Creamy New York Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust

Cheesecake has always been a “special occasion” dessert in my house. I started thinking to myself… why?? My husband always requests cheesecake as his birthday dessert, and it became a once or twice a year thing. Well, in the last three months I have made this recipe twice, so I see a new trend coming! It’s not overly complicated, and OH SO GOOD.

This New York style cheesecake is creamy and thick topped with the most decadent chocolate ganache drizzle. Can you just taste it now?! Even better news- this recipe is amazing as plain good ‘ol cheesecake. You can top it with a couple fresh strawberries or chopped nuts. The pretzel crumb crust gives a salty balance to the sweet, rich middle. This crust also compliments SO well with the chocolate ganache. You won’t regret it!

INGREDIENTS

Filling

  • 3 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pretzel Crust

  • 1 1/2 cup Pretzels (ground)
  • 1/2 cup Graham Crackers (ground)
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 8 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (melted)
  • Pinch Salt

Ganache

  • 20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 14 oz can of condensed milk

STEPS

Coat an 8inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Blend all dry crust ingredients in a food processor, then stir in with butter until well combined.  Press crust mixture into pan. Bake crust at 350F for 15 minutes.

Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla. I typically use the paddle attachment on medium speed to blend ingredients with the stand mixer. Pour cheesecake batter into baked crust and bake at 325F for 50-55 minutes. Let cool completely at room temp (to prevent cracks in the top from drastic temperature change), refrigerate until serving. The middle of the cheesecake should feel firm.

Optional Chocolate Ganahce (*as pictured): In a double boiler, melt 20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and a 14 ounce can of condensed milk together on medium heat while constantly stirring. Drizzle on top of baked cheesecake. Top with chopped nuts for a little extra crunch!

 

Drooling over here…. Enjoy!
XOXO,
Jo

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Thick Chocolate Fudge Frosting

I bake a lot…. a lot, a lot. I have spent many afternoons playing with different icing recipes to come up with that rich, decadent, thick chocolate fudge frosting, and folks, here it is! This is that frosting that melts as soon as it hits your mouth and is dense enough to create the whips and peaks on top of your cake that won’t wilt and run. It is SO perfect. I have an army of taste-testers to prove it!

What I didn’t want? Runny, granulated, so sweet my teeth hurt, or (the worst) for it to taste like “fake chocolate”. We have all seen frosting efforts gone wrong, so save yourself the heartache, and stick to this recipe.

frosting-vertical-spatula

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-4 tbs milk (whole is best, but not required) 
  • 1 cup softened butter, not melted
  • 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (no big chunks)
  • 6 oz semi sweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder

Total Yield: Makes enough to frost about 24 cupcakes, or fully cover a one layer cake. For multiple layers, I would double the recipe.

STEPS

  1. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat butter and melted chocolate together until combined.
  2. Slowly add in all other ingredients and carefully blend until smooth.
  3. If too thick, you can add a tbs of milk until the desired consistency. Adversely, you can add 1 tbs increments of powdered sugar to thicken.

frosting-horizontal-2

Pro Tips:

  • Do not frost the cake until completely cooled (1-2 hours) or your frosting will pick up the top layer as you spread it around.
  • Make sure not to set your mixer to high after adding the powdered sugar…. You’ll be wearing it.
  • Can be refrigerated, but make sure to set out at room temp and re-blend before trying to ice anything.

Don’t forget to lick the spoon!

Jo

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Easy Carrot Pecan Pound Cake

One of my all time favorite desserts has always been carrot cake. It is one that we have at all holiday gatherings, and is often my first choice when it comes to birthday celebrations. With that said, I have adopted several versions that put a spin on my traditional carrot cake recipe. This easy carrot pecan pound cake is delicious served cold with a tall glass of milk or with coffee as a breakfast treat in the morning. If you’re anything like me, dessert is a requirement with each meal of the day.

