Friday, December 27, 2013

5 Simple One Bite Appetizers




I don't know about you, but I am tired of cranberries, and sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. I am tired of turkey and maple anything and if I ate ham, probably ham. Add sugar to this list. I am so sugared out and I never thought I would admit that! I am almost ready for healthy food but I still have one more event to get through! Yeah. I know you know what I'm talking about.



The New Year is upon us. We best start preparing now. It's time to strut the stuff and have some fun. No religion, but a lot of praying...you know the kind of praying that you mumble deep inside, about keeping all those resolutions. Yeah. I know. We all do it. Right? This is the year I 'm going to officially lose weight and pay off my bills and believe in myself more. I'm going to have more strength because I'm going to exercise more. Yeah. I'm just sayin'...let's do it after we eat some of these!


My goal is to keep simplifying. That means food, too. I have a tendency to overdo when I have company over and sometimes I get worn out before they even arrive. This has got to change. So I came up with some new simple appetizer bites to get the party rolling. These are a bit more sophisticated than a dip, which means I have to be a bit more polite when I chow. I love dips-but it seems I gorge on dips. Give me one of these bites and I feel I can restrain myself. After all, they are a bit more substantial. 


They are quick to prepare and no cooking involved. They are easy on your waistline as long as you don't overdue, which I guess is true of most food! Figure 6-8 per person if it's a cocktail party, and 4-6, if it's a dinner party.  If you are making all 5 of these for a cocktail party of 8; make 12 of each and you will have a few extra. Though I doubt it! That's enough math for now!  With food like this it's not hard to be the host or hostess with the mostest! And if you don't feel like assembling all of them, just place one on a platter with all of the components and have folks make their own.

Whole Foods has lots of good things to make this easy. Take a look and see what you can come up with. I'm telling you that I could have come up with lots of flavor combinations but Manservant kept eyeing my plates and asking if this was lunch. He's not one to let a good thing escape. Yeah. I know. He did catch me!


Plan ahead and have a great new year!


Caesar Salad Crostini

12 crostinis (Whole Foods are really good!)
Parmesan Cheese Crisps (Buy or make your own)
Romaine Lettuce (A few leaves cut into a chiffonade or thin ribbons.)
Anchovies (If desired)

Caesar Dollop
2 minced garlic cloves
1T lemon juice or 1/2 a lemon squuezed
1/2 t worcestershire sauce
1/4 t dijon mustard
3/4 t anchovy paste
2 T mayonnaise
3 grinds of black pepper

Combine until smooth. Use a tiny spoonful on top of lettuce. Or feel free to use your favorite Caesar dressing!

Parmesan Fricos or Cheese Crisps

Preheat oven to 325. Spread 2 c of grated parmesan cheese in a 10" parchment lined square pan. Bake about 15-20 minutes until golden. Let cool and break into random pieces.

Assembly:
Take 1 crostini. Place a few ribbons of romaine on top. Put a small dollop of Caesar dressing. Top with a piece of parmesan frico. Add an anchovy of you'd like.


Apricot, Blue Cheese and Chorizo Bites 
(Gluten  Free)

12 Apricot halves
12 small pieces of Blue Cheese (I use a Rogue River blue)
12 thinly sliced dried rounds of chorizo
Honey for drizzling
Pistachios for garnish

Layer in the order above.



Potato Chip/Bacon/Goat Cheese/ Red Chile Bites
(Gluten Free)

12 Sturdy Potato Chips
3 Slices of Cooked Thick Peppered Bacon cut into 4 pieces each (I used my candied bacon cooked in strips on a rack)
12 dollops of goat cheese
12 dollops of red chile jam
Green Onion for Garnish

Layer in the order listed. 


 Blue Corn Chips with Salmon and Chile Sauce
(Gluten Free)

12 Spicy Blue Corn Chips
12 pieces of peppered salmon
Chili Sauce
Cilantro for garnish

Chili Sauce
2 T mayonnaise
1 T sour cream
1 1/2 t chopped chipotle pepper
1 T sweet red chile sauce

Mix together and use for dollop.

