Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Mom had arrived the day before without any trouble whatsoever, which is really saying something since the Olympics are about to begin and people are pouring in from all over the world through Heathrow (even more than usual). Her flight actually landed early and she was sailed through customs and straight into Bear’s arms.

Happy, safe Munk Mom makes for a happy Munk and Bear

We got authentic fish and chips for the first day and I managed to remember how to cook “real chicken” for her first night (I use a Quorn chicken fillet substitute for myself)

Chicken with Goat Cheese Sauce

4 (6-ounce) skinless boneless chicken breast halves, pound to 1/2″ thick
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons alcohol-free white wine
1 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/4 cup soft goat cheese (2 oz.)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Pound chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove, keep warm.

Add wine to pan; bring to a boil, scraping to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute until mixture is reduced to 1 tablespoon. Add broth, cook until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Add cheese to pan; stir with a whisk until smooth. Serve sauce over chicken; sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Roasted Garlic Potatoes

1 3/4 pounds baking potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic minced
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425º. Combine all ingredients except cooking spray in a medium bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand 10 minutes.

Spoon potato mixture into an 11 × 7- inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425º for 35 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

We were taking a ferry the next afternoon and for once my clients didn’t have any major crises that day, as opposed to the day we were trying to leave for Orkney and had a major issue out of nowhere in addition to the rivers flooding and our bridge closing. (I think God decided I had been through that enough for one year and took mercy on us.)

We made great time, even with some traffic slowdown on the smaller roads near Chester, and we just had time to grab a quick sandwich for me before we were loaded up. (Note: Holyhead, one of the major ferry ports out of Wales is actually on an island even though you barely notice it going over the bridge.)

They start the rat race so young over here…

We got to introduce Mom to ferry travel, including a salmon salad lunch. (What I wouldn’t give to like fish. I would gladly be a pescetarian but I so desperately dislike any kind of fish.) We were seated in the eating area next to what I believe was a troop of Irish Boy Scouts celebrating the end of the year banquet, complete with gag gifts and awards for each of the guys. They did however have two girls, so I guess they’re a little more inclusive. I don’t know if the girls were there just to meet guys or what, but they seemed to be having a terrific time.

Bear got his traditional good luck shot of scotch while Mom and I stuck to mocha coffees and I showed her some games on the iPad and explained some of the psychology behind game marketing. (Not sure if that was incredibly interesting, but it’s one of the major things we’ve been talking and thinking about for months now and it was fun to talk to someone else about it.)

Off the ferry, we were routed into a tunnel that had an unexpected toll and it took us in exactly the opposite direction of where we wanted to go. The great part about this though, and well worth the 10 euros we burned on the mistake (not that there was another way to go) was that Uma the sat nav absolutely flipped out. Nobody had told her about this tunnel when she was installed 4 years ago and she firmly believed that we had the opportunity every 15 yards to turn left or make a u turn or do something sensible when in fact we were on, as Private Hudson put it, “an express elevator to Hell, going down”.

However, we finally surfaced and managed to turn around we made it straight to the hotel in the middle of Dublin city center and got checked in without incident. “Excuse me,” I said to the clerk. “How would you pronounce this name?” and pointed to my reservation.

“Um. John?”

“No, the last name.”


Apparently my curse of having the Irish completely misunderstand my name only happens over the phone. It all seems completely logical when they can see it written down.

We found great parking right by the restaurant and made it to our 6:30 reservation time with no trouble. I know I shouldn’t be snobbish but I had a little bit of a good feeling when the people ahead of us couldn’t get seated because they didn’t have reservations but we were ushered straight to our table. It made all the trying to call ahead and then having them think my name was “Blackone” feel worthwhile.

The food at The Pig’s Ear was really unbelievably good. They have an early dinner menu which is a bit cheaper but no less tasty. We all opted for the 3 course which was only 24 euros apiece.

Butternut squash with chopped walnut soup

Bear and Mom had roasted hake

I had beet risotto which was pretty unbelievably good

Mom had trifle and reported it was even better than the hake

Lemon rice pudding with blackberry sorbet — good to the last grain

The staff were really attentive and very kind and I think we met the chef/owner as well. They were also extremely concerned that we give them all our jackets and sweaters. It must’ve been important to them because as soon as we got to the door the owner was there with all our jackets in hand.

