Monday, October 31, 2005

Check the Archives

I just noticed I've now had enough postings for some of the older ones to move off the page. Fear not, they are still available in the October Archives. Sorry, Blogger.com does not offer category archives, so if you are searching for one of my occasional dispatches about Vietnam, or any other topic, you'll need to use the search function located at the top left of the page. Be sure you click on the "search this blog" button to find your treasure at Blog Appetit.

UPDATE -- I figured out how to change the number of postings that will show on my main page. Now items will be on the front page for 30 days. But older posts will be available as described above. (FJK Nov.5 2005)

Marcia's Mom's Cheesecake Cups

At the gym this morning, Jan and I started to chat about food, family, kids, Yosemite National Park, and well, food. She mentioned that she likes to make several kinds of small desserts rather than one big one and offer smaller servings of each.

I said I have just the recipe --Marcia's Mom's Cheesecake Cups

Helene, my friend Marica's mom, would bring these to every dinner, open house, party or whatever. She topped hers with with slices of kiwi fruit or berries. Never one for leaving well-enough alone, I often play with the flavor, cookie and topping combinations. I put some of my variations below the main recipe. Put your suggestions into the comments. I am always looking for a new way to play with this recipe. (How about topping them with some kernels of candy corn and swirling in some caramel syrup for a Halloween cheesecake cup?)

Makes 24

3- 8 ounce packages cream cheese. Okay to use light. I recommend Philly Brand Cheese. Cheese should be at room temperature and broken into large chunks. Use brick style, not whipped. Sorry, the natural style cream cheese doesn't seem to work well here.

3 eggs, beaten

Cup sugar

½ tsp lemon juice

1 and 1/2-tsp vanilla

24 Vanilla wafers (Nabisco, Sunshine or Mother brand recommended) more if you intend to nosh.

Line cupcake tins with paper liners. (If you don't have enough tins, use metal cupcake liners on a cookie sheet.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl, mix eggs and sugar into lemony in color with a hand or stand mixer. Add cream cheese and mix into well combined and very smooth. Add extract and juice and mix well.

Put a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full. Wipe up any drips, which will burn.

Bake for 20 minutes. Center of cheesecakes should be puffed up but they should still be very pale. Turn off oven. Let cheesecakes stand in oven with door open for 30 min. Take cheesecakes out of pans and let cool on rack. Refrigerate or store in freezer.

Just before serving, top with berries or some other fruit.

Here's some variations: Replace the cookie with a chocolate wafer and add chocolate chips to batter, top with chocolate shavings. Use an amaretto cookie or ginger snap and replace vanilla extract with almond, sprinkle with toasted, chopped almonds. Replace the vanilla flavoring with lemon extract and add some finely grated lemon zest to the batter. Try making marbled cheesecake: after filling the cup with the batter, drop in a teaspoon or so of jam, preserves, Nutella, caramel topping, etc., and drag a knife through the batter.

Helene was a warm and wonderful woman. Every time I make this recipe I think of her and generosity to us "kids" (her daughter's friends) far from their own mothers during their turbulent twenties and settling down thirties. I take great pleasure in passing along this recipe and I hope you will, too.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

You Read It Here First

A big thank you to Slashfood for selecting Blog Appetit's pair of pumpkin postings (see below) for it's Editor's Choice Award in the Great Pumpkin Day competition.

To see the award winners or to surf the other (delicious looking) entries, go to http://www.slashfood.com/ and search under pumpkin.

In other Blog Appetit news, I've enabled the "email me" function. Got something to tell FJK? Click on my profile and then the email me selection and your words will be in my inbox before you know it!

Still to come: I hope to figure out how to link directly to posts such as The Great Pumpkin Day Contest at Slashfood and add links to the blogs I know and love and want you to know about. Remember this is just a baby blog, not even a month old. Got suggestions for it's care and feeding? Leave a comment on this post or use the new email me feature.

