Monday, December 10, 2018

Curried Red Lentils with Winter Squash

Curried Red Lentils with Winter Squash Cubes
My dear friend Chrysa made me this spectacular Lentil dish on a recent family visit. It was so delicious that I could probably eat it every day for lunch and not tire of it.

The sweet squash chunks contrast beautifully with the savory Lentils.

And, it's super-healthy, too : )

She found the recipe here. She made a few changes when she made it for me. Then I made a few changes, resulting in the current Slow Cooker-friendly version.

Curried Red Lentils with Winter Squash

Saute in a non-stick skillet:
1 T oil
1 ½ C Onion
1 tsp garlic (I use the jarred, minced from fresh kind)
1 T Ginger (I use the jarred kind)
1 T Curry Powder
Add the above to slow cooker with
1# Red Lentils, sorted and rinsed well
1 Can diced Tomatoes, with juice
2 tsp salt
7-8 C Water
1 bag (10-20 oz) squash Cubes 
Cook on High about 4 hours
At end of cooking, add
Small Dash Lemon Juice at end to brighten flavors (not too much now !)

 In the slow cooker, frozen squash cubes tend to lose their shape and mix with the lentils (which can be quite tasty, too!). If you wish to keep a firmer shape, and a more distinct flavor contrast, use fresh, large cubes (about 1" cubes), or add frozen cubes one to two hours before the end of cooking time.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Spicy Asian Orange Bowl

Spicy Asian Orange Bowl
This is a great lunch for one. If you want something healthy and satisfying, give it a try. It's also quick to throw together : )

You can completely customize it to your own personal tastes.

First add a layer of Rice. Or Quinoa. Or Couscous - or whatever your favorite grain is.

Top it with your favorite veggies. Here, I used a Stir Fry medley from the freezer. But, other times I add raw veggies like Shredded Cabbage.


Other good toppings (cooked or raw):
Snow Peas, Peas, Edamame, Broccoli, Peanuts, Tofu, Almonds, Scallions, Carrots, Celery, Mandarin Orange Segments

If you're an Omnivore, Some cubed chicken would also go nicely.

This is a GREAT dish for using up those leftovers in the fridge : )

I make the sauce in the microwave, but if you prefer, you can make it in a saucepan on the stovetop. Just keep stirring until it simmers - which won't take very long at all.

Here's the Sauce for One 

Spicy Asian Orange Sauce for One to Two

1 Tablespoon Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Water
½ Tablespoon Sugar*
¼ teaspoon Sriracha(or to taste)
½ teaspoon Tapioca Starch
Microwave, stirring every 15 seconds, till clear & bubbly (usually less than 1 minute total cooking time)



Here's the Sauce for a family


Spicy Asian Orange Sauce for 4 to 8


1/4 cup Orange Juice
1/4 cup  Soy Sauce
1/4 cup  Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1/4 cup  Water
2 Tablespoons Sugar*
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or to taste)
2 teaspoons Tapioca Starch
Microwaving, stirring every 15 seconds, till clear & bubbly

Here's the nutrition information per serving I calculated for this sauce on these sites for
General Nutrition Information and  For WW Points:
When made with Sugar, per 2 T serving:
43.1 Calories, 0g Saturated Fat, 6 g Sugar, 1 g Protein. 2 WW Freestyle Smartpoints

*I tried this recipe with both 1) Pink Sweetener Packets (Saccharine) and 2) Measures-the-same-as-sugar-sucralose (Aka Splenda or Apriva). Don't use the Pink Packets (1) . But, if you use the Splenda-type sweetener that measures like sugar (2) - it  works like a dream. It also cuts your points in half, and significantly reduces your calories. Your call.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Two Week Advent Menu

Here's my menu for the first two weeks of Advent this year. For us Greek Orthodox Christians, most days of Advent (also known as the Christmas Fast) are days when meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are forbidden, but fish is allowed. It begins on November 15th, and ends - of course- on Christmas. For us Greek Orthodox Christians, Christmas is December 25th. Russian Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar, so their Fast starts later, and their Christmas lands on January 7 by our calendar. Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians are the same religiously - we are in full communion with each other. But we have some cultural differences - language, music, and calendar dates, for example.

