Archive for Condiments

Homemade Spice Mix for Corned Beef Brisket

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, St Patrick’s Day is a holiday we really enjoy celebrating at our house, for both culinary and historical reasons.

Our typical main course for a St Patrick’s Day dinner is corned beef. This is one of those areas of compromise between health and budget: the best option would be to get a high quality beef brisket and brine it myself to avoid all chemical additions to the meat. Instead I buy inexpensive corned beef on sale, throw away the spice packet and use my own blend of spices, so that I at least avoid any msg or other mystery ingredients in the spices.

In case you’re wondering, the rest of our St Patricks Day menu typically looks something like this:

Cabbage (cooked with the corned beef)

Potato wedges (cooked with the corned beef) OR Mashed Potatoes OR Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)

Irish Soda Bread (my husband prefers a sweeter version, technically closer to Spotted Dog Bread than traditional plain Irish soda bread) with butter

Sometimes we may also add an Irish cheese such as Dubliner which is made by Kerrygold (I’ve seen this particular cheese both at Aldi and Costco) or homemade Irish Cream. (Because it’s already a hearty meal, if we do get an Irish cheese, we’re more likely to it as an appetizer or an evening snack than part of the meal. The Irish Cream is also more of an after dinner drink.)

Today I’m sharing my recipe for the spice mix I add to my corned beef brisket. This is my own interpretation of a pickling spice blend, which is basically what the mysterious spice packet included in the corned beef package is supposed to be.

I’ve found it to be a pretty forgiving recipe. In fact, until I was getting ready to write this post, I’d never measured the spices, I just used a heavy sprinkling of some spices and a lighter sprinkling of others. You should be able to pretty easily adjust this recipe to taste and based on what ingredients you have on hand.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

As with a lot of my recipes, your healthiness results will vary based on the quality of the ingredients you use, in this case most notably the quality of meat. However, this spice blend is on its own merits good for you, and allows you to replace a prepackaged spice packet with mystery ingredients that might include MSG. It seems to me that should merit a healthy rating.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

It’s been so long since I’ve had corned beef fixed with the included spice packet that I’m not going to try to make any claims this spice mix tastes the same. What I can say is that this spice mix makes the corned beef taste very good and very savory, and based on the results I have no reason to wish for a spice packet or any other spice options.

Spice Mix for Corned Beef Brisket

3-4 pound corned beef brisket

1 TBSP mustard powder

1 TBSP black pepper

1 tsp dill seed

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp clove

Sprinkle spices on corned beef and cook according to favorite method. This is how I like to do it:

Chop 1/2 a head of cabbage and 2-3 pounds of potatoes and put them in the bottom of a crock pot. (If you’d like, give the potatoes a light sprinkle of salt, but be careful because the corned beef is going to add a LOT of salt to the dish.)

Remove corned beef from packaging, discarding the spice packet and juices. (If you like you can rinse the corned beef as well.) Put the corned beef brisket on top of the potatoes and cabbage, sprinkle with the spices, and cook on high for 4-7 hours or on low for 7-10 hours. (Corned beef is best with a long, slow, moist cooking time in order to tenderize well.)

 

FAIL (mostly): Fermented Carrot Apple Relish

FAIL: Fermented Carrot Apple Relish

 I really wanted this to work. It’s such a good idea: a combination of fall foods that go well together, fermented for extra nutritional punch. It should have been the ultimate fall condiment.

The worst part is, it really isn’t bad. The flavors almost work the way I want them to, and if you can just get past the tongue twisting sourness at the front, it could be pretty good. In theory, I still think this would go well on a pork chop or something similar, but when I tried it on a hot dog I just kept thinking that it would have been better without the relish.

Please, if anyone has any ideas for how to use up a pint of almost good, very healthy fermented autumnal relish, comment below and let me know! If I get enough interesting ideas, maybe I’ll do a video episode all about uses for Carrot Apple Relish. 🙂

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

This relish would be a perfect part of a fall cleanse: probiotics, apples, carrots, ginger… It’s really quite amazingly good for you.

