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September 11 Service Thanks – Baking

Hello Friends,

I am on the Volunteer Board for Charlotte at my company, and we recently did a pretty neat volunteer event which I thought I’d share with everyone.

In honor of the fire, police and sheriff personnel in our city who put their lives on the line and go out of their way for their community every day – we decided to honor their service with thanks around September 11. In recognition, volunteers were asked to provide any combination of baked goods, purchased snacks or drinks to any of 138 local stations for these three groups of service.

Due to being a bit special, I took on the 8 local Sheriff Department locations (605 people), and wanted to provide 2 cookies per person. Since I made this wonderful decision on Monday night, with  Tuesday being the last day to deliver for this event, I brilliantly consented to baking 1210 cookies in one night. Pre-planning is a brilliant thing, please let me tell you now!

Anyways, I enlisted a coworker to help me by making 8 dozen cookies (that is 96 for those not quick on multiplying-by-12 games). That left me with only 1114 cookies to bake! 🙂 Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, right?!

Another coworker found me a basic English Shortbread recipe that is basically flour-sugar-butter-bake. So I adapted that. If I’m doing something easy, I want it to be tasty too, seriously!

To make this amount of cookies, I bought 10 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of sugar, 135 oz of Country Crock margarine (3 tubs, proceeds from which support the Wounded Warriors Project), 2 bags of mini chocolate chips, 2 bags of toffee chips (like these), and 1 5-oz bag of Cherry Craisins. I also used on-hand vanilla extract for this recipe, so make sure you have some of that!

Doing 1 batch at a time, combine 2 cups margarine with 1 cup sugar and cream in your mixing bowl on high speed. Once mixed well, add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and blend until well combined.

margarine sugar vanilla shortbread cookies

Cream the sugar and vanilla with margarine!

Gradually add in 4 cups flour to this mixture, on medium speed, and mix until fully combined. Dough will be very slightly sticky, but easy to handle.

margarine sugar vanilla flour shortbread cookies

Add in some flour!

Once you have this dough made, add your ‘extra flavor’ – mini chocolate chips, toffee chips, or Craisins (see note below).

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Add in your flavor chips!

For the craisins: combine 1/2 cup craisins with 2 tablespoons sugar, and process in your food processor or pulse for 20 seconds in your Magic Bullet Blender. This allows them to be bite sized and easier to add into the cookies!

Preheat oven to 350, and spray cookie sheets with cooking spray. I put foil on all my cookie sheets then sprayed with cooking spray for easier clean-up later!

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Scoop your dough onto your cookie sheets to bake!

Bake your cookies for 13 minutes, and immediately remove from oven to cool on an oven mitt away from the oven. Let cool 2-3 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. Let cool an additional 2-3 minutes before putting into plastic quart-sized freezer bags for storage and delivery. Seal tightly, and deliver for a yummy treat!

Since we had 8 locations for what I signed up for, I took some paper grocery bags, labelled them for each location, calculated how many cookies (2 per person) for each location, and then bagged up the different cookies accordingly for each paper bag delivery!

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Package cookies for delivery!

This is what it finally looked like when all cookies were completed and prepped for delivery:

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Delivery bags for 8 locations!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Belgian Beef Stew

Hello Cooking Friends,

It is getting to be Fall, which is my favorite time of the year. And that means that stews and soups can come out of hiding and take center stage, woohoo! So my first fall stew was accomplished with a bit of this and a bit of that, as per the usual for me!

belgian beef stew egg noodles beef bacon onion garlic stew soup fall food parsley lemon juice

Belgian Beef Stew.

My brother wanted steak one night, so he had bought some steaks. Having only used 2 of them, I was trying to figure out what to do with the other 2 when it hit me: STEW!!!!! I was researching Belgian recipes for an upcoming Charlotte Beer Babes event, and found this Belgian Beef Stew recipe that sounded delicious-and-adaptable.

C’mon, you know I am almost physically incapable of following recipes all the way! 😉

Anyways, to start I took 1 lb. applewood-smoked bacon, chopped it up into 1/4-inch pieces and added to a crock pot with 1/2 cup light margarine (hellooooo Country Crock!). I cooked that over high heat for about 5 minutes. As that was cooking, I chopped up 15 peeled pearl onions, and added them and another 1/4 cup light margarine to the pot, mixing them all together. Then I chopped up 1 clove garlic, fresh, and added that and another 1/4 cup of light margarine to the pot. Remember to stir every few minutes! At this point you should be at around 10-12 minutes for the bacon cooking, and it should start to smell deliciously bacony!

