Tag Archives: baking

The Tastes of Home

No, I’m not talking about the magazine, though it’s certainly full of what I’m talking about. My mom received one of those every month for years, so I’m sure a few of those recipes made it into her regular repertoire.

Every time we go to my parents’ place, I gorge myself on my mother’s cooking. Perfectly grilled steak, lasagne, muffins for breakfast, brownies and delicious, delicious wine. I have realized my parents’ home, and as such, my childhood, has a taste. You know how songs can bring you back? This weekend, it was food. Specifically, these:

My mom didn’t make these often and perhaps that’s why they hold the power they do. They remind me of a time when I was, oh, seven or so, a time when I was tall enough to just stand over them. We would slather them with a maple syrup icing, made from our own maple syrup. Still warm, the icing dripped into the crevices of the bun and onto our hands as we pulled them apart and ate them piece by sugary, cinnamonny piece. I’m not sure what the best part was: the icing or the bun itself.

No recipe for these. I didn’t make them. But if I’ve got you feeling like you want to pull out your flour and yeast and sugar, you can hunt down a recipe here. I’m sure you’ll find something delicious.

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Oreo brownies and the Deception of Sunshine

Sunshine can be deceptive. Sunshine can glisten and warm everything up with light without actually adding any heat to the air. Sunshine can’t stop wind from blowing.

Sunshine can make you optimistically pull on your bright pink running shirt and slip into your baby blue, slightly chewed running shoes. It can give you a little bit of a boost as you run with the wind, pushing yourself a little farther than you should, enjoying the feeling of the strength in your legs and the sun in your eyes.

But, like I said, the sun can’t stop the wind. It can’t prevent the wind from blowing so hard as you turn back for home that you’re not sure if you’re even moving much anymore. It can’t warm up a face so frozen and wind-burnt that you can’t feel it and every face twinge feels odd.

Just don’t forget about the cyclist who, as she passed you in her layers of scarves and appropriate cycling clothes, grinned and said, “Good for you!” And don’t forget about the brownie waiting for you when you get back, chocolatey and delicious. These other bits of sunshine can’t stop the wind either, but they can keep you going, over the hill and back up the long, steep driveway of your parents’ house.

And don’t worry. That feeling like you’re going to pass out? It will pass.

(I ran 5.3 km on Sunday with the help of one green-clad cyclist and these tasty brownies, made by my mom who used the recipe from How Sweet It is.)

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The First Run of Spring and Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Granola Bars

The beautiful weather last week called unmercifully to me, poking its fingers of sunshine past the red brick building that blocks the view of the sky from my desk. I’ve got that spring itch, unique to the sunny days of late March and early April. It’s the kind of itch that forces my feet into my runnings shoes and propels me out the door to find out how much I suck.

Turns out, this year was not so bad. Maybe it was because M came with, cycling leisurely beside me with Mocha out front pulling him along so he didn’t even have to pedal. Maybe it was because Mocha’s insistence on a three-times-a-day walk  meant we couldn’t become the sloths we would usually become. Maybe it was the yoga I’ve done a little of this past winter. Or maybe it was the pizza we had the night before. Whatever it was, when I plugged our route into my running map, I was proud, surprised even, to see the distance end up at just under 5km. And I wasn’t even feeling that dead. Somehow, I managed to come through this winter alright.

After the run, these were the perfect snack. I made them last week sometime, determined to find a recipe for granola bars that can replace the store bought kind. I like granola bars, but they’re a little on the pricey side, not to mention all the extra packaging that goes along with them. (We don’t have the space for a recycling bin, so you can imagine the mess one simple cardboard box makes.) Unfortunately, this recipe is not it. Not because they’re not good: actually, they’re beyond delicious. But because they’re maybe a little too good. The addition of the chocolate chips moved them out of the realm of energy-packed snack and too close for comfort to the dessert category. Perhaps my nutritionally-minded mom might have some more thoughts, though I’m pretty certain that I took a healthy snack and turned it into some not so healthy.

I seem to be pretty good at doing that.

Either way, here’s the recipe! Adapted from a fellow blogger over at Food Doodles.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts and pecans.)
1 cup shredded coconut
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple or table syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
1/2 cup chocolate chips plus more for topping

Preheat the oven to 350*. In a casserole or a baking sheet, mix and spread the oatmeal, nuts, and coconut. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats start to brown or until you get bored and want to move on to the next step. Reduce the heat of the oven to 300*.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the honey, syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for approximately 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter until melted. Add the dry ingredients to the hot, wet ingredients and mix well. Add the raisins.  Add the chocolate chips and stir as they melt into the oaty mixture. At this point, do not overstir. Add more chocolate chips if you want it to be more chocolaty.

