Baker’s Delight: Cherry Chocolate Almond Oatmeal Cookies

Do they have a long enough name? ūüôā These are from the wonderful Bon Appetit Dessert Cookbook. I adapted them based on the ingredients I had but they were delicious! I’m going to go ahead an include the recipe as written in the book because I would totally make them exactly as written.

Cookies are one of my favorite desserts – they are perfect for picnics and pitch-ins, most of them freeze very well, and they are usually fairly easy to put together. They are also one of my favorite things to bake!

CHERRY-CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES
Bon Appetit Dessert Cookbook
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1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. plus 2 Tb. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. dried tart cherries
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted

Position racks in center and top third of oven and preheat to 325¬įF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar in large bowl until well blended. Mix in egg and both extracts. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in oats, then chocolate chips, cherries and almonds.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 12 minutes. Switch and rotate baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden, about 6 minutes longer. Cool cookies on baking sheets (cookies will firm as they cool). (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

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Baker’s Delight: Lime Shortbread

First, don’t forget to enter our great giveaway! It ends tomorrow!

This weekend I needed to make a quick dessert and so I turned to one of my newest cookbooks, Bon Appetit Dessert. Heather actually gave me this amazing cookbook for my birthday and I just couldn’t wait to start trying the delicious recipes! This recipe was for Lemon Shortbread Squares but I switched it up to to make them lime. We LOVED them! I doubled the recipe and put them in a 12×18 bar pan which made them thinner than the original recipe but it was perfect for us. These are just so good and so incredibly easy!

LIME SHORTBREAD
(Adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts)
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1/2 c. sugar
1 Tb. finely grated lime peel
3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tb. fresh lime juice
2 Tb. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray pan with nonstick spray.

Using fingertips, rub sugar and lime peel together in large bowl to release essential oils in peel. Add butter. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture in light and fluffy. Beat in lime juice, then cornstarch, and salt, Add flour and beat just until blended. Using fingers, press dough firmly and evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.

Bake shortbread until cooked through and just golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes. Cut and enjoy. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Baker’s Delight: Banana Cupcakes

I first made this recipe a few years ago and really enjoyed it! Recently, I was asked to provide banana cupcakes for an open house and I remembered these. And so, I returned to the recipe and adapted¬†it –¬†these were the result. The honey cream cheese frosting is fabulous – not too sweet but oh so wonderful.¬†These¬†also make wonderful mini cupcakes – a batch makes 24¬†regular cupcakes and a lot of minis.¬†¬†

BANANA CUPCAKES
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network)
Print This Recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to a rack and cool slightly. Cool completely before frosting.

To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in   the honey. Spread the frosting over the muffins. Sprinkle with the walnuts if desired.

Baker’s Delight: Vanilla Cupcakes

This week, I set out on a mission to find¬† a vanilla cupcake recipe for my oldest¬†son’s birthday. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Reviews on nearly every vanilla (or white) cake recipe are mixed – some love it, some hate it, some think it’s light, some think it’s dense…you get the idea. And let’s be honest, not everyone is a competent baker, so it’s hard to know which reviews to trust!

Finally, I deicided to just jump in and try a recipe. Bobby Flay had one which I adapted to work for me. The texture was lovely and the flavor was quite good. The chocolate frosting he included was delicious as well Рa frosting recipe unlike any I have ever made. These definitely got the seal of approval from my family and the birthday boy loved them! They would also make a beautiful Easter or spring dessert.

VANILLA CUPCAKES
(adapted from Bobby Flay’s Mini Vanilla Bean Cupcakes)
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2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1Tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature
Creamy Chocolate Frosting, recipe follows
Sprinkles for decorating, if desired

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill muffin tins with liners .

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl. Whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks in a medium bowl.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside. Wash the bowl and dry.

Add the flour mixture to the now-empty mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. With the mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in the butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the whisk and sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten, and then add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain.