Since I'm vegetarian, I plan a menu with very little fish, but keep a little fish in the freezer - and tuna in the cupboard - to add as an impromptu "side dish" with any meal for the family, as desired.

The vast majority of these meals have a Slow Cooker option - making for an easy cooking schedule.

Here's the plan:

Greek Okra & Tomato Stew

Fasolia Vrasta (served with Tuna for Omnivores)



Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice

Stir Fry Veggies over Rice

Chili & Rice



Split Pea Soup

Calzone Casserole



Tabouli and Lentil Rice Salad  with Fish

Fasolia Yachni

Black Tie Moujendra

Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas

Boca Burgers (purchased) and Oven Fries

Peas & Artichokes Yachni

Fill Your Own Tortilla



Red Lentil & Squash Curry (Recipe still to come!)

Cyprus Bulgur Pilaf


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Monday, November 19, 2018

Easiest Ever Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Easiest Ever Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
This bread is Whole Wheat, No Knead, Refrigerator Rise, Vegan, and Oil Free. And, best of all, Tasty!

Just measure, stir, wait, form, pop in fridge, wait and bake! It takes about 10 minutes hands-on time - if you're a slow worker : )

And, an added bonus, this same dough can be used to make a variety of other Whole Wheat Breads on this site, like:

Cinnamon Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan, No Oil 

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Walnut Bread 


Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, Easy, Soft, No Knead, Oil Free 

OR
 
Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, Slow Cooker
 

This is my own recipe, but I got the method from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - whose work I highly recommend!

Easy Soft, No Knead Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
 (Makes 2 batches - for a one batch recipe, see my Whole Wheat Rolls post)

I prepare a double batch of dough in a plastic shoe box from the dollar store
.
Be sure to add ingredients in this order:

3 Cups Warm Water
5 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch (you can substitute Cornstarch, if you like)
1 Cup Potato Flakes (yes, the kind people make instant Mashed Potatoes with)
1/2 Cup Sugar*
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 Tablespoon Salt

Stir well with a spoon till well combined and no floury patches remain. If it is VERY hard to stir, and doesn't look like the picture below, you can add a couple more Tablespoons of Warm Water.

Dough Right after Stirring


Cover loosely (I put the shoe box lid on, but don't snap it down on one corner) and allow to rise for 2-5 hours on counter.

Dough after initial rise - ready to place in fridge or use.


Place in Fridge till needed, or use right away (ideally, use this within a week)

When you're ready to use it, oil a loaf pan. (You may line the loaf pan with parchment paper if you absolutely cannot have any oil.  "Cut" it in half with your hand, then gently form into a ball. This will be approximately a 2# ball of dough. Elongate the ball slightly, and place it in the loaf pan. Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours on the counter, or loosely cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.

"Cut" Dough with your hand


Gently Shape into a ball and place in oiled loaf pan.

At baking time, preheat the oven to 350, and bake loaf on lower shelf of oven  (place shelf so that the MIDDLE of the loaf is in the MIDDLE of your oven - a middle shelf tends to place the top of a loaf too high, and it darkens too quickly) for about 45 to 50 minutes.

Allow to cool briefly on the counter, then carefully remove from pan and cool thoroughly on a wire rack. This bread will slice best if it is cool, but if you can't wait to enjoy it warm . . . .; )

Add caption


When I make this, I thoroughly cool it, then immediately slice it and wrap it and put it in the freezer (any that we didn't eat right away). Then, when you're ready to use it, just warm it up in the microwave, and toast lightly in the toaster oven to give that fresh-from-the-oven taste : )

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Dijon Pork Chops

Dijon Pork Chops
Dijon Pork Chops are perfect to serve for "Meat and Potatoes" sorts of meals. Tasty & simple : )

Here's the Recipe

Dijon Pork Chops
Place 4 Pork Chops in a labeled, Zippered Freezer bag
Add:
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Basil
1/2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 to 2 Tablespoons oil may be stirred in, but is not necessary
Squish Bag to mix Marinade ingredients and coat Pork chops
Toss in Freezer (or, if serving the same day, toss in Fridge for 4-24 hours to marinate)

If frozen, the day before serving, move from Freezer to refrigerator to thaw.

