Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Peppermint white chocolate chip cookies

Happy New Year's Eve! Do you have anything fun planned for tonight? Us - we are going on a double date with some friends, and our kids will watch movies and eat pizza with a babysitter. It should be fun. Addie keeps saying that she's going to marry our friend's son and is already planning her wedding (mac and cheese, hot dogs, cupcakes and ice cream are all on the menu). I'm not sure if we'll make it to midnight.

I mentioned earlier this month that I participated in a cookie swap. These are the second type of cookies that I sent to my recipient for the holidays (the first was a brown butter Nutella-stuffed sea salt chocolate chip cookie). I was saddened by the fact that I only had 1 candy cane in my entire house so I crushed that and added it to the batter. I made up for the lack of crushed peppermint candies with an abundance of Andes peppermint baking chunks.

So what was the verdict on these cookies? Simply stated, they were awesome. The cookies were exactly how I love them: slightly crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. I loved the peppermint flavors in the cookies and the textural contrast that the white chocolate chips and peppermint baking chunks provided. Sadly, I only kept 2 of these cookies for ourselves. Next time, I know better.

Oh, if you happen to have any leftover champagne from the New Year's festivities, be sure to try out my champagne cupcakes with lemon champagne buttercream and dark chocolate champagne buttermilk cupcakes with champagne buttercream. These are some sweet ways to start of 2015!

Peppermint white chocolate chip cookies
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup candy canes, crushed
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peppermint baking chips (I used Andes)
Directions
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, vanilla and peppermint extracts and mix well.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the dry ingredients and crushed candy canes until well combined.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the white chocolate chips and peppermint baking chips until evenly distributed. Put the dough into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

Scoop the dough (about 1 Tablespoons' worth) into mounds and roll them into balls.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the cookies become a light golden color along the edges.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or can be frozen and thawed. The room temperature cookies will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 2 dozen (24) cookies

Source: Slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 10 Posts of 2014

Just like last year, I thought that it would be fun to recap the top 10 most viewed recipes from my blog in the past year. Clearly, you all love chocolate just as much as I do. I guess that's why we are friends, right?

On with the countdown!

 










Here is to a delicious and sweet 2015! 

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

White chocolate candy cane and peppermint fudge

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful day! I'm betting that you probably have some leftover candy canes, right? Well, this fudge is a perfect way to use them up. Oh, and since we're all pretty exhausted from the holidays, this is a one-bowl fudge that you can make in the microwave. It doesn't get any easier than that!

All you need to do is crush up your candy canes and throw everything else together in a bowl. Microwave it until the chocolate chips melt, mix in some crushed candy canes and you're pretty much good to go.

This is a fun recipe to involve the kids since they can help crush the candy canes. All that energy is definitely good for something!

White chocolate candy cane and peppermint fudge
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 packages of white chocolate chip morsels
  • 4 candy canes, crushed and divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Directions
Generously grease a standard 8"x8" baking pan or line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil (if lining with foil, make sure to grease the foil). I used a silicone baking pan and did not grease it.

Reserve about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed candy canes and set aside.


In a large bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk and white chocolate. Microwave on high for about 60 seconds. Remove from microwave, stir and microwave for another 30-60 seconds or until the white chocolate has completely melted.

Add the peppermint extract and stir until it is fully incorporated. Then add the crushed candy canes and mix it into the fudge.

Transfer the fudge to the prepared baking dish and smooth out the top with a spatula or wooden spoon. Sprinkle the reserved crushed candy canes on top of the fudge. Allow the fudge to cool for about 3 hours or until harden. Alternatively, you can place the fudge in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Cut the fudge into squares and serve.

Yield: One standard 8"x8" pan; about 36 pieces

Source: An Eva Bakes original

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Skating Fridays

2015 Skating Goals

I have some pretty lofty skating goals in 2015.  I've been sharing these with my coach, skating friends and choreographer so they can all hold me accountable. I also want to share these with you so you can also make sure I'm working towards these goals.

