Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites

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There are two things I love about this recipe:

1) It can sort of be made all in one pot so there are fewer dishes for all my fellow chocolate-craving, backache-ridden mommas-to-be.
2) If you get tired halfway through and decide to quit, you still have delicious homemade salted caramel to snack on. I won’t lie, I will probably make just the caramel part of this recipe at some point and eat all of it. It’s that good.

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I was originally working from a Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, but I decided to change all of the ratios of dry-to-wet ingredients (because we all know that’s a smart thing to do when baking) and I ended up making some awesome cake bites instead. I was careful to keep track of the exact measurements, but I will be testing these again in the near future to be sure that I didn’t just get lucky with some magical baking chemistry the first time around!

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I will be the first to admit that there are times when you crave the fudgy, richness of a brownie. I recently posted some caramel brownies that will do just the trick, but these aren’t going to satisfy that craving. These are for the times when you want something a bit lighter. These cake bites aren’t too rich or sweet, so they are an awesome option when you’re looking for a less decadent, less heavy dessert. The only downside to this is that, if you’re anything like me, you and your household (… or mostly just you) will destroy an entire pan in a matter of days.🙂

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Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites
(makes one 8×8 pan– i.e. probably more than a single human should eat in two days, whoops)

Ingredients

for the caramel:
4 tablespoons salted butter [I used good, European-style butter for this to give the caramel the creamiest flavor possible]
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt [I used a local, vanilla-infused sea salt]

for the cake batter:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick salted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour [warning: I used White Lily AP flour, which can sometimes behave differently than other AP flours]

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Begin by making the caramel. This process is surprisingly simple, but it can get dangerous so be careful! Caramel is notorious for giving people serious burns. As long as you are conscientious of this and stay mindful of the splattering, you will be fine.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium-high heat. The butter and sugar will likely stay somewhat separated, but you want to get them as mixed as possible while the sugar is melting. Once the sugar is largely integrated and simmering, watch for color changes. You are looking for a golden color if you prefer a mild butter flavor, and a light brown color for a richer, nuttier flavor.

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This process may take a few minutes. Just be sure not to let the butter get too dark. I like mine a bit burnt, but you don’t want it getting too brown in color, and when you begin to smell a nuttiness, you know you need to remove it from heat because it can quickly turn too burnt and become bitter. There is a sweet spot to butter-browning, and it can take some practice to know when that point comes. You’re better off leaving it a bit underdone rather than burning it. I mean- it’s butter and sugar, it’s going to taste great either way.

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While you’re waiting for the sugar to melt and the butter to darken, prepare a plate for the caramel. Cover it in parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

When the sugar is well integrated and the butter has changed colors, take the mixture off of the heat and add in the salt and milk. When you add in the milk, be careful. The mixture will sputter a bit, but quickly begin to look like a beautiful, traditional caramel! Stir everything together with a rubber spatula and return to medium heat.

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Let the mixture simmer for several minutes. Stir your caramel until the last bits of sugar are melted. [Note: if you are planning to eat the caramel straight and forego the cake part, I would recommend leaving some whole sugar because it will give a beautiful, crunchy texture to your finished caramel.] Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper covered plate and place it in the freezer.

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If your freezer is kept very cold, like mine (0°F), it will not take much time for the caramel to cool, and you can begin making the batter. If you have a warmer temp freezer, you may want to wait twenty minutes or so before starting up on the batter.

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To make the batter- cover an 8×8 pan in parchment paper and butter! Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Set up a double boiler. I reused the caramel pot and filled a much larger pot with boiling water. Over the double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter- yes more butter! It helps to cut the butter and chocolate up beforehand. Stir with your rubber spatula until the mixture has melted completely.

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Take it off of the heat and add in the sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

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Before you add in the eggs, you may want to crack them in a separate bowl and prepare yourself to quickly stir! The mixture won’t be boiling hot, but I’m always nervous about curdling eggs, so I try to add them in quickly. Finally, mix in the flour.

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Pour the batter into the prepared dish.

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Take the salted caramel from the freezer and chop it into bits. Mine was like a soft caramel and I could NOT resist snacking on some of it, I highly recommend doing so! Again- if you get tired and don’t feel like making the cake batter, these homemade soft caramels alone are good enough to satisfy a sweet tooth!

