Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 Lessons From 2011

    1. Listen to your gut. Literally and figuratively. When you eat something your body doesn't like, your stomach will tell you. Too often we ignore those little signals, telling ourselves it's not a big deal. But over time, those small pains become bigger and bigger, until you can't ignore it any longer. Don't wait until it gets to that point. If you know something isn't sitting well with you, cut it out of your diet. At least until you figure out why's it causing you a problem. Same goes for life problems. If your instincts are telling you something isn't right, listen. Ignoring it won't make it go away. 
    2. Don't let history repeat itself - unless you want it to. When I'm faced with a problem, I ask myself how I've responded to similar challenges in the past. Then I ask myself if I got the desired result in the past. If I did, great. I know how to handle it. If not, I do the opposite of whatever I did last time. I've been doing a lot of the opposite this year.  
    3. Vision boards work. Make one. No, seriously. I made my first vision board in January of 2010. I made my second one in January of 2011. Today, I'm making my vision board for 2012. When I look at my vision boards from the last two years, I see that everything on them actually happened, including the words and pictures that didn't even make sense to me when I first glued them on. Okay, in all honesty, there's one thing on my vision board from this last year that hasn't come true...I never finished the romance novel (it's okay, you can laugh) I started writing way back in college. It's still one chapter away from being finished. Unless I get motivated and finish it tonight?
    4. Our bodies hold a lot of buried emotions. From the time we're born, we begin to take on emotions. They settle deep in our bodies, in the cricks in our necks, the headaches behind our eyes, and the dull throbbing behind our breastbones. When you begin to move in new ways (yoga, dancing, etc.), those emotions can pop up. It can feel painful or amazing, but the more you let those emotions out, the more open your body will be to new, joyful emotions to settle into those now empty spaces.
    5. The best things in life are not planned. Remember when you were little and you had a life plan? I was going to be married and having babies by the time I was 24. I hated NYC and never wanted to live there. And there was no way I would ever live on the West Coast. Oh yeah, and I was going to follow in my mom's footsteps to be a daycare provider. Turns out the world had a different plan for me. Thank God.
    6. There are no animals in this world that sit and stare at a computer screen for hours on end. None. Sometimes I'd rather be a monkey. My shoulders would probably hurt a lot less. But then I'd miss out on all this fun blogging business...
    7. If you have thyroid problems, you're not supposed to eat a lot of cabbage and brussels sprouts. Of course, this would be the year I discovered I love both of these vegetables and could happily eat them every day. And most of the time, I still do.
    8. Applegate Farms beef hot dogs rock my world. They're made from organic, grass-fed beef, have no sugar, and are one of the few processed foods I can eat with no reaction. None. Nada. Yes, my world has been rocked. 
    9. There's no point in being in school if you're not in the right frame of mind to learn. Everyone has something that comes easily to them. School has generally been that thing for me. But I can get A's without actually learning, and it took me a year to realize I was going to waste my degree (and money) if I continued in that vein. So I took a quarter off, wrote a cookbook instead, and am now ready to actually appreciate my classes. I'm just taking it a little bit slower this time.
    10. Taking the easy route is bound to be...well...easy. And you might look successful to the people around you, but you're probably not going to feel all that proud of yourself. When you take on a challenge that you're not sure you can do, you'll learn more than you ever have in the past. You'll grow in ways you couldn't imagine. And you'll feel truly proud because you know you worked harder than you ever have.
    11. When all else fails, there are two things that can make me feel better: talking it out or dancing it out. Either way could end with tears or laughter, and in both cases I'll feel happier. 
    My 11 favorite recipes from 2011
    1. Pot Pie Crust
    2. Italian Artichoke Salad
    3. Quinoa with Walnuts, Mushrooms & Raisins
    4. Vegan, Yeast-free English Muffins
    5. Baked Fruit Pockets
    6. Summer Fruit & Herb Salad with Cucumbers
    7. Sauteed Salmon & Cabbage with Kelp Noodles
    8. Carrot Cream Soda
    9. Sugar-Free Cherry Pie
    10. Tangy Cilantro Dressing
    11. Cinnamon Chocolate Cookies
      See you in 2012! Happy New Year's Eve!

