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Posts Tagged ‘clean eating’

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

This recipe is a fast and simple twist on the original, with no accurate measurements needed. It’s all about taste. I grabbed a quart of colorful local heirloom tomatoes at the market and I couldn’t wait to pick some of the beautiful heirloom black cherry tomatoes from my own garden to make a big tasty salad with. Since the tomatoes themselves had so much flavor and the basil from our garden was abundant, I decided to not go crazy and put the full 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into the salad, it just didn’t need it. I also decided that by saving half of it, I could use it to add to an omelette with the next morning.

I wanted to get a nice sweet and tart punch from the balsamic, so rather than just pouring it on as is, I made a simple reduction syrup to drizzle over top the salad when serving. It is incredible how the concentrated flavors from the vinegar reduction really sing with the subtle sweetness. It is one of my favorite, simple kitchen tricks that works for so many dishes. In addition to drizzling over top salads like this one, the balsamic reduction is also wonderful drizzled over a steak, grilled fruit and so much more.

There is something about a good insalata caprese that just screams summer to me. But much like the balsamic, it is bitter-sweet, by the time the tomatoes in our gardens are ripe enough to start picking for the beautiful salad, summer is on the down-swing and definitely more than half over.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
serves 4

Approximately 1 quart of mixed heirloom tomatoes, any variety. (Mine were all smallish – cherry and grape sized, some from our garden)
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (you can use the full 8oz, but I was attempting to keep this light and much more about the tomatoes)
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons brown sugar
A few tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool. (The sugar is optional as the vinegar has a natural sweetness when reduced, but I find that just a little is nice to compliment the tartness of the vinegar)

Meanwhile, half or quarter the tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl. Add the fresh mozzarella and basil. Toss lightly to combine. Season the salad with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve individual servings of the salad on small side plates, drizzle both the olive oil and the balsamic reduction over top each serving. Serve immediately.

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Honeydew Almond Milk Smoothie

After our nearly 2-week long trip that we took mid-July to California for the Renegade Craft Fairs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I am so happy to be home for a stretch and back into a more normal routine. It seems to take a week or two for things to settle down and feel calm again after a trip that big and with how crazy we were before we left. Besides being able to cook and bake in my own home, one of the most important things for me is to get right back into my daily routine of yoga. I try to get to 5 or 6, 90-minute classes a week. I tend to prefer the morning classes, since I can just come home after I practice and get right to my desk and work for the rest of the day. I don’t eat before I leave for yoga, I usually have a kombucha after I practice, so most times when I get home I am not looking for a large meal, just something light to hold me over until lunch. Many mornings I whip up a quick smoothie and head up for my office. So I can “eat” and work. This past week I was just making up smoothies as I went along, trying out new flavor combinations and just exploring. This honeydew almond smoothie is probably my favorite discovery of the week. It was simple, very light and had a unique and bright flavor. The honeydew that I cut up was so sweet on it’s own I didn’t even have to add any sweetener. If your honeydew leaves a bit to be desired in the sweetness department, feel free to add in a tablespoon of agave syrup or honey.

We don’t leave home again until August 24, when we had back to NYC for another event with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We are doing a poster for St. Vincent who is playing on the rooftop of the Met. I am so excited to be going back to the city again but I am trying not to count down the days to that trip so as not to rush our time at home, but it is hard. I am hoping to accomplish a ton in the time before we leave again. Beside all of the work we have on the schedule, I have a ton of cooking and baking I want to do, a few crafty projects and some work around the house. Here’s hoping I can be that productive.

Honeydew Almond Milk Smoothie
serves 2

2 cups honeydew, diced (this was half of a melon for me)
2 cups, organic unsweetened almond milk
1-2 cups of ice

Add all of the ingredients to the blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

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Gluten-Free Lentil Burgers

I absolutely love veggie burgers, but finding good ones that aren’t overly processed and loaded with chemicals, fillers, preservatives and other junk, is really hard on its own, but then add in the additional challenge of finding them gluten-free, it’s damn near impossible. Since I have cut processed foods out of my diet, whenever I want a veggie burger, I have been enjoying organic garden herb burgers from Sunshine Burgers that are not only gluten-free, but they only have 5 ingredients, sunflower seeds, brown rice, carrots, herbs and salt, that’s it. I am quite impressed with how delicious they are, but as with everything, I get bored and I want to figure out how to make my own, since, I really hate buying packaged foods.

