Not Quite #Bobbyflay: Pistachio and Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Pistachio Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Time for our mid-week check-in on our #springbreak goals. We made some in-roads on our ambitious cleaning schedule, but I’m afraid the daily work-out has been transplanted by unexpected work for both of us. I got the good news yesterday of a work promotion (yay!) and Mr. Foodie picked up a new gig this morning. Granted, we were up at 7:30, so we *could* have squeezed in a workout, but instead we lounged in bed with our coffees and watched funny youtube videos until he had to bounce. I admit that the lure of the “vacation” (even though it is a staycation) is powerful. Luckily I squeezed in some personal work progress as well as some spring cleaning (poor Onyx, she hated her bath) before rushing off to the vineyard with my lady friends for a #teachersappreciation special at my favorite winery. I work with these friends, so we talked a lot of shop, but we also had a lot of fun eating cheese and drinking wine #squadgoals.

Chocolate and Pistachios

As you know by now, one of my favorite weekend indulgences is to watch a bit of Food Network on the weekends, and last weekend Mr. Foodie and I caught the end of Bobby Flay’s Brunch show (which I highly recommend!). We found ourselves drooling over his pistachio and chocolate pancakes, so we made a note to pick up said ingredients during our next grocery run. Pistachios and chocolate seem like such a splendid combo, but I’ll admit it would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t seen it on T.V. I guess that is why he makes the major bucks, right? In any case, it was too good not to pass up.

Now Bobby uses fancy chocolate that he cuts by hand, but I just used the chips left over from the chocolate chip cookies I made the other day. We bought the smallest pack of shelled pistachios (because #expensive!), and I roughly chopped those. I put both items into a basic box-made pancake batter and proceeded per the instructions.

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The verdict? Freaking awesome. Mr. Foodie admits that the texture was odd for him (the pieces of pistachio were rather large), but I loved the unexpected crunch and the creamy, slightly bitter, punch of chocolate alongside the sweetness of syrup. I can only imagine how great this dish would be if I actually made it the way Bobby intended. For now, though, it was a major highlight in an otherwise standard breakfast. I always make a double-recipe of pancakes so we can refrigerate the leftovers and have them throughout the week.

Keeping this post short and sweet so I can stay on top of our spring break goals list, but coming up I have a new dinner/lunch recipe of green curry chicken AND we will finally share the recipe for our *favorite* no-lettuce salad that has a summer and winter version, so stay tuned!

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Post-St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast: Waffles

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Morning! Did you have an awesome St. Patrick’s Day like we did? Omg, you guys, I did an Irish Car Bomb last night! I haven’t done one of those since my study abroad trip in Denmark over 10 years ago! Our gracious party hosts served up a delicious shepherd’s pie, spinach dip, and Irish soda bread #yummy. Before the party, Mr. Foodie and I got home from work and flew into cooking mode – I boiled eggs for my first attempt at green deviled eggs and Mr. Foodie made the dough for his now famous homemade soft pretzels (I twisted them into the pretzel shapes because he doesn’t have the patience for it lol). I used my go-to recipe for deviled eggs, so all-in-all it was an easy cooking session. If you’re pressed for time or hosting, best to go with what you know so you can be fairly certain it will turn out well and you won’t end up having a mini pre-event meltdown because your frosting broke or your cheese soup ended up being a lump of wet cheese…not that I’m speaking from experience or anything ūüôā

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Our St. Patrick’s Day fun was a fairly responsible night of drinking and dancing, but I also got to connect with some family friends¬†and ask them all what their top marital advice is since all of them have been married for at least two decades successfully. The roundup includes:

Never go to bed angry

Always say I love you and have a kiss before bed

Pay attention to the small things

Appreciate what you have or someone else will

There may have been more, but that is all I remember thanks to the car bomb. Interestingly, I have gotten wildly competing views on the “never go to bed angry” advice, but that in combination with the “always say I love you and kiss” appeals to me immensely. I like to think that Mr. Foodie and I wouldn’t be so angry at each other that we could go a whole night that way. Besides, I don’t sleep well if I don’t get my quality pillow-talk and cuddle time in before we turn the lights out. The advice that surprised me the most is “pay attention to the small things” because so often you hear the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff.” But the way my friend explained it, you should be aware of all the little things your partner does for you and, similarly, you shouldn’t neglect the little things that make life easier or happier for your beloved. Holding the door, making the coffee, saying “thank you” and “please.” After hearing the examples, it made complete sense to me. Marriage is largely about the small stuff. Grand romantic gestures are lovely, but they make a poor bedrock for a lifetime of monogamy. Using food as a metaphor, it’s like putting effort only into thanksgiving dinner and eating badly every other day of the year. Sure, you’re going to love that yearly dinner, but you’ll be miserable the other 364 days – that’s just not sustainable or even desirable.

