Category Archives: garlic

Cambodian Noodle Soup

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With the exception of my travels through the Balkans, I have yet to visit any metropolitan area where I didn’t stumble upon a pho shop.  With their steaming bowls of noodles, broth, and an endless variety of add-ins, these Thai noodle soup shops have a cult like following that make them both universal and hard not to like.  In grad school my favorite lunch was a steaming bowl of pho from the student union.  The options were endless so I could eat there every day without repeating the same bowl of soup twice.

I had never made pho before but decided to give it a try when my craving for the hot broth covered noodles got the best of me.  In browsing through recipe options I came across one in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Splendid Table is my favorite radio program on NPR.  I can even stream their broadcasts online meaning I can get my Lynn Rossetto Kasper fix while living overseas).  I was set to give the pho recipe a try then I turned the page and saw the Cambodian twist on the soup which sounded even more intriguing.  Unable to decide which version to make, I combined the best elements of both recipes to form what I present here.  You can also add or substitute ingredients as your palate or pantry dictates.

The verdict?  This soup is delicious but a lot more work than popping into your local pho shop. But if you don’t have one in close proximity to you, make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.


For the broth:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 two inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

6 whole cloves

1 star anise

Freshly ground black pepper

7 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

For the soup:

8 ounces linguine-style rice noodles

6 ounces thinly sliced top round steak

1 1/2 cups winter squash, diced

1 cup unsweetened pineapple chunks

1 medium tomato, diced

For the table salad:

10 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 sprigs Thai or other fresh basil

8 mint sprigs

Generous handful bean sprouts

2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1 large lime, cut into wedges

Add-in sauces:

Asian hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

  • Place a rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler and then pre-heat the oven.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and evenly distribute the onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise, and five grinds of black pepper over the baking sheet.
  • Broil for 5-6 minutes until the spices are fragrant and the onions begin to brown.  Scrape the mixture into a large soup pot.
  • Add the broth, sugar, fish sauce, and squash to the pot.  Cover the pot tightly and bring the entire mixture to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  • Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large pan and cover with very hot tap water.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, then divide evenly between two large soup bowls.
  • Thinly slice the steak into bite sized pieces.  (Hint:  For easier slicing, place the steak in the freezer before you begin making the soup.  Allow it to sit for 20 minutes then remove it from the freezer and slice).  Evenly divide the meat between the two soup bowls.  The hot broth will cook it to a medium-rare
  • Arrange the table salad ingredients on a medium-sized platter and place on the table.
  • When the squash is tender, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the broth and stir well to combine.  Cook for 1 minute to allow the broth to return to a simmer.
  • Ladle the broth over the noodles and meat and serve immediately topped with the table salad and sauces of your choice.

Serves 2

Asian Sloppy Joes

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Here is a new twist on a childhood classic and these sandwiches certainly aren’t the Manwiches you grew up with. The recipe comes from Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger Restaurant and combines the best of Asian flavors in a fun form. Sambal Oelek is a spicy chile sauce which adds zip to any dish. If you aren’t familiar with it, try a bit before adding it to your meat mixture. I love it but it is spicy so a little goes a long way. Three tablespoons might add too much spice for your family so add less (or more) if you prefer.

The recipe calls for using a mixture of ground pork and ground chicken but feel free to substitute ground turkey or lean beef if you prefer. You can serve these sandwiches as bite sized sliders or as full-sized sandwiches for a quick dinner.  Like their namesake, these sandwiches are messy so put plenty of napkins on the table, use a fork and knife if you prefer, and dig in. These are a new family favorite in our house.


2 tablespoons canola oil

2 medium red onions, finely chopped

1 cup celery, finely chopped

3 tablespoons Sambal Oelek

3 tablespoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground pork

1 pound lean ground chicken

1 cup Hoisin sauce

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

8 large or 20 small rolls, split

  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
  • Add the onions, celery, Sambal Oelek, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Combine all of the ingredients then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the ground pork and chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat.
  • Stir in the Hoisin sauce, tomatoes, and lime juice and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
  • Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Serve on top of the rolls.

Yields: 8 large or 20 small sandwiches.

Beef Gyros


I’ve always been a huge fan of Greek food. Regardless of the season the tangy Greek flavors of feta cheese, oregano and fresh dill inspire images of sun drenched Greek beaches. And this time of year, when the weather is especially gray and dreary, I find myself longing for a Greek Island getaway. When that isn’t possible, I head to the kitchen and cook up my own Greek feast.

