Category Archives: Ideas

Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay

You’d think I’d be sick of them by now, but I’m just not. All this week, I’ve been giving cherries away so a lot of other folks have been able to enjoy them, which makes me happy. I still have plans for them, so keep your eyes peeled…

Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay
+ Barely, shamelessly, adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook’s recipe of the same name.
++ I easily doubled this recipe (and I probably should’ve tripled it). Makes 14 half-pint (8 ounce) jars.
+++ Having a canning kit makes this process much easier, but for this specific recipe and the method I used, a funnel is the most important tool you need.

I grew up with a Mama that could make preserves in her sleep. Fig preserves were my favorite, and even now when I go home I can eat jars of it. I do eat jars of it. There’s the figs and the salsa and the pickled okra and the beans and………….you name it, she’s soaked it in vinegar or bathed it in sugar and put it up. You’d think that skill would just pass on down, like brown eyes or freckles. Not so. For the life of me, making any kind of preserves has always made me a little nervous. Glass jars, boiling water, sharp lids. You know, all of those things can possibly kill you.

Not really. (But maybe.)

But I decided to just get over it, for the sake of the two boxes of cherries staring me in the face. And the husband staring me in the face. And the friends asking me what I was going to do with 48.6 pounds of cherries – and then staring me in the face while I figured out my response. Luckily, my Mama had so graciously gone in halvsies with me on the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, so I had a good place to start. Last year, she’d made the Early Girl Tomato Marmalade (in her sleep probably), and it was amazing. I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and I was right.

Ingredients.
6 pounds of unpitted sweet red cherries (I used a combination of Bing and Champagne, and to be honest, I have no idea if they’re considered “sweet”)
1 1/4 pounds seeded kumquats, sliced crosswise into very thin rounds
4 pounds of cane sugar
7 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 large bay leaves
________________________________________________
Prepare: Sterilizing the jars.
When making preserves, you’ll need to sterilize your jars and lids (unless you plan to eat it right away). There are many ways to do this, including the hot water method, the oven method or even putting them in a sterilizing dishwasher. For my jam, I chose the oven method (directions below). This was the first time I’d used this method, and I really feel like it was much easier than dealing with a huge pot of boiling water.

  1. First, be sure to clean your jars and lids thoroughly.
  2. Place the clean jars (upright) and lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven.
  3. Keep the jars and lids in the oven until you’re ready to use them, but at a minimum, they must sterilize for 30 minutes.
  4. See below for filling and sealing the jars.

Directions.

  1. Place a saucer with 5 metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cherries, kumquat rounds, sugar and lemon juice, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture macerate at room temperature for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Note – I left the mixture to sit overnight without any issues.
  3. After you’ve completed step 2, transfer the mixture to a large preserving pan/pot (I used a large Le Crueset heavy-bottomed pot).
  4. Add the bay leaves.
  5. Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. Once the mixture begins foaming, gradually raise the heat to high, stirring often.
  6. Boil vigorously, gently scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the jam isn’t sticking. If it does begin to stick, lower the heat slightly, being sure the jam remains at a rapid boil.
  7. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until the mixture acquires a darker, shinier look (about 15-20 minutes).
  8. Don’t freak out. One thing the Blue Chair Jam cookbook did not stress enough was that this jam produces a pink foam. And by pink foam, I mean it looks like a 4 year old girl dumped her bubble bath in the pot. Don’t freak out. Take a large metal spoon and scoop it out. You’ll need to do this throughout the cooking process.
  9. Once the mixture acquires the darker, shinier look, remove the jam from the heat and let it rest for 2 minutes.
  10. Return the jam back to the high heat and cook for 2 more minutes.
  11. Test it for doneness. This is the fun part! To test the jam, transfer a half-spoonful of jam from your pot to one of the teaspoons you placed in your freezer. Place the spoon back in the freezer (make sure it’s laying flat) and hang tight for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, carefully remove the spoon and feel the bottom. If it’s still warm, return it to the freezer for another half minute or so. Once it’s no longer warm on the bottom, tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the jam runs; if it’s runs slowly or not at all, and if it’s a gloppy consistency, you’ve got a finished jam on your hands. If it runs very quickly or appears watery, cook it for another 3-4 minutes and retest as needed.
  12. When the jam is ready, stir one last time to make sure the mix is evenly distributed.

Directions: Filling your jars and sealing.

