Gourmet Veggie Mama

Category Archives: Cooking

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta with Fresh Ricotta

Not long ago, I made a meal (this fantastic baked ziti) for a friend who just had a baby. Several people did this for me when Amelia was born, and I like to pay it forward. Having a newborn is a hard gig! However, I am still a little sleep deprived myself, so while I was making the ricotta cheese for two batches of baked ziti, I had a math fail. Long story short, I ended up with twice as much ricotta as I actually needed.

But, hey, that’s definitely not a bad problem to have. I pondered what to do with the extra, and landed on a quick and easy meal of spinach and artichoke pasta. Since we have plenty of spinach growing in our garden these days, it was easy to pop outside and pick some, sauté it, combine it with some chopped marinated artichoke hearts, the ricotta and a little cream, and toss it with pasta. Voila! Dinner is served.

spinach ricotta pasta

I do like my pasta pretty saucy, and this is no exception — so if you like yours with more pasta than other stuff, well, just make more pasta.

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta with Fresh Ricotta
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz spaghetti or angel hair pasta
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped roughly
  • 1 12-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese, preferably homemade (recipe follows)
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted.
  3. Lower the heat and add the artichoke hearts, ricotta cheese (breaking into smaller chunks with spoon) and cream. Stir over low heat until warm, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Stir in the pasta. Serve warm topped with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Homemade Ricotta
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups whole milk (preferably organic, pastured milk)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Fold a length of cheesecloth so that it's four sheets thick, and set it in a colander in the sink.
  2. Bring the milk, buttermilk and cream to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Keep watch over the mixture, stirring occasionally, until you see the curds start to separate. When this happens, turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to scoop the curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Keep scooping under all you've got left is a light-yellowish liquid (whey).
  3. Sprinkle the cheese with a little kosher salt and let it drain for about 5 minutes. Use immediately, or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

 

Risi e Bisi

Ladies and gentlemen, the Naptime Chef is back. I thought, after a couple of years of being limited to meal prep during naptime, that I was past all that. With a child in preschool and plenty of time around the house by myself, I thought I could start to prepare meals like a normal person. Then along came Amelia.

Babies certainly have their own ideas about meal prep — namely that it’s not their favorite thing, and that there are a number of other endeavors on which their waking hours should be spent. So, I am, once again, limited to prepping dinner during naptime, however sporadic and undependable that may be.

And here I am, the Naptime Chef again. I guess that’s how it’s going to be for a while, at least. But, that’s okay, because I do have a few of my old tricks memorized, and I’m sure to discover some new ones along the way.

The difference is, this time, we’re starting out with a young palate to please as well — and yes, Nora has turned out to be quite the picky 3-year-old, despite my best efforts.* But, one thing she does like is rice. The kid will shovel handful after handful of the stuff into her mouth. And peas are one of her favorite veggies, too.

* I guess it happens to most kids eventually, at least to some degree. I just try not to cater to it too much, and hope it’ll pass sooner rather than later!

So, imagine my delight when I ran across this Slate article about the best thing to make with arborio rice that isn’t risotto, complete with a recipe for Risi e Bisi — an Italian rice and pea dish.

risi e bisi

Of course, I wouldn’t be touting it if it weren’t also pleasing to adult palates as well. It has many of the same ingredients as risotto — arborio rice, broth, butter, parmesan — but it’s far less time consuming. Even better, it’s something I can easily make ahead (during naptime, naturally) and finish quickly at dinnertime. Now that’s something I can get behind — particularly as our freezer stash is running low and I have to start cooking real food again on a regular basis.

Risi e Bisi
Author: 
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
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Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 14-oz bag frozen peas
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus additional for serving
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until light golden brown and beginning to caramelize.
  2. Add 4 cups of the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the rice and peas.
  3. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover and cook at a low boil until the rice is just tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.** Thin with additional stock if needed. The consistency should be thick, but not quite as thick as risotto.
  4. Stir in the parmesan and taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese.
Notes
** If you are making the rice ahead, simply stop a couple of minutes before the rice is done to your liking and refrigerate; reheat later, adding some of the reserved broth and finishing with the parmesan.

 

Stocking the (Vegetarian) Freezer

With a baby due this month (!), we’ve been working on stocking our freezer with delicious, healthy meals for those hazy newborn days when cooking just isn’t a priority… or sometimes even a possibility. Since Nora made her appearance a little early, we didn’t do as much freezer stocking last time around, but we made it through just fine with a mixture of family and friends cooking and bringing meals for us, prepared foods, and takeout. This time around, we are pretty well prepared, I think. We’ll see soon!

