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Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Swirl Cookies

Hello, world!  Did you miss me?  I just realized the other day that I haven't posted here since the end of September!  I've been cooking, but I just haven't had time to photograph or write about my food.  I don't really know what happened.  One day it was September and the next...poof!...it was December.  I'm hoping to get back to blogging seriously after the new year, but until then, I'd like to share a couple of links to recipes that I made at home recently.  The first were these deliciously light swirl cookies.  They take a little time and attention, but they are worth it.  This is a basic sable cookie (a not-overly-sweet French sugar cookie) that is crisp, light and as my husband puts it, "ethereal."  Thanks to Sprinkle Bakes for this holiday go-to cookie!

**I made a couple of slight changes to the recipe.  Instead of using red food coloring and strawberry flavoring, I used green food coloring and peppermint extract.  :-)  I also didn't have any cake flour, so I used all-purpose flour minus four tablespoons and added four tablespoons of corn starch.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Rwanda Path to Peace Woven Basket

Did you think you had lost me?  I'm still here, but busier than ever!  The college I work for is hosting the Vice Presidential Debate in a couple of weeks, my daughter is playing soccer and taking dance lessons, and frankly, whenever I get home, I'm just ready to plop myself down on the couch!  I'm hoping that October will give me a little more time to photograph and write about food, but in the meantime, I want to introduce you to this awesome gift idea that gives back to the global community.  (Are you starting to think about Christmas gifts like I am already?!  I know I'm working way ahead of schedule, but I love to start thinking about the perfect gifts for my family and friends early!)

Back in July, I was in touch with a representative from Macy's, and they offered to send me one of these handmade baskets from their Rwanda Path to Peace program.  Rwanda has always had a place in my heart--ever since one of my good friends spent some time there after college working with a group of people on reconciliation.  Rwanda has experienced some tough times, including a very gruesome genocide in 1994 that left a large majority of women as its survivors, but from what I've heard from friends who have been there, it is a beautiful place full of beautiful people.  And Macy's has stepped in to help bridge the economic gap that exists there by selling these extraordinary one-of-a-kind baskets to provide sustainable income to the Rwandan women who create them.

If you're like me, you may be looking for a great alternative gift for the hard-to-shop-for friend or relative.  These baskets would be the perfect opportunity to give a beautiful gift, but also support women from across the globe in a craft that has been handed down from generation to generation.  Mine is sturdy and beautifully crafted.  It currently sits in my office as I've started a small collection of international items, but it can hang easily on your wall or could be used as a fruit basket on your table.  Macy's offers several designs at moderate prices, so when you start your holiday gift list, keep these amazing baskets in mind!

Disclosure: A basket from Rwanda Path to Peace was sent to me free of charge from Macy's. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

I love Pinterest.  It keeps me organized (in an otherwise very unorganized life) with ideas that I'd like to implement someday.  Many of them will remain that way: someday.  But you know you have to act on a recipe when you've pinned it more than once--that's what happened with this soup.  I saw it a few months ago, made it, and liked it, but thought it needed more depth and more flavor.  I then promptly forgot all about it until a couple of weeks ago when I pinned it...and then realized that it was the same soup!  This time I got it right, though.  My daughter loved it, and although it could have been a tad spicier for me, it was just right for the kiddos.  It's an easy soup and comes together easily.  Make a double batch if you want leftovers because my family finished the whole pot in one sitting!

Thai Coconut Curry Soup
Adapted from Chef Michael Smith
Serves 4-6

2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste
1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 serrano chile, minced
1/2-3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 tablespoon lemongrass (from the tube--this is the only way I can get it!  If you want to use fresh lemongrass, check out the original recipe for the amount and how to use it.)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Zest of 3 limes
Juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 inch fresh ginger, grated on a microplane or minced finely
1 cup snow peas, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups bok choi, chopped
3 green onions, sliced, a handful of green parts reserved for garnish
4 ounces rice noodles
1 bunch cilantro, chopped, a small handful reserved for garnish
Soy sauce, to taste

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Open the cans of coconut milk and scoop the heavy cream-like part off into the pot.  Add the curry pastes and serrano chile, cooking until the curry paste is incorporated and the mixture starts to sizzle.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through.

