ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chocolate Citrus Freeze

I thought this would be a good one for the last post in August. A bit of a farewell to summer. It's been crazy hectic and humidly hot but packed full of field trips, unpacking boxes, and what feels like a zillion recipes (some of them were even good!)

We had the Sister Missionaries over for lunch last week and served this for dessert - I thought it would be cool and refreshing before they headed back out for a hot afternoon on the beat. They mildly complained that it's things like this that have made them gain so much weight on their missions. They also finished every last lick, as did I. I apologize to no one for making delicious treats.
So as you can see, what we've got here is a cookie crumb crust (I couldn't find chocolate wafer cookies so I used chocolate graham crackers), a chocolate mousse layer, orange sherbet, more chocolate mousse, and a layer of fudgy ganache with a few more chocolate graham crumbs.

The only hard parts are lining the darn loaf pan with plastic wrap, which in those kinds of close quarters acts more like double-sided sticky tape, and waiting between each layer for it to freeze. Pretty much you have to start the morning before you will serve it, add and freeze the layers all day, freeze overnight, then have it the next day so it's nice and firm. Other than that, it's super easy...and soooo good!

1 3/4 cups milk chocolate chips, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (or chocolate graham crackers)
2 T butter, melted
1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
4 T powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups lowfat orange sherbet, slightly softened (can also use other flavors, like raspberry)

1. Microwave 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips and 3/4 cup cream in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on medium-high (70%) for 1 minute; stir well until smooth. If necessary, microwave at additional 10 to 15 second intervals, stirring just until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature.

2. Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap, allowing 4-inch overhang on all sides. GOOD LUCK with this step!

3. Combine crushed cookies and butter in medium bowl. Press onto bottom of prepared loaf pan. Save a few crumbs to sprinkle on top at the end, optional.

4. Beat 3/4 cup cream and powdered sugar in small chilled mixer bowl until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture until blended. Spoon half of chocolate mousse (about 1 1/2 cups) over cookie layer; smooth top. Freeze for 2 hours or until very firm. Cover and refrigerate remaining chocolate mousse.

5. Spoon slightly soft sherbet over frozen chocolate layer; smooth top. Freeze for 2 hours or until very firm. (*I put sherbet and second layer of mousse - step 6 - on at the same time, without freezing sherbet layer for 2 hours. The non-frozen mousse was softer than the sherbet so there wasn't danger of them mixing, and it worked out fine.)

6. Spoon remaining chocolate mousse over sherbet layer; smooth top. Freeze for 2 hours or until very firm.

7. Microwave remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips and remaining 1/4 cup cream in small uncovered microwave-safe bowl on medium-high (70%) for 1 minute; stir until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes. Spread evenly over mousse layer. Sprinkle with extra crumbs if desired. Freeze for up to 4 hours or overnight.

*For gluten-free option, use gluten-free cookies for crust or omit crust altogether.

Recipe from

Photos taken by Maren Mecham with my camera

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Banana Mini Morsel Bars

One of my basic beliefs as a baker is that you can never have too many banana recipes. In May I offered you GOING BANANAS week. And beyond that there have been a few other banana recipes since we started in February. I am constantly trying new banana breads, muffins, cakes and confections so as to have a wide variety to choose from when I inevitably start to see those brown spots appear.And I'm not too picky where I get my recipes from. Sometimes I don't need to make 2-day killer chocolate bread. Sometimes I just want to make something simple and good in under an hour that my kids and I will both like. These have bananas, chocolate, brown sugar and all the good stuff. Happy simplicity, and lots of it.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium mashed ripe bananas
1 large egg
2 cups Nestle semi-sweet chocolate mini morsels
Powdered sugar, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 15x10 jelly-roll pan.

2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in bananas and egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture; stir in morsels. Spread into prepared jelly-roll pan.

3. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, optional. Makes about 28 bars.
Recipe from Nestle's

Monday, August 24, 2009

English Muffin Bread

So I had BLT's on the menu plan for dinner one night recently, but no bread in the house. I figured it was a great chance to try a new recipe; I rarely make regular white bread so I figured I'd seek out some great French or Italian loaf and give yeast yet another shot. Then I started to imagine layering thick bacon, crisp lettuce and ripe tomato on something lovely and toasted and I knew just what to make.
My Mom used to make this when I was little. It's called English muffin bread because it smells and tastes like English muffins when toasted, cornmeal dusting and all. In fact, while it was cooking I had the thought that next time I should try making rounds instead of loaves and see if it really makes English muffins. Anyway, my Mom used to make this - got the recipe from one of her friends in the 70's - and it was the BEST toasted, buttered and slathered with strawberry freezer jam. In fact, this bread is about the best reason I can think of to buy salted butter.
It doesn't hurt the cause of cinnamon sugar or blackberry preserves either. And another great thing about it - there's only one rise so you can make the 2 loaves in under 2 hours, as opposed to the 3+ that many yeast recipes require.

The bread is dense and flavorful; the toast is just what it should be - crisp on the outside, still soft and warm inside. It is perfect dipped in cocoa, topped with eggs and cheese, cut into croutons, whatever.

And it makes the best BLT!
2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
1 T sugar
2 tsp salt
6 to 7 cups flour
Corn meal for dusting

1. In a large mixer bowl combine the water, yeast and a pinch of sugar. Stir and let sit a few minutes for yeast to proof. Add the rest of the sugar, salt, and 3 cups flour and mix. Gradually add 3 to 4 more cups flour (use dough hook) until dough is formed. Mix or knead until dough is nice and smooth.

2. Place in greased bowl, spray with nonstick cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

3. Divide the dough in half and shape into two long loaves, which you place on cookie sheets that have been greased and spread lightly with corn meal. Or grease two loaf pans and dust bottom and edges lightly with corn meal. Place dough loaves in pans.

4. Make three long diagonal slits in the top of each loaf and sprinkle with cold water. Put them in a cold oven and turn to 400 degrees. Bake 40 minutes or until done.

This bread is best freshly hot or toasted and doesn't keep long. But if it stales you can always use it for bread pudding, French toast, croutons, bread crumbs, etc.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Congratulations Kelsey!

You have won the lingonberry preserves. Not sure if I have your new address; email me.

And remember, Atkins or not, ONE HUNDRED COMMENTS :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Death by Chocolate Cookies

The name says it all. And in case it doesn't, the picture says the rest. Honestly, do you really need me to go into descriptions with words like decadent and euphoric when you can practically already smell and taste this cookie? When you need an intense but quick-and-easy chocolate fix, look no further.

1 pkg (8 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour*
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 pkg (8 squares) semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped - OR - 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks/chips
2 cups chopped walnuts, optional*
*If omitting nuts, increase flour to 3/4 cup or 1 cup to prevent spreading

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Microwave chocolate squares in large bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla with wooden spoon until well blended. Stir in flour and baking powder. Stir in chopped chocolate and nuts. Drop by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto greased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 13 to 14 minutes or until cookies are puffed and feel set. Cool on sheet 1 minute, then remove to wire cooking rack. Makes about 15 to 18 cookies.

Recipe from the back of the Baker's semisweet chocolate box

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

This cake is such a favorite standby in our household that I've never even thought to post it! But when I asked Ed a few weeks ago what he'd like me to make him for our anniversary, there was no hesitation: Chocolate Pistachio Cake!

This is one of many no-fail recipes that comes from a great little book called The Cake Mix Doctor and I give full kudos to Anne Byrn, who painstakingly put it together. Personally I think it would be hard (in a boring kind of way) to make a whole book of cakes made with mixes, but she has wonderful tips and ideas and is really creative in making the most of a mix so it ends up as something much more than just a regular cake.