To Cook, Use tongs to remove Pork Chops from bag and place in Heated Skillet or Electric Grill.
Cook till done (usually this takes 15-20 minutes on my stove)

Serve.


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Monday, November 5, 2018

Homeschooling a 12-Year-Old PhD

Karl Witte, Youngest PhD in History



Every now and then, there's a story on the news of a teenager who finishes college or gets a graduate degree before his or her peers have finished high school. I always find these stories most intriguing, and am not at all surprised to find that many of these children were homeschooled.

One day, as we were reading such a story, my daughter commented, "Wow! I'll bet that's the youngest kid to ever finish college!" Of course that made me curious, and I looked up the actual list of record-holders. It happens that the youngest PhD ever was Karl Witte, a German boy who was (depending which report you read) 12 or 13 at the time he received his degree. He started college at 9!

And, of course, I wasn't surprised to find that young Karl was homeschooled.

His father, also named Karl Witte, was a clergyman, and wrote a book about how he educated the boy, and which assumptions of his time he did and did not subscribe to.

It was a most fascinating book, providing glimpses of a unique homeschooling method in a different time and place.

The Rev. Karl Witte was not fond or the early study of Latin for his son. He knew that many Latin academic texts are not wholesome, and felt they would be spiritually harmful to the child. As we pursue academic excellence, it is important to remember, as this clergyman-father did, that our first goal for our children must be the well-being of their soul, not impressive academic achievement or accolades.

He was certainly not fond of waiting to educate the child until age of 7 or so - but not for the reasons you might imagine. He saw that the children whose education was delayed became dangerously self-willed and hard to manage by the time they entered school. He felt that molding a child's character was an important task to take on early, rather than leaving the child to his own devices. (Which of course, is Biblical.)

He realized that although his child was academically advanced, he was still a child psychologically and needed help with tasks like organizing papers, and controlling his own behavior. Even in modern times, many adults make the mistake of thinking that academically advanced children should be treated as grown ups.

It fascinated me to read that the king gave a scholarship to the son, and another one to the father - so that the father could accompany his son to university and perform tasks like keeping papers organized and helping him behave during classes. Children are children, no matter what their cognitive abilities!

He believed that a child's academic ability should be trained rigorously - not matter what "gifts" the child appeared to have or not have - in fact, he firmly held that his son was not gifted, just an ordinary boy with a good education.  Ironically, this notion is just now taking off in educational circles, and being called "Growth Mindset" or "Brain Based Learning" - but it is nothing new!

Of course, a few of his practices wouldn't fit in the modern world - like rewarding his son for studying hard by celebrating with Waffles and Warm Beer. It's COLD beer in the modern world!😉😉 ; )

As 21st Century homeschoolers, it is easy to get caught up in the fads of the current homeschooling moment. We have certain popular notions that we assume are the ONLY right way to look at home education. Of course, which of these notions we subscribe to are influenced by our own social circles and era.

We might subscribe to any or all of the following assumptions:


  • School should be fun. 


  • Our kids should LIKE their curriculum.


  • School should be relaxed. 


  • It is best to have short lessons. 


  • Better late than early. 


  • Latin study is noble and lofty.


  • Rushing children to learn robs them of their childhood - and a storybook childhood is magically important. 


  • Socialization during school years is profoundly important to a happy adult life. 

But, it is easy to forget that, just as people of past centuries were a "product of their era" - so are we!