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This morning I was pleased to see that neither of us were suffering from a hangover, and I wanted to take advantage of having an entire day all to ourselves, so I made waffles! We received a waffle iron at the bridal shower last year, but my aunt also got us one for a wedding gift. The first one is the kind that lies flat and flips over. The second one stands straight ¬†up and you pour the batter into a hole at the top. Both make excellent waffles! I enjoyed trying the new one this morning – the upside is it comes with a measuring cup so each waffle is the same size, and there is no “overflow” like you often have with the flat iron. The challenge initially was getting the batter all the way down into the mold. My first two waffles ended up being 1/2 or 3/4 waffles, but eventually I got it to work right. When it comes to waffles, I am a major fan of using a box mix, but this morning I decided to make it from scratch. I even broke out our hand mixer (another shower gift!) to whip up the egg whites. You can, of course, make waffles without whipping egg whites, but this step does help you have a lighter, crispier texture. The recipe I used is from All Recipes and it is pretty basic. I took the advice of one of reviewers¬†to whip the egg whites (and add two more whites than the recipe calls for). All Recipes is a good recipe resource because people write in with their notes and suggestions.

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2 eggs (separated, plus two more whites)

1 3/4 C milk

1/2 C veggie oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 C flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 Tablespoon white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together except egg whites. Use hand mixer to whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until batter forms (don’t overmix!), then add egg whites, gently folding into batter with a spreader spatula. Let some of the egg whites remain frothy in the batter. Heat your waffle iron to its recommended setting for golden brown. Gently scoop or pour batter into measuring cup and put in the iron.

Our recipe made a TON of waffles. We put the extras in a ziplock and popped them in the freezer for future breakfasts or possibly a chicken-and-waffle situation : ) Happy weekend all!

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Historical Baking: Gingerbread from American Cake

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One of our wedding shower gifts was this amazing American Cake cookbook given to me by my awesome bridesmaid Becca. I have quite a collection of cookbooks now thanks to my generous family and friends. I definitely have a high bar for cookbooks – I want narrative, drama, personal stories! And of course great recipes. What rocks about American Cake is the history the book presents of cake in American culture. The author, Anne Byrn, writes about cakes in a chronological order, updating some early American recipes to make it easy for a modern cook to replicate. Each recipe contains more little side bars with interesting historical facts or chef’s notes. It is a pleasure to look at, to read, and to cook from.

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Most everyone who has eaten my food has tasted my ginger molasses cookies at some point (the recipe for which I still owe you), so I naturally gravitated toward the American Gingerbread recipe in the first chapter. According to Anne, this recipe is the second of seven versions of gingerbread provided by Amelia Simmons who wrote the first American cookbook in 1796. This version is not the kind of gingerbread you roll out and cut for cookies or press into a mold; this gingerbread is more cake-like which I found immensely intriguing. My ginger-molasses cookie is also softer and more cake-like than normal ginger cookies.

And just like my version of ginger cookies, this cake was amazingly easy to pull together. The only advance prep is softening the butter to room temperature and dissolving the baking soda (which I have a huge appreciation for after reading Anne’s historical account of how it revolutionized baking) in water.

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Pretty-kitty was dying for a taste

Anne suggests blending the first few ingredients with a wooden spoon to, I suppose, mimic the way it was made in early America. I, however, used the stand mixer which worked out perfectly. 35 minutes at 375 and a 20 minute rest = one delicious gingerbread-cake. By itself the cooked molasses flavor is a bit strong, but Anne suggests serving each slice with a bit of cream poured over it. Since all we have is French Vanilla (for coffee!), that is what we used. The combination was heavenly. It was soft and spongey, spicey and warm. The cream softened the strong flavors and turned this treat into a comfort dish.

This would make a freaking delicious breakfast pastry, afternoon tea-snack, or dessert. Winter’s coming! And this dish is worth every minute.

No. 2 Gingerbread (American Gingerbread) by Anne Byrn

1 tsp baking soda

1 Cup boiling water

1 Cup molasses

2 large eggs

1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 Cup white sugar

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

Butter a 8″ x 9″ baking pan and preheat the oven to 375. Boil 1 Cup of water and dissolve the baking soda inside it. Set aside.

(This is a deviation from Anne’s directions) Put softened butter, molasses, eggs, sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice into the stand mixer and mix together on low until combined (scrape sides if necessary). Then add in the baking soda water and mix on low for a full minute.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let rest on cooling rack for 20 minutes. Serve with a bit of cream if you like.