Update:  I did indeed eventually figure out how to create a link -- so here's the link to my Slashfood editor's choice award for my pumpkin posts.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Local Cake, Well, Takes the Cake!

The owner of my local bakery, Cheryl Lew of Montclair Baking, took home a $10,000 prize for winning the Food Network Challenge for Spooky and Scary Cakes. I stopped by her bakery today hoping for a peek at her prize winning Haunted Harbor Cake. But not a crumb of the prize winner was in evidence.

I've long admired her cakes which not only look good but taste great. So the visit wouldn't be a total loss, I did have a berry scone, the kind that is all crunchy with sugar on top.

I do wonder if all this emphasis on elaborately decorated cakes is bad for us. Not just the sugar issue, but to me it kind of feels a bit like our society's current emphasis on thinness and beauty. These kinds of role models set up impossible standards for those of us who are not genetically blessed while diminishing the value of what's inside. Or in terms of cake, how it looks versus how it tastes. There are those of us who can bake a delicious cake but achieving a smooth crumb coat, never mind sugar roses, is beyond our ability or time constraints.

In terms of the Food Network cake challenge, what was inside was plain, dense, sponge cake. These cakes are made for viewing, not eating. (A beauty pageant for pastry? As long as my cupcakes don't have to measure up, I can live with it, I guess.)

In the case of the very talented Cheryl Lew, I can speak from happy experience that her cakes are beautiful inside and out.

http://www.montclairbaking.com

To see the schedule for the spooky cake challenge, go to
http://www.foodnetwork.com
and click on TV and then look for the episode and schedule.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Vietnam -- Pyramid Power












In Hoi An, Vietnam, students at this primary school get a colorful visual of what it takes to eat healthy.

This food pyramid poster is at the main gate. In front of it is a vendor selling the students and other passersby some of the fruits illustrated on the chart.

Hoi An is at the mouth of a river and on the South China Sea.
Centuries ago it was an important trading port and Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese influences can still be seen in town and are reflected in the food. "White roses," a kind of dim sum that seems Chinese in origin, are a local favorite. Also, a type of cracker bread was served at most meals at local restaurants instead of or in addition to rice.

We had some of our favorite meals in all of Vietnam in Hoi An at the Mermaid and Cafe des Amis restaurants. Watch this blog for more about the food and cultural heritage of Hoi An and Vietnam.

Hereee's Chocolate!

Today is Sugar High Friday #13 -- The Dark Side. The challenge, as proposed by host http://www.lovescool.com/ is to find something new and different to do with dark chocolate.

I think we here at Blog Appetit have met the challenge. Behold our creation:

Chocolate and Cacao Nibs Tart with Almonds (and Peaches or Pears)
This is a very adult tasting tart, not too sweet, with lots of flavor. It features a dark chocolate crust, cocoa nibs in the filling and dark chocolate shavings for garnish.

For 6-8 servings

Chocolate Crust

Please note: your butter must be French or European style and unsalted. Regular American butters such as Land of Lakes or Challenge (although I haven’t tried Challenge’s European style) have too high a water content and the crust shrinks and cracks too much when baked.

Three ounces unsalted European-style butter
Two ounces of bittersweet chocolate broken into a few pieces (I used Schaffen Berger Bittersweet, one fifth, or one section, of a 275 gram bar, just under two ounces. A semisweet chocolate would work, too.)
1 tablespoon of a neutral tasting oil (I use grapeseed, but any bland oil will work)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Good quality white flour, preferably unbleached, unsifted.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl combine the butter, chocolate, oil, water, sugar and salt. Melt together in a microwave until the ingredients are well melted and mixture is close to a boil. (Stir after a minute or two to help the chocolate melt more evenly.) I recommend covering the bowl with waxed paper or a vented top to avoid splatter. I found the mixture using softened butter took about four minutes on high.

Remove bowl from microwave. Be very careful, the ingredients will be very hot.

Add flour by tablespoons to the butter and chocolate mixture and stir with a fork. Keep adding and stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. It should not look wet or slick or greasy and have some resistance to your touch, almost like squeezing your earlobe, but still keep together and not crumble. It will have stopped absorbing additional flour.

