Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where the Wild Things are...

This weekend, before the Great Sinus Infection of 2012 hit our house (I think I've gone through a whole box of tissue in the last 2 days...) we hit up our local drive through safari. The last time we were there Brody was too young to really enjoy it and he cried most of the time. This time, he had a ball!

My favorite animal is always the zebra. I just think they are so cute. Isn't this a sweet face?

This was a Scottish something or other. I called it a fluffy cow. Chris said that they were not called fluffy cows. I beg to differ. Look at him!

Brody LOVED the camel. It's hard to tell but it looked like the camel was smiling at him. Brody's little hand was waving a hundred miles an hour out the window to the darn thing. He just loved him!
I am embarrassed, and I probably shouldn't share this but oh well. This is a gigantic wolf. Or maybe he's normal sized, I don't know. He looked huge to me. Brayden looked right out the window at it and started yelling, "Jacob!!! Mommy, it's JACOB!"

And if you don't get that, I'm not explaining it. It's already embarrassing enough for those of you who do understand what I'm talking about.

That poor wolf is looking at us like, "Yeah, like I haven't heard that one before..."
Brayden giving "Jacob" a thumbs us. Apparently we know which team he's on. Traitor.

I think we're going to make a little tradition out of this. The kids absolutely loved it, and it's not a far drive. We can pack or buy a lunch to take with us, and when the weather is nice we can get out and go to the petting area.

Do you have a drive through safari where you live?
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Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring in February





Last week, the weather in Arkansas got confused, which is not an entirely new thing. So one afternoon, when it was 60 something degrees, we decided to take the kids out to a local park. We weren't the only ones with that idea - it was PACKED!

We got a little time on the swings in and then Brayden took off for those bar things you can hang from. I'm sure they have a technical name, I just don't know what it is.

Unfortunately, we all have terrible allergies and our little outing resulted in 3 out of 4 us getting sniffles and sore throats.

I didn't mean to take a little blogging break, I've just been so busy with some other things that I have going on that I didn't realize it had been so many days since my last post!

In other unrelated news, if you've read any really good books lately, will you leave me your recommendations in the comments? I especially love a good series!
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Shortbread-ish Cookies

So, a few weeks ago I was halfway watching Food Network while doing some other stuff, and whoever was on was making shortbread. I think it was Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa). Anyway, I thought to myself, yummmm, that sounds good. A few hours later I was in the kitchen whipping up a non-recipe for shortbread when it hit me.

I don't like shortbread.

Duh.

I stopped the mixer dead in its tracks and thought this thing through. There was no way I was going to throw away what looked like a pretty delicious dough. I concentrated on what I don't like about shortbread and decided to fix it.

And what I wound up with is a chocolate chip cookie that has an almost shortbread like consistency and taste without the dryness that makes up most shortbreads.

And then I made it three more times to make sure I had it right, because, you know, I don't like posting half done recipes.

So this kitchen accident ended in a very delicious dessert that I hope you'll enjoy.

If you want a more traditional cookie, I've posted my VERY favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe here and my BIG, FAT Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe here.


The order of ingredients is pretty important in this recipe - with the egg and brown sugar coming in at the end. And you're reading this correctly - there is NO baking soda or powder in these cookies.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread-ish Cookies

1 and a half sticks of butter, softened
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon water
1.5 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1.25 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter, white sugar, vanilla, salt and water.

Add flour in 2-3 batches.

Add your egg.

Finally, add brown sugar. Mix well. Stir in chips by hand.

Scoop large hunks of rounded dough onto a baking sheet - I use my biggest ice cream scoop.

Bake at 350 for 18 minutes.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

$100 Olive Garden GC Giveaway!

My very favorite restaurant as a kid was Olive Garden. Well, I'm 27 now and not much has changed. It's so cool to have a restaurant that really grows with your family. As a child, I was a super picky eater, and now I have a picky eater of my own. Olive Garden was the very first place where Brayden ate something off the menu-they didn't have to make him something special, and I didn't have to bring anything along with me. And the breadsticks? Well, they are his FAVORITE!
Olive Garden is such a family friendly restaurant. It's one of those places I don't have to worry about whether or not my two munchkins are being angels; there's always background music and the chatter of happy families to hide their squeals. The servers are always so friendly; I don't think I've ever had one negative experience there.