Here they are, in no specific order:
  1. Earn higher PCS scores in my IJS programs (goal: at least 17 points)
  2. Place in the top 4 in the Gold Ladies event at Sectionals and qualify for the Championship Gold Ladies event at Adult Nationals
  3. Earn a total score of 28+ points in my IJS programs
  4. Add a double salchow to my skating repertoire (meaning that it's consistently landed)
  5. Learn a double toe loop
  6. Learn a legitimate, non-adult version of a layback spin
  7. Continue to skate faster and with better power and flow
  8. Add more difficult spins to my repertoire and use them in programs
Is this do-able? Absolutely. I just need to remember that this is a journey and not a marathon.

If you are a skater, what are your 2015 skating goals?

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nutella stuffed brown butter sea salt chocolate chip cookies

Happy Christmas Eve!

Every year, the girls on my cooking message board do a cookie swap during the holidays. In previous years, we did a "secret Santa" exchange where we would receive a package from someone and not know who it came from. After all the packages had been mailed, we would reveal identities. Since this was such a fun event, we decided to do it again this year.

After the random draw, I was paired up with Nicole from Cookies on Friday. This was going to be challenging since Nicole is the cookie queen. I mean, her blog title has cookies in the title, and it took me a long time to scroll through all her cookie recipes to make sure I wasn't going to send her something that she had not made before.

I settled on these Nutella stuffed brown butter sea salt chocolate chip cookies. Nicole already had a few Nutella cookies, some chocolate chip cookies, and others with sea salt, but nothing with all them mixed together.

Much to my dismay, these cookies were not easy to put together. I followed the original instructions to a T, and they failed miserably. The cookie dough was way too hard to roll into balls, and the baking time was way off (I baked the first batch closer to 20 minutes, and the cookies never flattened). Round #1 = epic fail.

Round 2 was better, but it still didn't turn out the way I wanted them to. I did not chill my dough or my Nutella, and I think it worked out better. I flatted the cookie dough balls more, but they still remained puffy. The final cookie didn't have a lot of nooks and crannies to add much sea salt to the tops, but they still tasted good. The next time I bake something similar, I am sticking to my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, stuffing it with Nutella and calling it a day.

Nicole, I hope you enjoyed these cookies, despite my baking errors!

Nutella stuffed brown butter sea salt chocolate chip cookies
  • 2 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon plain greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator
  • Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan (preferably a stainless one), melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown. Do not step away from the stove because the butter will burn very quickly after it browns. The butter should have a nutty aroma once it is browned. Turn off the stove and allow it to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix the browned butter with the brown and granulated sugars on medium speed until combined. Then add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and Greek yogurt until well mixed.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Fold in the 3 different types of chocolate chips (either by hand or with the mixer on low).

Chill the dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator or in the freezer for 30 minutes until the dough hardens.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a cookie scoop or two teaspoons, scoop out about 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough ball into a thin disc. Scoop out about 1 teaspoon of the chilled Nutella into the middle of the dough and fold the dough around the Nutella. Then roll the dough back into a ball. You'll want to make sure that no Nutella is exposed or it will ooze while baking. Very gently press down on the dough ball and flatten slightly.

Place flattened dough balls 2 inches apart on a parchment-topped cookie sheet (I used my imitation Silpat).

Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. The middles will appear underdone, but that is OK. The cookies will continue to firm up after they are removed from the oven.

Allow the cookies to rest for at least 2 minutes before sprinkling them with some sea salt and then transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 24-30 cookies

Source: Barely adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gingerbread cookie dough fudge

One of my holiday traditions is gifting food for coworkers and friends. In the past I've made cookies, fudge and caramels. Last year, I made peppermint chunk fudge, which was a huge hit. The fudge was easy to make, and I could make large batches of it pretty quickly.

This year, I decided to make fudge again but try two other varieties. One was this gingerbread cookie dough fudge. I was a bit skeptical when I saw that the recipe contained two full cups of flour, but thankfully everything worked out. The fudge did end up with a cookie dough type of consistency, and the gingerbread cookie flavor was pretty spot on.

I wasn't quite sure if Addie would like this because of the strong spices, but she actually enjoyed it. Both my husband and I also liked the fudge as well, and I just wish I would have kept a few squares of it to enjoy for ourselves.

I created this fudge as my entry to this month's What's Baking challenge, which is being hosted by Catherine of Pursuing Domestic Goddess-ness.  Please be sure to check out her blog for the other gingerbread-themed baked goods!