Add the rest of the coconut milk, chicken broth, carrot, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime zest and juice, brown sugar and ginger.  Simmer on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes.  Add the snow peas, bell pepper, bok choi, and green onions and cook for a couple of minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the noodles, submersing them gently under the liquid.  Let sit for about 5 minutes.  (Rice noodles do not need to cook like pasta; they just need to rehydrate.)

Add the cilantro and soy sauce to taste.  Serve hot, sprinkled with green onion and cilantro.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Banana Nutella Pumpkin Bread [Secret Recipe Club]

I have sad news.  This will be my last month participating in the Secret Recipe Club.  :-(  I love participating, but my life has been so busy over the last few months (and looks like it will continue along the same vein) that I just can't commit to posting by certain dates.  It's been a great year of exploring other blogs and making other bloggers' recipes, and I will truly miss the community. 

Funnily enough, my participation in this group has come full circle.  For my second month's post, I let my coworkers choose a recipe (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins), and so I decided to let them choose my last one as well.  They must have a love affair with bananas because they chose this Banana Nutella Pumpkin Bread recipe from Mom's Crazy Cooking.

Mom's Crazy Cooking is written by Tina in my home state of California.  Besides blogging about food, she also loves to spend time with her kids (me too!), travel and camp (me too!) and do digital scrapbooking (well, maybe not me too...but only because I'm not organized enough to keep at it!).  She has an exhaustive list of recipes on her site that look delicious and family-friendly, just like this bread.  The Banana Nutella Pumpkin bread is dense and chocolately and a great breakfast snack.  A couple of tips, though: 1) Don't over bake it.  I baked the muffins too long, and they turned out a little dry.  The loaf was nice and moist, though.  2) Next time I would try mixing some Nutella into the batter itself and then swirling some on top.  I could only taste the Nutella on the top bites and would have loved the flavor throughout.  3)  Add a little bit of cinnamon to bring out the pumpkin and banana bread flavors--I did and wasn't sorry.

If you'd like the recipe, head on over to Mom's Crazy Cooking...and check out her other fabulous recipes while you're at it!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Southern Tomato Pie

Last summer, I continually saw people posting about making tomato pies on Facebook.  I had never heard of the tomato pie, but found quickly that it seemed to be a southern thing, and growing up in California wasn't conducive to being exposed to true southern cooking.  I was curious, but the summer got away from me, and I never made one.  I finally got around to it last week, and I'm devastated that I waited this long!  This pie is relatively easy to make and packs a punch with flavor.  My husband said that the flavors reminded him of pizza, and no wonder: it's basically tomatoes, cheese, and herbs in a pie form.  Make this with the freshest tomatoes possible--straight from the vine and sun-warmed.  In a pinch, you can use a premade pie crust, but this crust from Alice Waters has never disappointed me.  It's simple to make and turns out flaky and delicious.  And the rest is really up to you.  I could imagine that this would be delicious with some caramelized onions thrown into the mix.  Change your herbs or types of cheese.  Add a little crispy bacon to the top.  I've even seen it around the interwebs with corn added.  Whatever you do, go make this now.  It's a scrumptious southern treat!

Southern Tomato Pie
Makes one pie/tart

Tart crust
From Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
12 Tbl cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup ice cold water

Tomato Pie
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
3/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 ounces ball mozzarella cheese, diced or grated

To Make the Crust:
Combine the flour, salt and butter in your stand mixer.  Mix for about 60 seconds with your paddle attachment.  Add about 3/4 of the water and mix until the dough comes together. (This takes about 30 seconds in the mixer.)  Add more water, little by little, if needed.  Separate the dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour.  You'll only need one for this recipe, but you can freeze the second for a later use.

Once it's been refrigerated, take out of the refrigerator and let rest on the counter for about 20 minutes.  Roll out on a floured surface until it's big enough to fit in your tart or pie pan.  Place in the pan and fold the edges over to create a thicker crust (or you could just trim the excess). Place foil in the crust and fill with dried beans or rice.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Let cool on your countertop.

