Salty Sweet Molasses Almond Cookies

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I haven’t posted in ages and now find myself with an iPhone and a WordPress app that promises to make this simpler. I’d like to find a way to keep track of the occasional, but especially wonderful recipes I find and make. I often find myself coming back to my recipe log wishing I had saved such and such a meal.

I’d love to say that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been eating very bland, boring, perfectly prepped and portioned, make-me-lean food. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m in love (!) with a man who loves great restaurants and so I’ve been on many incredible dates eating marvelous food and have a full heart and rump to show for it. He’s been out of town for a dreadfully long two days, so I made these cookies to welcome him home.

These cookies are full of butter, almonds, and some magical allure to have another and another and another. They are crispy, crunchy, salty, and full bodied molasses sweet.

The original recipe is from a delightful cookbook called “The Farm,” given to me by a reader and far away friend. (Hi, Jessica!) I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve made from it. This recipe called for raisins and walnuts. I subbed thinly sliced almonds for the walnuts, nixed the raisins altogether, and added some almond extract for oomph. Oh, I’m so smart sometimes.

A few tips: use a small cookie scoop or teaspoon to shape the dough. These will spread considerably so do not sit them close together as I did at first. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to cooling rack. The butter makes them so soft and extraordinary, but not strong enough to hold itself up on the racks at first. I grind my own wheat flour to make it fine and fresh, but sub your flour of choice to similar results.

From my heart, to yours. Find the recipe below.

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Salty Sweet Molasses Almond Cookies

Adapted from The Farm by Ian Knauer

Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the butter is fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in the egg, molasses, and almond extract. Add in the flour mixture until it is just combined. Fold in the almonds.

Place small scoops of dough on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake in batches until the cookies are evenly browned, about 9 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Favorite Finds

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These bits of gold are making my surface life especially lovely lately. They would make great gifts for the people you like, if it’s not too obnoxiously early to mention Christmas.

  • Harney and Sons Paris Tea - This is so delicious! Perfect for the daytime with enough caffeine to note a lift. It is reminiscent of Earl Grey because of the bergamot, but it’s more complex and dessert like with the vanilla and caramel flavors. Even with a tea bag, it tastes like something you’d steep loose leaf in a hot, polished silver tea pot in a boutique hotel. It’s a simple thing, but aren’t those the best ways to elevate the day?
  • Byredo Parfums Gypsy Water - Barneys says this fragrance features bergamot, lemon, pepper, juniper berries, incense, pine needles, orris, amber, vanilla and sandalwood. Hmm, I hadn’t made the link between the Gypsy Water and the Paris tea until now. Apparently I’m drawn to bergamot. I can’t describe what this fragrance does to me without sounding distasteful. Suffice to say, it’s phenomenal. I have a sample sent to me by darling Hayley, my beauty idol and curator of all things gorgeous. I’ve been using a spray at a time and the fragrance lasts nearly 12 hours, putting me in the most incredible mood. If you doubt the power of scent and it’s connection to memory, attachment, attraction, and mood, go find Gypsy Water and prove yourself wrong.
  • True Nutrition Team Skip Protein Formula – Chocolate Coconut flavor - I sampled 4 different protein powders in 8 different flavors from True Nutrition after reading through the forums and reviews from athletes I admire. The winner was this blend of  34% Whey Protein Isolate, 33% Casein, and 33% Egg White Protein. The flavor reminds me of Almond Joys and a scoop in greek yogurt at night is about the closest I come to dessert most days. I’m trying to gain muscle over the next 6 months before my next (!) marathon, and this is the most convenient way to get protein immediately after my workouts. The blend of fast and slow digesting proteins keeps me full longer, while providing the post workout nutrition I need quickly.
  • Gabrielle Aplin’s album “English Rain” - Just a wonderful album I’ve been enjoying a lot. The studio session videos from this album are done beautifully. Aurelia has been singing the line, “Please don’t say you love me, ’cause I might not say it back”, which is the strangest thing to hear from a sweet three year old. The songs are calm, deep, and widely applicable to our heart states.

Chocolate Chip and Raspberry Walnut Gluten Free Zucchini Bread

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We recently had dear friends staying with us who have gluten intolerance and they taught me how to bake with gluten free flour blends. Very exciting! I go off wheat from time to time and with so many people developing sensitivities to gluten, it’s good to have a baking alternative.

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I’ve made nut butter gluten free breads before, but they tend to be very dense (albeit delicious). Using a blend of sorghum and tapioca flours with xanthan gum resulted in a light, tender, amazingly scrumptious bread much like what a traditional zucchini bread would be.

