Tag Archives: The Pioneer Woman

Salad Week Tribute: Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing from The Pioneer Woman

In honor of Salad Week, I’m re-running my review of “Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing” from The Pioneer Woman website. It’s my favorite, and when paired with a crisp salad and grilled halloumi cheese, it is simply divine. Enjoy!

Aunt Trish's salad dressing over a green salad & grilled halloumi cheese - YUM!

It’s not often that I make my own salad dressing, as evidenced by the row of salad dressing bottles on the top shelf of my fridge. Just last week, The Complete Package found a bottle of French that expired in 2008. Oopsie. And there is ALWAYS a jar of Marzetti’s Ultimate Blue Cheese Dressing in our fridge. Always. Someone whose name I shall not mention would lose his ever-loving mind if he didn’t have his favorite creamy blue cheese dressing to put on his wedge salads or fried potatoes (hint: not Ziggy). But this past week, I was craving something new. Something light. Something lemony. And The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing looked perfect. It’s light, it’s lemony, and it also has garlic and parmesan cheese. Duh, winning!

Here’s the cast of characters:
3/4 cup of olive oil or canola oil
the juice of 2 lemons
1 clove of garlic, peeled (leave it whole)
4 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. sugar
a dash of paprika
salt & pepper to taste

It couldn’t be easier. You put everything in a jar, shake it up, and let it stew in the fridge for 24 hours, then shake it again before using. I made a tossed green salad of romaine, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, cucumber, quartered Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced purple onion, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers and feta cheese. Then we shook up our jar of Aunt Trish’s and poured it over the top. To say that we both loved this salad dressing would be an understatement. It was so good, we were tempted to put our faces into our bowls and lick them clean. Or grab a straw and suck up all the remnants. But instead, we used some toasted garlic bread to sop it all up. No drop was wasted. We enjoyed it so whole heartedly that we could have put our salad bowls back into the cupboard without washing them first. We didn’t, of course, but we probably could have.

Besides being knocked out by how great this was on a salad, my mind was racing through all the other things I could use it on. It would be a great marinade for grilled meats. It would be fantastic drizzled over a sandwich in place of boring old mayonnaise or mustard. This would knock your socks off as a dressing for a pasta salad. You could cube up salami, mozzarella cheese, olives and Italian peppers and make a fabulous antipasto tray for parties. Don’t get me started on using it on a cold seafood salad. This is not a salad dressing, it’s an obsession.

As always, I’m going to refer you to the source so you can see the recipe the way Ree intended – with fabulous photos and an engaging back story. Click here to be transported to salad dressing heaven at The Pioneer Woman.

Also posted for Salad Week today:
Lauren’s Parmesan Salad Cups at Climbing Grier Mountain. Click the link to see how she crafted melted parmesan cheese into crispy edible salad bowls. No more licking your salad bowl clean. This time, you can actually eat the bowl!

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

Book Recommendation: Plate to Pixel

Plate to Pixel by Helen Dujardin, Wiley Publishing

If you read The Pioneer Woman’s website, you’ll know that she recently posted another “visit to the ranch” giveaway weekend. This one features a late July weekend of macaron baking and food photography tutorials. Did I enter the contest? You betcha. Why? Because I just bought the food photography book published by her special guest, Helene Dujardin. If you’re a food blog junkie, you’ll know her work from her lovely Tartlette blog. I love Helene’s blog for her gorgeous food photography. Yes, her recipes are also stellar. She is a trained pastry chef, after all. But her luscious photographs are like no other. They’re food art. And since I have a new Canon EOS Rebel T2i (my first “big girl” camera) and absolutely no photography experience, I was thrilled to discover that Helene had published a digital food photography and styling guide. I immediately went to Amazon and ordered it, and couldn’t wait to dig in.

What I love most about Helene’s book is that it’s laid out in a start-to-finish manner, beginning with food photography basics and ending with an “after the capture” chapter on photo transfer, editing, storage and copyright tips.

