Decadent Desserts

Celebrate Pi Day!

Tween with pieIt’s 3.14–yes, Pi day! My tween needed to make a pie to take into her class so we brainstormed something that included some of her favorite ingredients: Nutella, pears, and white chocolate. Since the pie is headed to school, I, of course, had to make one for us to sample at home (sans the white chocolate and speckled with pecans and cranberries instead).

 

I tweaked this recipe from The Lovely Cupboard for my version.

 

Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes + 20 minutes baking

Servings: 8 pieces

 

IngredientsPi

1 unbaked pie shell

2 pears (apples would work well too)

3 tablespoons Apricot perserves

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup Nutella (or more!)

Toppings: white chocolate chips, pecans, cranberries

 

Directions

  1. Place the unbaked pie dough into your pie or tart pan and press around the edges and up the sides to create the crust. Prick the crust with a fork a few times.
  2. Spread the Nutella over the bottom of the unbaked pie crust. This took more time than I thought it would–Nutella is sticky!
  3. Put the pie crust into the fridge while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Peel and slice the pears into thin pieces.
  5. Take the pie crust out of the fridge and layer the pears onto the Nutella.
  6. Mix the lemon juice in the preserves and warm in the microwave. I heated it for 30 seconds on high. Use a cooking brush (or spoon) to spread the preserves over the pears.
  7. Sprinkle the pears with topping, if using.

Kids’ reactions: The tart without the white chocolate chips was definitely the frontrunner versus the pie. My kids preferred the thinner crust too. I think next time I’d toss the pears in the marmalade and lemon juice before putting them on the pie to minimize the amount of liquid on day two.

Here's my version--I made mine in a tart pan and added a dash of nutmeg before baking.

Here’s my version–I made mine in a tart pan and added a dash of nutmeg before baking.

 

 

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Mini chocolate raspberry cake cups

Chocolate cake shotsLately, I’ve noticed little cake desserts popping up from tavern-themed restaurants to Italian restaurants. I like it. They’re akin to a deconstructed cake–all the flavor, much less work.

 

This weekend I made my own version using cake leftover from my daughter’s birthday party cupcakes.

 

Note: I found mini Irish coffee mugs at Bed, Bath & Beyond, $19.99 for a set of eight. (Use a $5 off coupon and they’re just $15.)

 

Recipe

Servings: 8

 

Ingredients:

Cake: 2 cups cooked chocolate cake (it doesn’t need to be pretty you’ll be making it into chunks anyway)

Warmed Raspberry sauce or raspberry jam

Chocolate custard

Whipped cream

 

Chocolate custard ingredients:

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 tbsp. butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups milk

3 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. cocoa

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract (opt.)

1 tsp. Black onyx or Espresso powder (opt.)

 

Chocolate custard directions:

  1. In a medium-sized sauce pan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter then stir in the sugar.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the cornstarch into the milk.
  3. Stir the milk mixture into the melted chocolate and add in the cocoa, salt, and Espresso powder.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stir frequently until it thickens.
  5. Take the pan off the hat and stir in the extracts. Spread the butter over the top of the thickened chocolate to avoid developing a skin.
  6. Cool the chocolate custard.

 

To assemble the mini chocolate raspberry cups:

  1. Press about a tablespoon of chocolate cake into the bottom of the cup.
  2. Pour about 1/2 tablespoon raspberry sauce over the cake.
  3. Spoon a tablespoon of chocolate custard in next.
  4. Repeat cake, sauce, custard and finish off with cake.
  5. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top.
  6. Dust with cocoa powder or an extra drizzle of raspberry sauce.
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Coconut milk chocolate cupcakes

I needed some chocolate therapy this weekend so when a friend of mine passed along a recipe for chocolate cake with the subject line “OMG best cake ever” I had to give it a try. Thanks Jessie!

This recipe for Double-Deep-Chocolate Hanukkah Layer Cake from Gourmet makes for tasty cupcakes. The batter came together fast and filled 28+ cupcakes. (I did 20 then a small-sized loaf for a neighbor.) These are the moistest chocolate cupcakes you’ll ever eat! Even if you’re not a coconut fan, don’t worry, the flavor is slight.