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At this point you can really do whatever you want- toss the pieces on top of the batter, mix them into the batter, do a little of both! It’s completely up to you. Next time I make these cake bites, I will probably mix the caramel in to make for prettier pictures, but it will be delicious either way. The caramel will melt in the oven and sink into the cake, so do be aware of that if you decide to put them all on top.

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Bake the cake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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Homemade Mashed Potatoes + Vegetarian Brown Gravy

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People regularly assume that vegetarians need and want extra special meals to make up for the fact that they are missing meat. Often, I will be served absurd quantities of side dishes- oh you don’t want the chicken, here you must need twenty rolls instead. Sometimes, it comes in the form of some strikingly complex alternative- no pork chop for you, here’s a braised mushroom-leak-asparagus stew with fifty million herbs in it to make it taste good. There are even occasions when the appropriate substitute seems to be an entire farm’s worth of produce on a plate, the indemnifying salad, and while I am no fan of flesh, I am also not a ruminant. There are times when I, just like everyone else, crave and flock to traditional comfort foods.

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When I say traditional comfort foods, I mean traditional in the purest sense of the word. One beautiful example of this is mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Brown gravy… what is it even? It’s clearly just named after its appearance. Usually it does contain the broth or fat from some meat product- typically turkey or beef. It is the absolute perfect accompaniment to a pile of mashed potatoes. You prepare the mashed potatoes, southern-style, with cream and butter. The gravy should provide a pop of flavor, a salty component that completes the side dish. Most vegetarian alternatives have chunks of mushroom, thyme, parsley, and lord knows what else in there. Those options never provided me with the simplicity I was looking for. So, we made our own!

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I have to say, the first bite I took of these mashed potatoes with this gravy really transported me back to the days when I ate brown gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. They are so perfectly simple and gratifying, there is no need to spruce them up or make them fancy. As an added bonus, they are also incredibly easy to make.

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We love to have these as a side on our “southern nights” with peas, collards, chicken, and white sauce. I will admit, in the past we have made packaged mashed potatoes. Now, obviously those are not really mashed potatoes, or even actual food for that matter. But we always thought that it would be too difficult and time-consuming to make homemade mashed potatoes once a week. Wrong. These are so easy to make! They take about half an hour and although we use an immersion blender to mash them, you really can just as easily use a fork!

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For any vegetarians or health conscious omnivores, I hope this alternative provides you with the same satisfaction it did for me! It is simple in both its traditional flavor and cooking process!

Mashed Potatoes + Vegetarian Brown Gravy

serves 4

Ingredients

for the mashed potatoes
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 russet potatoes (about 1 3/4 lbs)
1/3 cup milk (we use 2%)
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
salt and pepper to taste (we use 1/4 tsp each)

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for the gravy
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 AP flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper

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I’d recommend starting with your gravy, as it can be easily reheated and you will want your mashed potatoes fresh.

Start by making your vegetable broth if you are using bouillon. You’ll want to have that already prepped. We use 1 tablespoon of better than bouillon per cup of water.

Next, make a roux. In a large skillet or shallow pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour to create a thick roux.

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Add the broth very slowly while whisking. You want the roux to continue to thicken but to get darker in color, almost like a miso paste.

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Finally, whisk in the milk, soy sauce, and pepper! Let the gravy continue to cook over low heat. It will thicken while you make the mashed potatoes!

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Begin by washing and scrubbing the potatoes. We like the peel to be included so we leave them intact, but if you hate it- peel them!

Chop the potatoes into cubes, this will help them cook faster.

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Combine two quarts of water with 1/4 cup kosher salt in a heavy pot over high heat. Add in the chopped potatoes. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, it should take around 5 minutes for them to cook. They are ready to be drained when a fork slides easily through them.

Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl.

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Add the milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash with a fork or immersion blender until desired consistency is reached!

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If you are using an immersion blender, do be careful, or you’ll end up with potato soup!

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Top the mashed potatoes with brown gravy and enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

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It has been a very long time since I lasted posted, and (unsurprisingly) a lot has happened. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October!! It is a very exciting time for us, and the first trimester was a roller coaster of nausea for me. Our cooking has been minimal the past few months, as I have been living off of my cravings for subways sandwiches and mashed potatoes!

I have also been craving  citrus fruits way more often than I ever did before! Perhaps I need the calcium? Either way, we found a way to make citrus fruits unhealthy and sugary and delicious- put them in sweet rolls! These are essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruity filling instead of the more traditional nut and spice filling.