We were directly across from Trinity College so we went and scouted the quad area and checked opening times and made our plan to come back to the Costa Coffee and grab breakfast there before going to tour the Old Library and see the Book of Kells in the morning.


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One of the keys to successfully making a big transition to a new way of eating is to find ways to scratch the itches left by the old way of eating. I found that out in 1998/99 when I learned how to cook in a healthy way and started working out. Not easy but I’m stubborn and it paid off.

That carried over to marrying Bear who had never met a restaurant he didn’t want to live at. When we first met he literally had no real food in the house because he ate out every single meal. 3 times a day plus snacks. There were some cans of green beans he had bought 3 years previously when he had been scared of a hurricane and a lot of sodas, including an entire shelf of Fresca. As it turned out, he had bought the Fresca when he found out I liked to drink Fresca and he had hoped that someday I might stop by his house and he would have some to offer me. (At that point there was no reason for him to believe I would ever like or want to date him, so when I found that out it really melted my heart.)

It was a challenge finding things Bear loved that I could make at home in a way that could compete with his restaurants and that took a lot out of me for the first few years we were married. I sort of refer to that as the Restaurant Wars years but living in England has pretty much put an end to that one. We can’t afford it and there just aren’t as many to pick from that he likes, although we have had some very good food. But when a good lunch can run you 45-60 dollars, even a Bear sees the reason to eat at home.

In the midst of this comes the fact that I became a vegetarian (mollusketarian actually, I’ll still eat mussels, clams and scallops) in late 2007 and he switched to fish at the same time and it gets even more challenging. What I do have is some old standbys that can make just about anything seem like a real treat though and that’s what I’ll pass on today.

Sweet Potato Fries (oh my)

We used to eat two whole baskets of these at Fusion while waiting on our sandwiches. Fusion is now gone and so are our days of scarfing down fries. Bear might have another heart attack and fall over if he poured that much grease into himself at once. So instead, I offer up the Cooking Light, Blackwell-modified version of sweet potato fries which are darned tasty in my book, as well as in my mouth.

Sweet Potato Fries

Cooking Light, April 2007

Page: 218

Servings: 2

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Start to Finish Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes (or longer at lower heat, but make sure they are really done according to your taste)

Smack yo’ momma good, according to Louise Jones

4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into fries (not the gigantic mutant ones, just comfortably larger than your fist)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or more if you use more sweet potatoes)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (increase at your risk or sub black pepper or something else…but I love it)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, tossing gently to coat. Place fries on a baking sheet; bake at 425 for 25 minutes or until tender.

Now, you might ask, how in the world do you cut those potatoes into fries or something akin to the fry shape, without taking more like 45 minutes for the prep time? I’m glad you asked. It’s called a mandoline and I don’t mean the kind you play Appalachian folk tunes on. A mandolin to me is a really essential piece of cooking equipment and I couldn’t imagine my kitchen without one. I nearly brought mine from America when we emigrated, but then I learned that sells my exact same mandolin and for the same adjusted price. Sold!

Could probably slice something soft, maybe a boiled egg

Now mind you, mandolines can be very dangerous. They are essentially a hand operated slicer that will slice anything it gets near, including your hand.

When I ordered my very first one a few years ago, I did some research before deciding on the Borner V-slicer and some of it was scary. By scary, I mean really really really scary and yet at the same time so funny that I had to copy and save it.

Here’s the official review from that made me want to wear chain mail gloves to operate this mandoline. (Mind you, she gave it 5 out of 5 stars.)

35 of 50 people found the following review helpful:

OUCH!!!!!, March 27, 2003

By A Customer


While I am really sorry for what happened to this woman, I still can’t stop laughing at the earnest, sincere way she breathlessly delivers the review. I’ve never ever used it without the safety guard and her review probably saved me a finger or two in the process.

If you do any kind of slicing and chopping, I would recommend you at least check this product out and it’s a good bit cheaper (and better!) than some more expensive equivalents. It really helped me cook differently because slicing vegetables no longer took as long and it opened up my ingredient list. And there’s a french fry attachment, both small and large, that turns potatoes into a delicious looking plate of fries in no time at all so that alone was worth the price of admission to get my Bear to stay home and eat food that wasn’t deep-fried and yet tasted just as amazing as his favorite fries anywhere else.

