Monday, August 29, 2011

Meatless Monday: Protein Power Green Smoothie

I'm back into the swing of things at school until this little girl decides it's time to come out and join us, so I've been working hard to keep myself (and her) fed well without spending too much time on my sore feet. (If you hadn't noticed already, pregnancy has made me the whiniest person I know. I apologize in advance for any more complaints I manage to slip into this short post.)
I've been instructed by my midwife to eat small meals every two hours that are made up of a variety of foods but are still small portions.  It's been a challenge when I'm on the go or at work, but when I'm home I have a favorite go-to mini-meal: the green smoothie.  
If you struggle to eat your greens each day or have loved ones who aren't eager to eat kale, smoothies are a great way to get in those extra servings.  The frozen fruit gives it a smooth texture and sweet taste, and the protein powder is an easy way to boost the nutrition and satiety smoothies offer. 
I always keep frozen fruit on hand, particularly strawberries, cherries, and blueberries.  I also almost always have a banana in the freezer to use for smoothies or for this amazing soft serve.  
The frozen banana serves as the base for this smoothie and gives it is thick texture.  Everything else is easy to switch around based on your preferences, so use whatever you have on hand.

Protein Power Green Smoothie

1 handful kale or spinach, steamed
1 c. yogurt (I always use full fat from grass-fed cows. at the very least use plain)
1/2 c. frozen fruit of your choice
1 frozen banana
1 scoop protein powder (I use this one)
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1 tbsp. wheat grass powder, optional (Don't be scared. Wheat grass is really quite sweet.) 

Layer everything in the jar of your blender.

Try to start with the yogurt on the bottom and push the banana down as much as you can.  (This is easier if you chop the banana before you freeze it.)
Blend it all up. You might want to use the ice crush function on your blender if it has one.  I have this blender and while it's not perfect, it's great for the price.
Serve it in a fancy glass.
I love smoothies because they taste like dessert but still have you feeling full and energized afterwards.  They easy to throw together and nutritional powerhouses, so try to make them a part of your regular routine. If you have trouble eating a full breakfast in the morning, smoothies are a great option to start the day.
Finally, here's a picture of me with my aunties from my baby shower last weekend.  As you can see, they're adorable and I'm huge.  This baby is growing like crazy and will be here before we know it.  I hope you're enjoying the last of summer and the transition into fall!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Easy Honey Wheat Bread, Open-Faced Pork Sandwiches, and Simple Lives Thursday

It's Thursday so I have a quick recipe and a great blog hop for you.
I haven't experienced the crazy cravings that many pregnant women describe, though I have eaten more doughnuts in the last few months than in my entire pre-pregnancy life I'm afraid.  But when I had a craving for an open-faced sandwich like you find in the diner with mashed potatoes and gravy, I knew I had to give in.
I took some of the pork that we still have in the fridge from the Stamps Family Farm and cooked it in the slow cooker with just water, a handful of rosemary and sage from the garden, and salt and pepper.  After letting it do it's thing all day, I had tender shredded pork and a nice stock to begin a gravy.
I made a roux in the bottom of the pan and added the broth from the slow cooker.  I let it thicken, added the meat, and served it on top of toasted bread with some mashed potatoes with yukon golds from market and the first of our garlic.  It was delicious.
We have been eating a lot of sandwiches at lunch (with homemade peanut butter and ground cherry jam) so I decided it was time to make some of my own bread.  I don't often make bread because the Coop offers such great quality breads at reasonable prices, but I've been glad I took the time to make this one.  It's an easy honey wheat bread, and rather than type the recipe here I'm going to refer you to the page on All Recipes because the comments and reviews are interesting and helpful.  (For example, I skipped the second dose of honey as per the comments.)
This recipe does contain some unbleached white bread flour, which is why it makes such awesome toast and sandwiches, so it isn't the healthiest bread you can make, but it's a great occasional treat.  And boy does it make some beautiful loaves.
It was easy, too.
DSC03350So click on over to the recipe and give it a try if you're into homemade bread.
Finally, it's Simple Lives Thursday! Check out last week's linky behind the jump!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meatless Monday Preservation: Ground Cherry Jam and Canned Potatoes


Today I'm going to show you a quick recipe for jam that uses ground cherries and then I'm going to show off my new pressure canner and show explain how I used it to can some potatoes.