  1. Remove your jars and lids from the oven.
  2. Before placing the jam in the jars, test your jars to make sure they’re not too hot. If they are, they’ll continue cooking – or even burn! – your jam. Just take a small spoonful of jam and drop it into one of your jars. If it bubbles or boils, wait a few minutes before filling.
  3. If you have one, use a funnel to fill your jars, leaving ¼” at the top of the jars.
  4. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth.
  5. Put the lids on, being careful to screw them on just until they’re snug.
  6. Replace the jars on the baking sheet and place them back in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the jars from the oven and place them 1” apart on a cooling rack to set overnight at room temperature. It’s important not to move the jars during this time, to make sure they’re able to set evenly.
  8. As they cool and seal, you’ll hear a little pop. Before you store your jam, or give it away, check all of your jars to make sure they’re sealed. If it’s sealed, the lid should curve in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting. It’s amazing. Tangy and sweet and just plain yummy. Enjoy!

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Filed under Appetizers, Baking, Cooking, Dessert, Ideas, Kitchen, Recipes

Do the (Carrots with Sage and Garlic) Mash.

As promised, a homemade recipe from my Day in the Kitchen: Carrot Mash with Sage and Garlic. I thought for just one hot second about letting you figure it out using that chicken scratch I call shorthand above. But then, I’d also like you to visit again. That said, enjoy my friends.

Carrot Mash with Sage and Garlic
+ Makes…quite a bit
This recipe was one I made up a few months back when I became obsessed with La Cascada’s dips. First, let me say that I like dips. And by dips, I don’t mean spicy Velveeta nacho cheese or sour cream and chive. I’m talking veggie dips. La Cascada’s eggplant dip, spicy zucchini dip, the Mediterranean dip… all good, and all stupidly expensive at my little local grocery. (Let’s just get real: shit there ain’t cheap.) $5.99 for a 4 ounce container that maybe had a two day refrigerator life (because I ATE IT in two days) was starting to lose it’s appeal and possibly get on my husband’s nerves. So I bought a food processor and went on a semi-kitchen adventure to figure out how  I could make the dip at home. What came out of that little rompus was a couple of things – but the best one is below. Carrot Mash. It’s like grown-up baby food. If it makes you feel better to think of it as a pudding, go right on ahead and knock yourself out. You can eat it hot or cold, add butter or not; use it as a dip, or eat it alone. I will tell you that in two days I’ve eaten it over steak, chicken, with vegetables and by itself. I’ve eaten it a lot, and I still love it. In fact, I’ll probably eat it for lunch. Yay for me!

1250 g / 45 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into consistently sized stalks (2″ long and about 1/2″ thick)
2 onions, peeled and sliced
4 grams / 1 oz fresh sage, torn into pieces
6-10 garlic cloves, peeled
*2 TB butter olive oil
____________________________________________
**20 oz / 2 1/2 c pureed butternut squash soup
470 g / 2 cans white kidney beans, drained
1 TB butter olive oil (optional)
***salt/pepper

* I’m lucky enough to live close to Amphora, a shop that sells all kinds of wonderful flavors of olive oil and vinegars. This one, the butter olive oil, is a great alternative to using butter and olive oil. If you don’t have it, that’s ok! Just use regular extra virgin olive oil or butter – whichever you prefer.
** I’m also lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods and within spitting distance of a small gourmet grocery store. It goes without saying that I have options. The butternut squash soup I used here is from Trader Joe’s. However, you can also use low-sodium chicken  broth or even pureed pumpkin soup. There are a slew of substitutions you can use here, so just play with it.
***For the salt, I used Smoked Salt from Trader Joe’s. It’s just a nice alternative to the regular stuff, but the regular stuff works just fine, too.

Prep

  1. Turn oven to 350.
  2. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.
  3. Get your food processor from whatever dusty cabinet it’s in and place it on the counter. You should use the metal blade for this recipe.
  4. A container to hold the shit-ton of carrot mash you’ll be making.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, toss your carrots, onions, sage and garlic in the butter olive oil.
  2. Lay your mixture out in one single layer on the cookie sheets.
  3. Cook for 30-45 minutes. Depending on your oven, it may need to be longer. For me, because I have an old Merritt and O’Keefe, I need to turn my sheets around every 15-20 minutes to make sure things are cooked evenly. I also swap my pans (top goes on bottom, bottom goes on top). You may not need to do this, but at the very least, you should turn your carrots over about midway through the cooking process.
  4. Once everything is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly. If you need sustenance, feel free to eat some carrots.
  5. Throw 1/3 of the carrot mix into your food processor, along with a 1/3 of the soup and 1/3 of the beans. If you’re going to add the olive oil, add one teaspoon for the first 1/3 of the mix.
  6. Process away until your mix is nice and smooth. I’m okay with there being some course bits in my mash, so you may need to adjust the amount of soup you add to make it as smooth as you want. If you’re still not getting the texture you want, butter or cream never hurt anyone and always helps in these matters.
  7. Remove the first 1/3 of the mix from the processor, place in a large bowl and repeat step 5 and 6.
  8. Once all of the carrots have been processed and are in the large bowl, give them a good mix.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.