Anytime I'm there I have to order their bruschetta; it is the very best! Seriously, it is so good, it's almost addictive!

I was excited to have the opportunity to try out their new 3 Course Italian Dinner Special last week with my mom and the boys. You get your choice of soup or salad, an entree and dessert-and of course, their fabulous, unlimited breadsticks. There is a great variety on the menu for both the entrees and the desserts and the special goes until March 18th. You can check out the dinner specials here, the whole menu here and the kids menu here!

See that little hand? He was trying to swipe a breadstick before I could get the picture! Just like his mommy and big brother!
For the entree, I went with the Asiago and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni with Grilled Sausage:And my mom picked the Smoked Mozzarella Chicken:
The other entree options are Five Cheese Marinara Penne with Shrimp, Creamy Parmesan Portobello Fettuccine and Spaghetti with Four Cheese Meat Sauce. Don't they all sound good?!
Oh my word was that Tortelloni good! I ate half and took half home for later. They give you SO much food, it easily lasts me for two meals!

Plus, I had to save a little room. Why? THIS is why:
Now, we all know how I feel about chocolate. I'm a chocolate snob. A chocoholic. Whatever you want to call it, chocolate is my thing. This chocolate mousse did NOT disappoint! With it's decadent cookie crust and soft, melt in your mouth chocolate mousse topped with chocolate shavings, it was the perfect ending to a delicious lunch! My mom had the Tiramisu, and she loved it as well! The other dessert options include: Limoncello Mousse, Strawberry Cream Cake and Dark Chocolate Cake.

Is your mouth watering yet? Gosh, mine is just thinking about that meal. I can't wait to go back! Which makes me doubly excited to offer you a chance to win a $100 Olive Garden Gift Card, courtesy of BlogHer and Olive Garden!

To be entered for a chance to win, leave me a comment telling me why you love Olive Garden.

Rules:

No duplicate comments.

This sweepstakes runs from 2/21/12 - 3/18/12.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment (see question above in bold)

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

Also, visit the Olive Garden page on BlogHer.com to check out the other blogger reviews and more chances to win!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Five Star Pasta

I came across a recipe awhile ago that I wanted to try, but also wanted to change. I have a severe issue with just leaving recipes alone. I always want to change things, but I think the changes are for the better!

I call this Five Star Pasta because it tastes like something you could get at a five star restaurant, but it's SO easy to make at home. Just serve it with freshly made garlic bread and a salad, and you're set!

Oh, and tell your kids it's mac and cheese, and they will eat it. Seriously.

Five Star Pasta

Adapted From: Recipe.com

ingredients

8 ounces dried bow tie pasta 



3-4 cloves garlic, minced 



2 tablespoons olive oil 



1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken tenders, cut into thin bite-size strips

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed 



1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper 



1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth 



1/2 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and diced finely



1/2 cup dry white wine 



3/4 - 1 cup whipping cream 



1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

directions

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add chicken, basil, and crushed red pepper. Cook and stir for 4 minutes or until browned. Add chicken broth, dried tomatoes, and white wine. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Stir in whipping cream and the 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; simmer for 2 minutes more.

Stir pasta into chicken mixture. Heat through. Pass additional Parmesan cheese, if desired. Makes 4-main dish servings.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

A replacement for Picnik & other random stuff

First, THANK YOU soooo much for all the feedback (and very sweet notes) on my last post. I truly dislike posting pictures of myself but you all were SO helpful and kind, so THANK YOU!!! I would say the consensus is that number 4 is the favorite. I really appreciate the feedback - it's so hard to tell what looks the best when you see yourself everyday! They just all blend together!

In other news, ever since I learned of Picnik's demise, I've been searching for a replacement. So far, I think my favorite is called iPiccy. Overall, it seems the most similar to Picnik, but there are a few features missing. I can't seem to find a option for collages, so if you see one, let me know!

Yesterday I ventured out of the house for the first time in a few weeks by myself with the kids. Brody has been having a really rough time with his molars coming in. But I decided to brave it and took the kids to ChickFila (was there any question?) to meet my friend Lindsey and her boys, Brayden and Connor. It actually went surprisingly well with four kids 3 and under! Ha! I'm sure a few people there thought we were crazy, but that's just how it goes sometimes!