To Make the Tart:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Lay your tomato slices in a single layer in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt.  Let sit for about 10 minutes.  While they are draining, combine the mayo, sour cream, cheddar cheese and mozzarella in a bowl.  Place the tomatoes on a layer of paper towels and cover with another layer and let sit for about 5 minutes.(This will help prevent your pie from being soggy.  If your tomatoes are extra juicy, feel free to replace the wet paper towels with dry ones and cover again for another 5 minutes.)

Place one layer of tomatoes in the pie/tart tin.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 of the green onions and basil.  Layer with the rest of the tomatoes and green onions and basil.  Spread the mayo/cheese mixture over the tomatoes.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the pie begins become golden.  If after 40 minutes, the top isn't completely golden, place under the broiler until the top is browned and bubbly.  Let cool slightly, but serve warm.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Sorghum Granola [Secret Recipe Club]

Every month I look forward to trying out new recipes from other bloggers who are part of the Secret Recipe Club.  There's just something about the surprises involved that I love--I don't know who has cooked from my blog, and the other blogger doesn't know that I've been assigned to them until reveal day.  And this month I got an even bigger surprise...I was assigned a vegan blog: We Heart Vegan!  My family has a pretty strong love affair with bacon and sausage, so it's pretty unlikely that we'd go as far as changing our diet to a vegan one, but I've always been fascinated with the vegan lifestyle, partially because of all of the interesting ingredients used to balance the diet.

I wasn't sure that I'd find something that my family would dive into when I was assigned the blog, but Brittany and Julie do a great job at making their recipes simple and accessible for all diets.  I really wanted to make their Black Bean and Avocado Salsa, but I've been traveling a lot this month, and I was just scared it would go to waste, so I settled on something a little more storage- and travel-friendly: Omega Granola.  I'm not sure my version would fit into the Omega part of that title, but what I ended up with tasted delicious!  I had never made my own granola before, and I'll definitely think twice before buying it in the store.  It was an easy process and tasted so much fresher than what I typically buy.

As I mentioned, I did make a few adjustments.  I had a hard time finding some of the ingredients in our local grocery store, so I just omitted them.  I also adjusted the nut ratios since I'm a picky nut eater.  And finally, I used Kentucky's version of molasses: sorghum.  I've never used this ingredient before, but happened to pick some up the week before, so decided to use it.  It's not quite as strong in flavor as molasses is, but it was a great substitution!  (If you're not sure what sorghum is, you can find out more here or check out fellow Kentucky Food Blogger Rona Roberts' book, Sweet, Sweet Sorghum.)

I will be making this again for sure...and I thank We Heart Vegan for introducing me to the vegan lifestyle so gently and beautifully!

Sorghum Granola
Adapted from We Heart Vegan
Makes about 5 cups

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/6 cup uncooked red quinoa (regular would be fine here too)
1 small ripe banana, mashed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/6 cup sorghum
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the oats and quinoa evenly on the sheet.  Place the sheet in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir the oats/quinoa and add the nuts and seeds.  Toast in the oven for 6 more minutes.  While the granola is toasting, prepare the wet ingredients.  In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana, sesame oil, vanilla, sorghum, salt, and cinnamon.  Once the granola has toasted for 6 minutes, pour the wet mixture over and add the raisins and dried cranberries.  Mix until most of the granola is wet.  Bake for another 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the baking sheet cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes or until the granola becomes crunchy.  Once it's cooled, break apart (using the parchment paper to help) and store in an airtight container.  This will last a while in the cupboard.  (Mine is going on two weeks and is completely fresh still.)
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lemon-Blackberry Yogurt Loaf

Wow...has it been over two weeks since I last posted?!  It's been a crazy summer, and until last Friday, I was home alone for three weeks with my kids.  And then suddenly everyone started arriving!  My parents arrived on Friday morning for a short visit from California, and my husband returned home after being in Germany and Belgium for three weeks.  I had a great visit with my parents (as did the kids!), but it didn't leave much time for keeping up the ol' blog.  I'm back, though, at least for now, as we leave for England and Scotland for a week on Saturday.  Yahoo!

