9/19/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Jalapeño-Peach Poppers

Grilled Flank Steak 
Tomatillo and Guajillo Salsa
Brown Rice
Tomatillo Salad

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars


When you have tomatillos, jalapeños, and peaches (did you see my FB post?) in your garden, this is what your Sunday dinner menu might look like.  My inspiration for this menu comes from an old Gourmet special edition magazine.  It featured the meat, salsa, and salad all together on one page, but seeing how this is my little space in the world, I wanted to feature each component on it's own.

I call this salsa, but it is easily used as a dip or sauce for pretty much any meat, veggie and/or carbohydrate.  Again, love those multi-purpose recipes!  The guajillos add a nice smokiness and the tomatillos add a fresh and zesty lemon essence. The recipe calls for dried guajillo chiles, but pasilla chiles can be substituted.

One can never have too many salsa recipes.  Happy Sunday!

9/16/2021

Turkey and Black Bean Taco Salad

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Who grew up with taco salad consisting of ground beef, a taco seasoning packet, lettuce, cheese, Doritos and a dressing made with mayonnaise and ketchup? Why was mixing the dressing such a fun thing to do? Kind of like stirring ice cream with a spoon until it's almost melted.  Call it therapeutic, I guess. The weird things we like to do. It pains me to admit how much I enjoyed that taco salad. Thankfully, my taste buds have matured and moved on.

I call this Turkey and Black Bean Taco Salad because I do have other taco salad variations depending on the protein used.  Having said that, feel free to use what ever ground meat you prefer in this recipe.  And speaking of preference, add or omit any veggies of your choosing.  This is a great salad to serve with the components set out separately so everyone can construct their own.  Any way you make it or serve it, your family or guests will be love it!  Taco-bout delicious🌮🥗!! Ok, I had to write that in😉.

9/14/2021

Creamy Chipotle-Lime Dressing (or Dip)

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Dressing or dip? I love it when recipes can be multi-purposed. I use this creamy dressing more for salads, but it quite tasty as a dip when served along side a veggie platter or with poached shrimp.

Making dressings in a blender is certainly quick and easy, but I just want to give you a couple general tips.  

1. Anything that needs to be finely minced (garlic, shallot, chipotle, etc...), add it to the blender with the creamy ingredients (mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, etc...).

2. Once the dressing is completely blended, add the herbs and blend with a few short pulses. (If you add the herbs in the beginning, your dressing will turn out green.)

3. If the dressing recipe calls for grated or crumbled cheese, add that to the blender last and give it another blend with a few short pulses. (if you add the cheese in beginning, your dressing will turn out muddled or grainy.)

4. Creamy dressings can be made and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. (Otherwise they can get a little funky smelling and tasting.)

Looking for a salad to enjoy this with this dressing?  Stay tuned...

9/12/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tarts

Grilled Cowboy Cut Ribeye
(I am using THIS method.  It'll just take longer in the oven.)
Rosemary Frites
Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
(vinaigrette can be found HERE)

French Silk Chocolate Tart


There is no rhyme or reason to this Sunday's dinner other than-I just felt like it. With onions, bacon and a 3.82 pound cut of beef on the menu, my husband is certainly not complaining.  I can't think of a better way to end a classic steakhouse dinner other than with a classic American dessert. One cannot go wrong with a pastry shell filled with a creamy, chocolate, mousse-like filling and topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  

If you know me, you know that I LOVE tarts.  Pies are good, but I just feel that with some recipes, the crust to filling ratio is better in tart form and this is certainly the case with this dessert. A little bit of crust, a little bit of chocolate, and a little bit of cream sits just right on the taste buds. The only other change I made is to swap out the bittersweet chocolate for semi-sweet chocolate because I just like it that way.  I have even used half milk chocolate and half semi-sweet chocolate.  It is good anyway you make it.  Happy Sunday!

*Note-I included a link to my sweet tart dough in the recipe below*

9/10/2021

Fruit Coffee Cake (Raspberry Version)

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The weekend is upon us and for me, that means brunch is on the brain.  And when there is brunch in my house, there is usually coffee cake.  

I made this coffee cake few weeks ago for the first time and it is definitely a keeper!  The beauty of this recipe  is that you can use almost any fruit (hence the name fruit coffee cake), but I chose to go with one of my favorites; raspberries. (Other fruit fillings will follow in the future😉.)

It is a pretty straight forward recipe with two options for preparation. What in the world do you mean, Nicole? You see, the original recipe called for "cutting" the butter into the dry ingredients, but I wanted to speed up the process first thing in the am, so I pulled out both my mini and my large food processor.  The only down side to my method is the number of dishes that I had to clean, but I am no stranger to that in my kitchen.  So please, use whichever method works best for you.