You know how I like to bake? I concocted a little recipe last night that is halfway between a shortbread cookie and a chocolate chip cookie. I'll be posting it soon! I feel weird having THREE chocolate chip cookie recipes here but it's just who I am!
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Hair Evolution

You may have noticed that my hair has been going through a huge change...from blonde to brown! I thought I'd share a series of pictures documenting my hair evolution! And I should say that this was one of the most uncomfortable posts I've written, because I'm not a fan of pictures of myself!

This summer, I was blonde:
(1)
And then I slowly started darkening...
(2)
By Thanksgiving, I was halfway there:
(3)
And a little darker at Christmas:
(4)
Right after the New Year:
(5)
And today:
(6)
So, tell me, honestly, at what stage do you think my hair looks the best? I am sort of toying with taking it back up to the 4th picture, but I just don't know. What do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know!
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Snow Day!!!

Brayden has been asking for snow for months now - he received some snowball makers and a snow man building kit for Christmas that he has been wanting to use!

This morning when I got him up, I took him to the front door to look out. His little face lit up and he said, "Mommy! It snooooowed!" I had one very happy camper on my hands!

Brody thought everything was fine and well until I put him in his (Brayden's old) snowsuit. Then he wasn't so sure...

And he really wasn't sure once he was out in it. Yikes. There aren't very many pictures of him in the snow because he escaped to the safety of the snow-less driveway.


My boys and I:
Brayden launching a snowball. So.Cute.
Can you tell I took my camera out of auto? These shots aren't edited at all!!!!
A very proud little snowman builder. He would like to thank his Daddy for actually making the snowman.
Chris and I:
We were SO excited for this unexpected, fun little snow day!
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beef Stew

Lately the weather has been perfect for some hearty, winter meals. And what's better than a great stew?

A quick note - you can use beef stew meat, that is prepackaged in the store, but be aware that while "stew meat" used to always be chuck, now it can be any mixture of any type of beef cut. So, you may have pieces that are more fatty, or that are a tougher cut of meat, which is why I highly recommend buying a chuck and cubing it yourself (or having your butcher do it).

Beef Stew
Source: Jenna's Journey Blog - My mom's recipe

Vegetable oil for searing
2 T butter
Salt and Pepper
1lb of beef chuck roast, cubed
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tomato paste
1/3 cup flour
5 cups of cold water
1 T parsley flakes (dried)
1 T dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 can of (drained) kidney beans
2 cans of whole, peeled potatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
4-5 medium carrots, sliced into discs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a large dutch oven over medium - high heat. Add about 2T oil. Coat meat in salt and pepper and then sear. Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a plate. Throw out any remaining oil.

Heat butter in pan, over medium. Saute onions for several minutes until translucent. Add carrots. Saute for about 4 minutes. Add garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add tomato paste, stir well. Add flour. Stir well, and then add your water. Combine. Add in all remaining ingredients (parsley, thyme, beans, tomato sauce, bay leaf), stir until combined. Place lid on pan, bring to a simmer.

Turn stove off and place dutch oven into the oven. Cook for 2 hours or more, until meat is very tender.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Winners!

Just a quick post to announce the winners of The Blue Door Boutique's giveaway!

The three lucky girls who have EACH won a $50 gift card are:

Jill - @jgrevelding on twitter



Girls, just send me an email to EmailJennasJourney AT gmail DOT com with your email address, and I'll forward it on to TBDB! Congratulations!!

Thank you to everyone who entered and of course, to The Blue Door Boutique for such an awesome giveaway!
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Right Now...

You have a few more hours to enter to win one of three $50 gift cards to The Blue Door Boutique! Click here to enter - a winner will be drawn tonight!

I often post what my kids are up to, but not myself. So, this is dedicated to what I'm into right now...

Exercising
I keep a "Get Fit" board on Pinterest, mainly because I get bored EASILY. Especially when it comes to working out, because frankly, I don't want to be doing it in the first place. So, by keeping a bunch of new (and short) exercises on my board, I can keep myself interested in what I need to be doing.

