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Monday, February 28, 2011

It's so Empanada-licious!

It's hard to write a blog post when your head feels like it weighs 20 pounds and your ears are waging a rather epic war against your throat. For someone who never gets sick (it's true--my immune system is one tough badass.) I'm a little embarrassed that this silly seasonal nonsense managed to knock me over so thoroughly. I may or may not be writing under the influence of cough syrup and rum, so... let's hope this post doesn't end with someone wearing a lampshade.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Just popping by

Hey there, lovies!

I haven't keeled over in some pastry-induced coma or anything. I'm still alive and kickin. My blog has slowed considerably in these last couple weeks. Mr. Happy Baker has been given leave for a brief visit, so the Missus (that would be me) has actually stepped out of the kitchen for a few minutes.

Never fear, though--there are still recipes being made and photos being taken, and experiments going horribly awry.

New post soon!

Should it be a rum-soaked tortuga cake? Or fruit empanadas? Or chocolate pate sucree cookie wafers? I've made them all this past week. Now...what to post?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oreomazing Truffles

A dear friend's birthday is this week, and for her birthday party, I was asked to bring a dessert. That's a pretty wide request for someone like me who has chocolate in her veins, so I called and asked her what kinds of things she likes. She said, "Just about anything Oreo."

Well now, I just happened to have the perfect confection in mind for anyone who calls themselves an Oreo lover. Oreo truffles!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fettucini Nests with Lush Tomato Pesto

Hello, friends!

I got a new camera today! I'm so excited! I squee'd a little when I uploaded my brand spankin' new photos and saw how crisp and clear and fantastic they are. I may have licked the screen.

(I did not. But I sorta wanted to. A little.)

Anyway, tonight's dinner was, in small part, a fail. My little fettuccine nests didn't stay nesty, and I didn't have quite enough little cherry tomatoes. But one bite and my teensy little fail turned into one giant, whalloping WIN! The husband enthusiastically requested seconds, but being used to cooking for one, I hadn't made quite enough. (He's stationed across the country with the Army. Sadface.) So I went back and made more. Because yes, it was just that good.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quickie Crustless Quiche

It's been a heck of a week, friends.

Sorry I've been away, but my kitchen has been in a bit of a standstill lately, with family affairs taking main stage for a while. But now that everything's back on a more normal cycle, the kitch should be chugging away again in no time.

Also, in happy news - I've been commissioned as a contributor to the fabulous, healthy, kosher blog: The Jewish Hostess. Regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, it's a blog featuring tons of absolutely to-die-for recipes that are, in vast majority, healthy and light. Go check them out. I won't be posting the same recipes here that I post there, so I'll be sure to link to TJH when something new goes up over there. Be sure to go scope them out and leave a comment! :)

Anyway, tonight, like almost every Saturday, is game night at my house. My family comes over and we play board games and have some nosh. I had intended to make more of my Won't-Miss-the-Crab Rangoons, but it turns out...wonton wrappers don't thaw well after being frozen. Idea scrapped. But then, inspiration!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

White Chocolate Creme Brulee

If there was ever a timeless dessert that embodied elegance and simplicity, it would have to be creme brulee. Now, that being said, why stop at simple when you can add some serious shazaam?

This white chocolate creme brulee is so full of awesome, it can barely contain itself. See it jumping for joy? No wait, that was me. I'm a big fan of awesome.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Email subscriptions

Just an update for you, dearhearts.

I have installed Feedblitz to allow readers to subscribe to this blog via email. This way, all you'd have to do to sign up is enter your email address once (on this blog--no need to go anywhere else) and then all new posts will automatically get forwarded to your email inbox. See the little box over there, at the top, on the right? Yep, right there.

There's no privacy invasion--Feedblitz doesn't sell your email address, and you never have to enter any passwords or anything. It's just a quick way to subscribe, and may help people who have trouble navigating the "Follow" feature.