To begin, you might want to reference some of my previous posts about preservation.

Three kinds of pickles

Apple butter (it's almost that time!)

Canning tomatoes (a great place to start if you've never canned before. no special equipment required)

The basic rule of canning is this: anything that is acidic, like tomatoes, can be canned in a water bath.  (Likewise with jams and jellies) But anything that is NOT acidic or preserved by other methods must be canned in a pressure canner.

If you've never tried any canning before and don't want to buy a pressure canner, jams are a great place to begin.  Find a good supply of high quality fruit and dig up a recipe.  I have become obsessed with ground cherries this year.  If you've never tried them, their taste is almost tropical.  They are sweet, tart, and savory in their depth of flavor.

I followed the directions on my pectin box for basic jam and used equal parts fruit and sugar.  Note: this is an excellent walkthrough of the jamming process and a great reference website.

Ground Cherry Jam

yields three to four small jelly jars of jam

2 pints ground cherries (once peeled, these came to approximately three cups)

Equal volume sugar (3 cups)

1/2 c. water

juice of one lemon

Ground cherries come in papery husks like tomatillos.  They are ripe when they fall off the plant.


Peel off the husks and rinse them very well.

DSC03205As always with jam, discard any fruits that are soft, bruised, or rotten.

DSC03208Put the cherries in a sauce pan with the water, lemon juice, and box of pectin.  Bring to a boil and crush the cherries, but leave chunks of fruit so the jam has texture.  Follow your pectin's directions for boiling and water canning.  I processed these in boiling water for 10 minutes.

The jam is delicious and makes impressive gifts, though we're hoarding most of it for ourselves.


If you can get your hands on some ground cherries, I highly recommend making some jam so you can enjoy them all year long.  I've been contemplating a pie, too, so keep your eyes peeled.

This year I finally bit the bullet and bought a pressure canner.   For years I've gone to my mother's house each summer and canned everything I could squeeze into one hot afternoon.  I decided it was finally time to make the investment and bought this canner, deciding on the larger model so I can eventually stack jars.


In the photo above, you can see the three important parts on the lid.  On the far right is the vent pipe which lets out steam.  The small thing in the front center is the air vent that automatically closes when the canner is full of steam and has expelled all the extra air. The dial in the center is the pressure gauge.  This measures how many pounds of pressure have built up inside the canner.  On the left in the photo below you see the pressure regular which eventually goes on top of the vent pipe.


The canner also includes base tank that has a removable rack.  This rack assures proper circulation of steam and keeps the jars off the hot bottom of the canner.


The lid of this canner is designed so that it can only be put on one way.  It's essential to get your lid on properly so the canner can build up steam.

Here you can see that the handles must line up for a proper seal.

DSC03291Every pressure cooker is different, so I'm not going to go through the specifics of the process, but I will explain the basics how I canned some potatoes.  You can check here for good info about pressure canning, recommendations for canners, and links to good books and recipes.

Canned Potatoes

I began by soaking my potatoes to loosen the dirt.  I eat my potatoes with the skin on so I didn't peel them.  You're free to peel and chop them, but if you do don't bother scrubbing them.  I just picked whole small potatoes.

DSC03275Once they're well scrubbed, get some water boiling.


Boil the potatoes in well-salted water for 10 minutes.


We're going to use the hot pack method where you add hot liquid to hot vegetables. (Read about the difference between hot pack and raw pack here)

After you've drained your potatoes, start more water boiling (or do this at the same time, depending on how many large pots you have.)  Put your jars, lids, and rings into the hot water and let them get warm.  You may also do this in a sink of the hottest water your faucet will put out.  You are not sterilizing them, but simply getting them warm so they're the same temperature as the warm food and boiling water you're going to cover the potatoes with.

Stuff the potatoes into the hot jars.  You are free to add salt here, but I didn't because I wasn't sure how much to use and will season the potatoes when I use them later.