I decided I wanted to experiment with making homemade lentil burgers. I had seen quite a few recipes in different cookbooks and online, and I was excited to see if using lentils as opposed to brown rice or other grain-based fillers, would hold up better and not fall apart. In my experience, that seems to be the biggest challenge with homemade veggie burgers. I was also excited to finally have a good reason to use the delicious toasted gluten-free breadcrumbs that I picked up when I was in Colorado earlier this year. The company that makes them is called, Outside the Breadbox and I found them by visiting Granny’s Gluten Free Zone in Loveland. I need to email them about having them shipped to me, they are THAT good. Finally I decided this is the recipe where I would use the beautiful dried Greek green lentils that I picked up a few weekends ago at the Greek Festival here in Buffalo. By the way, a little side note about me, most people buy souvenirs like t-shirts or key chains to remember certain events or trips, not me, I buy food, ingredients, cooking tools, etc. What better way to remember a place or a day then by remembering and recreating the food or cuisine. If a taste or a smell can’t take you back somewhere, I don’t know what can. I have actually been stopped at security in an airport before trying to take olive oil in my carry-on. (oops)

Now that I have played around with this recipe, I am excited to make it again and again, there are so many variations you could take on the recipe. You could play around with different lentils, change-up the fresh herbs, add in some crumbled feta or other cheeses. Maybe try adding in some sunflower seeds or gluten-free rolled oats or shredded vegetables like zucchini or carrots. I think as long as you adjust your moisture content and breadcrumb content to account for the different ingredients, the sky is the limit with this recipe. Obviously if you aren’t gluten-free you can use your favorite gluten-containing, toasted breadcrumbs.

I served mine on a Rudi’s gluten-free whole grain hamburger bun. This is definitely the best packaged gluten-free roll I have found, yet. I am sure I can make a better gluten-free hamburger roll at home, but I have yet to experiment with a recipe. That is on my to-do list for this summer. If you have a recipe to share, send me a link.

** Vegans – if you don’t want to mess with packaged egg replacers, do some looking around online, there are ways to use even more ground flax-seeds mixed with water to create a paste that acts as an egg replacer. I have done something similar with a pizza crust recipe, so I know it works. The general ratio is 1 tablespoon of ground flax-seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water = 1 egg, but do some looking around for recipes and do some experimenting. It’s pretty incredible.

Enjoy.

Gluten-Free Lentil Burgers
Makes 8 burgers

3 1/4 cups cooked green lentils (follow package directions to cook)
4 large local farm fresh brown eggs (**to make vegan, use your favorite egg replacer or make a flax-seed egg substitute, see above)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium onion, grated with box grater or diced very small
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground flax-seed (you can skip this if you don’t have any on hand, it isn’t necessary to the recipe, just a nice way to add in some Omega-3 essential fatty acids and even more fiber)
1 cup toasted gluten-free bread crumbs
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Cook your dried lentils according to package directions and allow to cool slightly. Combine 3 cups of the cooked lentils, eggs and salt in a food processor or sturdy blender. Puree until well blended and mostly smooth. Put the mixture in a large mixing bowl and add remaining whole lentils, onion, garlic, fresh herbs and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add in the ground flax-seed and then begin adding in the breadcrumbs slowly, a little at a time and stir to combine. You may not need all the breadcrumbs and you may need more, so go slowly so you can get the consistency right.

