Paleo Coco Ginger Fudge

Coco Ginger Fudge | Paleo + Life

Happy holidays! Since this is our first paleo Christmas, I wanted to make a fun holiday treat.
In typical Cher fashion, this recipe took a detour, but I am quite happy that it turned out as it did.

What I meant to make was a date-based truffle — I’m sure you’ve seen them all over the interwebs. Since these are such a great paleo basic, I wanted to have one here for you.
However, I started working on this recipe while also making breakfast and packing lunch for the kids and husband. So while I only meant to soak the dates for about 10 minutes, they ended up soaking for about an hour.

fudge v bl

This made the dates extremely soft — and as bonus, the soaking water was a lovely sweetener for several cups of tea —  but also meant that they wouldn’t hold shape if I blended them for any length of time.

Of course, last month, while making nut butter,I managed to burn out the motor on my food processor. This meant I had to use Vera the Vitamix for the processing. Did I mention I was multi-tasking during this process? (Yes, I know better.)
Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a nut-butter like instead of the sticky mass I had aimed for –whoops.

fudge detail bl

Needing to improvise, I decided to make a paleo-style fudge. So I added melted coconut oil to the mix, gave it a good stir, and stuck it in the fridge. The result was a combination of creamy, chocolate, chewy coconut and slightly spicy ginger that just melts in the mouth. A happy accident if ever there were one.

This would be a great dessert after a Christmas dinner or for a holiday party. Make a big batch in a shallow tupperware-type container with a lid, and take it to a potluck. I bet it will be the first thing that disappears from the table.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • Hot water
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup cashew meal
  • 1 piece of ginger, 1/2" - 1" long, peeled
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Place dates in a small bowl. Pour enough hot water over them to cover the dates completely. Soak for 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. When dates are thoroughly softened, drain water, reserving for another use. In a high speed blender, combine dates, cocoa powder, and cashew meal. Using a zester, grate ginger into the mixture. Blend for 30- 60 seconds, or until the date mixture has become a smooth paste.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine date mixture, shredded coconut, and coconut oil. Stir vigorously until well combined.
  4. Pour the mixture in a small, shallow container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm. Cut into small pieces and serve.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/paleo-coco-ginger-fudge/

(Semi-)Paleo Husbands

The Photographer @ Work | Paleo + LifeSomehow, in my discussions of going paleo with the family, I have not yet tackled the most challenging convert: Mr. Paleo + Life. (No, I don’t actually call him that. I generally call him B., because I am lazy and remembering the names of all the people in our house is sometimes beyond me.)

Convincing B. to go paleo was surprisingly easy: I basically begged him to do the Whole30 with me, because I needed a buddy to help me through the process. As is his wont, unless he thinks I have suggested something completely insane, he agreed. Because he is diabetic, he figured paleo wasn’t too far off from how he should be eating anyway, and would give him a chance to clean up his diet. So we started down that bumpy road and 30 days later, managed to complete it. We high-fived ourselves and eagerly looked forward to re-introducing some old favorites.

As we worked our way through the re-introduction period, we made some interesting discoveries. The most striking of these was the first time B. tried something with gluten: he got incredibly sick and had to come home to recover.  In my opinion, this was proof that he was gluten-sensitive (something I’d suspected for a while; B. has a close relative with celiac disease) and we needed to go absolutely gluten-free.

My darling spouse, on the other hand, strongly disagreed. He did not want to hear it. I didn’t understand at all. The more I read, the more I was afraid that continuing to eat gluten would do serious damage to his health. Furthermore, all of the breads, muffins, etc. were so high on the glycemic index anyway, why not replace that stuff with food that actually offered nutrition?
He felt that as his diet was restricted already (due to the diabetes) taking away another thing was absolutely too much, and that getting sick was probably just as much about the quality what he ate (a burger from the Scottish restaurant) as it was about the contents of the meal.