DSC03292Cover the potatoes with boiling water leaving an inch of head space.  I didn't use the water I'd boiled them in because some recipes said not to, but I'm inclined to believe it'd be no problem.

DSC03298Wipe the rim and put on your lids and rings but don't tighten them too much.  The air must be able to escape the jar, and it can't if you close them too tightly.

DSC03302Put them in your pressure canner and process per instructions.

DSC03304See you in December, little guys.  (My liquid level got low here for a variety of reasons, but I understand that the potatoes that aren't in liquid will possibly be tough but won't go bad.  Your water should come all the way up over the potatoes if you don't mess up like I did.)

DSC03328Remember to always store your canned goods with the rings OFF.

So tell me, what are you putting up these days?  Have you used a pressure canner before?  I promise it's not nearly as scary as it seems.  Until next time, share with me what you're eating these days, and consider giving canning a try.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Simple Lives Thursday

Here's our blog hop for this week, where we hosts

Annette at Sustainable Eats  

and blog contributers from all over share what we're doing to keep it simple by producing more and consuming less.  Won't you join us and link up your posts?
Use this badge on your post and link back here.

Check out last week's featured posters and link up after the jump!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

SLT Featured Post Badge

We really enjoy reading your posts each week! Featured post bloggers, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for the specific week that you were featured.

Here are our picks from last week's submissions. Thanks to all who participated -- it is always hard to choose!

1. The Ultimate Natural Bug Bite Cure by Butter Believer. "I have a new weapon of mass bite destruction, and it is shock-and-awe. some. And it’s kinda even made from food! I now present to you, the ultimate Hippie cure for those horrendous bites..." (Yes, you have to click on over to find out what it is.)

2. My Summer Kitchen Counter by The Morris Tribe. "Regardless of the season, my kitchen counter top seems to be a reflection of what I’m busy with!"

3. Sending Chickens to Freezer Camp by Simply Loving Home. "This isn't our first time raising meat birds... but each year we learn a little something new or something to do differently next time!"

4. Preparing for a Successful Staycation by A Mother's Calling. "We just finished a three day staycation. The children loved it! There are a few keys to really making your staycation a success, so I wanted to share what I learned through planning ours."

5. Make Your Own Toothpaste by Nourishing Treasures. "It’s difficult to find fluoride-free toothpaste. I have come up with a couple of alternatives."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meatless Monday Duo: Easy Bruschetta Topping & Summer Pasta with Roasted Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Kale Pasta

