Category Archives: food

Wordy Wednesday: Beef 2017

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My Hog Scholarship: The First One

It’s true what they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child”. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who helped me build my knowledge and skill set. However, I did not realize it at the time. When my Grandpa Brown gave me my first bucket calf, I had no idea that would be the start of my ranching legacy. When my Grandpa Halsey would take me out to his garden and spend time with me, I had no idea it would foster a lifelong passion for growing plants. When my Mom chauffeured me to endless 4-H community and project meetings, I had no idea I would end up as the AgHag.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

While I was busy as a child learning from my elders and putting that knowledge to use in 4-H and on the ranch, my Mom was busy investing my 4-H and bucket calf checks in a savings account. By the time I was 18, due to family and friends supporting me, I not only had a good foundation to the education I was going to receive in college, I could pay for it without struggling.
The ability to not worry about finances while attending university was a massive gift. I was able to focus on learning, I was able to join clubs that furthered my education and network, I was able to make friends and have the blissful experience of being a college kid. This molded me into who and what I am now. My world and my point of view was altered for the better and greater good.

This hog helped me pay for college.

This hog helped me pay for college.

When I think about my youth and young adulthood, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to grow up in this world surrounded by the people I did. Sadly, most of the “old timers” have died. But they left a legacy. In me. It’s now my turn to offer that same support to the children in my world. It’s what they showed me to do.
That’s why I am excited to have a couple little “programs” here on the ranch that help me corrupt the next generation, just like I was. I’ve worked hard to expand and improve my hog operation since Adult 4-H days, and I am now at the point where I can afford to give a few piglets away to kids to raise, donate finished pork to local non-profits and generally do Good Things. This makes me about 100 kinds of happy and makes me feel like my hard work is paying off.

Very new Ian meeting his piglet!

Very new Ian meeting his piglet! He was totally helping me out this day!

I have just completed my first round of the “scholarship program” with my hogs and Baby Ian. Ian and this litter of pigs were born on the same day, his Parents have also supported my meat business for years, so it was totally meant to be that Ian was the first of my friend’s kids to do this.
When Ian was born I gave him a piglet to “raise”. The deal was, he’d pay for his pig’s feed and when it was time for the hog to be slaughtered his Parents would “buy” the pig from him to eat. That money is to be put into an account for college or trade school. I figure I’m killing two birds with one stone, I expose kids to agriculture very young and they get a little seed money for their future. It’s a win/win.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I'm pretty sure I make that same face.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I’m pretty sure I make that same face.

This situation worked out perfectly. Ian got his meat back just as he started solid foods! So he is able to eat his own pork he helped raise. This program was so fun to do I cannot wait for my next litter! As of right now I have scholarship recipients for the next couple of litters. If I have anything to do with it, in about 18 years we are going to have several new ag majors joining our ranks!

This brings me so much joy right here.

This brings me so much joy right here.

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Easy Refrigerator Pickles

I love pickles. That’s not a secret. As I type this I have four different types of pickles, pickling. This particular recipe is super easy and amazingly delicious. I serve these pickles often at potlucks and BBQ’s and they are always met with rave reviews. Give them a few days to “pickle” before you get into them, it will be worth it I promise! Again, this is a recipe where you can mess with the spices a whisper and only good things will happen. For example, omit celery seed, add a cinnamon stick, or just use pre-made pickling spice.

Fresh garden goodies ready to be pickled!

Fresh garden goodies ready to be pickle

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

  • 6 medium cucumbers
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 small bell peppers
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Bay leaves (optional)
Sliced veggies enjoying their salt treatment.

Sliced veggies enjoying their salt treatment.

Thinly slice the cucumbers, onion and peppers. Toss in a large bowl with salt and set aside.

Cooling pickling mixture.

Cooling pickling mixture.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, mustard and celery seed. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and add 3 cups of ice. Place vegetables in jars, adding a few garlic cloves  and a bay leaf to each one.

In just a scant few days, these will be amazing!

In just a scant few days, these will be amazing!

Once the ice has cooled the pickling mixture, pour over the vegetables. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

See? Super easy! I hope you enjoy these pickles as much as I do!

 

 

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Summer Panzanella Salad

My Mom and I first had a Panzanella salad a few years ago. It was at an event that took place in the middle of the summer, on a ranch, outside. It was hot and fairly miserable. The thought of eating anything hot was not appetizing at all. This beautiful salad was served before the main course, it was cool, flavorful and downright pretty. We quickly ran home, lurked up a recipe and this has been a staple in our world since. I noticed some recipes don’t include the mozzarella balls, and that is a big mistake. Those little marinaded cheese balls make this salad. It’s my favorite part. And using good balsamic is a must too, something about the sweetness of it really compliments this dish. If you don’t have zucchini, a cucumber can be used instead and you don’t have to grill it.

Sigh, it's so good.

Sigh, it’s so good.

Panzanella Salad

  • 1/2 loaf’s worth of good crusty bread made into croutons (recipe here)
  • 1.5 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, treated for moisture and lightly grilled (I’ll cover this later)
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 container (who am I kidding? Use two, it’s the best part!) marinaded mozzarella balls
  • 20 to 25 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1/3 cup oil reserved from marinaded mozzarella (or you can use olive oil)
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
See the moisture on the top of the zucchini? This step really does make a difference.

See the moisture on the top of the zucchini? This step really does make a difference.

Slice zucchini into rounds and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, the salt will draw out some of the moisture. Do that for each side of your sliced zucchini. Blotting with towels remove excess salt. I like to grill my zucchini for about 3 minutes on each side or until I get nice grill marks. Cool, and cut into bite sized pieces.

I love this salad because I get to use almost everything from my yarden!

I love this salad because I get to use almost everything from my yarden!