You can serve this cake warm or at room temperature, but I found that it is best if devoured within the day so that the bottom layer doesn't get too soggy from the filling. And my dear readers, that is what makes coffee cakes so wonderful. It is acceptable to eat them any time of day! Enjoy!

9/08/2021

Lemon-Herb Goat Cheese Ball

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Remember that cheeseball from Sunday? Well, here it is in all of its cheesy-herby (that's not a word) glory.  

If you are not a big fan of goat cheese like my husband, please give this recipe a go. The addition of cream cheese to the goat cheese really helps dial back that tangy flavor and sometimes chalky texture. 

The original recipe suggested processing the cheese mixture in a food processor, but that would make the mixture to loose and difficult to shape. I've made my fair share of cheese balls, so I just break out my hand mixer or even the back of a spoon and mix away. The original recipe also called for crumbled goat cheese, but I use goat cheese in log form for a smooth texture. (I use a Montrechat style goat cheese.) Last change...the original recipe only used chives to coat the ball, but since this is an "herb" cheese ball, I added some finely chopped parsley and that added additional freshness and helped fully coat the ball with herbs. Phew.

Serve this with crackers, crostini or crudité (like Green Zebra Tomatoes😋) and you will certainly have a crowd pleaser to add to your appetizer caché.

9/05/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Lemon-Herb Goat Cheese Ball
with Green Zebra Tomatoes

Simple Green Salad

Lemonade Pound Cake


Summer is quickly coming to an end and I want to "squeeze" (pun intended for this post) in as many seasonal good eats as possible.  

If you follow me on FB, you'll know that I have Green Zebra Tomatoes growing in my garden and they pair so well with the goat cheese appetizer we are having tonight.  It's ittle hard to post that appetizer recipe right now because I am sure many of you do not have that variety growing, but maybe I'll just share the goat cheese ball soon. I have previously shared the recipes for the main course and side; Grilled Butterflied Brown Sugar Chicken and the Creamy Corn Pudding, so I have linked those recipes above. What I am going to share today is the cake!  

I have already told you about my Great Aunt Margaret's Southern Pound Cake and that is "kinda" like a lemon pound cake, but this here cake...is a Lemonade🍋 Pound Cake. It is sweet and just a bit tangy like a tall glass of lemonade.  

Now, you might be wondering how the "lemonade" flavor is achieved.  Wait for it...good ole fashion lemonade concentrate.  Yep, the work is already done for you. Well except for the part of making the cake😉.  

The other ingredient that makes this a wonderful cake is the addition of sour cream.  Having said that, you can also use plain yogurt (not the Greek stuff).  They both have equally good results and make for a tender and moist end product.  The last thing to finish off this cake is the glaze.  Mmm...glaze. The original recipe called for drizzling the glaze over the still warm cake, but I like to see my glaze, so I let the cake cool a bit longer before pouring on the glaze
.


So, pucker-up, run to the store and get that can of lemonade concentrate! Happy Sunday! 

8/22/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Basil Pistou and Garden Fresh Sun Gold Tomatoes on Crostini

Baked Chicken Meatballs 
Pepperonata and Arugula  Salad

 

This is a variation of the flavor packed accompaniament that traces its roots to the south of France. You will notice the absence of nuts in the recipe. I actually prefer it this way. When the garden is over flowing with the bounty of a full summer, this pistou will bring the flavor of the season to your table. Use it as an accompaniment to anything. Tonight, we are having it on crostinis with garden fresh Sun Gold tomatoes.

8/19/2021

Rustic Peach Cake

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Let me start by saying that there is only one thing "rustic" about this cake and that is its appearance. I mean, shouldn't a rustic dessert be super easy?? Don't let me scare you from making this because it is incredibly delicious! For this post, I am going to use bullet points to explain part of the process. 

Here we go...

1.The original recipe calls for a 9-inch spring-form pan. Why? Go ahead an use an 8-inch cake pan.

2.The original recipe calls for two medium firm peaches. I used one large (about 8-ounces), but not overly ripe peach. And yes, I sliced my peach into 9 wedges; eight for the edges and one for the middle.

3.The peaches are macerated in a divided sugar and cinnamon mixture, but DO NOT use the juices when adding the peaches to the cake.

4.The original recipe calls for dried peaches or apricots (they are both similar in taste when dried and amplify the flavor). DO NOT use freeze dried fruit. 

5. Dried fruit is sticky to chop, so spray your knife with cooking spray and finely (and I mean finely) chop the dried fruit.  

