Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Lemon Bundt Cake & My Birthday

Lemon Bundt Cake

 This isn't your ordinary Lemon Bundt Cake.  With the addition of a few fun ingredients, and baked in an angel food pan v/s a traditional bundt pan, it transforms into a denser, very moist and flavorful cake.  

There are a few differences between a bundt pan and an angel food pan although a similarity is the hollow tube in the center, there to allow even cooking.

A bundt pan is a round one piece fluted cake pan with a tube in the center, it's sides make for a very decorative cake.  The bundt pan has thicker walls allowing a crust to form on the outside of the cake to help cook the cake on the inside.

An angel food cake pan is a round cake pan with tall smooth, flat sides, usually with a removable bottom piece.  These pans are not greased before the baking process so that the batter can stick to the sides and double in size.

The batters for the two cakes are very different so it's recommended that you don't use them interchangeably.  Angel food cake batter is very light while the batter for a bundt cake is heavier leaving the risk that the batter might leak out from the angel food pan.  Though my experiment using my bundt batter came out fine in the angel food pan, I would not suggest you pour an angel food batter into a bundt pan, it will not come out as airy as it should, it will be very difficult to remove and will not rise properly while baking.

Call me a rebel : ) I used a bundt batter and poured it into an angel food pan.  Was it the additional ingredients that made my batter thicker than a regular bundt batter, I'm not sure, but I will say that the batter was very thick and it did not leak : )  It did though require a longer baking time.  It did not double in size like an angel food cake, nor did it puff up very much, and unlike a bundt cake there was no dark crust to the cake, it was very light in color and soft to touch.  It was a deliciously moist cake with a denser texture than a normal cake, a very pleasant surprise...and the bonus?  Everyone loved it!

Lemon Bundt Cake Recipe
Original recipe: Allrecipes
NOTE: This recipe is for a bundt pan not the angel food pan I used


1 (18.25) package lemon cake mix
1 (3.4oz) package instant lemon pudding mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup lemon-lime flavored carbonated soda


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray cooking spray on pan and flour it well 
Mix cake mix & pudding mix together
Stir in oil
Beat in eggs, one at a time
Stir in lemon-lime soda

Pour batter into pan, bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (If using an angel food pan, bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean)

I used a cream cheese frosting I bought from the
store.  I am by no means a professional cake
decorator but gave it a whirl : )  I used some of the
remaining frosting & colored it with yellow food coloring for the flowers and then added green food coloring to the yellow to make some stems and leaves.  Just add one drop at a time and mix until you get the color you like.  I also placed 1 pink heart sprinkle in the center of each flower.

After inverting the cake out of the pan, I left the cake bottom side up because I wanted a nice flat top to frost.

It was a tasty cake and a fabulous birthday and I thank everyone who came to share in the celebration.  The weather was beautiful and I couldn't have been happier : )

Mom made a nice fruit salad at the request of my sister...the recipe follows.

Summer Fruit Salad
8oz carton of frozen whipped topping, thawed
3 1/2 oz package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 orange peeled and cut up
2 cups crushed pineapple w/ juice
1 cup mini marshmallows
2 banana's, sliced
Fresh Strawberries

In a bowl, combine the whipped topping, pudding mix, orange, pineapple & marshmallows.  Cover and refrigerate.  Before serving, place layers of bananas and strawberries on top before serving.

(The recipe mom has is a photocopy from a spiral book of some sort, the name on the salad is Jeanette Allard, Dayton's Fargo.  I don't know anything about the author nor could I find anything on Google, my mom couldn't remember where she got the recipe)

Till Next Time, Ciao & Happy Cookin'

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Summer Panzanella Salad with O Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I grew up in Michigan, a state with four distinguishable seasons and I loved them all, but there was always something special about long summer days. Those summer sounds that now take us back to our childhoods, the catchy & very recognizable sound of the ice cream truck, the laughter and sounds of children splashing in a pool, the neighbor mowing his lawn. Those beloved summer moments like picnics on the beach, baseball games at the park, barbecue's held in the backyard and the arrival of strawberries became some of my most cherished memories.