It's official. It is mid-August and we are full on into harvest season. Things are starting to flow into market, including the first of the tomatoes that are actually worth eating. I've been itching to cook with raw tomatoes, so I took the plunge and bought some cherry tomatoes to make one of our favorite summer dishes: bruschetta topped with tomatoes, garlic, and cheese. We had a crowd to feed, so I decided to double the recipe and make a quick pasta sauce. I'm lucky enough to live in one of those states where people bring their excess vegetables to work for anyone to claim, so I had a few big zucchini squashes to use. After roasting them in the oven to get them crispy, I threw them into the pan after whipping up the tomato topping and reserving half for the bruschetta. I stretched mixture with kale and pasta, and served it all with a fresh salad from the backyard of lettuce and cucumbers. While I threw the topping together on the stove, I toasted the bread in the oven.
This meal comes together in less than an hour and doesn't require much hands on time, so try it the next time you have lots of tasty tomatoes on your hands, which I hope is sooner than later.
Easy Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Garlic
serves 12 as a side or appetizer (note: I used half of this recipe to make the summer pasta and it served 6 as a side.)
olive oil
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
1 baguette, sliced
1 log goat cheese, or soft cheese of your choice (we like quark)
Preheat the oven to 350. Brush the bread with olive oil. Toast the bread in the oven while you make the topping. Usually this takes around 10-15 minutes. As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, let it cook just enough to handle. Lightly rub each slice of bread on the top side with a garlic clove. It should melt easily but don't put on too much as the raw garlic can be a little spicy. If you don't love garlic or have sensitive eaters, skip this step.
Begin the topping by heating a little oil in your pan. Add your chopped onion and cook over medium high heat until it begins to soften and become translucent, 2-3 minutes. Then add your thinly sliced garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic softens and you start to smell it. Then, add your tomatoes and lemon juice. Cook just until the tomatoes soften a little but still hold their shape. Season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the sliced basil into the pan after you've taken it off the heat and stir. To serve, spread your soft cheese on each slice and serve with the tomato topping in a bowl so people can serve themselves.
If you'd like, reserve half the topping for the following pasta recipe.
Summer Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Kale
serves 4-6 as a main dish
1/2 bruschetta recipe above
4 zucchini squash, chopped
1 bunch (5-10 leaves) kale, chopped
1/2 c. raspberry vinaigrette, recipe below
1/2-1 lb. pasta
parmesan cheese to serve
Raspberry Vinaigrette
1 tbsp. stone ground mustard
1 tbsp. raspberry preserves
1/3 c. raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil salt and pepper
Make the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients except the oil in the bottom of a bowl or jar. Whisk together or shake to combine and add then slowly add the oil until it's fully incorporated and the vinaigrette has good body. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Chop the zucchini
and toss it with enough vinaigrette to coat.
Spread on to a sheet pan
Roast at 425 for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
DSC03265Once the zucchini are roasted, add them and the sliced kale in the pan with the leftover tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Serve warm over pasta with parmesian, the bruschetta, and a crispy green salad.
DSC03272A little extra basil on top never hurt anybody, so feel free to throw some on.
The cicadas are calling me, so I'm out to the backyard.  When I come back later this week, I'll have TWO exciting canning things to share with you, one of which involves my new pressure canner!  Until then, go soak up this weather and make some simple food.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Simple Lives Thursday

Busy busy around here with bakery orders and school, so I'm just going to let the talented posters of Simple Lives Thursday entertain you for today and fill you in on some new good stuff soon.
Remember to check out the blogs of my lovely co-hosts
Annette at Sustainable Eats  
Be sure to grab this badge and link back to this post
And check out this week's featured posts!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

SLT Featured Post Badge

We really enjoy reading your posts each week! Featured post bloggers, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for the specific week that you were featured.

Here are our picks from last week's submissions. Thanks to all who participated -- it is always hard to choose!

1. Goldfinch Nest in a Purple Loosestrife Plant by Tea Time With Annie Kate.
This blogger and her family set out to uproot this year's growth of the purple loofestrife plant only to find a surprise among a 6 foot clump.

2. Chicory - Coffee substitute, forage plant, bitter green by Common Sense Homesteading.
Another "weed" gone good. Chicory can be used medicinally and as a coffee substitute.

3. Winter Garden: Care and Harvesting by Lizzard's Hollow
Lizard’s Hollow continues with part 6 of her Winter Gardening series.

4. Do I Really Need to Soak My Grains? by The Table of Promise.
One author lets us know her opinion on the controversial topic of soaking grains.

5. Vinegar Facial Toner by The Purposed Heart.
"It has evened out my skin tone, minimized the size of my pores, smoothed out my skin’s texture, and regulated my skin’s oil production." Sounds good to us!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Meatless Monday: Nanny's Never-ending Cucumber Salad

Greetings!  It's Monday so I have an easy, tasty, and seasonal meatless recipe for you to try.
Today's post will be short and sweet, and relates to one of my earliest food memories.
My mother's family looms large in my childhood.  She is 1 of 10 children, most of whom live in the city where I grew up, so aunts and cousins make up most of my early memories, espcially those that relate to food.  I came up cooking and eating with these women and children.  My father, on the other hand, was one of two children adopted by an older couple who sometimes seemed to take better to their dogs than children.  That said, there are a few foods that I will always associate with their home.  (Turkey loaf is one of them, but I think I'll spare you that pleasure.)
A funny food-related memory from that family: Once, my mother slaved over a fresh cherry pie for all of us, pitting each cherry by hand and making the crust.  At my paternal grandparents' home, she served it warm with cold ice cream.  After a bite she looked over at my grandfather and said "Albert, this is better than sex."  He paused, looked at her for a moment, and said "I wouldn't remember."
The following recipe is one that my grandmother, Nanny, always had in her refrigerator in the summer.  We all know what a strong memory jog smell can be, and this salad will always bring me a sense of refreshment on a hot summer day.  I remember plucking slices from the bowl and feeling my saliva glands pulse at the sourness of the vinegar, followed by the chill of the watery cucumber.
The "recipe" is a ratio, and you can keep the bowl in the fridge all summer long, adding more cucumbers and liquid as the season moves along and your garden gives up more cucumbers.  Some cucumber salad recipes use dairy, but I like this one because it's simple and well balanced.