For a couple of months, I’ve been making larger batches of some freezer-friendly meals and putting the extra in the freezer. I’ve actually done very little cooking exclusively for the freezer, but we’ve been building up our stock bit by bit.*

Stocking the (Vegetarian) Freezer

* Yes, there are some prepared meals in there, too. Michael Angelo’s is good stuff, yo. And don’t knock Amy’s either.

There are tons of resources out there for stocking the freezer for omnivores, but, I found, relatively few for vegetarians. A lot of freezer meals tend to be crockpot-ready meals, and those tend to be pretty meat-centric. However, that doesn’t mean that vegetarian meals can’t be freezer-friendly, too! So, I thought I’d share some of the recipes we’ve used to stock the freezer, as well as a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

In general, soups freeze really well, as do non-cream-based pasta sauces (just make fresh pasta to go with it), lasagna and enchiladas (freeze the sauce separately, or use good-quality packaged sauce). Beans are also good freezer candidates, and you can either freeze them cooked plain (so you can throw them into other dishes) or prepared, as in a soup or chili. Don’t forget bread (it’s nice to have a homemade loaf to go with that soup) and a few treats you can bake at a moment’s notice, like chocolate chip cookies. Yep, I think we will eat just fine for those few weeks after the baby arrives.

C’mon Baby Girl! We’re ready to meet you!

Tips for Freezing:

  • Use disposable baking dishes. Normally I’m not a fan, but not having dishes to clean up when you are dealing with a newborn (or recovering from surgery, or what have you) is priceless. Foil baking pans with lids are the bomb for things like enchiladas, pasta or lasagna.
  • Use freezer bags, and lay them flat to freeze. This saves a lot of space, and they’ll thaw a lot faster when you’re ready to use them, too.
  • Be sure to print meal names, dates and reheating instructions on every container. Make it idiot-proof so you don’t have to think too much about it. Some of us are pretty dumb when sleep-deprived.
  • Make sure to leave plenty of time to thaw your meal before you’re ready to eat it! This seems like a no-brainer, but some things take longer than just a day in the fridge to completely unfreeze, and you don’t want your dinner plans upset when you realize your mac and cheese is still a mac-and-cheese-sicle after an hour in the oven. Not that that has ever happened to me. *ahem*
  • Start early. If you freeze a few meals here and there, it won’t seem like such a huge undertaking, and before you know it — voila, you have a freezer stash!

What’s in Our Freezer:

Roasted Fennel Tomato Sauce (just add pasta and parmesan)

Crock Pot Potato Soup

Sweet Potato and Chard Enchiladas

Veggie Chili

Various beans  – including crock pot pinto beans, borlotti beans and cooked chickpeas

Black-Eyed Peas

Veggie lasagna (I made a big pan and froze half of it, wrapped in freezer Press ‘n’ Seal)

Garlic-artichoke pasta sauce (frozen without the cream)

White Bean Soup with Mushrooms, Spinach and Quinoa

Split Pea Soup

Cloverleaf French Bread

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

 

Other Freezer-Friendly Meals:

Mexican White Bean Soup

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Orzo Soup (freeze prior to adding the cream)

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant

Kale and White Bean Soup

Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Kale

Black Bean Soup

Lentil-Spinach Soup

Lentil Soup

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

Black Bean Chili

Black-Eyed Peas and Greens with Leeks

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine

Chard and Sweet Potato Stew

Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas

Chard Enchiladas

Macaroni and Cheese

Chard Lasagna

Chard and Mushroom Lasagna

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

You know what’s good? Brussels sprouts. I know, I know — they’re all the rage right now, but I have to say, I’m so glad they’ve been re-discovered and that people are actually doing them right!

Roasting is the way to go, hands-down. You’re not still cutting those little Xs in the bottom of your Brussels sprouts and boiling them are you? Roasting is so much easier, and so much tastier, too.

The hubby and I went out to dinner at Uchiko a little while ago, and, among the many dishes they wowed us with was a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce. Since I love Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and wanted to include them in our feast, I decided to try my hand at a similar recipe. Although ours didn’t come out as crispy (or, truth be told, as greasy*) as Uchiko’s, they were still awesome.

Roasted Brussels Spouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

* Not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing — they were utterly delicious.

I love the combination of soy sauce and sweet chili sauce on these, for a slightly Asian spin that was still perfectly at home with more traditional Thanksgiving foods. We had the rest of the sprouts (recipe testing, round 2) with a dinner of caramelized tofu with ramen noodles a couple nights ago, and it went great with that, too. Definitely a must-try!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce
Author: 
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs sweet chili sauce**
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a bowl with the oil and soy sauce to coat them, and then spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, or until partially tender.
  3. Toss the sprouts and then raise the oven temperature to 400. Continue to roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender, crisp and browed, tossing every few minutes to ensure even browning.
  4. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss in a bowl with the sweet chili sauce. Serve immediately.
Notes
** Available at Asian groceries or the Asian foods section of some grocery stores.

