Go Bananas on Banana Lover’s Day

 

Americans eat more than three billion pounds of bananas a year, adding up to roughly 300 bananas a second. Soft and sweet, rich in potassium and bursting with fiber, it’s no wonder bananas are hailed as a super food!

  • There are nearly 1,000 different kinds of bananas, but very few of them are actually sold in stores.
  • A banana plant isn’t actually a tree – it’s technically an herb!
  • Some cultures use banana peel fibers to make paper.
  • The banana is a rock star. More songs have been created about it than any other fruit. Check out this playlist of our favorites!
  • The fruit’s combination of tryptophan and vitamin B6 produces the neurochemical serotonin, which can stave off depression and improve overall mental health.
  • Bananas have been recorded as far back as ancient Egypt. There are even bananas depicted in hieroglyphics!

In our bodies, bananas fuel us with energy and nutrients. The potassium wards off muscle cramps and the antioxidants ease stomach ulcers. But bananas are good for more than just banana bread. You can harness the full power of bananas in some very interesting ways, particularly by:

  • Adding bananas to cake batter, resulting in a moister and naturally sweet dessert. We recommend substituting up to half of the oil in the recipe with banana puree. It’s also a delicious addition to pancakes!
  • Putting banana peels in your watering can to create a natural fertilizer for your plants.
  • Placing peels on chicken breasts as they cook to keep them moist and tender.
  • Mashing a banana and using the puree as a face mask. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes for super moist skin!
  • Using the peel to polish silverware and leather.
  • Easing itchy bites and rashes with the inside of the peel.

Ultimately, however, even with these inventive uses, we can all admit that the best part of a banana is its flavor. To keep your bananas from browning too quickly, wrap the stems in plastic wrap to lock in the ethylene gas, keeping them yellow for days. Or find another use for them this National Banana Lover’s Day (that’s today!) by putting on your banana mask, polishing your silverware and cooking up one of these delicious banana recipes:

Fresh Fruit Pizza: This simple dessert pizza starts with a crust made from brown sugar and walnuts. It’s topped with cream cheese and a variety of fruits, including, of course, bananas.

Sunrise Muffins with Honey Butter: Combining buttermilk and cinnamon with pineapples and carrots gives these muffins a delectable and savory flavor. Ripened bananas make these muffins moist and sweet.

Chill Out Banana Coffee Cream Pie: Who needs an afternoon coffee break when this recipe exists? Vanilla wafer cookies, coffee extract and bananas give this dish a creamy, sweet flavor.

Banana Maple Beignets: This French pastry mixes banana chips and maple syrup together for an extraordinary breakfast experience.

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Best Fair Food of 2014

 

Who doesn’t love the excitement of the State Fair? For many of us, as kids we walked the midway, chewing on roasted corn dripping with butter and licking sticky cotton candy off of our fingers. Those were the simple days of fair foods. Nowadays, fair food is less of a tasty treat and more of a mouth-watering art. Amid an array of fried candy bars and bacon-covered everything, states are taking their fair food to a whole new level. Here are just a few treats we’d like to snag. And devour.

Deep-Fried Texas Bluebonnet: “A blueberry muffin, scone-style batter that is stuffed with cream cheese, blueberries and sweet morsels of white chocolate” is this concoction’s description at the Texas State Fair. A finalist in the Big Tex Choice Awards, this fried goodness is topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar, more fresh blueberries and a special glaze. Seriously yum!

Funnel Cake Sticks: Ah, a classic fair indulgence. Well, sort of. At the Iowa State Fair, fair-goers had their choice of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry batter deep fried and topped with a smooth icing. It’s everything we love about traditional funnel cakes without all the mess.

Making your own funnel cake is not near as daunting as you may think. This simple Clabber Girl recipe makes it easy. 

Chicken-n-Waffle Cone: Despite original cream puffs being the oldest food tradition and crowning glory of the Wisconsin State Fair, we just had to know more about this dish. A finalist in the “Golden Spork Awards,” this fair treat boasts a rosemary cornmeal waffle cone stuffed with Cajun buttermilk fried chicken, blue cheese coleslaw, honey lager maple syrup and beer candied bacon. We didn’t make that up (though we wish we did!).