6. I could tell you to pulse the dried fruit with the dry cake ingredients in a food processor (because it works), but also requires more dishes to clean.

7. Are you still with me?

So, how is this a "rustic" peach cake? I HAVE NO CLUE! I need to rename this recipe Very Good Peach Cake😋🍑.

If I just put peach on your brain, here are some links to some of my other peachy perfect recipes...






8/17/2021

Sunday Dinner 8/15/2021

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Hatch Chile Cheese Spread

Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs
Illinois Sweet Corn

Rustic Peach Cake 
with Whipped Cream




Where do I start?  Well, I  can use five words...spinning-beach- ball-of-death!  And it was not just one annoying ball, there was also a black-grey ball of death when I tried uploading my images.  I'll leave the 404 Error out of this post because I've kind of had it at wits end with technology!!

On to the good stuff...August is Hatch Chile season and I wanted to share a spin on my Pimento Cheese.

When the chiles are available, I buy them in bulk.  Once I broil and skin them, I place them on a parchment lined baking sheet to freeze and store for when needed. 

This spread is so good on the cornbread crostini that I served on this past Sunday, but is equally as good, on crackers, tortilla chips or as a spread on a sandwich or burger. I have even used it as a filling for quesadillas and empanadas. Let's just say that the possibilities are almost endless. Happy Sunday-err Tuesday!

8/11/2021

Kale Salad with Creamy Poblano Dressing

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Growing up in a Southern household, we certainly enjoyed our fair share of greens, but they were most certainly not served up like this recipe.  Our greens were simmered, almost until surrender, in a pot of broth and a smoked ham hock.  Delicious as they were (and still are), they were completely depleted of texture and essential nutrients. I still enjoy a pot of greens and its likker, but I also like to enjoy the taste, texture and nutrient value of fresh kale. 

This beautiful bowl of health came to me via Chicago Magazine a while back.  The developer was chef John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina.  The restaurant has since closed, so am I ever glad I have this recipe to share with you.  Chef Manion developed this dressing as a nod to green goddess dressing with a Latin spin and boy did he ever nail it!

The base of the dressing is made with blackened poblano peppers, avocado, and garlic. Yum! They are blended together with egg yolk, Dijon, buttermilk, and oil for an incredibly creamy dressing.  I like to thin the dressing with a little bit of water, but you can make it as is of to your own desired consistency.  The one thing that I did change was to dial back on the oil, so it doesn't emulsify into a green mayonnaise.  This bold dressing holds up very well to the somewhat tough kale leaves.  Having said that, one trick I like to use when working with fresh kale, is to massage the dressing into the kale with your hands.  This helps break down the leaf fibers making them more tender.  Toss in some sliced jalapeños, radishes, pepitas, cilantro and a sprinkle of grated Cotija and this will become your new favorite kale salad with just one bite.  Ok, you'll probably be "bowled" over by the taste of the dressing before you even get to the kale.)  There will be some leftover dressing, but be thankful.  It is delicious as a dip, as a sandwich or burger spread, or even as a dressing over potatoes.

Serve as a light lunch, as side salad, or add in some protein like shrimp or chicken to make it a loaded meal.  Enjoy!

8/08/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Watermelon, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecan Canapés

1/2-n-1/2 Browned Butter Creamed Corn
Refrigerator Pickle and Heirloom Tomato Salad on Arugula

1-2-3 Hidden Ice Cream Shortcakes
Peaches and Whipped Cream



Who likes shortcakes with macerated fruit and whipped cream? My hand is raised high. I have various shortcake recipes, but I wanted to feature this building block of a recipe.  With only three ingredients, it is super easy.  How are there only three ingredients? Well, the "hidden" ingredient is melted ice cream. Yep, you read that right. Think about it. Ice cream is cream, sugar and egg yolks; everything you need for a good cake. And the self-rising flour eliminates the need for added leavening or salt. The dough is baked in one pan, so no rolling or cutting. You can serve the slices warm or at room temperature. Top a slice it with any macerated fruit and whipped cream. This is a "hidden" gem of a recipe.  Happy Sunday!

8/06/2021

Frozen White Chocolate Cream Cheese Bars with Blackberry Swirl

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Remember when I said that I was playing around with some new recipes this past Sunday?  Well, let me introduce to you the newest recipe that I am adding to my (quite extensive) dessert caché, Frozen White Chocolate Cream Cheese Bars with Blackberry Swirl.

I call these "Frozen" because they really need to be served almost right from the freezer.  Otherwise they will become too soft.  The combination of chocolate wafers, white chocolate and cream cheese lend a flavor profile that will have your tastebuds thinking about that classic, four-letter sandwich cookie. You know, the one you either twist to eat the filling or dip in milk to eat.