These gyros, adapted from Peanut Butter and Peppers, comes pretty close to channeling the Greek Island experience. Here beef is substituted for the traditional lamb (which is also delicious but sometimes difficult to find). The meat is marinated in a lemon-oregano mixture which ensures that every bite is juicy and flavorful. As a finishing touch the entire gyro is topped with Tzatziki Sauce- the yogurt, dill and cucumber sauce that Greece is famous for.

So here’s to getting your own dose of the Greek Islands. Enjoy!


For the Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup cucumber, diced small

3 tablespoons fresh dill, diced small

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 dash salt

1 dash pepper

For the gyros:

1 pound beef steak tips, cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 cups salad greens

2 tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup feta cheese crumbles

4 pita breads

  • To make the tzatziki sauce, place the cucumber and half of the yogurt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  •  Add mixture to a medium sized bowl and stir in remaining yogurt, the dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  • Add additional salt, if needed  and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • To prepare the gyros, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Add the meat to a zip top bag or bowl, and pour marinade over the beef. Refrigerate for 1 hour up to 4 hours.
  • When you are ready to cook, set grill to medium low heat
  • Place the meat on the grill, (you can place meat on skewers if you prefer) and cook on each side for about 4 minutes or until they are done to your preference.
  • Let the meat rest for 5 minutes.
  • Evenly divide the meat on a pita shell, top with the salad greens, tomatoes, feta cheese and the Tzatziki Sauce.

Serves 4


Spicy Orange & Ginger Chicken


This easy and spicy chicken recipe from Food 52 is the perfect weeknight dinner for those nights when you are craving an Asian inspired dish. Because the chicken needs to marinate for one hour it falls outside of the parameters for my Fast Friday meals but it is fast just the same. If I know I’m going to be pressed for time I mix up the marinade in the morning then toss the chicken into it the minute I walk in the door in the evening. By the time I’m ready to start cooking the chicken is ready for the wok.

The original recipe uses boneless skinless chicken breasts but I am partial to boneless chicken thighs. I think the meat is more flavorful and juicier as well. If you like your food spicy as I do, add in a bit more of the fiery sriracha sauce. Serve the chicken over your favorite grain–I prefer brown rice– and dinner is ready. Enjoy!


1 1/4 cups orange juice 

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

tablespoons grated fresh ginger

tablespoons minced fresh garlic

tablespoons olive oil, divided

tablespoons sriracha

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

teaspoons light brown sugar

teaspoons orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 1/4pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

tablespoon cornstarch

Brown rice for serving

1/4 cup sliced green onions

  • In small bowl, whisk together orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, sriracha, vinegar, brown sugar, orange zest, and pepper.
  • Place chicken in a large ziploc bag; pour 1/3 cup marinade over chicken. Seal bag and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.
  • Heat a large wok over high heat. Add the remaining oil.
  • Working in 2 batches, add chicken and cook each batch 5 to 6 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and has lost its pink color throughout, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from pan.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high; add remaining marinade to the wok and heat to boiling.
  • In small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the marinade, and boil 1 minute.
  • Return the chicken to the wok; cook 1 minute or until heated through.
  • Serve over rice sprinkled with green onions.

Serves 4


Roasted Garlic Hummus

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I’ve been craving hummus since we returned from our recent trip to Turkey. Before we set off for a second visit to Istanbul I had created a list of foods that I really wanted to eat while I was there. Hummus was at the top of the list but for some reason I never managed to eat any. So upon returning home I set out to find both dried garbanzo beans and tahini, two items I could never manage to locate while we were in Albania but are readily available in Belgium.

I always use dried garbanzo beans; I think they have a better flavor and texture than their canned counterparts. If you decide to go this route be sure to soak the beans overnight before cooking them. If dried beans aren’t available or you are pressed for time, canned ones will work as well. Just be sure to rinse them before using and adjust the salt in the recipe accordingly. I also love to use roasted garlic instead of fresh raw cloves. The roasting mellows the pungency of the garlic and gives the hummus a mild smokey flavor.

Now if you do how to eat hummus, the answer is any way you want. It is great as a dip for crudite or crackers and I love to spread on a whole grain wrap or flatbread, top it with fresh vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, shredded carrots and sprouts are particularly good) and roll it up and eat it as a sandwich. The wrap will keep well making it a perfect on the go lunch item. Of course, I’ve also been known to eat hummus by the spoonful right out of the container. Yes, I like it that much.