You should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into patties. If you need more moisture, you can add more egg or a bit of water. If it needs to be drier you can add more breadcrumbs. Form eight – 3-1/2 to 4-inch patties and set on a plate.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add two patties at a time and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the face down side begins to brown and get a crispy crust on the outside. Flip the burgers and allow to cook on the second side for another 8 to 10 minutes until browned and crisp, add more oil as you cook the additional burgers, if you need to. Remove the finished burgers from the skillet and serve, or if cooking the remaining patties allow the cooked patties to cool on a wire rack while you finish. You can store the uncooked patties in the refrigerator for up to a week, so pull them out whenever you are ready for a quick bite.

Place the cooked lentil burger on your favorite gluten-free roll and top with your favorite toppings. We kept it simple and just went with lettuce from our garden, tomato slices and a slice of organic swiss cheese. These burgers are so good, you could also just skip the roll and serve on their own, topped with your favorite things or served over a bed of baby greens.

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Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula

I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Whole Living and couldn’t wait to make it. I love black rice so much, it is full of flavor. I always keep a pound or two of Black Japonica in the pantry, a unique field blend of medium grain black and short grain mahogany rice. It’s so nutty and sweet, perfect in many different dishes.

This recipe is so healthy and fresh, simple to make and full of so many flavors. The original recipe called for spinach but since I still had some baby arugula on hand, I figured that would work just as well. I was pleasantly surprised how much more delicious the rice was after frying it up in the pan, it grabbed all the little bits of ginger and garlic and the Sriracha left in the pan from the tofu. The tofu had a nice crisp outside and it was full of flavor from the ginger and Sriracha and the arugula brought a beautiful peppery crunch. I hope to plan spinach and/or arugula in our garden this year so I have a feeling we’ll be eating this dish a lot this summer.

Fried Black Rice With Ginger Tofu and Baby Arugula
Adapted from Whole Living, March 2011
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup black rice (I used a blend of black and mahogany rices)
1 1/2 cups water
1 bunch organic baby arugula, rinsed and roughly chopped (spinach will work here, too)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into six 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
Lime wedges, for serving

Bring rice and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Steam baby arugula, covered, in 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes; set aside. Saute garlic, ginger, and scallion whites in remaining oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tofu and Sriracha and cook until tofu is golden, about 6 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add rice to skillet and cook over medium-high heat until crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve with baby arugula and tofu. Garnish with scallion greens and serve with lime. Add more Sriracha when serving, if you like.

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Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

I am so ready for it to just be spring already. This chilly, dreary weather is getting a tad bit old and we’ve gotten a taste of the warm weather already, so I just wish it would stay. It was near 80º when we were in NYC last weekend and apparently it was in the 70s here in Buffalo at the same time. Today it is in the low 30s and it’s snowing again. Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and the change of seasons, but this has been one of the longest and nastiest winters I can ever recall here.

I guess since the weather isn’t cooperating the only thing to do is to bring the spring to our bellies via delicious spring inspired dishes like this one! Once again this risotto, like the pasta recipe I posted yesterday, was inspired by what looked best in the produce section when we went to the market. I had actually hoped to find fresh sweet peas, but I guess it is still a bit early, so I went with frozen organic sweet peas. You can certainly substitute fresh peas here, you’d just want to quickly blanch them first.

This risotto is so creamy and satisfying it is hard to believe it is healthy. There is very little cheese and really since arborio rice creates such a creamy risotto, if you wanted to make this vegan you could simply leave out the cheese and it would still be incredible. The leeks bring a nice fresh but subtle onion flavor, the mushrooms a nice rustic earthy aroma and taste and the peas are a nice burst of brightness to finish it all off. The fresh tarragon was the perfect unique compliment to all of these flavors, bringing subtle scent and taste reminiscent of anise. You can play with adding in some white wine or vermouth as well as different cheeses, mascarpone or heavy cream, different herbs, lemon zest, etc. There are so many variations on classic risotto and you really can’t go wrong.