Grease the casserole and press the oat mixture into the pan, making sure it is spread evenly. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and press them in gently with your fingers or a spatula.

Bake (at 300*) for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for an hour and then cut into squares. Don’t wait too long to cut because the longer you wait, the harder they will be.


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Raisin Tarts

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: housework and I, in general, don’t get along. On the flip side of that, I like to have a clean home. Have you ever noticed that your living room is a lot cozier if all the dishes are done and the kitchen counters wiped down? Weird. On the flip side of that, there are things in life a lot more important than vacuuming every day and folding laundry.

But not when your landlord comes over.

He dropped by last night, just to see us, the apartment, and drop off a tax receipt (though it turns out we don’t need them anymore… since when?). I was a wee little bit stressed out by the visit. As much as I’m willing to admit that I don’t like housework and do as little as I can possibly get away with, I don’t actually like the idea of casual visitors being able to see the evidence of this. Especially if they’re casual visitors who could decide to charge us for a full scale cleaning after we move out.

On top of all that, Mr. A had no knowledge of our adorable pooch.

– Remember, he has no power over us, M said.

– Right.

– It’s not like we’ll ever need him for a rental reference or anything.

– Right.

– And he can’t kick us out, even if we weren’t leaving.

True: in Ontario, landlords have the power to turn down an applicant if they have pets, but they may not evict them if they get one.

I had nothing to worry about.

Especially when we opened the door to our friendly Iranian landlord and heard the excited exclamation, “Oh, you have a dog! Oh, hello, hello!”

The apartment was beyond clean, thanks to my frantic scrubbing the day before, so after he left and I collapsed into one of our comfy Ikea chairs, I was able to seamlessly move into complete relaxation. Of course, this raisin tart helped immensely.

These were the product of leftover pie dough, the remnants of Pi day’s meat pie, useless bits that I couldn’t bear to throw out. Combined with the only recipe I had all the ingredients for (read no eggs, fruit, or anything perishable required) in the Joy of Cooking, these turned our reasonably well for my first attempt at tart making.

Raisin Tarts
From The Joy of Cooking with a few additional suggestions

Filling

1 cup raisins
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and raisins to a boil over high heat. Allow to boil for 5 minutes or so, or until you get bored of waiting. Stir in the brown sugar and mix well.

Remove from heat and add the cornstarch, lemon juice, and butter. Mix well together and set the filling aside to cool to room temperature.

For the crust: like I said, remnants work well for these. If you want you can put this filling into a pie or, do as I did and turn it into tarts. For tarts, roll out your remnants and cut out a piece of dough that will fit nicely into a muffin tin. Grease your muffin tin and gently fold and press the circle of dough into the tin. Make it fit around the curves by creating little folds (or big folds, whatever you prefer). It doesn’t have to be perfect. Cut away the excess leaving a nice sized lip of overhang. If desired, fold the edges over or under and pinch together to create a smoother look. Repeat until all your excess is gone. My remnants got me four tarts with just a little dough leftover — not enough for anything.

Once your filling is room temperature, fill your tarts half full or, like these, all full, depending on your preferences. I found that mine were a little overfull — too much filling and not enough pastry — but M liked them just as they were. So, this step is all personal preference.

Pop your muffin tin into a 400* oven and bake for 20 minutes to half an hour, or until the pie crust has browned slightly.

It is amazing and kind of sad how quickly my kitchen gets messy again.

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Happy 3.14159 Day!

Did you eat pie today? I went to a Geek school, so I’ve been celebrating Pi day ever since first year, though rarely with a piece of actual pie. Actually, my celebration usually only goes as far as talking about how it’s Pi day. I guess that means I don’t really celebrate it at all.

This year, however, I latched on to the excuse to make one of my favourite bad-for-you foods, not that I usually need an excuse. Mmm… meatpie.

There is a bakery in my home town that makes the most delightful meat and veggie packed meat pies, absolutely nothing like the runny ones you get in the grocery store. Oh, how I miss those meatpies. So, I sent M an email halfway through the day with a short list of groceries: ground beef, frozen veggies, flour, and a box of pie shells. When M arrived, he sheepishly handed me the pie shells and said, “I think I got the wrong ones.”