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Typically these kinds of sweet rolls are made with oranges, but we made them with tangelos (the zest and juice). I preferred the tangelo flavor because it is tangier. Also, the rind is much brighter in color, which makes for great photos when you add in the zest!

You can serve these for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack! It does make a large batch, and they don’t stay moist for too long- so I recommend making these when you’ve got lots of hungry mouths to feed!

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The recipe was inspired by an orange roll post from Lemon-Sugar, who uses traditional citrus and no zest! It was super easy to make, even in our small kitchen with no mixer. It is rather time consuming, but these tasty treats make the wait worth it!

Enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

(makes roughly two dozen rolls)

Ingredients

for the dough
2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
5 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs


for the filling
1 tablespoon tangelo zest (from about 1 tangelo)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature [especially if you don’t have a mixer, it’s best to take this out as early as possible so that it can completely soften]
1 cup sugar

for the icing
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

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First, make your dough. Preheat the oven to 200° F and after it has preheated, turn it off. Combine the warm water with the yeast to proof your yeast- you may even wish to add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to feed off of. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes. I usually proof yeast in the oven, but it was very reactive and I just left it on the counter this time around!

While the yeast is proofing, melt the butter in the microwave. I did probably one minute on 50% power, just enough to get it melted, but no more. Whisk the honey into the butter.

In a large bowl, measure out four cups of AP flour. Combine with the salt. Fold in the proofed yeast.

When the honey-butter mixture has cooled down a bit, whisk in the eggs. Then, add this to the larger flour mixture.

Fold it all together with a rubber spatula. In different environments dough will form in a unique way. My recommendation is to keep folding until it all comes together in one big heap. If you can stick your finger to it and pull away dough (meaning, it’s super sticky), add a bit more flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time, and do not go over 6 cups! We needed about 5 1/2 for ours, thus we added 1 1/2 cups to the original dough. Work it as little as possible in between additions. You do not want your dough to get tough and you don’t need it to lose all stickiness. It should be pretty sticky, but it should at least all stay together even when you put a finger on it.

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Butter the bowl well and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it somewhere warm- either your oven or maybe even a microwave! Let it rise for 1 hour.

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While the dough is rising you can make the filling, which takes like two minutes. With the remaining 58 minutes you could watch your favorite show or go to the gym to make up the the insane number of calories you will be consuming from these rolls. William and I chose the former.🙂

To make the filling, start by washing and zesting a tangelo. We got one tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of juice from a single tangelo. Juice the tangelo and strain the juice into a bowl. Combine 1/4 of the juice with all of the zest in a bowl. Add in the sugar and room temperature butter. Blend them together until a paste is formed.

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When the dough has finished rising, and is about doubled, prepare a large work surface by covering it in parchment paper and sprinkling it with flour. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl. This gets all of the added air out and allows for the rolls to cook more evenly. Spread the dough carefully into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.

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Take your filling and drop spoonfuls across the entire sheet of dough. You will then need to spread the filling with your hands. Your dough should be sticky and the filling is a bit granular from the sugar, so the process will take some time and patience. Spread the filling generously across the entire rectangle of dough.

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Next comes William’s favorite part! Rolling the dough. This is not an easy task, but it’s fun- don’t let yourself get frustrated with any mess you make, it will all be tasty and beautiful in the end! You need to roll the rectangle into a very long cylinder. Try to keep it as tight as possible, gently pressing down and squeezing the dough when necessary. If you need to stretch out the dough to help this process, you can, as long as you don’t poke too many holes in it!

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When all is said and done, hopefully you have a giant cylinder of dough snaking its way across your countertop!

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Butter several pans. [We really like using round glass or ceramic pans for rolls, it seems like they cook better in these and the heat more effectively reaches the center of the pan, fully baking all of the dough.] Using your sharpest knife, cut 2-inch slices and carefully place them in the pan. It helped having two people in the kitchen for this. When you move them, you do have to be pretty careful to keep them together and not let any filling fall out.

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When all of the rolls are cut and in their pans, let them rise for another half hour.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F. When you bake the rolls, be sure to bake them all on one rack, to insure even cooking. We did 20 minutes on the top rack, and 5 minutes on the bottom rack. During the last five minutes we also needed to cover them with tin foil so that the tops would not be too browned.