This one is a great example. Ed doesn't like frosting (I know, he's crazy) so this cake is perfect for him because it doesn't have frosting, but does have a cool crunchy pecan-and-chocolate-chip topping baked in.
And besides that, it's got pistachio flavor (from pistachio pudding mix) and a chocolate swirl. Fast, easy, and perfect with ice cream.

Vegetable oil spray for misting pan, and flour for dusting
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 pkg plain white cake mix
1 (3.4 oz) pkg pistachio instant pudding mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray and dust with flour a 12-cup Bundt pan; shake out excess flour.
Sprinkle the pecans and chocolate chips evenly in the bottom of the pan; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl blend the cake mix, pudding mix, sugar, water, oil and eggs on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and increase speed to medium; beat for 2 more minutes, until batter is smooth and thick.

3. Remove 1 cup of the batter to a small bowl. Pour the chocolate syrup into the small bowl and stir until mixture is well combined. Set aside.

4. Pour remaining batter into the prepared pan. Pour the chocolate batter over the top, trying to keep it away from the edges. Swirl the two batters.

5. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Coll in pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Run a long sharp knife around edges and invert onto rack or plate to cool completely. Serve warm or room temperature. Can be frozen, wrapped in foil, up to 6 months.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lingonberry Milkshake and Giveaway!

Lingonberries are like little cranberries that grow on bushes in Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest. If you've ever heard of them, it's probably from the IKEA food market, where they sell lingonberry preserves, syrup, candy, etc. And for my entire life I have been reading and saying them wrong - "lignonberry", pronounced "liNYonberry" - and I'm really annoyed about it because it's just as it's spelled - liNGonberry. Sheesh.

Anyway, my brother Dave told me recently how good lingonberry milkshakes are and I had to try it myself. Luckily I was near an IKEA that week so I picked up a couple jars of lingonberry preserves and gave it a go.
As usual, Dave was not lying. Yum. Originally lingonberries are pretty tart, but put them in jam with a bunch of sugar, then put the jam in milkshakes with lots of ice cream and you've got a downright sweet and super fruity treat! The girls and I had these "with" (= "for") lunch yesterday. Mmmm....

Lingonberry Milkshake
Per serving:
About 5 scoops vanilla ice cream
About 3 to 4 T lingonberry preserves
Enough milk to make it mix smoothly

Mix in blender and serve.
Now, obviously not everyone has access to lingonberry preserves because IKEA has dropped the ball on world domination, but do not despair! I got an extra jar for you.
Giveaway Conditions:
  • You must live at least 30 miles from the nearest IKEA. If you're closer than that, you can go get your own.
  • Continental U.S. only - it's heavy!
  • If you win, you must promise to leave a comment the next 100 times you visit The VGP. I'm serious.
  • Leave a comment to this post saying you want in on the action, and if I don't know you, city/state where you live and an EMAIL address where I can contact you.
  • Entries close at 6pm EST Tuesday, August 18 and winner will be announced the next day or whenever I get around to it.
Good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ham and Swiss Stromboli

Stromboli is simply Italian bread dough rolled with fillings and sliced to serve. It can contain anything you can think of. Or it can be perfect in its simplicity, like this ham and swiss.

I was just looking for something easy, and different, to do for dinner. And I love when I can make my bread machine do the work. My kids love bread of course, and I thought I might manage to sneak a tad of protein into their systems without too much fight. It was a success. We had this "bread" with jam and salad and everyone ate it up.
Then after dinner as I looked at the half loaf remaining I started to realize this had real potential! Toasted for breakfast with an egg on top! Or hey, toasted for anytime with more cheese on top! Or how about dipped in egg batter, grilled like French toast, and sprinkled with powdered sugar and jam like a Monte Cristo! Also great for picnics, lunches, late night snacks. Yum. Yum. Yum.

3 cups bread flour
1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 T nonfat dry milk
1 T olive oil
2 1/2 tsp bread-machine yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup cubed Swiss cheese
1 1/2 tsp cornmeal
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Follow manufacturer's instructions for placing flour and next 6 ingredients (flour through mustard) into bread pan, and select dough cycle; start bread machine.