Yumminess Rating: Yuck

It’s not that it’s actually disgusting, it’s just that it’s not worth eating.

Fermented Carrot Apple Relish

3/4 cup grated apple

1 1/4 cups grated carrot

1 TBSP sea salt

1 TBSP turbinado sugar (if you’re going to make this despite my rating, try increasing the sugar for enough sweetness to balance the tang)

1 TBSP raw apple cider vinegar (optional…)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

Mix all ingredients and pack tightly into a pint jar. If needed, add enough filtered water to cover the carrots and apples completely. Cap loosely and leave it on the counter to ferment for 3-7 days. Refrigerate.

Creamy Spicy Chicken Broth

Creamy Spicy Broth

When I first ran across a recipe for Thai broth I thought it looked amazing. I knew my husband wasn’t likely to go for it as a thin, brothy soup though, so I filed it away on Pinterest, waiting for a flash of inspiration. Maybe I could make a reduction sauce based on Thai broth and serve it as a gravy? Maybe turn it into a noodle soup?

Every time I ran across it again it still sounded good, but I never wanted to go to the trouble of making coconut milk that day just to try it. Then one day it suddenly dawned on me that I could give a try with the regular cow’s milk I always have on hand. (I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, the queen of changing recipes, to come up with that idea.)

Once I started changing it though, I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t have fresh herbs on hand either, so I fell back on my standbys garlic powder and ginger powder, and of course, I had to add turmeric, that powerhouse of adding anti-inflammatories and richness of flavor at the same time. I salted it heavily and added just a dash of cayenne (especially because I was going to be drinking it instead of eating it as a soup, I was skeptical of the chili flakes, and their tendency to burst unexpected waves of heat in unpredictable intervals).

The result was a rich and creamy broth, with lot of flavor and just a bit of spice on the back end. For the first time in my life I found myself drinking chicken stock every morning, and even enjoying the experience.

Now, I’ll tell you that my husband does not like intense flavors first thing in the morning, so I haven’t gotten a good read on whether he will like this broth or not. I’ll let  you know when I get some kind of conclusion one way or the other. I’m thinking maybe adding homemade ramen noodles for supper one night would be good way to introduce him to this broth…

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

This is one of those recipes that just about everyone can agree is healthy. (Except angry vegans, but I generally try to ignore them.) You have all the minerals and gut healing gelatin from the chicken stock, the enzymes and minerals from the raw milk, and the metabolism boosting and immune boosting spices to top it all off.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

As I mentioned, I don’t yet have my husband’s opinion on the yumminess factor, but myself, I give it a completely yummy rating.

Creamy Spicy Broth

4 servings

4 cups chicken stock

1-2 tsp salt*

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger powder

1/8 tsp cayenne, or to taste

4 cups milk (preferably raw and organic)

Heat chicken stock to just below boiling. (If you like your broth very hot, go ahead and heat it to boiling–I prefer more moderate temperature for drinking broth, and a moderate temperature also preserves some of the enzymes in the raw milk.)

Whisk in spices and salt.

Add milk.

Drink as is, or use as the base for a soup.

*NOTE: I use homemade chicken stock which has not yet been salted when making this recipe. If using store bought or pre-salted homemade stock, you will need a lot less salt, and possibly none at all.

French Onion Dip

Homemade French Onion Dip

The cast of characters…

 This recipe comes from a post I found here. I have tweaked the ingredients slightly, but the original recipe is also amazing. (Despite the fact that it contains celery seed… and really, who needs to be eating celery seed? Bleah.)

 I had to share this recipe because it’s one of the recipes I find myself making frequently and wanting on hand at all times. It tastes better than most store bought dip, but close enough to my mother’s ‘open a package of french onion soup and mix it in sour cream’ recipe to bring back fond memories. It not only eliminates the junk that’s in an envelope of store bought french onion soup mix, but gives you an opportunity to include more healing herbs and spices in your diet.