Assemble in order listed!


Smoked Salmon on a Potato Chip with a Caper Sauce
(Gluten Free)

12 Sturdy potato chips
12 pieces of peppered smoked salmon or lox
Caper Sauce (Mix together 2 T sour cream, 1 1/2 t drained capers, 1/4 t Dijon mustard)
Sprig of dill for garnish and taste!

Assemble in order listed.

Other Fun Appetizers:




Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's Snowing Sweets or Family Favorites

Chocolate Mint Crinkle Cookies

OK. I know you have already seen the above cookies. I'm not losing my mind, I promise. Think of today as a day without words. A quiet day, where one thinks in thoughts. Imagine if you will, all the sweets in the world without calories. Not a bad thought, eh? (I suppose then I'd find another vice and one that would probably be loaded with calories!)

Well, I don't know about you, but I am in total overload and I kind of feel guilty about overloading you more. So today, I'm just posting some of our sweet family favorites, that I usually make about now. This year it is just me and Manservant, so looking at these are kind of like taking a trip down memory lane.

First up, is my famous Fool's Toffee. I've been making these since before the kid's were born. It is buttery, chocolatey and crisp like real toffee, and totally addicting. Don't say I didn't warn you. And did I say these take about 15 minutes to prepare? A perfect gift if you don't eat it all yourself! Alex and Manservant love these.

Fool's Toffee
Next we have Magic Cookie Bars. These are magic because they are so simple to prepare and taste like chewy, chocolate goodness in just one bite. You will quickly be taking the second and third bite, too! Even if you don't like coconut these will change your mind. They have everyone's favorite graham cracker crumb crust and are totally delectable. Feel free to throw in your favorite ingredients and put your own signature on these great bars. They travel well, too! 

Magic Cookie Bars

 Peanut Butter and Chocolate Lover's adore these Peanut Butter Chocolate Bites. Much better than those in the orange wrappers, though those definitely work in a pinch. These are no bake and they have been tested by our family  for over 23 years. But who's counting? Just stuff the face, man!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Bites

Have you ever had Mocha Macadamia Chocolate Bark? Shame, shame, if you haven't. This also probably means you aren't one of my neighbors which is to bad. Really. You don't know what you are missing! This is decadent stuff. Splurge. Buy those macs-you know you want them. Make this. Quick is the word. BUT-they are even quicker going down!


Mocha Macadamia Chocolate Bark
By now I guess, if this is registering, you might be detecting a chocolate thing. Yes, chocolate reigns in our home. But sometimes you have to get out the sprinkles and decorate. And I don't mean the floor. These shortbread cut outs always work for us and in my opinion are like WAY better than sugar cookie dough. But you won't know 'til you try them, so go ahead...I dare you! 

Shortbread Cookie Cut Outs
Everyone needs an icebox cookie, which is why I love these. We discovered these at a bed and breakfast many moons ago and I still keep them in our regular lineup. Well, you know what I mean. These are buttery and have tiny flecks of toffee, plus the extra bite that all icebox cookies have. And of course they still contain a wee bit of chocolate. Totally love these!

Gazebo Icebox Cookies
Well, I guess everyone needs a chocolate chip cookie. If you don't I'm sorry, but I just don't know you! I have tried many and I know I will try many more, but when it comes to a chewy chocolate chip cookie I love Alton Brown's. OMG! This man will never let me down. Well, at least he hasn't yet. No one ever refuses these cookies. Really.

Alton's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't give you my recipe for Spritz cookies. My Omi used to make them all year long only she left the powdered sugar off. These can also be shaped into all the cute little Christmas things, but I like the fact that Omi kept them simple. You will too, I promise!
Spritz Cookies

Last, but certainly not least...I have to give you this. A Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka. Yes, it is more like a bread and one I could totally collapse in. It is over the top delicious and I am not taking that word lightly. Yes, this takes some time to make. Yes, it looks difficult, but it really isn't. All I'm saying is...  if you happen to be snowed in-well this will take your mind off of it. Some things you just have to do and I promise you that this recipe will do just that. I've tried quite a few and this is the one that reigns supreme!