How was I supposed to make a savoury pie with graham pie crust? I eyed the bag of flour. Really? Was I going to have to do this?

I have never made a pie crust. Ever.

Thank to M’s mistake, I can’t say that anymore. And you know? It wasn’t so bad. Yes, the pie took double the time it would otherwise have taken. And yes, my hands are very dry from the flour worked deep into my skin. But I love recipes that let me get my hands dirty, that pull me in to the very essence of the food.

My pies are not exactly pretty. Eventually, perhaps, when I’ve made as many perfect pies as my grandmother has, they’ll be a little more photo worthy.

Beef Pie
From my own head, with the assistance of the Joy of Cooking pie reference section

1 lb ground beef
1 medium sized onion
2 cups mixed frozen veggies or the equivalent chopped fresh veggies
1 tbs corn starch
1 cup water
1 heaping tsp beef bouillion, or to taste
a medley of your choice of seasonings
(I used basil, oregano leaves, ground pepper, Montreal steak spice and a dash of cumin)

1 double crust pie shell

Brown the beef with the onion until beef is no longer pink and the onion is translucent. Add the frozen veggies and mix in well. Over the mixture, sprinkle the cornstarch and beef bouillion powder. (If you’re using a cube, just add it after you add the water instead.) Mix the powders in a bit so there is not cornstarch clumped together. Add the water and mix well to combine everything. Sprinkle the spices in and mix together. Allow to simmer on the stove while you get your pie pan ready or, if you’re nervous about taking too long, just remove it from the heat. It’s going to get heated up in the stove anyway.

Pie dough! Like this: take 2.5 cup flour and cut into it 3/4 cup chilled shortening. Mix it all together until it’s crumbly, kind of the size of peas. Then, add 6 tbsp of chilled water. Mix it all together. Add a little more water if you need it to get the dough to hold together, but you don’t want it to be too sticky.

Yes, friends, that is all pie dough is: flour, fat, water.

Separate the dough into two equal parts. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter top, and roll out the first part as thin as you can. You need space for this unfortunately… I had to remove my coffeemaker from the counter and put it on the floor until I was done…

Place the flattened dough in a greased 9-inch pie pan. Press it gently into the corners. Take a knife and cut the excess around the pan, leaving a decent sized crust. If at any point you tear the dough, wet your fingers and press the dough back together. It’s amazing how fixable this stuff is.

Repeat the rolling process for the second half of the dough and set it aside.

Dump the filling into the base shell, the pie dough in your pie pan. With bit of cold water on your finger, wet down the edge of the base pie dough. Carefully place the top piece of pie dough over the filling and pinch into the edge of the base pie dough. I use a fork for this – makes it much easier. And, there you go! You’re done the hard part.

Pop the whole thing in the oven at 350*for 30 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Try not to think about how much time you’ve already spent on it and how hungry you are since it’s now at least two hours after your normal dinner time.

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Happy Family Day!

This is the first year that M and I fully get to enjoy a proper family day. McGinty quite thoughtfully dumped the new holiday on the Monday of Reading Week, so while we were students, we hardly noticed its coming and going. This year, we slept in, gloriously languishing under our warm duvet until Mocha started jumping all over us.

Muffins are a late morning breakfast. They come together fast and bake while you drink your first cup of coffee. They wake you up in the gentliest, tastiest way possible.

 

This is just a simple, humble, chocolate chip, whole wheat muffin. The ingredients are so familiar, the same ingredients I pull out any number of times in a week in any number of combinations.

Perfect for a made-up holiday.

Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Muffins
Adapted from 1 Recipe, 100 Muffins by Susanna Tee

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks

Mix the above ingredients together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk

2 eggs

Then, beat in

1 cup milk
6 tbsp canola oil or sunflower oil

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix gently. Do no overmix. If there are a few bits of unmixed flour still visible, don’t worry too much about it.

Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins that you have either lined or greased. Pop the muffins into a 400*F oven for 20 minutes. When you pull them out of the oven, hopefully, they’ll look delicious and tasty and golden brown.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

Every Friday, as long as we have no other plans, M dashes out the door at 6:15 after munching a light supper — or  not — and drives to a local high school where he plays badminton for two hours or so. In the same way that Wednesdays have become his night, Fridays are mine. I watch chick flicks, practice piano loudly, sometimes accompanied by bad vocals, turn on some karaoke on YouTube, read cookbooks, maybe even whip something up for a late dinner when he gets home.