But in the meantime, I'd like to whet your appetite with this little gem.  I've been working on perfecting this recipe since May, and I think I may have finally hit the nail on the head!  This Lemon-Blackberry Yogurt Loaf is quite simple and great for potlucks and breakfast alike.  If you don't happen to have wild blackberries lying around, feel free to substitute regular blackberries, blueberries or raspberries.  (I happen to have some frozen wild blackberries leftover from picking last summer.)  Or you could just leave them out for a basic lemon loaf--I think the best version I made, though, was with the berries.  :-)  Either way, I recommend doubling your batch because the first cake will go quicker than you'd like!

Lemon-Blackberry Yogurt Loaf
Makes one loaf

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, separated
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice from 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup wild blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray the inside of a loaf pan with cooking spray or coat with butter.  Dust with flour and tap out excess. 

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the sugar and lemon zest.  Mix with your fingertips until the sugar is moistened.  Add the lemon juice, yogurt, vegetable oil, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix to blend.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended.  Coat the blackberries in 1 tablespoon of flour and then add them to the batter.  Mix gently until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Let the cake cool on a wire rack for a few minutes and then remove from pan.  Let it cool completely on the wire rack.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

And the Winner of the OXO Salad Dressing Shaker Is...

Congratulations to The Southern Fried Bride for winning the OXO Salad Dressing Shaker!  Thanks, everyone, for participating this time around!  :-)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Basics of a Vinaigrette and an OXO Salad Dressing Shaker Giveaway!

When I first moved to France, I realized that I was in trouble when it came to salads.  Yes, the grocery stores and markets had great salad ingredients.  Yes, salads were everywhere.  But at the same time, bottled salad dressings in France were terrible.  I had grown up with the bottle and couldn't figure out what to do...until I realized that I could actually make my own!  And it would be a thousand times better than the bottle!  Ever since that realization, I have (mostly) made my own salad dressings.  The great thing about the homemade version is that it has endless possibilities: herbs or none, mustard or no, tangier with more vinegar or smoother with more oil--you get to decide. 

Take the vinaigrette I made for my poached egg salad I posted about last week.  The egg yolk added a delectable creaminess to the salad, so I decided to go with a more tart version of a basic vinaigrette by adding a little more acid.  And that's something you can't do with the bottle in your fridge.

So how do you make a vinaigrette?  It's easy!  It really comes down to the ratio of oil to acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.) and personal flavor preferences.  The common ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part acid.  When you're first starting out on the path to homemade vinaigrettes, I would stick to a good extra virgin olive oil and basic vinegars.  My favorite vinegars are balsamic and red wine because they're milder, but once you get going, start playing with your acids and oils to create different flavors.

If you want your vinaigrette to remain emulsified (or all mixed up), then you'll want to add an emulsifier.  (There's a chemical explanation about how this happens, but we won't go into the details right now.)  The most common for vinaigrettes is mustard (dijon or whole-grain works great) or honey.  Salt and pepper are essential, and then the rest is up to you.  So let's get started!
  1. For a regular, family-sized salad, start by pouring about one ounce (about 1/8 cup) of your vinegar into a bowl or a handy-dandy salad dressing shaker.  Add a little salt--start with about 1/8 teaspoon--and some freshly-ground pepper.  I typically use mustard with most vinegars except for balsamic.  If you're using balsamic, mix and skip to the next step.  Other vinegars benefit from a little bit of mustard.  Add about 1/2-1 teaspoon of dijon mustard.  (For me, this is a flavor thing.  I prefer less mustard, so stick to about 1/2 teaspoon, but you might like more, so play with it!) Whisk or shake these ingredients together.
  2. Pour in about three ounces of oil (1/4 + 1/8 cup).  Extra virgin olive oil is my go-to oil, but feel free to experiment!  Whisk or shake it to combine.
  3. Now, this is the most important part...taste it!  Stick that finger in there and give it a lick.  What does it need?  More salt?  Add a little!  Some herbs?  Add some!  Too tart?  Add a little more oil!  You get the idea.  Here's where you can play with the flavors.
  4. Now pour on your salad, toss, and enjoy! (You can store your vinaigrette in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a week.  Sometimes the oils can solidify, so if that happens, just take your vinaigrette out of the refrigerator about an hour before using it.)

