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Cooking Ripe! 2012 Review and 2013 Preview

What to do with all of those little yummies?Cooking Ripe! has moved to: CookingRipe.com – please join us on the new site!

Cooking Ripe! was launched in late August of 2012 and has had just under 3000 views so far. It’s been very exciting to get to share my garden-to-table recipes with so many people in such a short time. I’ve been learning a lot about this whole food blogging business and I am ready to take things to next level!

Coming in 2013: Cooking Ripe! will be moving to a new hosting site where we’ll have our very own domain name: CookingRipe.com. YAY! Our very own dot com address. Legit, right? With this change, you’ll notice that the blog will undergo some spiffing up and will get a new overall look. I hope to make it a little more user friendly by adding some slick tools that will make things like recipe printing and pinning a little easier. We’ll likely have a little downtime while we complete the migration process, but don’t worry – I’ll give you plenty of warning when it’s time. Stay tuned for more details on the New & Improved Cooking Ripe!

Tops in 2012: In our few short months online, I’ve had great traffic and feedback on the blog posts. Below is a list of the five most viewed posts on Cooking Ripe! in 2012. Have you tried all of these yet? If not, you better get cookin!

1. The number 1 most viewed post on the blog is Homemade Pumpkin Puree. I had a whole crop of volunteer pie pumpkins in the garden this year, so I had to learn to make my own puree. I’ll never go back to canned! It tastes so fresh and it’s so versatile. Try the many other Cooking Ripe! pumpkin recipes, too.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

2. The runner-up as the most viewed post is the Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup. I LOVE soup and LOVE orange food, and apparently my readers share my love of soup and orange since it was the second most popular post. This is a simple and creamy cold weather soup with a little ginger kick. Check out the other Cooking Ripe! soup lover recipes.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

3. Number 3 is my personal favorite, as you can tell by its title: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta – the BEST pasta you’ll ever eat! Really. You have to try this recipe if you haven’t yet. I got an eggplant in my Bountiful Basket last time and I am thrilled to get to make this recipe again this week. The Hubs doesn’t even mind repeats of this one!

Roasted Eggplant Pasta

4. One would assume this next post would have been number 1 since it includes BACON! and everything is better with bacon, right? Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with BACON! I try not to cook or eat it very often, but once in awhile you gotta live, right? Brussels sprout lovers and haters can unite to love this recipe, I promise!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

5. Last, but certainly not least in the round-up of most viewed posts is the Southwestern Green Chile and Corn Potato Chowder. Yes, another soup made the list! This one is creamy and spicy without any heavy cream at all. This is a great recipe to use up your preserved roasted green chiles and warm up on a cool night.

Hatch Green Chile and Potato Corn Chowder

Remember, you can go to Cooking Ripe’s Recipe Index for a complete list of all of the recipes. Also, if you haven’t joined me on Pinterest yet, it’s high time! And, finally – like Cooking Ripe! on Facebook to stay up to date on all blog updates and other tasty tidbits. Stay tuned for a great new year of growing and cooking!

Thank you all for your support. Cheers to a delectable 2013!

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Easy Vegetable Stock

Homemade Vegetable Stock

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One of my favorite ways to prevent food waste, save money and improve the nutritional value of my recipes is to make my own homemade vegetable stock. If you’re like me, you buy cans or cartons of veg and/or chicken stock to have on hand to make soup, stews and other recipes. I like to use both in place of water to add flavor to all sorts of thing including rice, quinoa, potatoes and other veggies and when cooking meat. But, it seems that a lot of those prepared stocks contain loads of sodium and a lot of those other unpronounceable chemicals so they’re not as wholesome as we might think. Yes, there are some nice organic varieties, but they are usually pretty spendy, so why not make it a home using our own leftovers?

It’s so simple, I can’t believe I wasn’t doing it sooner. I wish I could take credit for the simple idea, but I learned it from this post on Simple Bites.  I follow her quickie version and make a new batch of stock about once a month.

I compost a lot of my kitchen waste, but sometimes my compost pile can’t keep up with my new scraps, so I learned to keep some large freezer bags in my extra freezer. Each time I cook and have some veg scraps, I set them aside as I’m chopping and cooking, then I throw them in the freezer bag. I usually wait until I have about three full bags and then I split the scraps between two of my dutch ovens. I fill the pots with water and then bring to a boil, then simmer on the stove for about an hour or so.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Homemade Vegetable Stock

After the stock cools, I strain it using coffee filters in my colander (cheesecloth also works) and then container it for the freezer (and I must reserve some for pouring over the Hounds’ food, also).