2. Remove dough from machine (do not bake). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 30 seconds. Cover dough, and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Roll dough into a 10 x 8-inch oval on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the ham and cheese onto half of oval, lengthwise, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold dough over filling, and press the edges and ends together to seal.

4. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and dust with cornmeal. Place loaf, seam side down, on prepared pan. Make 3 diagonal cuts 1/4-inch deep across the top of loaf using a sharp knife. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover dough; brush with egg. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly.

Recipe from Cooking Light, January 2001

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Salted Nut Roll Squares

You know that classic candy, the Salted Nut Roll? Of course you do. You love it, and you should. Now translate that into a crunchy-chewy, sweet-and-salty, marshmallowy, Nutter-Buttery layered bar cookie and we are getting somewhere!

My friend made these for an informal dinner party, and it's just a good thing I had my camera with me. For anyone who loves peanuts or marshmallows or Rice Krispy treats or all three, these are a KEEPER.

1 lb. peanut butter sandwich cookies (Nutter Butters), coarsely crumbled
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

2 c. peanut butter chips
2/3 c. light corn syrup
4 TB unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. miniature marshmallows
2 c. dry roasted peanuts
2 c. Rice Krispies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9 x 13 pan with nonstick spray.

2. Pulverize cookies in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add melted butter; process until crumbs clump together. Press crumbs into prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes or until golden.

3. Melt peanut butter chips, corn syrup, butter and vanilla in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth, about 5 minutes. Spread 1/2 c. of the peanut mixture over crumb base.

4. Top with marshmallows and return bars to the oven. Bake until marshmallows puff, about 2 minutes, then remove from oven. Don't let marshmallows brown or they will turn crunchy.

5. Toss peanuts and cereal with remaining peanut mixture to coat. Drop spoonfuls of the topping over the marshmallows, then spread with a spatula (sprayed with non-stick coating to prevent sticking). Cool bars before cutting with a knife coated with nonstick spray. Makes 28 bars.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

*This post is dedicated to my friend Margaret Anderson. Margaret just gave birth to her first baby, Summer. While she was pregnant she had gestational diabetes (couldn't eat sweets!) and informed me, "I plan to eat my weight in ice cream come August." Eat away, Margaret!

Sigh. I keep thinking I've outdone myself and could not possibly make something better than what I've just made, and then I do, and the cycle starts all over again. Luckily, I can be this vain because I can't really take credit for most of these recipes. I just follow directions and reap the fabulous benefits.

Take, for example, this out-of-this-world ice cream. I distinctly remember one time many years ago, talking with a friend in Colorado. She was an avid gardener and was telling me some of the uses she'd found for her flourishing mint bush. She said she'd even made mint ice cream by soaking mint leaves in the cream. "Geez," I remember thinking. "She is seriously over-the-top." But now it doesn't phase me one bit. Of course that's how you should make mint ice cream. Especially now that I live in the burbs and have several friends with big mint plants.

Which you have to have for this recipe - you need a mint source since it calls for THREE CUPS of packed mint leaves. This is what three cups looks like in my salad spinner. Just not worth it if you have to buy them at the store.

I will let you know, this recipe is a bit involved. Not complicated, but making the base takes about an hour and a half all in, then you have to chill it for awhile, make the ice cream, and freeze it for a few more hours. Just don't be in a rush. I made the base in the morning, when I was going to be in the kitchen for awhile anyway, getting the kids breakfast, emptying the dishwasher, and doing some prep for dinner that night.

This ice cream is WORTH IT!!! It really tastes like FRESH MINT, not mint flavoring. And the leaves make it a gorgeous natural green color no food coloring could ever replicate. So fabulous. I have about ten recipes waiting to be posted but I moved this to the top of the queue - make it and thank me!
3 cups fresh mint leaves, rinsed, drained, packed
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
2/3 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped fine, keep in freezer until used

1. Put the mint leaves in a heavy saucepan with the 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of the cream. Heat until just steaming (do not let boil), remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Reheat the mixture until steaming, remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.
2. While the mint is infusing in step 1, prepare the remaining cream over an ice bath. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside. (*I just put the remaining cream in the carton in the freezer for about an hour until it was needed - it was nice and cold when I needed it.)