Fruit Twister Shake-up: This year, our home state of Indiana flaunted the Fruit Twister Shake-up. The refreshing thirst-quencher has long been an Indiana tradition, and the new spin includes lemons, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, sugar, ice and water.

Don’t let summer go by without trying out a few new drinks. Start with Clabber Girl’s Watermelon Lemonade - perfect for sitting on the porch, flipping a few burgers or after mowing the lawn.

All of these creative recipes were worthy of treks to the State Fair. With all the delicious and innovative choices, we can’t help but wonder what the imagination will cook up next year!

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Happy Zucchini Day!

 

Happy Zucchini Day! If you’re looking for a way to celebrate this versatile, nutrient veggie, how about cooking or baking with it? Sweet or savory, main dish or dessert, light or hearty…whatever you crave, we’ve got you covered.  So go forth and celebrate summer!

Sides and Salads:

Making a zucchini dish for lunch or as an accompaniment to dinner couldn’t be easier. For a quick side dish, cut zucchini into coins, sauté in a little olive oil and top with melted mozzarella. You could also cut the zucchini length-wise and throw them on the grill. From ratatouille to shish kebabs, here are some of our favorite sides.

Baked vegetable and cheese polenta
Braised summer vegetables
Caponata
Cheese-fried zucchini
Garden ratatouille
Grilled potato salad
Grilled ratatouille salad
Roasted Mediterranean vegetables
Farmers market shish kebobs
Spinach zucchini soufflé

Main Dishes:

Zucchini works as an excellent, nutritious replacement for grains and meat in many dishes! For a low-carb, low(er)-fat main dish, try layering thin slices of zucchini as you would noodles in lasagna. It’s also a fabulous addition to quiches and frittatas!

Garden-fresh zucchini lasagne
Turkey vegetable meatloaf
Vegetarian “meatloaf”
Zucchini pizza
Zucchini quiche

Soups and Stews:

A vegetable like zucchini holds up well in warm, hearty soups. Make it the star of your chili, or add it in with other veggies in classic minestrone.

Beefy minestrone
Beef stew with cheese dumplings
Italian sausage soup
Zucchini chili

Breads and Muffins:

Isn’t zucchini bread everyone’s number one way to use up all that summer squash? Shred it up very fine for a moist bread that could pass as veggie-free. Hint: making a chocolate version hides it from the kids even more!

Chocolate zucchini bread
Chocolate zucchini muffins
Pineapple zucchini bread
Savory zucchini parmesan bread
Zucchini bread
Zucchini carrot apple bread

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Top 3 Biscuit Mistakes

 

It’s almost Sunday morning – time for biscuits! The mouth-watering smell of rising dough fills the house. Every second the aroma strengthens, enticing you to nibble on that flaky, buttery goodness. The timer goes off and you eagerly open the oven door, only to feel your mitt-clad hand lower and your mouth dry up. The dough is all spread out and hard as a rock, not to mention the burnt bottoms. Something obviously went wrong, but you followed the recipe to the letter. So what happened?

Even the best cooks have their moments. Environment and equipment play just as important of a role as ingredients and recipes. That’s why the baking experts here at Clabber Girl have come up with some clever solutions to the most common biscuit-baking mistakes.

1. I could build a house with my biscuits! They’re just too hard.

Overcooking or high oven temperatures yield brick-like biscuits that can appear to look just fine on the outside. Sometimes, using too many dry ingredients can harden the dough, too.

Solution: Lining your tray with parchment paper can help reduce the hardness. Also think about reducing the heat or cooking time. If this is a repeat offense, your oven is likely the culprit. Placing a thermometer inside will reveal if your oven needs calibrating. Try tweaking your process with these delectable biscuits overflowing with a sweet apricot filling.

2. My entire baking tray morphed into one giant, shallow biscuit. How do I keep my biscuits from spreading?

Using too much butter or hot baking trays can cause the dough to glide across the pan like molten lava. Overeager cooks too impatient to let the oven adequately preheat can also incur the dreaded biscuit spread.