What do you think? Would this make it easier for newcomers, and would it be a feature you'd be interested in using? I have a 30 day free trial, so I'm using this as an experiment. (after the free trial, it's only $3 a month, so it's not anything crazy)

If you like it, say so. If you have trouble using it, say so. I wanna see how it works out for you.

Let me know!

Refreshing Veggie Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

After a week of rich desserts and sugary sweets,
I bet you all are in the mood for something a bit
healthier, eh? My waistband is begging for something
that is not filled with cream and sugar, so tonight,
I'm making a completely vegetarian, vegan, kosher
parve side dish. Bah, who needs it as a side dish?
Packed with vitamins and protein, this could very well
be the main dish for a light, crisp lunch paired with
a slice of crusty bread. Mmm!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sweet Little Hearts

The countdown to Valentine's Day is on, friends. Some people are expecting to be wined and dined, some just order a pizza and watch terrible movies, and some are facing this year solo and going for sushi with friends. However you celebrate (even if you don't celebrate at all) you're still going to be completely assaulted with flowery images of hearts and winged cupids everywhere you look. Including here. You can't fight it.

But when those assaulting images are as amazingly adorable as these little chocolate cake pops, how can you possibly not swoon just a wee bit?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Breezy Key Lime Pie with Strawberry Glaze

Anyone tired of winter yet? Yeah, me too.

This weekend brings sunny skies, our first warm temperatures, the stores all have big bouquets of Valentine's flowers, and I'm feeling like SPRING!

So to celebrate, I'm whipping up this super simple pie that will taste like you spent all day in the kitch. (If you can't tell, I adore recipes that are beautiful and seem like they'd take forever to make, but they don't. Who needs to know otherwise? It'll be our secret. Shh!)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Ravioli Revolution

I wrote this overly optimistic post before I actually made the dish, which I often do. I usually write first, then go in after I've actually made the dish and edit, add comments, or revise the recipe as needed. In this case, I wanted to kick myself in the ass for my obnoxiously chipper approach to fresh pasta. So I'll keep the original post, but I'll add my after-comments in italics.

Okay, so after the Red Velvet fiasco, I think I'm done trying new recipes for a while. For the next few posts, I think I'm gonna rely on old faithful--classic cooking techniques that have served me well.  Fresh pasta is one of them.

Making your own fresh pasta may seem intimidating to someone who's never tried it, but I promise, it's not. In fact, once you've made it yourself and have seen how easy and cheap it is to make, you'll wonder why on earth you ever bought the dried boxes of pre-made stuff that may have been sitting on a shelf for goodness only knows how long.

The Red Velvet Event

I attempted a recipe today I found online. It was an utter fail. I used this recipe for Magnolia Bakery's red velvet cake WHAT a mess!

I'm always irritated when someone's recipe just creates complete crap, especially if I had to go out and buy special ingredients for it. Which I did. The reviews called the product of this recipe, "a religious experience". Well heck, that's always worth trying, eh? I don't know if standing over a giant bowl of cocoa-flavored cement with colorful language teetering on the edge of my lips counts as a religious experience, but if that's what they were referring to, I'll pass next time, thanks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Day Off

I'm not baking tonight, guys. The icy driveway and I had a fight, and I lost, so I'm kicking back and letting Pepperidge Farm provide the cookies this evening.

But I'd hate to leave you without something interesting to see, so I thought I'd pass along this very nifty video.

Ever wondered how to get an entire piece of fruit into a bottle?
No? Well I bet you are now.

Watch to see how it's done!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bread Pudding - The Sweet

Bread pudding is, in a word, awesome.

Bread = awesome.
Pudding = awesome.
Bread + Pudding...? Well heck, that's just awesome squared! You just can't argue with mathematics.

It's food for everyone and for every occasion. Whether for breakfast with raisins,for dessert with white chocolate, whether you get fancy with artisan cheeses, funky with crazy add-ins (hot dogs and peas? Why not!) or just frugal with stale bread, bread pudding is a versatile way to create something delicious from kitchen scraps.