Let me stress that you can use this a base for a bunch of different substitutions. Don’t like carrots? Try butternut squash, pumpkin or sweet potatas (that’s potatoes when I say it like I’m from the West coast). Don’t like sage? Use thyme or rosemary – or get wild and try curry. Don’t like garlic? Good luck with that. I’m kidding. Don’t use it, or if you love it, use more. Whatever you do, don’t give up on it. You can make it as high-fat or as low-fat as you want, as creamy or as crunchy as you want – you just have to work with it. And if you do make it, by all means – let me know how it comes out!

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The master of my domesticity.

Here’s the sad truth about my blog: sometimes, I forget it exists. And then some nice friend of mine, who has a better memory than me, will say – hey, when are you going to update your blog? And then I’m all……ohhhhhhh yeahhhhh, the blog. And then I feel kind of like a dummy, because quite frankly, I really enjoy writing and putting my life and humor out there in the universe. What idiot forgets there is something like that in their life?

Me. This idiot.

So anyway. Thank Jesus for a three day weekend and a husband that is all too happy to wash and fold clothes if he can watch episode after uninterrupted episode of whatever is currently available on Netflix. That said, I spent the first time in ages in my kitchen. Like, the entire day. Woah. At the end of the day, I felt like an Awesome Wife. Also, a total Bad Ass. And, like I’d Burned A Lot of Calories Just Standing Around and Stirring Things.

And now, to share my goodies with you…

What magic came out of the kitchen? For starters, I was inspired by a good friend to make a weekly menu. Yes, duh, I know. Saves time and money and people have been doing it for, like, ever. I get it. For my first week, on my first day, here’s what I whipped up:

  • Cilantro Buttermilk Skirt Steak (Everyday Food, June 2012)
  • Carrot Mash with Sage and Garlic (my concoction, which I will eventually give to you…)
  • Early Summer Vegetable Love (adapted, from the Gluten Free Girl blog) with Lemon-Dill Yogurt Sauce (also another homemade concoction and pictured in the Ball jar above)
  • And some crazy good cookies, which…

The main thing that I wanted to make was this batch of cookies. They’d been rolling around in my brain for months. I’d made the Momofuku Compost Cookies a few months back, and good god, they were kind of exhausting. But. The idea of making a cookie that had different textures really intrigued me, so I’d been thinking and thinking and thinking and talking to B. about my idea for a new cookie. There are a couple of recipes I’d like to try, but for the first go-round, it was Lemon Cookies with Freeze-Dried Blueberries made with Lemon Cookie Crust.

 Lemon Cookies with Freeze-Dried Blueberries
+ Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook: Blueberry and Cream Cookies recipe
++ Makes about 18 cookies

225 g / 16 TB butter, at room temperature
150 g / ¾ c granulated sugar
150 g / 2/3 c tightly packed light brown sugar
*100 g / ¼ c glucose
____________________________________________________
2 eggs
105 g / 1/3 c lemon curd
Lemon peel from one small lemon
_____________________________________________________
320 g / 2 c flour
2 g / ½ tsp baking powder
1.5 g / ¼ tsp baking soda
6 g / 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
_____________________________________________________
½ of the total recipe of Lemon Cookie Crust (recipe below)
**100 g / ¾ c freeze dried blueberries
_____________________________________________________
105 g / 1/3 c lemon curd
***Granulated honey (optional)

* Unless you’re some kind of kitchen guru, you probably don’t have glucose laying around. If needed, substitute 35 g / 2 TB light corn syrup.
** Freeze dried blueberries can be found at Amazon.com or Trader Joe’s.  You can use more or less in the recipe, and you can also try other freeze dried fruit (strawberries, raspberries).
*** Available on Amazon or at Williams Sonoma.