Gingerbread cookie dough fudge
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 ounces white chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Directions
Generously grease a standard 8"x8" baking pan or line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil (if lining with foil, make sure to grease the foil). I used a silicone baking pan and did not grease it.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk, white chocolate and molasses. Microwave on high for about 60 seconds. Remove from microwave, stir and microwave for another 30-60 seconds or until the white chocolate has completely melted.

Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl with the milk mixture and mix until everything is fully incorporated. The batter will get quite thick.

Transfer the fudge to the prepared baking dish and smooth out the top with a spatula or wooden spoon. Allow the fudge to cool for about 3 hours or until harden. Alternatively, you can place the fudge in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Cut the fudge into squares and serve.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan (about 36 pieces)


Source: Lauren's Latest

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Skating Fridays

2014 Skating Accomplishments

Last week I shared my progress report on how I have been doing against my 2014 skating goals. I also wanted to document the things that I have accomplished this year. After all, we should always celebrate all accomplishments, regardless of how big or little they are (I borrowed this philosophy from my hero Paul Wylie).

Without further adieu, here are my 2014 accomplishments and highlights, listed in no particular order (note that many of these were listed as part of my 2014 goals):
  1. Passed my Adult Gold Freestyle (and at my "home" rink in Delaware)
  2. Competed at Adult Nationals - my first real competition
  3. Met my childhood skating hero... Paul Wylie!
  4. Refined my axel and turned it into a combination jump
  5. Landed my first double salchow
  6. Learned a legit Level 3 spin
  7. Attended my first skating seminar and took a private lesson from an Olympic coach
  8. Bought new boots and blades
  9. Increased my practices to 5-6 times a week
  10. Made significant improvements on my speed and power and even earned comments from skating coaches that I'm looking like a "real,  non-adult skater"!
The biggest setback this year was obviously my knee injury. I continue to do my knee strengthening exercises on a daily basis and hope that it is back to 100% (or close to it) in 2015.

Other than that, it looks like it was a great skating year. I've got lofty goals in 2015 and will be sharing those with you soon.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thick and chewy gingerbread cookies

I have a confession to make. I have never made gingerbread cookies prior to this. Why not? Well, my family and I never baked together, and I have an aversion to ginger. Gingerbread flavored things are a newly acquired taste, so it has never been a high priority of things to bake.

Last year, we were walking through the mall after the holidays and I noticed that cookie cutters were on sale at a kitchen store. Addie was with me and went bonkers when she saw the gingerbread man cookie cutters. She asked me to buy one so we could bake them together. I bought the cutter and promised her that we would make them together the following year.

And here I am, finally fulfilling that promise. Addie and I had a blast making these cookies, and they were easier than I expected. I was initially worried that I wouldn't have enough molasses for the cookies (they come out of the bottle pretty slowly, so I was getting nervous), and Addie's reply to me was, "Mommy. Don't worry. Just be patient. It will be OK." Of course, Addie was right, and I had enough molasses for the recipe.

We baked these for 8 minutes and they turned out great. When I went to decorate the cookies, Addie was very adamant that I make most of these girl gingerbread cookies. She wasn't too fond of the boy ones and told me that, "It's OK, Mommy. You get what you get." Alas, I still made some boy cookies just in case.

These cookies were not only fun to bake together, but they also tasted wonderful. When my husband returned from swimming, he commented that the house smelled good. He was right - the house was filled with the aromas of cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Although Addie claimed that the raw dough tasted a bit spicy, she liked the cookies after they were baked. I wish I would have made these a bit thicker since they were still a bit hard for my tastes (I'm a chewy cookie fan), but that is something that I can do the next time I bake these with my little girl.

Thick and chewy gingerbread cookies
  • 3 cups (15 ounces) flour
  • ¾ cup packed (5 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 12 pieces
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
Frosting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons water (or milk)
Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Do this whisking by hand or with a hand whisk (if you use the electric mixer, the contents will fly everywhere). Add in the butter pieces and mix with the paddle attachment at low speed. Then add the milk and molasses and increase the speed to medium until all the ingredients are well combined. The dough will be fairly thick.

Transfer the dough to a clean working surface topped with a piece of waxed or parchment paper. DO NOT FLOUR THE SURFACE! Cut the dough in half and set one half aside. Add another piece of waxed/parchment paper on top of one of the cut pieces of dough. Use a rolling pin (or wine or soda bottle) to flatten the dough to about 1/4" thick. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or up to overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the dough is chilled and has hardened, take one of them out of the refrigerator and use a cookie dough cutter to shape the cookies. Place the cut out cookies on a parchment-lined (or use a Silpat) cookie sheet.