I upped the flavor of the coconut in the frosting with coconut extract.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + baking

Servings: 28 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

3/4 cup vegetable oil plus more for greasing pans
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus more for dusting pans + 2 tsps. dark cocoa powder (you can also use Espresso powder or my favorite, Black onyx powder)
1 cup water
3/4 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (I use the 14-oz. Light Coconut Milk can from Trader Joe’s)
3 large eggs, warmed in shell in warm water 5 minutes
1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

Frosting

Remaining canned coconut milk (about 1 cup)

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)

4 tbsps. butter

Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, water, eggs, coconut milk, and vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Blend the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.
  5. Fill cupcake holders 2/3 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Frosting

  1. Microwave all of the frosting ingredients except the vanilla in a glass measuring cup for 1 minute on high.
  2. Stir and continue microwaving at 30-second intervals until the chocolate is smooth; stir in the vanilla.
  3. The frosting will be thin; cool it in the refrigerator until it gets thick enough to spread on the cupcakes.

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Nutella Yule Log

There’s nothing more heart-warming then joining my kids around the kitchen to make a holiday dessert. And then as you’re whipping Nutella into heavy cream discussing what you’d do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. At least that’s where the conversation turned as my teen was helping me put together this yule log (there’s a Norman Rockwell painting in there somewhere, I think). Meanwhile, I was doing extensive testing to make sure the whip cream tasted just right. It’s a tough job, but it’s not one that can be left for the undead.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + lots of time for assembly

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

Cake

The fun part: time to flip!

4 eggs (room temperature)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/4 cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. dark cocoa powder (opt. I use black onyx powder, you can use Espresso)

Filling

2 cups heavy cream (oh yeah!)

1/2 cup Nutella

touch of salt

Directions:

Adding Nutella spiked cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking oil.
  3. Beat together the eggs, oil, and sugar until its a pale yellow color.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry cake ingredients.
  5. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture just until combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 11 minutes or until the cake springs back from the edges of the pan.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 2 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile liberally dust a clean kitchen cloth with powdered sugar and prepare for flipping.
  9. In my experience, this is a two person job: Flip the cake batter onto the powdered sugar cloth. Roll the cake in the cloth short end to short end.
  10. Leave the cake rolled while you prepare the filling.
  11. Making the filling (and get ready for your kids to fight over who gets to lick the spatula)
  12. On high speed, whip the cream until it just begins to thicken.
  13. Add the Nutella and continue whipping just until stiff. (I add a pinch of salt).
  14. Assembling the yule log:
  15. Slowly unfold the cake in the cloth and gently remove the parchment paper. (I couldn’t find anything in the original recipe about when to take off the parchment paper so I just kept it on.)
  16. Use the spatula to smear the whipped Nutella cream on the unrolled cake being careful not to go all the way to one of the short ends.
  17. Start rolling the cake from short end to short end working toward the non-filled end. The cream will squish toward the non-filled end. (I also find this is a two person job.)
  18. Wrap the roll in parchment and then aluminum foil.
  19. Freeze for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  20. Slice and serve.

Inspired by the King Arthur Flour recipe for chocolate and peppermint yule log.

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10 Minute Holiday Cookie Recipe

A few weeks ago I was able to visit with Jenny Harper, the Chief Cookie Officer for Nestle Kitchens for a story I was working on. Does that sound like a dream job or what? Jenny is the one who comes up with the recipes on the back of Nestle Toll House morsels and other Nestle baking products.

So when I needed to make a quick treat for an event I was going to I thought of Jenny and turned to the back of a bag of Nestle’s Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels for inspiration. The recipe for “Magic Mint Chocolate Bark” was simple and fun to make with my kids. I doubled the recipe to make sure we had extras. (Use a 11 x 9″ brownie pan and half of the morsels to make the standard batch.)

Mint Chocolate Bark

Prep time: 5 minutes

Servings: 18

Ingredients

2 10-ounce bags Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels (I did one bag of the mint morsels and another bag of dark chocolate)

3/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line a 9×13″ cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  3. Dump the chocolate chips onto the lined pan. Spread out the chips so they fill the pan.
  4. Bake the chips for 4 minutes; they’ll be shiny when you remove them from the oven and won’t appear to be melted.
  5. Use a kitchen knife to swirl the chocolate together (you won’t see any more of the green color).
  6. Top with chopped almonds, or pretzels, potato chip pieces, or dried fruit.
  7. Here’s the fun part: to help the toppings sink into the chocolate hold that pan about 3 inches above the counter (I put a large cutting board down for this) and then drop the pan.
  8. Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour and then break apart the pieces.