For a reality check, it is very helpful to read the home educators of the past. Viewing education through their eyes can offer a fresh perspective, and allow us to examine our own assumptions. Besides which, it's just fun!

For a fun and fascinating read, check out (free online):

The Education of Karl Witte



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Monday, October 29, 2018

Jellytelly Review


https://www.jellytelly.com/
A couple of years ago, I got the wonderful kids' video series, What's in the Bible? from my local library on inter-library loan. My daughter watched all the episodes (26!) with great enthusiasm. It's a program for children with puppets and rhyming songs - really cute and fun - and she really enjoyed it.

In subsequent months, when I was teaching her religion, from time to time I'd mention something that I considered pretty obscure, the kind of thing you might learn in a graduate Theology class. Stuff like the parallelism in Hebrew Old Testament poetry. Or who Rehoboam was. Or Ishbosheth. Stuff you wouldn't expect a kid to know (much less be able to pronounce! ; )

And, she'd say, "I know that Mom." (She's NOT one of those kids who always says that no matter what I say).

I'd ask, "You do? Where did you learn it?"

(Since we homeschool, I feel like I usually know what she knows pretty well!)

The reply would invariably be, "What's in the Bible!"

So, this year, when she said she wanted to watch it again, I was enthusiastic. Except that the new library didn't have it. And I'm cheap (okay, okay, "frugal!") And, it's NOT a cheap set to buy!

Well, my husband did some research, and discovered that we could subscribe to Jellytelly and watch the WHOLE series. And it would only be about $5. per month (at the time of this publication)! Which is a STEAL!

So, we signed up. And she watched ALL the episodes of What's in the Bible, followed by a summary of the whole Bible on Superbook. Then every episode of 321 Penguin. The Owlegories, then Paws and Tales. Then who-knows-what else! Each one of these series costs a bit to buy, but on Jellytelly, they're all included in the basic price : )

We're super-diligent about what we watch. We have no TV in the house, and we select videos carefully. Because as the popular saying goes, "How could we entertain ourselves with something that caused the death of our Savior?"

And, I'm delighted to say, we can let her watch Jellytelly freely. No restrictions. If it's on there, it's good.

We're Orthodox Christians, and once in a while, we might have a tiny difference in perspective from that of the mostly Protestant writers. But, the differences are small, and the benefit is great. We can always explain the points of difference. And, it's good for her to know how other Christians understand the Faith.

What I like best about this streaming service is that the wonderfully entertaining programs aren't just "not harmful," but rather they're truly beneficial. The Spiritual nutrition of Spinach, but the TASTE of Ice Cream ; )

If you're looking for some wonderful viewing for your kids - or for a great gift for Christmas or another occasion, sign your kids up for Jellytelly! (note, this isn't an affiliate link or a paid ad, I just LOVE this service!)

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Monday, October 22, 2018

10 Wonderful Ways with Lentils

Lentils come pretty close to being a perfect food!

They're cheap; packed with protein and other great nutrients and  easy to store. They're quick to cook - unlike beans, they don't even need to be soaked. Nearly everyone finds them easy to digest - but if your stomach is especially delicate, the red ones are even easier to digest than the brown or green ones, since the fibrous "skin" has been removed from them.

What a lot of people don't realize is that they're also super-versatile. They can be used to make everything from soups, to salads to entrees.

Here are ten of my favorite ways to enjoy them:


 
Lentil Shepherd's Pie






Lentil & Rice Salad




Masala Dal





Moujendra, Black Tie




Red Lentil & Artichoke Stew 




Lentil Spaghetti





Family Favorite Lentil Soup



Red Lentil Soup - Moroccan or Sephardic Styles




Three Bean Dal


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Monday, October 15, 2018

Everyday Saints and Other Stories, a Book Review

Everyday Saints and Other Stories
Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, translated by Julian Henry Lowenfeld,  has been on my "ought to read" list for a few years now.

First, a good friend recommended it to me.