Directions

  1. Before you get started, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the butters, sugars and glucose in the medium bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium high for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat for 7-8 minutes. Eggs should be added one at a time.
  4. Reduce the speed to low and add the lemon curd and lemon peel. Mix until just incorporated.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Don’t over-mix the dough by walking away from the mixer during this step! Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Back on low speed, add the Lemon Cookie Crust and mix until it’s incorporated, no more than 30 seconds. Add the freeze-dried blueberries, mixing for 30 seconds. Be careful not to mix the berries for   too long – otherwise, they’ll end up a powdered mess in your dough.
  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the final 1/3 c lemon curd and fold in gently using a spatula. Don’t mix the curd all the way into the dough – it should be like a “swirl” of curd throughout the dough.
  8. Using a 2 ¾ ounce ice cream scoop (or a 1/3 c measure), portion out the dough onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.
  9. Sprinkle the cookies with the granulated honey. Use as little or as much as you’d like. Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat.
  10. Wrap the cookie sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature.
  11. Heat the oven to 350.
  12. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4” apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet (or, use a Silpat). Bake for 18 minutes, turning once at the midway point. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges and still bright yellow in the center. I recommend baking one test cookie to make sure the heat and timing are right for your oven.
  13. Cool the cookies completely on the cookie sheet before transferring. At room temperature, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they’ll keep for 1 month.

Lemon Cookie Crust
+ Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook: Graham Crust recipe
++ Doubled this recipe without a problem

190 g / 1 ½ c lemon cookies (used Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Wafer Cookies), crushed
20 g / ¼ c milk powder
25 g / 2 TB sugar
3 g / ¾ tsp kosher salt
*5 g granulated honey
*2.5 g dried Meyer lemon peel (you can also use fresh lemon peel)
_____________________________________________________
55 g / 4 TB melted butter
55 g / ¼ c heavy cream

* Available on Amazon or at Williams Sonoma.

 Directions

1. Toss the lemon cookie crumbs, milk powder, sugar, salt, honey and lemon peel with your hands in a medium bowl to even distribute your dry ingredients.
2. Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients; use a fork to incorporate the wet mixture into the dry. The mixture should be small clusters and should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t hold together, melt an additional 14 to 25 g (1-1 ½ TB) butter and mix it in.
3. Enjoy! Immediately use it in your recipe, or store in an airtight container. The crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or  for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

Additional uses for the Lemon Cookie Crust
For one, just EAT IT. Or…
Crust for pies, cheesecake
Topping for yogurt or ice cream
Use in the bottom of cupcakes

Let me know if you decide to give these a go. Up next? If I can make it happen, a cookie version of my Aunt Cle’s famous banana pudding.

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Food bites.

 

I’m aware that I was supposed to write up my Roadtrip Day 2 blog post, like, three weeks ago. I’m also aware that I haven’t done that. What I’m not aware of? Where the hell the time went (scratches head). Three weeks just gone. Like that. Poof. I’ve no idea what happened. I wish I could blame the weather – but………I can’t. I live in the Bay Area, where it is shamelessly sunny. I also wish I could blame work – but………….I can’t. I’ve been busy, but not that busy. So I’ve got no reasonable explanation for not doing what I said I would. None. 

However, I’m pretty sure none of you were waiting with bated breath. 

So. In the meantime, while I figure out what I’ve been doing, exactly, for the last three weeks, here are some wonderful recipes I’ve found that I will be trying very soon (and if you happen to try them first, let me know how they turned out!):

  • Cherry Pie from Dinner: A Love Story
  • Pull Apart Lemon Coffee Cake by Clockwork Lemon. I saw this and my mouth watered. No lie.
  • Roasted Red Onions with Pomegranate, Orange and Parsley Gremolata by The Bitten Word. Note here, this blog is incredibly fun and has a ton of inspiring recipes and food stories. It’s one of my newfound favorites. As if I needed another newfound favorite.
  • Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust (also) by The Bitten Word. This one I liked immediately, because it wasn’t asking me to roll out a pie crust. Ugh. As if I have time for that at the end of the day. But you tell me I can use a refrigerated pie crust, and I’m yours.
  • Bacon Caramels by Not Without Salt. Yes, you heard correctly my friend. The caramels actually look pretty gross – like leftover grease that’s hardened – but I say give the bacon a chance.
  • Brown Butter, Bacon and Chocolate Chip Cookies by Mouth from the South. First, I love the name of this blog, because my stepdad is always saying this at get-togethers to whichever kid is being overly rambunctious and talking too much. Second, bacon and chocolate!

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A whole punch of fun.

  

How many of you saw that edition of Ready Made where they had the Paint Chip Orbs as one of their craft projects? It really was a neat little project. Now, how many of you looked at that and thought to yourself – Wow. That’s amazing. Let me get on that, like, asap.

Anyone?

