Vegan Carrot Cake Bars

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TWO MORE DAYS. I’ve been counting down the days until our little gang makes our way to New York and reunites with Hailey. And now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Hailey planned our NYC eating itinerary over a month before she officially became a resident. That means she planned our restaurant list TWO MONTHS IN ADVANCE.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond excited; I’ve already perused each restaurant’s menu countless times and know exactly what I’ll be ordering.

As a way to hopefully prevent some of the damage I’m sure to do against my waistline, I’m doing a make-shift “master cleanse” this week. (I have a protein smoothie for breakfast, master cleanse for lunch, and a salad topped with lean protein for dinner). I’m currently on day two of this “cleanse,” and honestly, the only thing that keeps me from raiding the candy dispensers at work is thoughts of the lobster egg benedict at Jane Restaurant brunch.

I made these carrot cake bars over the weekend as a healthy alternative for my ever-present sweet tooth. Since I’m not a fan of carrots and dislike dates, you would think that I would hate these bars; but, I actually really enjoyed them. The best part? They are vegan! Just remember to pit your dates before you blend the ingredients, or you might end up with a “pit”iful toothache. ;)

Cheers!

carrotcakebarVegan Carrot Cake Bars

1 Cup of Almonds

1/2 Cup of Shredded Carrot

1/3 Cup of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

1/4 Cup of Raisins

10 Pitted Dates

3 Tbsp. of Honey

Directions:

Place almonds into a high-powered blender and blend until it reaches a crumbly consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until mixed. Press mixture into the bottom of a lined, 9-inch pan and chill for at least an hour. Cut, and wrap bars.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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“Mexican Hot Chocolate” Smoothie

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 This is my first time “cooking” in my NYC apartment! Yes, I’m using the term lightly. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, and I am embarrassed to say I have yet to use the oven. The convenience of dinner options is just way too crazy, but I am planning on forcing myself to cook once in awhile once things settle down. The good news about my NYC apartment is that I have an amazing outdoor patio space (see photo at the bottom!) which means the natural light and settings available for my photography are even better than I had in LA. Yes, I’m very lucky…such a patio is unheard of in this city.

This smoothie recipe is one of my favorites, and it’s packed full of protein and quite healthy. I’ve always loved a good chocolate-cinnamon combination, and this smoothie, or you may even call it a healthy milkshake, is good enough to eat for breakfast (or dinner?). It’s got pure cacao powder, greek yogurt, banana, peanut butter and almond milk–all guilt-free ingredients, so drink up!

Also, guess what?! A La Main will officially be reunited in precisely ONE WEEK! Yes, Cathy and the gang are coming to visit me in NYC for Labor Day Weekend. And you can bet there will be plenty of cooking eating throughout the weekend! I can’t wait to take my friends to some awesome spots I’ve discovered in my neighborhood, as well as explore some new places. Stay tuned!

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Inspired Smoothie 

1 Banana, frozen

1/2 Cup of Non-fat Greek Yogurt

1/4 Cup of Almond Milk

1 1/2 Tbsp of Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp of Raw Cacao Powder

1 Tsp of Cinnamon

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy.

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Spiked Arnold Palmer

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In honor of National Lemonade Day (technically tomorrow, August 20th), we’ve decided to present to you, the boozier cousin of the Arnold Palmer. But before we get the the refreshing cocktail, I thought I would share some interesting tidbits I ran across while doing my recipe research.

  •   The drink’s named after the American golfer, Arnold Palmer. The drink supposedly got it’s name when Palmer ordered a tea/lemonade mocktail at the 1960s U.S. Open. A woman nearby saw the drink and told her waiter, “I’ll have the Palmer drink.”
  • There’s no strict lemonade to tea ratio, though most restaurants use a half and half combination.

And some fun facts on lemons to make you day a little brighter.

  • Since lemons are high in vitamin C, sailors used them as a way to prevent scurvy, a disease that causes achy joints, loose teeth and bleeding gums. According to Sunkist, to this day, the British Navy requires ships to carry enough lemons for sailors to have one ounce of juice a day.
  • Lemons are multi-duty. Not only do they taste good, they act as pretty powerful natural cleaners. According to Cooking Light, the juice can brighten aluminum, the rind (dipped in salt) acts as an abrasive scrubber and the “leftovers” can be used as a sink disposal deodorizer. Now, that’s what I call your money’s worth.
  • Lemon trees produce fruit all year, meaning any day can be a Palmer day.