Then, while working in my Parish bookstore, person after person would point to it on the shelf, and ask if I had read it. When I told them that I hadn't, invariably they'd tell me that I ought to.

But, it's kind of a daunting book. About 500 pages. And the library didn't have it (the public libraries nowadays almost never have newer Christian books). So I hesitated to buy a book that would require such a large time commitment.

Finally, one more friend recommended it.

And, the clincher, she also loaned me her copy! : )

Of course, I discovered that all those recommendations had not been wrong!

Despite its phone-book thickness, this book is an easy read. It's a collection of true short stories that all took place in the years of the Soviet empire. Most of the events happened in the 1980's and 1990's, though some of the events occurred much earlier or a little later. It was originally a huge best seller in Russia, then was later translated into English.

The stories are compelling to read - much like a good novel - and there are many photographs of the men and women in the stories. 

Each story tells of God's action in the world, involving Monks, Nuns, and the laypeople they knew.

The cost of serving God during those dark times is well known, and the heroic courage of these men and women makes the book a real page-turner at times. How people remained true to the Faith, and with what unwavering courage is definitely worth meditating upon.

The book is filled with inspiring stories and remarkable miracles.

One story that particularly touched me was the story from the time of Civil War before the Revolution (circa 1917). It tells of a poorly run monastery with some "bad" monks, Monks who had a reputation for laziness and alcoholism. The Bolsheviks thought that these Monks would be an easy target - so they attempted to force them to publicly deny Christ before the townspeople - many of whom held them in contempt. The Bolstheviks threw on the ground the Holy Cross and the Scriptures, and demanded that the Monks trample upon them in front of all the people. The Abbot turned to his Monks and proclaimed, "Well, my brothers, we have lived like pigs, but let us at least die like Christians." Of course, the Bolsheviks then proceeded to behead them all, making them Martyrs for the Faith.

This story greatly impressed me with the lesson that, even when outward sins or addictions are glaring, we cannot truly know the heart of another. And, repentance is more powerful than any sin. The person we think of as "bad" might have a Faithfulness to God that we can only dream of.

But, truly, each of the stories is a gem in its own way - there was no need to single out just one.

If you wonder about Russian Orthodoxy during the Communist years, if you wonder about being a faithful Christian in a militantly secular culture, if you seek inspiring stories of faithful service to God, you'll enjoy this book.

If you'd like to get a copy of this book, here's a link. It's not an "affiliate link," but it's simply for your convenience. In addition to being able to buy the book through this official site, you can also read more about it here:

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, translated by Julian Henry Lowenfeld

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Monday, October 1, 2018

40+ Meals. WW Freestyle Zero Points. Vegan, Gluten Free

Zero Points, 40+ Meals, Vegan, Gluten Free
Looking for WW Friendly, Zero Freestyle point recipes that are Vegan and/or Gluten Free? 

I've compiled a huge list for you! 

With these recipes, you could eat dinners that were centered around Zero Point entrees for more than a month! 

There are also several side dishes here, in addition to the 40+ entrees.

Keep reading & find some that appeal to you : )

A few caveats are listed at the bottom of this post.

Breakfasts

 

Almond Milk, Two Minute

 


Kids' Favorite Breakfast Ice Cream

 



Scrambled Tofu



Lunch and Dinner Entrees



Chinese Restaurant Food (rice & nuts not included in zero points)
 


Claire's Southern Delight (rice not included in zero points)



Curried Chickpeas over Rice (rice not included in zero points)


Eggplant Stew (rice or bread not included in zero points)





Greek Broad Beans (Koukia) or
Fava Beans

Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas ( Louvia )



Greek Chickpea Stew ( Revythia )



Greek Giant Beans ( Gigantes ) 



Greek Green Beans ( Fasolakia Yachni )


Greek Okra & Tomato Stew ( Bamies Yachni )



Greek White Beans, Easiest Ever (Fasolia Vrasta)



Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice (rice not included in zero points)