Next, chop up your 2 steaks (believe me this yields plenty of beef!), into about 1/2 inch cubes. Add that to the bacon mixture and stir to mix well. Cook for about 10 minutes (still on high setting in your crock pot).

Now this should be getting some liquid gathering at the bottom of the pot, so take about 1 ladle full and pour into a cup to make a slurry (no, not a slurPee). Add 1/8 cup flour, 1 tspn salt, and about 3 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper. Mix this all until completely combined, no flour chunks remaining. Add the slurry to the stew and mix well. Let cook about 5 minutes.

Next, pour in 1 12-oz bottle of a beer of your choice. Traditionally this should be a dark Belgian, however we had a Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout on hand that sounded delicious, so I used that instead. Mix this well into the stew, and it should be a dark color. Let stew for about 5 minutes. (Har har har!)

Meanwhile, chop up most of a 0.75 oz package of fresh parsley (produce section!), without the stems, until you basically can’t chop it any more by hand. Don’t process or blend this, as that will make it into a paste, but go ahead and use a chopper if you have one!

Add your parsley to the stew, and then grate 1 lemon (all of it) directly into the stew. Slice your lemon in half, de-seed it, then squeeze the juice into your stew. I know, I know, you think this is in the “WHY are you ruining a good stew?!?” but trust me – this makes it extra delicious!

Now you just need to let the stew sit for about 15 more minutes on high, then reduce heat to low and let sit 20-30 minutes more. This will fully incorporate the juices in the meats, as well as let the stew thicken.

When you’re about 10 minutes from serving, take 1 bag of Egg Noodles (like these) and cook with 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender. When drained and ready to serve, scoop some noodles into a dish (bowl or plate that has curved sides) and top with a few ladles of stew. Garnish with a sprig of reserved parsley if desired. Serve. Enjoy.

belgian beef stew egg noodles beef bacon onion garlic stew soup fall food parsley lemon juice

Observe, plated Belgian Beef Stew! Mmmm.

Craft You Later,
Beth

Easy Mini ‘Forest’ Soufflés

Hello Friends,

I am back with another installment of healthy and easy lunches for this week. My inspiration from this came almost fully from this EatingWell recipe. Being me, of course, I couldn’t by any means follow this exactly, so I added in a few extras of my own!

chicken broccoli cheese souffle

Easy Mini Forest Soufflés – YUM!

So here is my version (and it is filling, I promise you, deceivingly so!):

What You’ll Need:

  • 12-16 4-oz ramekins (depending how full you want them)
  • 1 medium-sized skillet with lid
  • 1 medium-to-large mixing bowl
  • Utensils: 1 wooden spoon, 1 paring knife and 1 whisk

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter olive oil plus 1 teaspoon lemon pepper olive oil (chicken)
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic!Garlic! and 2 teaspoons Onion!Onion! Mixes (chicken)
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 16 oz bag frozen chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons butter olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups Skim Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 large egg whites (plus the above 3 eggs’ egg whites)

So this seems like a lot, I’m sure, however it’s really pretty simple! Observe the building of the soufflé!

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375. In your skillet, combine Butter & Garlic Olive Oils and the Garlic!Garlic! and Onion!Onion! spices, and chicken over medium heat. Cook approximately 12 minutes until no longer pink at all but is still tender.
  • While chicken cooks, dump your frozen broccoli (chopped into smaller pieces and chunks if needed) into a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes, until a little tender but not fully cooked.
  • Once chicken cooks fully, drain and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, remove your broccoli and let that cool as well.
  • In your skillet over medium heat, combine the 2 tablespoons of butter olive oil with 2 tablespoons of flour, whisking for 1 minute. Sauce will thicken slightly and be somewhat caramel-colored.
  • Add in 1 1/3 cups milk, 2 teaspoons Honey Dijon Mustard, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and whisk constantly for 2 minutes more. Sauce will thicken a lot more at this point.
  • Remove your your sauce from heat, stir in your 1/2 cup shredded cheese and 3 egg yolks until well combined and no streaks remain from yolks. Dump broccoli into mixture and stir well. Let sit to thicken.
  • Meanwhile, take your 5 egg whites in your mixing bowl (rinsed from the broccoli bits), and whisk constantly for approximately 15 minutes. I recommend a helper for this part. That way you can…
  • Take your chicken and put in blender (Magic Bullet Blender to the rescue!) for 15 seconds on pulse, to make into a shredded texture. Add to broccoli mixture and stir completely. Skillet will start to fill up at this point, that is expected.
  • Once you’re done whisking your egg whites into submission, you’ll notice they are frothy, white, and look airy instead of liquidy now. Once you hit this point, gradually add your broccoli mixture to the egg whites, stirring until fully incorporated.
  • Scoop your “Forest” mixture (hey, it’s green, yellow, white and a little brown from the flavors, so it looked like a forest to me!) into your 12-16 ramekins (sprayed with cooking spray). If you want them full, fill 12 almost to the rim (very little rising will take place). If you want more servings, fill 16 ramekins about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes, until set and doesn’t jiggle. Again, the cream of tartar ommission doesn’t make these “rise” like a normal soufflé, which means they also won’t “fall” either. They will expand and set a bit from sitting out of the oven, but not by much. Also, this doesn’t make it taste different than a soufflé, just allows for those who don’t have cream of tartar (or don’t want the rise-and-fall effect) to make a soufflé!