Fill the cupcake molds 3/4 full and bake until just firm, about 18-22 minutes. Let cool and frost with Creamy Chocolate Frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

CREAMY CHOCOLATE FROSTING
(Adapted from Bobby Flay at FoodNetwork.com Рadaptations noted)

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (I used dark chocolate cocoa powder)
 Pinchof fine sea salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon espresso powder (I omitted this since I was making them for kids but it would have been a fantastic addition!)

In a food processor (or using a mixer), process the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then add the melted chocolate and espresso and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds.

Baker’s Delight: Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

Honestly, I just didn’t know what to make for today. It’s been a long couple of weeks filled with illness at our house and my desire to cook and bake has been almost¬†non-existant. And so, I looked at magazines and websites looking for something that would inspire me. I wrote to one of my friends that I was at a loss…and then, I happened to pick up my May 2010 issue of Everyday Food.¬†I turned to the back for¬†the index and instead,¬†I came across this recipe. I had everything on hand and decided to give it a shot.

Oh. My. Goodness. These are amazing. They combine so much yumminess into one cookie that I can hardly stand it! They certainly aren’t on the “healthy list” but they are worth the splurge. The coarse salt is just the perfect flavor addition – makes all of the flavors come alive. I had to walk away from the pan of cookies; in fact, I had to go upstairs so I would not eat more. So, without further ado, here is the amazing and easy recipe!

SALTED TOFFEE-CHOCOLATE SQUARES
(Everyday Food, May 2010)
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13 graham crackers
1 bag (8 ounces) toffee bits
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted natural almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place graham crackers in a single layer on sheet, edges touching. Sprinkle toffee bits and almonds over graham crackers.

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and butter to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, 2 minutes. Immediately pour over graham crackers. Bake until sugar topping is bubbling, 12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate and salt over graham crackers. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 week.)

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares Recipe – Martha Stewart Recipes

Weekend Fare & Winners!

First, we are so pleased to announce that the winner (by popular vote!) of the Friday Feature naming contest is Amy E. with her suggestion of Foodie Fridays! Congratulations, Amy! We will send you the Salad Cookbook. Thanks to all of you for the great suggestions! We look forward to beginning our new feature in September and we hope that many of you will join in with your recipes and photos and food stories!

And the random winner of the Deceptively Delicious Cookbook is Monica! Congratulations!

Today I wanted to share a couple of baked blueberry recipes. Blueberries are my husbands favorite fruit and I grew up picking and freezing blueberries every year – something I have continued to do! So, needless to say, we make lots of blueberry items. I tried a couple new recipes this week. The first is a crumb cake which I thought was good but a little dry – I should have baked it for a little less time. The second is cheesecake bars which were absolutely wonderful and the recipe would be quite adaptable for a variety of flavors – it will definitely be added to my regular dessert repertoire.


BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE – Ina Garten
Print This Recipe

For the streusel:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high-speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. 

LEMON BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE BARS
(Adapted from Tyler Florence)
Print This Recipe

For the base:

Butter, for greasing
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 graham crackers
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

For the base:

Grease the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with butter. Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners. In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the texture of bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate. Pour into the lined baking pan and gently pat down with the base of a glass. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. When done set aside to cool.

For the filling:

Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar to the food processor and mix until well combined. It should have a smooth consistency. Gently mix in the blueberries.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the center only slightly jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours. Once set, remove from pan using the parchment lining and slice into 10 rectangular bars. Garnish with fresh blueberries if desired.

Off The Shelf: The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook¬†by Elana¬†Amsterdam is the latest book I’ve been raving about to my friends. Why am I so excited? Elana¬†begins the book by showing the nutritional benefits of using almond flour¬†(versus white wheat flour or rice flour): there is more than twice the protein in almond flour than the other flours and far more vitamins and minerals. Not to mention: it’s also gluten-free!