Press the dough into the ungreased 9-inch tart pan. Make sure you cover the bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom all over with a fork and press the back of the fork tines against the sides of the tart. Place the tart pan on a baking tray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. The crust should look “set” and firm and have some fine cracks. Remove from oven.

Almond Cream Filling with Cacao Nibs
Half cup of unsalted butter, softened.
Half cup sugar
Half cup finely ground blanched almonds (almond meal)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ to 1/3 cup of Scharffen Berger’s Cacao Nibs. (Cacao nibs are leftover bits of roasted, shelled cacao beans and add texture and a distinctive flavor. Nibs are available at many gourmet style markets. Check http://www.scharffenberger.com/ for more information.)

In a bowl, mix the sugar with the ground almonds. Add the butter and thoroughly blend using fork, pastry blender or fingers until the mixture is evenly combined.
Add the egg, flour and the extract.
Mix well and add the nibs. Combine until the nibs are evenly distributed throughout.

The Fruit
4-5 medium size, firm, fresh peaches or ripe but not soft pears
½ cup sugar
Fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled (the ginger, not your thumb)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Water

Plunge the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for a minute, remove to a bowl of cool water. Peel, half and remove pit. If using pears, peel, core and half.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, ginger and vanilla with enough water to just more than cover fruit. Allow to cook over a medium high heat until the mixture reduces a bit and becomes a bit syrupy. Add the fruit halves and lower heat to medium. Add more water to cover if the syrup mixture does not cover the fruit. Poach peaches for 10 minutes or so, or until the peaches are soft, but not falling apart. The pears will need to be poached for another 10 minutes or so until they are soft.
Remove fruit from poaching liquid and let cool a bit. Slice each half into thirds. Discard ginger and poaching liquid.

Assembling the Tart
Pre-baked crust
One recipe of almond-nibs cream
One recipe of poached fruit
¼ cup to 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings

Preheat to 350 degrees if starting fresh.

Spread the almond nib cream evenly in the pre-baked tart shell. Arrange poached fruit slices on top.
Bake in the oven on baking tray for 20 minutes. The filling should be set and have risen up a bit. Cool a bit on a rack. Sprinkle liberally with chocolate shavings before serving. (Note: use a spoon, the shavings will melt on your fingers if you try to do it by hand and you will be forced to continually lick your fingers.) Remove outer tart ring and serve.

(The technique for this crust and almond cream are variations based on ones taught by Paule Caillat at http://www.promenadesgourmandes.com/ at her cooking school in Paris. Merci, Paule!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sweet and Hot for Halloween

My previous posting covered how to buy and prep a pumpkin. Now here is the pay off, two favorite recipes that should suit both Jack Spratt and his wife.

PUMPKIN TREATS – Make these as custards or as mini-pies. Either way they satisfy that pumpkin craving. Make them richer by substituting low-fat or regular evaporated milk and serve with a dollop or two of whipped cream. These are not too sweet and depend on the spices to temper the pumpkin’s natural astringency. My inexact calculation puts both versions in at about 100 calories per serving.

Makes 12 mini-pies or four custards

Filling:
2 large egg whites, 1 whole egg, beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree
¾ cup fat-free evaporated milk
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon light maple-flavored syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground ginger; ¼ tsp ground nutmeg; ¼ tsp. ground allspice; 1/8 tsp. salt
Optional -- ½ tsp very finely minced orange peel

For Mini-Pies:
12 ginger snaps

· Combine and mix all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl.
· For the mini-pies, line 12 cupcake tins with FOIL liners (the filling’s moisture will seep through paper liners). Place a gingersnap in the bottom of each tin and fill each about 3/4ths or a bit more with the filling. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven about 25-30 minutes until the center feels firm and not sticky and a knife comes out clean. Serve warm (not hot), room temperature or cold. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 12 treats. Serving size is one mini-pie. Enjoy within a day or so.
· For custards, pour filling in 4 heatproof baking or custard cups. Place cups in a large baking pan, add about one inch of boiling water to the pan to surround the cups (you are making a water bath or bain marie to prevent the custards from cracking.) Place in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 50 - 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. The timing really varied in my test runs, so check at 50 minutes, but be prepared to cook them longer. Remove cups from water. Serve warm or cold. Makes four servings.