So that is it. It seems like a lot, but I promise it’s pretty easy. Best part is that you cover them with some aluminum foil, refridgerate, and then take into work with you easily for reheating (just remove the foil!) in the dish in the microwave (I suggest 80 seconds on HIGH power). Simple lunch that has minimal clean-up and dirty dish factors involved!

Now just enjoy! Let me know what you think! 🙂

chicken broccoli cheese mini forest souffle

Mini Forest Soufflés!

I input everthing into a CalorieCount program, and this is the nutrition information it gave me back:

Serving Size: 1/16 of entire mixture
Calories: 104
Total Fat: 4.7 g (Saturated Fat 1.0 g)
Cholesterol: 63 mg
Sodium: 130 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 3.5 g (Dietary Fiber 0.9 g; Sugars 1.7 g)
Protein: 11.6 g
Vitamin A: 7% / Vitamin C: 19% / Calcium: 5% / Iron: 2%

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Birthday Cupcakes

Hello All,

Another friend at work had a birthday, so I decided to make her some cupcakes. I had some leftover Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting, so I decided to whip up a batch of Bittersweet Chocolate Buttercream Frosting  and use a basic Vanilla Cupcake (recipe below) to host them both.

Birthday Cupcakes!

So to make these yummy treats, I started with creaming 1 cup of unsalted butter with 1 cup sugar until fluffy. Gradually add in 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tspn baking powder, 1/4 tspn salt, 2 tspn vanilla and 3/4 cup skim milk.

Vanilla Cupcake Batter!

Once your batter is completed, pour it into cupcake liners and bake for 18 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the bakeware. Set in the refrigerator overnight or for 4 hours for best effect. Once they are fully cooled, frost with your frosting, top with a bittersweet chocolate chip or a salted peanut or a piece of Andes Mint or an M&M candy.

Vanilla Cupcake with PB Buttercream!

Vanilla Cupcake with Bittersweet Chocolate Buttercream!

Basically, have fun with toppings and frosting combinations! You can make  some great combinations and make it look beautiful as well, so play with frosting colors too! Enjoy!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Chocolate Cupcakes

Hello Friends and Baking Fans,

I have made a slight modification (**gasp**) to my chocolate cupcake recipe from  Valentine’s Day. I think I’ve improved upon it slightly, but I may be slightly biased on that. I found it a little smoother tasting and better as a stand-alone, but… You tell me!

Chocolate Cupcakes

To make the cupcakes, I started with 1 cup (sticks) of unsalted butter. I added 1 cup of sugar to this in my stand mixer, and creamed the butter out of it! (hehe, you laughed a little admit it!) Anyways, from there, once creamed really well, gradually add in 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 tspn baking powder, 1/4 tspn salt, 2 tspn vanilla, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Mix really well.

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

Now this ooey gooey sticky deliciousness is ready to bake! I used these fun baking cups from Hobby Lobby, which (YAY!) don’t need muffin pans to bake them in – just stick the filled cups on the cookie sheet and bake away! Woooo!

Cupcake Batter To Bake!

So pour your batter into your liners and bake at 350 for around 20 minutes. It may be a little more or less, but mine came out to like 19:48 or something like that. Hence 20 minutes… I’d hate for you to have to time it that exactly! Yeesh.

Chocolate Cupcakes Done!