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I will say, the baking is always a little stressful for me. We do not have the best oven, and it doesn’t seem to heat things very thoroughly. This can be especially problematic with breads, and sometimes the center goes uncooked. This technique of moving our pans around worked very well for us and they were all perfectly cooked!

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While the rolls are baking, you can make the icing. It’s super easy! In a medium sized bow, whisk together another 1/4 cup of juice, and another tablespoon of zest, along with a bit of orange extract. We did need to zest one more tangelo for this, but if you have a really good plane grater, you might not find it necessary! Combine this with the powdered sugar and cream. You may need to add additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the consistency that you like.

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I prefer fairly thick icing, as it photographs better and coats the rolls a bit better.

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When the rolls come out they are ready to be glazed and served! [Do not skimp on the glaze, yes, you have enough to cover them!!]

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Enjoy!

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

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The term fudge in the title here is key. These are chewy brownies, not cakey brownies.

I don’t have any problems with boxed brownie mixes, I usually enjoy them. We didn’t have any boxed brownie mix around the house, but we did have the ingredients for these! To be completely honest, it didn’t take too much longer than boxed brownies, but the texture and flavor is much better!

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This makes one 9×9 pan, and for us that’s about 9 brownies (of course, many people cut them smaller, but we like big serving sizes🙂 ).

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup sugar
11 tablespoons salted butter [yes, really. this is not a typo.]
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup caramels (we used Werther’s soft caramels)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Parchment paper

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First, melt the butter in the microwave for a minute or two. You want to get it fairly hot (we usually do 1:30- 2 minutes). Combine the sugar with the melted butter and stir. The sugar won’t dissolve completely, but it also shouldn’t separate out.

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In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

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Add the sugar-butter mixture to the flour mixture. Combine with the eggs and vanilla to create your batter base.

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If you are using larger caramels (like we did) chop them up. We also used a bittersweet chocolate bar and chopped that into chunks.

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Stir the caramel and chocolate chunks into the batter.

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Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Cut out a small, square piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the 9 x 9 pan.

Pour the batter into the pan. If necessary, you can use a rubber spatula to spread the batter out, allowing it to cook more evenly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean!

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If you can resist, let them cool for a good 30 minutes and then enjoy! The caramel especially needs to cool before you really want to eat it!

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Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche + more to top [if you want to keep it vegan, skip the crème fraîche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of crème fraîche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional crème fraîche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Mini Breakfast Casseroles

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The process of creating a miniature breakfast casserole was simple. We love breakfast, breakfast foods are delicious and easy to cook. We love miniature versions of things, they’re cute, this is just a fact. When these two ideas are joined together they yield a wonderful, flavor-packed, and easy-to-make breakfast delight.

An additionally exciting note is that with breakfast casseroles, you can truly tailor them to your own taste preferences. It’s honestly really hard to go wrong with flavor combinations when it comes to these. The final thing to keep in mind is, to have fun while making them because these little breakfast dishes aren’t just adorable, they’re delicious too!

 

Mini Breakfast Casseroles
(makes 4)

Ingredients
Two, thawed hash-brown patties (we love to use Trader Joe’s brand frozen patties)
2 tablespoons yellow cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons white cheddar cheese
8 strips Morningstar veggie bacon (this could be substituted with real bacon if desired)
4 eggs
splash of milk (we used around 2 tablespoons)
1 Serrano pepper
4 tomatoes
1/3 cippolini onion
salt and pepper to taste

To start, preheat your oven to 350° F.

We made these using four small to medium sized ramekins. Grease the bottom and sides of your ramekins with either butter or some type of cooking spray. Then, cut your hash-brown patties in half and squish them into the bottom of your ramekin. Dust them with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place these in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, we want these to start getting crispy so they add a nice textural note to your little egg nests.

While the hash-browns are baking, this is a perfect time to start prepping your filling. Dice the tomatoes, the pepper, and the onion. You can either grate your cheese or just chop it into small cubes. Whisk your eggs together with the milk and set them aside in a bowl.

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Once your hash-brown filled ramekins have been taken out of the oven, you can start the assembly. First, place two strips of bacon in the shape of a cross on top of your ramekin and then push them in so that they are both touching the inside of the ramekin and the top of your hash-brown.

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All ramekins with bacon

Second, distribute your filling (tomatoes, pepper, and onion) evenly among your four ramekins.