Solution: Let the dough cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking and make sure your baking pan is cool or, at least, room temperature. Try your new techniques on these savory cheese and garlic drop biscuits, the perfect companion for Italian night. If your biscuits still spread, try substituting half the butter with shortening. They’ll have the same rich flavor, minus the soft spreading agent.

3. My biscuits have the perfect shimmer of light brown on top, but the bottoms are burnt to a crisp.

If your oven is too hot or you’ve placed the tray too close to the heating element, your biscuits can look golden on top, but black on the bottom.

Solution: If your oven doesn’t heat evenly, try turning the tray at the halfway point and also place it on the middle rack, not the bottom. Parchment paper can also help prevent burnt bottoms. Pick up a roll as you grab the ingredients for Clabber Girl’s incredible smoked bacon biscuits.

Biscuits are a food that should make you just as happy baking as eating. Few things are as disappointing as a baking disaster. Making these few simple adjustments can turn your biscuit breakdown into a kitchen conquest!

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Bakers’ Basics: A New Column with Marcy Goldman

 

We’re excited to introduce a new blog series to you called Bakers’ Basics with Marcy Goldman! Marcy is a professional pastry chef and master baker. She’s authored several books and hosts the popular baking magazine Better Baking. Marcy will be sharing her tricks and techniques via recipes and special baking tips every other month in this space. We hope you’ll find it helpful and entertaining! Here’s Marcy:

Welcome to Bakers’ Basics! In this new bi-monthly column, I will provide a mini baking lesson and some especially created recipes to go with the lesson.

Bakers’ Basics is your place; a cozy and floury oasis where you’ll be learning the unique joys of both classic and contemporary American baking. We’ll be chatting about recipes that are seasonal, traditional, and trending, as well as foundational, teaching recipes. It’s all geared to help you improve your baking skills.

I’ll be sharing my expertise as well as my own passion for this wonder ingredient, Clabber Girl baking powder, while you hone your home baking craftsmanship.

Despite the plethora of great free recipes, food sites and blogs, and expert videos on baking, many professional techniques are omitted. Consequently, home bakers don’t always have the advantage of recipes that are designed to make them shine, along with the insider’s tips to help them improve. Nor do they get to appreciate the low-down on baking powder baking, which is, in essence, the full spectrum of American baking.  Want the techniques and tricks only the pros know? Here’s the place to find out about them and once you do, just watch your baking soar!

A Baking Powder Primer

As familiar as our modern baking powder is now, there once was a time when the sole baking leaveners were wild yeasts and sour dough starters, frothy mounted egg whites, or the somewhat unpalatable and unreliable early baking sodas of yesteryear, also known as saleratus. This gravelly, early sodium bicarbonate had to be used in conjunction with an acid ingredient, usually sour milk or buttermilk. It was unreliable, and oftentimes baked goods had that unmistakable yucky taste of soda in them.

When commercial double-acting baking powder was first introduced around 1855 (just before the Civil War!), it offered home bakers a reliable, consistent leavener that already had its acid component (cream of tartar, phosphate or alum powders) mixed in with the alkali ingredient, namely soda. Homemakers no longer had to labour at the butter churn to produce some extra buttermilk needed to make their soda active.

As city life evolved and homemakers no longer predictably had access to farm-churned buttermilk, this attribute of the new “yeast powder,” aka baking powder, had huge appeal. In fact, the first baking powders were known as “Yeast Powders” to somewhat dupe or appease the consumer into thinking this was a derivative yeast product.

Some home bakers (as well as pros) bemoaned the new product, concerned it would see the disappearance of old-fashioned yeast bakery. But what did come to pass, and what we can all appreciate, is that modern baking powder gave rise to a whole new spectrum of totally fabulous baking, from quick breads to cupcakes, muffins, scones, biscotti, pancakes and tender layer cakes. It’s hard to think of any great baking, aside from yeasted breads, that doesn’t begin with a can of Clabber Girl Baking Power, who by the way, has been here from the beginning of this baking journey. To read more on Clabber Girl’s own special history, check out http://www.clabbergirl.com/history.php/

Now you know just what a wonder product baking powder is and how integral it is to American baking. Knowing Clabber Girl is perfectly formulated and recipe-tested to be the best, you can join me on this very special baking adventure.