      Thursday, December 29, 2011

      Gluten-Free Curried Spinach and Chickpeas For a January Detox!

      Oh January. Month of new beginnings. Month of bitter cold. Month of getting back on the diet band wagon. I know how it works...I used to work for Jenny Craig, remember? January is the month when you tell yourself everything will be different and you'll make a permanent change. 


      Let's not talk diets. Let's not talk extremes. Let's not talk about "willpower." Let's talk about digestive health instead. 

      The 2012 Core Values Detox is a 10-day program that you can do from home, beginning on January 9th. I've been working with Andrea Nakayama for the last few months to develop recipes for her program that will have you feeling satisfied and keep those annoying carb cravings at bay. Andrea is a functional nutritionist whose programs are designed to help each individual discover how to eat right for his or her body. With the Core Values Detox, you might lose weight as a side benefit, but that's not the main purpose. This is: 
      • ditch the routines that make you feel disheartened, deprived and defeated
      • determine where your digestion is preventing you from looking and feeling your best
      • develop healthy habits that will feel so good you'll be inspired to make them last a lifetime 
      • dive into delicious and nutritious options that appeal to your cravings and your waistline
      To join in on the Core Values Detox, click on this link (or any of the others in this post), and scroll down to the Core Values Detox bar. The class begins on January 9th, but you can get started today with a survey once you sign up. This will help Andrea to understand what your personal needs are for this program. And don't worry, you won't be alone. Although I already have the recipes (I designed them), I'm excited to sit in on Andrea's classes and learn from her, so I'll be doing the detox right along with you! 

      And just to give you an idea of what some of the recipes will be like, here's a vegan recipe I designed for the program (which will include a mix of vegan, vegetarian, and chicken/fish recipes).

      Curried Spinach and Chickpeas
      (Print Friendly Option)

      1 tablespoon olive oil
      ½ medium yellow onion, diced
      1 large garlic clove, minced
      1 5-ounce package frozen spinach
      1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
      1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans (or 3.5 cups cooked beans)
      2 teaspoons ground cumin
      2 teaspoons curry powder
      ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
      ¼ teaspoon sea salt
      freshly ground black pepper, to taste
      1. Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
      2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients (except black pepper) and turn heat up to medium-high until the coconut milk begins to boil. Turn heat back down to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add black pepper to taste. Serve hot.
      Serves 4. 

      Now onto 2012! What would you like to see more of here in the new year? I'm in the mood for some fun changes, so let me know what you like and what keeps you coming back!  

      Saturday, December 17, 2011

      Apples with Caramel Dipping Sauce (Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Vegan)

      I'm sitting on a bus headed to New York City. I left Brittany's house about seven hours ago, armed with my bags, my lunch, and a box filled with baked goods. Last Saturday, I flew to Massachusetts, where my parents picked me up; On Sunday I took a train to Rochester, NY to spend the week working on my cookbook photo shoot. After five straight days of working from 8am 'til midnight, Brittany, our photographer, and I have a beautiful portfolio of shots for our books. I wish I had some on my computer to show you, but in the meantime, if you want you can see some of the images on my Facebook page. 

      Now, I'm headed to the city to spend a few days with friends before going back to Massachusetts for the holidays. I haven't been back to the city since I left over a year ago, and I'll admit to equal parts excitement and sadness. I'll spend the next couple of days catching up with old college friends, my roommates from grad school, and friends from Jenny Craig. It was hard enough to leave that I haven't been ready before now to go back. I'm still not quite sure I'm ready. 

      I have the tendency to compartmentalize my life into segments. New York (and by New York, I really mostly mean Brooklyn) feels like a different part of my life. I made a decision to move and start fresh in Seattle, and the universe has been telling me since that it was the right choice. And yet it's difficult not to feel my heartstrings pull at the thought of being back in my old world, at seeing how it's changed, how people have changed, and how life has moved on. 

