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Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownie Bars…*
…attention all men: THIS is the way to my heart
 
When I saw this recipe posted on Brown Eyed Baker AND on How Sweet it is, I knew I had to jump on the bandwagon. The pictures alone had me drooling over my computer screen. Once I started the baking process, I knew I was in trouble. These brownie bars resemble a homemade candy bar with the sweet taste of chocolate and peanut butter combined to form an intriguing texture—smooth and silky on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside. As your teeth sink into the triple layer bar, the chocolate shell melts in harmony with the Reese’s peanut butter cups and rich, fudgy brownie bottom. Death by chocolate? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely.
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker, originally by How Sweet it is)
1 batch brownies (boxed mix or homemade)
1/2 cup salted peanuts (if don’t have salted, add sea salt)
1 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
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The Instructions…*
(1) Prepare the brownies according to the directions and bake for about 5 minutes less than the recipe states
(2) Remove from the oven and sprinkle the top with the peanuts and chopped peanut butter cups; Return to the oven and bake for 5 additional minutes
(3) While they are finishing baking, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; Stir in the cereal to evenly coat
(4) Remove the brownies from the oven and evenly pour the chocolate and peanut butter mixture over top; Spread to cover evenly
(5) Refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting and serving; Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator….Yum! :)
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Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies…*
…The. Best. Cookies. Ever. Seriously. 

Although I’ve only lived in Chicago for a few weeks, I’m pretty sure I’ve already made friends that will last a lifetime. Moving from a small, sheltered town into a large, vibrant city has been an incredibly emotional experience for me. The drastic change in lifestyle has pushed me out of my comfort zone more times than I’d like to count. However, it is what has helped me to open up to strangers and grasp onto new friendships. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity I’ve been presented with to start a new adventure in an amazing city with the best of friends surrounding me. To show my gratitude, I wanted to bake something sweet for everyone to enjoy during my housewarming party this weekend. Everyone seemed to enjoy the ‘Reese’s PB Brownie Cupcakes’ I made the other day, so I thought I would incorporate the same flavors into a delicious cookie. Thanks to Brown Eyed Baker, I was able to do just that. However, her recipe only yields 16 cookies and since I could eat an entire batch by myself, I decided to double it. Thank God I did because these Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are heavenly. The dough alone is enough to make you want to scream. It was smooth, silky and incredibly buttery. When the cookies came out of the oven, they didn’t disappoint. They were soft and chocolatey in the middle and crisp and crumbly on the outside. Dip them in a tall glass of milk and you’re in for a treat. If I don’t stop eating them, there won’t be any leftover for the party. Oops! I hope my friends enjoy these as much as I do ;)
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker)
*….Makes about 16 cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
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The Instructions…*
(1)
Preheat oven to 350° F; Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside
(2) Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside
(3) On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes; Add the egg and beat to combine
(4) On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined; Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips
(5) Use a large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons) and drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart
(6) Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden
(7) Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature…ENJOY! :)
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CubCakes…*
…a cupcake entirely devoted to the Chicago Cubs

For my first Cubs game experience, I wanted to make a special treat screaming with team spirit. What better way to celebrate than with a vanilla pudding-filled ‘CubCake’ with red and blue swirled buttercream?! I was so pumped for the game that I even enjoyed a little early morning arts & crafts session making CupCake toppers out of print outs and toothpicks. The team-themed cakes turned out just as I expected: full of flavor and topped with team pride. Not only did my friends love and devour them, the fanatic bystanders were begging for a bite. I will have to come up with another version of the celebratory treat for the duration of the Cubs’ baseball season. Stay tuned!
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Homemade cupcake toppers are so easy! Print out any graphic or Team logo off the internet and secure with a toothpick for a fast and inexpensive treat topper.
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The Ingredients…*
For the Vanilla Cupcakes:
1 box vanilla cake mix
2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix
Eggs, oil & water according to box mix
Milk to mix into pudding 

For the Vanilla Buttercream:  
(Recipe by: Savory Sweet Life)
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened (but not melted! Ideal texture should be like ice cream)
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream  
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The Instructions…*
For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

