Ingredients/Basics, Techniques/guidelines, Tools and Equipment Helpful for my Blog

Ingredients and basics

Flours

Almond Flour: I rarely use almond flour because I try not to use too many nuts, but sometimes in recipes it can be a rich substitute for other sprouted flours if you do not want to make those.   Keep in mind though recipes with almond flour tend to be a bit heavier.  If you would like a lighter colored cake though, this is an option.
To make almond flour, grind sprouted (soaked and dehydrated) almonds to a fine consistency in a high speed blender only about 30 seconds or less (but not too long or you will have nut butter).  Store in the fridge.

Coconut Flour: I prefer coconut flour in sweet recipes because it is light, and quick to make, plus it gives things like cakes a little more sweetness.  I do not prefer store bought coconut flour because it has a lower fat content, it may not be raw (many of them are not), and it tends to dry out the batter or dough in the recipes too much.  It is really easy to make your own, it is a lot cheaper and only takes less than 30 seconds. 
To make coconut flour, take 3 cups of finely shredded dried coconut and blend until fine flour in a high speed blender only about 30 seconds or less (but not too long, just until it is flour or it will become butter).  Store in the fridge.

Sprouted Quinoa Flour: Sprouted Quinoa flour gives recipes a slightly nutty texture, plus it is high in protein.  To make sprouted quinoa flour, rinse quinoa well, then drain and cover with water again. Soak 8 hours, then drain well and place in a sprouting jar or jar covered with cheesecloth.  Let sprout for about a day, or until tails begin to form on the quinoa.  Place on a dehydrator sheet and dry for about 12 hours until crunchy.  Place in a high speed blender and grind to flour. 

Sprouted Buckwheat Flour: 
Sprouted buckwheat flour is one of my favorite flours to use because it is quick to make and doesn’t have much flavor.  To make, soak raw buckwheat groats for 30 minutes in filtered water, then rinse and drain well.  Place on a lined dehydrator sheet and dry for 24 hours until crispy and completely dry.  Place in a high speed blender for about 30 seconds and grind to flour.  Store in the fridge.  


Sprouted Oat Flour: I enjoy using sprouted oat flour because it is slightly sweet and works wonderfully in cakes and cookies.  When buying oats for making sprouted oat flour, be sure that they are gluten free, and raw (if they are not raw they will not sprout).
To make, Soak raw oat groats for 8 hours, then drain well.  Spread out onto a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate until dry (about 24 hours).  Place in a high speed blender and grind to flour.  Store in the fridge.

Flavorings

Vanilla: I buy whole vanilla beans to use in recipes because I believe they have the best flavor, but if you do not have access to them, feel free to use organic pure vanilla extract. 

Essential Oils: Sometimes in my recipes that call for lavender or citrus I use essential oil. However you can not just use any kind it has to be ok for consumption. Du Terra essential oils are perfect for my recipes and can be ordered on their site.  I use their lavender, orange and lemon oils.

Lavender:  I use dried lavender flowers in many of my recipes and they can be bought at most health food stores in the bulk section.  Just be sure they are food grade organic.

Rose Water: Rose water adds a beautiful scent to sweet recipes, and it is one of my favorite aromas.  You can find it in middle eastern stores, or sometimes in the baking section of specialty kitchen stores or coops. 

Sweeteners

Raw Coconut nectar: I often use coconut nectar in my recipes as I feel it is one of the better raw liquid sweeteners.  It is low glycemic and made from the sap of flowers from the coconut tree.  It can be found at many raw suppliers online or in health food stores. 

Raw Coconut Palm Sugar: Coconut Palm Sugar is low glycemic, and perfect for when you want a substitute for traditional sugar for sprinkling or you do not want to add excess moisture to a recipe.

Raw Agave Nectar: I tend not to use as much raw agave nectar,  as it is higher glycemic than most people think, but if you prefer to use it in recipes replacing other liquid sweeteners such as honey or coconut nectar, you can. 

Maple Syrup: Technically maple syrup is not raw, but it is a wonderful sweetener and contains minerals that can be beneficial. Keep in mind that it is sweeter than other sweeteners, so a little goes a long way.

Raw Honey: Although not vegan, honey is a wonderful liquid sweetener with lots of health benefits and it works great in raw recipes.  I tend to use it a lot, because although I am plant based I am not strictly vegan. I try to buy local raw honey. 

Stevia:  If you are diabetic or trying to stay away from sugar, stevia is a great option as it will not affect your blood sugar levels.  Also it is calorie free if you are concerned about that.