Bake in your preheated oven for 8-9 minutes or until the centers are set. Do not overbake these!

Repeat with the remaining tray of dough. Dough can be re-rolled and re-cut, but make sure that you do not add flour to these when re-rolling. Simply put the excess dough in between the two sheets of parchment or waxed paper to roll out.

Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Once cookies are cool, you can frost.

To make the frosting, simply mix the powdered sugar and water to form a thick frosting (you do not want this to be runny). Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag with a small circular tip or to a zip-top bag with a small hole cut in a corner. Pipe decorations onto the cookies and allow them to cool before serving or storing.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days.

Yield: I used a small gingerbread cookie cutter and got about 40 cookies

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

5 ingredient one-bowl gluten-free coconut flour brownies

Have you ever baked or cooked with coconut flour? I'm sure my gluten-free friends have tried it at some point. I personally had not used it before but was intrigued. Coconut products seems like all the rage these days, and it was only a matter of time that I tried to bake with coconut flour.

My friends at King Arthur Flour sent me a package of coconut flour to try.  I did a bit of research online, and it turns out that coconut flour isn't an easy substitute for all-purpose flour. Coconut flour absorbs liquid much more easily than its gluten-laden counterpart, so recipes with coconut flour will require a lot more eggs and liquid/moisture in order to be successful. And apparently, there is no substitute for the eggs, so anybody who is dairy-free might bit out of luck on this recipe I'm sharing.

I loved the simplicity of this recipe - I only needed one bowl, one spatula, one liquid measuring cup and one dry measuring cup for these brownies. Plus, there were only 5 ingredients in these (vanilla extract being optional).

I thought that the brownies tasted more like a cake and were just a tad grainy. Granted, I knew that the texture was going to be slightly "off" since I baked with coconut flour, but the flavor wasn't bad. A gluten-free skating mom tried them at the rink and said that she really liked them. If you want to jazz these up a bit, you can always drizzle them with sauce or eat with ice cream.

Gluten-free coconut flour brownies
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 Tablespoon coconut flour (if you have a kitchen scale, measure out 50 grams for a more accurate amount)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Directions
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.  Generously grease a standard 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside (I used my silicone baking pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl with a rubber spatula, mix all ingredients together until no flour or cocoa streaks remain.

Transfer to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the brownies before serving.

Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Disclaimer: King Arthur Flour sent me a complimentary bag of coconut flour, but I was not provided any additional compensation for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan; about 16 brownies

Source: Adapted from Empowered Sustenance

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Skating Fridays

2014 Skating Goals Progress Report

As the year starts to wind down, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my 2014 skating goals and see how I progressed towards them.
  1. Pass the Adult Gold Freestyle test - Done! I passed this in January 2014.
  2. Get the axel more consistent and fully correct - Still a work in progress, though it has made drastic improvements
  3. Work on an axel combination (like axel-loop, axel-toe, etc) - Yup! I had an axel-toe in my program at Adult Nationals and have an axel-toe loop-loop in an upcoming program
  4. Work on a double salchow and/or double toe loop - We worked on this during the summer and I actually landed one in August. I haven't worked on it since getting new skates though.
  5. Add a high level GOE spin to my repertoire (like sit-cannonball for 8-back tuck) - I'm still refining these. I have two new spin combinations, and if I can execute these correctly, one will (hopefully) be a Level 3 spin and the other a Level 2. Coach B thinks the Level 3 spin is pretty solid, so that makes me happy.
  6. Skate with more power and speed - While I made improvements on this front, it wasn't until I got new boots and blades that I could really feel a difference. And I know this has gotten better since several coaches have commented on my quickness on the ice. I have not competed in an IJS event since Adult Nationals, so I have no scores to prove any progress. Maybe next year.
I'll list out my 2014 accomplishments and 2015 goals in separate posts, so stay tuned for that.

If you are a skater, how did you progress on your 2014 goals?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Double chocolate chip muffins

Addie is all about the muffins these days. One weekend, she declared in her most serious voice, "Mommy! We need to make muffins." When I asked her what kind, she said, "chocolate with chocolate." So off I went to search for a double chocolate muffin recipe. I found some that called for Greek yogurt or sour cream, and since I didn't have either ingredient in the house, I had to look around for other recipes that didn't include those ingredients.