PUMPKIN CHILI – This recipe is hearty, filling and is probably what I’ll serve on All Hallows Eve.

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 minced serrano or jalapeno pepper (seeded if you want a milder chili)
1 pound ground turkey (7 percent fat)
1 ½ to 3 tablespoons chili powder. (I use 3)
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano,
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 cup bell pepper, chopped and 2 cups chopped brown (crimini) or white mushrooms
3 cups stock, water or mix of two
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-15 oz cans chopped tomatoes with liquid
4 cups raw, peeled pumpkin, cut into 1” cubes
1-16 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (canned), drained, chopped (Use additional jalapeno or serrano chiles if they are not available)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro


Heat oil in large, deep pot or dutch oven. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add garlic, jalapeno or serrano chile(s), bell pepper, celery and carrots. Stir often and cook until softened a bit. Add turkey and sauté until brown. Add chili powder, cumin and oregano. Add mushrooms and sauté mixture a minute or two. Add pumpkin chunks, tomatoes and liquid, tomato paste, water and/or stock, and the chipoltes. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until pumpkin begins to soften. Add beans, stir well, replace cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is almost cooked through. Take the cover off and simmer until pumpkin is done and the chili is thickened (about 3 to 5 minutes). Using a fork and without removing the pumpkin from the chili, mash about a half cup of the cooked pumpkin chunks into the chili into a rough puree (this helps give the chili body). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with chili toppings. About eight or more servings.


By the way, the pumpkin postings are part of Slashfood’s Great Pumpkin Day challenge. Check out http://www.slashfood.com for more pumpkin delights from other food bloggers and websites.

Pumpkin Eater


PUMPKINS have long had a culinary fascination for me, particularly around Halloween. It started when my father would recycle our jack o’lantern into pumpkin pie complete with a homemade crust. It continued after college with my almost ritual serving of a rich, custard cheese casserole prepared inside a pumpkin shell at Halloween. When my kids were younger, my creativity flourished as I helped to create such pumpkin favorites as surfer dude pumpkin and diaper baby pumpkin (my kids were not that into scary, I guess.) Now, I tend to explore the many high fiber, low calorie variations pumpkins provide.

IN A PUMPKIN SHELL – Weight watchers tend to really be excited about pumpkin’s lack of calories not to mention fat. The thrill could be because of its association with pie and whipped cream. Four pounds of whole pumpkin (with seeds and peel) will equal about two pounds of raw flesh. One pound of raw, peeled pumpkin yields about four cups of chunks or two cups of cooked puree. I’ve cooked with both fresh and canned and there is no question fresh is better, but canned puree is a quick, healthy convenience food. Just look for cans containing only one ingredient – pumpkin – and avoid those labeled “pumpkin pie filling.”

TRICK OR TREAT – The bad news is that most of the pumpkins you see in the market are field pumpkins, great for jack o’lanterns, a bit stringy and watery for eating. Look for “sugar pie” or “cheese” pumpkins or any other variety labeled “cooking pumpkin.” Sugar pie is probably the most readily available. Check with your local produce market or manager for availability. The cheese pumpkin is reputed to be the pumpkin first canned for pumpkin pie. Cooking pumpkins have a denser, sweeter flesh than field pumpkins. No matter what kind of cooking pumpkin you use, select one that is bright orange and seems heavy for its size with its stem attached. Whole pumpkins keep a month or more if stored in a cool room. Raw chunks can be refrigerated for a few days and cooked puree freezes well.