Nanny's Never-ending Cucumber Salad
thinly sliced white onion
1 part white vinegar
1 part water
1 part sweetener (sugar or honey)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh dill

Begin with thinly sliced cucumbers, the fresher the better.
Basic picklers are fine.
DSC03195This year, we have some lemon cucumbers, which look like this when young
DSC03194and this when matured.  They have a much more mild taste, lacking the bitterness of traditional cucumbers, and a slight lemon aromaDSC03196Slice up your cucumbers and onion 1/4 in. thick.
Throw them in a bowl with as much chopped dill as you like.
Then add your liquids and sweetener, making enough to cover the cucumbers, and season with salt and pepper.
As you eat the salad, keep adding more cucumbers (trying to eat the older, more flavorful ones at first) being sure to keep enough liquid in the bowl the cover you cucumbers.
They will taste good right away, but benefit from at least an overnight soak.  You might want to keep the bowl covered to avoid evaporation and spills.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Harvesting Garlic and Simple Lives Thursday

My summer break is wrapping up and soon it'll be time to head back to school.  I'm trying not to let it get to me, but the constant ads for new school clothes and Halloween candy at the grocery store are slowly increasing my anxiety about the coming weeks.  This baby girl is due in almost exactly two months.  That means she could be here as soon as six weeks from now, and as long as 10 weeks.  Truthfully I'd rather have the latter, but I'm prepared for anything at this point.
I'm spending these last precious days nesting and trying to relax.  My new shape is cumbersome, but I'm still running and walking as much as I can.  I'm thankful that this pregnancy has treated me so well so far, and while I'm not exactly excited about spending the rest of August and September gaining a pound a week and teaching three classes, I know that it will fly by and my ample support network will serve me well.
My favorite thing about break has been puttering in the garden in the early morning hours.  Normally I have to garden in the afternoon, after a hard day's work when my feet are tired and I still have dinner to get on the table.  These days, I get up and work out there while it's still cool and quiet and my mind is clear.
Yesterday I harvested the garlic that we planted in September.  I knew it was ready to harvest because the leaves had wilted and turned brown, and when I pulled a bulb out of the ground I could tell that the cloves had formed and were covered nicely with the white papery outside I expected.  Harvesting the garlic was totally thrilling to me, reminding me that, in spite of the world's urging that fall is coming and summer is over, the "I MADE THAT!" feeling of harvest is just beginning.
DSC03105The garlic was put in the ground so long ago as a first attempt, and those don't always go well.  With gardening, it helps to be prepared for everything to go wrong.  That way, when something does go right, it's the best kind of surprise.  In this case, one head of farmer's market garlic turned into eight small pungent heads.  Some of these heads will feed us, and some will go back into the ground.  This is another of my favorite parts of gardening: grow something, collect a part of it, and grow it again.  Food (and livestock) reproduces itself exponentially.  For free.  And all you need to unlock the process is a little knowledge and elbow grease.

Finally, another curiosity of this garlic experiment was The Neglected Clove.  As you might guess, things in the garden looked a little different in September than they did in spring when it was time to plant.  The compost heap moved a bit with its swelling borders under constant expansion, and the garden fence shifted as the flowers between it and the neighbor's fence grew.  When we planted the cloves in the fall, we of course failed to mark exactly where we'd planted them and how many there were.  (Embracing that surprise idea I suppose.)