All of my own pictures of my fries sucked, so I found this one online for another oven-baked sweet potato fry with almost the same seasonings and it looks exactly like mine turn out...except someone who knew what they were doing took the photo.

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Bear with me – this really is about crepes and there’s even a good recipe. But first, some background.

The first time I had crepes I didn’t even know what they were called and the menu at the DeLand, Florida International House of Pancakes didn’t help any. It called them German lemon-butter pancakes and I was in love.

The problem in getting them was in getting there. I didn’t have a car, which is another long story, and I had to rely on people to get me to the IHOP which was too far to walk (as in, more than 500 yards). My roommate was quite possibly the only other person at Stetson University without a car, so I discovered that one of my friends was equally in love with IHOP and I would talk him into making a run.

The all glorious International House of Pancakes

Millard and I were friends from campus and we had clicked in a sort of weird way, mostly over food. Whenever they served barbecued ribs at the cafeteria, whichever of us spotted it on the menu board first would call the other and we would meet up in the Garden Room and get plate after plate of ribs. He brought his giant folding knife because the cafeteria knives weren’t sharp enough to crack into the marrow and I had a respectable one-handed folding utility myself. We looked ridiculous, grinning with sauce from ear to elbow.

I knew a little about his background that wasn’t generally common knowledge – why he had gone to France for a year, changed from his middle name to his first name, and why he usually had a pistol somewhere fairly close at hand. (I happened to agree with all three of those decisions, as well as what he did that had made them necessary actions.) I wasn’t afraid of him, and in return for this confidence, he invited me to write at his family farm, sitting at his mother’s plastic-covered dining room table. While I worked, he would hover in the kitchen with the radio playing softly. Plates of bacon cheeseburgers appeared mysteriously by my elbow with iced tea and wedges of lime from the trees in his orchard.

(L. Millard, R. Evan Keller) One of the only two pictures I have of Millard

He had a headstrong streak, I don’t think anyone would argue with that, but we got along very well — he took me seriously that that was precious to me  — and he was the one man I trusted to protect my stories, which were like children to me. He was, in some sense, their father. He had even been more than a little responsible for my getting the money to buy my first laptop so I could write novels day or night, rain or shine, with or without electricity. A number of other people were at that point trying to get me to stop writing, for the world’s protection, so this was something of an exciting change of pace.

Eat crepes every night and refuse to walk anywhere and you too can look like this. And that caption is a lie — I was writing a fiction story not doing homework. Although the line did often blur. That silver nameplate on the Mac Powerbook lid says “Millard”. I had promised to name it after him if he could get me the money to buy it.

Late at night, Mill would drive me to IHOP where we talked, like most college students, about some very shaky political theories, and religion, and pop culture, and guns, and relationships, and one memorable night about the evolutionary logic for the sexual differences between men and male silverback gorillas.

Probably would like some crepes too

Millard liked to order Eggs Benedict, even though he always warned me that they might turn on me, but the orders could take forever to arrive so one night he asked me what I wanted in a mate. We were back to relationships again, so I named off a few easy things like compatibility in interests, but he was bored so he turned over the slick paper place mat and together we assembled a man as you might a set of Legos, block by block.

At last, he examined the list at arm’s length and said: “So, basically you want a cross between your Dad and Jesus Christ.” I felt sick and wondered when the therapists were going to come breaking down the door, but he laughed and said something about admirable qualities before he grew quiet and said, “Actually it looks a lot like me.” And it did look like him, but even as logical as that would have been, it wasn’t where my head was, or my heart. I had known and loved his fiancée even before I met him and that was where it stood, in a very pure, trustworthy and honorable way with nothing that needed to be spoken or defended.

We ate a lot more crepes before graduation and I came back to stay at the farm before I moved away for grad school. Mill even went online and tried to find friends for me, a mathematician named Wally, in my new town. Life got busy and a few months later I got a call. Millard had killed himself. Something inside him had broken while no one was looking and he had gone quite literally insane.