Dates:  I use dates when I can to sweeten, because they are about the most natural sweetener you can find.  I use them in crusts and to make raw caramel because of their sticky texture.  I use medjool dates, which still have the pits when I buy them because I find that they are softer than the pitted.  You can use other soft dates if you like.  If they dates you bought are not soft, soak them in filtered water and drain well before using in recipes.
Date Paste: To make date paste, soak dates in filtered water for 30 minutes or until softened, then drain, and blend until smooth, adding a little filtered water if too thick.  Store in the fridge. 

Nuts and Seeds

 In all of my recipes, I use raw organic nuts whenever possible.  Nuts specifically that have been sprouted, which means soaked and either used wet if it is for a creamy recipe or dried in the dehydrator if I want them to be crunchy. Why are they sprouted (soaked)?  Well, soaking gets rid of the enzyme inhibitors in the nuts that make them harder for you to digest.  When you soak your nuts, you want to make sure to discard the soaking water and rinse the nuts before using or drying.  If you are dehydrating the nuts for future use, dry them for about 24 hours until they are completely dry at 115F.  I prefer to soak a large amount of nuts, dry them then store them in the fridge. If I am making a recipe that calls for wet nuts, I prefer to soak them just before using.
Buckwheat: I often use sprouted, dehydrated buckwheat groats in my crusts because they give it a nice crunch and cut down on the nuts.  To make them, simply soak the raw buckwheat groats for 30 minutes in filtered water, then rinse and drain well.  Spread out on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate until dry, about 24 hours.

Flaxseed: flaxseed is full of healthy omega 3 oils, fiber and protein, and it is a wonderful addition to recipes where you want a little substance with your tasty food.  I sprinkle it on my breakfast and smoothies in the morning, but I also love to use it in my raw cake batters to keep them soft or crackers to add nutrients. You can buy raw ground flax meal so all you have to do is measure it out.  I store mine in the freezer to keep it fresh, although even a large bag does not last long at my house.  You can also buy whole raw flaxseeds and grind your own if you have the proper tools to do so. 

Hemp Seeds: I love hemp seeds!  They are a nutrition power house, filled with lots of omega 3 oils and also a source for complete protein.  They find their way into most of my savory recipes, but I love them in smoothies, hemp milk of course, and sprinkled on top of salads.  I buy raw, shelled hempseeds online from Vitacost. 

Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are another wonderful source of omega 3 oils and protein, and if you eat them in your meals, you will stay satisfied longer.  I love to eat them my breakfast, but they are also a good way to thicken things like raw jams, sauces or dressings and add texture. 

Nut Butters:
Peanut Butter: I make my own raw peanut butter from jungle peanuts, but if you are not strictly raw you can feel free to use roasted peanut butter as long as it is unsweetened (such as maranatha brand). 
Almond Butter:  Almond butter is easily made at home if you have a high speed blender, but if you do not, you can buy raw in  most health food stores or online. 
How to make nut butter:
Keep in mine different types of nuts have different fat contents, so some may need a little oil added with them if they are not blending smoothly.  To make nut butter, add 3 cups nuts to a high speed blender, and blend until smooth and creamy (if the nuts you are using are lower oil content such as almonds you might need to add a couple Tbsp oil too), using the tamper to press the nuts into the blades.  Add a little sea salt if desired and blend about 15 seconds more until it is incorporated.  Store in a jar in the fridge.  You can make nut butter with a food processor as well but keep in mind it may not be as smooth, and it will take a lot longer.  Also, you will need to scrape the sides of the processor down often. 

Coconut

Coconut Oil: I use coconut oil in my recipes involving creamy elements because it adds richness and helps them to set up properly when chilled. I believe that healthy oil such as coconut is beneficial to your body and is needed in order to absorb nutrients.  You always want to buy raw unrefined virgin coconut oil. Since it is solid at room temperature it will need to be warmed for use in recipes. I simply place mine in the dehydrator in a glass measuring cup until it is melted. 

Coconut butter:  Not to be confused with coconut oil, it is the whole flesh of coconut.  Think nut butter, it is the nut butter of the coconut world, but so much more really.  I use a lot of coconut butter in my recipes because it has a wonderful sweetness, a great thickener for things like raw cheesecake but a little lighter than just coconut oil, and is so easy to make at home.  To do so, in a high speed blender, add 3 cups finely shredded dried coconut and blend at high speed using the tamper to press it into the blades until it is smooth and creamy.  This will take about 1 minute.  Pour into a jar and enjoy! You can store at room temperature, and it will become solid but it will need to be warmed for use in recipes. I simply place mine in the dehydrator in a glass measuring cup (or in the glass jar I am storing it in if it fits) until it is melted. 