One of my coworkers said the other day, “you know you’ve made it when they make a non-alcoholic drink after you.” I’ll counter, a little bit of vodka never hurt anybody…especially when it looks like this!

Cheers!

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Spiked Arnold Palmer

3 Cups of Trader Joe’s Organic Lemonade

6-7 Black Tea Bags

3 Cups of Water

1 1/2 Cups of Vodka

Mint

Oranges

Lemons

Directions:

Boil water and steep tea bags until tea is almost cool. Mix lemonade, tea and vodka. Add wedges of orange and lemon and garnish with mint.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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A Taste of NYC: ABC Cocina

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My Dad had to be in NYC all this week for work, so my Mom decided to come out to NYC too for the whole week. At first I said: fantastic! I can get started on so many of the restaurants I’ve been dying to try, since they are here for a total of 6 nights. Today marks night 5, and let me tell you…I’m starting to get a little sick of eating out, to my surprise. We’ve eaten at some great places so far (yes, reviews to come), but perhaps our favorite dinner has been ABC Cocina.

I told my Dad I wanted to eat at ABC Kitchen, but he got confused and made a reservation at the wrong place (although same chef). What a serendipitous mistake, as it turns out Cocina has moved to the top slots on my family’s NYC restaurant list. The food is tapas style, with unique Mexican, Spanish and contemporary flavors and often odd combinations. We took a look at the menu and decided out of the 30 or so listings there were maybe two things we weren’t too keen on. This is definitely one of the few places I might come back to sooner than later purely because you could have an entirely different meal.

Our reservation wasn’t until 9:30, but we were starving so we headed over early to see if our table was ready. We ended up sitting at the bar for half an hour, and ordered the most delicious mango sangria. It was pretty sweet, but very refreshing on a warm NYC summer night. Once we were sat, we immediately order the sweet pea guacamole. Now, I’m an avocado FREAK…i could eat them all day everyday. But this guac was outrageously good, even for a California girl with high standards. All in all, this place is definitely a MUST if you come to NYC.

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ABC Cocina

38 East 19th St., New York, NY 10003

What to Order:

Drink: Mango Sangria

Main: Sweet pea guacamole, shrimp with sizzling garlic and chili oil, gooey spicy ham and cheese fritters, crispy fish tacos, savory glazed short rib tacos, market string beans, maitake mushrooms, arroz con pollo

Dessert: We were too full for dessert however the waitress gave us a bag of cookies to go! The dulce de leche was amazing.
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Honey-Roasted Grapes

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I spent this weekend in the seaside town of Cambria. While I love the city life, after the last few weeks of hustle and bustle, I was looking forward to some much-needed R&R and mother-daughter bonding. With the exception of waking up at 6 AM on a Saturday, the weekend was perfect. The combination of weather, sights, food and company proved the best way to press the “reset” button.

Main Street was exactly what one would expect of a small coastal town: full of picturesque shops and quaint restaurants, and walkable from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes. That said, my favorite part of the trip was the coastal views. It’s nothing like the Los Angeles beaches, with so much more crevices, greenery, rocks and teal waters.

My mom and I had planned to bring a lunch picnic for our first meal in Cambria. So, I thought, what better time to whip up a new picnic-inspired recipe? Lately, I’ve been intrigued by some beautiful grape recipes, so I decided to test out one of my own. I hope you enjoy!

Cheers!

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Honey-Roasted Grapes

1 Bunch of Grapes, rinsed

Rosemary

Olive Oil

Honey

Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove your rinsed grapes from the stem and place on a baking sheet with high sides. Drizzle with rosemary, olive oil, honey and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until grapes are slightly soft. Serve with cheese and crackers. (I served on a gluten-free seed cracker topped with fresh goat cheese and honey-roasted grapes).

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My petite mother. Isn’t she cute?

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Berry Bars

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I am officially a New York City resident! I have been spending every waking hour walking around the city taking in every moment. It still hasn’t hit me that I actually live here … I feel like a crazy tourist most of the time! There are so many amazing hole-in-the-walls right around my apartment, and I’ve been keeping a running list on my phone every time I walk by something interesting.