Watching
Well, I've been watching the most exciting season yet The Bachelor. Two words. Train Wreck. I can't stop watching it but it's got to be the worst season ever, and I've seen every single season! Ben just doesn't seem very nice and I read the spoilers of who he supposedly ends up with. I won't ruin it for you but if you've read them to, you can probably guess my feelings on that one...

Glued To
I recently discovered a new favorite site, called Houzz.com. I LOVE it. If you follow me on Pinterest I hope I'm not driving you crazy with all the Dream Home pins lately. Most of them have come from this site. You can sort by the type of room or exterior of the house, then by the genre (traditional, modern etc) and see TONS of pictures of professionally done homes. If you're super into decorating or maybe you're remodeling your house, this is a great resource.

What are you into right now?


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

The day I met a few celebrities...

I am literally giddy as I sit here typing this. Giddy, people.

So, here's a little history. My family moved to Arkansas back in 99' and one of the first families we met at our new church were the Tuckers. They have two sons, Seth and Sheldon, who are both amazing kids. Well, I guess now they are adults. I feel old.

Sheldon has an AMAZING talent for tumbling. He literally floats through the air. It's beautiful to watch. He went to cheer for Hawaii Pacific (from what I understand, they have the best cheer squad in the nation) and then he was offered a role in the musical Bring It On. Amazing, right?! So, how excited was I when we found out that Bring It On was coming to our local theatre (and for you locals, they are here through Sunday, so go buy a ticket!). ECSTATIC, people.

Last night my mom, the Tuckers and I went to watch the show. It was FANTASTIC. Literally, it was the best musical I've seen. And yes, I saw Wicked. Sorry, but to me, this was better. It's funny, it's entertaining and the cheering is so AWESOME. I would go see it again tonight if I could. And when they get picked up for Broadway, guess who is going to fly to NYC to see it? This girl.

Mom, Sheldon and I:

So, the Tuckers know that I absolutely love the tv show So You Think You Can Dance. LOVE it. It's my very favorite show of all time. And my very favorite male dancer from that show is named Neil Haskell. He's amazing! Guess what? He's dancing in Bring It On as well! I was so excited that I was going to get to see both Neil AND Sheldon live. I didn't think I'd actually get to meet Neil - I don't think he usually comes out after the shows...probably because he gets mobbed by teen girls. Or in this case, a 27 year old, married woman. Ahem.

Well, my sweet friend Sheldon got Neil to come out after the show so that I could meet him and get my picture with him. Pretty sure I put those tween's to shame. I immediately started gushing about how Chris and I watched him and voted for him on SYTYCD, then got embarrassed and hardly said another word. Yuuuup.

Neil and I!!!!!!!!!
Of course, now I can think of a hundred witty things that I should have said but didn't because I was star-struck. SYTYCD is kind of like the Super Bowl for me and I was meeting the Eli Manning of dancing. I wait for it ALL YEAR LONG for that show. I vote, and I get so invested in these kids and their careers. Dance is such a passion for me!

So, anyway, I just had to share my little brush with celebrity. And Sheldon, if by some chance you see this, I will NEVER forget this moment! Thank you, my friend!


PS - You have until tomorrow to enter to win one of THREE $50 gift cards to The Blue Door Boutique! Click here to enter!
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Molars Edition

Poor Bro-Bro. Here is a rare, happy shot of him from the last few days. The molars are attacking. Look at those teeth!

You have until Friday to enter my giveaway for The Blue Door Boutique! I'm giving away THREE $50 gift cards! Click here to enter.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Easy Orange Rolls

You can still enter to win one of THREE $50 gift cards to The Blue Door Boutique! Just click here!


Orange Rolls

Adapted from: All Things Delicious

2 tubes refrigerated biscuits - I prefer the layered/flaky Grands

1 stick (1/2 C.) butter

3/4 cup sugar

Zest and juice of 2 oranges

Combine the butter or margarine, sugar, zest, and orange juice in a small saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted, stirring frequently.

Using a fork or tongs, dip each biscuit into the sauce, scooping some of the zest onto the biscuit. Place into a well-greased bundt pan. I made 2 layers of the biscuits to fill up my bundt pan.