(1) Preheat oven to 350°F
(2) Mix ingredients according to box; blend in 1 box dry pudding mix until moistened
(3) Divide batter among 24 cupcake liners and bake according to box instructions
(4) While baking, prepare other box of pudding mix according to directions and set aside
(5) Remove cupcakes from oven and allow time to completely cool; then using handle of wooden spoon poke small holes in the center of each cupcake (Do NOT press handle all the way to the bottom of the cupcake, or the filling will leak)
(6) Fill pastry bag (or large Ziploc bag) with prepared vanilla pudding and evenly distribute filling among cupcakes (reference picture for example) 
(7) Set aside; meanwhile, make the Vanilla Buttercream…

For the Vanilla Buttercream:  
(Recipe by: Savory Sweet Life)
(1) Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed
(2) Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter
(3) Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes
(*) If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time
(4) Pipe onto cupcakes as is, or check out my step-by-step tutorial on Two-Toned Frosting’ to make colorful twists 
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Check out my step-by-step tutorial on Two-Toned Frosting’ to make these trendy and colorful frosting twists.
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Two-Toned Frosting Twist…*
…trendy technique to top your treats

What you’ll need….*
(Technique adapted from Grin & Bake it)

Buttercream Frosting
Food Dye
Small Bowls
Plastic Wrap
Piping Bag/Tip
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The Instructions…*
(Technique adapted from Grin & Bake it)

(1) Make a buttercream frosting that is thick enough to pipe with. I used Savory Sweet Life’s ‘Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.’
(2) Separate the icing in half into two bowls and use different colors to dye the frosting
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(3) Take a piece of plastic wrap approximately 8″ – 10″. Place a scoop of frosting in the center, 1″ from the edge; Don’t use too much frosting or it will seep through one end
(4) Fold the plastic wrap in half so that the sides match up
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(5) Starting on the side with the icing, roll it to the other side. Twist one end of the wrap and tie into a knot
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(6) Insert into a piping bag that is ready to go with a coupler and tip
(7)
Repeat steps 2-5 with the second icing color and pipe cupcakes!
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread…*
…the best combination EVER


I have always been a fan of my mother’s homemade banana bread, but I can’t remember the last time I had a slice. Although I was dying to recreate her masterpiece, I wanted to add a few extra ingredients to give it a little kick. When I stumbled upon How Sweet’s‘Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread,’ I knew I had met my match. However, you must know this is NOT your typical banana bread. It is daring, dense, and incredibly delicious. It combines three of my favorite things in a thick, chunky, and unbelievably moist loaf—perfect for breakfast and dessert. This quick bread combines the sweetness of bananas and the saltiness of peanut butter with a truckload of chocolate in every bite. It resembles more of a rich, chocolatey cake…but to be honest, I’d take a slice of this delicious bread over cake any day….and that’s saying a lot! :)
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe courtesy of How Sweet it is)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour [or all-purpose flour]
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips
Raw turbinado sugar for garnish
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The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F and spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray
(2) Combine flour, baking powder, cocoa, peanut flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and set aside
(3) Cream butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer; add sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes
(4) Add egg and vanilla, mixing until combined; Add bananas and mix
(5) Add dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just combine; Stir in milk, adding more one tablespoon at a time if batter is not wet enough
(6) Finally, fold in chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared pan
(7) Cover the top with course sugar for garnish and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean; Enjoy! :)
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Margarita Popsicles…*
…frozen cocktails at your fingertips

Ahhh, the sunshine is finally out and the temperatures are rising. It’s almost summertime, the season dedicated to beaches, barbeques, bonfires, and of course, ice cold (adult) beverages. It’s time for bike rides and baseball games, outdoor parties and social gatherings. Whatever the occasion, popsicles are always appropriateespecially if they give your guests (21+ of course) a little buzz. I scored this tangy and totally cool recipe from the Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse. With a few ingredients and minimal effort, you can make these delightfully refreshing popsicles in a matter of minutes. Just a quick tip: If you're planning to roll the edges in salt, just be sure to do it right before serving, for the salt will melt the popsicles. I used sugar instead because it is a popsicle afterall! Enjoy :)
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse)
(Makes 4 popsicles)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
Kosher salt, for garnish (or sugar!)