This past April, eRecipeCards and O Olive Oil partnered together for their Rites of Spring Cooking Contest and began searching for people to do a product tasting & review paired with a recipe creation challenge. When I was chosen as one of the lucky people to participate, I was excited and began to think of summer...I was hoping for some warm weather inspiration.

I received my surprise set in the mail and was delighted to find O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil paired with their O Champagne Vinegar. Their products are of the highest caliber. Organic citrus crushed together with ripe mission olives produces a golden, silken olive oil that is light in texture and flavorful in taste. It was truly an easy task when it came time to write the review. Using a french baguette so as not to interfere with the taste of the oil, I used the same for tasting the vinegar, and also after emulsifying the two together. There were so many recipes flying through my thoughts I was happily surprised to finally settle on a classic that has had a place in history since the 1500's.

When you're working with gourmet quality ingredients such as O Olive Oil and their oak barrel aged vinegars, you want to follow through by using fresh ingredients that not only shine in your final dish but are at the same quality level as the oil and vinegar you're using.  It's the vinaigrette flavors that pull any salad together to make it exceptional...a dry salad is still only a salad...with O, it's taken to a whole new level!  It turns a good salad into a great salad...and in this case, a real masterpiece.  I'll keep this new recipe in my box and make it again and again for family and friends knowing it will always be a crowd pleaser.

Agnolo di Cosimo, a 16th century Italian was not only an accomplished and highly skilled artist but was a
poet as well.
Agnolo di Cosimo famously and
best known as Bronzino II
In his book, "Li capitoli faceti editi ed inediti di mess", he wrote  "In lode delle cipolle", which translated in English reads, "In Praise of the Onions".  He speaks about a salad of onions that readers construe was a description of a Panzanella Salad.  An onion salad mixed with a vinaigrette, it wasn't until later that tomatoes were added to make it a classic tomato, onion and bread salad.   Italians, priding themselves on not wasting anything, developed this recipe as a way to use day old bread by rehydrating it and serving it with fresh vegetables.   I thank them, and believe you will too once you try this absolutely fantastic salad with the addition of the O Olive Oil & O Vinegar vinaigrette...it's elevated to a culinary work of art!  It's a summertime treat : ) Fresh, clean and vibrant...
Grilled Panzanella Salad 

1/2 a pint of grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped small
1 sm clove of garlic, minced
8 slender spears of asparagus, ends broken off & stems peeled
1 zucchini, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, remove pith and quartered
1 bag of focaccia bread croutons
1/2 cup O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
1/4 cup O Champagne Vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chiffonade (sliced into thin strips)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh basil, chiffonade (sliced into thin strips)
1 tablespoon fresh curley parsley, chiffonade (sliced into thin strips)
Salt & Pepper

Place halved grape tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over tomatoes and season with S&P
Place into a pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees for 15minutes
While tomatoes roast...prep red onion, garlic, asparagus, zucchini and bell pepper
Preheat grill...remove tomatoes from oven when ready-set aside to cool
Brush olive oil over asparagus, zucchini and bell pepper & season with salt and pepper, grill zucchini & bell pepper for 4 min on ea side, grill asparagus for 2 min flipping over once to create grill marks, remove from grill and set aside to cool
Once cooled, slice veggies into bite size pieces

1/2 cup O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
1/4 cup O Champagne Vinegar
minced garlic
Whisk well...

Note: You don't need additional seasoning for the vinaigrette as the meyer lemon olive oil and the champagne vinegar are really the stars here...there is a ton of fresh flavor in these products and letting them shine through on their own is the key to making this salad.  As some may say, you don't have to meddle with something when it's already been perfected.
Putting it together:
Place croutons into a bowl, drizzle approx. 1/2 the vinaigrette over the croutons, 1 teaspoon at a time while tossing them in the bowl
Place asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes into the bowl
Sprinkle fresh and dried oregano, basil and parsley in with everything
Toss gently together
Allow to rest in refrigerator for 1 hour before serving to allow the vinaigrette to soften the croutons.
Remove from frig, taste and drizzle additional vinaigrette over salad if needed
(I served mine straight away at room temp and it was delicious, the vinaigrette softens the croutons in the first step and they were soft around the edges with a slight crunch in the center...not too hard, just firm with a slight bite)