Chocolate Babka or Krantz Cake

So, I guess these will keep you busy. I'm assuming you aren't busy enough! This way though, I have many of the family jewels all in one spot. (If you aren't considering my tummy!)

Have a great weekend!  Soon I'll be posting a few quick appetziers and two people can win a $25 Whole Foods gift card. So get ready. And in the meantime, please tell me what is your favorite sweet?

P.S. It feels weird not writing a recipe!

December Treats:
Gingerbread Waffles
German Apple Pancake
Belgian Liege Waffles

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups
Mushroom Lover's Pastry
Onion Dip
3 Ingredient Artichoke Dip
Smoked Trout Pate

Savory Sweet Potato Latkes

Not My Mama's Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken, Artichoke, Mushroom Casserole
Porcini Mushroom Lasagna
My Mother's Brisket
Boneless Rib Roast and Baked Rice
Hot Brown Sandwich
Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard
Frozen Cranberry Salad

Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad

Shortbread Nut Bars
Spritz Cookies
Fool's Toffee
World Peace Cookies
Chocolate Icebox Toffee Cookies
Shortbread Cookie Cut Outs
Double Chocolate Mocha Macadamia Bark
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites
Marshmallows
Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka

















Monday, December 16, 2013

Saigon Crunch #Chex Mix or I Did What?


There is something you need to know about me. I am not a Chex Mix kind of girl.  I'm not a pretzel girl, a Frito's girl, a Cheeto's girl or a Dorito's girl; though I admit to having had an affair with honey mustard pretzels, ever so briefly. I'm a potato chip girl and most any flavor is acceptable. So when Chex Mix contacted me and asked if I'd like to participate in a blogging event for Chex Mix I immediately said yes. OK. There was compensation involved and free samples but really this was all in the name of blogging. You know - research for the blog, on behalf of all my blog readers that might eat Chex Mix.

To be honest, Chex Mix was not a staple in my home. Nor was it a staple in my family home, even though it appears to have been created in 1956. Growing up, my home was Chex free. I remember when I met Manservant, though. He took me down to Tayxas and introduced me to his folks. And there-There!-I met my first batch of Chex Mix. Yes, it was clearly labeled in black felt tip pen on a piece of masking tape, "Trash"  which was taped, I believe to a Swedish butter cookie tin.

I liked it, but I would have never thought to have made it. I picked out the round melba toast thingies and liked those the best. And each year my mother in law dutifully sent me tins of trash which my Manservant ate.  But me, not so much. And then I discovered something similar to Chex mix at Costco which I bought for awhile. I like the little melba thingies in that mix, too!


But back to my foray with Chex Mix. The Chex Mix team travels to various cities each holiday to promote Chex mix. The mixtures they featured this year were pumpkin spice, sugar cookie and Mexican chocolate. The idea was to throw a party around Chex Mix and have everyone make their own gifts for giving. They provided really fun containers and all the Chex mix we could want. It was fun and if I still had young kids they would have loved this for a holiday party. It is easy to make and all the Chex cereals except the wheat are gluten free. Yes, my daughter would have had fun with this! There are a zillion recipes out there and they all sound great.


I however, am a salty snack person and though these flavors were good they weren't something I could have munched on for too long. So I decided (since I have now entered the Chex world) that I would come up with something more to my liking. You all know how much I love Vietnamese food so my thought was to take those flavors and turn them into a crunchy snack, one that would rival the potato chip.

Now please don't think I snack on potato chips. I don't. But a sandwich just isn't a sandwich without a few chips on the side. And when I make my famous onion dip or artichoke dip, well, those need potato chips, too.  But thinking that Chex mix could be a bit healthier than your average potato chip, I decided to experiment. Success was easily found and pleased even the non Chex eaters who tasted it.