At some point, we came to a resolution. I reminded myself that I am not the boss of him, as the kiddies say — he has to be paleo by his own choice or it won’t be sustainable. B., meanwhile, acknowledges my strong feelings on the subject, recognizes that he generally does feel better eating paleo, and since I make most of the meals at our house, they will be paleo ones. I am attempting more paleo baking, which helps to make this lifestyle sustainable for us. It seems like a reasonable compromise.

So what about you? If you have a reluctant partner to convince, how did you go about it? Please share in the comments.

Food Lover’s Fridays: Bone Broth

Bone Broth | Paleo + Life

Food Lovers’ Fridays: I’m a big fan of bringing classical cooking methods and recipes into the home kitchen. Today’s post is part of a series meant to highlight those traditional techniques and recipes that can be used in or adapted to paleo cooking.

In my continuing quest to keep the creeping crud away, I decided to revisit one of my favorite foodstuffs. It seems weird to consider broth a food, because I have always used it as an ingredient, but lately I’ve gotten into just cups of bone broth on its own.  Apparently this makes me trendy: the chef of Hearth restaurant in New York has opened a to-go shop just for bone broth.

Trendy or not, homemade broth or stock– the difference is that broth is made with meat, instead of just bones — has been my go-to, never-fail solution to sick for years. My kids all know the drill: if you’re sick enough to stay home from school, you’re getting broth for your meals. (Incidentally, this has prevented more than one case of “too sick to go to school.”) It’s the perfect base for making soups or for braises. If you eat/can tolerate rice or beans, they are so much tastier when cooked in broth rather than water.

Things to note: I’ve taken a tip from several other paleo bloggers and started making my bone broth in two phases. First, I cook the bones until they are softened:

Cooked bone | Paleo + Life

The bones go from this…

shattered bone | Paleo + Life

…to this.

Then I add the vegetables, and cook the mixture even longer.

Cooked broth/veg | Paleo + Life

 

 

A few broth tips: Though I haven’t yet tried it, Simone Miller of Zenbelly recommends adding egg shells to your broth if you happen to have them for extra calcium. I always use cooked bones — some cooks prefer a  “white stock”, where they blanch the bones, but I like the deeper flavor of cooked ones — and let the mixture go for days on end. In my experience, it takes between 24-48 hours to get the bones crumbly.
The broth here was made with turkey, but two or three chicken carcasses would produce about the same volume of broth. I like to add a little bit of salt when I add the vegetables, but because my broth is usually incorporated into other dishes, I don’t use much. Finally, some people like garlic in their stock, while others say it has too domineering a flavor. I add a couple of small pieces, but I think it is just as good without — cook’s choice.

Food Lover’s Fridays: Bone Broth

Ingredients

  • Poultry carcass (I used one from a cooked 18-20 lb. turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • 4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, quartered, peels left on
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 small cloves garlic, peels left on (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Using a meat cleaver or other strong knife, breakdown the carcass so that it fits into a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour in two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and then add water to cover the bones. Program slow cooker to longest setting; cook until the drumstick bones become softened enough to easily break. [This takes at least 24 hours in my cooker - you may need to reset the cooking cycle more than once.]
  2. Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic (if using) to the slow cooker; cook for at least another 8 hours. Allow to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to handle, strain solids from the broth and refrigerate immediately. If desired, broth may be frozen for later use.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/food-lovers-fridays-bone-broth/

Delicata Squash Sous Vide

Delicata Squash Sous Vide | Paleo + Life

My friend C., one of my favorite people in the world, has something of a squash obsession.
I have known this woman to buy multiple pounds of winter squashes — even when she was only cooking for herself.
Because she loves food like I love food, I took her squash addiction seriously. However, I didn’t share it until two things happened:
One: I discovered that the skin on delicata squashes is edible. Blew. My. Mind. I have been cooking for far more years than I can recall, and yet this was news to me. Incredibly exciting news, too: anything that makes these vitamin-filled veggies even easier to cook and eat is brilliant in my book.