USER’S GUIDE – To prep a pumpkin, start like you are going to make a jack o’lantern. Cut open at the “lid.” If you are going to peel the pumpkin to use raw or to steam, use a sharp knife and trim away the outside peel, then cut the pumpkin shell in half vertically. Leave the skin on if you will be baking the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and strings with a tablespoon. To use raw, cut in chunks and add to soups, stews, sautés, curries and chilis. To use as a puree, choose steaming or baking (which I think results in a sweeter, less watery puree). For steaming, cut in 1 ½-inch cubes, place in steamer basket over boiling water and steam for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain well before pureeing. To bake, place pumpkin halves cut side down on an oiled baking tray. Bake at 350 degrees for until the pumpkin flesh is tender when pierced with a fork. Discard peel before using. One advantage of making your own pumpkin puree is that you can make it as fine or chunky as you like. I like a bit of chunk in most recipes for texture. Pump up vegetable soup by adding one to two cups of pumpkin puree along with some fresh minced ginger, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a half teaspoon or so of coconut extract and possibly some leftover, chopped steamed greens and two tablespoons of smooth peanut butter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Vietnam -- On The Street Where You Eat


A street corner chef in Hanoi, Vietnam, this past August barbecues the meat for bun cha over a small charcoal brazier. This pork, rice noodle and broth one dish meal was one of the best meals of our lives and cost roughly $1.10 for the two of us.

We sat at a low table surrounding by locals who seemed tickled to see the big clumsy Americans try to fit on the small stools. But our enjoyment of the food transcended our differences and we all were nodding and beaming and smiling at each other in no time.

I had the "fancy" version of this dish at my cooking class at a hotel in Hanoi. It was good, but our street corner repast was even better.

Watch for more on food in Vietnam.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Commonwealth of Magazines

One of my secret passions is British and Australian food magazines. After reading and/or subscribing to most of the popular and some of the more esoteric American foodie bibles, I was hungering for some new perspectives and new traditions to explore.

My first exposure was to BBC Good Food, a publication of the television network and featuring personalities from its food shows and an emphasis on the foods and regions of Great Britain. Most of the recipes were appealing, and it was kind of fun to have to “translate” the ingredients and measurements from British to American.

But BCC Good Food is hard to find, so once when I needed a fix I picked up Olive, a bit more “American” in style with more feature length articles and a bit more of a gourmet/gourmand feel. (It is also published by the BBC, though).

Olive had more travel articles and fancier photo spreads but still shared its sister magazine’s “sense and sensibility;” its recipes and written directions were clear and direct, and it shares an appreciation of the senses that cooking and eating good food entails.

After reading these magazines I began to understand a bit more the Nigella Lawson phenomena. The British food seductress’s sensual word choice and cooking experience seems a like an exaggeration of the British way of writing recipes and describing food. Not that the British food magazines recipes aren’t straight forward and the directions complete, but some how they often seem to veer from the clinical, almost scientific recipe writing we Americans have come to expect ever since Fanny Farmer weaned us off our teacup measurements.

(An aside – One of Nigella’s products is actually a set of measuring cups designed to look like teacups.)

One of the reasons these magazines are my secret passion is because the reaction I get from fellow food lovers and food writers when I mention them. At first, they thought it was a joke. “Ha, ha,” they’d snort. “You. Reading. British. Cooking.” They couldn’t even get the words out.

I’d try to explain how the recipes were really, really good and the emphasis is on locally grown and sustainable seasonal cooking and how much fun they were to read, but their eyes were beginning to water from laughing so hard that I don’t think they heard me or my explanation that British cooking has drastically changed since the days of a meat and two vegs.

Once I had already read the available issues of both magazines and still wanted the thrill of a foreign food writing experience, so I explored the magazines down under with my first issue of Delicious, produced by the Australian Broadcast Company as an offshoot of its food programming. Delicious is absolutely one of the best-looking food magazines I have ever seen – photos, design, layout are, well, delicious. Again, I had fun translating recipes into American tastes with American ingredients and American measurements (Some Australian measurements differ from both American and European). Luckily, the magazine includes a conversion guide on the back cover.