Chex mix takes only about 15 minutes from start to finish if you use a microwave. You could bake it in your oven, too. It is a great snack and I must say that I can't wait to try a new concoction, though I'm mighty pleased with this one. It suited Manservant and myself well into happy hour, and if I hadn't put it away, all of it might easily have disappeared into our tummies.

If you like garlic and peanuts and salt with a touch of sweetness, then this is for you. A bit of coconut and fried shallots and missing shrimp chips put this over the top. (I admit it. I bought shrimp chips to put in this and then forgot to use them. I'll put them in the next batch.) And yes, there will be a next batch. This stuff was good!

What is your favorite kid of Chex mix? And does anyone have a better name for this?


Saigon Crunch Chex Mix

You need about 12 cups of mix.
I used: 
4 cups of rice chex
2 c of rice crispies
2 c of sugar pops
1 c peanuts
1 c sriracha peas
1/2 c of fried shallots
1/2 c of coconut flakes
1 c of wasabi peas 

Sauce:
4 T of butter
3 T of peanut butter
2 T brown sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 1/2 T fish sauce
1 t sriracha hot sauce
1/2 t garlic powder

Melt butter, peanut butter and brown sugar in microwave until butter melts and peanut butter gets soft. Then whisk the mixture well, until smooth. Stir in lime juice, fish sauce, hot sauce and garlic powder. Make sure you stir this until it makes a thick, smooth cohesive sauce.

Mix hard ingredients together in a large microwaveable bowl. (Feel free to come up with your own ingredients. I found all of these at my regular grocery except the fried shallots which I buy by the container at an Asian grocery. You could make them or I think a good substitute would be the French fried onion rings that come in a can. Next time I will put in the shrimp chips!) Now stir in your sauce mixture. Stir it well! Microwave for about two minutes. Stir again well! Now another two minutes! Stir. Now 1-2 minutes more. Pour out onto a parchment lined counter top to let cool and dry. 

Be careful when you cook this in the microwave. The center of the mixture gets hot first so be careful to not let that burn!

I couldn't resist. I got what was left out of the pantry and am munching it now! This is sooo good! Thanks Chex Mix!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Soft Chocolate Crackles with Mint M and M's or I Should Have Baked These First


This week I've baked one coffee cake, one batch of chewies and three batches of cookies. Plus we received a box of fudge in the mail. Sugar is pouring out of our ears and Manservant is looking forward to January because he has no will power. To be honest, I was looking for a coffee cake that I made when my children were born 23 years ago. This wasn't it. But in that quest, I found the one I wanted. So now I have to bake it.

The chewies were one of those "this can't be good recipes" and you know what? They weren't. They were edible, but not anything I would have printed in a cookbook. But they still had quite a few bites out of them! Sugar does that to you. The fudge was a gift from two of Alex's friends who were with us for Thanksgiving. Their family owns a fudge shop which could be my dream job. Well, that and having chickens and goats. Maybe I could make goat milk fudge-well, in my dreams. The six varieties were all great but I sent them on with Alex who came to visit eat and sleep for not even 24 hours. Well, retrieve his stuff is more like it.


I did bake a successful batch of pineapple and dried cherry cookies that were surprisingly good. Those will make an appearance soon. I also did a batch of World Peace cookies. Those are always good. But then I made these. These cute, soft chocolate crackles that Manservant ate and then responded, "Why didn't you bake these first? They are cute and Christmasey and they are really good," as he reached for a third one to shove in his mouth.


Yes, the trash men and mailman might make out this year or could it be the neighbors? God knows we can't leave them here. They might disappear down someone's pie hole. I found this great cookie here. I was looking at all the perfect cookies from The Great Cookie Swap, which was a really great thing that I should have done, but sometimes life just gets in the way of things we should have done. So, I guess there is always next year!





These perfectly chocolatey, soft, minty cookies were something Zoe would like and I had a bag of mint M and M's from Target. I totally love these things and it was taking all my will power to not break the bag open. So with perfect logic, I decided to use them in this cookie. Yes, it was a great decision because these cookies were worthy of something this good. Trust me on this.