The original recipe called for 1/4 cup of blackberry purée.  I don't know about you, but that is not something that I keep on hand.  Blackberries in the garden or store? Yes.  Blackberry purée in the fridge? No.  So, I adapted the recipe to make up for that.  If you are wondering about using blackberry jam, I wouldn't recommend in doing so.  It would make the bars overly sweet.  

They are beautiful to serve on a plate garnished with fresh berries and mint leaves (I used chocolate mint from my garden) or you could do as my husband does and just open the freezer drawer, pick one up and eat it out of your hand.  Either way, you will enjoy them.  Happy cooking!

8/04/2021

Orecchiette with Shrimp, Pepperoncini and Basil

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Ready for a quick weeknight dinner that is so incredibly delicious you'll want to serve it to company?  This is it!  Think shrimp scampi with a power punch of flavor from Pepperoncini peppers and fresh basil.  You could use any pasta , but the orecchiette, which means "little ears" is perfect because it cradles all those wonderful ingredients and flavors.  

Speaking of ingredients and flavors, there a food pairing in this recipe that, for some people, is either up for debate or strictly forbidden.  Cheese and seafood.  I could write a whole separate post about this topic. This pairing is definitely a no-no in most Italian households.  Why?  Maybe because the major cheese region in Italy is landlocked and no where near fresh seafood.  Maybe because, for some people, one flavor overpowers the other.  But let's think about it...  Anyone ever heard of a tuna melt? What about baked clams with cheese or smoked salmon and cream cheese.  How about that classic holiday appetizer made with a brick of cream cheese, crab and cocktail sauce?? And let's not forget about anchovies on pizza.  

So, sometimes I think that rules are meant to be broken.  If it works for your palate, go for it.  If it is against your culinary religion, just omit it.  Once again, make it for you, make it your won.  Happy cooking!

Oh, wait... You might also be wondering about the baking soda.  I find that a quick brine of salt and baking soda help tenderize the shrimp.  

8/01/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp Cocktail with Sauce Verte

Grilled Wine and Herb Marinated Chicken
Fresh Tomato Galette
Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Frozen White Chocolate Cream Cheese Bars with Blackberry Swirl



I've been playing in the kitchen today trying out a few new recipes, but this Fresh Tomato Galette has been a keeper for over a year now.  Fresh garden tomatoes, herbs and cheese all tucked into a buttery flaky crust? Yes, please!!  

It is a pretty straight forward recipe.  The only trick is to make sure the tomatoes are drained of excess juice in order to keep the crust from becoming soggy.  The sliced tomatoes are salted and drained in a colander, but I like to take it a step further and drain them on paper towels as well. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes and you can use any variety of tomato to your liking.  Tonight  I used a mixture of heirloom tomatoes from my garden; Brandywine, Big Rainbow, Green Zebra. And I couldn't leave out a good ole classic, Whopper.  I have also used cherry tomatoes when they are in abundance.  The herbs I use are fresh thyme and basil, but you can certainly use any herb of your choice.  Gruyère cheese is scattered on the bottom of the dough before baking, but a good sharp cheddar yields equally good results.  As I have said many times before, make it for you, make it your own.  Happy Cooking!

7/29/2021

S'mores Bars

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*WARNING*
This recipe is dangerous!
Dangerously good, that is!

What makes the combination of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows so magical? I think it is safe to say that for most of us, it conjures up good memories sitting around a camp fire with family and friends, going on a camping trip with a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, having fun during summer camp or just sitting in your backyard enjoying the evening huddled around a fire pit.  Yeah-that's magical.  I think the only con of s'mores is waking up the next morning only to find sticky marshmallow goo in a little ones hair.  But, hey, that's part of the fun, right?

There are so many recipes and products on the market that are s'mores flavored; ice cream, cookies, brownies, cakes.  I even believe there are s'mores flavored Goldfish crackers- thanks,  I 'll pass on that one. Well, now we can add to that list with this recipe for S'mores Bars.  I have lost count on how many times I have made these.  

Oh my are these heaven on earth!! First, there is a graham crust that is baked and cooled.  Then a layer of milk chocolate is set on top of the crust followed by a good schmear of marshmallow Fluff and if that wasn't enough sticky marshmallowiness (that's not a word) for you, a good amount of mini marshmallows are sprinkled on top.  Once baked, the chocolate sets into the crust and the marshmallows puff and turn perfectly golden brown just like they would over a camp fire.  Once they are pulled from the oven, more chocolate is sprinkled on top.  I mean c'mon!  I'd say that this recipe is absolute perfection, but there is one downfall.  You have to wait at least 4 hours before you can dig in😫.  It's painful to wait, but is it ever worth it!  Happy cooking!