3 cups cooked garbanzo beans

1 large bulb garlic

7 tablespoons olive oil, divided

6 tablespoons tahini

Juice of 2 lemons

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

To cook the garbanzo beans:

  • Pick over the dried beans and place them in a large stock pot and fill the pot with water.  The beans will expand as they soak so make sure there is room in the pot. Allow the beans to sit overnight.
  • The next day, drain the beans and cover them with fresh water. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and to simmer until tender, 60-90 minutes. occasionally skim off any scum that forms at the surface of the water.
  • Remove the beans from the heat, drain, and set aside to allow to cool until ready to use.

To roast the garlic:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place a piece of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Slice off the top 1/4 inch of the garlic bulb. Place in the center of the foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  • Wrap the garlic completely in the foil and place in the oven, baking for 30 to 35 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
  • Allow the garlic to cool slightly before proceeding.

To make the hummus:

  • Place the garbanzo beans in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  • Squeeze the roasted garlic flesh out of each clove and add them to the food processor.
  • Add the tahini, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, salt and cumin.
  • Process until the ingredients are well blended and form a thick paste. You may need to add additional olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until the hummus has reached a consistency you like.
  • Refrigerate the hummus in a tightly sealed container until ready to use.


Serves 6-8

Chinese Five Spice Pork & Noodles


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I first discovered Chinese five spice powder when it showed up in my spice order as a free sample and I was immediately hooked.  Chinese five spice powder is an intriguing combination of cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, fennel, and anise.  When added to simple ingredients such as pork and noodles it brings the ordinary to extra-ordinary.  Even better, this dish is fast which is the perfect way to end a long week. The original recipe, from Fine Cooking Magazine, calls for using fresh Chinese egg noodles, an ingredient I have yet to be able to find here in Albania. You can make your own or use any long fresh noodle you can find in the refrigerator case of your grocery store.


1/3 cup salted peanuts

1/4 cup bacon, cut into thin strips

2 medium cloves, garlic, coarsely chopped

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 cup peanut oil

3/4 pound ground pork

1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 scallions, trimmed and sliced

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

3/4 pound fresh egg noodles or other fresh pasta

  • Fill a medium-sized pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Coarsely chop the peanuts in a food processor.  Transfer to a small bowl.
  • Place the bacon, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in the food processor and pulse to finely chop.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy skillet set over medium heat.  Add the bacon mixture and cook, breaking it apart with a spoon until the bacon renders most of its fat and darkens somewhat, about 4 minutes.
  • Raise the heat to medium-high and add the pork, five spice powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.  Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until it looses its raw color, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the scallions, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, and sugar.  Keep warm over low heat.
  • Cook the pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain and put it in a large bowl.  Toss in the pork mixture.
  • Divide the pork and noodles amongst four shallow bowls and sprinkle with the reserved peanuts.

Serves 4

Lime Plumped Shrimp w/ Cilantro Pesto


It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I’m a fan of pesto. To me, it is simply screams summer. Traditionally made with basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, this bright tangy green sauce is the perfect topping for pasta, meats and sandwiches and adds zip to a crudite plate. But who says pesto needs to only use basil. This pesto recipe comes from Melissa d’Arabian of the Food Network. Peppery cilantro leaves take he place of the basil, pecans replace the pine nuts and with a touch of lime the results are tangy and bright. The pesto pairs well with these slightly sweet and tart shrimp. Best of all, this is truly a quick meal to make. You can either make the pesto ahead of time or while the shrimp plumps in lime juice. Serve it all alongside jasmine rice and dinner is served.


For the shrimp:
3/4 pound raw medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

For the pesto:

1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons toasted chopped pecans

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Place the shrimp in a large shallow bowl.
  • Toss with the lime juice, sugar and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  • While the shrimp sits, make the pesto.
  • Place the cilantro in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  • Add the lime zest, lime juice, green onions, pecans, garlic, sugar, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Pulse until the mixture is pureed but not quite smooth.
  • Scrape into a small bowl.
  • Preheat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Drain the shrimp and pat dry.
  • Place the shrimp in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt then drizzle with the olive oil and the honey.
  • Place the shrimp in the broiler and cook until pink and opaque, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Serve topped with the cilantro pesto.

Serves 4





Indonesian Ginger Chicken


Grilled chicken is a summertime staple at my house. It is easy, delicious and leftovers are perfect for lunches the next day. While barbecue sauce reigns supreme for us, sometimes you want to change things up a bit and when that is the case, this Indonesian ginger sauce recipe from Noble Pig is just the thing. The sauce is loaded with tangy ginger and garlic which when combined with honey and soy sauce makes for the perfect sweet, tangy and sticky coating for the chicken.