This past Friday, we were planning on driving the two hours to my parents’ place out in the country to spend the weekend, but our Friday didn’t look that much different. When you live in this city, right near the busiest highway in North America, any attempts to get out of the city during rush hour traffic is an exercise in insanity. More often than not, if we have weekend plans that involve any other location than this one, we opt to leave by three or wait until 8, even if it means not getting to where we’re going until late at night. So, just like usual, M packed up his badminton clothes and scooted out the door leaving me and the dog in a quiet apartment.

But I had plans! Peanut butter and chocolate plans, plans to find a new favourite, a new go-to. And oh, goodness, was I ever successful.

These are blondies, essentially the opposite of brownies. And, even better, they’re chock full of peanut butter and chocolate chips, the perfect combination. And, they’re essentially just as easy to make as brownies. These weren’t as moist as my favourite brownie recipe, but the batter was actually fun to work with and they came out deliciously munchy. This is one of those recipes that I firmly believe you must must make. Right now. You’ll probably have all the ingredients anyway, so there’s absolutely nothing stopping you.

(Except maybe your diet if you happen to be on one…)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies
Adapted from the recipe at Sweetest Kitchen, which was adapted from Handle the Heat

1/4 cup butter or cooking margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter, smooth, chunky, natural, whatever
1 and 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
As many chocolate chips as you want

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter. Keep stirring until the peanut butter has melted into the mixture and it is once again smooth. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well. The batter will form a stiff-ish ball in the bowl. Take half of the batter and press it into a greased 8 x 8 pan. This doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry if you can get it smooth or covering every inch of the bottom of the pan. Dump a bunch of chocolate chips on top and press them into the batter. Press the rest of the batter on top of the chocolate chips. Dump more chocolate chips on top and press into the batter. Repeat if necessary until you have as much coverage as desired.

Bake in a 350* oven for 25 minutes or until the top is golden and the edges perfectly browned.

M arrived home about 5 minutes after I pulled these from the oven, so we tried our first bite when we were all packed, ready to head out the door, standing in the kitchen.

“Mm,” he said. “I guess the real test will be how they taste when they’re completely cool.”

They passed that test with flying colours too.

(Isn’t that plate so pretty? My mom found them in her closet with an assortment of adorable cups and saucers of my Oma’s.)

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Creamy Bruschetta and Dinner Parties

I find the best place to go for good recipes is a dinner party with a generous host. You could play a guessing game with cookbooks and blogs and pretty, sometimes deceptive pictures, or, you can taste it for yourself before you even considering rushing out to buy all the necessary ingredients. I mean, really, what’s not to love about the concept of a dinner party? You get to taste food made by someone else, potentially get a new favourite recipe, make a fool of yourself playing Kinect and, get a little tipsy on wine before heading out to a country bar to go dancing with your best girlfriend and her husband. (What, did you think I’d go to a dinner party with stiff social climbers and stilted conversation over a far-too-gilded, mile-long dinner table?)

And if you’re hosting? The perfect chance to wow a friend or two with your new favourite recipe that you picked up from someone else!

Now, onto the food. J of An Extra Glimpse and the beautiful bride from November 20th served this variation of the classic bruschetta as an appetizer. I took one bite and was in food heaven. So, naturally, I pestered her for it and she, graciously, emailed me the recipe two days later. It was high on my list of things to make after we went grocery shopping last week but, by the time I actually got to it, the baguette I had picked up was a little crunchier than perfection would have been. No matter. The two day old baguette still worked out just fine.

Creamy Tomato Bruschetta
From J of An Extra Glimpse, used with her permission. No idea where she got it from.

1/2 cup mayo
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 medium tomatoes, finely diced
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh baguette cut into 1 inch slices

Mix all the ingredients except, of course, the baguette, in a medium sized bowl. Arrange baguette slices on a cookie sheet. Divide tomato mixture among slices.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or may put pan on grill at medium, low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Delightfully creamy with a bit of a kick to them from the pepper. Completely and utterly delicious. So delicious that we actually at them for our supper. That’s right, you heard me. We had an appetizer supper and it was delicious. This is, I expect an incredibly versatile recipe. I’m already thinking of variations: an onion to replace one of the tomatoes, any different kind of cheese, some shredded chicken, a different medley of spiced. Take mayo, tomato, and cheese, mix whatever you want with them, pop it on to of a slice of baguette, and bake! I have a feeling this one is going to be in my back pocket for a very long time.