Once they have turned out and cooled, you can serve them with or without frosting or toppings. I stuck mine in the freezer for about 15 minutes to cool them quickly, since I was getting ready to leave… BUT I served with and without frosting, and they went over really well both ways! So let me know how you like these cupcakes, and I hope you enjoy this yummy chocolateness amongst all this heat out there! Maybe dipped in cool whip if you don’t want to make frosting… 😉 Mmmm! Anyways…

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Black Cherry Pie

Hello Baking Fiends,

I was recently up in the Traverse City area of Michigan visiting my grandparents, and they had gone cherry picking recently. Now, for those of you not familiar with that area, it is cherry country. So when they picked & bought the Cavalier cherries in a 3-pound bunch, they were ripe, fresh, plump, and oh-so-sweet. YUM.

Sweet As Cherry Pie!

To start, we took about 2.5 quarts of the black cherries and pitted and de-stemmed them. Now, there is a nifty thing called a cherry pitter

Cherry Pitter!

However I took a knife and just sliced (like an apple) around the cherry flesh to get the pit out. Ended up being like 2 slices for most cherries to get all the cherry flesh off the pit. This also ended up taking about 15-20 minutes when all was said and done. It also looked like a cherry bloodbath on the table, so be forewarned NOT to do this over white pants, or on a table that doesn’t clean up easily!

Now, take your cherries and add about 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tspn vanilla extract and 2 tspn honey (drizzled), and mix well. Let this sit for about 15 minutes to soak in the flavor best.

Meanwhile, I needed to make a crust. Normally I use the Jiffy Pie Crust, however since we didn’t have any handy, I just basically made one up. Dangerous, I know, but since I sample as I go, I figured I’d be okay…

Crust:
Mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tspn baking powder, 1/4 tspn salt together. Add in 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter (softened & cut into pieces). Mix well until forms a nice dough. Place in a Pam-sprayed pie plate, with the crust going to the very edges of the dish in a thick layer. Take a knife and make a few indents in the bottom, to help avoid the crust trying to rise during baking, thus spilling the yummy parts onto the stove ‘floor’! Oh, and you should have enough crust leftover to do either a second smaller pie, or a thin top crust. 😉

Now that you have that created, pour in your cherry filling. At this point, you can either top with the thin top crust you had enough dough leftover for OR you can make a streusel-crumble topping. I did the topping, myself! 😉

Crumble Topping:
Mix together 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tspn ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup butter (softened and cut into pieces) until, well, crumbly! Top the pie with this evenly.

Voilà: Black Cherry Pie!

Now bake the pie (preheated oven) at 400 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 45 minutes. The pie will look bubbly and browned on top, and will be very juicy – just to warn you!

I wish I had taken a picture of this pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, however it didn’t last long enough for me to think of it! 😉 I think in about 15 minutes the whole thing was demolished! YUM!

So let me know what you think of this recipe, especially if you’re a pie lover like me, and how you like my sweet crust concoction! Until then…

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Little Snowballs

Hey again Baking Friends!

One of my favorite series of books to read is the Hannah Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. I like that it’s murder mystery style books, with a lot of the every day monotony thrown in that most books leave out, and then the best part is the recipes! I have tried lots of Joanne’s recipes, and have yet to find one that I don’t like. One of these days I will try her coffee trick, I swear, but I need a huge batch of coffee drinkers to do it.

Anyways, a few years ago my work did a Cookies for Civil Servants thing around Christmas where everyone brought in bags of scratch-made cookies, and volunteers distributed them to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police, Fire and Medic stations across the county. I had made some extras for my co-workers, small samples of the 4 cookies that I made, and one of my friends LOVED the Little Snowballs that I made. Think similar to a Wedding Cake Cookie.

Little Snowballs!

Since her birthday is at the end of June, I decided to make her a batch of cookies for a snack. Hee. Birthday cookies will get you every time! Muahahaha.

So anyways, here is the recipe, and hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted (3 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnut chips and sliced almonds are my go-to choices for these cookies!)

How To Make Them:
1.
Preheat over to 350 F. Melt the butter in microwave for 2 minutes.
2. Add in 3/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt, and mix well. Add the flour and mix throughly. Stir in the nuts until evenly distributed.
3. Form the dough into one-inch balls (just pat them into shape with your fingers), and place them on an UNGREASED baking sheet.
4. Bake them for 10 minutes, until they are set but not brown. Remove from oven.
5. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes, then roll them in powdered sugar. (You must do this while they’re still warm.) Place them on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
6. When the cookies are completely cooled, roll them in powdered sugar again. Let them rest for several minutes on the rack, and then store them in a cookie jar or a covered bowl, or a large freezer ziploc bag! Enjoy them with friends!