"Why haven't they puffed up yet?"
This one from Bakers Royale popped up and looked promising. I substituted the oil called for in the original recipe with unsweetened applesauce to make them a tad healthier. Addie helped me whisk all the dry ingredients together, crack the egg, mix the wet ingredients, and fold everything together in the large bowl. Her fine motor skills still need some refining, so I took charge of transferring the batter to the muffin pan.

As soon as I put the muffin pan in the oven, Addie asked, "Mommy! Why haven't the muffins puffed up yet?" I told her that they would need to bake a little while longer before they started puffing. She impatiently watched the oven and then got bored and moved on to something else. Once the muffins were done baking and had cooled off, she taste tested one and couldn't stop smiling. My girl got chocolate all over her face and hands and couldn't wait to show her daddy what she had made.

These muffins were so fun to bake and eat with my little girl. They weren't too sweet and are just chocolatey enough to get all over a kid's little face and hands.
"Look at what I made!"

Double chocolate chip muffins
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin tin and set aside (I used my silicone muffin pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the milk, applesauce, egg and vanilla.

Transfer the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold everything together using as few strokes as possible. When the mixture is about 75% incorporated, add in the chocolate chips. Mix until everything just comes together - you do not want to overmix the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into the wells of the muffin pan, filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving. Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Bakers Royale

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting

My friend Coleen at The Redhead Baker is hosting Cupcake Day today. Several of us participated in this sweet day, and I contributed these gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Since December usually means gingerbread, I thought these would be perfect for Cupcake Day.

The cupcakes had the perfect amount of spices and were slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I recommend baking these for 17 minutes and checking after that because my cupcakes were a little too done for my personal tastes. The cupcakes are then topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting with a hint of cinnamon mixed in. I sprinkled the tops of my cupcakes with additional cinnamon to polish off the look.

Don't forget to check out the other fabulous cupcakes that these talented bloggers made:

Gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting
Cupcakes
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons, or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
Frosting
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups (1 pound package) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk
Directions
Make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease or fill a standard muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together butter, sugar, molasses and egg on medium speed. Turn the speed down to low and add 1/4 cup of the water and then the dry ingredients. Repeat.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan and bake in your preheated oven for 22-24 minutes (I recommend baking for 17-18 minutes and checking at that point) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: In the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Then add milk until you achieve your preferred frosting consistency.

Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and decorate the cupcakes.

Frosted cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. They can also be stored in the refrigerator. Any leftover frosting can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Unfrosted cupcakes can also be frozen.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Source: King Arthur Flour

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

One bowl brownies

Addie's classroom was having a party at school one day, and the teacher put out a sign-up sheet. Being the baking snob I am, I did not want to bring anything store-bought and didn't want to sign up for snacks like pretzels or crackers. I decided to bake brownies with orange frosting for the fall, and I had no idea what recipe I wanted to use.

For previous school potluck parties, I made the salted fudge brownies, and those were a huge hit. This time, I wanted to try a different recipe. I knew that I wouldn't have much time to make this dessert since I had skating the night before the party. I found this recipe and it looked very simple, and best of all, the prep time was about 5 minutes (excluding the frosting, which was maybe another 3 minutes). As an added bonus, the brownies are a one-bowl recipe!


I was able to mix and bake the brownies before I left for skating, and the frosting was all ready to go and ready for me after I returned home. That evening, I just sliced the brownies and packed them up so they were ready for the next day. Of course, I kept a few to taste test and share with my husband.

While these brownies didn't taste quite as fudgy and amazing as the salted fudge brownies, they were a good substitute since I did not have a lot of time.  The teachers and kids devoured these, and I had no extra brownies to bring home.

One bowl brownies
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (could substitute with white whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions 
Preheat your oven to 30 degrees F.

Generously grease an 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Fold in the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt and incorporate with as few strokes as possible.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the brownies to cool completely before frosting or serving.

I opted to add an orange colored buttercream on top of mine. In the bowl of my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, I creamed 1 stick (1/2 cup) of room temperature, unsalted butter. Then I added about 1.5-2 cups of powdered sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of milk. To get the orange hue, I added 5 drops of yellow food coloring and 3 drops of red food coloring. Then I garnished with fall-themed sprinkles.

Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan (about 16 brownies)

Source: Barely adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Skating Fridays

Baby Steps

Over the past few weeks, I've shared what I have been focusing on for my axel jump. Coach wants me to learn how to jump outside the circle and celebrate the little wins. I've also seen my axel jump come and go as I start to refine my technique and make it a "prettier" jump. It's all part of the learning process, albeit extremely frustrating.

Coach B's latest endeavor (OK, that's a lie... she's been telling me this since the beginning but now I'm laser focusing on it) is to get me to cross my ankles during the jump. I tend to "stork" the jump so my legs are side by side rather than crossed over each other. Technically, my jump is clean, but the technique is pretty ugly.

Her suggestion was for me to buy an ankle buzzer, which I just ordered this week. I'm hoping that it helps my body learn the correct air position during all my jumps.

I did try to cross my legs more during a practice this week, so here is a quick glance at how it turned out.  For comparison, I'm also including a clip of my axel from about a year ago today so you can see how it's progressed over 12 months.

Though I am making baby steps towards a prettier axel jump, I'll take it.  Coach says that we need to measure skating success in millimeters, not miles, so every incremental improvement is something to be happy about.


Axel from December 2013



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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oatmeal cinnamon chip cookies

My mom's birthday was over Thanksgiving weekend. When I asked her what she wanted to do while we were in town for the holiday, she had one simple answer: bake cookies. I bought her a new stand mixer last year, and while she has used it a lot, she has not made cookies. She wanted to bake a few batches of cookies to gift to neighbors and friends to thank them for all they have done for her and my dad recently.

I brought a lot of my baking gear to my parents' house and a few bags of baking chips. When I told my mom that I brought some cinnamon chips, she was intrigued and wanted to make some cookies with them. I followed the recipe on the back of the bag and made just a few tweaks.

Mom had a wonderful time baking these with me and admitted that the recipe was very easy. She and my dad both had one right out of the oven and had to limit themselves to the one cookie since we were going to be eating a big dinner later that day. My husband and Addie also taste-tested a cookie, and we all thought that they were pretty fantastic.

I had a blast baking with my mom and offered to bake a few more cookie recipes with her, but she said that the 5 dozen we had made together was more than enough. I managed to snap a quick photo with my phone above, so please excuse the bad picture.

Oatmeal cinnamon chip cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 and 2/3 cups (one 10 ounce package) cinnamon chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Place sheets of parchment paper on cookie sheets or line them with a silicone mat (I used my imitation Silpat). Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add it to the bowl until the flour is fully incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add in the oats.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the cinnamon chips by hand. The batter will be very stiff.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop up the dough and drop them onto your prepared cookie sheets.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container and kept at room temperature for over a week. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 36 cookies

Source: Barely adapted from Hershey's.com

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vanilla muffins

The food world can get a little crazy with its flavor combinations sometimes. The names alone can be pretty overwhelming... pumpkin spice chai latte with caramel and cinnamon - what? My brain can't even process titles like that. It's times like these when I can fully appreciate something that goes back to basics, like a plain Jane vanilla muffin.

I'm not going to take credit for these muffins since it was Addie's idea (she had been begging for these for at least 2 weeks). But I am glad she suggested these because it was fantastic to detox from the fall flavors this season.

Although I liked the flavor of the muffins, I found that the mixing technique made for a tough and dense muffin. The original instructions had everything mixed in one bowl, and I found little bits of egg yolks throughout my final muffin. I rewrote the instructions below so they are reflective of "classic" muffin recipes - where dry ingredients and wet ingredients are mixed separately and then combined together in the end. Just remember to not overmix your batter or you will get a hard and dense muffin.

Addie was proud of helping me make these and has been happily eating one every day. Wonder what flavor muffin she will come up with next?

Vanilla muffins
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg, milk, applesauce and vanilla.

Add the egg mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Evenly distribute the batter to your muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this on top of each of the muffins.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. The cinnamon sugar topping will start to melt a bit after a day, so it will no longer be crunchy.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Adapted from Dine & Dish

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Skating Fridays

Training Time


Happy Black Friday! Are you guys planning on braving the malls or shopping centers to get some Black Friday deals? I might head over to the mall but am not one of those people that gets up early to beat the crowds. We usually stroll in around 11am or so.