This is Daisy, my best sous chef

This is Daisy, my best sous chef

Since I use different quantities of stock for various recipes, I freeze it in a variable quantities. I have used ice trays for when I need just a little stock, like to saute some veggies or to add a few spoonfuls to sauce or gravy. I also use muffin tins to make cup sized quantities. I use those to add to rice, quinoa, couscous, and some pastas.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Finally, I freeze larger quantities in quart-sized mason jars, or large plastic yogurt containers (usually about 32 oz). The larger quantities are perfect for soup and stews and anytime you want to boil something but add more flavor than using plain water. I LOVE making mashed potatoes by boiling the potatoes in veg stock or chicken broth. All kinds of extra flavor! When I use the ice cube trays or muffin tins, I freeze in the trays then pop them out and put them all in a large freezer bag. Then I just grab a hunk of stock from the freezer as needed.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

What kind of scraps to save for stock:

  • Stems and ends of any veggie – think of all the parts you cut off and discard from veggies like carrots, zucchini, onions, greens, etc.
  • Veggie peels, from vegetables like potatoes, carrots, eggplant, etc. (be sure to thoroughly wash before peeling so you don’t end up with gritty stock)
  • Herb stems – fresh or dried both work well
  • Seeds and inside “goop” removed from pumpkins and squash

I try to ensure that I end up with a good variety of veg parts when I put them into my pots to boil, so if one vegetable is a little bitter, like eggplant, another one will balance it with some sweetness, like carrots or sweet potatoes. The addition of leftover herb stems really pumps up the flavor of the stock like no store-bought kind you’ve had. I also personally like to ensure there are some tomato and potato parts in my stock – I’m not sure why, but I just think the stock needs those basic flavors.

Tomato canning waste made a nice stock ingredient

Tomato canning waste made a nice stock ingredient

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Leftover parts from roasted pumpkins went in my stock recently

Inner strings and seeds from roasted acorn squash is now veg stock

Inner strings and seeds from roasted acorn squash is now veg stock

The boiled waste can still be composted, if desired, so you’ll be getting double duty from those scraps – cool, right?

I hope you’ll give the homemade stock trick a try. It really doesn’t take much extra time because you can boil it while you’re doing other kitchen duties, then you just have to strain and store it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get a little charge out of making it yourself instead of buying it because you’ll know exactly what’s in it and you’ll know you took a little time to make something healthy and yummy for your family.

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Southwestern Green Chile and Corn Potato Chowder

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I took a break from my pumpkin recipes long enough to cook up a new harvest meal. I’ve been thinking about a green chile soup since we roasted our Hatch green chiles last month (how to roast and preserve Hatch chiles), but hadn’t gotten to it yet. Then today I was thinking about an easy meal I could prepare early in the day so the daughter could take some home and then we could reheat later for dinner. The daughter loves potato soup and since I got several ginormous potatoes in my Bountiful Basket yesterday, so I decided it was time to make a green chile and potato soup – or chowder.

What exactly is the difference between a soup and a chowder? I didn’t know either, so I did a little research via Google. I learned that while the traditional definition of chowder is a thick seafood soup (ie. clam chowder), the modern definition seems to be a chunky soup thickened by potatoes, onions, milk or cream (ie. corn chowder). So, because I’m using potatoes to as a thickener I’ve decided to call this recipe a chowder instead of a soup (mostly because I’ve posted two soup recipes recently and I’m proving that I’m not in a rut).

This is an easy, free-form recipe (like the rest of my recipes, right?). It came together pretty quickly and would make an easy weeknight meal. It’s also pretty healthified as we only used a tablespoon or two of butter and no cream, flour or milk – and honestly, I think you could skip the butter and it would be just as good! The daughter took home a container for her dinner and the Hubs and I finished the rest ourselves. The Hubs loved the soup, I mean chowder. He liked the heat and creaminess, but lamented that the addition of bacon or ham would have made it that much better. I rolled my eyes, but feel free to take his advice and add some cooked bacon or ham to make a heartier soup chowder.