Now, if you've noticed, in the pictures I have a beautiful little OXO Salad Dressing Shaker.  OXO was kind enough to send one to me to try out and another to give away to a lucky reader!  Now, typically, I use a bowl and a whisk because I'm at the point where I don't need to measure anymore, but I do use this shaker quite often as well.  I had an old Tupperware one, but the opening was too small, so whenever I used shallots or other chunkier ingredients, they always got stuck while pouring.  This shaker, though, has a great wide opening, and so far, nothing has ever gotten stuck in it.  It's also pretty leakproof--I even let my two year old "help" me cook by shaking the salad dressing, and nothing ever leaked out.  And finally, my favorite part about this is that, as opposed to my bowl and whisk method, I can make this and then easily store it in my fridge for later use.  When I use this shaker, I'll double or triple the recipe to use throughout the week.  I think the only drawback is that I taste often while making vinaigrettes, and when you twist off the lid, the dressing can run down the sides a bit.  Nothing a paper towel can't fix, though!

So, on to how to enter!  Just follow the directions below.  The first one is mandatory, but the others are optional extra entries...just don't forget to comment for each entry!
  1. Leave a comment on this post.  Feel free to share your favorite homemade salad dressing, tell me about problems you've had in the past making your own, or just tell me hi!  :-) (mandatory)
  2.  "Like" The World in My Kitchen on Facebook and come back here to let me know. (If you are already a fan, just say so in the comments below.)  (optional)
  3. Subscribe to The World in My Kitchen in an RSS feeder. (Make sure to come back here to let me know that you did this!)  (optional)
  4. Follow me on Twitter and retweet this post. (Make sure to come back here to let me know that you did this!) (optional)
  5. "Like" OXO on Facebook and come back here to let me know.  (optional)
That's a total of 5 possible entries! (Make sure to create a separate comment for each one below.) I will choose a winner with a random number generator. The giveaway will close on Wednesday, June 27th at 10:00pm EST.

**This contest is open to those with a U.S. address. 

Disclosure: This product was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Pudding Tart [Secret Recipe Club]

Chocolate pudding: it's something I've never made before.  Part of it is due to my aversion to making custards--cooking eggs gently scares me.  But part of it is because it just seems like a difficult dish--I've never actually seen anyone make pudding from scratch.  All of my pudding making as a kid was straight from a box, so when I was assigned Cooking in Stilettos as my Secret Recipe Club assignment, I knew her recipe for an easy Mexican Chocolate Pudding was kismet.  This eggless recipe came together in all of 10 minutes and tastes wonderful!

In her post about making this pudding, Aly mentioned a pudding pie her "Bampa" would make, and I thought to myself, "Why not?"  So I poured the pudding into a chocolate pie crust I made and topped it with homemade whipped cream.  I hope that I did her Bampa's pie justice!  I know it was a hit in our house!

Mexican Chocolate Pudding Tart
Pudding from Cooking in Stilettos

1 baked chocolate pie crust (I'm still working out some kinks with my recipe, and I'll post it as soon as I perfect it, but in the meantime, you can buy a premade one or google other recipes.)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I added a pinch more because I like the taste of it!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups lowfat milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (Next time I may cut this back just a touch.)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of cayenne pepper (Next time I'll put in more than a pinch!)

Whipped Cream:
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the pudding:
Whisk the brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in the milk and almond extract.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking often.  Once the mixture begins to boil, whisk constantly for one minute.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla extract and cayenne until the butter is melted and incorporated.

To make the whipped cream:
Using a stand or hand mixer, place the cold cream in a large bowl.  Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until peaks form and you reach your desired consistency.  Don't overwhip, as you'll make butter!  :-)  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To assemble the pie:
Pour the mixture into your pie crust.  Smooth out the top with a spatula.  (Aly's directions say to cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap, but I wouldn't do it next time as it left a strange imprint on my pie.)  Refrigerate for at least an hour and a half or until set.  Decorate with homemade whipped cream right before serving.

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