Serve and enjoy : )


*For a quick simple preparation, substitute cucumber for the zucchini, omit the asparagus and keep all veggies raw.
*This salad is traditionally made with day old bread/stale bread cut into cubes, I used the croutons as a quick prep idea, but feel free to play with different types of bread, Italian, Ciabatta...etc.
*Use any fresh herbs you enjoy and omit any from the recipe you don't, try mint for a tasty change.
* You can add thinly sliced salami or prosciutto and a wide variety of different vegetables, be creative : )

 I want to thank O Olive Oil and eRecipeCards for choosing me and allowing me the chance to participate in this cooking contest.  It has been tons of fun : )  I enjoyed trying this great product and will not hesitate to try the many, many different oil and vinegars they offer.  I also want to thank you, my readers for visiting and I hope you'll try making this salad with the addition of these tasty O Olive Oil and O Vinegar products, I know you'll enjoy it.  It's the flavors of the O vinaigrette that pulls everything together and it gives it it's great taste.   

My mom was very hesitant, she likes her lettuce salads...and she asked, No Lettuce???  Lol...but! She ended up eating two bowls of it! Yay!  And although my stepdad didn't throw caution to the wind and try the salad...he didn't want it to interfere with his homemade tacos & in his defense, he is true blue meat & potatoes man : ) He did though ask the next night if I had any of "that vinaigrette" leftover! Score! (I had him sample it when I was done whisking it for the salad).  My sister also shared with us and she really liked it as well, she said it reminded her of a bruschetta flavor.

If you'd like to show your support of my recipe, I would truly appreciate it.  Visit and sign in to eRecipeCards and save this recipe to your recipe box to show you'd like to try it. It takes a few moments to sign up, the site is very user friendly, and you can find my recipes if you click this link.


You can also visit O Olive Oil and eRecipeCards on Facebook, let them know how ya feel : ) Just be sure to let them know "I'm Cookin' In My Kitchen" inspired you : )  "Like" their page and keep up to date with all that's new.

While you're surfing...take some time to stop by O Olive Oil's web site, they offer awesome information on what they do, how they do it, and where they get their inspiration.  They offer beautifully wrapped packages that make wonderful gifts for the people you love who deserve something uniquely special. 

And of course any time you take the time to say hello here on my blog makes me do my happy dance : )

Till Next Time, Ciao & Happy Cookin'

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Preserving Fresh Herbs

This is the time of year that so many of us are busy planting our gardens or watching our springtime efforts already sprouting depending on where you live...and with great joy!  We welcome you warm weather : )

Towards the end of the beautiful weather though, when so many of us have an abundance of extra herbs, some of us are left wondering in a panic what to do with all of them.  Sharing is great and our neighbors and friends greatly appreciate it, but quite often there is too much and for that, there is another option.

I find sometimes as well when I purchase fresh herbs that are out of season or herbs I don't grow that if I don't use them quick enough...I start to worry.  Not any more!  Preserve your fresh herbs for later use instead of watching them slowly wither away in the fridge.

Preserving Fresh Herbs is Easy!

One fabulous way to do this is to freeze them.

Place herbs in the cups of your ice cube trays...I measured 1 teaspoon in each.

Add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in with the herbs and place in freezer for 24 hours.

Pop the cubes out of their cups and place flat in a freezer bag or container.  Label the container so you remember later what they are and in what measurements you've stored them.

I measured 1 tsp of Thyme, be sure to wash and then strip the leaves from the stems.

Tear the basil leaves into pieces.

I used the thyme for Lemon Sticky Chicken and just didn't have plans for the rest.

Instead of throwing away green onions or
any stalks, I just toss them into water to watch
them regrow.  I did the same with the basil on the
left here and have quite a nice root ball now.  I'll plant
it and see what happens.
After tearing the basil leaves, add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in with the herbs.