I digress...

I'm off the ice this week to visit family for the holidays, but don't doubt that I thought about bringing my skates! Things just got real because I finally pulled the trigger and registered for my first competition in 2015. Being the overambitious person I am, I registered for 3 separate events: freestyle, dramatic and a duet.

Since I have less than 2 months before the competition, I need to ramp up my training and run through my freestyle program at least once every freestyle session. I need to get all my music cues down and make sure I am ending the program on time. It's been difficult running my program because the freestyle sessions have been very full lately (we recently had a test session that was so popular that the test coordinator had to book two days worth of ice time).

I have no idea how many skaters will be in my event(s), but my main area of focus for the Freestyle event is to skate a clean program and improve my score from Adult Nationals. My coach is especially curious to see if my presentation scores increase since I've been working hard on that area. The Dramatic and Duet events are mostly for fun, so I'm not too worried about those.

Time to get to training!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Butternut squash pie

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Are you still scrambling for a dessert?  If so, read on because I have a great alternative to the traditional pumpkin pie.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you... butternut squash pie.

Wait.  Don't run away. It's not as scary or weird as you think.

Pumpkin is a squash, right? Well, so is its cousin, butternut squash. Their respective pies are prepared in similar ways, where you roast the squash, puree it, add some spices and then bake it in a crust.

My husband, who is normally not a huge pumpkin fan, gave this pie a B+ rating. He noted that it was similar to a pumpkin pie in texture and wasn't too sweet. I agree - it was a nice alternative to pumpkin pie though still somewhat similar. The taste is just slightly different, and the brown sugar was more prominent in this pie.

Actually, now that I think about it, if you brought this pie to Thanksgiving and called it a pumpkin pie, I'm not sure if many people would know the difference. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Butternut squash pie
  • 1 unbaked and chilled 9-inch pie shell (I used a refrigerated, store-bought crust)
  • 1 large butternut squash, cooked and pureed (about 1 and 1/2 cups pureed squash)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), mix the squash puree and brown sugar on medium speed until well blended.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix until everything has been fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the unbaked pie shell for 45-55 minutes or until the pie is set. You can check the pie after 35 minutes and then cover the crust edges with tin foil so it doesn't burn.

Allow the pie to cool before serving. Serve with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired.

Pie should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" pie (about 8-10 servings)

Source: About.com

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin spice Greek yogurt muffins with pumpkin spiced chips

Ready for another muffin recipe? This one combines some of my favorite ingredients - Greek yogurt and pumpkin spice. Oh, and I threw in some pumpkin spiced baking chips for a little sumthin' sumthin'.

I finally (!) found a bag of pumpkin spiced baking chips in my local grocery store and naturally snatched it up. I had intended to roll some caramel apples in these chips, but that just didn't happen. So I decided to add them to a batch of muffins instead, because who can turn down chips in muffins? Not me.

My pumpkin spice muffins hold up really well and do not get too crumbly, which is always a plus in my book because that means I don't have to spend an extra 5 minutes cleaning the crumbs off the floor (not that my daughter would EVER do that... ahem).

You can make these muffins slightly healthier by using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose (you shouldn't be able to taste the difference) and by decreasing the sugar to 1/2 or 3/4 of a cup. The pumpkin spiced baking chips are already sweet, so you can make the muffins a little less sweet to balance the flavors better. Or, if you want to make these over the top, feel free to add a streusel topping and take these muffins to a whole new level.

Pumpkin spice Greek yogurt muffins with pumpkin spiced chips
  • 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2% Chobani plain)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup pumpkin spiced baking chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside (I used a silicone pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the applesauce, Greek yogurt and eggs. Fold this into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using as few strokes as possible, mix until a few flour streaks remain.

Add in the pumpkin baking chips and fold until no flour streaks remain. The batter will be thick.

Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin wells, filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Inspired and adapted from Julia's Album

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Skating Fridays

Progress, not Perfection


Coach B usually has a ton of advice for me in each of our lessons. Arms here, legs this way, eyes over here, head like this.  I'm usually pretty good at following her directions, but there has been one lesson that has been difficult for me to grasp: progress, not perfection.