Dice onions, garlic, green chiles and potatoes to start chowder

Simmer potatoes with the rest of the ingredients

My frozen disc of cilantro sauce – I use this stuff in EVERYTHING

Hatch Green Chile and Potato Corn Chowder

Southwestern Green Chile & Corn Potato Chowder

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

(Don’t be fussy about measuring anything and add more or less spices or ingredients to taste)

  • 3-6 russet potatoes, peeled and diced (I used three HUGE potatoes)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded (sub Anaheim or poblano chiles if you don’t have Hatch chiles)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth (I used my homemade veg stock)
  • 2-3 cups water, reserved from boiling potatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2-4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (I used some of my frozen cilantro sauce that I learned to make from this genius post) – optional if you aren’t a cilantro-lover
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 glug of Worcestershire sauce (optional, but I think it adds richness)
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add potatoes and boil until fork tender. Drain, reserving 2-3 cups of the water.
  2. While potatoes drain in a colander, cover the bottom of the pan with with EVOO and warm over medium heat. Add onion and cook until they begin to soften. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the vegetable stock or chicken broth to the pan, and bring to a soft boil. Stir in the green chiles, salt, cumin and coriander. Reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Return potatoes to the pot and stir. Add reserved potato water, 1 cup at a time until potatoes are covered. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, cilantro and pepper and simmer another 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat. Add butter, if using. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to desired consistency (or pulse in batches in a blender). Our family likes a few chunks, so I don’t blend it very long.
  6. Stir in the corn and lime juice and let simmer for a few minutes to heat the corn.

Serve with some crusty bread or warmed tortillas. Garnish with some parsley or cilantro.

Great soup chowder the next day, but you may need to add more stock or water to thin a bit as the potatoes continue to soak up the liquid. If you want a little more creaminess, you could add more butter or even some milk and blend into the mixture.

Notes for next time:

When the soup chowder was almost finished, I realized I should have included some little diced carrots, which would have added some nice color, but also even more texture and flavor. I think I might also play around with adding other peppers – a jalapeno, maybe, or a sweet red bell pepper. Also, I might play with the spices by adding some chile powder or a smidge of chipotle in adobo. Another twist might be to throw in some diced tomatoes, but that might change the chowder back to soup.

Leave a comment and let me know how your soup chowder turns out.

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Curried Pumpkin and Bean Soup – a quick harvest meal

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Like so many other cooks, I’m totally obsessed with pumpkin recipes right now. The air is crispy, the pumpkins are frosty and ripe and it’s time for comfort food. Enter pumpkin soup. To some, pumpkin soup sounds odd because they are thinking it will be like pumpkin pie in bowl, but the soup is savory instead of sweet, so it’s a totally different place in flavor-town. The pumpkin takes on the other flavors – the curry and tomatoes, in this case – and provides a creamy background for the other ingredients.

I first tried pumpkin soup last winter when I was home alone because I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was delicious! Now that I have my own crop of pumpkins, I wanted to try some more pumpkin soup and play around with some new flavors. One night last week, I had planned to make this beautiful Curried Pumpkin Lentil Soup that I found on Pinterest. I liked the combination of ingredients which  includes coconut milk, lentils, curry, apple and of course the star of the show: pumpkin. When I make soup for dinner I try to be mindful that the Hubs needs something pretty hearty after a hard day working outside. I figured the lentils would up the heartiness, so I was all set to recreate Yummy Mummy’s soup.

Then…I don’t know what happened, but the evening somehow got away from me (and I might have had an extra glass of wine with my BFF), so it was getting late and I hadn’t started the soup. In my experience, lentils always take longer to cook than the recipe says, so the hour I needed to make the soup was way too long. What to do?

I decided to go ahead with the soup, but make it quicker by skipping the lentils and subbing white beans and making some other simplifications. It came together really quickly and the Hubs said it was one of my best soups – and he usually likes all of the soups. Because I was in a rush, I didn’t take pictures as I was cooking, but since it turned out so nicely, I did get pictures of the finished product so I could share with you. You must make this simple comforting soup this Fall.

Here’s how:

Curried Pumpkin and Bean Soup

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

(all ingredient amounts are approximate – don’t be fussy with measurements and add or less to suit your personal tastes)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock (or chicken broth) – recipe for homemade veg stock
  • 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree (or 1 small can)
  • 2 carrots, diced or thinly sliced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained (or about 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 small can great northern or navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp curry powder (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh chopped spinach (optional)
  • Garnish: 2 Tbsp parsley or cilantro or green onions, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat dutch over over medium heat. Drizzle EVOO to mostly cover bottom of pan and allow to warm. Add carrots and onions and saute until onions soften.
  2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
  3. Stir in 4 cups stock/broth, pumpkin, tomatoes, curry and paprika, and salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until carrots are cooked through.
  5. Add beans (and spinach if using) to soup and add remaining stock/broth as needed to thin to desired consistency. Simmer for at least five more minutes.
  6. Garnish to taste: parsley, cilantro, or green onions – or sour cream – or nuts or pumpkin seeds. I used green onions and parsley.