Donna Hay's Magazine is also good looking, but there are so many photo spreads and the like that there seems to be fewer things to cook. Donna Hays is the Australian Delia Smith who is the British Martha Stewart, give or take.

One thing about the Hay's magazine I find off putting is that it is not marked with the month of publication, just a volume and issue number. I expect that way they can market a winter issue in July down there and not turn off buyers here when they offer it up for sale in the states in December.

I especially like the articles in Delicious showcasing regions and cities in Australia I might not have otherwise known about and the articles about Australian wine in both magazines.

I’ve read some others from both countries, but none of them regularly make my shopping whim list. These magazines are pricy in America because of their import status ($8-$9 each at larger independent bookstores and selected Borders and Barnes and Nobles stores). They have really helped me lose an American provincialism and superiority about food I wasn’t even aware I had and given me a good dose of armchair adventure. Although I am not quite ready to host a cricket party no matter how appetizing the recipes seem.

Some resources:

www.bbc.co.uk/food/ is a great site with lots of info on the shows and recipes, although not articles from the two BBC food magazines themselves.

Nigella Lawson’s website, http://www.nigella.com/, has info on her products, books and shows. It also has recipes.

ABC’s site has subscription information for Delicious and not much else about the magazine or food. However, it is a comprehensive news site. http://www.abc.net.au/

Donna Hay has her own website at http://www.donnahay.com.au/
While there is no online access to the magazine or sample recipes to try, there is a recipe conversion feature to help you figure out your grams into cups and your silver beet into Swiss chard.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hats off to Vietnam


Tonight we thanked some friends for lending my husband a sun hat for our trip to Vietnam. We invited them to dinner and when they were too full to move sprung the photos on them! We had culled down our digital photos to only 132 images (which was still way too many) and played some of the traditional music cds we bought for atmospheric music.

We also put on a feast -- vegetarian salad rolls, green papaya and chicken salad, lemongrass beef with rice noodles, water spinach with garlic and taro ice cream.

When I have more time to figure this blog thing out, I'll post some Vietnamese photos. I'll post some recipes from the dinner, too.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Publications, Prizes and Other Vanities

Prizes:

Slashfood's Editor's Choice Award for my two-part post on selecting and cooking with pumpkins (and recipes for mini-pumpkin pies and pumpkin chili in its Great Pumpkin Day Competition.

Publications:

I write a twice-monthly cooking column in the j., the San Francisco Bay Area's Jewish newsweekly. (48,000 weekly print circulation and on line).

I have contributed to Olive, a BBC food publication in Britain.

I wrote nine articles totalling about 13,000 words ranging from the history and business outlook for pickles to diet food and obesity and how food businesses use the internet for marketing for the Encyclopedia of the Food Business (Greenwood Press).

I am a contributer to Molly O'Neill's One Big Table cookbook.

I have posted many, many pieces on Well Fed Network, including a year-long series on tasting See's Candies. (Note the Well Fed links are broken.  Some posts can be recovered via the Way Back Machine.)

I write a monthly food column for the Temple Beth Abraham (Oakland, CA) publication The Omer.

You can always see what I have written for others by checking the See What I Wrote category in the right hand side sidebar of the blog.

Selected Web Mentions:

Laexaminer.com -- Recipes for the Passover Jewish Holiday
One of the Mushroom Channel's recipes of the week (10.16.09)
Included in Ready Made Magazine's web roundup of fish stews (11.30.10)
My Chanukah wrap up was featured in BlogHer on 12.13.11
Included in About.com Guide to Eastern European Food for my stuffed cabbage meat loaf recipe (1.10.12)
The same recipe was featured as a Super Bowl party contender on 2.3.12
Canadian Jewish News Passover favorites - 3.23.12
Named a Top 100 Food Blogger by Indvily -- 8.12
Chanukah Cocktails featured on thedailymeal.com -- 12.6.12

Updated: 12.6.12

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