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I doubled this recipe and added chocolate chips to one loaf and raspberries and walnuts to the other. The chocolate chips sunk a bit, but didn’t affect the hold and texture of the bread. I may use more raspberries next time, but didn’t want to add too many and make the bread too moist. Good reasons to experiment. I think a peach and pecan version would be delightful!

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Chocolate Chip and Raspberry Walnut Gluten Free Zucchini Bread

Adapted from Gluten Free Goddess

Ingredients:
1 rounded cup of fresh, grated zucchini (I partially peel my zukes, in stripes)
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light olive oil or coconut oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs vanilla
1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips, raspberries, walnuts, or other berries and nuts (optional)

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Instructions:
Butter a 9×5″ loaf pan and line with a strip of parchment to create a sling for easy removal. Butter the parchment lightly. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cloves, and cinnamon. Add in the brown sugar.

Add the oil, lemon juice, eggs, and milk. Beat to combine and continue to beat on medium high until the batter is smooth, about two minutes.

Add the shredded zucchini and stir by hand to combine. If you are adding nuts or berries or chocolate, stir them in to distribute. (I made two loaves and used 1 cup of chocolate chips in one loaf and 1/2 cup raspberries with 1/2 cup chopped walnuts in the other.)

Scoop and scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and using a silicone spatula, even out the top.

Bake in the center of a preheated oven until the top is golden and firm, yet gives a bit when lightly touched. It should feel slightly springy. This may take anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes. Test with a wooden toothpick, which should come out of the loaf without any crumbs or batter. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove with the parchment sling onto a wire rack and cool completely before slicing and eating. Good luck with that.

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Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

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This is such a simple recipe and I’ve made versions of it three times now in the last week. Eggplant grows very well here and they are in the height of their season right now. Grilling the eggplant in a healthy amount of olive oil does something just magical to them. Switch out the tomatoes for all sorts of other compliments – pesto, cooked figs, bacon. NOM.

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Grilled Eggplant with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Ingredients:
2 eggplant, stems removed, sliced width-wise in 3/4″ slices
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 large sweet onion

Instructions:

Instructions:
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the onions. Cook and stir frequently until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. If the onions start to brown too quickly, turn down the heat and salt them a little.

While the onions are cooking, heat a BBQ grill to medium. Aim for about 350-400 degrees. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the hot grill, working in batches if needed. Grill for 4-5 minutes a side and remove.

Arrange the grilled eggplant on a serving platter and top with the soft onions once they’re perfectly done. Scatter the tomatoes over the top and drizzle with balsamic. Eat at any temperature.

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Hungarian Paprika – Beef Goulash

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This is such wonderful comfort food. Hearty, deep, savory, and yet, bright, delicate, and nuanced at the same time. It’s not a traditional or labor intensive version of the dish, but all the best reasons why it’s a classic remain. Easy weekday fare. I am definitely a meat and potatoes kind of girl.

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Hungarian Paprika – Beef Goulash
Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:
2-3 lb. beef chuck roast
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs Hungarian paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup beef or chicken broth
28 oz can diced tomatoes
8 red potatoes, about 2 pounds total, cut into 1″ cubes

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Instructions:
Place the onion and garlic into a large slow cooker. Season the beef generously with the salt, pepper, and paprika, and place on top of the onions in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the meat from the slow cooker away from all the juices and soft onions and set aside. Back to the slow cooker of, add in the caraway, oregano, liquid smoke, tomato paste, broth, tomatoes, and potatoes. Cook on high for 2 hours.

Once the roast has cooled a bit, trim any big pieces of fat, the bone, if there is one, and then shred the meat roughly. Add the meat back to the slow cooker, where the potatoes should be soft and the sauce thickened up a bit. Stir to combine and serve! Better the second and third day, as all stews are.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Figs and Mint

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This is the most wonderful side dish. The flavors are familiar, but surprising together. Buttery, well roasted cauliflower with soft figs, sharp balsamic, and bright mint. Do it.

Roasted Cauliflower with Figs and Mint
Wildly adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 8 cups)
1/4 cup + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 dried figs, coarsely chopped
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs aged balsamic vinegar

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Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, drizzle over the 1/4 cup olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss a bit to coat and evenly spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast, stirring once with a spatula, until golden brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.