I had a dozen local farm fresh eggs that I picked up and want to use while they are at their freshest so I decided to fry up an egg for each of us to serve on top of the risotto. I had never done this before, but I knew it would be incredible and I was right. Such a nice way to finish it off. The yolk was a tad runny and it was just perfect.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas
serves 4-6

5-6 cups of organic mushroom broth
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas
2 leeks, rinsed very well, slice thinly white and green parts only*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 cups frozen organic sweet peas (I would have preferred fresh, but they weren’t yet at the market)
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt, sauté until tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, sprinkle with salt. Sauté until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and increase the heat to medium. Stir until the edges begin to look transparent, careful not to brown the rice or leeks. Add the mushroom broth, 2 ladles at a time (or approximately 3/4 cup); stirring constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. Always adding enough just to cover the rice. Continue stirring and adding broth, waiting for it to absorb and then adding more. Cook about halfway, which should be about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender but has a bit of a firm bite and the risotto is creamy, another 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas and fresh tarragon with just a few minutes remaining, stir to combine. The peas will cook very quickly. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Taste the risotto and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving the remaining for serving. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl, top with fresh ground black pepper and a pinch or two of freshly chopped tarragon. Serve with the remaining grated parmigiano-raggiano. This risotto is incredible with a fried farm-fresh egg served on top. If the yolk is just a tad bit runny, it is absolute perfection! Trust me, try it.

* a quick note on cleaning leeks: leeks tend to have a lot of dirt and grit in them. If you aren’t careful when cleaning them, you may think they are totally clean, start cooking with them and find your entire dish has a nasty grittiness to it. This can ruin a dish After trimming off the ends (called the beards) and the dark green tops (save these for stocks). You can run them under cold water at this point, or even better, you can submerge the leeks in a large pot of cold water. Swirl them around to really remove all the grit and dirt. Drain well and then cut.

Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Sweet Peas

Oh and one last thing to mention, this is what was going on outside my kitchen window while I crafted up this beautiful spring dinner. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)

Pasta is definitely my go-to comfort meal, it rarely disappoints. I almost always have a couple of pounds of dried gluten-free pasta in the pantry and enough ingredients to throw together a tasty and seasonal dish with it. Plus, I really love how little effort it takes. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and make a horrible processed frozen pizza, you can have a delicious main-course pasta made with fresh ingredients. With all the traveling we’ve had going on and how busy we’ve been I have been craving one of my homemade pasta creations, so last week after we got home from NYC and before we left again for Pittsburgh, I thought up this dish and threw it together for us.

Besides the beautiful spring produce that is finally showing itself at the grocery store, what inspired this dish was a jar of hot pepper spread from Wegmans in my refrigerator. We always have it on-hand for things like sandwiches, soups, eggs, pizza etc. It has a mere 5 ingredients, all natural, and it’s the perfect condiment. It caught my eye the other day and I realized that I had never made a pasta dish with it. I decided to take a trip to the grocery store and let the fresh produce decide the rest. I was definitely craving a spring inspired dish! Though the choices are still limited and it isn’t all necessarily local, I was happy to see more green in the produce section. It feels like we are finally through the winter and onto brighter things, literally.

The asparagus and baby arugula both jumped out at me in the produce section and I thought paired with the spicy peppers, a nice parmigiano-reggiano and some lemon, they would be perfect. Certainly skip the hot pepper spread if you don’t care for spicy or if you can’t find anything like it, or you can substitute it with a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes. Have fun with it and always start out slow with the spicy ingredients if you don’t like the heat, you can always add more. This pasta just explodes with fresh flavors, the heat from the hot pepper spread brings a nice zing, but it’s not too overpowering, the subtle peppery crunch from baby arugula is fresh and welcomed after a long winter, along with the brightness from the lemon. It is a very light and healthy, but certainly satisfying, spring dinner. If you are looking for a nice vegan spring pasta dish, just leave off the cheese or substitute with your favorite cheese substitute, it will still be delicious.

After a winter of root vegetables, frozen vegetables and just plain ‘blah’ produce, it really is nice to start seeing better fresh produce options again at the grocery store. The farmers market opens in less than 3 weeks (I am counting down the days) and shortly thereafter I will be starting our garden.