What’s For Breakfast?

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On the weekends Mr. Foodie and I have the time to make a good breakfast instead of chugging coffee and grabbing a breakfast bar on the way out the door. It reminds me of my own childhood. Whereas very little effort or time went into cooking weekday meals in my house, weekend breakfast was a production. As a result, I LOVE breakfast in all its forms. Mr. Foodie would rather skip to lunch, but he humors me on the weekends when I want to spend a little time making a nice morning meal.

The other day I made boiled eggs, roasted asparagus, and fruit salad (pictured above). I generally make boiled eggs for snacks at the beginning of each week, but I really like them best when they are still a little warm from the boil. A little sprinkle of sea salt and you’ve got a creamy, savory bite that perks up your palate. Mr. Foodie swears this is the first time he’s had asparagus, but I’m fairly certain I’ve made it for him before. In either case, he tried it while I watched anxiously. This batch was tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roasted at 350 for 15 minutes. At the end I put a few pinches of parmesan cheese over the hot spears. The verdict? Mr. Foodie loved them. They turned out crunchy, a little salty from the cheese, and peppery with the characteristic asparagus flavor tying it altogether.

The fruit salad was comprised of what we had in the bowl – a banana and a nectarine. I just chopped them up, sprinkled a little sugar over the top, and squeezed lime juice over all.The bananas were creamy, the nectarine sweet, and the tang of the lime tickled our tongues. It was immensely satisfying.

This morning our breakfast was a little less healthy as we both had a hankering for pancakes. I used a box mix leftover from our last set of guests, but I used our special star wars molds to add some style!

Yes, we’re a little nerdy. Okay, maybe a more than a little nerdy, but it’s okay because we have each other. And pancakes. What do you love to make for breakfast on the weekend?

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History in a Strip Mall – Review of CoCo’s Kitchen

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Our nearest full grocery store is a few miles up the road on a different island. If you didn’t know where it was, you would never find it off US-1. Situated between two roads that form a point, a trip¬†to this little shopping center feels more like entering the everglades than locating one of the area’s oldest strip malls. In fact, it butts up against a Key Deer habitat. If you visit Big Pine Key, it is more than likely that you’ll see one of the mini-key deer which are protected and endangered.

This particular shopping center has been around since my family lived here in the 80s if not longer. My mother tells me that she used to take my brother and I to this very grocery store where often the checking-out process took so long that she’d have to replace the ice cream which had all but melted. The check out process hasn’t sped up a lot since then, but Mr. Foodie and I enjoy chatting with the old ladies who run the day shift. As I’ve mentioned, our grocery store is going through a renovation which it desperately needed, but which also causes some problems for us since everything is moved around the store every time we visit. They are often out of things we need. In any case, each trip there has been a bit of adventure.

The other day we had several errands to run in that center, so we began with a trip to CoCo’s Kitchen which is a small, unassuming storefront next to the grocery store, but with claims to being a local favorite since 1969. It is tiny inside, but very clean and cozy with art on the walls and helpful signage. You can order your food to go at the counter or sit down. Everything on the menu is shockingly inexpensive. $3.50 omlettes, $4.00 breakfast plates. And free refills. They have daily specials, and a number of cuban-inspired dishes like Cuban French Toast which was unfortunately not available the day we were there. CoCo’s is open for breakfast, then lunch, and then they take a break and reopen for dinner. Mr. Foodie and I ordered two basic breakfast platters both of which were fine. Everything was cooked well and the portions were just right.

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Yes, that’s buttered cuban bread which came w/ our breakfast plates – #yum

We want to come back and try some of their lunch specials. If you’re passing through Big Pine Key and want to visit a local favorite, give this one a shot.

While we were there, Mr. Foodie and I also got groceries and had to wait 20 minutes at the checkout when the system suddenly failed and all the lanes were stalled. We didn’t mind – we just chit-chatted with the ladies about the renovation. They felt sorry for us, so they gave us an apple on the house lol We also swung into the tiny library located adjacent to the grocery store between a Chinese restaurant and the Tax Collector’s office because Mr. Foodie and I finally decided to get library cards! Though the library is small, they ¬†have an impressive food writing section, so I was happy.

Later Mr. Foodie and I decided to explore our surroundings a bit more, so we drove out to the very tip of our island where we heard there was an old wooden bridge/dock still standing. What I thought would be a rather short jaunt to the shoreline turned into quite a trek over rocky coral, around mosquito-filled puddles, and through a mess of mangroves. Mr. Foodie was losing confidence in my plan with every step and we definitely heard a variety of animal sounds coming from the shrubs, but we forged ahead. So glad we did! IMG_20160818_192346.jpg

We found the old wood dock and climbed up the ladder to get a view of the sunset. We were not alone as another couple had the same idea. We were excited to finally meet another young couple, but sad to learn they were leaving the area the very next day. We still had a fun time chatting and watching the rather amazing sunset. They came prepared with a cooler and bug spray. We vowed to do the same next time.