Two: I spent some time with my new favorite book,The Flavor Bible. Reading over the “Squash” entry, I noticed how close it was to the entry for “Turmeric”, and an idea was born…

Delicata Squash Sous Vide | Paleo + Life

This recipe was pretty much perfect right out of the gate. I attribute that to the generous use of fresh turmeric, which I had never tried before. The flavor is bright — a little peppery, a little earthy, with a menthol-like freshness that is nothing like the dried stuff. Inspired by 101 Cookbooks’ Turmeric Tea, I added a splash of lemon to really punch up that flavor, and a sprinkle of black pepper to enhance turmeric’s natural bite. With some onion, a dab of olive oil, and a little time in the sous vide, the squash becomes even creamier and more delicious.

Delicata Squash Sous Vide

Ingredients

  • 2 delicata squash, scooped out and sliced into rings
  • 1/4 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2" x 1" piece fresh turmeric, peeled

Instructions

  1. Preheat the sous vide to 185F.
  2. While the oven heats, combine squash and onions in a large pouch. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Grate turmeric over the mixture. Holding the pouch closed, swish the contents around so that the seasonings are spread equally over the squash. Seal the pouch.
  3. When the sous vide reaches the correct temperature, place the sealed pouch in the sous vide and cook for 1-1/2 - 2 hours. Remove the vegetables from oven; set aside until ready to serve.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/delicata-squash-sous-vide/

Supplementing While Paleo

A peek into the meds cabinet chez PPL...

A peek into the meds cabinet chez PPL…

Today, I wanted to share a bit about another part of my paleo routine: supplements. Like many a paleo-ite, I have certain things that I struggled with, and these have improved since going paleo (my particular bugbears were/are acid reflux, allergies and lack of energy).

While I haven’t eaten a standard American diet for years, and while doing Paleo has mostly alleviated these problems, I am testing out certain supplements to try to fine-tune them. A big part of the Paleo ethos is experimenting to find what works for you. This is generally referred to as “n=1″, meaning the number of people (n) being experimented upon is one.

Today, I am sharing with you today the supplements I’m trying out and why. Of course, the standard disclaimer applies: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, and I am not qualified to give medical advice. Please talk to your doctor/health care professional and/or make your own careful decisions before trying any of these.

Rhodiola: I first heard about this from Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book, “The Hormone Cure.”* Rhodiola is considered an “adaptogen,” which means it’s something of a general tonic. I am taking it in particular because it is supposed to help with mood and with low energy.

Oil of Oregano: At the moment, four of the six people in my house have the most disgusting cruddy cold. I started having symptoms, last week, but have managed to fight the worst of it off thus far by pushing citrus and bell peppers (both of which are full of vitamin C), drinking more water, my favorite cough drops,* and upping my sleep. Since it seems to be the sort of cold that lingers, and because my youngest spends most of the night coughing directly in my face, I’m adding oil of oregano to my routine.
Oil of oregano is an immune system booster as well as an anti-fungal, so is considered good for folks who have long-standing infections (see below).

Enzymes: I have had chronic allergies ever since I can remember.  While they are much better since I’ve been eating a paleo-type diet, they still bother me. I recently learned that some scientists believe the chronic rhosinusitis (i.e.,year-round allergies) are caused by bacteria, viruses and yeast that live in communities called biofilms, and that these structures protect the germs, making it very difficult to get rid of these infections once and for all. I’m currently trying these enzymes* which are supposed to break up the biofilms and make it easier for your body to flush them out. In conjunction, I’m also using a nasal spray that has xylitol and grapefruit seed extract, another anti-microbial.