      I've moved on. And that is both glorious and heartbreaking. 

      I always thought life was black and white. I think I read too many books of the "happily ever after" variety. It turns out that life is seldom so simple. Our parents were right when they told us that things only get more complicated. But as a good friend recently told me, sometimes all you can do is make a decision. And then keep going. The universe will do the rest. 

      And so I'll visit my friends in New York, laugh at old memories, probably cry over a few as well, and make some new ones. Then I'll go back to Seattle and take a walk over the bridge near my house and watch the sunset. 

      While the universe is spinning with the force of all of our energy, let us enjoy this wonderfully crazy time of year.  And while we're at it, delight in the simple pleasure of fresh fruit dipped in caramel sauce.

      Caramel Dipping Sauce (Print-Friendly Option)

      1 cup coconut palm sugar
      2 tablespoons tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
      1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4 hours to overnight
      1 teaspoon lemon juice
      1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
      4 tablespoons shortening (I use Spectrum Organic Palm Shortening)


      1. Start by making your powdered sugar. Place the coconut palm sugar and starch in your blender. Make sure the blender is completely dry inside first. Blend the sugar and starch until it's the consistency of powdered sugar. This takes me a few minutes. Once it's ready, set it aside. 
      2. Rinse and drain the cashews, and puree them in a food processor with the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt. Continue to process them until the mixture is a thick, smooth consistency, scraping down the sides as necessary. 
      3. Add the shortening and process, then add the powdered sugar a little at a time, until you've reached the consistency you like. This is great for dipping with fruit or can be thickened with more powdered sugar to make a filling for cakes, cookie sandwiches, or whoopee pies.

      Monday, December 12, 2011

      Home For The Holidays: Cream Cheese Cookies (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan) Plus 3 Book Giveaways

      I'm very excited to be joining you today as part of Home For The Holidays, a special event created this month by one of my favorite bloggers, Shirley Braden, of Gluten Free Easily. Every day until December 23rd, a different blogger will be sharing a favorite holiday dish (gluten-free of course). Yesterday, Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs shared her recipe for Chocolate Mint Truffles. Tomorrow, Stephanie at Gluten Free By Nature will be bringing us a special holiday treat. Three prizes will be given away each day, and thanks to Shirley and the generosity of this event's sponsors, there are three crazy awesome grand prizes. Yes, not just awesome, but crazy awesome (it's okay, you can roll your eyes at me for that). What are they?
      • A VITAMIX blender. I almost wish I wasn't participating as a blogger so that I could win this!
      • $150 Shopping Spree at Free From Gluten. Again, feeling a bit jealous over here.
      • A gift package from Caveman Cookies worth $89. I've heard tell that those caveman cookies rock. 
      So how do you win these goodies? Every time you enter to win one of the daily prizes, you are automatically entered to win the grand prizes. Which means what? Today is the 12th and this event continues until the 23rd. So if you enter every day, that's at least 12 there are multiple ways to enter, so you could get even more entries than that. And with close to 100 prizes in total, your chances of winning something fun is pretty high.

      Now, before we get to the giveaways, I want to share my holiday recipe with you. I've been baking a lot of cookies for my upcoming gluten-free baking guides with Brittany Angell. But today, I wanted to make something close to home. My grandma always made cream cheese cookies for Christmas. For those of you who have never had a cream cheese cookie, they're soft and buttery and have just a hint of that sour cream cheese flavor. I wish I could describe them for you better, but that's the best I can do. Suffice it to say, if you've never had a cream cheese cookie, you're missing out. But now you don't have to! These cookies taste remarkably similar to my grandma's, and are free from gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. They can also be made without refined sugars. I made them a few times with different types of sugar, and I'll admit I preferred the cookies made with refined sugar...they tasted more like my grandma's cookies. But I also loved the cookies made with coconut palm sugar. Coconut palm sugar has a deep flavor with molasses undertones, but while I love the texture and flavor of those cookies, the palm sugar has a tendency to overwhelm the more subtle flavors of the cream cheese. So if you want a "cream cheese cookie," I would use regular sugar or perhaps something like xylitol. But if you like to use coconut palm sugar and just want a tasty cookie, go ahead and use palm sugar.