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Third, pour your whisked eggs into each of the ramekins making sure to fill them evenly (that way they all cook at the same speed).

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Finally, top with your grated cheese!

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Place the ramekins back into the oven for another 20-22 minutes or until the egg is fully cooked. Take them out and enjoy!

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Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ

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I highly recommend trying this BBQ recipe, even if you are normally a meat-eater. Using jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork is nothing new in Asian cuisines, but we are bringing it down to the Deep South! We pair a braised jackfruit BBQ with traditional Alabama white sauce, and it is absolutely delicious!

This is a vegetarian spin on an old and classic BBQ sandwich. You can even make it vegan by leaving off the white sauce (or making vegan white sauce)!

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Jackfruit is a stringy, Asian fruit that can be eaten sweetened or in a brine. It can be bought fresh at supermarkets during certain times of the year- however it is difficult to find and doesn’t quite match the texture of BBQ, when cooked from the fresh fruit.

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That being said, you should try to look for canned jackfruit. Be very careful when you are looking for this product canned. Be sure that you find jackfruit in brine, NOT in syrup. You cannot use the syrup jackfruit for this recipe, so it’s a waste of your money (and personally, I think the syrupy jackfruit tastes awful). If you insist on finding it in a store- check an Asian supermarket. When my mom prepared this BBQ in Alabama, she was able to find it with ease at Birmingham’s Asian supermarket. Here in California, though we have multiple Asian markets, none of them carry canned jackfruit. All of that is simply to say: my recommendation is actually to just buy canned jackfruit from Amazon. You can be sure you are getting the right kind, it is reliable in terms of delivery dates, and you don’t have to drive anywhere!

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William and I had planned on making this months before we ever got around to it because we had the hardest time finding the right jackfruit. However, all of our efforts ended up being worth it because it is so yummy! It is also super easy!

Enjoy!

Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

Ingredients
1/2 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 large, yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 20 ounce cans jackfruit in brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup traditional, red BBQ sauce (make sure this is vegetarian friendly!)
salt and pepper to taste

traditional buns and any fixin’s including Alabama white BBQ sauce (a recipe for this unique and amazing vinegar-based sauce can be found here)

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First, clean and mince the peppers. Make sure you clear out all those seeds, and I’d recommend rubbing your fingers with a bit of olive oil beforehand to prevent that burning from occurring afterwards.

Chop the onion finely- you can dice it if you like, it can be in pieces a bit bigger than the peppers!

Mince the garlic.

Combine the peppers, onion, and garlic in a large, shallow pan with the olive oil. Let these cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

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Next, tackle this jackfruit! You will need to rinse it in water to clean off the brine. Then, carefully cut out any pieces of the core that you can see. It is the whitest, most solid, and almost spongy part of the fruit. This part of the jackfruit isn’t bad to the taste, but it will mess with the texture of your BBQ, and we don’t want that! Once you have your jackfruit cleaned and de-cored, you can set it aside.

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Turn back to your pot and turn the heat up just a bit to get a simmer. Stir your onion mixture. Add in the cumin, paprika, and liquid smoke.

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If you are using a pre-made vegetable broth, add it into your pot. We use a bouillon base and added that with water. Stir everything together and turn up the heat to a good simmer.

Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding in the jackfruit and BBQ sauce.

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After adding in the BBQ sauce and jackfruit, let the mixture cook on lower heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can season with salt and pepper. Do a taste test after 15 minutes and if it’s tender enough for you- you’re ready to build your sandwich! Let your own BBQ preferences be your guide to how long you should keep this on the stove!

Build a traditional sandwich using buttered, sesame seed buns, pickles, and Alabama white sauce!

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Make a mess and enjoy!

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Homemade Cheese Ravioli

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I have never been a huge fan of spaghetti. Your standard noodles + pasta was never quite satisfying to me. My favorite Italian dishes growing up were always the cheesy ones- stuffed pastas like cannelloni and manicotti and ravioli, and the delicious layers of lasagna. As a vegetarian, they still felt warm and comforting.

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In our tiny, California kitchen we do not have room to make homemade pasta- it is fun, and I recommend experiencing it at some point. However, this recipe is not difficult and not super time consuming. The method we apply here utilizes wonton wrappers, in lieu of homemade pasta. When you boil wonton wrappers they behave in a very similar manner, and taste very similar to pasta. This gives you the flexibility of creating any filling you like, and using your own sauce, without having to deal with homemade pasta dough.