Notes for next time:

I didn’t use the spinach this time – I thought of it afterwards and wished I had included it because I love spinach in fresh soup. You could always add some diced, cooked chicken or ham to make it even heartier. Other veggies I might add: zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes, celery or eggplant. I also want to try the apple and coconut milk from the lentil recipe. Other spices that might be fun: cinnamon, nutmeg or basil. I usually add a glug of Worcestershire sauce to soup, but forgot this time, so I might try that next time, too.

This makes a great lunch the next day since the flavors improve with time. Leave a comment letting me know how your pumpkin soup turns out!

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Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup – orange you ready for some soup??

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I love orange veggies! Pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet orange peppers, butternut squash….mmmhhhmmm. They all inspire images of cozy Fall evenings by a fireplace. Comfort. Fall is in the air here in SW Colorado. The nights are cooling off enough to force us to close some windows at bedtime and when we drove up to Telluride this weekend, we saw that the leaves are turning crispy golden colors already.

Another sign that Fall is upon us is that the Hubs has a cold. That’s the downside of the season change, right? I’m fending it off, so far, but I feel some sniffles coming on, too. So Fall is arriving and we’re a little sickly, so that means it’s soup season! I adore making soup. There is something so wholesome and satisfying about mixing up a batch of comforting soup and letting it simmer quietly on the stove. I think one of the first real scratch cooking recipes I made was soup – Tuscan bean soup, I believe, and I was amazed how simple it was to make and how yum-o it was to eat.

The Hubs requested chicken soup over the weekend and we finished it last night, so I wanted another soup recipe for tonight. My kitchen is overflowing with veggies from the garden and from my most recent Bountiful Baskets haul, so I assessed what I had and started my daily trolling of Pinterest for  ideas. I found it: carrot soup! I have tons of my own garden carrots and also two packages from Bountiful Baskets. I’ve never made carrot soup, but I have made pumpkin soup and it sounded similar – and it’s orange! YAY! My inspiration recipes are from Basket 411 (which I’m glad I found because it’s all about using Bountiful Basket produce) and from Food 52. I stole borrowed a few ideas from both and made my own version tonight.

It turns out that I got to combine the carrots with another orange veg: sweet potato (or yam)! Orange squared!

Secret ingredient: sweet potato!

So here’s what you do:

Start by peeling and chopping up about 6-10 carrots into bite-sized pieces. Personally, I only peel my carrots if I can’t get all of the dirt out of the nooks and crannies because you lose a lot of nutrients by peeling. You need to wind up with about four cups of chopped carrots. I have some very large, odd looking carrots from my garden, so my quantity of carrots to start was only about 4, plus a couple of normal carrots.

This is what happens when your carrots get “uneven watering” and you don’t thin them enough – freaky carrots!

Chop up carrots into bite-sized pieces measuring about 4 cups

Next, peel and dice one sweet potato (or yam) and toss into a bowl with the chopped carrots. Peel a few cloves of garlic and add to the bowl. Pour about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over the mixture and gently toss to coat all veggies in the EVOO.

Combine carrots, sweet potato, garlic and EVOO

If this process sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s basically the same process described in my post about roasting cherry tomatoes. Yep, we’re going to roast these veggies before we throw them in the soup. Roasting brings out all kinds of flavorful yum in veggies and since it’s cooling off, we don’t mind having the oven on for awhile.

Dump the mixture onto a jelly roll pan (rimmed baking pan) and spread veggies into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes until largest pieces are very tender. If they begin to scorch, move to lower rack or reduce heat to about 400. Each oven is different, so adjust accordingly.

Dump veggies onto baking sheet and spread into a single layer

Roast at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes until largest pieces are very tender. Be sure to taste test to be sure.

While the orange veggies are roasting in the oven, caramelize an onion in your soup pot. The roasting and caramelizing both take about 20-30 minutes, so do other kitchen chores while they’re working.