Shredded dried coconut: I use a lot of finely shredded dried coconut in my recipes, because it serves as a slightly sweet background for desserts.  Be sure to by coconut that is unsweetened, simply dried.  The sweetened stuff is the equivalent of junk food.  I buy mine in 25 lb bags, but you can get it in the bulk section of most well stocked health food stores. 

Young coconut meat: I use a lot of fresh young coconut meat in my recipes because it is creamy and sweet.  Too open you need a cleaver.  Lay the coconut on its side, hold it firmly closer to the bottom and bring the knife down near the top a few inches down from the pointed part.  You should break through to the center where the water is.  Set the coconut on its base so the water doesn’t run out, then pour the water into a container (don’t throw it away, it is delicious).  Finish cutting the top off going in a circle around the top.  Scoop the meat out from the coconut with a sturdy metal spoon (I use a large eating spoon). 

Cacao

I believe that raw cacao has more health benefits than regular cocoa powder, but if you can not find raw cacao powder, you can use unsweetened natural organic cocoa powder.  I buy my raw cacao online at Vitacost. I do not have access to raw cacao butter at a price that I can afford, so when I make my chocolate I use coconut oil and raw cacao.  If you have access to it, feel free to use it!  Chocolate made with coconut oil melts easier at room temperature.  This is the recipe I use for raw chocolate when I make chocolate chunks in ice cream, cookies, or for garnish:

Raw Chocolate Chunks: ½ cup raw cacao powder
½ cup raw coconut oil, warmed to liquid
¼ cup raw coconut nectar or maple syrup
A pinch of sea salt
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and well blended.  Pour into molds, or out onto a sheet of foil and place in the fridge to harden.  Chop into chunks. 

Tips for making raw cheesecake: http://fragrantvanillacake.blogspot.com/2013/07/making-perfect-raw-cheesecake.html

Techniques/Guidelines

Dehydrating:
I always dehydrate my food at 115F. For most recipes in this book I have a range of dehydration time because your food may take longer or shorter depending on your dehydrator and the moisture in the air/food.  As a general rule, check the food sooner rather than later to see if it is done.  You can always dry it for longer, but once it is too dry, it is tough to fix.
Soaking Nuts:
It is important to soak your nuts before using them in recipes so that you remove the enzyme-inhibitors in the skin that make them hard to digest.  Also, for recipes that require blended smooth nuts it makes them creamier and easier to blend.  Always soak nuts in filtered water and rinse well afterwards. Nuts that are harder take a bit longer to soak.  Almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, take about 8 hours. Walnuts, pecans and brazil nuts about 4 hours.  And soft nuts like pine nuts, cashews and macadamias, just 2  hours.  If you are going to use the nuts dry, pop them into the dehydrator for about 24 hours after you have soaked them to dry them out before using. 
Opening Young Coconuts:
I use a cleaver to open young coconuts.  Lay the coconut on its side (which is flatter), make sure it doesn’t roll.  Bring the knife down near the top of the coconut (the pointed end).  If the knife goes into the coconut a little breaking the hard shell, you have a successful cut.  Set the coconut upright, and rotate the knife around the top to slice it off.  Drain out the water into a glass or container and scoop out the meat.  


Tools/Equipment


Dehydrator
If you are serious about raw foods, a dehydrator is an essential item to consider buying.  They are relatively inexpensive when you consider what is paid for an oven, and even just a small 4 tray would work for my recipes (which is what I had before, and I only upgraded to a 5 tray).  I recommend Excalibur brand, which is what I have, and the easiest to use in my opinion.  I do not recommend round dehydrators that stack, trays that slide in are easier to clean and use.  For your dehydrator, you will also need to buy teflex liners for when you want to set things on the trays like pizza crust, crackers or cakes so that they do not fall through the holes (although in a pinch I have used parchment paper).  Dehydrators aren’t just for crackers though, they will allow you to make lighter dehydrated cakes (as opposed to just chilling them which leaves them heavy),things like veggie burgers, kale chips (which are way better in the dehydrator than the oven), dry out grains for sprouted flour…the possibilities are endless!  A dehydrator is definitely a good investment, and it uses only about as much energy as a lamp.