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The one warning I do have- it makes 26 ravioli and it does not freeze well. I was really hoping that it would freeze, but using this method to quickly make stuffed pasta creates a very thin and fragile raviolo. You might try to freeze them individually, but when we froze multiple ravioli at a time, and then tried to cook them, they stuck together and did not cook evenly.

Enjoy!

Homemade Cheese Ravioli

(serves 6-7)

Ingredients
for the filling
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated or shaved)
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/4 cup chopped, fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons minced, fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste (we went with 3/4 teaspoon of each)
1 egg

for the wrappers
1 package wonton wrappers (pack of 52)
1 egg

olive oil, pepper, and garlic salt to cook in
tomato sauce, shaved parmesan, and fresh basil to top

(We used our homemade sauce for this and it worked out very well.)

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First, make your filling. Combine the cheeses, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and egg in a large bowl.

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Set up a work station. Lay parchment paper down, with your bowl of filling, wonton wrappers, a fork, and a brush. Whisk a second egg in a small bowl, this will be used to help create a good seal on your wrappers.

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Lay the wrappers down six at a time. Two rows of three. You will be making three ravioli at a time, using two wonton wrappers per raviolo.
Brush the edges of each wonton wrapper with a bit of egg.

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Take a heaping teaspoon of filling and place it in the center of three of your wrappers.

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Place the empty wrappers on top of the cheese wrappers one at a time. Press down on the edges carefully to begin the process of creating a seal. As you do this, be careful to keep the squares aligned.

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Finally, take your fork and crimp the edges of each raviolo. Place the finished ravioli in a waiting area – they are ready to cook!

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Complete this process with the remaining filling and wrappers.

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Feel free to be generous with the filling (there will be more than enough), but you do not want to put too much in there to the point that it gets in the way of your seal.

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Pretty ravioli are the goal- no ricotta spilling out over the edges! This sounds silly, but in actuality, it will be a big problem when you try to boil them.

After you have assembled all of your ravioli, put a pot of water on to boil. Sprinkle in some olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. This will add a good bit of flavor to the wonton wrapper while also helping them to not stick together!

Let the water boil fully. You can cook as many ravioli as your are comfortable with at a time, I usually stick to 5 in our small quart-sized pot!

When the ravioli float to the top, they are ready to come out (3-4 minutes)! Stack them on a plate and top with anything you desire! We usually go for sauce, basil, and parmesan. However, you can even bake them or sauté them if you prefer an oil-based or creamier sauce!

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Enjoy!

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4-Ingredient, Vegetarian Sausage Balls

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Growing up, my family ate a ton of breakfast foods. One of the things we commonly ate on special occasions were sausage balls. These are tiny bites of absolute heaven. Cheesy goodness and spicy sausage held together with a little breadiness from a Bisquik box. Little did I know at the time- those were basically the only ingredients in the entire snack!

Now that I no longer eat actual sausage, I still like to revisit recipes like this from my childhood. Recently, I began experimenting with the creation of a vegetarian sausage ball. I was looking for a super easy way to make these nostalgic treats for an only slightly healthier diet.

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about these is that they can be frozen! They can be frozen for long amounts of time and then, for long amounts of time, you have a stash of delicious sausage balls that you can reheat at any moment for a quick, but still tasty breakfast! Every time we make ours we make them a little bit bigger. If you make them about the size of a golf ball, you don’t get as many servings out of it, but you can truly have a single one for a solid breakfast on-the-go. It’s a great option for busy families who still like to do some meal prep and have food that feels more homemade!

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This is such an incredibly easy recipe- it only calls for 4 ingredients (one of which is water, I mean, does that even count?)!

4-Ingredient Soy Sausage Balls
(makes about 27, medium-sized balls)

Ingredients
1 lb soy sausage (I always use Morningstar’s regular brand, and simply use 12 patties)
3 1/2 cups Bisquik
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I highly recommend shredding cheese off of a block for this, it makes the moisture content more accurate so you will not need to add as much water as you will if you use pre-shredded cheese)
1/4 cup water

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First, microwave all of the soy sausage patties on a plate for 4 minutes. You want them to be soft and easy to tear apart, but not to the point of being fully crisped or cooked. Chop the patties into a crumble. You can chop them as finely as you like. It really depends on your preference.