Probiotics: I have been taking probiotics for several months. After giving birth to my son, it turned out I needed a prescription for antibiotics, which I needed to use multiple times. Because antibiotics knock out all of your intestina bacteria, not just the bad ones, my doctor advised that I take a probiotic to counter the effect. Having heard that soil-based probiotics were especially good for you, I am using a variety of them; I especially liked this one*, as it is pretty gentle. I have noticed that some probiotics can cause stomach upset.

It’s too soon to tell whether or not these supplements will all do what I am hoping they’ll do, though I am seeing increased focus and stamina from the rhodiola. I’m really hoping for a breakthrough with the allergies, as they are a big frustration at the moment.
As always, I’m curious: what about you? What supplements, if any, are you using to perfect your paleo routine? Drop a line in the comments.

* = affiliate link.

Paleo Sardine Salad

Sard Sal V Blog

*Note to my readers: I received kitchen tools from Crisp Cooking for review. As always, my opinions are absolutely my own.

Is it weird to be squeamish about a food you love?

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of sardines. This seems a wee bit odd, knowing the sweet-toothed creature that I was (and am), but there’s something about that feisty, briny flavor that hits all the right notes for me. Maybe it just reminds me of my childhood, and spending time at my grandma’s. In my memory, my grandma always had sardines in her pantry, and we kids ate them all the time.

It was simultaneously awesome and terrifying to eat a (nearly) whole fish, bones and all. That seemed incredibly daring — perfect for a kid who wants to do something grown-up and brave, but that won’t get them in trouble. Munching on sardines was only for the big kids, which increased the cool factor by about a million. Sardines on saltines with a glop of yellow mustard was a perfect snack.
Now, of course, knowing that sardines are terribly good for you, being full of calcium and omega-3s, I think Grandma was pretty darned smart to keep them around. These days, I eat them with no hesitation.

Sard Sal Blog

I almost feel that I can’t call this a recipe — it’s one of those “I need lunch now – let’s raid the pantry” kind of dishes. I combined my beloved sardines with capers to punch up the saltiness, a a little lemon juice to tame this fishiness, some salt and pepper, and a bit of dill for that bright herbal taste all good salads need.

I also wanted to spiff up my plate: just because it was a quick lunch didn’t mean it had to look rough, right? Half the joy of a good meal is in the presentation. So I played around with some kitchen tools I received from Crisp Cooking, and did some quick fancy cuts. Taking an extra few seconds to do that was simple, but so satisfying to do. I felt like a guest at my own table.

Paleo Sardine Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, washed and cut in a chiffonade
  • 1 can sardines in olive oil
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced with a wavy knife
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut with a julienne peeler
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

Instructions

  1. Create a mound of lettuce on a medium plate.
  2. Arrange the sardines, pepper slices, and shredded cucumber atop the lettuce as shown in the photo (or whatever way appeals to you). Splash the entire salad with the remaining oil from the can of sardines.
  3. Sprinkle the scallions and capers over the assorted vegetables, then top with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  4. Finish with a grind of freshly ground black peppercorns, a pinch of salt and a sprinkling of dill. Serve immediately.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/paleo-sardine-salad/

Paleo Check In: November 2014

November Collage B

Welcome! Check ins are a monthly series of posts meant to document my progress towards better health, a stronger body, and general awesome paleo rockstar status. Find the first one here.

Food

November started off strong, but with a death in the family and the subsequent travel for the memorial, I was not really focused on food. I did manage a paleo Thanksgiving dinner, but have not been as intentional with my food choices as I want to be.

This month’s recipes:

Grilled Eggplant
Paleo No-Grain Granola
Cranberry Coconut Smoothie
Healthiest Ice Cream Ever, from Real Life Paleo*

Body

Similarly, the exercise piece fell by the wayside in the middle of this month. I’m pretty good about taking my walks while at home, but we spent a lot of time in the car while back in Chicago.

An interesting aside: I hadn’t seen my parents for about six months, when they came to visit for my graduation. Independently, they both remarked that my hub and I look like we’ve lost weight. My goal is not to obsess about weight loss, since I don’t think that is as important as becoming stronger and healthier, but it did make me take a really good look in the mirror for the first time in a while. I was pretty surprised: once I looked, I noticed that my shirts and pants really were fitting better. It was a pleasant surprise.