To start us off this month, I’ve included a trio of recipes that are quintessentially summery and showcase Clabber Girl’s baking powder in three very delectable ways. They are also blue ribbon examples of baking powder-based baking that kitchens have enjoyed for generations.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Raspberry Buckle
Buckles, grunts, crisps, pandowdy’s and deep dish fruity things are both summery easy and a perfect lesson in seeing how baking powder and some pantry ingredients make for as sumptuous dessert. This is a golden, fruity buckle with an addictive streusel topping. Dense with deep berry freshness and flavor, it slices easily, making it oh-so-easy to serve. This is summery country elegance in its finest hour and no wonder!  A ton of extra testing and perfecting went into this quintessential buckle recipe. It’s not too cakey nor gummy; it’s neither muffin, nor a quick bread, and too unique to be just a coffee cake. It’s just the best buckle possible and a wonderful example of the marvels of the broad realm of baking powder baking.

1860 Secret Trick Baking Powder Biscuits
Pioneer cooks being baking savvy knew to rely on farm fresh buttermilk for extra light biscuits. The acid in the buttermilk makes the biscuits especially high-risin’. My extra trick is to add soured (lemon juice helps do that) whipping cream for an especially high, baking powder biscuit that is both tender and crusty. This is an all-butter biscuit; if you prefer shortening, use the new non trans fat one.

Caramel Sticky Pudding
This is a rustic but still decadent dessert that’s whipped together in minutes. A simple cake batter gets spooned into a pan, doused with brown sugar and maple concoction. The magic of the oven (and baking powder) transforms it into a golden brown cake atop a luscious sticky syrup bottom.

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Celebrate Bastille Day – With Dessert!

 

Still relishing those mid-summer Fourth of July festivities? Lucky for you, today marks another celebration of freedom – Bastille Day! Much like Independence Day to Americans, Bastille Day commemorates the start of the French Revolution, when unarmed peasants stormed the Bastille prison and armory. What better way to commemorate their victory than to pop open some champagne, pull out the Bocce set and whip up a few delectable French desserts the whole family will love?

A French Celebration

Dessert in France is as much a part of the country’s heritage as Bastille Day. On July 14, flags line the Champs-Elysees, fireworks light up the Eiffel Tower and families gather with friends to honor the establishment of their first constitution. Needless to say, the celebration includes tremendous amounts of wine, cheese and, of course, chocolate.

From chocolate mousse to crème brûlée, French desserts are the Audrey Hepburn of baking; they have an elegance all their own. There is as much sophistication as there is sweetness in every bite. In this culture, food is to be savored, and each meal is planned with intention, creativity and attitude.

French Dessert Characteristics

In fact, the French consider cooking to be as artistic as painting, and it isn’t all about taste. While it’s true, the French have panache for pairing the richness of crème with the bittersweet tang of dark chocolate, the aroma and the presentation are equally as important. That’s what makes French food, especially desserts, so luscious– they appeal to all the senses. Traditional French desserts have several distinct qualities:

Create Your Own!

On Bastille Day, transform yourself into a French pastry chef and kick-start your celebration with Clabber Girl’s mouth-watering Crepes Chantilly. This extra special treat is a delicate and delicious French-style pancake filled with sweet fruit and decadent crème. The thin cake is dressed up with strawberries and layered with whipped topping, creating a flavorful treat perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Another sweet filling of choice is peanut butter and banana slices – maybe even with a drizzle of chocolate!

For a twist, experiment with savory flavor combinations like sun-dried tomato and pesto with grilled chicken, or spinach, bacon and mushroom. With a little creativity and practice, you’ll develop crepe-making skills that everyone in the family will appreciate.

So do as the French do, and bon appétit!

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Get to Know the Grain: Rice 101

 

Rice is a versatile pantry staple that is equally at home in a variety of cuisines from around the world. Years ago, American households were typically only familiar with American long-grain white rice. Who can forget those cheesy chicken and rice casseroles at the dinner table?