Food Processor
A food processor is a must when it comes to preparing raw dishes.  Yes, you can chop things like salads by hand, but you need a food processor to make things like a raw dessert crust, hummus, or a mixture veggie burgers.  I have a 12 cup Cuisinart, and I just love it.  I find that it is large enough to fit the recipes I make and not overflow and it is powerful enough to do a pretty good job of chopping things very fine.  It is good to use when you do not want to use a high speed blender because you want to chop nuts to powder, not make nut butter. 


Vitamix
Vitamix is a high speed blender, and I am in love with mine.  Before I bought my Vitamix, I was constantly having to strain mixtures for raw cheesecake filling, and making nut butter took twice as long.  Now, I use it for all my creamy dessert fillings, sauces, nut butters and nut milks and I honestly don’t know how I managed without it.  Yes, they are a little spendier than most blenders, but the quality is worth it.  They last for years and years and take a beating.  Also, you save time making your recipes because it blends up twice as fast as a food processor. 


Knives
Sharp, good quality knives are a must when preparing raw food.  You need to be able to chop things fast without squishing them or putting your fingers in danger with a dull knife.  My essential knives are a chef’s knife, pairing knife, cleaver (if you are going to be opening young coconuts), and a serrated knife for things like slicing cake layers. 


Spiralizer
If you want to make things like raw pasta, a spiralizer is needed.  I used to chop all of my long noodles by hand, but it was a lot of work and took skill so I consider buying my spiralizer well worth it.  I have a Paderno, and it was a reasonable price for the use I get out of it.  You can make 3 different sizes of noodles with it. 


Nut Milk Bag
If you plan on making nut milk, getting a nut milk bag will make it easier on you.  Although you can use cheesecloth, it does not strain the liquid as well and is a bit messier .  Most nut milk bags are reusable. 



34 comments:

  1. I love your recipes and posts. I had to try this one as I have so many food allergies now and really miss the granola bars I could take on the go. Finally a recipe I can make without wheat, corn, rice and egg. Thank you for sharing with everyone, it is so kind of you! :)

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    1. Thank you so much :)! I love the buckwheat granola and it is more allergy free than other granolas which is nice. I am so happy to share with you!

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  2. Hi Amy! I have recently dicovered your blog and it has been wonderful for me, I think it's a fantastic page with delicious recipes and great photos. But I have a little questions for you: you use coconut in different forms in almost your dessert recipes, I like it very much, but it's a great source of saturated fat... How could it be sustituted for a healthier ingredient? What would you use? Would it be possible use olive oil, or corn oil for example? Thank you very much.

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    1. Coconut oil is a very healthy oil, as long as you buy the virgin raw type and not the processed. Corn oil is not healthy and olive oil would not taste good. So I reccomend just use the coconut oil unless you are allergic. There have been many studies done on the health benefits of coconut oil and how it does not act as other saturated fat does in the body. You might want to read a few articles on it :).

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  3. Is there anywhere on your blog where you explain about coconut nectar and how it is made?

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    1. Not anywhere on this blog, but you can check out this link: http://www.naturalnews.com/030110_coconut_nectar_vinegar.html

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  4. Hi Amy,

    you often say "x amount cashews, preferably soaked"
    Do you measure the cashews (or any other nuts) before or after soaking?

    Thank you!

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    1. Yes, they are measured before soaking.

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  5. Hi Amy, I love your blog - you make everything look so beautiful. May I ask what substitute I can use for nuts. My daughter is anaphylactic.
    Thank you very much for your time.
    My best,
    Jenny

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  6. It depends on the recipe (since the nuts are used differently in different ones), if you would like to tell me which one you had in mind to make, I would be happy to help :)!

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  7. Love your stuff...did my first attempt at a raw cheesecake last night as well as starting the lavender blueberry almond cake. A few questions and issues....I have a vita-mix. I always have such an issue with stuff getting stuck in it and the blades stop. Making butters, etc. Do you have any tips? SO I tried to use it as a food processor for the cake part last night and it stopped the motor. I'm guessing I definitely need a food processor. I also cracked open my first coconuts last night....getting the meat out is so much work. How do you use it? Do you put it in in chunks or shred it? How do you measure it (I left mine in chunks). And how can I store any leftover chunks? And do you measure the dates by placing them in a measuring cup or smooching them is? I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get in to this more...(like I bought a dehydrator but it has the hole in the middle so I guess I'll use the oven)!