Special Equipment:
4 small cups (recommended: Dixie)
4 popsicle sticks
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The Instructions…*
 (1) Combine sugar, lime juice, water, lemon juice and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat; Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves
(2) Remove from heat and allow to cool
(3) Once cool transfer to a blender with tequila, orange liqueur, and lime wedge and process until smooth
(4) Pour into the cups and cover the top of each cup with foil; Place the popsicle stick in center of cup (down through foil, which will hold it in place)
(5) Freeze until hard, preferably overnight
(6) Remove from freezer and run cup under warm water to loosen popsicle; Garnish with kosher salt (or sugar) and serve J
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Brownie Chunk Chocolate Chip Cookies…*
…the perfect marriage between a cookie & a brownie 

Who ever thought of adding warm brownie chunks to an already delicious chocolate chip cookie? Picky Palate—that’s who! Her ‘Brownie Chunk Chocolate Chip Cookies’ were the perfect solution to my longing for homemade cookies. As soon as I saw her recipe this morning (at 8:15am), I was on it. I rushed into the kitchen and started baking. My roommate looked at me like I was crazy, but by 10am, we were devouring these brownie-infused cookies like there was no tomorrow. They are the perfect mix between a chewy chocolate chip cookie and a warm, fudgy brownie. Pure decadence. I would recommend allowing the brownies plenty of time to cool before adding them to the mix…otherwise you’ll end up with a messy, chocolatey batter, with very few brownie ‘chunks.’ I guess that’s what I get for being impatient :/ Nevertheless, these cookies were beyond amazing and I will definitely be making them again.
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The Ingredients…*
(Recipe courtesy of Picky Palate)

*….Makes 3 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups cubed prepared brownies (I used Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge)
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The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment or Silpat liner
(2) Place butter and sugars into the bowl of a stand or electric mixer, beating until light and fluffy
(3) Add eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined
(4) Place flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, mixing to combine; Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips and brownie chunks until just combined
(5) Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart; Bake for 9 to 11 minutes until cooked through
(6) Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack…then eat your heart out ;)
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I licked the plate clean…like an animal.
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Banana Pupcakes…*
…a very apPEELing treat for all

Dog-friendly cupcakes? I know my pup, Linus, is happy about this one.  He’s been a little troublemaker ever since we moved to Chicago but even so, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He once roamed a large household and ran wild in the grass, and now is trapped in a small apartment with little to no outdoor space to explore. He deserved something for his tolerance—something a little more gourmet than the mini MilkBones in his treat jar. Rachel Ray’s site is packed with pet-friendly goodies that are not only satisfying for those four-legged friends, but also for their two-legged owners. These mini cupcakes are easy to make and full of flavor. The bananas add a very sweet and incredibly moist element to the cakes, making for an irresistible treat. Yummmmy! With that, make sure to always check with your vet about which foods are appropriate for you to share with your pups. Enjoy! :)
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The Ingredients…*
Recipe by Tracy Saelinger
2-1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups mashed very ripe banana (2 or 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
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The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat the oven to 350° F; line 18 standard-size (or 36 mini) muffin cups with baking liners
(2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
(3) In a separate bowl, mix the banana, yogurt and vanilla extract with a fork until combined (the mixture will be slightly lumpy)
(4) Using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar and butter at high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes; Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions
(5) On low speed, beat in half the dry ingredients, then all of the banana mixture; Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined; do not over-mix!
(6) Spoon the batter into the liners, about three-quarters full and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes (or 12-14 minutes for mini cupcakes)
(7) Let cool completely on a wire rack and then dust with confectioners' sugar, using a dog-bone stencil. Enjoy :) 
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Strawberry Lemonade Bars…*
…oh-so-berry delicious