Combined with her exclusive use of agave nectar as a sweetening agent, Elana’s¬†recipes produce food that is much lower on the glycemic index than normal cooking which is a boon for people who need to monitor their blood sugar or want to avoid going the route of diabetes.

So what does this 126-page book hold? Chapters on breakfast, breads and crackers, entrees, pies, pastries and crusts, cakes and cupcakes, cookies and bars, and toppings, syrups, and sauces. Some of the recipes featured include: Banana Blueberry Muffins, Orange Apricot Scones, Pancakes, Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Scrumptious Sandwich Bread, Olive-Rosemary Bread, Herb Crackers, Chicken Pot Pie, Herbed Turkey Loaf, Eggplant Parmesan, Savory Vegetable Quiche, Pecan Pie, Peach Blueberry Crisp, Strawberry Creme Tart, Pizza Crust, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Raspberry Torte, Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Lemon Bars, and Ginger Macadamia Brownies.

Now, before you get all excited and run out to the store to buy some almond flour, let me tell you the bad news: almond flour is expensive. Not having time to shop around for the Carrot Cake I chose to make, I spent $11.79 for one pound of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour. I later found out I could have gotten it for $8 a pound at a different local healthfood store, and, if I’d ordered it online in bulk I could pay only $5/pound. However, it is worth taking the health benefits into consideration as well as spacing out your sweet consumption. (The best deal we’ve found on agave nectar is at Costco.)

Another word of advice from a friend: ideally you want fine almond flour, not grainy almond meal (such as my Bob’s Red Mill turned out to be). However, despite my grainy textured almond flour the carrot cake still came out quite well. So, if grainy is all you have, try it anyway.

Oh, and if you want more inspiration from Elana, check out her food blog here.

And now, for the amazing, incredible, hard-to-believe-it’s-gluten-free, carrot cake:

CLASSIC CARROT CAKE
(The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)
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3 cups blanched almond flour
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 c. grapeseed oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup agave nectar
5 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup raisins (I like golden raisins)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with oil, line with parchment paper, and dust with almond flour.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, agave nectar, and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in the carrots, raisins, and walnuts. Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 1 hour, then serve.

Note: I topped this cake with a low-sugar, cream-cheese/whipped cream icing (recipe follows). You could use your favorite cream-cheese icing recipe. Elana suggests using her Creamy Coconut Frosting which is also dairy free.

WHIPPED CREAM/CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(Heather)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
zest of 1 lime or 1 orange (your preference)

Beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Add the cream, sugar and zest. Continue beating until icing is thickened. Add more sugar if desired.

Gluten-Free Goodness: Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins are a comfort food you do not need to¬†go without¬†if you are gluten-free. With this recipe you can enjoy the warm, soft goodness of fresh-baked muffins, popping with sweet-tart blueberries. If you don’t have blueberries, substitute another berry such as raspberries, black raspberries, or¬†mulberries. I chose to use raspberries for the muffins pictured below.

GLUTEN-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
(Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking)

1 1/2 c. rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca flour (or 1/2 c. rice flour + 1 Tbsp. cornstarch)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthum gum (optional — I did not use this)
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar (less if you want)
5 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c. buttermilk (add 1 Tbsp. vinegar to 3/4 c. regular milk)
2/3 c. fresh berries (if using frozen, baking time will need to be lengthened)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together flours, baking soda, baking powder, xanthum gum, salt and sugar with a wire whisk. In a separate bowl, combine butter, egg, and buttermilk. Carefully mix dry ingredients into wet, being sure not to overmix. Fold in berries. Line a muffin tin with muffin cups and fill 2/3 full. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until done.

Makes 12.

Lots of Snow = Lots of Cooking

Indiana finally got snow (of significance) this week! While there are always downsides to being stuck at home on snowy days, there are lots of benefits as well, one of the biggest being more time to cook! Years ago I had so much more time to spend hours on end baking in the kitchen. Nowadays it is rare that I spend more than the time necessary to make our meals. This week was different.