      Cream Cheese Cookies (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan) (Print Friendly Option)

      1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4 hours to overnight
      2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
      2 teaspoons lemon juice
      1/2 cup Spectrum Organic Palm Shortening
      1/2 cup granulated sugar*
      1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      zest of one medium lemon

      1/3 cup coconut flour (40 grams)
      1/3 cup white rice flour (52 grams)
      1/3 cup tapioca starch (40 grams)
      1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
      1/4 teaspoon baking soda

      2 tablespoons psyllium whole husks**
      6 tablespoons boiling water

      1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.
      2. Rinse and drain the cashews, then blend them in a food processor for about 30 seconds. Add the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, shortening, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. Blend until smooth. 
      3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, white rice flour, tapioca starch, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. 
      4. Pour boiling water over psyllium husks in a small bowl, whisking the whole time to prevent clumping. Pour quickly into the food processor and blend. Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. 
      5. Drop by the scant tablespoon onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart or use a piping bag to shape cookies. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet. They'll be softer when warm and need to cool before they can be moved.
      Makes 24 cookies (or more depending on the size of your cookies)

      *You can use any granulated sugar in this recipe, such as regular refined cane sugar or coconut palm sugar. Coconut palm sugar will darken the cookies to a caramel color, as shown in some of the photos above. The palm sugar also gives them a caramel undertone in flavor, much like brown sugar does. If you prefer the white color of traditional cream cheese cookies, you can use any white granulated sugar or sugar substitute, such as cane sugar or xylitol. Regular white table sugar will make them taste more like the cream cheese cookies you remember. Your choice...they're delicious both ways!

      **Psyllium Whole Husks are different from psyllium husk powder. Make sure to purchase the whole husks, which can usually be found in your grocery store or drug store in the supplement aisle. The brand I buy is Yerba Prima. I would have tried these with ground chia seeds as well, but I ran out. I suspect that they would work fine with 2 tablespoons of GROUND chia seeds, but I can't say for sure. If you end up trying this, I would love it if you came back and left a comment letting me know how they turned out!

      Now, for today's giveaway, we have three great books for you!

      Dangerous Grains by James Braly and Ron Hoggan

      Sugar Nation by Jeff O'Connell

      Gluten Free Goddess E-Book: Best Loved Recipes by Karina Allrich

      To enter to win these books (and be entered into our grand prize drawing):
      1. Leave a comment telling me what your favorite holiday dish is. 
      2. Share this post on Facebook, twitter, or your blog. Leave a separate comment for each way you share it. 
      3. Stumble this post. Leave a separate comment letting me know you did so!
      This giveaway will be open until Wednesday, December 14th at 11:59pm. Shirley will announce the winners at Gluten Free Easily next week! Note that you must leave an e-mail address so we can contact you if you win! Update: this giveaway is now closed.

      How else can you join in on the holiday fun? Share your own favorite gluten-free holiday recipe on your blog! Grab Shirley's Home for the Holidays badge and play along with the rest of us!