Hanging out with Nestle's Chief Cookie Officer

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Triple chocolate coconut banana muffins

Sometimes my kids won’t eat bananas around our house just waiting for them to get ripe enough so that I’ll make these muffins. I’ve been meaning to pass along this recipe for awhile, but I do the batter just a little bit differently each time–sometimes I mix up the kinds of sugar I use, other times it’s the flours that get tweaked.

But I made a batch this week that was so good I had to pass this recipe along. So if you have some bananas that are getting ripe and you love the combination of chocolate and bananas, these muffins are for you!

Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose, 1 1/2 cups wheat flour)

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (if available, or regular cocoa)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened preferred)

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

2 eggs

3 ripe bananas

8 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon almond or coconut extract

2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  3. In another bowl, beat the bananas until smooth and then add the yogurt, eggs, and extract.
  4. Melt the butter and chocolate chips together in a glass measuring cup in the microwave (I usually set it for half power for a minute, then stir.)
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture just until blended.
  6. Gently blend the chocolate-butter into the yogurt mixture, then stir in the mini chocolate chips.
  7. Fill 24 muffin cups 2/3 full.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

*Tweaked from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook recipe for Big Beautiful Muffins.

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Buckwheat crepes

My teen had one request for her birthday–breakfast in bed. And she wanted crepes. Mr. Squid usually handles crepe duty around our house. See he can flip the crepes in the air and have them land right back in the pan. Mine tend to land on the counter, when they don’t fly off to the floor.

But I’d been wanting to try a new buckwheat flour crepe recipe. At the Cleveland’s West Side Market one of the most popular booths is Crepes De Luxe, which touts their “authentic, Parisian style” crepes. (If you go, just ask someone to point out where “the crepe place is” then look for a long line.) I find that buckwheat crepes are thicker, bigger and heartier than your all-purpose flour variety. I like it. Usually buckwheat crepes are reserved for the savory fare. And you can use this recipe for a savory meal, I’ve melted fontina and roasted asparagus in these crepes for dinner. But this time it was all about something sweet for a special breakfast.

Notes:

I don’t use a crepe pan, I just bake ‘em in my regular, non-stick 9″ saute pan.

Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cleveland's Crepes De Luxe

Servings: about 15 crepes in a 9″ pan


Ingredients

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, puree until smooth. I didn’t use sugar, but you could if you want these a little sweeter. (I was saving some for dinner and I don’t like too-sweet desserts anyway.)
  2. Refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. In a 9″ saute pan or crepe pan melt 1 teaspoon butter to medium-high heat.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and swirl until it stretches out over the pan. Cook until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 60 seconds then carefully flip. I no longer try to toss mine in the air, but rely on a large spatula.
  5. Cook for 45 seconds on the other side then transfer to a plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter, placing pieces of waxed paper between the crepes so they don’t stick.

To serve:

For a sweet crepe I keep it simple: I cut up strawberries and let them sit in a sprinkling in sugar and fresh lemon juice while I was preparing the crepes. On the plate I swirled Hershey’s chocolate syrup just for decoration then slathered Nutella on the still-warm crepes. I also tucked strawberry slices inside before rolling them up, placing them on the plate and garnishing them with another strawberry and a sprinkling of powdered sugar, just cuz.

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A week’s worth of chocolate

Did you know chocolate is a vegetable? That’s right. Explaining her recent study results, which showed that people who get a daily dose of chocolate are slimmer than those who don’t, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said, “It’s my favorite vegetable.” Dr. Golomb cited chocolate’s antioxidant prowess when comparing it to other vegetables. She also relayed that chocoholics those in the study who ate chocolate each day had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn’t.

Well, of course, I want to make sure that we’re all getting enough vegetables in our diet so here’s a week’s worth of recipes so you can get your fill.

Monday

Whole wheat chocolate yogurt loaf

Keep 100% whole wheat bread moist by adding in plenty of Greek yogurt and chocolate, of course!

Tuesday

Blueberry-spinach chocolate brownies

Spinach-Blueberry Brownies

These brownies have a boost of extra nutrition from a blueberry-spinach puree that you mix in the batter. My teen loves these brownies even though they do turn out a bit softer than your straight-chocolate recipe.

Wednesday

Easy peanut butter cups (no bake!)

These homemade peanut butter cups are easy to put together. Thanks for the idea Martha and Me.

Thursday

Chocolate chocolate chip cookies

From Garlic Girl, add cocoa to your chocolate chip cookies for a extra boost of the good stuff.

Friday

Chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake

My signature dessert that I try to make infrequently because it’s soo tempting. (I should point out that technically you should be sticking to around an ounce of daily chocolate so you’d need to be nibbling your cheesecake slice.)