You will get a dense, moist cake with hints of cinnamon topped with cream cheese frosting. The texture is perfectly balanced with the chopped nuts and coconut flakes (my favorite!). If you are new to the world of bundt cakes, welcome! It makes for a simple and beautiful result!

carrot-cut

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

  • 2 cups finely shredded carrots
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Icing:

  • 1 (80z) package of cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbs heavy cream (can substitute for milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened not melted

Total Servings: 8-10 people

carrot-carrot  carrot-pecan

carrot-bundt-not-baked   carrot-bundt-baked

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Combine all dry ingredients (flour, spices, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt). Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oil, sour cream, eggs, and carrots. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Slowly add dry mixture to wet, stirring continuously.
  5. Add chopped nuts and shredded coconut.
  6. Grease your bundt pan with non-stick spray, and add batter.
  7. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
  8. Once done, let it set in the pan for 10 minutes. Place a plate larger than the cake pan upside down the cover the cake. Grab the sides of the pan while holding the plate firmly on top, and flip it over, so that the cake is not on the plate.
  9. Let cool for 5-10 more minutes and pour the icing around the center line around the cake. It should be thin enough to run down the sides.
  10. Serve room temp, warm, or refrigerated!

Icing:

  1. Combine cream cheese, vanilla, heavy cream, and softened butter and beat on low-medium setting until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in powdered sugar and continue mixing.
  3. If needed, add more milk to thin, and more powdered sugar to thicken the consistency.

carrot-final  carrot-horizontal-slice

Pro Tips:

  • Cream cheese with mix easier at room temperature.
  • Using regular sour cream (not reduced/ low fat) will make for a moister cake.
  • No time to shred the carrots by hand? Throw them in the food processor like I did for a finely chopped texture (see photo above).

Happy Baking!

Jo

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Spinach, Tomato, Potato, and CHEESE Quiche!

Let’s be real, I should have listed the ingredients in the title in order of personal significance. Cheese would be first. This quiche is hearty AND (mostly) healthy, so what more can you ask for?! I eat quiche for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s that great. Quiche is also a versatile meal. Got ground turkey? Throw it in… Bell peppers about to go bad? Yep, they can come too. Bacon, shredded chicken, more cheese, garlic, broccoli, sweet peppers, hot peppers, cheese again… Get creative! It’s the “everything quiche”.

quiche-slice

INGREDIENTS

  • one pie crust
  • 1- 1/2 cups fresh spinach (1 cup frozen chopped)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 6 baby red potatoes, julienned
  • 7-8 baby heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup shredded colby jack
  • 1/8 cup feta
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbs butter
  • olive oil

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Grease pie dish and flatten the dough
  3. Wash and chop baby red potatoes into small pieces
  4. Finley chop the yellow onion
  5. In a medium skillet, melt butter and pan fry the chopped potatoes and onion together
  6. Cook until tender, or about 12-15 minutes on medium heat
  7. Remove from heat and evenly spread as the first, base layer in the pie crust.
  8. In the same skillet, combine olive oil and chopped spinach (fresh or frozen). Cook on low heat until warmed and wilted.
  9. Toss in crumbled feta to cooked spinach.
  10. Layer on top of potatoes.
  11. In a separate bowl, combine milk, beaten eggs, seasonings, shredded cheese, and parmesan. Stir well.
  12. Pour liquid egg mixture over the potatoes and spinach in the pie dish.
  13. Lay sliced heirloom tomatoes across the top.
  14. Bake at 350F for 50 minutes.

quiche-horizontal-knife

Pro Tips:

  • Feel free to interchange any of the veggies with what you have on hand!
  • Let it sit over night before serving (refrigerated) to enhance the flavors.
  • Want that perfect quiche look without the container? Bake it in a well greased flan pan, and you can pop it out when cooled.