 Do you have any idea how amazing turmeric is? It’s anti inflammatory, high in antioxidants, may help fight Alzheimer’s, may help prevent cancer and alleviates depression. And one of the active ingredients (curcumin) is absorbed much better by the body when it’s eaten with black pepper, which also happens to be an ingredient in this recipe.

 All of the that information about turmeric and pepper is interesting and can be useful, especially if you’re working to treat a specific condition, but also works with my theory that you don’t have to be a research enthusiast to be healthy. Just eat real food of different kinds and it will do amazing things in your body, whether you know it or not. Also, foods that tend to work well together also often just happen to taste great together, and you might find yourself frequently combining black pepper and turmeric without ever knowing why this duo was especially good for you.

 So bascially, don’t fret. Just eat the food. (It’s amazing.)

 Turmeric also happens to be one of my favorite spices from a flavor standpoint. (Garlic is, of course, my favorite all time spice, but sadly, there is no garlic in french onion dip.) A small amount of turmeric often provides the final piece of the flavor puzzle when trying to recreate processed foods with real ingredients. In large amounts it can be a little bitter, but a dash or two provides a background flavor that blends all the other flavors and makes them ‘pop’ just a little more.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 This gets an unreserved healthy rating from me (as long as you’ve checked the ingredients in your sour cream and it doesn’t have any crazy additives) and as an extra bonus, you might just be inspired to eat a lot more raw veggies if this dip is sitting in your fridge.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

 All the fabulousoity (which is, of course, an actual word, and not something I just made up) of french onion dip, but better.

French Onion Dip

1 tub (16 oz) sour cream

3 TBSP dried minced onion

1 TBSP parsley

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

dash cayenne

 Mix all ingredients thoroughly. If you’d like, you can let it sit overnight to let the flavors blend, but it’s still amazing if you eat it right away. Store in the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup

Quick and Easy Mostly Healthy Caramel Syrup

Didn’t you know that ice cream always tastes better when it’s slightly blurry? Also when it’s doused in caramel syrup… Yum…

Caramel syrup is possibly the most addictive food I have ever made. Licking out the pot after making it is a must. There’s something about the balance of sweetness and creaminess and gooeyness that can only be improved on by turning it into salted caramel.

Now, I’m not going to try to claim that caramel syrup is a super food or anything like that. BUT if you like caramel, this homemade caramel syrup is the way to eat it. No chemicals, and some nutrients left in the unrefined sugar make this a ‘not bad’ splurge choice.

I like to keep it on hand for the occasional (usually decaf) salted caramel mocha, but it’s also good drizzled over vanilla ice cream or added to a mug of hot cocoa. I’m sure there are plenty of other uses, so if you have a favorite use for caramel syrup, comment below and let me know what it is.

Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy

I wouldn’t make this a cornerstone food in your diet or anything, but as sweet treats go, it’s a reasonable choice.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Pretty much through the roof on this one. This stuff is amazing.

Caramel Syrup

1/2 cup butter

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup milk

optional: pinch of sea salt, dash of vanilla

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat.

Add sugar and let cook, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is thick and bubbly. (Because the turbinado sugar doesn’t dissolve well the mixture may stay a little bit grainy until you put the milk in. Don’t worry if you can’t get it to dissolve completely, just give it a good two or three minutes to dissolve as much as it’s going to.)

Add milk. Whisk until thickened and completely smooth. (All the sugar needs to be dissolved at this point, or your syrup will be grainy.)

Use immediately, or refrigerate for a thicker caramel sauce. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: If you happen to be storing this in a plastic container, make the sure the syrup has completely cooled before  you pour into the container. The syrup retains heat well and might make your plastic container crumple into odd shapes if it hasn’t completely cooled. Don’t ask me now I know this…
The syrup thickens up so much, you’re probably better off storing it in a glass pint jar and spooning it out than trying to keep it in a squeeze bottle anyway.

Strawberry Chia Refrigerator/Freezer Jam

strawberry chia jam 007

 There are two things you need to know about this jam right off the bat. One, it’s not as sweet as a typical jam, so you might want to think of it as a ‘strawberry spread’ rather than a jam. Two, my sweets-loving husband liked this jam anyway.