But as ethnic foods have gained popularity, Americans have embraced a variety of rice, from Arborio to sushi rice and everything in between. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite examples of this satisfying starch.

American long-grain white rice is the all-American staple. Cooked on the stove top, the rice has a dry, fluffy texture with distinct grains. Its counterpart is American long-grain brown rice, which is simply the whole-grain version, before the bran and germ layers have been removed. Chewier than white rice, it has a nutty flavor and more nutrients.

For authentic risotto, Arborio rice is a must-have ingredient. Its characteristic plump grains have more starch than other kinds of rice, which helps give risotto the creamy stick-to-your-ribs texture for which it is known.

Basmati rice is often used in Indian dishes, where it is commonly seasoned with spices like cumin and cardamom. The grains are longer, slender, and the rice has a nutty flavor and fragrance. Basmati rice should be soaked in cold water for an hour or more before cooking for best results.

Japanese-style rice or sushi rice is firm yet slightly sticky when cooked. It is often used for sushi, but is also served alongside a meal, as well.

Hailing from Thailand, Jasmine rice has long, translucent grains which when cooked, have an aroma similar to popcorn. Jasmine rice should be rinsed thoroughly prior to cooking to remove excess starch.

Like Arborio, short-grain brown rice has a higher level of the starch, amylopectin, which makes it a bit stickier than other rice. As with the American brown rice, the grain’s outer-layer of bran gives it a hearty, chewy texture.

By the way, wild rice really isn’t rice at all. Rather, it is a seed of a native North American grass variety. Often paired with long-grain brown rice, it is chewy and adds color and texture to other rice dishes.

For a quick rice side dish, we like this Toasted Rice, Almond and Cranberry Pilaf. Dotted with colorful cranberries and crunchy almond slivers, it looks fancy, but comes together in about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

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Summer Baking With Blueberries

 

Did you know that blueberries are so phenomenal that an entire month is dedicated to celebrating this super fruit? That’s right – July is National Blueberry Month and we know a thing or two about how to maximize the benefits of this tiny little fruit that packs plenty of power.

Native to North America, blueberries are not just super foods, they’re super soldiers. Studies have shown blueberries can help fight cancer, improve memory, reduce the effects of aging, decrease depression and benefit nervous system and brain health. This is all due to the massive amounts of antioxidants crammed into each little blue sphere.

The super-food breakdown:

  • Around 80 calories a cup
  • 14% of your daily fiber
  • 25% of your daily Vitamin C
  • Lowers LDL (the bad cholesterol)
  • Eating one cup each week can lower your blood pressure and rev up your metabolism

Blueberries are grown all over the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina, California to Maine. The freshest blueberries can be found from May thru October, but you can freeze them and enjoy them year round. Freezing blueberries is pretty easy, but the more thought you put into your process the quicker they’ll thaw and the better they’ll taste.

Eat them by the handful, sprinkle them in yogurt or smash them up in a cocktail. Need even more inspiration? Get creative with some of our favorite recipes, like our mouth-watering Blueberry Crumble Bars or these Gluten-Free Blueberry Corn Muffins. Why not try this simple, delicious Clabber Girl Open-Faced Blueberry Pie? It’s one of our favorites for July 4th celebrations for its vibrant patriotic color. Enjoy your month full of blueberries!

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Perfect Pie Crust At Your Fingertips

 

Let’s face it: few things are as loved and as feared as homemade pie crust.

We love it because at its best, it’s perfectly flaky, yet perfectly tender, and it reminds us of Grandma and the comforts of home. But many novice bakers have avoided mastering this kitchen repertoire staple because it has the reputation of being very difficult.

The truth is, pie crust is a little tricky, but not nearly as scary as it may seem. Let’s walk through some of the basics that will help you make a perfect pie crust from scratch.

Fats

Some people love butter, others prefer vegetable shortening, and still others swear by lard. You can use any or a combination of all of these fats. Butter doesn’t give pastry quite the flakiness that shortening does, but the flavor is much richer. Shortening generally makes the dough a little easier to handle, but you do sacrifice some flavor. Lard produces a flaky crust as well. Combinations of fats often create the best results.