So these perfectly chocolatey, soft minty cookies will now be added to my holiday baking. They are a keeper and one I heartily recommend. Enjoy them with a giant glass of milk and to be honest, even if you left the mint candy off, you would have a luscious chocolate cookie. One that Santa would love as long as Santa loves chocolate. Zoe would love them, too. Just one problemo, my darling daughter. I think they are a bit too fragile to send. So I will keep baking. Just to find something to send to you...Miss you, baby.





Soft Chocolate Crackles with Mint M and M's
Makes 36-48

1 c semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 c softened unsalted butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/3 c milk
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 c cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 c confectioners sugar
1 bag of mint M and M's

Melt chocolate chips in microwave. I usually cook them in 30 second intervals at power level seven, stirring in between, until they are melted and the chocolate is smooth and shiny.


In a stand mixer beat the softened butter. Add brown sugar and white sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in melted chocolate that has cooled a bit. Beat in two eggs and vanilla.


Mix flour, cocoa baking powder and salt in a large measuring cup. Alternately with the milk, beat into chocolate mixture. Chill for about two hours or overnight.


Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough into 1" balls. Roll each ball in powdered sugar. Flatten by lightly pressing down on cookie. Place on parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Take out of oven and place three mint M and M's on each cookie. Bake for another 4-7 minutes. I baked mine only for 4 minutes so they stayed soft and fudgey.


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December Treats:
Gingerbread Waffles
German Apple Pancake
Belgian Liege Waffles

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups
Mushroom Lover's Pastry
Onion Dip
3 Ingredient Artichoke Dip
Smoked Trout Pate

Savory Sweet Potato Latkes

Not My Mama's Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken, Artichoke, Mushroom Casserole
Porcini Mushroom Lasagna
My Mother's Brisket
Boneless Rib Roast and Baked Rice
Hot Brown Sandwich
Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard
Frozen Cranberry Salad

Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad

Shortbread Nut Bars
Spritz Cookies
Fool's Toffee
World Peace Cookies
Chocolate Icebox Toffee Cookies
Shortbread Cookie Cut Outs
Double Chocolate Mocha Macadamia Bark
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites
Marshmallows
Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka



Monday, December 9, 2013

Chicken Sofrito or Fry Me Lightly

"Chicken Sofrito is another name for chicken, potatoes and garlic. Add a touch of lemon and you have the perfect winter comfort food."


Baby, it's been cold outside. Today we are finally going to reach a high of 20 degrees. It will feel like summer, after what we've been through. Mind you, it's not like living in the Midwest. We at least have sunshine, which manages to give me a false hope that it is warm outside. That is until I poke my nose out the door and discover that it still hasn't warmed up.

You see my desk is on the North side of the house. The thermostat is on the South side of the house. I work in the coldest room of the house! Now the dogs know better. They lie in the living room where the sun comes barreling through the big picture window and makes the wood floors warm and sunny. They have a perfect spot for dreaming all day long. Well, at least until the sun disappears. The living room is where my bread dough rises. The living room is where my few plants grow. The living room is where we hardly ever live!


I get cold sitting at my desk. So when seeking nourishment I'm needing food that fills my insides and keeps me warm. I want it full of flavor and I want it to make the kitchen warm, too. Our kitchen gets really cold also, which does not allow us to linger long after dinner; another reason that I like foods that heat the oven and keep the kitchen warm. (Long ago when remodeling we removed some heater vents to knock out some walls in the kitchen. Do you think the contractor might have mentioned the fact that the room might get really cold in the winter? We have hot water heat and the vents are put in the floors. We added lots of glass in the form of patio doors, which took away places for vents or heat to come through.) More than you need to know right?



Well, you get the picture. So, I made this. Chicken Sofrito-Sephardic style. I say that because sofrito is a method associated with Latin cooking and it usually involves sauteed aromatic ingredients like onions and garlic, that are then braised. Sephardic style is more a way of cooking rather than a mixture of ingredients. Does that make sense? Sofrito comes from the Spanish word sofreir, which means to fry lightly. It involves slow cooking on the top of the stove with only oil and very little liquid. The slow braising and steaming of the meat or chicken, results in a tender and tummy soothing dish.