(*Crickets*)

I thought so. Me either. 

Here’s the thing – my friend, Dolores? Well, she’s the one person I know that did see it, loved it, and made it – and she was nice and patient enough to show me how to make them, too. Once you figure out how to keep your fingers from sticking to the paper, or to each other, and your husband smartly suggests using clothespins to keep the whole dang thing together, creating your very own orb/snowflake/snowball will be incredibly easy. And to show you just how easy, I’ve created a tutorial for you right here.

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Filed under Handcrafted, Holidays, Ideas, Tutorial

Be a Handmade Renegade at Renegade Handmade

Tricky wording, right? It’s called “attempt at humor”. It’s Wednesday afternoon, you shouldn’t expect too much at this point. 

Anyway.

This year, I’m excited to say that I’ll be attending the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. Although it isn’t the first time that the RCF has been here, it’s the first time that I’ll have the chance to go. And if you can make it, you should. If you’re not completely sure you want to attend because – and this is a total possibility – you have no idea what I’m talking about…then take a look at their site here, or their blog here. Even if you don’t live here, or anywhere that the craft show is scheduled, you can shop their store online. A-mazing stuff. Amazing. No doubt about it.

Here are a few things I’m adding to my list (Special note to my Mama: Don’t even think about it. That’s right. You heard me.):

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Keeping it simple.

I really, really like cute things. Really. I especially like to make cute things. So last week, when I offered to make cupcakes for a first birthday party, I wanted to make them…….ahem………cute. I thought maybe I could learn how to use fondant – overnight! – but that was a terrible idea from the get-go. Then I thought I could make robot designs out of candy – also a terrible idea from the get-go, since the theme was blocks. I had all of these thoughts while also acknowledging that it’s a first birthday party, and how many people are really (really) going to be checking out the cupcakes since they were going to play second fiddle to the main event – the cake, which actually was made to look like wooden blocks?

But still. No one likes to put ugly things on a plate.

Thankfully, I have creative friends who can help me in my moments of need, and this time it was my friend, Dolores. She suggested making pennants out of paper. Duh. Of course. They weren’t blocks, but they were primary colors all the same. And very much like the fancy $12 cupcake sets , I made my own version. At 59 cents (each) for three pieces of paper from Michael’s, and two packages of cupcake liners from Sur La Table, I came in way under $12, and I was able to make 36 (fancy cupcake sets only give you enough for 24). Here’s the final version:

A couple things to note:

  • I used the same s’mores cupcake recipe that I listed below in a previous blog post. People love those things. However, I used a different icing recipe, since I didn’t want to brown the marshmallow. I used this buttercream marshmallow recipe, and it seemed to hold up just fine.
  • I always double-line cupcakes. I just like the way that it looks.
  • I love my mechanical pastry bag, and you would too if you had one. It’s nearly the holidays, so put it on your list.

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Just plain edible.

Edible crayons. Yes, you heard me right. Crayons. Just when you thought it wasn’t safe for your kids to eat their art supplies, it is. Thanks to Luxirare for the beautiful photos above, and for inspiring something that seems so simple and smart. Although there isn’t an actual tutorial or recipe, you can see all of the ingredients are comprised of dried fruits, nuts, seeds (and some of them are bound with MARSHMALLOWS – hello!) ……..the list goes on. If you want to give it a whirl, you can purchase your very own crayon mold here.

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That old back-to-school feeling.

Every year, it never fails. I walk into Target, or Walgreens, or somewhere, and feel that nostalgic back-to-school feeling. Getting new school supplies was my favorite. Pencils, colors, notebooks – it was really important to get just the right color notebook – index cards (does anyone remember using all of those index cards we were forced to buy, because I don’t), rubber cement………the list – literally – went on and on. With Back to School gearing up (or for some of you, already in full swing), I thought I would pass along some sweet tutorials I found on some of my favorite sites, including a lunch bag, a binder pouch, and a reusable snack bag.

 

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Primp your kitchen.

So ReadyMade magazine is pretty much my favorite magazine these days. It’s jam-packed with lots of projects that, due to work or skill or plain laziness, I would never attempt, and a few small ones that I would. You can check out their blog here, which I did this morning. For those of you that know me well, you know I have a love for pretty little details, so I was excited to find a shout-out for Just Something I Made and these great little kitchen decals Cathe Holden’s got available on her blog. If you like fonts and stickers, her kitchen sticker stencils should be right up your alley.  Not only are they free, but she’s got a great how-to included for those of you who need a little extra visual aid when it comes to crafting (like me).

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