“Quiches”… See what I did there

Jo

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Baked Green Beans and Roasted Tomatoes

As much as I loveeee chocolate chip cookies, veggies have their special place in my heart, too. I make these baked green beans and roasted tomatoes at least once week to get in a hearty dose of nutrients with minimal effort and big flavor! From start to finish under 15 minutes. That’s my kind of dish.

green-beans-baked-2

You know those soggy green beans? The ones that kind of fall apart when you stab them with your fork… Unless they are part of a Thanksgiving green bean casserole, that shouldn’t be happening. I like my greens crisp on the outside with a burst of flavor and juice in every bite. Roasting your veggies (especially with a little lemon juice) elevates their natural flavors and gives that perfect texture. Not to mention it is easier than boiling- which can turn them into little rubbery stalks. I am telling you, this will become a staple side dish in your house once you get a taste!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups fresh (or frozen) green beans
  • 1 cup baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 4-5 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbs lemon juice

Total Servings: 4 individual portions

green-beans

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up
  3. Wash and dry produce, cut heirloom tomatoes into halves or quarters
  4. In a large bowl, toss green beans, halved baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced almonds, minced garlic, and seasonings in oil and lemon juice until evenly coated
  5. Spread over the baking sheet and roast at 400F for 12-15 minutes

green-beans-horizontal   green-beans-baked

Eat Up!

Jo

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Blueberry Lemon Streusel Muffins

Bakery-style blueberry lemon streusel muffins are such a treat! I cannot tell you how popular these are in my house. They are beautiful to look at, and taste just as fantastic! This recipe is my favorite “pretend like you’re at a fancy brunch” pastry when we have guests in town! There is just something about having baked goods in pretty glass dome on the counter that feels so homey to me.

One of my sister’s really loves lemon, so I try to make a special batch just for her! This recipe doubles easily, and they keep at room temperature several days/refrigerated for about a week. Ya-ya-YUMMMM.

batter-12  batter-13

INGREDIENTS

Crumb Topping:

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened not melted
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Muffins:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries *if frozen, see pro tips below 

Optional Glaze:

  • 3 tbs lemon (juice)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Total Servings: (24) standard sized muffins/ (12) jumbo

muffins-vertical-plank  muffin-vertical-single

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven at 350F
  2. Combine softened butter, lemon zest, lemon juice
  3. Add vanilla, sugar, and eggs; stir until combined
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, add buttermilk, and mix until combined
  6. Fold in rinsed frozen or fresh blueberries slowly and GENTLY stir. No hand beaters, or you blueberries will become mush.
  7. Bake at 350F for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your container. I made this batch (as pictured) jumbo, and it took about 20 minutes.
  8. While they are in the oven, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice for your glaze.
  9. Once they are finished and completely cooled, drizzle glaze over the top and marvel at your masterpiece!

Prop Tips:

  • No buttermilk on hand? You can substitute 1/2 cup milk with 1/2 tbs of white distilled vinegar. In a separate small bowl, combine milk and vinegar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before using.
  • Do not over-stir batter. Just until combined to keep the final product fluffy.
  • If using frozen blueberries (I did!), make sure to rinse before combing or the residue for thawing and refreezing from the grocery store to your home will turn your batter blue.
  • Let the muffins cool completely before icing or the glaze will melt into the muffin instead of giving that perfect crisp iced top.

muffin-hortizontal-blueberries  muffin-wrapper-hortizontal

These really are so delicious. I just cannot say enough about them. You will feel like a total professional in the kitchen when these are served. As you can see, I certainly enjoyed mine… can’t you tell!!

Jo

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Quick Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

It’s here! Soup weather is upon us! Homemade tomato basil soup is like a warm hug. This creamy dish is perfect to eat alone or with some of my homemade bread. And let’s talk about basil. Fresh basil smells so divine. After making this soup, my hands smelled like peppery, minty goodness for hours. No complaints here!

I have included the mostly homemade recipe perfect for days when you are pressed for time. I always double it to make sure there are leftovers for a quick lunch!

soup-horiztonal  soup-horizontal-2

INGREDIENTS

  • (1) 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • (1) 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 15-20 Basil leaves, finely chopped

Total Servings: About 8 servings (unless your bowl looks like mine… then 5-6!)