 

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (from Edible Austin)

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Jen and Alex Jackson for a profile in Edible Austin. The couple has since moved on to San Francisco (Bay Area friends, our loss is your gain!), but they were delightful to meet and chat with. I hope you’ll check out the profile here.

I was also privileged to recipe-test the flatbread that Jen and Alex shared with us for the magazine. That was the best part!

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Edible Austin)

I did this when eggplant, peppers and tomatoes were still bounteous, as was that peppery summer arugula, but luckily Jen and Alex provided us with a few seasonal variations that would be perfect for right about now (butternut squash, with sage and caramelized leeks, plus a great sheep’s milk cheese, anyone?).

This version, though, with summer veggies, creamy goat cheese and eggs cracked right over the pizza, is to die for, and will definitely be back on our table next summertime!

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (from Edible Austin)

I will tell you that, although the dough is a little time-consuming to make, it is hands-down the best I’ve made in my own kitchen (and I’ve tried quite a few!). Head over to Edible Austin to read the profile and grab the recipe, and I do hope you’ll try it out yourself!

Easy Margherita Pizza + No-Knead Dough

I’ve been experimenting a lot with pizza lately. Although there is a special place in my heart for grilled pizzas, with the weather turning cooler (at least in theory), and with my pregnancy-fueled love of all things carb-y, I am turning more toward a thicker crust and an oven preparation. I’ve tried several recipes recently — Chicago-style deep dish pizza (recipe to come, once I’ve perfected it), a flatbread recipe that’s to die for (more on that soon) — but this one just may be my favorite.

Easy Margherita Pizza (with No-Knead Dough)

I was so excited when I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “lazy pizza dough” — it’s a no-knead dough that you basically mix and forget about until it’s time to stretch, top and bake. She gives options for an overnight, all-day or part-day rise, but I’m going to give you the part-day rise here, since it’s the only one I’ve tried (and it worked beautifully). We also seem to have lost our pizza stone and peel somewhere in the cross-country move (18 months or so ago… which goes to show you how often it got used), so, with some trepidation, I baked this pizza on a well-oiled baking sheet. Guess what? It still tuned out crispy and delicious. So, no special equipment required!

nora pizza

Plus, it’s Nora-approved.

Easy Margherita Pizza
Author: 
Prep time: 
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Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp (slightly heaped) active dry yeast
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups warm water
For the pizza:
  • olive oil for greasing pan
  • 1 14.5-oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz mozzarella (aged, not fresh), grated
  • 2 oz parmesan, grated
  • several fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Instructions
For the dough:
  1. In a large non-reactive bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt and water. The dough will be craggy, but should come together pretty well. If necessary, you can add another tablespoon or so of water.
  2. Once all ingredients are incorporated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 6 hours, until more than doubled in size. (See the original recipe for overnight and all-day rise options, if that timing works better for you.)
For the pizza:
  1. When the dough is almost ready, make the sauce and prepare your toppings. Preheat the oven to 500°. Oil a rimmed baking sheet generously with olive oil.
  2. Combine the crushed tomatoes, garlic cloves, salt and crushed red pepper in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and shape it into a ball.
  4. Flour the top of the dough ball and, using well-floured hands, grab one side of the dough and let it stretch down, repeating several times.
  5. Place the stretched dough onto the prepared baking sheet and stretch and spread it with your hands until it is roughly 9 x 13 inches in size (stretching almost to the edges of the pan).
  6. Top with approximately ½ cup of the sauce, spreading evenly (reserve the rest for another use). Sprinkle the mozzarella over the sauce, and top with the parmesan.
  7. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is puffed and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, turning once to ensure even cooking.
  8. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the basil leaves. Cool slightly, then slide onto a cutting board and cut into pieces. Serve warm with a salad, and enjoy!

 

Simple (but Delicious!) Roasted Broccoli

Looking for a way to spice up your veggie repertoire without going totally overboard? Is steaming your broccoli just not doing it for you anymore? Well, I’ve got an idea for you — and it’s one that our family has been loving for the last couple of weeks. Yes, including Nora — broccoli is one of the relatively few foods she will eat (raw or cooked) with gusto these days.*

* Although, preschoolers being what they are, I’m sure that will change soon enough.

Roasting broccoli takes a little longer than steaming it, but not by much, and it’s worth it. It imparts a great, almost caramelized flavor, and you can just toss it in the oven with whatever else you’ve got on, so it’s not exactly time-consuming. Plus, adding a little fat to your veggies (here in the form of olive oil) helps your body absorb all those nutrients, and makes them tastier to boot. It’s a win-win!

We had roasted broccoli the other night with ultimate baked potatoes, and it made for the perfect, simple weeknight meal.

Simple Roasted Broccoli

This preparation is so simple it almost seems silly to make it into a recipe… but it’s too good not to share!