      DAY 1 Shirley Braden at gfe–gluten free easily … Nutmeg Shortbread Flats
      DAY 2 Diane Eblin at The WHOLE Gang … Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Toffee
      DAY 3 Heidi Kelly at Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom … Gluten-Free Fritters
      DAY 4 Ali Segersten at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
      DAY 5 Sunny Busby at And Love it, Too!… GF, DF Chocolate Pecan “Toll House” Pie 
      DAY 6 Stacy Toth at Paleo Parents … Paleo Monkey Bread
      DAY 7 Maggie Savage at She Let Them Eat Cake … GF, DF Candy Cane Ice Cream
      DAY 8 Melissa McLean Jory at Gluten Free For Good …Red Chile Enchilada Casserole
      DAY 9 Kim Maes at Cook IT Allergy Free … Cinnamon Bun Cake
      DAY 10 Lexie at Lexie’s Kitchen ..Chocolate Pomegranate Clusters
      DAY 11– Brittany at Real Sustenance... Gluten Free Babka Bread.
      Friday, 12/9–Elana Amsterdam at Elana’s Pantry
      Saturday, 12/10–Kelly Brozyna at The Spunky Coconut
      Sunday, 12/11–Ricki Heller at Diet, Dessert and Dogs
      Monday, 12/12–Me! Cream Cheese Cookies
      Tuesday, 12/13–Stephanie Fourie at Gluten Free by Nature
      Wednesday, 12/14–Jules Shepard at Jules Speaks Gluten Free
      Thursday, 12/15–Silvana Nardone at Silvana’s Kitchen (and Easy Eats)
      Friday, 12/16–Heather at Gluten-Free Cat
      Saturday, 12/17–Carol Kicinski at Simply…Gluten Free
      Sunday, 12/18–Alisa Fleming at Alisa Cooks
      Monday, 12/19–Linda Etherton at The Gluten-Free Homemaker
      Tuesday, 12/20–Gigi Stewart at Gluten Free Gigi
      Wednesday, 12/21–Zoe at Z’s Cup of Tea
      Thursday, 12/22–Lillian Medville at Lillian’s Test Kitchen
      Friday, 12/23—Shirley Braden at gfe—gluten free easily

      Thursday, December 8, 2011

      December Sanity Challenge

      It's December 8th. Do you know where your sanity is?

      Mine flew out the door a long time ago, and I've only just begun to accept that this is simply the way I operate. I used to think, "When I'm not in school, I'll be more relaxed," or, "Once this cookbook is done, I'll stop stressing out," or how about this one? "Once I'm married and have kids, my life will be simple." Um...right. I see all you moms and dads out there with kids...your life is anything but simple. My parents were right when they said that life only gets more complicated the older you get. But I'm also realizing that I make things complicated. I was talking with The Assistant on the phone last night about my short-term life goals, and I could hear the sigh in his voice as he asked, "Wow. Is there room for me in there?" Mind you, I was baking bread even as we spoke, prompting his query of, "Are you beating something?" Why yes. Yes, I am. I'm beating this gluten-free, yeast-free, gum-free, vegan bread batter into submission.

      Why? Because I like taking on too much. I mean, I must enjoy it, right? Because I do it all the time. Even as I'm telling people, "No, no, I need to simplify," I add on another task, job, or plan. I told The Assistant that once the cookbook was done, I would have a life again. And then I laughed and said, "Who am I kidding? I'll just find something else to take over my life." And you know what? I'm not complaining. It feels good to take on a project and tackle it full-force. Kind of like when I used to play rugby, except without the bruises. And my health has taken a little upswing lately, which means I'm no longer working constantly through the dense cloud of brain fog and fatigue.

      But here's the caveat. Because I have a tendency to be Ms. Go-Go-Go, I can also be Ms. Stress-Stress-Stress. My new doctor called it at my recent appointment, when she said my stress test showed that despite my outward appearance of calm, I simply don't relax. I could have told her that. Right now, I'm in the final stretch of recipe testing for my cookbook. On Saturday, I fly to the East Coast where I'll be spending 5 days with my co-author, Brittany, baking up a storm for our book's photo shoot. Then off to NYC for a few days to see friends, then home for the holidays. My mind is a whirl and I wake up every morning wondering how I'm ever going to get everything done. By all rights, I should be a basket case. And don't get me wrong, I have my moments and plenty of them. But overall, I'm handling it all pretty well. And I have Cheryl Harris and her December Sanity Challenge to thank for that.

      You were wondering where I was going with this, weren't you?

      Cheryl, of Gluten Free Goodness, decided she didn't want to spend December being all "Ahhhhh!" so she came up with the idea of a Sanity Challenge. What is it? In Cheryl's words:

      "The challenge—post on what you plan to do to make your holidays sane, happy and healthy.  Make it specific!  Not just “I’ll get more sleep," but “I’ll get at least 7 hours of sleep, 5 days a week”.  Not just “I won’t go crazy making desserts," but “I’ll make a maximum of XX desserts, and space them out over XX time”.  You know what you need to do to keep this doable, and writing it down will help you get there!" 