7/27/2021

Thin-Crust Skillet Pizza

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What do you do when you are craving pizza, but you don't want to crank up the oven to 575° F because it is hot as blazes outside? You make Thin-Crust Skillet Pizza, of course!

This is the perfect pizza to make this time of year when fresh garden tomatoes are at their peak and you have an abundance of basil growing in the garden, Those are not secret ingredients for a great pizza, but in this recipe there is one.  Beer (I use a full-flavored ale, like New Castle).  I know,  this is not a traditional pizza dough, but let me tell you it works.  Haven't you heard of beer bread?  What about beer in a fry batter?  The beer is used in lieu of yeast to achieve that yeasty flavor.  The baking soda is used for leavening.  Some of you might already be asking, "What can I use other than beer?"  I cannot speak from experience, but I suppose you could use water, although you might want to add just a touch of dry-active yeast for flavor.  

The recipe makes two 9-inch pizzas and you'll need a 12-inch non-stick skillet.  Make sure that when you add the dough round to the hot oil in the skillet, gently lay the dough away from you to avoid oil splatter. The first side is cooked until deep golden brown and crisp, then the dough is flipped, the toppings are added, and the pizza is covered with a lid in order for the cheeses to melt.  (Watch your temperature so the bottom does not burn.)  Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve.  

Make this ASAP!  You'll thank me later😋🍕.  Happy Cooking!

7/25/2021

Sunday Dinner

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Gouda and Lemon Thyme Gougères 
with Peaches

with Lump Crabmeat Salad Garnsih

Lemon Yogurt Mousse with Blueberry Sauce


Sunday dinners are a little different now.  My son, Jack, is a recent Mizzou graduate and getting ready to move into his own world in Madison, WI.  My daughter, Emma, is finishing up her last year at Tulane and my other daughter, Mabelle is sixteen. Therefore she is barely seen or heard from.  So, it is pretty much me and my husband and the two black black furry creatures lurking under the table at dinner time.  I'll have to fill you in on our newest family member another time.  On to the menu and recipe...

It is HOT here in Illinois!! I mean, it seems like it was 50° F just a couple of weeks ago and now the heat index is over 100° F. 🔥 That means, it is a "no oven or stove" Sunday dinner. Ok, I did turn the stove on for a few minutes for the blueberry sauce and the gougères were in the freezer; BONUS!


The feature of tonight's menu is the dessert, Lemon Yogurt Mousse.  I like to think of it is as a no-bake, cold summer soufflé. A little bit of the fresh blueberry sauce is spooned into the bottom of each ramekin and then the light and airy mousse is spooned on top of the sauce. There is a nice tang from the addition of Greek yogurt to the mousse and the lemon adds a zesty (pun intended) punch.  As for the Greek yogurt, I have had equally good results using whole, 2% or 0%.  It just depends on your preference.  I used 0% for tonight.  The mousse is served in 4-ounce ramekins, so it is the perfect amount of sweetness to end our dinner on a hot summer day.  Happy cooking!

7/21/2021

UPDATE!!

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Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Salve, Guten Tag, Goddag, Dzien dobry, Konnichiwa...What I am trying to say is 

HI!!! I MISSED YOU!!!

I'm gonna keep this update short because if I had to say everything I wanted to about being MIA these last few years, I'd be writing about it for another three years.  In a nutshell, life, my part-time job and Covid-19 kind of sucked the life out of me.  But things are looking up and I am pushing up my sleeves ready to go (sort of).

My main issue after being gone is that almost everything has changed tech-wise. So, I kind of feel like I am starting from the beginning. Ugh! Blogger has changed, EOS utility has changed, Photoshop has changed, Google sites where I posted my printable recipes has changed and my printable recipes have been scrambled. So, if you try and print a recipe, you'll get a 404 error (I have no idea what that means)!  Also, those of you that have subscribed via e-mail, well, Feedburner dropped blogger, so I had to switch all of your e-mails over to follow.it (it is a great tool to follow all of your favorite sites in one news feed). As you can read, it's been a bit of a nightmare on my end, but I will persevere.  

This labor of love is also in need of a serious make-over, like an updated picture of me?? I am still ok with the layout if you are. I don't want millions of ads in your face or have my site difficult to navigate. I am just really excited to get back and share some recipes. I like to keep things simple😊.

I thank you for your comments, e-mails, and most importantly, your patience while I have been away from the computer. It means the world to me! Happy cooking and you'll hear from me soon! ~Nicole


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