In between, she shares tips for lighting, food staging/styling and composition. Helene shares her knowledge in a straight forward, easy to understand manner. And while I may never have a career as a professional food photographer, I am certain her guide will help me become a better overall photographer.

On that note, I would like to share some news. I was recently contacted by a graphic design company about the use of a photograph that appeared in my blog. It was a photo I took for my carnitas recipe. After exchanging a few e-mails, I agreed to allow them to use the photograph for a marketing campaign if the client chose to include my photo. Well, weeks later, the client did indeed select my photo for inclusion in their campaign, and I received a small check for the limited royalty-free use of my photo. That’s right. In the loosest possible use of the term, I am officially a professional photographer. It may be the world’s shortest lived career, but I was excited none the less. For now, I’m framing the final letter, the check and the photo for posterity’s sake. Even if this turns out to be a one hit wonder, I can at least look at it, smile and remember when.

Note: I’d like to thank Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker blog for introducing me to Plate to Pixel through a recent post. Proof positive, in my opinion, that you can always learn more by reading other bloggers. Thanks, Michelle!

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Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Technical Stuff

Quite Possibly the Easiest Summer Berry Dessert You Will Ever Make


This is one of those “accidental” recipe finds, discovered while browsing comments on The Pioneer Woman’s website. PW posted a photo blog of fabulous strawberry recipe photos (many of which made me weep with joy), but it was the first comment posted that really grabbed my attention. Sydney B posted a link to a strawberry clafouti recipe. A strawberry what?!? Clafouti. That’s klah-FOO-tee. Say it with me. “Klah-FOO-tee.” I like it! It sounds like a party in a Pyrex. Reminds me of KC & the Sunshine Band. It’s got me singing, “Shake shake shake…. shake shake shake… shake clafouti. Shake clafouti.” Let’s see if that’s not stuck in your head the rest of the day, right? But what IS a clafouti, really? I needed to know.

“Clafouti, is a baked French dessert of black cherries (or other fruit) arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. The clafouti is dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm.”

There. Now we know. So back to Sydney B’s link. It took me to www.shutterbean.com, where I discovered the easiest berry dessert I’ve ever made. And since I love berries and I love custards, this has the potential to become my go-to throw-down company’s coming dessert-in-a-hurry recipe. Thank you, Tracy the Shutterbean!

Here’s how easy this recipe is. For the record, it calls for strawberries, but I threw in some raspberries, too. Basically, you butter a glass baking dish. Toss your fruit with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and arrange them in the bottom of the dish. Combine the other ingredients in a blender and whiz for 15 seconds. (I didn’t want to dig out my blender, so I used a mixing bowl and a whisk – old school style). Pour the mixture over the fruit and bake it until the center is set and the top is lightly browned. Remove it from the oven, sprinkle it with powdered sugar, and serve it warm. Done. Can you believe it? Seriously… from start to finish, it took 10 minutes to pop this into the oven. To see Tracy’s step-by-step photos and recipe, click here. You won’t be sorry.

If you love summer berries and creamy custards, you should try this. I will give you a few tips. Use really ripe, sweet strawberries. If your strawberries are really large, cut them into bite-size pieces. If you add raspberries like I did, increase the sugar to 1/2 cup or it will be really tart. Other than that, this recipe is simple, easy to make, and bursting with the fabulous flavors of summer berries and vanilla. And that’s all I need. Well, that and the Strawberry Kiss Cake posted by Brooks the Cakewalker from the Pioneer Woman’s photo post mentioned above. Have mercy! If you make that one, I am SO coming over!

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Recipe Review: The Pioneer Woman’s Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

I’ve never eaten a lemon pancake. I know, it’s not a dark confession, but it is a confession none the less. I love all things lemon, but somehow lemon pancakes have eluded me. Until this week, when I saw the most gorgeous photos of lemon blueberry pancakes on The Pioneer Woman’s website. Have mercy.