Into a skillet, add the teaspoon of olive oil with the garlic and figs and cook until they’re softened, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the hot cauliflower to a serving bowl and add the fig and garlic mixture, the mint, and balsamic vinegar. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Avocado Mango Salsa on Salmon and Coconut Rice

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Swap out 2 cups of water for a can of coconut milk next time you make rice. Oh my heavens, best thing ever. It’s such a nice compliment to the fish and sweet hot salsa. We ate the leftover rice with cinnamon and whole milk for breakfast the next day and it was wonderful then, too.

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This salsa was the result of a box of mangos I picked up from Costco. I made it twice in one week, it was such a hit. The first time, I used more avocado, the second, I added cilantro. It’s a flexible recipe. Play with it. I used it as a topping for a steak salad for lunch and ate some on corn chips. It’s a fresh burst of flavor and you’ll find yourself finding all sorts of ways to eat it. Leave the jalapeno out of some for the sensitive palates (ie 3 year olds) and you’ll keep everyone happy. I served it with a side of curry roasted carrots. Nom.

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The fish wasn’t anything special, but I needed the protein and this salmon had more flavor than tilapia or sole, though both of those would work well, too. I baked the fish in a bit of olive oil and lemon under foil at 350 for 12 minutes. Easy.

It’s a quick dinner, but certainly not boring. Perfect for summer, perfect for kids, perfect for patio dining.

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Avocado Mango Salsa
Adapted from Allrecipes here and here

Ingredients:
2 mangoes – peeled, seeded and diced
1 Tbs white sugar
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tsp salt

Instructions:
Mix together the mangoes, sugar, vinegar, cilantro, jalapeno and salt. Gently fold in the avocado and serve.

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Homemade Coconut Flax Instant Oatmeal

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This may come as a shock, but Aurelia does not always eat what I do or what I make for us. For lunch or dinner, this is often not negotiable and she just eats what she wants from what I’ve made. Breakfast gets more flexibility, because it’s often a matter of “must eat something” and “2 minutes or less”. Mornings are indeed rushed and while many times she’ll go for a “dippy” (over easy) or scrambled egg, other times she wants something sweet or I need to make something even quicker than an egg that doesn’t require clean up.

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I was buying these apple cinnamon instant oatmeal packets and dividing them in half to make 1/4 cup servings Aurelia could eat quickly and I could make easily. When the last box ran out, I decided to look for a brand without sugar (or fake sugar), but still with flavor. My quick search turned up nothing and I finally had the wits to just google a recipe and try to make my own. Old fashioned oats don’t cook quickly enough or get soft enough to replace the instant oatmeal packets. Luckily, I found this article on the “secret” to making homemade instant oatmeal: the blender! Brilliant. Just blitz a third of the oats in the blender and add to the other ingredients. I’m not a fan of the sugar or creamer (??) included in the linked article, so I just used the technique and came up with my own recipe. I’ve made it three times now, making more than 6 pounds. Geez. I put it in 2 quart jars and freeze it, but already we’ve gone through a couple because what do you know, I can’t stay out of it. Turns out that it’s the perfect middle of the night snack when I wake up hungry (yay, marathon training) or for my own quick breakfast. I keep a 1/4 cup scoop in the jar so I can easily measure out one for Aurelia and/or two for me.

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In one 1/2 cup serving: 107 calories, 17 g carbs (.5 g sugar), 3 g protein, 4 g fat

Don’t buy the packets anymore. Make this, keep it for ages, feed your babes breakfast, and add your own sweetener (stevia, honey, fruit, jam, etc) as needed. Here’s to whatever makes the mornings easier!

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Homemade Coconut Flax Instant Oatmeal

Ingredients:
6 cups quick oats
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1-2 Tbs cinnamon

Instructions:
In a blender, blitz 2 cups of the quick oats until ground. Pour into a large bowl, add the other 4 cups of oats, along with the other ingredients. Mix well. Store in an airtight container. To serve, combine 1/2 cup dry mix with 3/4 cup boiling water and let set for 1 minute to thicken before adding toppings (if desired) and eating. Use less water for a thicker oatmeal.

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Race Schedule

I’m a planner and thus, I like training plans. Training plans are much more interesting with races to work towards. I really do believe that the difference between me and an ultra runner or a cometitive CrossFit athlete is consistency and dedication. This plays out day to day as I set time aside to follow a training plan and give the right effort to each workout. I also believe that the difference between me and most people who aren’t in shape but want to be, is the same thing: consistency and dedication. I’ve been there, believe me. Having children and getting older certainly changes our bodies, schedules and priorities, but instead of using that as a reason to give up, I think it’s even better incentive to make goals and take some time just for you and your body. It won’t happen overnight, but waking up each day and doing the incremental work adds up to improvement. I’m three years and many training plans in and I still have so much more to try.