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When we got home we jumped in the jacuzzi for a bit so ¬†Mr. Foodie could see the stars come out – they can be quite brilliant down here thanks to the limited light pollution. Because the days are still so long, we didn’t stay until it was pitch dark, but we did end up seeing many of the brightest constellations before heading in. Not a bad day in paradise!

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#Weddingdiets Are Hard, But Yay for Easy Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Yesterday I baked! I’m a little excited because it’s been close to two months with no baking thanks to packing, moving, unpacking. etc. Baking was my first foodie passion thanks to my grandma Kathy who is an excellent baker. She gave me all of her great recipes, and I’ve also picked up a few new ones along the way. To this day my most requested baked good is her Ginger Molasses cookies. Don’t worry, that recipe is coming your way shortly.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might be aware that Mr. Foodie and I are trying to be good/healthy/restrained in preparation for our upcoming wedding in February. This is relatively hard for people who love food. All food. Like all the time. But we’re giving it a go. One of the biggest challenges is breakfast. Mr. Foodie and I get up at 6am and he has a physically demanding job to go to but hates eating a substantial breakfast so early in the morning. In fact, he doesn’t care for breakfast foods in general unless we’ve slept in and have time to make everything from scratch. He doesn’t, however, have any qualms about eating muffins, cake, cinnamon roles, etc. first thing. But that is not what we want for team #weddingdiet. Since I run first thing in the morning, I have to make myself eat something other than coffee as well, and I’ve found breakfast bars to be my best bet. The problem with most breakfast bars is a) they are high in sugar, b) they are high in sodium, and c) they are expensive. And were I to get even the most healthy ones available we’d still have c) to deal with.

So I consulted the handy Pinterest for some immensely simple breakfast bar recipes that wouldn’t require me to buy a bunch of ingredients I don’t already have and would let me adapt the recipe depending on any “extra” fun ingredients I happened to have each week. The winner? Suburban Simplicity’s Easy Oatmeal Bar Recipe. The list of ingredients for these is shockingly small and I already had all of them on hand (with some substitutions as you’ll see).

I usually don’t like recipes that call for brown sugar because I hate buying a whole bag, having it seize up, and then having to “rehydrate” it when I want to use it again (grandma, if you’re reading this, can you send me one of those clay bears that keep brown sugar fresh again? I lost mine in the move). Luckily this recipe said I could use either honey or brown sugar. I used maple syrup because we are oddly out of honey. Everything else in the base recipe is what I used. When I got to the “add-ins” part of the recipe, I realized that we have fresh grated coconut leftover from our coconut find and half a Hershey’s chocolate bar left over from National Smore’s Day (for which Mr. Foodie and I sat poolside and roasted marshmallows with an extended butane lighter like the classy people we are). So I chopped up the chocolate and sprinkled in the coconut. 19 minutes at 350 (the recipe says 20-25, but I could smell they were done a little early).


First, I could see why she added the “add-ins” at the bottom – without the coconut and chocolate these would have been really, really, dry bars. Interestingly, I really enjoyed the coconut in these which is odd because, you may remember, I generally don’t like the texture. My recommendation is to keep an eye on your mixture – if it doesn’t hold together when you scoop it out to put it in the pan, consider adding some additional moisture or, like I did, use “add-ins” that will bring moisture once cooked like chocolate bits, peanut butter, or maybe mashed banana which usually holds up well in baked goods. The plus side is that even a small portion is immensely satisfying as a snack or breakfast.

Do you have a favorite breakfast bar recipe? I’d love suggestions!


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Sunday Funday w/ Breakfast at the Wooden Spoon

On Sunday Mr. Foodie and I stumbled down to the hotel lobby after a sleepless night because a high-pitch screaming noise had issued from our bathroom all night. The maintenance man had come and said there was nothing he could do that night, and since the entire hotel was booked, they could not move us to a new room. Needless to say I had a few choice words in mind that morning. On top of that, the entire hotel breakfast area was teeming with tourists – so many I couldn’t even reach the coffee. Luckily we were helped by a very sweet woman at the front desk who told us where to grab the best breakfast in Marathon while she sorted out our room transfer to an upgraded suite for our troubles.