I was intrigued by this jam from the first time I ran across the concept of chia-gelled jam, but as I began to make it, I became a little skeptical. Was it just going to taste like mushed up fruit since it wasn’t cooked down at all? Were the chia seeds going to create a weird texture, like rasberry jam on overload? Was this just going to be a colossal waste of organic strawberries?

As it turns out, that answer to all of those questions is NO. It tastes like jam, though lightly sweetened, fresh, fruity jam flavor, which I quite liked. (I did use more of this spread than I would use of jam that was higher in sugar, but since it’s mostly fruit, there’s not really a health downside to that.)  The texture is a little odd if eaten plain, but spread on bread, the chia seeds blended right in with the whole grains in the bread, and I wouldn’t have even known they were there. And, not only will we enjoy this batch, but I’m definitely going to be making chia jam in the future, and trying out new flavors.

Because there’s nothing to preserve this jam, it only lasts for about a week in the fridge, but can be frozen just fine, and should last for several months in the freezer. (This jam is not recommended for canning.)

The best part about this jam is that it’s so fast to make. Other than hulling the strawberries (see my video for the various methods of hulling I tried) it took less than ten minutes to make (still less than fifteen even counting the hulling). And it would have been less than that if I’d made it easier on my blender and smooshed down the strawberries when I put them into the blender.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Made with honey, this jam would probably edge into superfood status. As I made it, with turbinado sugar, I still consider it completely healthy, and a good way to get a little bit of chia seed into your diet.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

My husband liked it. What more can I really say about a healthy jam to prove that it tasted great?

Strawberry Chia Jam

1 lb strawberries (preferably organic), which is about 4 cups whole strawberries

1/4 cup turbinado sugar (could use 3 TBSP honey or agave instead)

3 TBSP chia seeds

1 TBSP lemon juice

Hull strawberries, if desired. Put into blender with remaining ingredients.

If your blender isn’t that great, you may want to slice the strawberries, or at least cut them in half before trying to blend them. I have a pretty good blender, (affiliate link) but not Vita Mix level, and it worked fine once I smooshed the strawberries down a bit.

Blend until completely smooth. (Unless, of course, you like your jam a bit chunky, in which case you can blend as long as you like.) I found the ‘auto smoothie’ setting on my blender to work quite well–if your blender doesn’t have this setting you can replicated it by pulsing on and off for about 15 seconds, then turning it on low speed followed by high speed for about 15 seconds each.

Pour into half pint jars, freezer bags or other container of choice. Refrigerate overnight to set the jam. Store in fridge for up to a week or in freezer for up to eight months.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Easy Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing: only three ingredients, and all healthy!

Peeking into that lovely canning jar full of sunshiny goodness… aka I still haven’t figured out how to get a good picture of runny/sauce foods.

Because it’s about that time of the year, when fresh vegetables, and especially fresh greens, are available in abundance, here’s another simple, healthy salad dressing recipe for you. I find that I get bored with salad less quickly if I keep changing around the toppings and dressings I use on my salad greens.

This dressing has bright sunny flavor with tang and a hint of sweetness, and I enjoy it, despite not being a big fan of most standard vinaigrette dressings.

One of the ways we like to use this dressing is on a green salad (we often use romaine lettuce, but use any greens you prefer) topped with diced mango, thinly sliced green onion and cashews (you can switch this out for other nuts, or sunflower seeds). A little bit of vinegar cheese also works well, adding a bit of creaminess.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This dressing on the previously described mango topped salad ranks very high on the list of salads my husband will enjoy eating.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

With only three (possibly four) ingredients, it’s easy to keep the ingredients healthy.

*Honey (preferably raw) is probably the most natural sweetener you could use, and qualifies as a superfood.

*Lemon juice is high in vitamin C, and if you object to standard bottle lemon juice, simply substitute organic  or fresh squeezed lemon juice.