Luckily, I had 2 lemons in my fruit bowl who were screaming, “C’mon! Go get the blueberries already! We’re dying to jump in some pancakes here!” Taunted by fruit – that’s my life. Since I can’t stand to disappoint anyone, much less a couple of mouthy lemons, I went to buy blueberries. Big, fat, juicy Texas blueberries. Thank God I did, because these pancakes did not disappoint.

Here’s what I loved about this recipe:
1. the batter was fragrant, light and bubbly
2. it took only minutes to whip up
3. except for blueberries, I had everything I needed in my pantry
4. the texture of the warm pancakes was soft & fluffy perfection

Here’s what I would do differently:
a. I would use two lemons instead of one, to boost the lemon flavor
b. I would use sweeter blueberries; mine were a little tart
c. if I had company, I would definitely double the recipe
d. if I didn’t have company, I would definitely eat every single one myself

If you love lemon more than you love blueberries, consider using 2 lemons (juice & zest) to kick up the lemon flavor. If you love blueberries more than you love lemon, make the recipe exactly as it’s written. Personally, I’m all for more lemon in just about every single situation. Except around a paper cut.

As is my custom, I’m not going to re-publish a Pioneer Woman recipe on my blog. It’s much more practical to provide you with the link so you can see Ree’s Lemon-Blueberry Pancakes for yourself, along with the gorgeous photos she provides in her step-by-step instructions. If you don’t fall in love, then you are definitely not a pancake person. Maybe a muffin man, but not a pancake person. PS – Do you know the Muffin Man? The Muffin Man. The Muffin Man?

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Playing With Your Food, Recipe #3: My Big Sister’s Rainbow Tie-Dyed Cupcakes

Big Sis's Rainbow Cupcakes. I just drooled on myself.

Big Sis made these gorgeous Rainbow Cupcakes for our Hoegarden Weekend back in March. They were so awesome, I asked if she would share her recipe on my blog. Of course, she agreed. She’s a cake lover. A lover of cake. And it shows. The inspiration for these came from Andrea’s Can You Stay For Dinner blog. Substituting her own favorite white cake batter and frosting recipe, Big Sis created the perfect Rainbow Cupcake. And this week, during her visit to Casa NanaBread, she agreed to share them with you because you’re special and because we love cake. Did I say that already? I’m distracted by that photo. It’s hard to stay focused looking at that gorgeous cupcake. Here’s how she did it.

Big Sis’s “Sam Houston White Cake” batter (makes 18 cupcakes):
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
6 Wilton gel food colorings in vibrant colors, not pastel
(we used red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple)
One package of paper cupcake liners
One recipe for awesome cake frosting (link below)
One jar of colorful sprinkles for garnish

Using a mixer, beat the butter until it is soft and creamy. Add the sugar gradually and beat until it’s nice and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, blend the flour and baking powder until well combined. You can sift it if you like, but it’s not necessary. In another bowl combine the milk, water and almond extract. Starting with the flour mixture, incorporate the dry and wet ingredients alternately into the butter/sugar mixture until it’s all combined, ending with the last of the dry ingredients. Line your cupcake pans with 18 paper liners and preheat your oven to 350F.

To color your cake mix, divide the cake batter evenly into 6 bowls. Big Sis likes to wear those disposable rubber gloves for this to keep the food coloring from staining her hands. An apron’s not a bad idea, either. Using a popsicle stick or plastic spoon because the food coloring gel really will stain EVERYTHING, add 1/8 teaspoon of coloring gel to each bowl. Beat to thoroughly combine each color so you don’t get streaks in your batter. You don’t want streaks in your batter. If the color looks too dull, add a little more food coloring.

Using a spoon, add approximately one tablespoon of purple batter to each cupcake liner. If you have leftover batter, divide it and distribute it until all the batter is used. Using a clean spoon, add the blue batter to each cupcake liner, then green, then yellow, then orange, then red. You don’t need to be dainty here, but you do want to keep your batter in blobs for the best results.