Oh Chicago, you’re such a tease. The hot and sunny 80° weather last week made me crave summer even more. Now, of course, it’s 40° and windy. However, this did not stop me from dreaming of fruity, summertime treats, and cool, refreshing beverages.  My favorite, of course, is a cold, tall glass of lemonade (or a raspberry mojito… just saying.) When I saw Handle the Heat’s’ post for Raspberry Lemonade Bars, I knew I had to jump on the bandwagon and bake along. I chose to substitute strawberries because they’re in season and much less expensive. The bars turned out to be very flavorful for the strawberries are sweet and juicy, and the lemons tangy and sour.  Both flavors are perfectly balanced and complement the crisp, crumbly crust quite wonderfully. This summertime dessert is candied, tart, and completely refreshing. They are a bit sticky and should be refrigerated to maintain freshness. Nevertheless, these scrumptious little bars are for the books. They are oh-so-berry-delicious! Enjoy :)
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The Ingredients…*
Adapted from Handle the Heat, Originally posted by Sophistimom  
For the Crust:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch salt

For the Filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 whole egg
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
2/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1-2 cups of (fresh or frozen) strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
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The Instructions…*
For the Crust:
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F; Line a 8×8″ square baking pan with a strip of parchment paper that covers the bottom and overlaps on either side (this is so after it cools, you can pull out the entire pan of lime bars and cut them neatly)
(2) Cream butter, sugar, and salt with an electric mixer; Mix in flour until just incorporated; Flour hands and press dough into 8×8″ square baking pan, so that it comes up about a 1/2 inch around the sides
(3) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until slightly golden brown; while it cools, prepare the filling
For the Filling:
(4) Whisk sugar, egg whites, egg, lemon juice and zest, flour, and salt in a large bowl
(5) Slice strawberries and place into a sieve and press through to extract all the pulp and juices; discard any remaining juice
(6) Whisk into lemon mixture and pour into crust
(7) Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is completely set.
(8) Let cool completely then place in the fridge to chill. Once chilled, using the overlapping edges of parchment paper, gently lift the dessert from the pan; Cut into 16 squares and dust with confectioner’s sugar
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Reese’s PB Brownie Cupcakes…*
…totally sinful and worth every calorie

You don’t have to tell me. I already know. I’m completely and utterly obsessed with brownies. I find it fascinating that a simple box of brownies can be transformed into the most elaborate dessert with the addition of one or two ingredients. I am always drawn to the combination of peanut butter and chocolate—especially when it sits atop a warm batch of gooey brownies. It’s comforting to me. Maybe that explains why this recipe brought me so much joy in a time when I was feeling scared, uncomfortable, and slightly saddened by my new surroundings. It’s always difficult to make the transition into a new city, a new job, a new apartment, a new lifestyle. I always seem to find my way out of the chaos and confusion through baking. It is, and always will be, my distraction from the real world, my stress-reliever, my therapy. With that, thank God for the ‘spare’ bag of Reese’s PB Eggs leftover from Easter in my refrigerator. It was the inspiration for these adorable PB brownie cupcakes. They are like giant chocolatey, Reese’s-stuffed brownies, topped with a fluffy peanut butter frosting.The pictures don’t do them justice, for the brownies are a good two inches thick. Totally sinful and worth every calorie.
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The Ingredients…*
For the cupcakes:

1 box Brownie Mix
Oil, eggs, and water according to box
Package of Mini Reese’s PB Cups (I used Reese’s PB Eggs)

For the PB Buttercream:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6-8 Tbsp. milk
Pinch of salt
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The Instructions…*
For the cupcakes:
(1) Preheat oven to 350°F
(2) Mix brownies according to package directions; pour into prepared muffin tins (I bought flower-shaped silicone cups from World Market, similar to this pan)
(3) Bake according to directions, about 16-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean
(4) Allow to completely cool before removing brownies from cups
(5) Meanwhile, make the PB Buttercream…

For the PB Buttercream:
(1) In a medium bowl, fitted with an electric beater, cream together butter and peanut butter at medium-high speed until smooth.
(2) Add the confectioners' sugar and salt to the bowl and beat at low speed just until the sugar is moistened; scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the mixture until fully combined
(3) Finally, mix in the vanilla and milk, beating until fully incorporated; Scrape down the sides of the bowl again then beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy
(4) Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and garnish with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I used a mini flower-shaped cookie cutter to form mine into cute toppers)…Enjoy!! :)
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little shortcake...*