Bread Pudding - The Savory

I just gotta say--wow. Holy cow, wow. WOW! This blog is not a collection of tried-and-true"Best of the Happy Baker" recipes. Most of these are twists on old favorites, experiments, and my own concoctions. So every now and then, I'm gonna run into something that takes me by surprise by how good (or even, occasionally, how bad) it is. (Don't worry--if it's bad, I won't post it. Or if I do in jest, I'll give fair warning.)

If ever there was something I'd make that I think people would pay to eat, it is this recipe. I would pay to eat it, and I made it! The flavor is decadent and artisan, the texture is thick but fluffy, and the whole thing tastes like a blissful cross between quiche and ... something magic.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Avocadelicious Chocolate Pudding

My grandmother sent me this recipe, and it made me double-take. So of course, I had to try it.

Imagine this for a moment, friends. Imagine I were to tell you that you can enjoy a thick, super-creamy, decadent chocolate pudding. "Okay," you might say. "Of course I can."

But then, what if I told you that the pudding was completely free of dairy, processed sugar, saturated fat, and gluten. What if I told you it was completely vegan, kosher parve, and heart-healthy? "Oh. Sounds terrible", you might say.

But what IF I also told you that it was freakin' amazing? Aha! What do you have to say to that, now?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Twice-Baked Stuffed 'Tater Skins

Yay, more Superbowl food!

Or movie-night snackables. Or party nosh. Whatever. But one thing they definitely are, is delish.

This recipe is both kosher and vegetarian. If you're not either, you can always sprinkle with bacon bits. Bacos® Bits are kosher parve. How funny is that?

Won't-Miss-The-Crab Rangoon

Are you ready for some football?!

What's that you say? No? Oh well, me neither. I AM ready, though, for some awesome cream-cheese laden goodies. I thought I'd post a few ideas for super easy finger foods to help quell the appetites of your favorite sportsfans this Sunday.

They really are mega-delicious, and not hard at all to make. In fact, I'm a little embarrassed to admit how easy these are, because they look so pretty and fancy. They're also baked instead of fried, to lend a healthier twist to a treat that can otherwise be full of artery-clogging oil.

(Yay! Hooray for squeaky-clean arteries! So clean you off of them? Um. That was kind of a gross cliche. Sorry. *ahem* Moving on.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Not a Shepherd's Pie

I ran across this quote today regarding Shepherd's Pie.

"Let us be clear and let's get it right. Shepherds pie is made with lamb. Cottage pie is made with beef. Never in the history of the British isles has cheese ever come close to either. If you see cheese anywhere near a recipe for either, put it down to the USA's obsession to add cheese to anything that moves - it doesn't generally belong with meat unless you desire lead in your stomach."

I found this quote hilarious from more than the kosher perspective. [For those unaware, it is not kosher to mix meat and dairy]
Partly because, yes, we Americans just love to smother everything in cheese. But also because it's true--nobody seems to know exactly what a true Shepherd's Pie really is.

Shepherds Pie has become a generic term in the U.S. that basically means any kind of meat and potato casserole. I've seen kidney and liver stew covered in whipped potatoes. I've seen hamburger topped in hashbrowns.

So. For reasons of authenticity, I will not be calling this dish a Shepherd's Pie. Instead, it is a Cottage Pie.

You're welcome, England.

That's as far as authenticity goes, though. I like to pack mine with veggies, which isn't so traditional, but it makes for a much more colorful, nutrient-rich meal. Huzzah.

So what's in it?

If you're not kosher, you can always use regular ground beef.
To make meal vegetarian, you can use a meatless substitute like Morningstar Grillers Crumbles.
To make meal OUP or vegan, you can use crumbled, cooked Gardenburgers.

1 lb lean kosher ground beef
2 small-medium shallots, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
Small handful finely diced red bell pepper, fresh or dried
2 tsp chili powder
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 cup snow peas, in pod
1 cup black beans, drained
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 tsp cinnamon (I know it sounds weird. But it'll add tremendous depth to your flavor)
1 Tbsp basil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup beef broth (K/V Sub: Veggie broth)
1/4 cup tomato sauce

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
1/4 cup butter, softened (K/V Sub: Vegetable margarine)
3/4 cup milk (K/V Sub: Unsweetened soy milk)
2-3 green onions or scallions, chopped
Garlic juice to taste
Seasoning to taste. (I used Penzey's FoxPoint, kosher salt, black pepper)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

The Meatalicious Filling!