Unfortunately I have a feeling I won’t be cooking as much as I had hoped … when there are about 50 restaurants within 2 blocks of my apartment, it’s just too easy to eat out. Last night, my roommate ordered a thin crust, whole wheat pizza from Vezzo (review to come) near our place; I picked it up on my way back from Equinox, and it was incredible!

Everyone who has lived here for awhile probably thinks it’s crazy how excited I am about walking everywhere. In LA the only decent food I could walk to was Churros Calientes, and it was still a good 20 minute walk. In addition to the plentiful food options around, we unfortunately also have a very small kitchen with a half size oven. I’ll do what I can guys! But for now, enjoy these whole wheat, oat-berry bars–the last thing I made in LA before I left. :)

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Berry Bars

Filling

1 Heaping Cup Blackberries

1 Heaping Cup Raspberries

2 Tbsp Grade B Maple Syrup

2 Tbsp Warm Water

2 Tbsp Corn Starch

Base

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 Cup Rolled Oats

1 Large Egg

1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil

1/3 Cup Grade B Maple Syrup

1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

1 Tsp Cinnamon

Topping

1 Cup Rolled Oats

1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

Directions:

Filling: Whisk corn starch and warm water together until no lumps remain. Set aside. Pour blackberries, raspberries and maple syrup into a medium sized pot and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until desired consistency is reached. (Some like it very smooth, I prefer with chunks of fruit). Remove from heat. Stir in corn starch mixture and set aside to cool.

Base: In a medium sized bowl, whisk egg, vegetable oil and maple syrup together until smooth. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and stir until no lumps remain. Press the mixture evenly into a 9×9 in pan. Pour fruit filling evenly on top of base.

Topping: Mix oats, wheat flour, vegetable oil and brown sugar together. Sprinkle evenly on top of fruit filling, and press down slightly. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes at 350 deg F.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Mojitos

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My ole’ enemy humidity came visited Los Angeles this weekend. In his bags, he packed muggy weather and a constant, sticky sweat that lingered in places you never knew could sweat before. I paint a lovely picture, I know.

Even though I’ve lived in extreme dry heat my whole life with temperatures sometimes reaching 120 degrees, I’ve never got a hang of the humidity thing. So, imagine my struggles when my girlfriends and I made grand plans to get our fill of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at an outdoor cemetery screening of Casablanca on a Saturday night. The only way I decided I could combat such a heat was with a cool, refreshing mojito.

I’ve been itching to make something with rhubarb ever since I first spotted a beautiful red stalk in the grocery store a few months ago, but wanted to steer clear of generic pie recipes and ones that ask for cups of sugar. While I was looking for some recipe inspiration, I decided to do some research on this striking red vegetable.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Rhubarb is a perennial veggie that’s in season from April through August. (I made it just in time. ;) )
  • When you pick rhubarb, only choose stalks that are firm to the touch, crispy and predominantly red.
  • Don’t eat the leaves of this tart veggie. They are poisonous.
  • Rhubarb is a vitamin and mineral treasure trove. Not only does it contain B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin K, it boasts of healthy levels of various minerals.
  • You probably will burn more calories by sitting on the couch watching The Big Bang Theory than is in a stalk of rhubarb…Okay. Probably not true, but you get the point.

Healthy and tasty!? That’s a winning combination in my book.

Cheers!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Mojitos (adapted from The Roasted Root)

Rhubarb Simple Syrup*

1/2 Cup of Fresh Strawberries

3 Sprigs of Fresh Mint Leaves

Limes

White Rum

Sparkling Water

Directions:

Rinse and dice strawberries and mint. Set aside. In a glass, mix 4 parts sparkling water, 1.5 parts rhubarb simple syrup and 1 part white rum. Squeeze a half a lime and garnish generously with mint and strawberries. Mix and serve. Makes 1 cocktail.**

*Note: To make rhubarb simple syrup, wash and dice four stalks of rhubarb and place them in a pot with 1/2 cup of agave nectar, 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water.  Boil on low for 20 minutes or until all the sugar dissolves and mixture starts to thicken. Let cool and strain. Makes about 2 cups.

**If you are making more than one cocktail, you can still use the same ratio– 4:1.5:1. I prefer my cocktails to be fresh, so I’m liberal with the lime juice and sparkling water.

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Big News: A La Main Takes on Big Apple

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I have some breaking news to share with you all. I’m moving to New York City! What does this mean for A La Main, you may ask?