Keep Ingredients Cold

Whether you opt for shortening or use Grandma’s recipe that calls for lard, one secret to flaky crust is to keep your ingredients cold. Flaky crust is created by pieces of un-melted fat rolled between layers of flour, which then melt during the baking process, leaving crispy pockets. Chill fats, water and even your flour thoroughly to maximize flakiness.

Mix Properly

Cut fats into dry ingredients before adding liquids. Using a pastry blender, a couple of forks, or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, combine fats and dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form. Then add cold water a bit at a time until the dough holds together. Don’t overwork your dough. Too much kneading will make it tough.

Flour Thoroughly

Be sure to flour your work surface before rolling out the dough. The last thing you want is for your perfectly rolled pastry to stick to the counter top! Dust the surface liberally with flour, and rub flour on your rolling pin, as well. Alternately, you can roll crust between pieces of parchment paper.

Handle With Care

Don’t handle the dough any more than necessary. Heat from your hands will transfer to the pastry, causing the fats to melt and sabotaging your flaky texture. To safely transfer your dough to the pie plate, gently roll it up over the rolling pin and slide it off into place.

Chill Before Baking

Pie dough has a tendency to lose its chill once its been rolled, shaped and fitted to the pie plate. It never hurts to pop the entire plate, dough and all, into the freezer for one last chill. Thirty minutes in the freezer will allow the fats to solidify again and help keep the dough from shrinking once it goes into the oven.

‘Baking Blind’

For pies with a cream filling, you will need to pre-bake your pie shell, also known as “baking blind.” To keep the crust from shrinking in the pan, it’s helpful to line your formed shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights or dry beans. Remove them before cooling.

Top Crust

Don’t attempt to put a top crust over warm pie filling. Your dough is essentially glued together with butter and water and will quickly fall apart if placed over hot filling. Also, some recipes call for an egg wash, which will give your crust an attractive shine. Another option is a milk wash, which is often paired with a sprinkling of sugar to create a nicely browned crust.

So break out your rolling pin, tie on that favorite apron and stride confidently into the kitchen. You’ve got this! With these helpful hints and a bit of practice, you’ll be serving up your own perfect pie crust in no time.

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5 Ways to Get More Veggies in Your Diet

 

We all know that veggies are good for us, and many of us probably don’t get the recommended two cups per day like we should. So how can we “veg-load” our meals? A person can only eat so much salad, right? Fortunately, there are many options for increasing your vegetable intake. These are some of our favorites.

1. Shred Your Veggies

We like to shred squash, eggplant, and other vegetables and mix them into hamburgers for summer cookouts. The veggies will keep the meat moist and juicy, while also bringing added nutrition and fiber to the dinner plate.

2. Multiply Your Measurements

One super easy way to get more veggies in your diet is to bump up the amounts of veggies in your recipe. Making minestrone? Why not double the spinach and carrots? Pizzas, casseroles and pasta are also ideal candidates for extra veggies, like this Summer Pasta Primavera.

3. Veg Up Your Smoothies

One of the great things about smoothies is that they are so flexible. You can combine any number of fruits to make a delicious smoothie, but you can also load them up with veggies without losing that fruity flavor! A handful of spinach, kale, arugula, chard or even celery leaves into a fruit smoothie pumps up the nutrients in your glass.

4. Prep Your Snacks

Make snacking on the good stuff easy with a little preparation. Wash and cut several days’ worth of your favorite veggies into snack-size pieces, and store in the refrigerator next to your favorite dip. Try Clabber Girl blogger Savory Simple’s recipe for Roasted Garlic White Bean Hummus. Be sure to stash the veggies at eye level so this healthy option is the first thing you see when the munchies strike!

5. Supercharge Your Sweets

Bake your way to more vegetable servings. Quick breads made with pumpkin, zucchini and sweet potato are great options. We love these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and this recipe for Sweet Potato Walnut Bread. You’ll find other delicious variations, as well as treats like our Carrot Cheesecake Sheet Cake in the Clabber Girl Recipe Box.

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