Place a large, wide skillet over medium heat.
Into it, drizzle your olive oil and melt the pat of butter. Add the chopped shallots. (You'll notice I almost always use shallots in my recipe instead of onions. That's because shallots have an amazing flavor combination that tastes like a hybrid between onions and garlic. It's multidimensional, and I just prefer them. Feel free to use onions if you'd rather.)

When shallots are translucent, add your diced red pepper and chili powder. Stir together to blend. Add chopped carrots and onion soup mix.
(This is NOT a good time to try to take close up photos on the Macro setting. You just may burn everything and have to start all over. *ahem* Not that I'd know...)

Crumble in ground beef and saute for a few minutes. Add your broth and simmer everything together, breaking up ground beef crumbles with a spatula and turning the mixture so everything browns evenly. You can add your edamame and black beans at this point, but wait on the snap peas. If you cook them too long, they'll lose their bright green beautifulish..isness...ack! They'll lose their color!

Once the beef is well browned and everything smells fabulous, hold on to your socks and add the cinnamon, mixed herbs, and parsley.

Kapow! Doesn't that cinnamon just make you tingle? Alrighty then. Then this whole fragrant concoction simmer together for a bit, and stir in your tomato sauce. You can turn off the heat, cover, and let everything just develop while you work on the potatoes. Add your snap peas if you haven't yet.

(I had to refrain from making a Lord of the Rings reference here... "Boil em, mash em, stick em in a stew..." Oy, I couldn't resist!)

I hate peeling and chopping potatoes. It's the most tedious kitchen duty in the world, next to peeling apples. Or peeling anything, for that matter. So I don't peel. In fact, I didn't even use Yukon Golds here because that would be too much work, but I listed them as ingredients, because you can find them everywhere.

I used tiny little Danish Gold heirloom potatoes from Trader Joe's. This way, I can just quarter them quickly and go.


So. Chop your potatoes. If you like super smooth, creamy mashers, you can even peel them if you want. (But that won't be happening in MY kitchen!)

Once chopped, throw them in a big pot of water and bring to a rapid boil. You can salt the water if you care to, but I prefer to season my potatoes later, and they'll soak up that salt. Boil your taters for about 15 minutes, or until soft. When potatoes are thoroughly softened and fork-tender, drain them and return to the pot.

Add your butter, milk, and green onions. Hand-mash with a masher if you like them thick and chunky. If you prefer a creamier, "whipped" consistency, you can use a ricer, food processor, or immersion blender. I used a fork. I like my 'taters thick and chunky.
(Again, trying not to bust out a chorus of Sir Mixalot...)


Taste your mashers and add seasoning and garlic juice until it makes your mouth happy. Now, what is this crazy "garlic juice" I keep referring to? You know that jar of minced garlic we all have in our fridges? "Garlic juice" is just quite literally the juice that collects on top of the mince. If you just use the juice, you get all the delicious flavor, and it blends together smoothly without having bits of it in your dish if you don't want it.


Transfer your meat mixture to a casserole or baking dish and spread evenly.
The potatoes are tricky because you want them on TOP of the meat, not mixed through, so you have to be gentle.


Baked in preheated oven about 25 minutes until potatoes are golden and meat mixture is bubbly. Remove from oven and garnish as desired. I used sour cream and more scallions (which are not shown because I'll have to reheat this before we eat tonight.)

Enjoy, and happy eating!

Oh, and stay tuned tomorrow! We'll be making kosher no-crab rangoon and twice baked stuffed potato skins! Just in time for the Superbowl! See you there!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Death of the American Kitchen

My dear friend Charlie posted a link on facebook to a NY Times article today, called "A Food Manifesto for the Future". The article, written by popular food columnist Mark Bittman, discusses ways we can create a healthier, more sustainable future in regards to our food consumption and habits.