*Olive oil is possibly the most tricky of these ingredients to keep healthy, as there are reports of ‘olive oil’ being diluted with cheaper oils, without this being disclosed on the label. The organic olive oil from Costco is supposed to be one of the few reliable brands for pure olive oil, and that’s the kind I use.

*The optional onion powder is, of course, not quite a fresh ingredient, but should still contain some remnants of the nutrients in the original onion. I recommend finding a non-irradiated source for spices such as Azure Standard, or either Oregon Spice or Frontier (available in bulk on amazon, affiliate link).

Lemon Vinagrette

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup olive oil

Pour lemon juice into a pint jar. Add honey. Add olive oil. Stir until honey is partially or mostly dissolved into the mixture, then put the lid on the jar and shake until dressing is thoroughly combined. Refrigerate. Shake before use.

French Dressing

This is one of those recipes that ‘true’ health food eaters may turn up their nose at. So, yes, I’m going to tell you up front that this recipe is high in sugar. I generally use turbinado sugar, so the sweetness is still packaged with most of the nutrients it was meant to come with, but it’s still a lot of sugar. If you are accustomed to eating lots of unsweetened whole foods already you may want to cut back on the amount of sugar in this recipe, or skip it altogether.

Or, if you’d like, you could probably even substitute 2/3 cup of honey for the sugar in this recipe.

However, if you’re still trying to transition from processed foods, or need lots of variety to be able to enjoy greens on a regular basis, this salad dressing is for you. It’s sweet and tangy, but based on real foods instead of having msg or corn syrup or other weird chemicals.

I use my homemade fermented ketchup as the base for this recipe, and generally use fermented garlic cloves, so it has a dose of probiotics, too. And the flavor is strong enough to cover up the flavor of olive oil, which makes it a good way to get that particular healthy oil into my diet.

Healthiness rating: Kinda Healthy to Healthy

On it’s own this recipe could range from ‘mostly not bad for you’ to ‘actually good for you’ depending on what sweetener you choose and the quality of your ingredients, and of course its real strength is in nudging you toward eating more salads.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

It tastes like bottled French dressing, but without any weird chemical aftertaste.

French Dressing

(based on this recipe)

2/3 cup ketchup (preferably homemade)

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup olive oil (or oil of choice)

1 tsp pink himalyan salt

2 cloves garlic (fermented, if desired) OR 1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/3 cup chopped onion OR 1 tsp onion powder

optional: 1 tsp paprika

Put all ingredients in blender. (If using powdered onion and garlic a mixer may work just as well.) Blend on high for about two minutes, or until garlic and onion are thoroughly blended and oil is fully emulsified.

Besides being served on salad, this dressing can be used as a dipping sauce for onion rings, or mixed with equal parts mayonnaise and dash of hot sauce for a sandwich sauce.

Soy Sauce Substitute

Soy Sauce Substitue

Ooh, aah… Yep, it pretty much just looks like soy(less) sauce.

 I’m sure God made soy for a good reason, but currently, when soy has taken the form of a ninja, sneaking into our food in disguise while we’re not looking, and GMO soy is becoming more and more common, and an overabundance of soy in our diets is being blamed for all kinds of hormone imbalances, I’d really prefer not to intentionally sprinkle even more soy on my food as flavoring.

 This is problem if you really like Chinese food, which we do, and even more of a problem if you’re trying to make your own Chinese food at home, which is pretty much just how I operate. If I like it, sooner or later I have to try to make it myself, and probably add more garlic because then it will be even better!

 Enter this recipe. No soy, mostly basic ingredients (at least, after I tweaked it to ingredients I have around, as I always do with recipes I come across), and if not identical in flavor to soy sauce, does still provide a similar flavor base to work from. I was an instant fan.

 You can also try using this sauce in place of a worcestershire sauce or, in  a pinch, liquid smoke. It won’t taste quite the same as either of these, but it will provide a similar background flavor profile to help fill the gap left by skipping those sauces (and the chemicals in them).