Caramelize an onion while the orange veggies roast

When the orange veggies are roasted, pour in some vegetable stock to deglaze the soup pot before adding veggies.

Sidebar: speaking of veggie stock, you should make your own! Really! It’s super simple and it’s healthier than the commercially processed kind. Plus, you’ll always have some on hand when you need it. See my method for Easy Vegetable Stock here.

Freeze veg stock in muffin tins then store in big baggies for easy use

I used about 2.5 cups of stock, but I like a thicker, heartier soup. If you like a thinner soup, use more stock. You can also add more after you puree it to get the desired texture. Bring stock and onions to a medium boil.

Dump the roasted veggies in the pot and add the ginger and thyme, with a little more salt and pepper. I decided we needed a little acid to counteract the sweetness of the roasted veggies and caramelized onions, so I added about two or three heaping spoons of my roasted tomato mixture from the fridge. If you don’t have roasted tomatoes, just chop up a couple of tomatoes and throw them in the pot. You cold also use about half a can of diced tomatoes, drained.

Combine the rest of the ingredients and let simmer on low for at least 10 minute or longer

Next, add the other secret ingredient: Worcestershire sauce. I know: weird, right? I don’t even know what’s in the stuff (no, I don’t  want to know), but I swear by it in soups and stews. Adding it increases the richness of the soup exponentially. I only use a quick glug or two, but it makes all the difference. Trust me.

Finally, chop the parsley and add to the pot. Once all of the ingredients are in, simmer covered on low for at least 10 minutes to allow all of the flavors to get happy and dancing together. I believe soup must simmer and you must be able to smell from outside your front door before it’s “done.”

To finish, you need to puree it. You can use a blender or food processor, but you’ll need to cool it to warm before doing so or it blows the lid off. Also, don’t overload the container; process in batches. I am lucky enough to own an immersion blender (and I highly recommend you invest in one, too), so I just buzz it around the pot until I get the right texture. The Hubs  and I like some chunkiness to out soup, so I leave it pretty thick and don’t blend down all of the pieces (though I do try to get the garlic pieces all pureed in). Add water or more stock if you want a thinner consistency.

Puree the soup to the desired texture, adding water or stock to thin if needed

Return pot to stove and reheat until hot. Simmer a little longer, or serve immediately.

Simmer pureed soup on low or serve immediately

Garnish with whatever you like and have on hand. Some toasted nuts or pumpkin seeds would be lovely. Or, some cilantro or green onions would be good. I meant to add green onions, but the Hubs arrived and I got distracted and forgot. Crusty bread or toast makes a great dipping tool (too bad we finished the baguette with the chicken soup). Cuddle up under a flannel blankie by the fire and enjoy your orange soup!

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped carrots (about 6-10 carrots)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (canola would also work)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, sliced (preferably yellow)
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock (could sub chicken broth)
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger (fresh is best, but I only had some in a jar)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2-3 heaping Tbsp roasted tomato mixture (or 2 chopped tomatoes, or 1/2 can diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Garnish (optional): nuts or seeds, green onions or cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine diced carrots, sweet potato and garlic in a medium bowl. Toss withe EVOO to coat all veggies.
  3. Dump mixture on a jelly roll pan (rimmed baking sheet) and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast in over for 20-30 minutes until the largest pieces are very tender.
  5. Meanwhile, caramelize the sliced onions in a large soup pot (see caramelizing instructions here).
  6. Deglaze the soup pot with a little veggie stock, then add another 2 cups of stock. Reserve the remaining stock to add as needed during the puree process.
  7. Bring soup to a medium boil, and add ginger and thyme and a little more salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Add remaining ingredients.
  9. Simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  10. Puree in blender or food processor (cool to warm, then puree in batches) or using an immersion blender. Blend to desired consistency, adding stock if needed.
  11. Return to stove and reheat until hot.
  12. Garnish with nuts or seeds, green onions or cilantro.

Notes for next time:

I like spicy food, but since the Hubs has a sore throat, I didn’t spice this recipe with anything other than the garlic and onions. Next time  I would add some red pepper flakes or a little curry powder or paste to heat it up. I also might try using basil rather than parsley and I might add a little red wine to the soup. Another thought is to toss  a little balsamic vinegar with the veggies before roasting. I also thought out adding some roasted corn after pureeing the rest of the soup. The Hubs liked his soup, but required a grilled cheese sandwich on the side to feel satisfied after a long day of working while sick 🙂 I was full after my bowl.

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