Well, it means a lot of things, good and bad. Bad news first? Here goes.

I will now be nearly 3,000 miles away from my A La Main partner in crime who has become irreplacable in my LA family. I’ll also be 3,000 miles away from Los Angeles, the city I have grown to love after 6 years (and ironically, it probably took about 5 years to start liking it). LA has become my second home and the friends I have here have become my second family. I will miss seeing people wear Ugg boots and North Faces when the temperature drops below 70; I will miss the Brentwood farmers’ market and my long runs along San Vicente to the beach; I will miss being close to the happiest and most magical place on earth (UCLA, not Disneyland, duh); I will miss the long and crazy nights at the Wilshire/Shorebar/Buffalo Club; I will miss First Fridays in Venice; I will miss shopping on Third St with the girls after Zengo brunch; I will miss getting free churros at Churros Calientes from Jacob (just say you know me, NBD); I will miss the ocean view hiking Los Liones in Pacific Palisades; I will miss being labeled as a “West-sider”; I will miss driving through the canyon to a beautiful Malibu sunset…and I will NOT miss the traffic.

That’s a long list of things I’m leaving behind…but there must be good news too!

While it may seem hard (and crazy!) to leave all of this behind, living in NYC is something I’ve wanted to do since the first time my parents brought me there when I was about 10. So here I am, armed and ready to explore (arguably) the most amazing city in the world. Did I mention I will also be eating my way through the city? Well, I will be, which is where A La Main comes into play! We will now officially be a bi-coastal blog; how cool is that?! I am so excited to try new restaurants (and am most excited for French food, one thing the LA food scene lacks) and not only knock the classics off my Bucket List, but find new “hole-in-the-walls” to share with you. But don’t worry, I’ll still be cooking too…as long as I can manage in a tiny NYC kitchen!

While I’m sure my list will continue to grow, I have begun to compile a Bucketlist of restaurants I would like to try, separated into categories, just Manhattan for now. Let’s see if I hit them all! (Good thing there is an Equinox a block from my new apartment…)

Brunch

Jane, Balthazar, Bagatelle, 230 Fifth, the Butterfly, Friend of a Farmer, Maison Premiere, Tea & Sympathy, Vinegar Factory, Prune, Paradou, Cafe Orlin, Jacob’s Pickles, Alice’s Tea Cup, Beauty & Essex

Fancy Dinners (I call this my “when parents come to visit” list)

Per Se, Bouley, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Momofoku Ko, ABC Kitchen, Gramercy Tavern (Dining Room), Jean-Georges, Le Bernardin, Sushi Nakazawa, Nobu, Boulud

Less-Fancy Dinners

Brasserie Les Halles, La Sirene, Buvette, Co., Forcella, Keste Pizza, Benoit, Beauty & Essex, L’Absinthe, Momofoku Ssam/Noodle Bar, Uncle Boon’s, Red Farm

Burgers

Minetta Tavern, Shake Shack, The Little Owl, Ngam, The Brindle Room

Bakeries

Dominique Ansel, Levain Bakery, Momofoku Milk Bar, Maialino (Toffee Brioche), Epicerie Boulud, Sullivan St. Bakery, Laduree, Baked by Melissa, Ceci-Cela

Delis

Katz, Carnegie, Barney Greengrass, 2nd Avenue Deli

Assorted Noshes

Zabars, Doughnut Plant, Ess-A-Bagel, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Dough, Eataly

A Taste of LA: The Tasting Kitchen

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At A La Main, we’ve hinted a few times in the past few weeks about Hailey’s impending New York adventure. In preparation for her departure, we’ve been trying to mark off everything on her LA checklist, including Friday movie nights, Saturday wine tastings and Sunday hikes. One of the last items on her checklist — brunch at The Tasting Kitchen.

The quintessential Venice restaurant, The Tasting Kitchen boasts of shareable plates, eclectic cups and plates, and humorous chalk art. As I’d never been, I let Hailey pick our brunch menu.

I really enjoyed that the brunch menu not only catered to traditional “brunchers” with classics like French toast or eggs and bacon, but also appealed to the adventurous palate with dishes like their breakfast burger or savory waffles. The menu also contains a good variety of sweet and savory dishes, perfect for the bruncher (ahem…me!) who can’t decide if they want to satisfy their sweet tooth or savory taste buds.