I was reminded¬†this week of the wonders of homemade bread and how delightful it is to have it around all the time. Three days in a row I made bread and I’ve been trying to work out in my mind just how I could continue keeping homemade bread made when life gets back to normal (read busy). Where there’s a will, there’s a way….we’ll just have to see how strong my will is on this matter.

Another item made in quantity this week was soup — three different batches turned out in the space of 18 hours! And they were so good. We had White Chili from Food Network Magazine as well as their Vietnamese Soup¬†and then a tried and true¬†recipe for Italian Sausage and Red Lentil Soup. All were made in quantity and it was helpful to have freezing temperatures so I could use the back patio for extra cooling space!

I did have one moment of kitchen panic this week. After putting off starting supper until way beyond when I should have, I went down to have a look again at the recipe I had chosen only to read that I needed to allow 3 hours for simmering! Oooppps!! That wasn’t going to work in the less than 40 minutes I had. I whisked a few chicken breasts out of the freezer where they were just beginning to harden after a shopping trip and pulled out the Food Network magazine and opened to their white chili. And that’s how we tried that delicious recipe.

We’ve had little company this week other than family, a change from the past few months. New Year’s Day found me calmly sipping tea at 4:30 when my sister called to see if we could change our dinner plans from quiet family dinner to dinner party for 14. Why not? I decided on 10 more minutes to sip tea and then dived head first into the deep waters of a Chinese meal. The results were good, we all had a ton of fun, and the recipes will appear next month!!!

And now, I think I’ll pull some of that frozen soup out of the freezer for dinner. I’m just about baked and cooked out! I’m off to the knitting shop and an afternoon of quiet tea and knitting with a few friends. And maybe I should hope the snow sticks around for awhile….

Gourmet Gifts & Giveaway

**UPDATED: Black Friday Winners! The winner of the notecards is Ruth & the winner of the cookbook is Elizabeth! I will be contacting you via e-mail. Congrats! We hope you enjoy!**

We decided that for the month of December we would use Fridays to focus on gourmet gift mixes and then to add to the holiday cheer, we would also include a giveaway!

This week, I wanted to give you a couple of mix recipes for baked goods. Be creative with your packaging and to give the gifts an extra touch, consider adding a wooden spoon, a new cookie sheet, cookies cutters, a baking pan, or even a box of tea or some coffee. Tie them with a nice ribbon and include a tag that gives the instructions for using the mix.

DOUBLE-FUDGE BROWNIE MIX
(The Perfect Mix, by: Diane Phillips)

2 c. sugar
1 c. cocoa
1 c. flour
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. chocolate chips

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

To Make:
1 c. butter
4 eggs
1 package of the Double-Fudge Brownie Mix

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the Double-Fudge Brownie Mix, and continue to beat the mixture until it is smooth. Spread the mixture into the greased pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes.

SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD MIX
(The Perfect Mix, by: Diane Phillips)

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container

To Make:
1 c. butter, softened
1 package Scottish Shortbread Mix

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Knead the butter into the shortbread mix and press the mixture firmly into an 8-inch pie plate, or shortbread mold. Bake for 1 hour. The shortbread should be pale in color, not browned. Cut into wedges while still warm.

Now for today’s giveaway! I’m a bit sorry to be passing this one on! I’ve made a couple of recipes that have been delicious. The first was the Pumpkin Bars last month and the second was the Brown Sugar Almond Cookies yesterday. Cookies Year-Round is divided by season. It is a flip book which is very handy. It includes 50 recipes with pictures and great information. The winner of this giveaway will receive the book and a set of 6 Wilton Christmas cookie cutters.

To enter: Please leave 1 comment telling us your favorite thing to make at the holidays or a recipe that you would like to see featured! That’s it! 1 entry per person. We will leave it open through Monday and hopefully I will be on it enough to post a winner on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Have a wonderful weekend!