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Combine the cheese and Bisquik in a large bowl. Stir together carefully. I like to use my hands because it can be a messy process and I prefer to have complete control over it!

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Add in the sausage crumbles. Mix together entirely. It helps to have a very large bowl here, and to use your hands as you stir.

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Finally add in the water. It will not seem like enough water at first, but keep working the “dough” until it finally comes together. You should not need to add more than a 1/4 cup of water if you use freshly grated cheese. If you are using packaged, shredded cheese, it will be drier than the fresh kind. As a result, you will want to add additional water. I recommend doing this by the tablespoon until your dough comes together. You want to avoid adding too much water. The dough will be fairly dry, but still cohesive enough to keep shape.

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Cover a baking tray in parchment paper. Form the balls, trying to keep them as regularly shaped as you can. It’s up to you how large or small you make them. We have never done larger than roughly 1/4 cup sized. Arrange them on a baking tray. Rest the baking tray in your freezer for 15-20 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 minutes! They do stick to parchment paper and aluminum foil, so you will just need to let them cool and then peel them off carefully!

Any balls that you would like to freeze, you can plop them all in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer! When you are ready to eat them later, simply follow the baking instructions listed here!

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Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

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Several weeks ago, back in Alabama, I found myself sitting across from my sister at a restaurant dinner table as she savoured every piping hot bite of what looked like a delicious French onion soup. It, of course, contained beef broth, so I was stuck just staring rudely. With each of my sister’s sips, I knew I was destined to make my own, vegetarian version this winter. I did. And it was amazing.

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French onion soup is one of those perfect winter dishes that makes you feel cozy and comforted, and, with the added bread-cheese gratinée, you just can’t go wrong.

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I decided, as usual, to include some choice ingredients. Seeing as I was back in Alabama, thinking about onions, I just had to purchase some Vidalias. This strain of onion comes from a very particular area in Georgia and you basically can’t get them here in California. So about a week ago, unknowingly, Southwest Airlines checked and transported what was probably the first bag full of specially procured onions. [Yes, they arrived safely!]

I love Vidalias, they are SO perfect for an onion soup (especially a vegetarian version). I was able to find petite Vidalias, with the greens still on, so we used those in the topping as well. Of course, for onion soup enthusiasts without access to the South’s produce, a standard, sweet yellow onion will suffice. I did end up supplementing with a few cippolini onions, which I believe are more easily procured from anywhere in the country. (Although for some reason, we haven’t been able to find those in California either, so I had to sneak those back from Alabama as well!)

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Whether it’s with Vidalias or plain yellow onions, this is a thicker-than-average onion soup, as I wanted something substantial. It is a little salty, especially after you add the gratinée, so I put very little actual salt in the soup and used a low-sodium vegetable bouillon.

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

Ingredients

for the soup
2 pounds Vidalia, or sweet yellow onions (we used one pound of petite Vidalias, with the greens cut off and one pound cipollini onions)
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ -1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons better than bouillon vegetable base (we used low sodium)
¼- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 quarts boiling water
2-3 stems rosemary
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon black pepper

for gratinée
bread (we used a french bread from Lucky, and it was amazing)
~ 1 tablespoon butter
2 cups grated fontina
1 tablespoon raw onion or chopped onion greens (we sliced the tops of the Vidalias)

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First, slice the onions. You don’t need to chop them, as they will break down. The important thing is to clean off the skins, slice them, and separate the layers.

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Cook the onions with the butter and olive oil in a large pot over low heat for about 15 minutes.

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Add in the salt and sugar. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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While the onions are breaking down in the pot, make your broth in a separate bowl. Combine the porcini, vegetable stock base, and boiling water. Let it rest for 30 minutes. This will create a strong, rich broth, while also rehydrating the mushrooms.

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Continue to stir the onions. They should be browning well and becoming deliciously fragrant!

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Add the mushrooms and broth to the large pot along with the rosemary, flour, wine, and pepper. Simmer for an hour. Go watch your favorite show or even a movie. If it cooks for a bit longer than an hour, it certainly won’t hurt this soup!

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As the soup is finishing its time on the stove, preheat the oven to 325° F. Pour the soup into oven-safe bowls.

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Slice the bread and spread the slices with a bit of butter. Arrange the slices like a delicious lid over your soup bowl.

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Top with a generous amount of grated cheese.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes. Finish the gratinée off with about 2 minutes on broil.

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Enjoy!

 

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