In various stages of re-growth, I use
them over and over again for certain things.
I still of course have to pick them up at the
market, but I enjoy watching them grow.

 I'm not sure if the flowering on the basil in the glass is a good thing or not, I'd have to look it up...either way, they're pretty to look at : )

 Ah, but I digress : ) back to freezing my herbs...

After freezing, pop the cubes out and place them flat into a container or a freezer bag.

You can use these with any recipe you are going to make with olive oil and the selected herbs.  I used a light olive oil here but you can use extra virgin, a mix of melted butter and olive oil or even stock.  You can choose a larger size container and mix a variety of herbs with your preferred stock if you think you may later make a soup.

Thanks for stopping by today, be sure to swing by Friday to see what fab dish I served up today to my family for the Rites of Spring Cooking Contest hosted by O Olive Oil and eRecipeCards.

Until next time, Ciao & Happy Cookin'

My inspiration for these cute cubes came from: The Gardner's Eden

Monday, 11 June 2012

O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil & O Champagne Vinegar = A Great Mix

     Some of the moments my sweetheart and I cherish most is time we spend together over a meal at our table.  Whether laughing with good friends, sharing stories with family members or alone together with a glowing candle between us, it's these times we remember fondly.  One of the nice communal things we like to do is break bread together.  An artisan loaf paired with a side dish of extra virgin olive oil seasoned with herbs and fresh garlic, it's always gobbled up and finished off with great joy.  Served on the table complimented with cheese and wine it can be elevated as a great starter for a meal or as hors d' oeuvres for during cocktail hour.

     The Olive tree is the oldest fruit tree dating back to 3500BC and therefore has a very interesting history and has long been a symbol of wisdom, peace and goodwill.  There are dozens of varieties of olives and a lot of different ways to use them in recipes.  I love all of the different methods of dressing them up and highlighting them in delicious dishes but there's just something classic and fantastic about the oils they produce.

I've been cooking with extra virgin olive oils for years now and have been enjoying them as a dipping oil for breads as well.  I love to try different brands and admit I haven't tried oils that have been flavored in any way.  That's why when there was an opportunity to try a brand that's using a method of crushing citrus with olives, I was excited to be a part of it.  It's neither infused with flavors or flavored with some fakey type of flavoring.

O Olive Oil is a California company which hand harvests mission olives and crushes them within 48 hours, they've been doing this since 1995.  Since producing a high quality product is their goal, O Olive Oil uses only organic citrus when crushing them with their olives one batch at a time.

When I was selected as one of the lucky people to participate in O Olive Oil's and eRecipeCards, Rite of Spring Cooking Contest, I was told I would be sent a natural box selection.  Each box contains an olive oil paired with one of their barrel aged vinegars.  I was excited to find out what would be sent and knew no matter which of the nine sets in that series it was going to be, I'd be able to create something delicious with them.  I received their O Champagne Vinegar paired with their O Meyer Lemon Oil.

It has a beautiful golden color and the taste was a very pleasant surprise.  Smooth on the tongue with a clean taste, it has a lovely lemon flavor that's not overwhelming.  It's so flavorful there isn't a need to add anything to it, no herbs, no salt or pepper...just pour and enjoy!  It's light and encourages you to go back for more, there may even be the thought provoking idea of sipping a bit straight from the bottle, it's that tasty.

I did my tasting with a classic french baguette and finished with an artisan olive, garlic & rosemary loaf.  I had no problems sopping it up and pouring a bit more to enjoy.  : )

 The bottles are tall, sleek and sealed with a cork you just twist and pull out, it's a very classy package.

California's Napa Valley wines are used to make O's line of vinegars.  Sealed and stored in oak barrels, the wines age with no added chemicals or preservatives resulting in a high quality tasting product that takes anywhere from months to years to produce.  Creating vinegars since 1997, O has quite the line to choose from, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Honey apple, Zinfandel and many more.

The O Lemon Olive Oil mixed with the O Champagne Vinegar is a tasty mix of flavors and makes a delicious combination. 