Then followed some very dark years that we’re going to skip past in which I made some stupid decisions but did not go to the IHOP much as you might imagine because I tended to start crying and the waitresses get nervous when you do that. I talked to myself a lot too, and that makes everybody nervous. My problem, as I resolved, was that Mill had broken our lease without notice—he couldn’t leave, that wasn’t part of the deal. I even thought about trying that Christopher Reeve trick from Somewhere in Time where you surround yourself with everything from the time period, even dress that way, and try to trick yourself into believing you’ve gone back in time, but my jeans wouldn’t fit anymore (too many crepes) and it wouldn’t have worked anyway.

A few other things happened that probably shouldn’t be mentioned in a public blog which made me suddenly and savagely aware that I was going to wind up in the exact same place if I didn’t start doing different things to get different results. In the end, it had actually been Millard’s strength that had made it harder for him to get help. I was weak but at least I knew it and that was actually a good thing. I still had my feet under me, and a good head start as well, so I started to run.

Fifteen years later, this Tuesday morning, my husband decided to make crepes. As I discovered when we met, Bear loves German lemon-butter pancakes from IHOP. They’re his favorite pancakes in the entire world. The night I found that out, while we were still dating (in that six minute window before we eloped), I went to the wooden box I keep on a closet shelf and got out the folded IHOP place mat where you can still see Millard’s signature next to mine below everything he had written. I read all the things we had decided about the man I should marry and found that all but one of them matched Bear perfectly. (37 out of 38 ain’t bad.) Mill had always been a little nervous about my taste in men and kept saying that I needed someone stronger and more passionate, and that I absolutely had to marry someone at least as smart as myself. I’m only sorry that he never got to meet Bear because he wouldn’t been insufferable with pride at how well he’d hit the mark.

Paws off, I saw him first

These Tuesday crepes were actually bought at Waitrose and we didn’t have very high expectations for them at first, but Bear warmed them up, got out the butter and found some lemon juice. The texture was perfectly light but chewy with just enough tensile strength to make the bite resonate. The bright, sweet-lemon tang was carried by the melted butter (OK, Lurpak) and it was like a blind roller coaster ride back to the IHOP and all the old feelings came back, but in a good way this time, back to safety and friendship and knowing that I could say anything I wanted to someone who would listen and protect me and still make me laugh.

I thought about telling Bear that eating crepes with him was like time travel, but he had really hated Somewhere in Time because someone had turned the video off just before the end and he spent about twenty years thinking that Christopher Reeve just died hopelessly and he didn’t know about the beautiful redeeming epilogue in Heaven or anything. (I showed it to him on YouTube; he’s over it now.) Instead I said something really incomprehensible about how great it was to actually be in the right place at the right time. He kissed my forehead and said:

“Do you want the rest of those? Because I’m starving.”

Millard would have loved him.

Bear’s favorite crepes are below. We’ll skip the blow by blow account of how I tried to make them one morning, had no ingredients, destroyed the kitchen in the course of three hours while trying to create substitutes for everything but flour, and woke Bear up out of a sound sleep with said flour in my hair, telling him I’d made something in the kitchen, not sure what, but he was going to like it. Or else.

Basic Crepes

Cooking Light, June 2006

Page: 166

Servings: 13


Herbed Crepes: Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives to batter.

Espresso Crepes: Add 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder to the batter

Buckwheat crepes: Omit 2/3 cup all-purpose flour and add 2/3 cup buckwheat flour.

Cinnamon Crepes: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the batter.

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup lowfat 1% milk

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons butter, melted

2 large eggs

  1. Lightly spoon flour, level with knife. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Combine milk, water, melted butter, and eggs in a blender. Add the flour mixture to milk mixture and process until smooth. Cover batter; chill for 1 hour.
  2. Heat an 8-inch nonstick crepe pan over medium heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into pan; tilt pan in all directions to spread evenly. Cook about 1 minute. Carefully lift edge of crepe to test for doneness. When it can be shaken loose easily, it is ready to turn. Turn crepe over and cook for 30 seconds or until center is set.
  3. Place crepe on a towel; cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining batter; stirring batter between crepes. Stack crepes between single layers of wax paper to prevent sticking.

Yield: 1 crepe (who are we kidding? You’ll eat several and you’ll like it)

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 62 Calories; 2g Fat (24.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 68mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

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We started the week with really beautiful weather and threw all the doors and windows open to sit out and have breakfast on the balcony and relax.

Breakfast with Bear on the balcony

Juliet joined us later, bringing Birdee with her.