Saturday

Lemon Ginger Shortbread S’mores

Chocolate and lemon make such a surprisingly perfect combo–add a toasty marshmallow topping to make this updated kid classic from Good.Food.Stories.

Sunday

No cook cocoa granola bites

End your week with these simple treats that have both cocoa powder and mini-chocolate chips (although feel free to add the regular size if you feel like you haven’t been getting enough chocolate in your diet).

*Special thanks to the National Institutes of Health for funding this study and others like it. Dr. Golomb mentioned she needed to do additional studies. The big question: WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?

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Rocky road pizza

When I picked up the phone this afternoon at first I thought something was wrong. On the other end, my mother-in-law just didn’t sound like herself. When I asked what was up, I had to laugh at her response: “Kris, I finally tried Nutella today. It was a-m-a-zing.”

Even though she spent part of her childhood overseas, my mother-in-law had never tried Nutella. She’s hooked now. We talked about all of the ways she could use it, but one of my newly discovered favs has to be rocky road pizza. Bonus: these mini dessert pizzas are fun for kids or grandkids to make!

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes + baking

Servings: 4 mini pizzas with 4 slices each


Ingredients

1 package pizza dough

1-1 1/2 cups Nutella

1-2 cups mini marshmallows

1 cup smoked almonds, chopped (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking oil.
  3. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each one out to a 6-8-inch circle.
  4. Spread Nutella on each pizza round using a kitchen knife.
  5. Place the mini pizzas onto the baking sheet.
  6. Sprinkle marshmallows, nuts and chocolate chips (if using) on top of the Nutella.
  7. Bake the pizzas for 20 minutes or until the marshmallows become golden.
  8. Cool before slicing.

Kids’ reactions: As you might expect, all of my crew, including Mr. Squid raved about these mini pizzas. We also tried mixing apple slices with Nutella on pizzas too. The pizzas were harder to slice than the rocky road version but at least I felt like they had some nutritional value. I’m thinking when raspberries are in season it would be tasty to spread the pizzas with Nutella and white chocolate chips and once they came out of the oven I’d pop on fresh berries.

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Dark chocolate apricot cheesecake with blackberry sauce

Chocolate. Make that dark chocolate. That’s what Happy Valentine’s Day are all about. If you’re looking for something decadent and special come February 14th, this is one show-stopper of a dessert. And the best part is you can make it a couple days ahead of time: it’s even better after it’s had time to–in Mr. Squid’s words–”densify.”
I actually made this dessert by request awhile back for my tween’s birthday cake. But I was getting bored doing the same-old cheesecake; I wanted to have some fun with the recipe.
So I was looking for a few ways to tweak my classic recipe and I thought of a common dessert combination from Viennese desserts where apricots are the fruit of choice with chocolate, instead of strawberries or raspberries. I like a hint of tartness to desserts so along with subbing apricot jam for raspberry, I also decided to forgo the regular whipped cream on top with a fresh blackberry sauce instead. That said, you can’t even taste the apricot in the final cake, it just intensifies the depth of the dark chocolate.
You’re intrigued, right? I hope so. This was by far my favorite cheesecake I’ve ever made. Ever.
Note: Another update to this recipe was trying to make it just a smidge healthier. I know, this wouldn’t qualify for a light recipe by any stretch of the imagination but I used Neufchatel cream cheese instead of the full fat variety and I nixed the whip cream for a fruit sauce. Small steps, right?

Okay, one more note: Please don’t let these directions scare you, just being thorough here because I believe in cheesecakes without cracks, and a waterbath is the way to go.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + 75 minutes baking + 60 minutes cooling

Servings: 12

Ingredients
Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted (lower fat butter works well too!)
Cheesecake
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup apricot jam
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (Neufchatel recommended)
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar (I used 2/3 this time)
4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Sauce

2 cups blackberries (thawed or fresh)

1 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

lemon (optional)

Directions
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.
In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-apricot mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).
Constructing a waterbathConstructing a waterbath: Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.
Make sure the foil comes all the way upBake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.

For the sauce: Place the water, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture thickens and just barely become syrupy (about 4 minutes on my power burner). Pour the berries into the hot mixture and simmer until the berries start to break apart. Use a handheld immersion blender to liquify the berries. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce into a blender. Adjust the seasonings: I like my sauce tart so I added 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon red raspberry vinegar. You might like adding orange zest or a bit of juice to add a hint of sourness and interest to the sauce. Cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton

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