3. Strain the milk cream mixture into a bowl, pressing against the mint leaves with a rubber spatula in the sieve to get the most liquid out of them. Return the milk cream mixture to the saucepan. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. Heat until just steaming again, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

4. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

5. Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 5 to 10 minutes.

6. Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking.

7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours) or stir the mixture in the bowl placed over the ice bath until thoroughly chilled (20 minutes or so). Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

8. Once the ice cream has been made in the ice cream maker it should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving. Makes 1 quartRecipe from Simply Recipes (I know, her pictures are better than mine...but I've got heart)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Deep Dark Double Chocolate Bread

It is downright shocking that I have gone six whole posts - that's two and a half weeks! - without posting something chocolatey. But this recipe mooore than makes up for the lapse.This recipe takes two days to make. Seriously. But if you can be patient, it's not really otherwise difficult. No more difficult than cinnamon bread, and actually easier than rolls. I actually have no idea why it takes so long. I don't know the point of a long cold rise verses a traditional 85-degree rise, and I'm too lazy and forgetful to research it.

All I know is this stuff is the devil's manna, a chocolate-and-bread lover's nirvana, for serious chocoholics only. It's this kind of culinary ecstasy that makes me dream of running a bakery someday. If you make it, just remember, you have been warned. This is very serious stuff.Deep Dark Double Chocolate Bread (print recipe)
Chocolate Bread Dough
1 3/4 cups warm water (100-110 degrees F)
5 tsp rapid rise yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup bitter European-style cocoa (Valrhona is suggested; I used Penzey's Dutch process)
4 to 5 cups bread flour

Chocolate Fudge Filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Trader Joe's 72%)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped milk or white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli white)

Finishing Touches:
Cocoa powder
Ground cinnamon

Day One
1. Spray inside of a large zip-top plastic bag with nonstick cooking spray.

2. For bread dough, in a mixer bowl hand-whisk water and yeast and a pinch of sugar together and let stand 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve and proof yeast. Briskly whisk in sugar, salt, cocoa, and 3 cups flour to make a batter. Knead with dough hook on lowest speed 5 to 8 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a soft but sticky dough.

3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate. Shape dough into a round, put in the prepared zip-top plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Periodically check bread, and if you see it rising, open bag, gently deflate dough, and then reseal bag.

4. For chocolate fudge filling, place butter, both sugars and cocoa in a food processor and process a few minutes to make a pastry mixture. Place in a zip-top bag and seal almost all the way. Roll out, while in bag, to flatten. Seal completely. Refrigerate filling.

Day Two
5. Remove dough from bag and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll or press dough out to a 16- to 18-inch x 10-inch rectangle. Break filling into pieces and spread pieces over surface of dough. Sprinkle chopped chocolates over filling.

6. Spray two 8 x 4 1/2 inch loafpans with nonstick spray.

7. Roll up dough snugly as a jellyroll, starting at the short side. Once it is a log, cut it in half and place each half in one of prepared loafpans, pressing in slightly. Insert each loafpan into a large plastic bag; seal and refrigerate overnight.

Day Three
8. Take loafpans out and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray tops with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle each loaf with sugar and a touch of cocoa and cinnamon. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and allow loaves to thaw and rise until puffy and much larger, 2 to 4 hours. They will reach or be slightly above tops of loafpans.

9. Preheat oven to 350. Place breads on lower rack of oven and bake until done and breads sound hollow when tapped, about 35 to 45 minutes.10. Cool 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.*When I took mine out of the pans after cooling there was a nice amount of warm fudgy filling left in the pans. Don't want it to go to waste! I just took a spoon to it and enjoyed every mouthful.Recipe from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman
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