Be sure to visit them on line to learn more about their history, their methods, the vast variety of different products they offer along with their new tapenades and also some really great recipe ideas.  O Olive Oil  does a great job of packaging their beautiful bottles making them awesome gifts and there is an entire list of combination varieties to choose from.

Both O Olive Oil and eRecipeCards can be found on Facebook where you can "LIKE" them and follow all their latest updates.  eRecipeCards is a great place for people to find thousands of recipes and a place for you to post your recipes.  Posting a recipe can take under a minute and signing up is just as user friendly. 

Please take a minute to visit eRecipeCards and sign up if you're not already, it allows you to show your support by selecting your favorite recipes during the contest (by choosing them to put into your recipe box).  It's also a great way to collect all of the favorite recipes you find and put them in your erecipe box while browsing through their site.  Hope to see you there! : ) You can find me on eRecipeCards if you click here

Thanks for stopping by today and be sure to check back on Friday to see what recipe I create using the O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil & O Champagne Vinegar.  Leave a comment letting me know what you think and tell us if you have a favorite flavor oil & vinegar combination : )

Till Next Time, Ciao & Happy Cookin' 

& wish me luck while you're here too...thanks!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Rites of Spring Cooking Contest


Have You Heard The News?

It's Arrived!!!

If you haven't yet heard...where've ya been?

O Olive Oil & eRecipeCards have partnered together for the

Rites of Spring Cooking Contest

Together they've chosen a group of food bloggers to participate in the Rites of Spring Cooking Contest.  The group selected is asked to do two things and write a post about them...

1.  Complete a tasting of these beautifully bottled, gourmet organic-citrus crushed olive oils and premium barrel-aged wine vinegars and...

2. Create a delicious recipe inspired by the O Olive Oil's products sent to them.      

I Know! Exciting Right!?!  I got my O Olive Oil in the mail, and it was just like Christmas opening that package having no idea what flavor combinations I would find inside.

Packaged well with great care, you know they take their product very seriously, so much so that it gives you a good sense of the treat you'll experience once you open the bottles. 
Are you wondering yet?? Wondering which ones I got?  : )  Just a little curious?

O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil & O Champagne Vinegar 

What a ton of fun it's going to be!!!  Their O Champagne Vinegar is their most popular vinegar and is barrel-aged in white oak while their O Meyer Lemon Olive Oil is made with Meyer lemons crushed with hand picked California Mission Olives and produced in small batches.  Don't they sound lovely : )  I have high hopes they are going to taste as great as they sound.

They'll be judging on a few different catergories, Photo and Food Stylings Skill~Writing Skills~& Best Recipe.

What can you do to help during the contest?  Check back here to keep up-to-date on what's new and to find out what creative recipe I get inspired to develop once I've had a chance to taste the oil and vinegar : )

Also...please stop by the Facebook pages for both companies and take a look around to see what's new and what they're up to, tell them Jenn @ I'm Cookin In My Kitchen sent ya over : )  I've made it super easy for you...just click on the links below and you'll be taken right to their Facebook pages


If you're not already familiar with eRecipeCards...be sure to check them out online.  It's a place where many, many food bloggers have submitted thousands of their recipes for others to enjoy.  It's super easy to sign up, browse through pictures of tasty dishes and even save them to your recipe box when you see something you'd like to try.  You can search their site by title of the dish you're looking for, by ingredient or even by the name of a blogger you know, ahem...like me!  : )

Signing up now if you haven't already will make it easier later for you to vote for your favorite recipes during the contest...it will also put you in a position to easily begin submitting your own recipes.  Submitting a recipe post can be done in as alittle as 1 minute or less!! They have made it that user friendly! Nice, right?  Go check 'em out and sign up to join in the fun.  Just click here for your magic ride through cyber space and you'll be there in a blink of an eye ; )

Till next time, Ciao & Happy Cookin'

Friday, 1 June 2012

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

The Eggplant is one of those plants that people quite often have a love/hate relationship with.  Closely related to the potato and tomato, it's fruit is considered a berry of the plant.  With a meaty flesh, the eggplant has seeds that can be bitter due to the fact that  nicotinoid alkaloids can be found inside them, nicotinoid alkaloids, found in nightshade plants is closely related to the tobacco family.