The Wooden Spoon in Marathon was definitely hopping when we arrived with nearly every square inch of the small dining room packed with people. We found a small round table in the corner near the bar and scoped out the interesting wooden spoons that hung on nearly every inch of the dining room’s walls. You could tell that the spoons came from all over the world. Some were inscribed with a name and a date – gifts from loyal patrons from over the years.

Their menu was comprehensive, but also basic for a breakfast diner. Mr. Foodie and I were so hungry by that point that we could have eaten everything in sight, but we ordered moderate plates that were basically breakfast samplers – a couple of eggs, bacon or sausage, and a bit of french toast. We did have to wait a while for service, but such is life in the keys. We didn’t mind – it gave us time to check out all the cool spoons. The breakfast was excellent. Unfussy scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, and a basic french toast that was taken over the top with whatever amazing butter they had melting over it when it reached the table. It was incredibly satisfying. Behind us were two tiny girls in water-sports gear chattering about their dreams and their food when one of the bartenders handed them a ketchup bottle for their eggs. The little girl on the left squeezed hard and out came the longest red string of “ketchup” she had ever seen – turns out it was a prank bottle with a red rubber “ketchup” string. The girls giggled so hard over the prank and we all laughed with them.

Bahia Honda – the old railroad

Later, we joined our friends for some beaching at Bahia Honda – the nicest beach in the lower keys. Many vacationers are surprised to come to the keys and not find many beaches. They are picturing the rest of Florida or the Bahamas – well sorry to say, the keys are coral, rocky, and rarely produce what most people would recognize as a “beach.” The “beaches” in Key West for example are largely made up of imported sand. But Bahia Honda is natural sand and a state park, so it is kept fairly pristine. There is a per-head charge to enter the park, and there are two beaches – one with a cove, snack bar, kayak rentals, and a historic path to see the old railroad and the other with just one long stretch of beach. Both have picnic tables and restrooms. We typically go to the long stretch because fewer people are there usually. Sunday we were blessed with sunny, breezy weather and only a smattering of other tourists on our beach. We brought more of Dion’s fried chicken and bobbed in the waves for a couple hours chatting and enjoying the sunshine. The kids found starfish and conchs – the areas around Bahia Honda are teeming with sea creatures. But don’t think about removing a thing from these beaches or the rangers will have it out for you. While we were there, one guy tried to fish off shore. One guy tried to pull his boat right onto the shore from the ocean. These are big no-nos and the locals let them have it. I myself have called the rangers to come handle a case where a boy was removing piles of conch shells from the ocean and stacking them on the beach.

That evening we returned to our quiet, roomy suite tanned and sandy and tired from a fun day of wave jumping. Only one more night and we’ll be back home!

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Galley Grill – Review

One of the mysteries we faced when we first came here was where to have breakfast if we wanted to go out. In the past, we would make elaborate breakfasts at home because we were on vacation so why not? And then we could slip into the pool and digest. No need to wander out. Except for Little Palm brunch (this transcendent experience to be described very near future!). But we were pleased to discover the existence of this little joint Galley Grill right on our own small island! How many times have I driven by this place? Its lot is always full in the mornings, but empty at night, and we learned this is the case because they only serve breakfast and lunch. I like to imagine that they clean up from lunch, hang a sign on the door, and spend the late afternoon/evening fishing.

Biscuits and Gravy
(Btw it is VERY hard to make
this dish look appetizing in a photo)

A friend took us here when my family was visiting because he swears by the place and especially by the biscuits and gravy. Now I am a lover of biscuits and gravy. Everywhere we’ve been on our wild summer of travel so far, I’ve stopped to taste the B&G to see if they know the way to my heart or not. This place definitely does. The biscuits are light, buttery, and the perfect consistency – not crumbly, but flaky. The gravy was the best damned gravy I’ve ever tasted. Not a hint of flour taste which so often creeps in even the best made gravies. The perfect balance of salt, pepper, and sausage. It was creamy without being lumpy or watery. At the risk of sounding like Goldie Locks, it was just right. I ate every bit of that large plate (which only sets you back $6 – also one of the most affordable places I’ve found down here to eat).

Mr. Foodie shares his parfait w/ me

In an effort to be healthy, Mr. Foodie ordered the parfait which was a spectacular display of fruit and granola. It was also quite tasty. The yogurt tasted homemade although I cannot confirm if it was. We of course swapped dishes, so he could try the heavenly gravy also.

The place itself was bright, clean, and decorated with adorable fish and ocean items. The wait staff was prompt, attentive, and friendly. Even the mimosas were tasty (and plentiful). If you happen to be passing through Summerland Key one morning or afternoon (around mile marker 27), look for this happening local favorite and do yourself a favor by stopping in.

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