Once all colors have been distributed, it’s time to swirl your batter. Grab a toothpick, bamboo skewer or chopstick and insert it into the batter. Form a figure 8 swirl through the batter to create the tie-dyed effect.

Bake one pan at a time for 15-18 minutes (depending on your oven), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Keep an eye on them. You don’t want to overbake these. Promptly remove from the oven and allow them to cool on wire racks until completely cool, at least 3-4 hours.

For the frosting, Big Sis used the “That’s the Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had” recipe by MissyDew off the Tasty Kitchen portion of The Pioneer Woman‘s website. Let me tell you, folks. They’re not kidding. This really is tremendous frosting. Click on the link to see the recipe. Generously frost each cupcake. Big Sis used a pastry bag with a nice star tip so she could pile it high. Immediately cover it with colored sprinkles so the sprinkles will stick. If you wait, the frosting will dry slightly and the sprinkles will roll off. And nothing could be more tragic than a cupcake without sprinkles. I exaggerate. But it really does make them prettier.

And that’s it, my friends. Grab a glass of cold milk and dig in. You won’t regret it. Your hips might. Your thighs might. Your jiggly upper arms might. But ignore them. You only live once. And a life without cupcakes is a life without joy.

Thanks for sharing your recipe, Big Sis. I enjoyed watching you work. The world is a groovier place with your tie-dyed rainbow cupcakes in it. Like totally.

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Filed under Food & Recipes, Hoegarden Weekends

Recipe Review: The Pioneer Woman’s “Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing”

Aunt Trish's salad dressing over a green salad & grilled haloumi cheese - YUM!

It’s not often that I make my own salad dressing, as evidenced by the row of salad dressing bottles on the top shelf of my fridge. Just last week, The Complete Package found a bottle of French that expired in 2008. Oopsie. And there is ALWAYS a jar of Marzetti’s Ultimate Blue Cheese Dressing in our fridge. Always. Someone whose name I shall not mention would lose his ever-loving mind if he didn’t have his favorite creamy blue cheese dressing to put on his wedge salads or fried potatoes (hint: not Ziggy). But this past week, I was craving something new. Something light. Something lemony. And The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing looked perfect. It’s light, it’s lemony, and it also has garlic and parmesan cheese. Duh, winning!

Here’s the cast of characters:
3/4 cup of olive oil or canola oil
the juice of 2 lemons
1 clove of garlic, peeled (leave it whole)
4 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. sugar
a dash of paprika
salt & pepper to taste

It couldn’t be easier. You put everything in a jar, shake it up, and let it stew in the fridge for 24 hours, then shake it again before using. I made a tossed green salad of romaine, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, cucumber, quartered Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced purple onion, kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers and feta cheese. Then we shook up our jar of Aunt Trish’s and poured it over the top. To say that we both loved this salad dressing would be an understatement. It was so good, we were tempted to put our faces into our bowls and lick them clean. Or grab a straw and suck up all the remnants. But instead, we used some toasted garlic bread to sop it all up. No drop was wasted. We enjoyed it so whole heartedly that we could have put our salad bowls back into the cupboard without washing them first. We didn’t, of course, but we probably could have.

Besides being knocked out by how great this was on a salad, my mind was racing through all the other things I could use it on. It would be a great marinade for grilled meats. It would be fantastic drizzled over a sandwich in place of boring old mayonnaise or mustard. This would knock your socks off as a dressing for a pasta salad. You could cube up salami, mozzarella cheese, olives and Italian peppers and make a fabulous antipasto tray for parties. Don’t get me started on using it on a cold seafood salad. This is not a salad dressing, it’s an obsession.

As always, I’m going to refer you to the source so you can see the recipe the way Ree intended – with fabulous photos and an engaging back story. Click here to be transported to salad dressing heaven at The Pioneer Woman.com.