This slow braising allows a dish to be kept warm on the stove for a very long time. It allows for someone who keeps Kosher to have warm food on Shabbat and still adhere to the Jewish law of not working on the Sabbath. No need to turn on the stove, which is considered work, to heat a meal. The stove can be kept warm and this dish with it! So you see, it is a good dish to warm my insides!


I found this recipe in the Jerusalem cookbook that uses my favorite ingredients. Onions. Garlic. And potatoes. Yippee! It was a good recipe but I thought it needed a bit more flavor. Though it contains 25 cloves of garlic, they are cooked unpeeled. The garlic becomes soft and sweet and perfect for each bite of chicken. I added a bit more seasoning to keep myself happy.


Tell me what you think. And tell me what is your favorite tummy warmer on a cold winter day?

Chicken Sofrito (Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem)
Serves 4
Ingredients: 1 T sunflower or canola oil
1 small whole chicken, about 3.5 pounds (I cut the backbone out and then cut through the breast bone so I could have two halves of chicken)
2 lemons
 2 onions - 1 quartered and 1 chopped
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 t sweet paprika
1 t smoked paprika
1/4 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t Aleppo pepper or 1/4 t chile flakes
Freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf

1 2/3 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
25 unpeeled cloves of garlic
Oil for frying potatoes
Directions:
Salt chicken and marinate in juice of 1 lemon for a few hours or overnight. 

Mix paprikas, sugar, salt, chile pepper and some  black pepper (to taste) in a small bowl.


When ready to cook, heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the chopped onion until translucent. Add the garlic cloves and saute about 30 seconds more. Add the bay leaf. Place the chicken flat in pot, skin side down and sear for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Season all over with seasoning mix. Squirt juice of 1/2 lemon on top. Turn the chicken over so that the skin side faces up, add the quartered onion to the pot and cover with a lid. Decrease the heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Lift the lid every now and then to see if there is about 1/4 inch liquid in the bottom of the pot. If necessary add a bit of chicken stock to keep the chicken from sticking. (I did not have to add liquid.)


While chicken is cooking, heat oil over a medium high heat, in a large skillet. Fill the skillet to a depth of about 3/4 inch. Fry the chopped potatoes and unpeeled cloves of garlic in two batches, for about 6 minutes per batch, or until they crisp up and take on some color. Using a slotted spoon, lift potatoes from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt. Fry second batch and repeat.


After the chicken has cooked for an hour, lift it from the pot and spoon in the potatoes and garlic. Return the chicken to the pot, placing it on top of the potatoes for the remainder of the cooking time, about 30 minutes. The chicken should be almost falling off the bone and the potatoes should be soaked in the cooking liquid. Drizzle with the juice from the remaining half of the lemon. Check for seasoning. You may need more salt and pepper.


Note: I served this with roasted carrots. Prepare your carrots and place in and oiled pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and rosemary. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Turn about the halfway point so they get golden on all sides. Cook until fork tender. These are delicious!


Another Favorite Tummy Warmer:



Chili Three Ways

December Treats:

Gingerbread Waffles
German Apple Pancake
Belgian Liege Waffles

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups
Mushroom Lover's Pastry
Onion Dip
3 Ingredient Artichoke Dip
Smoked Trout Pate

Savory Sweet Potato Latkes

Not My Mama's Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken, Artichoke, Mushroom Casserole
Porcini Mushroom Lasagna
My Mother's Brisket
Boneless Rib Roast and Baked Rice
Hot Brown Sandwich
Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard
Frozen Cranberry Salad

Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad

Shortbread Nut Bars
Spritz Cookies
Fool's Toffee
World Peace Cookies
Chocolate Icebox Toffee Cookies
Shortbread Cookie Cut Outs
Double Chocolate Mocha Macadamia Bark
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites
Marshmallows
Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka


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