The green stalks shot up in early spring and stayed bright and leafy until a week or so ago.  We watered them and kept them free of weeds as best as we could.  Sometime in June I noticed what I thought could be a garlic stalk growing two feet away from the rest, outside of the fence and behind the compost heap.  If you're a gardener, especially one who has established plots in an area where other plants once dominated, you know that a large part of the job is trying to identify unknowns as friend or foe.  We stared down the stalk and decided that it was close enough to garlic to justify not ripping it out of the ground, so we let it go all summer long, but we didn't tend to it at all.  (Truthfully, I forgot about it.)  We didn't weed around it or water it deliberately, and we did not even notice that it had presented a scape, the flower bud, so it was never removed.
When it came time to harvest, I rediscovered The Neglected Clove and recognized it as garlic immediately given the small seed pod that had dried on top of the stalk.  Even though it was clearly smaller than the others, I harvested it anyway to see what happens when you plant a garlic clove and just let it do its thing.  Turns out, this is what happens:
DSC03114It's about 1/4 of the size of the other bulbs.  The cloves still formed, though they were much smaller and less numerous.  Compare the root system of this head to those above and you might see why.  In this photo, you can see the seed head, another explanation for the restricted growth.  As I mentioned in my garlic scape post, if you don't remove the scape, the garlic gives a lot of its resources to producing the flower and seeds.  Here you can see the seed head a just how immature the bulb is.
I'm deeming the garlic experiment successful, and will never go another year without planting some of my own.  There's no way that I can make much of a dent in our garlic consumption, but the benefits of growing your own garlic are numerous and compelling.  I recommend growing garlic even if you aren't the most involved gardener because it was very little work.  It would also be an excellent activity to try with the kiddos, especially if you try different varieties and/or growing conditions.
The garlic should be stored in a cool dark place like a root cellar, tied up and hanging so it has ample air circulation.  Garlic must be 'cured' this way for at least a week before eating so the white paper around the cloves properly dries up and can protect them from rotting.
There has been more preservation going on around here!  I can't wait to tell you about my new pressure canner, but first I wanted to follow up on the dehydrator.  It was largely successful, specifically with the leafier herbs like sage and oregano.
The basil and chives were less successful, however, and just sort of wilted without fully drying.  I think the chives should be hung in bunches, much like the garlic,  and the basil frozen instead.
Finally, it's time for Simple Lives Thursday!  I'm still reading new blogs and getting to know new people from our twitter chat.  If you don't already, follow me at @culinarybliss, say hi, and I'll be happy to follow you back.  If you want to see more pictures and hear more about what's happening daily at my house/garden, 'like' my blog on Facebook here.
For now, check out this week's featured posts and link up your own!

Featured Posts from Last Week's Submissions

SLT Featured Post Badge

We really enjoy reading your posts each week! Featured post bloggers, please grab the badge above and display it on your site! Link it to one of the host blogs' posts for the specific week that you were featured.

Here are our picks from last week's submissions. Thanks to all who participated -- it is always hard to choose!

1. Cooking for Beginners: Garlic by Ruth's Real Food. "Oh my, the smell and taste of fresh garlic. Almost every savory dish is enhanced by its pungent taste. Fresh garlic is definitely one ingredient you’ll want to incorporate into your cooking." Ruth covers how to purchase, store, peel and even use garlic. We're reposting this from last week because we got the link code wrong; many of you couldn't get over there to read it.

2. My Kitchen Garden by Life In Green. "A kitchen garden (also called a potager) is a separate area of your outdoor space that has a planned design and layout where you grow veggies, herbs and flowers." Check out this blogger's lovely potager!

3. The Wonders of Kombucha! by Mexican Wildflower. "Want a to learn to make a “hip” drink that is delicious, beneficial for your health and that cost mere pennies to make?" Try Kombucha!

4. How to Filet Wild Alaskan Salmon by Homemade Alaska. A wonderful photo tutorial on fileting salmon.

5. Sowing Seeds The Easy Way by The Cheerful Agrarian. "I have to give credit for this idea to my Grandma Ada, via my dad. Whenever the topic of planting spinach came up (which, oddly, it did every so often . . .) he would tell me, "Ma always used to just let her spinach go to seed when it got hot out, and then the next spring she'd have the earliest spinach of anybody we knew!"

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