Mind

This was a hard piece as well, but surprisingly, I did better here than anywhere else. I focused on paying attention to what I was feeling (rather than smooshing it down with food) and on making choices on purpose. Most importantly, even when I didn’t do the absolute healthiest thing, I took ownership of it. This feels really, really good and I want to keep  this up in the future.

Goals

I’m going to up the ante a bit on the goals — aiming for more meditation and adding a small yoga piece.

1. Walking as I can, push ups (8 reps twice a week) and daily sun salutations.
2. Meditation: 10 minutes, three times a week.
3. Make sleep a priority — get to bed before midnight every night this month.

 

* = affiliate link.

Paleo “Cornbread” Dressing

Paleo "Cornbread" Dressing | Paleo + Life

Are you absolutely sick of Thanksgiving food yet? I understand if you’re just over it. Most people are. Me, however? I’m still in love with holiday grub. Especially with this dressing.

Every year, I wonder to myself why I only make it on Thanksgiving. I suspect it is because when I was younger and more ambitious, I asked my grandma how to make her cornbread dressing.
(Side note: I didn’t even know stuffing made with bread was something people ate until I was an adult. All the people I knew ate dressing.)

Her instructions began “First you take a duck…” and went on, and on, and on for what seemed like ages. I decided any dish which required me to make two whole other dishes first didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and decided I would just enjoy it at her house.

As the years went by, I changed states. I also changed my mind about how much trouble stuffing was worth. Going home to Chicago was sometimes impossible, so I had to learn how to make a decent substitute. While I never equaled my grandmother’s dressing — she just had a way of “puttin’ her foot in it,” as folks used to say — I came close enough to satisfy my yearning for that flavor.

Paleo "Cornbread" Dressing | Paleo + Life

Since we are eating paleo these days, the main ingredients in cornbread dressing are off the list. My big project, therefore, was to make something that came close. I had planned to test it a couple of times before Thanksgiving, but that didn’t end up happening. On Thanksgiving Day, I found myself rushed and needing to improvise. With a cranky six year old and a starving spouse, I needed to get dinner on the table in the next 30 minutes.
(This did not fill my heart with joy. I am slightly obsessive about special occasion menus in general, and this one in particular. Most years, I spend the month of November planning and re-planning this meal because I enjoy it so.)

Shockingly, the quick-and-dirty version was pretty darned good. My very particular husband ate nearly the entire pan. However, I suspected I could do better. The version here is Dressing 2.0; still quick while having even more flavor.

Following the wise advice of gluten-free girl and the chef (Shauna and Danny Ahern, who have written a multitude of lovely cookbooks), I created my own gluten-free flour mix. Using their recommended ratio of 40% protein/60% starch, and attempting more algebra than I had since the eighth grade, I made a mix of almond, coconut and tapioca flours. Although I measured it precisely with my (new!) kitchen scale (this one is similar*), you might not want such a big batch.  For those of you who want to make a bit less, I used roughly 2 parts coconut/3 parts almond/8 parts tapioca. A store-bought GF mix would work, too.

Paleo "Cornbread" Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/3 large onion, rough dice
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 4 cups gluten-free flour mix (2 parts coconut flour, 3 parts almond flour and 8 parts tapioca flour)
  • 2 cups cashew meal
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter or other oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups broth

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet, combine onions, celery, carrots, sage, salt and pepper with a two tablespoons of fat. Saute over medium-low heat until veggies are softened (approximately ten minutes). When done, remove vegetables from pan.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour mix, cashew meal, baking soda and salt; stir thoroughly. Add melted oil, eggs, and broth, stirring after each addition (the batter will be somewhat stiff until Fold in sauteed vegetables.
  4. (There should still be some oil remaining in the skillet from cooking the vegetables; if not, add another tablespoon. Pour the batter into the skillet; bake for 40 minutes or until top is browned and crusty. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.
http://www.paleopluslife.com/paleo-cornbread-dressing/

From The Caterer’s Kitchen: Understanding Food Terminology

dice

I’ve been wanting to get back to this series for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting off this particular post. Why? I suppose it is because the topic is immense — there is just so much to know when it comes to food terminology. There are so many terms to learn and techniques to master, especially if you are new to the world of food. I thought I might never be able to stop writing.