You can read it here, in the NY Times Online.

One of the tips it suggested was getting back to cooking at home. What a simple concept. In today's bustle and rush, so many people rely on the convenience of food made to order--restaurants, take out, drive through, delivery.

When I was a child, I embarrassingly remember Red Lobster being the absolute height of haute cuisine. We'd all dress up and it was a major event. (of course, some would argue that their cheddar biscuits are still definitely a major event)

It seems like cooking at home has become the luxury, and anything else is status quo. In a way, that makes me sad because so many restauranteers have a harder time getting established due to the saturation of the market. It's difficult to make a niche for yourself when there are a dozen competitors within one city block. The end result, especially in this economy, is a selection of mediocre establishments, all competing to find a way to produce the cheapest food.

Did anyone see the article about Taco Bell's meat not meeting the standards necessary to claim its status as "ground beef" because of all the fillers? Were you surprised? Me neither. How else are you going to be able to stuff a 3/4 pound burrito full of "beef" and charge $.99?

But, of course, it's no wonder WHY more Americans aren't in their kitchens. With every time-saving, labor-reducing gadget on the market, cooking has become work. Even with all the fancy shmancy choppers, peelers, graters, mixers, beaters, and whatnot, there is still an art to cooking that no machine can duplicate, that must be done by hand.
And as hurriedly as most families rush through dinner, who wants to put forth that kind of effort when you're rewarded by nothing but grunts and face-shoveling?

Of course, this doesn't help, either. ;) Of all gadgets and gizmos out there, I adore my dishwasher best of all. Without it, there would be no Happy Baker.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Orange-Infused Blueberry Cupcakes

With winter banging down our doors, I think we could all use something sunny and bright.

What screams "SUN!" with more fervor than blueberries and oranges? Well, I just can't think of a darn thing.

OH! Wait, I can.

Blueberry filled cupcakes with a luscious orange-infused cream cheese frosting. Yeah, baby, that'll do it.

Cupcakes and Frosting are OUD. Blueberry filling is OUP and vegan.

So what's in 'em?


3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons sweet cream, unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk or low-fat yogurt [I used nonfat blueberry greek]
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract [yep, that's a lot of vanilla!]
1 tablespoon grated orange zest [about one medium orange]
Fresh blueberries, mint sprigs, or candied orange peel for garnish

Got everything? Let's bake!

Preheat oven to 350°F, and line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper or foil liners.

To make the cuppity cakes, sift together your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and soda into a large bowl. If you don't have a sifter or a mesh strainer, use a whisk to make sure all dry ingredients are well blended.


In a medium bowl, whisk together your melted butter and oil. Add eggs and blend thoroughly. Whisk in buttermilk or yogurt, milk, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Add the wet mixture to dry ingredients, and stir well. (Can you feel the sun yet?)


Divide batter among liners. It will be super thick, like what you might get if pancake batter and bread dough met at Woodstock and had a lovechild.

These darlings eat best when they're relatively small. It's hard to get a good mouthful of cake and filling if they're too tall, so only fill the cups about halfway.

Bake these beautiful little fluffballs until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. While baking, make your blueberry filling. Recipe below. When cupcakes are golden around the edges, transfer to racks and cool.



1 pint blueberries, fresh or frozen.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp high quality cinnamon [I used Penzey's Vietnamese]
1/8 cup orange juice
1 tsp fruit pectin

This is super easy-peasy. Dump all ingredients into a saucepan.


Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a gentle boil. Boil gently until blueberries are broken down, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until it resembles thin jam. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from scalding. It'll be thin at first, but will thicken as it cools. You can refrigerate it if you're impatient like me. :)

[I'm walkin' on sunshiiiiine! Yeah, yeah!]


