweet nutty and salty ” sandy streusels” is being shaved directly from a ginormous brick of peanut and caramel brittle, matching its proportion to the ice creams to almost 1:2.  The shaved/ground peanut caramel brittle alone, already completely push the texture and flavour of the spring roll to another dimension, but, it doesn’t stop there.  The real mind-blowing part, is the last descending sprigs of the unimaginable, the last to belong in the dessert isle, the controversially pungent… fresh cilantro leaves.  What?!  

You know I would describe it to you if I could.  I’d say it’s melty, creamy, sandy and crunchy all encased inside a film of chewiness.  I’d say that it’s sweet with pops of saltiness, the permeation of powdered peanuts and caramel and a whiff of herbs in the back-note.  But for the life of me, I cannot describe to you the immense confusion upon the impact of the first bite, then the gentle surrendering into the next, then a breeze of exhilaration on the last.  So I won’t.  You’ll have to try this one out yourself.  Because, that’s the beauty of a food-paradox isn’t it?  One that does and should be lived outside the limitation of words.  Maybe you’ll hate it.  Maybe you’ll love it.  Whatever it is, we will celebrate the forever-forward exploration that is eating.


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It might say something about me, perhaps not in the most positive light, whenever I fell for a Chinese dish-inspiration from half way around the world while living right inside the epicenter of it all, where the “real things” are or so they say.  What kind of a food-blogger, who eats and breathes right off of the ground-zero of a very old, very diverse and rapidly morphing food-culture often generalized as “Chinese foods”, would cook you a Chinese dish that comes from an Instagram of a New Yorker who took it at a restaurant that are, out of all places, in Brooklyn. Lazy?  Perhaps.  Utter dumb luck?  That’s for sure.  Because you see, without this inconvenient loop around the globe it has traveled, the inspiration for this down-home Shanghainese summer snack, in one form or another, would have otherwise never found its way to melt in my warm embrace.  And this is, I guess especially for those who have experienced living abroad, a perfectly explainable social phenomenon.

Thing is, I believe across all cultures, that the restaurants indigenous to where they are located, often times with great effort, focus on serving what they perceive as “restaurant-style/worthy” dishes only.  It is a limiting but reasonable box that excludes the slightly less glamorous, homemade gems that are more commonly celebrated within the contentment of one’s own home.  It really isn’t hard to understand why.  Just imagine, that it would also seem odd, if not lazy, to see PB&J on the menu of a respectable American restaurant sitting in the heart of Manhattan, no?  However, when the citizens of such comfort are residing in a foreign land, say, a Shanghainese in Brooklyn, and decided to open a restaurant to selfishly serve his/her personal home-sickness, then guess what, dishes like these start to pop up.  And my friends, dishes like these, are always my favourite kind to eat.  Take this for example, M Shanghai’s wontons in spicy peanut sauce.   Something that I would have taken gladly from its bare and natural implications – burning hot pork wontons slurped cautiously from an even more inflammable pool of peanut sauce and chili oil – let alone after the discovery of its true, counterintuitive ingenuity over a much needed research.  It turns out (whether or not this is how it’s served in Brooklyn) that this fabulous summer-snack regrettably overlooked in most-if-not-all Shanghai restaurants in Beijing, is actually… eaten cold.


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What the hell’s this?  Well… let me refresh it for you.

If you have ever lived or travelled to Beijing.  It was nightfall.  Granted that you should be excused by the overwhelming remorse that soon followed the moment you stepped out of the airport, you thought, it would be in your best redeeming interest to hang out with some old or newly acquainted companions for a night of bad behaviors around the Work’s Stadium in Chaoyang District.  After what probably felt like a mirage of flying alcohols, soul-murdering-ly bad musics, and an unbroken stream of ugly faces, you woke up the day after, half-alive, with a banging headache and wondering how the hell did last night end.  While other histories were less certain or best left forgotten, chances were, whether you remembered it fully or from the swamp of broken memories, that without even knowing what it was called, you ended it with this.

This, this is called jian-bing.