STEPS

  1. Start by combining crushed and diced tomatoes, broth, and garlic. Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes, continue stirring.
  2. Reduce heat and add sugar and butter until completely dissolved.
  3. Slowly pour the heavy cream while stirring.
  4. Toss in the finely chopped basil. (I LOVE this smell)
  5. Let it simmer for a few minutes, and you are ready to serve.

soup-vertical-2  soup-vertical

Pro Tips:

  • You can substitute fresh basil for dried, but the impact will not be as strong.
  • You can slightly brown garlic in a skillet before adding it in. This will enhance its’ flavor.
  • Double the recipe, and freeze it in single portion containers for a quick treat!

In my house growing up, “soup weather” started in October and went through March. In Texas it’s warm/hot/humid/sticky all but two weeks out of the year, but we could certainly pretend to have a real winter! As soon as the pretending would start, the soup pot would come out and this bad boy would make an appearance almost weekly. It is that good!

Jo

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Grain-Free Sweet Potato Dog Treats

Calling all dog people! Let’s talk fur babies. I have adopted this grain-free sweet potato dog treat as our primary puppy snack. I checked out the nutrition label on the Milk Bones we had previously… not so great. Even better, our dogs seem to like them even more! It’s a guilt-free snack that you can feel good about sharing with your favorite furry.

dog-bone-3

We have two rescue pups, Lila and Lady. Lila is a Brindle Labrador mix, and Lady is a Shepherd/ Border Collie mix. *Over-sharing alert!* Lila can eat pretty much anything, and our sweet little Lady has tummy issues all the time… until we pinpointed her grain allergy. Poor thing was feeling sick every time she ate. We switched her diet to protein and veggie based, fancy, dog-boutique food, and within six weeks she was all better! (I know, I know. Insert eye-roll.) Most dog treats are made with grain, so I had to get creative. This recipe was a huge success!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chicken or beef broth (water works too)
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 3 tbl peanut butter (optional) 
  • parchment paper
  • dog bone cookie cutters (can also bake like traditional cookies)
  • mason jar, or storage containers
  • blender or food processor (not mandatory, but certainly easier!)

Total Servings: About 45-50 dog treats (2.5 inch cookie cutter)

dog-1  dog-bone-2

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 250F
  2. Prepare two baking sheets covered with parchment paper, set aside.
  3. Boil sweet potatoes for 12-15 minutes, or until you can easily stick a fork through it.
  4. Drain water and blend boiled sweet potatoes in food processor (with skin).
    • You could also remove skin and mash if doing it by hand.
  5.  In a large bowl, combine mashed/blended sweet potatoes with 1/4 cup broth and peanut butter.
  6. With a stand mixer, or hand beaters whip together. (Old fashioned hand-mixing can get the job done too!)
  7. In a separate bowl, combine almond meal and coconut flour.
  8. Add dry ingredients to mashed sweet potatoes, stir until thoroughly combined.
  9. The dough should be thick, but not crumbly.
  10. Roll out a handful of the dough with a rolling pin or flatten by hand until about 1/4 inch thick.
  11. Cookie cutter time! Use cookie cutter and place on parchment paper.
  12. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
  13. Bake at 250F for about 45-50 minutes. They treats should come out hard.
  14. Let cool for 1-2 hours to completely firm up, then serve to your pampered pooch!

Will keep for 1-2 weeks.

dog-mason  dogsss

Pro-Tips:

  • You can store these in an airtight container, but they will likely get soft. They are certainly still edible, just without the crunchy milk bone texture. You can leave the lid off to keep the crunch.
  • Add some poultry seasoning to give it a little extra kick. I did not, and my dogs still nearly ran me over to get to the “cookie jar”!

lila-aaaa

XOXO from Lila and Lady!