      So here's what you do. Write a post on what your goals are for this month and link back to this post (or any of the co-hosts listed below). Leave a comment with your link. Make yourself accountable by putting it in writing! Anyone who joins in on the December Sanity Challenge will be entered into a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate to  (they are not sponsoring, Cheryl is just that awesome).

      See what the other Sanity Challengers goals are:
      Dec 1st Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness
      Dec 15th Valerie of City Life Eats
      Dec 22nd Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl

      My goal? I kept it simple. Of course I wanted to make a whole list of goals. I will exercise for 30 minutes every day, I will meditate every day, I will eat tons of vegetables every day, and so on and so forth. But I decided to pick a goal that I would actually stick with. Something so easy and yet with a big payoff. I asked myself for 5 minutes a day. 5 minutes in which I set my timer, lie down, and breathe. That's all. I can't put music on, can't text or go on Facebook; I just lie there. I don't tell myself I'm meditating because then I'll give up in disgust when my mind jumps all over the place. I just tell myself I deserve 5 minutes a day of doing nothing. The rest of the day I can jump through my own hoops. But for those 5 minutes (and I seriously kept it that short because I knew I wouldn't stick with anything longer), I'm on vacation. Honestly, even giving up those few minutes is hard for me. Sometimes I lie there and think about everything I should be doing. And then I realize that that's exactly why I need to be lying there. Doing nothing.
      When the timer goes off, I go about my day. But I like to think that those 5 minutes are making a difference. And I'd like to think that after December, I will continue to give myself a few minutes every day to simply be sane in this insane world.

      Thursday, December 1, 2011

      Tangy Cilantro Dressing

      There's a strong love-hate kind of thing going on in the world with cilantro, isn't there? There's a whole blog devoted to the hatred of cilantro (and the author just happens to be a friend from Brooklyn).


      I love cilantro. It's the perfect garnish for soup, takes salsa over the top, and makes an awesome pesto. Plus, it's supposed to be helpful in ridding your body of heavy metals. At an appointment  this week with my new doctor, I was told a large portion of my health issues are being caused by an overabundance of aluminum in my body. Yikes! But not that surprising, is it? It's in our deodorant, our baking powder and baking soda, our pots and pans, and who knows what else! It's hard to avoid. But I, for one, won't be quite so complacent about it from now on. Deodorant with aluminum? Throwing it out! Already bought aluminum-free baking products. And no more using the aluminum cookware in our house. But what about getting rid of the stuff already mucking around in my body? Well, I need to wait for next week's doctor's appointment to get a better handle on that. But in the meantime, I see no reason not to eat cilantro whenever I can! And since I love it so much, it's certainly not a hardship...

      My favorite way to eat this dressing is over a salad of raw kale and roasted sweet potatoes. It can also be used as a dressing for meat or fish. Which is exactly what I'll be doing tonight with the sole I have in the fridge...

      Tangy Cilantro Dressing & Marinade print-friendly
      adapted from this recipe
      ½ cup packed cilantro, stems removed
      4 dates
      1/3 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
      ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
      4 large garlic cloves
      ½ teaspoon sea salt
      1 cup extra virgin olive oil

      Blend cilantro, dates, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic, sea salt, and cilantro in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add olive oil in a steady stream, continuing to blend. Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge. 

      Makes 16 ounces

      In other news...

      Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness is hosting a December Sanity Challenge to motivate us all to be kind to ourselves this month! I'll be posting on the 8th about what my goals are for myself this month, and I encourage you to join in! Read Cheryl's post for more information...

      Shirley of Gluten Free Easily has been hosting Home For The Holidays, a whole month+ of special holiday recipes and giveaways. I'll be posting a recipe and hosting a giveaway (via Shirley) on December 12th, but until then, stop by Gluten Free Easily to see what you could win each day!


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