Here, before I say anything more, I want you to listen carefully.  It is not, your fault.  We’ve all done it.  We’ve all, for more than once, either unconsciously or with full consent, stood under the dingy lightbulbs from a hygienically suspicious food-stall in a notoriously poisonous country, and ate this thingy that highly resembled a french crepe on one side, but marbled with beaten egg on the other, made by someone reaching into buckets of some things that both screamed highly dubious at best.  Yes, that was a long sentence, because I just wanted to rip it off fast like a bandage for you.  It’s ok, my friend.  It’s just a Beijing thing.  It probably didn’t hurt you as bad as you thought it would.  It probably, if memories are slowly coming back, tasted much better even in the haze of your drunken skepticism.  Between it’s thin, soft and slightly chewy body, there was the appetizing aroma of a skillet-fried egg, the pungent and salty punch from the smothering of chili sauce, and to your surprise, a shattering and crunchy contrast from an unknown source that you were too drunk to identify.  Most likely, it was actually, really really tasty.  And dare I say, it has probably, been missed.

Now, without the bravery from within a beer can, or the risk of losing a liver, you can make this signature Beijing street-food at home, knowing that none of the ingredients contains traces of stray cats.  Ha ha, just kidding.

No I’m not.


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Hi Emily,

So, congratulations!  Wow, new baby huh?  I mean.. just.. WOW!  Ayee-um… Mandy, by the way.  Here, um, I sort of acted late on that race to the gift-registry and so I swear all I was left to choose with, was this leopard-print breasts-pump and a strange vampire binky…  But seriously, I swear, I am not weird.  Nor am I some random neighbour who’s trying to crash a party because she saw the sign “there will be cakes” on your lawn on her way to taking out the trash.  Really, I was invited.  But the truth is, you probably don’t know much about me.  And I guess the fact that this being a baby-shower and all, probably one of the top three must-be-perv-free environment there is (among dressing-rooms, toilets and etc…) , I should re-introduce myself a little bit.

My last name is Lee, with my birth-Chinese-name, Huei Lin.  When I was 11, in the month before my family immigrated from Taiwan to Canada, I picked out my own English first name, Mandy, from an English Names Guidebook that some idiot gave me.  It was probably one of the most regrettable mistake of my life, one that I now have to live with until I die.  I’m one of those whom you would call a “dog person” much more than a “people person”.  I don’t care who or how many people die in a movie as long as the dog lives, and which-ever movie violates that rule, sucks.  I Am Legend, sucks.  But having said that, if you actually knew me, I’m a good friend.  An overbearingly judgemental friend you might add, but that’s only because I think I care.  My favourite things in life are puppies’ tummies, eating, travelling for eating, eating with friends, last but not least, good conversations over eating.  I think whoever asks the question “what’s your favourite food?”, hates eating.  I don’t have a favourite food, because there’s too many that it can only be defined by categories.  Categories such as, carbohydrates, and proteins.  Vegetables… I don’t wanna talk about it.

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But perhaps, the most important food-category of all that defines my entire existence, that trumps all other subordinate pleasures in life except for maybe rubbing a puppy’s tummy, so much so that I may not be able to friend you if you disagree… is anything and everything that could be described with the word – chewy.  Chewy is my Holy Grail on my culinary treasure-hunt, my kitchen baby unicorn, my ambassador of quan.  Chewy, completes me (and no, Jerry Maguire, doesn’t suck).  I want it in my bread, my brownies, my donuts, my cookies, I want it in places that it doesn’t even belong, and yes yes yes, even in my ice creams.  So I guess it’s only appropriate, since we’re on a roll of getting to know each other and all, that I introduce you to this closeted kink of mine – my black sesame mochi ice cream.

It’s not entirely mochi.  It’s not really ice cream, either.  This black sesame-blended mixture is thickened with just enough sticky rice flour, in order to land on that sweet spot where it’s too loose to be called mochi at room-temperature, but hardens just right when it is frozen.  It has an incredible resistance to melting, an unusually sturdiness and bounciness to each bite, and a deep and rich nuttiness that fills the palette with each melting chews.  It is almost unlikely to find a peer for comparison…  Think of the densest, zero-air/ice-molecule ice cream you’ve ever had – this is way beyond that.  Think of Turkish ice cream – well now you’re getting close.  It’s the same kind of stretchy and springy texture that make this recipe impossible for a typical ice cream-churner, and hence, must be done by working your post-baby biceps.  I mean is it too considerate on my part that I even calculated in a terrific solution for that last pound of baby-weight you’re physically but not emotionally attached to?  I told you, I’m a good friend.

So hello Emily.  Congratulations again.  You won’t be able to return that leopard-print breasts-pump because my dog ate the receipt, but this black sesame mochi ice cream, will more than making up for it.


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