 The original recipe suggests storing the sauce for up to a week in the refrigerator. While you obviously break any official food safety guidelines at your own risk, I see no reason why it shouldn’t last at least a couple of weeks in the fridge, and mine always lasts at least that long before I use it up. If you want to store it much longer than that, or are particularly concerned about the safety of storing it in the fridge, you can try freezing it into ice cubes and throwing a few into any dish in need of soyless sauce.

 Healthiness Rating: Healthy

 Not only is this recipe free of any harmful ingredients, but it’s one more way to sneak chicken stock into your diet. Not much at a time, granted, but I’ll take every little bit I can get when it comes to eating more chicken stock.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

 I wouldn’t quite eat it straight but it definitely gives the flavor boost that’s wanted in a soy sauce substitute. I’ve used it as a base in a lot of recipes we really like.

Soyless Sauce

3 cups chicken stock (or whatever kind of stock you have on hand–I used fish stock the first time I made this)

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 TBSP molasses

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp garlic powder

dash of pepper

1 TBSP salt, or to taste

 Mix all ingredients except salt in a medium sauce pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until sauce is reduced to two cups. (You can skip this step if you’re in a hurry, the flavor of the sauce will just be less concentrated.) Add 1 tsp of salt at a time until the sauce is as salty as you like. 1-2 tsp will give you a flavorful, lower sodium sauce; a full TBSP (3 tsp) will be more similar to the saltiness of standard soy sauce.

Refrigerate and shake before use.

http://youtu.be/OXIf7AcopA8

Fresh Salsa

Immune Boosting Fresh Salsa

A close up view of fresh salsa, because all the artsy pictures I got were blurry, and we already ate it all,

so I can’t take more pictures.

 I know it’s not quite the right time of year for fresh salsa yet, but in my opinion, there are two basic times of year for fresh salsa. The first is the obvious time, in late summer, when an abundance of ripe tomatoes is encouraging you to look for new and interesting ways to use up tomatoes. The second time for fresh salsa is midwinter to early spring, as you’re craving fresh produce and all you want is a nice tomato, but the grocery store offerings of tomatoes are pale and bland, and you need a way to get the feel of fresh tomatoes while adding some strong flavors to hide the insipidness. As a bonus for midwinter salsa, nearly every ingredient in this fresh salsa is good for boosting your immune system to fight of colds and flus.

This recipe is based on Pioneer Woman’s restaurant salsa, but adjusted to use fresh ingredients, and replacing the cilantro with parsley, because cilantro is about the only food that my husband really, truly hates. The really great thing about homemade salsa, besides fresh ingredients, is that all the spices are adjustable to taste. As written, my recipe has a fairly balanced flavor, but all the ingredients are adjustable to your taste and current mood.  Like really spicy salsa? Use a habenaro sauce and double the amount of hot sauce I use. Can’t stand even mildly spicy foods? Leave out the hot sauce entirely, or replace it with a green pepper sauce.

Healthiness rating: Healthy

As mentioned, just about every ingredient in this salsa is immune boosting in one way or another. Plus it goes easily other healthy foods. If you’re avoiding GMOs you’ll want to pair the salsa with organic tortilla chips rather than conventional, but GMOs aside, even the standard corn chips are pretty straightforward in ingredients, mostly containing corn and salt.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

My husband especially enjoys this salsa, especially because I can make to taste, skipping the cilantro and keeping the spiciness down to a reasonable level. I prefer my salsa mixed with sour cream to further cut the acidity, but I can actually enjoy this salsa undiluted. That makes fresh salsa a healthy snack (or side) that my husband and I both really enjoy.

 

Fresh Salsa

3 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) roma tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 small onion (about 1/4 cup), minced

2 cloves (or 2 tsp) garlic, minced

1 tsp honey

1/4-1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced OR 2 TBSP dried parsley

1 TBSP lime juice

1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate for a few hours to thoroughly blend flavors, or eat immediately.

 

You will note that I filmed this in February and am just now getting around to posting it. Ah, well. Good thing fresh salsa is timeless.

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