Yield: 90-100 cookies (Nutrition Information: 47 calories per cookie, 2.9g fat, 4.2g carb, 0.6g protein, 8mg sodium, 7mg cholesterol)

So there they are, try it out, enjoy, and please let me know what you think! YUM!

I will say, I do intend to try a few variations on this cookie throughout this summer: substituting butter for Butter Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, adding lemon juice + lemon rind to make Lemon Snowballs, substituting butter for applesauce + canola oil, substituting nuts for dried fruit, substituting macadamia nuts + coconut for the nuts, and finally doing the original recipe around a jumbo chocolate chip. I will, of course, keep you all posted on how these all turn out!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes

Hello Baking Lovers!

Today we are having Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes — à la Beth. I have a coworker who not only is allergic to chocolate (oh the HORROR of it!), but absolutely LOVES Strawberry Shortcakes of all kinds. His birthday is this weekend, so I decided to start our long weekend off right at work and make him (and the rest of my taste-tester victims) some sweet treats to make the day more enjoyable.

Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes!

I was looking at my favorite Strawberry Shortcake Recipe, which is courtesy of the book Strawberry Shortcake Murder, a Hannah Swensen novel, by Joanne Fluke. Unfortunately, I didn’t have 48 hours to let the Pound Plus Cake sit before serving, so I decided to shop around some more for quicker recipes.

In my search, I happened upon this nice blog site unsophisticook, and found some great stuff! I found what would be the basis for my Shortcakes, and a great Bisquick baking substitute for not having to buy the boxed product as well!

To start, I didn’t alter the Bisquick Substitute recipe. Contain your shock, I know it has your jaw agape, but please…miracles do happen! So to start the whole process off I knew I would only need 3.5 cups of the substitute, so I halved the recipe from the above link. I didn’t want extra since it is so easy to whip up!

Step 1: Whisk together 3 cups flour, 1.5 tbspn baking powder, and 1/2 tbspn salt until thoroughly blended. Add 1/4 cup cold sliced butter and, using a pastry cutter or two knives or a whisk, mix in the butter until fully incorporated and no lumps remain.

Step 2: To the flour, add 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and stir completely until dough is lumpy and dry.

Step 3: Add in 1/2 cup sour cream and mix dough well: this will moisten the dough and make it sticky.

Step 4: Drop spoonfulls of dough onto a cookie sheet, mine is lined with foil, and sprinkle with granulated sugar, Bake for 14 minutes at 425 F (preheat your oven first!). NOTE: You want the dough balls at least the size of a hacky sack, otherwise you won’t have enough cake for the full effect!

Step 5: Slice up 2 lbs of fresh de-stemmed strawberries and put in a bowl. Pour about 1/2 cup sugar over top (distribute evenly).

Step 6: Combine 2 tbspn lemon juice and 1/3 cup cold water. Pour mixture over strawberries & sugar. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight.

Step 7: To make the Crème Fraiche, put 2 cups heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer on high for 1 minute. Add in 1/2 cup sugar and let whip for around 10 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Then add in 1/2 cup sour cream, switching the speed down significantly (on mine went from 10 to 3).

Now, I made all the stuff, refrigerated the crème and strawberries, covered the shortcakes (left on top of the cooled stove), and went to bed. You could do this immediately after everything has cooled, but it worked out great overnight for me!

Assembling the Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes:

Step 8.1: Split the cooled cakes in half horizontally.

Step 8.2: Place the bottom half of the cake in a cupcake holder (easiest way to keep them together AND transport them, I promise!).

Step 8.3: Place a dollop of crème fraiche on top of the cake bottom.

Step 8.4: Place 3 slices of strawberries on top of the crème. NOTE: you probably want to drain the juices from the strawberries before starting this process. I drained into a glass & enjoyed a yummy strawberry juice, with a few slices slipped in!

Step 8.5: Place top of cake on top of strawberries, dab a small dollop of crème on top, and sprinkle with a tiny bit of brown sugar. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving, as this will enhance the flavors immensely!

Step 9: Serve and enjoy!

So that is the easy peasy lemon squeezy way to make these cute, individual sized Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes! Let me know how you like them – so far everyone at work has absolutely loved them! Have a great rest of your Friday, a great weekend (for those in the US – HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY weekend!), and until next time…!

Craft You Later,
Beth

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