Breakfast with Birdee

It took several tries during the week, but I finally got some very cute pictures of Juliet playing in the grass and shrubs.

Juliet of the Jungle

Flat Cat Attack

Re-evaluating the possibilities

Plotting freedom

However, minor tragedy struck on Thursday when she successfully captured her first insect which we believe was a bee. Whatever it was, it stung her left front paw and she was very confused and in some pain for a while. What makes it worse is that she doesn’t cry—she just lifts her paw, holds it to herself, looks at it in a perplexed way, licks it some, then tries to limp towards you.

Just call her clubfoot

Her paw swelled up considerably and was even puffier in the back which can’t be seen in this photo, so you have to trust me that we felt really awful for her. It got worse when she just curled up under a chair on a corner of a blanket and sat silently.

Not feeling well

Sleep is the best medicine (actually, she does this all the time)

However, as I kept quietly berating myself for not thinking that a kitty so curious would inevitably land on something with a stinger, I found that the garden was good for other things as well and I made use of a few clippings off the gigantic rosemary bush to make some homemade rosemary focaccia bread.

Rosemary (still looking for Parsley, Sage and Thyme, but what I'd really like is a Time Bush)

Rosemary Focaccia

The rosemary steeps in boiling water; be sure to let it cool to 100° to 110° before adding the yeast so your dough will rise correctly. Sea salt and kosher salt have larger crystals than regular salt, so either adds a nice crunch to the top of the bread. But be sure to use regular salt in the dough for best results. You don’t need to use all of the egg and oil mixture on top of the dough; spread enough to coat the top, and discard any extra. Use remaining bread for sandwiches, or cut into 1/2-inch cubes and bake at 350° for 15 minutes (or until toasted) to make croutons for salads.

1 1/4 cups boiling water

3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided

1 tablespoon honey

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray

1 teaspoon water

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

  1. Combine boiling water, 1 tablespoon rosemary, and honey in a large bowl; cool to 100° to 110°. Sprinkle yeast over honey mixture; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 1/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 teaspoon salt to honey mixture, stirring to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).
  2. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down. Pat dough into a 14 x 12-inch rectangle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 350º.
  4. Uncover dough. Make indentations in top of dough using handle of a wooden spoon or your fingertips. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon water, and egg yolk; brush over dough. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with remaining rosemary and sea salt.
  5. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle with a ridiculous amount of rosemary

Fresh out of the oven, Bear gives it two paws up in approval

Unfortunately, my streak of one gave out the next day. I had also made Cranberry-Walnut-Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal cookie batter at the same time and hidden it in the fridge to chill overnight so I could make some the next day as a surprise for Bear while he studied and worked on his coding.

I want to be very clear in stating that this is something I HAVE MADE BEFORE AND IT WAS WONDERFUL. I have no idea what happened this time. True, I had to get creative with the chocolate chips because I didn’t see any so I bought a bar of sweet baking chocolate and chopped it up which gave it a nice irregular quality (but it’s still chocolate people!). I also grabbed a box of Scotch porridge oats and used that for the regular oats the recipe calls for.

Cranberry-Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cooking Light, December 2006, Page: 144


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup regular oats

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 1/2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped

2 1/2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

5 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons honey

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg white

cooking spray

  1. Lightly spoon flours into cups, level with knife. Combine flours, oats and next 6 ingredients (through chips) in a large bowl.
  2. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add honey, vanilla, egg, and egg white; beat well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beat at low sped until well blended. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350.
  4. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cook 2 minutes on pans. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks

Yield: 36 cookies

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 69 Calories; 3g Fat (32.3% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 52mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

So please make this for yourselves if you like and enjoy it because it’s a nice, dense little cookie that’s not overly sweet but has a pleasantly chewy texture. However. I’m not exactly sure what happened with my version but I blame the oats as the only real variable. Bear had terrible gastric distress for over 18 hours and I found him utterly awake at 4 a.m., staring at me with a wild-eyed “what should I do?” sort of expression. My first recommendation was that we throw out the remaining batch of cookie dough is what!

For next week I hope to do some more baking and get started with working out again since I really haven’t been able to since before Thanksgiving, which is very, very, very unlike me but there’s been so much overtime and stress with the move that I literally haven’t been able to.

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