Here’s to the spring, more green and a lot sunshine!! (FYI – as I type this, it is snowing)

Spicy Spring Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Baby Arugula (Gluten-Free)
serves 4-6

1 lb asparagus
3 tablespoon organic olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 lb organic gluten-free brown rice pasta (you can use any shape you’d like and certainly you can use regular pasta here, as well)
2 cups organic baby arugula roughly chopped or torn
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot pepper spread (I buy Wegmans brand, but you can also substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or leave it out)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Lemon zest
fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Clean your asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Cut into 2-inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 15-25 minutes until tender, but still a bit crisp.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, reserve approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and rinse in hot water. Place the rinsed pasta in a large serving bowl, immediately add the baby arugula and toss, so it begins to wilt. Then add the minced garlic, hot pepper spread (or red pepper flakes), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and as much cooking liquid as necessary to make the pasta a bit creamy. Toss carefully to combine all the ingredients, add more cooking liquid as needed. Once the asparagus is done, add this to the pasta along with most of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese, reserving a bit for serving. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the pasta, taste the pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything carefully one last time. Plate the pasta individually and top each serving with fresh lemon zest and the remaining cheese.

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Currant Spiced Flax-Seed Muffins (gluten-free)

I have become obsessed with muffins in the last year. They are such an easy thing to whip up and put together, you can eat a few fresh out of the oven, then freeze the leftovers and have breakfasts for a week! What I love about muffins is that I can make a batch and freeze them all just before going on a road trip. I always pack a cooler and these take up little room and then eating both on the road and when we get to where we are going is so much easier for me. We leave bright and early tomorrow morning for Kentucky to see Mark’s family, so I thought making sure I have some healthy options while we were away was smart.

It’s wonderful how versatile this muffin recipe is, there are so many flavor combinations that you can play with. I have found that the almond flour yields the best results with gluten-free muffins. They are fluffy, light and aren’t dense as some gluten-free baked-goods tend to be. This time I decided to add in some flax-seeds for some fiber and other healthy goodies like Omega-3 fats. They gave these muffins a great crunch and brought a nice nutty flavor. If you are thinking you wouldn’t like the whole seeds, you could certainly grind them up first and add them in with the flours, ground up.

This is my first time baking with Sucanat and I am pretty happy with it. Sucanat is dried pure cane juice, it works great as a substitute for brown sugar in most recipes. Unlike refined processed white sugar, it retains it’s natural molasses content and is a true unprocessed sugar. It has a lower sucrose levels and it is believed that it is healthier than other sugars.

I always have dried unsweetened currants on hand, they are great in salads, with grains and in baked-goods. They currants pair very well with the spices in these muffins, they have so much flavor. If you wish to skip the eggs to make these muffins vegan, replace the egg whites with 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup warm water till frothy.

Currant Spiced Flax-Seed Muffins (gluten-free)

Currant Spiced Flax-Seed Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 1/3 cups almond flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch or tapioca starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup organic sucanat (dried cane juice)
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 organic free-range egg whites (depending on the size, you are looking to get 1/4 cup of liquid), beaten until frothy*
1/2 cup warm water, more as needed, up to 3/4 cup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup organic flax seeds, (I used them whole, you could certainly grind them first)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup dried currants, no sugar added

Preheat oven to 375º F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together the first 7 ingredients (up to and including the xanthan gum). Beat in the sugar, olive oil, vanilla, egg whites, warm water and lemon juice. Beat until it is smooth and like a thick cake batter.
Add in the flax seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and dried currants. Stir briefly, until thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. A wooden pick inserted into the center should emerge clean.

Cool the muffin pan on a wire rack for five minutes. Gently pop the muffins out to continue cooling on the rack (don’t cool them longer than 5 minutes in the hot pan- they’ll definitely get soggy). Enjoy a muffin after they have cooled 10 minutes, you know you want to.

Freeze any leftover muffins in tightly sealed freezer bags and pop one out for a quick and easy breakfast.

*See above note about making these vegan.

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