If you want a good variety of food, I would suggest ordering starting with the Sticky Bun and sharing one or two of the main dishes. I really enjoyed the remastered brunch items like the Short Rib Hash, served with a baked egg and gremolata, though I suspect you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

Cheers!

*If you don’t want to wait 40+ minutes for a table, call ahead and make a reservation.

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The Sticky Bun (left), Coffee (right)

The Tasting Kitchen

1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd Venice, CA 90291

What to Order:

Appetizer: The Sticky Bun

Main Dishes: Fried Clucks (chicken and waffles) and the Short Rib Hash.

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Fried Clucks (left), Short Rib Hash (right)

Almond Pulp Hummus and Crackers

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About a month ago, Hailey and I were invited to a virtual potluck by the lovely ladies of  The Pig & Quill and So…Let’s Hang Out. One thing that I love about food blogging–besides the food of course–is the foodie community that comes along with it. Since our blog’s inception approximately six months ago, the men and women of the food interweb have “virtually” embraced us with open arms, encouraging words and hours of recipe inspirations. So, of course we were excited to take part in the #soletspigout potluck … and, who doesn’t love a good ole’ fashioned potluck anyways?

Last weekend, I made my own almond milk. I grew up on homemade soymilk and thought, what the heck, I bet almond milk is not that hard to make either. It turns out I actually like the homemade milk better; it’s so much creamier and much better for the green smoothies I’ve been having for breakfast.

But, what to do with the leftovers? Though my mind tends to lean towards the sweet end of the spectrum, I wanted to try for something other than a baked good for once. Thus, I present Almond Pulp Hummus served with Rosemary-Raisin Almond Crackers.

Cheers!

P.S. Remember to check out the #SoLetsPigOut Potluck for some summertime menu inspiration and to check out the awesome giveaways!

Day 1: $225 Potluck Set from Mighty Nest
Day 2: Two (2) $50 Mini Shopping Sprees from iHerb.com
Day 3: Olive Oil Gift Set featuring Award-Winning Olive Oils from California Olive Ranch
Day 4: Sambazon Prize Pack (Smoothie Packs, Wooden Bowl, Recipe Book) AND California Almonds Gift Tote (Snack Almonds, Baking Almonds, Almond Flour + More!)

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Almond Pulp Hummus (lightly adapted from My New Roots)

1 ¼ Cups of Dehydrated Almond Pulp (the nut meal leftover after making almond milk)*

1-2 Medium Garlic Cloves

4 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice

6-8 Tbsp. of Water

4 Tbsp. of Organic Tahini

1 Tsp. of Ground Cumin

¼ Tsp. of Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions:

In a high-powered blender, mince garlic cloves. Add the lemon juice, tahini, cumin, cayenne pepper and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until creamy. Add the dehydrated almond pulp a few tablespoons at a time until everything is fully blended. Add the salt and pepper and the rest of the water one tablespoon at a time until the correct hummus consistency is reached.

*Note: I used dehydrated almond pulp because 1) there’s no way I can consume 7 cups of wet pulp before it would spoil, and 2) I want to use the pulp as a flour substitute for future recipes. You can easily dehydrate your almond pulp by spreading the wet pulp on a baking sheet and cooking it on your oven’s lowest temperature setting (mine goes down to 170 degrees) for 3+ hours. Store in an airtight container until you use it.

**Secondary Note: If you prefer making hummus with wet pulp, adjust how much water you add to the recipe. I’ve found that 2-3 tablespoons should suffice.

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Rosemary-Raisin Almond Crackers (baking instructions from Against All Grain)

1 Cup of Dehydrated Almond Pulp

2 ½ Tbsp. of Olive Oil

6-8 Tbsp. of Water

2 ½ Tbsp of Raisins

2 Tbsp of Dry Rosemary

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Blend all the dry ingredients together in a high-powered blender. Add one tablespoon at a time of the olive oil and water until fully mixed. The nut dough should be slightly damp to touch. If not, you may need to add more moisture to the dough.

Form the dough into a ball and in between to pieces of parchment, roll the dough till about 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the crackers.* Transfer the parchment onto a baking sheet and cook for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cracker dough start to brown. Remove from the oven, separate the crackers at the perforated lines, lower the oven’s temperature to 250 degrees and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

*Note: The cracker dough is pretty brittle at this stage, so cut with care.

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