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Pioneer Woman Photo Contest: Sisters

A photo I submitted has made it to the finals in the latest Pioneer Woman Photo Contest. I’m stunned, but thrilled to pieces. The photo assignment theme was “Sisters” and I submitted this photo of Sister #1 and I, taken on our grandmother’s porch in the summer of 1963. We were sharing a bowl of berries with cream. I’ve always loved this photo. I love the colors, the clothes, the sweetness of us sharing a special sisterly moment. But I also love the concentration on #1’s face, and the fact that she’s sharing, but keeping that bowl close. If only we’d known there were three more sisters to come. We might have eaten faster.

The end of the summer berries - Sister #1 and NanaBread

If you’d like to see the other finalists, all of which are fabulous, you can go to:
http://thepioneerwoman.com/photography/2011/03/sister-photo-finalists/

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Recipe Review: The Pioneer Woman’s Beef with Snow Peas

Mmmmm….beef with snow peas. Where’s smell-a-vision when you need it? I can still smell the heavenly aroma wafting through my kitchen. How do I describe this dish and do it justice? I can’t, but I’ll try. How about tender, thin-sliced flank steak marinated in soy, sherry, brown sugar and ginger seared over high heat with snow peas and scallions, creating its own sweet and spicy, gooey soy and ginger sauce? Or even better – let’s call it heaven on a plate. If you love Chinese food like I love Chinese food, you MUST add this recipe to your collection immediately. And if you love ginger like I love ginger, you may just want to run to your kitchen and make this dish right now. It’s that good. Pinkie swear.

Here’s what I did right:
1. I read the recipe in advance so I was prepared
2. I bought a beautiful piece of flank steak
3. I picked out a superb hand of fresh ginger
4. I made a perfect batch of toasted Texmati basmati rice (such good stuff)
5. I added a little garlic with the ginger, and a little water to make more sauce

Here’s what I did wrong:
Nothing. I followed the directions (except for #5 above). I was a good girl, for the most part, which was not easy for me. I love to mess with recipes!

Be warned: this dish has a very strong flavor of fresh ginger. If you’re adverse, or you like it in small doses, cut the ginger back to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon and add a clove or two of garlic to compensate. It’s also a pretty dry final dish, since the marinade carmelizes on the beef. I like my Chinese dishes with sauce so I can spoon it over my rice, so I added about 1/4 cup of water at the end and stirred it to thicken into a lovely sauce. It was perfect. Another word of caution: please don’t overcook the meat. It’s sliced thin and cooks within seconds, so please, please if you love me, don’t cook this too long and ruin your beautiful flank steak. Remember: quick stir-fry = tender, wonderful beef.

As is my custom, I’m not going to print the recipe here. I could never do justice to the original recipe, the funny stories, or the gorgeous step-by-step photographs of Ree Drummond over at The Pioneer Woman. She is the queen, and why listen to the jester when you can get it straight from the queen? So, is your mouth watering yet? Are you ready to jump in and try this? Good. Then click on the link and be transported to heaven. Go on…you know you want to.
http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/10/beef-with-snow-peas/

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Coconut “Tunnel Of Fudge” Bundt Cake

Chocolate fudge cake batter wrapped in a coconut cake batter hug. Have mercy.

I did it again. I can’t seem to help myself. Like the lead character in the movie Julie & Julia, I seem determined to cook my way through The Pioneer Woman website. This time it’s cake. Easy, delicious bundt cake. And because I rarely follow directions or color within the lines, I had to put my own spin on it. Click here to see Ree’s original recipe for Pistachio Cake. If you’re a pistachio fan, I’m sure you’ll love her version. And while I do enjoy a good watergate salad every 20 years or so, my love of all things pistachio rates a solid “not so much.” Instead, I decided to swap the pistachio for coconut. Here’s how I did it:

NanaBread’s Coconut “Tunnel of Fudge” Bundt Cake
• 1 box white cake mix
• 1 package (4 ozs.) vanilla instant pudding mix
• ½ cup cream of coconut
• ¾ cup sweetened coconut flakes
• 1 tsp. almond extract
• ½ cup water
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 4 whole eggs
• ¾ cup Smuckers Special Recipe Dark Chocolate ice cream topping

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Mix all ingredients except the dark chocolate ice cream topping and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes on medium-high. Pour ¾ of the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Add the chocolate topping to the remaining batter in the bowl (I microwaved it for 45 seconds to loosen it up first) and mix well. Pour the chocolate batter over the coconut batter. Bake for one hour at 350F, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate or cake stand. You can frost or glaze it if you like, but I’m a plain bundt cake kind of girl. I like the portability of an unfrosted slice. Another great thing about unfrosted bundt cake – it freezes well. Just wrap leftover slices in Glad Wrap (it’s the best) and put the wrapped slices into a freezer container with a tight-fitting lid. Any time you NEED a piece of cake (and we all do from time to time), unwrap a slice and microwave it for 30 seconds or so. Presto. Cake. Anytime. And it’s perfectly portable. Just don’t carry it with you to the bathroom scales.

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Sweet, Spooky Treats for Halloween!

Mummy Pretzels and Edible Eyeballs - So sweet, it's scary!

I seem to be on a mission to celebrate Halloween this year using every version of chocolate known to man. Don’t ask me why. I really can’t explain it. I just know that I’ve somehow been bitten hard by the Halloween bug, and I’m having a great time with it. This week, I decided to try my hand at bloodshot eyeballs and pretzel mummies for the grandkids – Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug. All it took was two bags of pretzels (rounds & rods), one pound of white melting chocolate, one bag of dark chocolate M&Ms, and two small tubes of Wilton decorating gel (red & black). I can’t take creative credit for either of these ideas. They came from two different blogs I follow. The bloodshot eyeballs came from a recipe posted on the Tasty Kitchen page of The Pioneer Woman website. I substituted dark chocolate M&M candies for the iris of the eyes and used the Wilton decorating gel for bloodshot streaks and pupils. This was a really fun project. It was submitted by “soufflebombay” as Edible Eyeballs. Here’s the link to the original recipe so you can see how she did it: http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/recipes/desserts/edible-eyeballs/ and here’s a picture of how mine turned out. Some are bloodshot and some aren’t, but they’re all delicious!

I spy with my edible eye...something yummy!

The second round was the pretzel mummies. These were super easy and turned out really cute. This idea came from Alice and her Savory Sweet Life blog at http://savorysweetlife.com/ Her faces came out much cuter than mine, but I like the horizontal stripes I added to look like mummy wrappings. This is another really creative but easy treat to make. And I love how they look when you stand them all up in a container. They’re almost too cute to eat. Nahh!

Mummy, may I please have another pretzel?

This whole chocolate Halloween obsession started a few weeks ago with brownie spiders. I had friends over for dinner and made these for dessert. They were fun to make, and were delectibly delicious! Best of all, they were super easy and made with my favorite boxed brownie – the Ghirardelli dark chocolate mix.

No tricks, just treats...best spider you'll ever eat!

Mmmmm…best spider I’ve ever eaten. Okay, it’s the only spider I’ve ever eaten, but who’s counting? They’re also a fun hands-on art/food project if you have children or grandkids. I posted a complete “how-to” on the brownie spiders earlier. You can find them in my Food & Recipes tab.

There’s something about salty pretzels covered in chocolate that draws me in. I’m such a sucker for that combination. And the brownie spiders with ice cream and toppings satisfy a chocolate craving like nothing else. I’m wondering now what I might tackle next. Chocolate drizzled sea salt caramel apples? Oooo…maybe! A vampire themed raspberry & chocolate Godiva martini? Hmm…could be. Right now I’m just hoping I have the strength not to eat all of these treats before we see the kids. That would be bad. Very, very bad. Right?

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