Removing the bitterness from the seeds of the eggplant for cooking can be accomplished easily by heavily salting the slices and allowing them to sit for awhile.  You can also avoid bitterness by choosing an eggplant with fewer seeds by purchasing a male instead of a female which contains the most seeds.


One of the common ways believed for determining between male and female eggplants is by checking the indentation on the bottom of the fruit.  A male will have a round shallow indentation instead of a line or oval type indentation that sits deeper into the fruit. 

Scientists will tell you that the plant is both female and male and is a self pollinator with both sexes in each of their flowers. 

Is gender really a factor in choosing the less seeded fruit?  Is it maturity?  Many young fruits will have less seeds than a mature plant.  An eggplant that is very mature and has lost its glossy purple sheen will usually have many more seeds.

When purchasing or picking your fruit for cooking, whether you believe they are of a different sex or not, there are a few guidelines you can follow to find the best tasting eggplant.  Choose smaller firm fruit with a high purple glossy sheen to them and you'll usually find them to have fewer seeds meaning there's a lesser chance it'll have too many of those bitter seeds.


What's your favorite recipe using eggplant?  I love to make ratatouille, moussaka, curries, sandwiches and eggplant Parmesan.  There are a lot of different ways to make eggplant, you can stuff it, marinade it, pickle it, grill it, roast it, or bake it.  You can make rollatini, lasagna, pizza, relish, caponata, baba ganoush (a dip), hummus, soup...the possibilities are many.

A classic for me is the eggplant Parmesan.  I usually start by making a nice tomato sauce.

Blanch 10 Roma tomatoes, it makes it easier to peel the skin off.   While your tomatoes are blanching.  Dice 1 medium onion and mince 3 cloves of garlic.  Heat a large non stick pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to heat, toss in onion and let cook until soft.  Add garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes.

Slice tomatoes in half after peeling and chop into small pieces.  Add chopped tomatoes to the onion and garlic mixture and allow to simmer.

Add salt & pepper to taste, oregano and basil.  Pour in 1 large can of crushed tomatoes, use an all natural brand.

 Add 1 small can of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 fresh bay leaves.  Allow to simmer for 2 hours and adjust seasonings to taste.

While your sauce simmers,  peel your eggplant and slice into 1/2 inch coin shaped slices.  The skin can be thick and its really personal preference on the peeling of it.  If you enjoy the peel, leave it there or peel a few strips off to enjoy the best of both worlds.  The younger the fruit the more tender and delicate the skin will be and the opposite will be true for an older fruit making the skin thicker and more tough.  The skin is more important to keep on when grilling it so that it keeps the integrity of the fruit intact.

Place slices into a colander and salt heavily with kosher or sea salt. 

Let them sit for at least an hour.  The salt will draw out moisture and any bitterness in the seeds, you'll actually be able to see the water bead up on the outside of the slices.

Salting also helps to create a more firm slice as the salt closes up air pockets making it less likely to draw in too much oil during the cooking process. When the hour is up, rinse the slices thoroughly and pat dry with paper towel (the drier the better).

Prepare a bread crumb mixture for dredging the eggplant slices in.

1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste & chopped fresh parsley...

Place slices of eggplant in an egg wash, pull out and allow any excess to drip off.

Dredge egg coated slices in bread crumb mixture, place a bit of pressure on the slices after coating to help mixture to adhere to the slices.

Heat a non stick skillet on medium heat, add olive oil to coat the bottom of pan and allow it to heat well.  Place slices in pan and leave until one side is a nice golden brown, flip the slice and allow the other side to do the same.  If your pan is hot, and your oil is hot...the eggplant will brown nicely without soaking up the oil making it greasy.

Place eggplant slices in an oven dish, layering if needed.  Place a small amount of sauce on each slice and top with fresh grated mozzarella cheese and fresh grated Parmesan reggiano cheese.

Bake in an oven pre heated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so until heated through and the cheese is melted nicely.

Enjoy : )

Till Next Time, Ciao & Happy Cookin'

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