Lately, I’ve been really turned off by the term “empowerment.” There’s something condescending about it when it’s often used by these people to help those people with goals that are more often instigated by the “helpers”. I don’t need anyone to empower me to be better today, next year, or a decade from now. In truth, it’s one of the few things no one can do for me. We are our own responsibility. Our accountability to a self-actualized life can not be delegated.

I do have an incredible coach who has both pushed me and given me perspective, but I believe we’re a team, along with the other awesome people in my CrossFit classes. It’s a contract. I show up, try not to whine or be negative, I’m honest with how I’m feeling, I compete only with myself, and I give my best effort. I’ve found a balance between my marathon training plan (5x/week) and the core strength and cross training I get from CrossFit (4x/week). I’ve even reached the point where I can deviate a bit from my plan when I get too tired or sore. I’m empowering me. I am the only one who can be consistent and dedicated to the person I’m becoming. No one can give that desire to me. If I want to be better tomorrow, I have to train today. And training is just trying. When I don’t want to workout, I think about what I’m training for. It’s not really this list of races. It’s not to have a different body or reach a certain weight. It’s because I’m proving to myself that I can do what only felt like a dream before. Running especially has given me the opportunity to get to my guts – an intimacy with myself. No one can fake out a 20 mile run. When it’s just me out there for hours, there aren’t any gels or gadgets or coaches or tricks that can finish for me. I have to be smart about how I train so I’m prepared and then I have to find the raw will power to ask myself to be more than I was before. Stronger, faster, happier, wiser, more thoughtful… and when I’ve pushed my body to a new level, I am humbled. There is no room for snarky out there. Gossip, appearance, anxiety all become laughable. Same is true for an intense CrossFit WOD. I think about Aurelia and the example I want to be for her. I think about the person I used to be and the one I reach for. I think about how incredibly lucky I am to be able to be in motion. Everything slows down out there. Life stops passing me by. I become present and very aware of what matters most.

I’m rambling. This is not what this post was supposed to be. I’m not really sure what this blog is supposed to be anymore. But it’s good to have a record. It’s good to say what I can and remember that this is a process. Looking at the races below blows my mind. I couldn’t do some of them today, but with the right preparation and determination, I will. Isn’t that a marvelous thing?!

An internet friend recently said, “In all matters there is a shallow and a profound perspective, including life itself. Do you live for yourself alone, or for a greater purpose and value? It is easy to live thinking only of oneself, but to live for a great ideal requires steadfast commitment and courage.

Weekend Dinner: Balsamic Roast Beef, Cauliflower and Herbed Barley Salad, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Beets

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This was a lovely dinner. Simple roasted vegetables. Hearty grain. Melt in your mouth beef.

Balsamic Roast Beef
Adapted from Add a Pinch

Ingredients
1 3-4 pound boneless roast beef (chuck or round roast)
1 cup beef (or chicken or veg) broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic, chopped

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Instructions
Place roast beef into the insert of your slow cooker. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over roast beef, cover with lid, and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Once roast beef has cooked, remove from slow cooker with tongs onto a cutting board. Break apart lightly with two forks, put into a serving dish and then ladle about 1/2 cup of cooking juices from the slow cooker over roast beef.

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BONUS! Onion Butternut Beef Soup
With all the remaining glorious cooking liquid remaining in the slow cooker, make an onion soup! Add in a chopped, caramelized onion, a couple cups of water, and 2 cups chopped winter squash. Cook on low again in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours. There will be a lot of fat in the broth from the beef, so I let the soup cook completely in the fridge and them remove the solidified layer of fat from the top before reheating and serving. Makes great lunch.

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Warm Cauliflower and Herbed Barley Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit, March 2013

Ingredients
1/2 cup pearled barley
Kosher salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 15-ounce can white or butter beans, rinsed (or I used 1.5 cups cooked lentils)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided (or 2 Tbs dried parsley)

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Instructions
Place barley in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 2″. Season with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 30-40 minutes. Drain; run under cold water. Set aside. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and oil in a medium bowl until emulsified. Season dressing with salt and pepper; set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower; cook, turning occasionally, until browned in spots, 10-12 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl; add beans, parsley, reserved barley, and the dressing. Toss to coat and serve warm.

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Beets - same ol’ simple way

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All together now! Lovely dinner. Great leftovers.

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