For whatever reason, I always seem to choose to participate in activities that require precision. Flute (hellooooo, competitive musicians!), gymnastics (gotta stick that landing), baking (measuring tools are your best friends) and of course skating. I strive to be as accurate and precise as possible, but sometimes things just don't work out that way.

We were having a lesson last week and I goofed something up. My comment was, "Wow.  That was bad."  Coach B told me not to be so hard on myself and that she was proud of the progress that I had made. Sure, things weren't perfect, but I had been making improvements.

Every once in a while, we take a look at at how far I've come. We joke about how ugly my first back sit spins were and how it's become one of my stronger spins. We talk about my early attempts at other skating elements and compare to how much better they are today.

Figure skating, as Coach B says, is a journey. You can't expect perfection overnight. Like a marathon, you have to take one step at a time and work towards your end goal.

So if you are ever feeling frustrated in whatever you are doing, just stop to think about what you have done to make it this far. Celebrate the little wins and the progress you have made and understand that your end goal is a journey. Your hard work and dedication will get you there.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Apple pie cinnamon rolls

Remember how I told you that I went apple picking not too long ago? Well, I decided to make apple pie cinnamon rolls with some of my fruit. My family loves cinnamon rolls, but I don't make them very often. I'll make them if we have overnight guests, and since my husband's parents were in town, I decided to bake up a batch. I wanted to try an apple pie version since I had a lot of apples left over, and I knew that it would make the house smell like fall.

I need to share my mistakes with you. I followed the recipe to a tee, but the apples were way too liquidy. As I attempted to transfer the apples to the rolled out dough, the apple syrup got everywhere. It caused the apples to slip and slide, and I could barely roll up my dough. In fact, a good quarter of the apples fell out of the rolls so I had to scoop them up and top the rolls with them instead. So, if your cooked apples yield a lot of liquid, drain it out (but save it to top the rolls with). The last thing you want is a sloppy mess and apples all over the counter. Believe me, I learned the hard way.

Despite the messy kitchen, these rolls were divine. The apples paired nicely with the sweetness of the cinnamon sugar and the soft and chewy yeasted rolls. I decided not to top mine with glaze or frosting because I knew that my Fuji apples were already going to be sweet and didn't want to make our breakfast too unbearably sweet.  My in-laws enjoyed the rolls, and my husband and Addie did too. I secretly wanted another roll but managed to hold myself back this time. The next time, I might just eat two.

Apple pie cinnamon rolls
For the dough
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk, cooled to warm 
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter 
  • 1 egg, room temperature 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I used Fuji)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
Directions
In a small bowl, add the yeast and 2 teaspoons of the sugar to the water. Allow it to sit and for about 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, mix together the milk, melted butter, egg, remaining sugar, and salt on low speed until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and continue to mix. Slowly add in the flour mixture until a dough forms. If needed, add more flour about 1/4 cup at a time. The dough should be pliable but not too sticky.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 2-3 minutes. Then place it into a large well-oiled bowl. Cover and allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium sized saucepan, melt 4 Tablespoons of the butter and sugar. Add the apples and saute until the apples are soft and slightly caramelized. Add 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and coat well. If the apples are too soggy, drain before the next step. You do not want the apples to be too saucy - you can save the sauce to top the rolls.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously grease a 9"x13" pan and set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in size, take off the cover and punch the dough down with your fists. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a 16"x24" rectangle.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar with the 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon. Mix with a fork and set aside.

Spread the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter onto the dough rectangle. Then sprinkle the top with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture and make sure it is spread out evenly. Top with the cooked apples, being careful not to add any of the liquid.

Roll the dough up, jelly-roll style, starting with the longest end of the rectangle. Pinch the seams down and cut the large roll into 12 even slices (a bench scraper works great here).

Place each roll, cut side up, on your prepared baking pan. If desired, you can top with the reserved apple liquid. At this point, you can cover and store in the refrigerator and bake the next day (allow to thaw for about 20 minutes prior to baking), or you can cover it and allow it to rise another time, for about 1.5-2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Once the rolls have finished rising, place it into your preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until the tops start to turn golden in color. If desired, you can add a glaze or cream cheese icing on top. I chose to keep mine plain since they were already sweet enough.

Yield: About 12 rolls

Source: The Hopeless Housewife

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