Indian Mung Beans



Indian Spiced Blackeye Peas over Rice (rice not included in zero points)





Marinated, Grilled Tofu

Mediterranean Chickpeas & Vegetables (for zero points, use capers instead of olives, and omit rice)


Mushroom Kabobs, Grilled ( Manitarakia )



Peas & Artichokes Yachni



Red Lentil & Artichoke Stew 


Shiitake Rice Bowl (for zero points, omit rice)





Skyline Black Beans and Rice over Spaghetti, Copycat (for zero points, serve without pasta)

 


Tofu Creole
 






Side Dishes


Cauliflower & Capers


Chinese Restaurant Green Beans




Corn on the Cob, Three Minute


Corn, Urban Grilled



Jicama, Simply



Refried Beans, Easiest Healthy



Sauerkraut
 




Sesame Broccoli




Simply Zucchini Saute
 




Veggies Vinaigrette
 




Salads

 

Better than Coleslaw (omit nuts for zero points - add carrot or red cabbage for visual interest, if desired)

 

Black Bean and Corn Salad (omit avocado for zero points)



Black-Eyed Pea Salad (on left)


Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise (use pineapple in place of raisins for zero points)


Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad





Glysterida Salad (use oil free version and omit cheese for zero points)


Mediterranean Two Bean Salad (omit olives for zero points)



Orange Beet Salad (omit nuts, and substitute orange juice for oil in dressing)



Refreshing Diced Salad


 Simply Greek Dressing (Traditional or Fat Free)


Super Simple Salad (use capers in place of olives for zero points




White Bean Salad




Soups

 

Black Bean Soup (Slow Cooker)

 





Broccoli Soup 


Butternut Squash Soup, Justin's




Chili



Family Favorite Lentil Soup





Greek Bean Soup, Favorite (Fasolia Yachni)
or
 Greek Bean Soup, Easy ( Fasolia Yachni )



Hot & Sour Soup





Lemony Dal


Masala Dal




Mediterranean Zucchini Soup 
Minestrone (omit pasta for zero points)




 Moroccan Carrot Soup



Spinach Soup


 




 Red Lentil Soup - Moroccan or Sephardic Styles



Split Pea Soup



Three Bean Dal






Appetizers, Snacks, Sauces, Dips & Spreads


Marinara Sauce, Quick and Easy




Salsa from your own Mix or 
Vat O' Salsa




Vat O' Spaghetti Sauce






Desserts


Fruit Salad


Ice Cream

A few Caveats:

WW International is the trade name and Weight Watchers and WW are the trademarks and service marks of WW International.

I am not affiliated with WW in any way, so these recipes are not endorsed by them, and I'm not an expert on the program. I believe that these are all zero points on the new Freestyle program. Of course, I'm a human being subject to error. So, if you find a mistake please leave a gentle note in the comments so I can fix it : ) If you have doubts, please contact your local group leader and ask.

Nothing in this post, or in my blog in general is intended as medical or nutritional advice. I am not a medical professional or expert of any kind, nor am I a Registered Dietician.
 
In many of these meals, oil is an optional ingredient. For zero points, omit the oil. If you prefer, add the oil, and appropriate points. The only exception to this is Dark Sesame Oil - it cannot be omitted without changing the flavor of the dish substantially - but then again, it is usually used very sparingly.

A few recipes have a trace amount of sugar. I believe it's negligible in the calculation. If I'm wrong, please let me know.  

Many of these links suggest omitting rice, olives or various other ingredients for zero points. If you choose to keep those ingredients, go for it! You still have a VERY low-in-points meal. 

Pictures below are "serving suggestions" - so rice, bread & olives, etc,  in the pictures aren't  included in "zero points." 

If you follow a Gluten Free diet, be sure to use all Gluten Free ingredients. Things like Soy Sauce are available with or without gluten, so read your labels carefully.  

ENJOY! : ) 

Zero Points, 40+ Meals, Vegan, Gluten Free

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