Jo

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Homemade Pico de Gallo Recipe

Fiesta time! This homemade Pico de Gallo recipe is a great addition to many meals. Serve with tacos, grilled meats, scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, or with a big bag of tortilla chips. This time I added avocado and served it with our baked chicken fajitas. Let’s just say I doubled the recipe planning to have some left over, and it is all GONE! This is also a great healthy substitute to sauces that have high sodium and chemicals when your protein or veggies need that extra kick!

pico-done-half-view   pico-whole-tomatoes-and-jalapeno

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 roma tomatoes
  • 1-2 large onions
  • 1 medium jalapeño
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 cups of roughly chopped cilantro

pico-all

Optional Add-Ins:

  • Diced avocado (as pictured)
  • Diced Mango
  • Black beans or pinto beans
  • Whole kernnel corn

Total Servings : Will make 2-3 cups

pico-vertical-tomato-and-jalapeno   pico-jalapeno-cut

STEPS

  1. Wash and dry all produce
  2. Dice tomatoes and onion into small chunks
  3. Slice jalapeños in half and scrape out seeds (I use a spoon to remove them)
  4. Finely dice jalapeños. You want hints of heat… not a fire.
  5. Wash your hands! If you accidentally touch your eyes, it’s game over.
  6. Roughly chop cilantro
  7. Combine all ingredients and squeeze fresh lime
  8. Sprinkle in salt and pepper
  9. Give it a quick stir until combined

*Store extra in an air-tight container in the fridge. Cut onion will absorb around toxins, so make sure you do not leave an open container out for extended periods of time before consuming. Will keep for 2-3 days in fridge. 

pico-done-horiztonal   pico-with-avocado

Pro Tips:

  • Allowing it to sit for an 1-2 hours before serving allows the flavors to blend together.
  • Adjust the amount of onion and jalapeño to fit your taste! You cannot go wrong, so feel free to make tweaks.
  • Play with the add-ins to customize the recipe to meet your needs! Adding black beans, pinto beans, and corn takes this recipe to a whole new level.
  • Double or triple the recipe and free your extras for a quick soup starter!

Gracias!

Jo

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Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Let’s talk chocolate. This recipe for triple chocolate fudge brownies are always the perfect consistency. Crispy top, ooey gooey middle with the occasional crunch of a chocolate chip. SO GOOD.

Fun fact, my now husband (and then friend) wrote in my yearbook “Please keep making brownies…” because I was that girl. I have always loved cooking and baking, so I would bring my treats to school every Friday. (I knew what I was doing… wink, wink) Let’s just say I have had plenty of practice playing with new recipes, and this one is my main player. For me, brownies are about texture, and this recipe gives the perfect blend of chewy, chunky chocolatey goodness. It’s a MUST try!

brownie-vertical  brownie-zoomed-in

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chocolate chips, melted
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (table salt works too)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (could substitute coconut oil) 
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks (I use these)

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. Slowly melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave in a glass container for a minute or so and stir. If not melted, continue in 20 second increments until all chips have melted.
  3. In separate bowls, combine wet and dry ingredients. In one, sift flour, salt, baking soda. In another, mix eggs (slightly beaten), sugar, and oil.
  4. Next, add the water and vanilla to wet ingredients.
  5. Alternately, add the dry mixture and melted chocolate chips to the wet mixture while continuously stirring.
  6. Stir in whole chocolate chips and chocolate chunks. All ingredients should now be combined.
  7. Pour batter into a greased pan. (8×8 or 9×13 depending on desired thickness)
  8. Bake at 325F for 20-30 minutes depending on size of the pan. (Thicker brownies will need to bake longer)
  9. Toothpick should come out almost clean… these are fudgey!
  10. Let cool (15-20 minutes to set and firm) and get the vanilla bean ice cream out. They won’t last long!

brownie-horzotnal-close-up  brownie-horizontal

Pro Tips:

  • What kind of chocolate should I use? Semi-sweet or dark chocolate is my go-to. I would not recommend milk chocolate for brownies. Do not use baking chocolate which has little to no sugar content and does not provide the flavor that we want.
  • Where is the cocoa? I have found that melting semi-sweet chocolate chips in place of cocoa powder makes a richer brownie. Who doesn’t want that??
  • No butter? Oil in baked goods tends to give you a moister finished product than butter.
  • Glass or metal? I typically use glass, but either will work. Make sure they are well-greased! This is my favorite product to ensure nothing sticks. For easy clean up, line the pan with parchment paper.

Let me know how yours turn out! I want to hear all about it!

Jo

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