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Crunchy Peanut Butter Muffins

An early meeting pushes me out of bed at 6:00 in the morning, half an hour before I would generally be moving. Mocha is still fast asleep, heavy on the blankets between us. The quiet left after I hit the snooze button is far too comfortable, far to dark, and the world outside the comforter is not appealing at all. I would love to just lie here indefinitely.

As difficult as it is to get out of bed, I kind of like these early mornings. (But ssshhh… don’t tell my boss…) There’s less pressure and more preparation. Oh, your hair is a mess today? Understandable. You had to be here at 7:30.

Since I knew last night that I would be up early, a situation that is not so good for my breakfast eating habits, I pulled out my muffin book, a little book full of delicious looking muffins. (Though there are really only a handful that I have any desire at all to make — odd how that is.) I wanted something that would give me a good amount of energy, not be too bad for me and, of course, be delicious.

You don’t want to eat too many of these all at once since they are about 289 calories each — I kind of missed the ‘good for you’ requirement. If you want healthy, opt for a Timmies donut instead — but um, peanut butter is awesome. Enough said.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Muffins
Adapted from 1 Mix, 100 Muffins by Susanna Tee

Muffins

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
6 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

Topping

1/3 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp brown sugar

Make the topping first. It’s really simple. Chop your peanuts if all you have is whole peanuts. (Chopping peanuts is fun!) Then, in a small bowl, mix the peanuts and brown sugar together. Set aside and start preheating your oven to 400*.

For the muffins, mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix, but don’t overmix. If you overmix, the texture of the muffins will be off. So, just mix until the dry ingredients are wet. It will all clump together a bit in the bowl. This isn’t really a wet muffin batter, so don’t be too concerned if your mixture isn’t fully mixed and you feel like you might be overmixing. You probably aren’t.

Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Sprinkle with the topping and pop into the oven for 20 minutes.

The other wonderful thing about early morning meetings? When 3:30 rolls around, I can pack up and be home an hour early, which means supper is well underway long before M gets home, the kitchen is clean(-ish) and our evening has suddenly grown by an hour or even two.

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Chocolate Chip Shortbread

My cookbook collection grew substantially this Christmas. Apparently, my mother-in-law found out I really like to cook. Oddly, the majority of my new books are actually baking books. And you all know how I feel about baking. But, since it was Christmas and then New Years, I bit the bullet and cracked into a couple of the books.

This one comes from a book called Chocolate. Yes, it’s just all about chocolate. Delightful. I made this shortbread for a small gathering of friends in my small apartment. I think most of it ended up in my belly, but I was impressed with my self-control around this incredibly light, crumbly shortbread crusted with chocolate chips. It was the perfect combination, the perfect little dessert. And for once, it has me imagining potential variations.

Some things about this shortbread. It’s hard to work together. My butter was probably not quite soft enough, but I knew if I stuck it in the microwave it would melt too much and the texture would be all wrong. My solution? Hand it off to the Man so he can show off his Muscles. One of these days, I’m going to take my HBC gift cards to Home Outfitters and get that KitchenAid I’be been drooling over.

Another thing about shortbread: once it is cooled, it gets crumbly. That means it’s not so easy to cut. If you want nice pieces of shortbread, don’t forget to cut it before it cools completely.

Now, if you want a bit of chocolaty, buttery goodness, go make this. If you’re worried about keeping New Years resolutions, I suggest you break them and go make this.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread
From Chocolate by Parragon

115 g butter, diced (1/2 cup)
115 g all-purpose flour (3/4 cup)
55 g cornstarch (3/8 cup)
55 g brown sugar (1/4 cup)
As many chocolate chips as you want

(Yes, these measurements are in grams. I was a little thrown when I first got the book. But then, I got a kitchen scale and everything worked out. The cup measurement are approximates. Corrections are appreciated.)

Mix together the flour, cornstarch, and sugar. Add the diced butter and rub in until the mixture begins to hold together. A mixer is useful for this, whether a machine or a stronger human being than you.

Press the mixture evenly into a springform pan. Sprinkle as many chocolate chips on top as you would like and press in gently with your fingers. If you think you need more chocolate chips, add more.

Bake at 325* for 35-40 minutes, until a beautiful gold colour. Removing the side of the springform pan, carefully cut into 8 portions, or however many you would like. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before moving to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. If serving to guests, cut or break a piece in half to share with your Muscle as a taste test, then pack them away to share later.

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