The key to a flavorful chicken, however, is letting it marinate overnight in the sauce. So yes, you will have to plan ahead with this dish but if you do the work the first day, the next one you will just have to throw the chicken on the grill. The results will be so well worth it. And the leftover chicken is just as good cold as it is hot so if you find yourself with leftovers the next day, pack some up in your lunchbox. Just make sure to include plenty of napkins.


1 cup honey

3/4 cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)

1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)

1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root

12 chicken drumsticks, trimmed

  • Combine the honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger root in a small saucepan set over low heat until the honey is melted. Allow the sauce to cool slightly.
  • Place the chicken in a large ziplock back and place it in a shallow baking pan.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken, seal the bag and allow it to sit overnight.
  • When you are ready to cook, preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Place the chicken on the grill and cook the drumsticks, turning regularly until they are cooked through and the juices run clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serves 6

Refrigerator Garlic Dill Pickles


I’ve never met a pickle I didn’t like.  From beans and carrots to beets and the traditional cucumber, I’m a fan of them all.  Pickled vegetable salads are a common feature on Balkan menus and as such, in the past two years I’ve tried pickled vegetables I never even imagined.  I’ve learned that cauliflower is surprisingly good when it has been sitting in a vinegary brine as are red peppers and even mushrooms. As much as I love pickles it was only recently that I started making my own.  A part of my reasoning for not making my own pickles is because they are so readily available on market shelves.  I am also the only pickle fan in my house so I was hesitant to invest a lot of time into something only I would enjoy.  And then I realized how easy it is to make my own pickles!

These cucumber pickles are the perfect solution to my pickle making phobia.  I am able to make them in small batches so there isn’t the fear of being inundated with more jars than I can possibly ever eat.  (With a move on the horizon the last thing I want to be packing up and moving is jars of pickles).  They cure overnight in a vinegar brine while sitting in the refrigerator so I can enjoy them the next day–no extended pickling process is necessary.  I used cucumbers for these pickles but you can easily substitute any vegetable you like.  Depending upon your preferences, you can add more or less spices.  And because this recipe only makes two pints, you can experiment with vegetable and flavor combinations without ending up with numerous jars of pickles you don’t like.  Unless you are like me and love all things pickled.


1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup cold water

2 tablespoons pickling salt

4 large pickling cucumbers

4 dill sprigs

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • Combine the cider vinegar, water, and salt in a medium-sized sauce pot.  Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  • Divide the dill, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes between two one-pint canning jars or other glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Thoroughly scrub the cucumbers, discard the ends, and slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch coins.  Pack the two jars with as many cucumber coins as will snuggly fit.
  • Pour the hot pickling brine over the cucumbers to just cover.
  • Wipe the rims and seal with the lids.
  • Place the jars in the refrigerator and allow to sit for at least 24 hours before eating.

Yields:  2 pints


Chili Garlic Shrimp & Noodle Stir Fry


It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Shrimp are one of my favorite fast food finds and this recipe, adapted from Cooking Light. highlights shrimp at their best. Not only do they cook up quickly but they are packed with protein and their mild taste makes it the perfect companion for bold flavors. Before stir-frying the shrimp I quickly pre-cook them in a coconut milk bath. This plumps the shrimp and infuses them in a slightly sweet flavor that readies the shrimp for what comes next. Then a soy and rice vinegar sauce tempered with honey makes for a slightly sweet and tangy base for this stir fry while the garlic and jalapeno peppers add a bit of punch. Add in some crunchy vegetables and rice noodles and you have dinner in a bowl. Enjoy!


8 ounces rice noodles
20 ounces medium sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
1/2 cup julienne-cut carrots
1 cup green onions, sliced
2 cup sliced bell peppers
8 ounces baby spinach

  • Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and set aside.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large wok set over medium high heat.
  • When the coconut milk comes to a simmer, add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the shrimp and set aside. Discard the milk and wipe down the wok.
  • Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, fish sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat half of the canola oil in the wok set over high heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and sliced jalapeño pepper; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove mixture from pan and add to the reserved shrimp.
  • Add the remaining canola oil to the wok. Add the carrots, green onions, and bell pepper; stir-fry 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the vinegar and soy sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the noodles, the shrimp, garlic, jalapenos and spinach to the wok and cook for 2 minutes.

Serves 4


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