Because the vast possibilities in the topic, it’s just too much to tackle all at once — it has to be broken up over several days to really do it justice. So I am offering a very small part today, and will revisit the topic of cooking terminology with more tips next time.

While there is so much techniques to learn, in my opinion, how to chop is the most fundamental piece. Even if you never turn on your stove or oven, you can still make hundreds of dishes just by combining various chopped items. The cutting techniques I use most often are the chiffonade, dicing, and mincing.

Chiffonade

I’ve shown you a chiffonade before, but wanted to demonstrate it here because it is such a useful technique. Any leafy greens or herbs can be sliced in this way. You simply stack them leaves like so:

stacked leaves

Then roll them up:

rolled leaves

and slice into little ribbons.

Slicing leaves

Use wider slices for salad greens or side dishes, narrower ones for coleslaw or stir fries, and skinny ones for herbs or garnishes. If your leaves are especially large, cut them in half along the stem line after you’ve done your chiffonade.

Dice

Dicing is beautiful. It’s equally simple, too – just slice your produce vertically, and then horizontally:

dice cuke

Et voila — you are done. Dicing, obviously, has a multitude of uses: salsa, salads, garnishes, or anywhere you want your food to look good. Dice food into smaller or larger pieces, depending on the use — small pieces in something like bruschetta, or larger dice for use in soups. Diced food cooks faster, and also looks nicer than a rough chop. If the appearance of your dish is important, it is worth doing a good dice.

Mincing

Mincing is like a much smaller, finer dice, but with a little less care taken. Usually, this is for ingredients that you want to use to flavor the dish overall, but that you don’t want to be the star of the dish or taste in quantity. Think of using slivers of garlic or onion in Chinese food, where they are primary ingredients, versus the subtlety of minced garlic or onion in a soup or casserole.

mince

Minces are cut in the same way as dices, just smaller. As a reminder, here’s a photo of dice and mince together:

dice and mince

Mincing is also good for potent leafy herbs — if I’m making a salad with fresh parsley or oregano, but don’t want them to be the most evident flavors in it, mincing them works really well to make them more subtle accents rather than having them take over the dish.

So there you have it:  my top three cutting techniques. Because they are fundamental, knowing these will get you pretty far in the kitchen. But as I said, this is such a huge topic that it will require several more posts to even scratch the surface. Drop a line in the comments if there is something in particular that you want me to tackle first.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post today to wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving, assuming you are in America and/or you celebrate it.

I had hoped to do a Thanksgiving series this year, but life, as it so often does, had other plans. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to make that happen. Instead, I’m offering a quick round up of my most Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes. If you’re a host(ess) cooking for a friend and they say they are paleo or primal, try these sides and desserts. They will be very comfortable, familiar flavors to serve. Or if you are a paleo person heading to a family gathering, these recipes will ensure there’s something delicious on the table that you can eat.

For quick paleo Thanksgiving side dishes, try:

Salt-Roasted Beets
Mushroom Duxelles
Carrots and Nigella
Warm Fennel Salad with Bacon
Butter Braised Radishes
Lime & Rosemary Roasted Broccoli

For paleo desserts, try:

Figgy Pudding, American Style
Apple Sassy Applesauce
Chocolate Avocado Pudding

See y’all on the other side of T-day. I’ll have some fun new things to share with you soon.

 

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