16 ounces chilled cream cheese
8 tablespoons sweet cream, unsalted butter, room temperature
2 big, heaping cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chilled sour cream or plain greek yogurt
Zest from one medium orange, finely grated

Oh, look! More easy-peasy stuff! I love it when it's simple. Just like summer. And beaches. And picnics. And ... oh, hello. February, you say? Bah! Not here, it isn't!

Microwave your zest with a spoonful of water for 30 seconds until hot. Drain. This helps bring out the orange oil and lots of flavor. I also cut my orange in half and squeezed the juice directly into the frosting while mixing. The cream cheese flavor is so strong, it takes a lot of orange to bring the citrus flavor through.

So, just dump everything but the powdered sugar into a large bowl, break out your hand mixer again, and whip it all together. It will start out impossibly thick and your mixer will be getting a workout. Begin adding your powdered sugar gradually, scraping the bowl occasionally to make sure you're mixing everything in. It'll be easier to whip now.

Frosting should be creamy and thick. Set aside or refrigerate.

Now let's just 'bibbity bobbity boo' all of this delicious sunshine together!

It is imperative that the cupcakes are completely cool, even chilled, before proceeding. Otherwise, they'll crack and crumble when you make the filling-hole.

Use an apple corer or a paring knife to gently hollow out a space in each cupcake, about an inch deep and 1/2" wide. Make sure to actually remove the cake from the hole, not just push it down.

Fill a ziplock-style baggie with your blueberry compote, seal it, and cut a hole in a corner of the baggie large enough to squeeze the fruit through.

Use the makeshift piping bag to fill cupcakes with blueberry filling. Be generous, but do not overflow the hollow space, or it'll make for a pretty, mess.
Filling should be flush with the top of the cake. You can stick a butter knife or a skewer down into the filling to make sure there's no bubbles and the cupcake is fully filled.


Okee doke. That's that. Now for the best part--the frosting!

You can always just frost the cupcakes with a knife or spatula and call it good. But I wouldn't be the Happy Baker if I left it at that. No no. A cupcake of this level of cheerfulness requires festive piping and garnishes.

So. Fit a piping bag with a wide, 3/4" or larger open star tip (or whatever you prefer, if you have a preference). Fill the bag with your luscious orange-infused frosting, and tie off at the end.

Pipe luxurious mounds of frosting onto each cupcake, being sure to cover the opening filled with blueberry.

Garnish as you please, don your bikinis, and enjoy your summery, tangy, sweet little piece of summer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black Lentil & Feta Salad

Today was a lazy day, my friends.

I woke up with images of cupcakes and pie in my head, and decided to sit down and check my email. Then I would bake.

I checked my email. And then the Kiddo wanted breakfast. So I figured I would cook. And THEN I would bake.

And then I needed to go to the store before this storm whips in. And THEEEEN I would bake.

You can see how this happened. All day.

Needless to say, I did not bake.

But I did make lentil salad! This is my favorite go-to side dish or snack. It's always seasonal, always fresh, and best of all, super easy. It has an amazing flavor too--the nutty lentils, the mildly salty zip of the feta, the crunchy tang of the onion... Mmm! It's fabulous.

I bought everything one would need to make lentil salad at Trader Joe's. You can find these ingredients anywhere, though.

What's In It?

(Recipe is vegetarian and OUD)

- Roughly 1 lb steamed black lentils. If you can't find pre-steamed lentils, you can buy them bagged and steam them yourself. It's a little more work, but well worth the effort.
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
- 6 oz crumbled feta

That's it. :)

I feel a little foolish even having added so many pictures, because the recipe is simply: Dump all ingredients in a bowl and stir. That's all there is to it. But everyone loves pics, so I'm posting them anyway.

These are the pre-steamed black lentils I use. You can find them in the refrigerated produce section of your nearest Trader Joe's.

This is what they'll look like when loosened and well stirred:

Add your onions and crumbled feta:


Drizzle in the balsamic vinaigrette and stir well. The longer you let the salad sit, the better the flavors will all marry together. I guarantee, it'll be even better tomorrow.

Enjoy! Happy Eating!