Roasted Broccoli
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets, and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Spread the broccoli in a single layer in a baking dish. Roast for 15-20 minutes, tossing at least once to ensure even browning. Remove when bright green and starting to brown in spots, but still crisp.

 

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I happened to notice a recipe for oatmeal cookies on the back of my box of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal one morning while cooking breakfast, so naturally I had to give it a whirl. Also naturally, I had to switch things up a bit. I’m not a fan of raisins in my oatmeal cookies, but I love chocolate chips… and I just happened to have semi-sweet and white chocolate chips on hand. I would’ve thrown some walnuts in, too, but we were out. They’d be lovely with or without.

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I am trying to involve Nora more in cooking, and baking is one of the ways we can really have fun in the kitchen. Of course, everything takes twice as long (or more), but she loves to dump ingredients into the bowl, stir, turn on the mixer — and sample, of course. One of these days I’ll be able to sit back and have her whip me up a batch of cookies. Now that’s what parenting is all about — isn’t it?

The hubby, who self-described as “not a fan” of oatmeal cookies, loved these. So did all the neighborhood kids! Oh, and I certainly ate more than my share — to that I must confess.°

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 dozen
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and beat into the butter mixture on low speed, until just combined. Add the oats and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

 

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Garlic Aioli

It must be fall, because sweet potatoes are here! And, of course, when life gives you sweet potatoes, the very first thing you must do is make sweet potato fries.

Sweet potato oven fries with garlic aioli

This time around, I went for a super-simple preparation of wedge oven fries, skin-on, served with a homemade(-ish) garlic aioli. It would have been all the way* homemade, but it was left over from a dinner this weekend — spinach and chickpeas with garlic aioli — and, as I am currently knocked up, the raw-egg version was just a little too iffy for me. Of course, that version is delicious, and I highly recommend it, unless you are similarly immunocompromised.**

*As Nora would say. That’s one of her favorite expressions these days. For instance, in choosing an outfit in the morning, she often wants to be “all the way pink,” “all the way green,” or “all the way stripey.” It’s quite fashionable. But I digress.

** I still sample raw cookie dough, however. I am a conundrum.

The halfway homemade version is quite delicious, though, and super-easy to whip up as long as you have good quality mayo, garlic cloves and a lemon on hand. Bonus points — it’s even better after the flavors meld in the fridge for a day or two.

We had these the other night along with spiced-up grilled cheeses and a salad, and it made a lovely, super-quick meal.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Garlic Aioli
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Ingredients
For sweet potato fries:
  • 2½ tsp peanut oil
  • 1½ - 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2-3 medium)
  • salt and pepper to taste
For aioli:
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed in a garlic press
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
For sweet potato fries:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using ½ tsp peanut oil, grease a rimmed baking sheet and set inside the oven to heat while you prepare the sweet potatoes.
  2. Scrub the sweet potatoes and, leaving the skin on, cut them lengthwise into 8 wedges (or more, depending on how big your sweet potatoes are). Cut in half crosswise, if desired.
  3. Toss the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with the remaining peanut oil and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spread the sweet potato wedges in one layer on the hot sheet.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes on one side, then flip each wedge using tongs or a spatula and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and serve with garlic aioli.
For aioli:
  1. Mix the mayo, pressed garlic cloves and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Taco Night, Vegetarian-Style

One of my favorite meals as a kid was fried white bean tacos. I hadn’t thought about them in ages, until I suddenly got a craving for them the other day.* So, I set about searching all of my cookbooks and scouring the internets for a recipe… but to no avail. It’s like no one had ever heard of these things! There were a few recipes out there for white bean tacos, but nothing really like what I remembered. So I had to wing it.

* Pregnancy is weird.

That’s okay. Winging it can be fun, and it yielded delicious results, very similar to what I remembered, and it actually wasn’t all that much work.

white bean tacos

I started with dried white beans, but you could easily use canned if you don’t have time for that. I made a big batch of tacos and froze the leftovers (pre-frying), so hopefully that’ll provide another, even quicker meal for us some rainy day. With a baby on the way, there are sure to be some of those days in our future!

White Bean Tacos
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb white beans (Great Northern or similar), cooked and drained (or 2 cans)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • 2-3 Tbs canola oil, for frying
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the beans, mashing with a potato masher, and stir until heated through. Add the cumin and chili powder and stir to combine. Stir in the black olives and sunflower seeds. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.
  3. Heat each corn tortilla on a griddle until soft and pliable. Stuff with the white bean mixture, fold in half, and secure with a toothpick. Continue with additional tortillas until all filling is used.
  4. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a batch of tacos and fry on one side until golden brown. Flip and fry on the other side until golden brown. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and continue, working in batches. Serve with sour cream and hot sauce, if desired.

 

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