Pour remaining sauce over the biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35-40 minutes.

Invert onto a serving dish. Serve warm.

If you have leftovers, nuke them in the microwave for about 15 seconds to warm them up and they will be just as good as they were straight out of the oven.


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Monday, February 6, 2012

$150 Giveaway to The Blue Door Boutique

Raise your hand if you would like a new outfit!

I’m so excited about this giveaway because THREE of you will win a gift card to one of my favorite online shops, The Blue Door Boutique!

I started following The Blue Door Boutique on Facebook a long time ago. They are constantly updating their site and facebook with new outfits and everything they sell is SO cute.

I thought that I would post a few of my favorites that they have for sale right now:

Loving the mustard yellow color of this dress!

And the one shoulder aspect of this one:
I think that TBDB has made me into a dress girl. I've never seen so many that I love!
You know I love a cute scarf!
And a good chevron stripe!
This is just too adorable!
Ruffles on a cute (and warm!) coat:
Flowy and romantic:

The Blue Door Boutique is CONSTANTLY getting new merchandise – just about every time I check there are a ton of new outfits. And most of their items are less than $100. Fashionable clothes at budget friendly prices = score!

I know that most of you who read my blog are busy moms like me, and sometimes that means that we just don’t take the time or spend the money on getting a cute outfit for ourselves. That is why I am so thrilled to be giving away THREE $50 gift cards to The Blue Door Boutique!

How to enter:

Follow The Blue Door Boutique on Facebook (and let them know Jenna’s Journey sent you!) for 1 entry.

Follow my blog (or, if you already do, my Pinterest) and leave me a comment for 1 entry. Be sure to include your name, email and number of entries earned.

Finally, you can tweet or Facebook about this giveaway for 1 entry.

So simple, right?! This giveaway will close on Friday, at which time I’ll draw the winners! Good luck!!




a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Nutella Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

I love baking.

I love sharing the things I create. And this, my friends is one of those perfect little creations, that would be a crime if I didn't share.

I've spent the last few weeks perfecting this one. And I finished it last night, just in time for Valentines Day. If you love your hubby, you have to make him these cupcakes.

Nutella Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

For the cupcakes:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 cups sugar
3/4 cup nutella
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 cups buttermilk
3 eggs

For the buttercream:
1lb confectioners sugar
1/2 cup nutella
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Red food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine eggs and sugar until pale and thick. Add nutella. Combine well. Add in buttermilk and oil, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Divide batter into sprayed, paper lined cupcake trays. Bake about 25 - 30 minutes, or until done. Makes approx 18 cupcakes.

While the cupcakes are cooling, combine butter, cream cheese and nutella in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Once well combined, slowly add in sugar. Finally, add in food coloring until desired color is achieved.


*** A few notes***

I'm generally not an ingredient sifter - I prefer to put the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them. However, it really makes a huge difference in this recipe if you sift the dry ingredients together.

Red food coloring - It took approx 1/2 my bottle of coloring to achieve that mauve color for the icing. Normally I'd probably skip this step but because it was for Valentines Day, I wanted to be festive!

Silicone Baking Sheets - I have silicone cupcake sheets. I ended up throwing them away after this recipe. They just don't cook as evenly, so if you have metal pans, I highly suggest using those!


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Thursday, February 2, 2012

BIG chocolate chip cookies!

So, I've mentioned a few times here that I have a favorite cookie. It's from Levain Bakery in NYC and it's their half a pound, chocolate chip walnut cookie. The only way they could make it better would be to leave the walnuts out. Ha! It's huge and sort of bready in texture. I've been trying to replicate their recipe for YEARS. Seriously, years. And I still haven't gotten their yet but this one is fairly close, and good nonetheless. I hope you enjoy it!

BIG chocolate chip cookies!
Souce: JennaBlogs.com

2 sticks of unsalted, cold, cubed butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1.5 cups of dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 T cornstarch
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, powder, soda, and salt. Slowly add it to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low.

Stir in chocolate chip.

Form large balls of dough - slightly larger than a golf ball. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze them for 15 minutes.

Once they are partially frozen, bake them at 375 degrees for about 17 minutes. I pull them out before they are completely done - I like the centers a little on the raw side. Enjoy!
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