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    1. Hmm, is it an old vitamix? Are you using the tamper to press the stuff down into the blade? I know they can overheat if you allow the blade to go too fast for too long and not have anything in it. Otherwise the blade should not be stopping, maybe there is something wrong with it. I always use a food processor for my cakes, and I do the liquid ingredients first if it is a dehydrated cake then the dry so it goes smoother. I just leave my coconut in chunks. I don't measure my dates usually, I put the amount of dates in the recipe. If I were to measure them though, I would pit them and pack them into the measuring cup.

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    2. Yes, it is old (I've had it 12 years). Thanks for the help! I'm sure I'll have more questions along the way....:)

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  8. That might be why ;). I am happy to help with your questions :)!

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  9. I'm inspired to eat healthy; start vegetarian and work my way to vegan/raw foods. There is just so MUCH to learn (all the different ingredients)but my biggest question is: How do you get your protein on a daily basis? I've never been much of a meat eater so I never get enough, but going vegetarian well I'm just lost.

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    1. I take raw protein powder and hemp protein powder (since I work out a lot), as well as eat things high in protein like hemp seeds, chia seeds, and dark greens. If you are not raw, you can do things like cooked beans and quinoa (the quinoa can actually be sprouted and be raw, and you can sprout lentils). If you have a lot of questions, feel free to e-mail me with them at fragrantvanillacake@gmail.com I am all about helping people eat healthier and find what works for them :)!

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  10. AhhHhh~ ReCiPe HeaVeN ~
    ThAnK YoU FoR ShArInG:~)

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  11. Do you mind sharing the information once again- I couldn't find it.
    1. Brand for coconut flakes, oil, water
    2. Do you buy them online?

    Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful recipes!!

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  12. I do not buy a brand for any of those things. I actually just buy the finely shredded dried coconut at the health food store I work at and I buy young Thai coconuts at an Asian market (which is where the water comes from, it is fresh).

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  13. I always drool when I see your posts! I am so excited to make some of these, but I am not 100% raw, and I'm afraid my other half would not be psyched about another gadget in the kitchen! It will be a little while before I purchase a dehydrator, so could you give me an idea about the best temp for the oven and approximate cooking time changes? And would you recommend leaving the door open with a fan? (I read somewhere that helps to keep the heat moving.)
    Thanks for all you do!

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    1. I would say do it at the lowest temp. Possible. I have not done it so I am not sure how much less time it would take, but it will be done faster since the oven is hotter. You are so welcome :). Maybe someday you can have a dehydrator ;)!

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  14. Just a quick question: When making coconut butter, do you use unsweetened flakes?

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    1. Yes! Unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut. NEVER buy the sweetened stuff.

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  15. Hi Amy, love your blog and recipes - have made a few of them and they are amazing. Quick question - are there any other ways to make coconut butter? I don't have a high speed blender and when I put dried coconut into my food processor it doesn't change very much in consistency or appearance :(

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    1. Thank you! I am happy you are enjoying my recipes :)! Unfortunately no, there is not. It has to be a high speed blender with a tamper to press the coconut down into the blades.

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  16. Hi Amy, in one of your recipes where you use coconut flour, you say don't use store-bought flour, rather make your own - why not store-bought? Is it not raw, or is it because home-made is probably healhtier, or any other reason? Tnx!

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    1. I say not to use it because it does not taste as good and it is drier, so the recipe ends up needing a lot more liquid. I just want my readers to end up with the same results I do when they make the recipes.

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  17. Is it okay to use storebought buckwheat flour instead of making the sprouted kind that you call for in your recipes?

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    1. You could try, but store bought is not raw, and the texture might not come out as nice. I would suggest sticking to the sprouted kind. Really it only takes 30 minutes of soaking then drying it which is hands off time. If you do not own a dehydrator you can dry it in the oven at a low temperature...I think that would still be better than buying it at the store.

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  18. Hey!

    The sprouted flour is stored in the fridge, can you tell me how long will it stay good for? :)

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    1. About 6 months? I am not sure, mine never lasts long ;)!

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  19. Is it possible to sub cacao butter for coconut butter in recipes? Like the walnut butter coffee cacao cups?

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    1. It will work for some recipes, but not others. I think it would work for that recipe, might taste a little more like white chocolate that way! The only reason I use more coconut butter than cacao butter is because it is very expensive for me to buy it.

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  20. LOL... to expensive for me too! I was gifted a pound for my birthday and I'm trying to use it in some cool ways. If you have some other ideas in your recipes where it would work well - I'd love to know!

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