Combine the first 6 ingredients in large mixing bowl. Toss to mix. In a separate bowl mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and mustard. Mix well. Pour the vinaigrette over the rest of the salad.

Let chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Pre-dressing

Pre-dressing

Enjoy!!

 

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Blackberry Sweet Tea

I might have a slight obsession with sweet tea. It started when I went to Alabama, because here in California, it’s just not a thing. When one has “sweet tea” here, it is just a glass of ice tea with a packet of sugar added to it. Disappointing and grainy. When I had it in Alabama (or anywhere in the South) it was an ice-cold glass of delicious nectar. Every time I get to go to the South or have a layover at the Atlanta airport,  I’ll bring airport sweat tea back in my Swell bottle. I ration it for a few days and think Southern thoughts.

If you can find Milo’s tea in your area, get that. That is my baseline to judge all other sweet tea. If you can’t find it, you are going to have to make it. But it’s ok, I’m here to help! For me, the secret to a good sweet tea is the simple syrup. You must make a syrup or you don’t get the same mouth feel. The syrup makes the tea just a whisper thicker, and if you get the good ice (you know, like the kind from Sonic’s), you end up with a kinda tea slushy which is heavenly, IMHO.

Sweet nectar of the god's.

Sweet nectar of the god’s.

A basic simple syrup recipe is equal parts water and sugar, heated until dissolved. You add that syrup to your ice tea and you’ve got a pretty good start of a decent sweet tea. However, if you wanna church it up a whisper, add some fruit to your syrup. Since its summer here in beautiful Northern California, we have all the fruits right now (literally and figuratively), pretty much all of my sweet tea is a fruit sweet tea. This week I’ve done peach, blackberry and nectarines. We have wild blackberries growing here right now, so that is why I am doing blackberry for this blog.

Blackberry (0r Fruit) Sweet Tea

Fruit Simple Syrup

  • 4 cups fruit
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Tea

  • 8-10 cups of water
  • tea bags  (I prefer cold brew bags)

In a saucepan, add fruit, water and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 times. Mash up for fruit with a potato masher and simmer for 10 more minutes. Let cool. Run this mixture through a mesh strainer. Discard the solids.

From berry to sauce in just a few short hours.

From berry to sauce in just a few short hours.

Since I don’t have air-conditioning in my house, and I think sun tea is a bad idea, I use cold brew tea bags. I think it tastes the same, especially if you are adding fruit syrup to the mix. It makes making tea easy. I simply add my water to my container, add my tea bags, and stick it in the refrigerator until cool. Then I add my fruit syrup, mix well, and serve over ice.

My favorite tea receptacle.

My favorite tea receptacle.

If I close my eyes and turn my smoker on when I drink this, it almost feels like I am in the South! Mess around with this recipe – some people (who aren’t used to sweet tea), find this too sweet, some people (who are used to it), find it not sweet enough. You’ll find your happy place pretty easily. Add some mint or fruit when you serve it, to up the ‘wow’ factor. Enjoy!

Taaa daaaa! Easy fruit sweet tea!

Taaa daaaa! Easy fruit sweet tea!

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Tuscan Ravioli Salad

Recently my Mom was laid up for a few weeks. It was hard on her because she is incredibly active here on the ranch. There really wasn’t much I could do to help her with Dr. ordered rest, but I could make her comfort food. There was a lot of tomato soup, grilled cheese, broccoli bacon salad and this little gem of a recipe. There are about a million versions of this floating around the internet, this one happens to be our favorite. I think next time I might switch it up a little and add some sweet purple onion. It’s always a crowd pleaser so think about making it for your next pot luck.

Yum.

Yum.

Tuscan Ravioli Salad

1 lb. cheese ravioli
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
Dash of red pepper flakes
salt
ground black pepper
1 cup cooked bacon or pancetta, crumbled
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

I like this salad because it has lovely colors. Makes me happy.

I like this salad because it has lovely colors. Makes me happy.

 

Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, mix olive oil, vinegar, honey and season with salt and peppers to taste.
In the large serving bowl add bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and dressing, toss until well combined.

I had to add a picture of bacon. Had to.

I had to add a picture of bacon. Had to.

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Grandma Halsey’s Holiday Punch 

This doesn’t even count as a recipe. It’s more of a happy memory. When I taste this punch, I am 8 years old again. It’s Christmas, I’m surrounded by my playing cousins. This punch, or a variation, was served at all family gatherings for most of my youth. And I looked forward to it! It wasn’t a proper family gathering until I felt nauseous from happily drinking too much of this.
Now that I’m an adult, I make variations of it for all kinds of events. When I do make it, people always, without fail, ask me about it. Seems like punch is one of those old timey things that we don’t make that often anymore. Which is too bad, punch is awesome! In an effort to make punch great again, I’m sharing my basic recipe.
Now remember, this recipe is just a starting point. It can be altered to fit your tastes, preferences and budget. Basically as long as you use frozen juice concentrate, ginger ale and sherbet, you’re gonna get the desired results and specific mouth feel. But you can experiment with different juices, add fresh fruit!

3 basic ingredients make such a fun thing!

3 basic ingredients make such a fun drink!

Grandma Halsey’s Holiday Punch

  • 2 litter ginger ale
  • 1 frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 gallon sherbert

In a punch bowl or pincher, allow sherbert and juice concentrate to thaw for 20 minutes. Pour in ginger ale.  Gently mix all ingredients. Serve over ice.

Bam. Done. If you use rainbow sherbert you and don’t mix it up, you can call it unicorn punch and kids LOVE that. In you use orange juice, orange sherbert and add vanilla vodka adults LOVE that (think dreamcicle ice cream bar!). I’m fairly certain it is impossible to find a bad combination here. So enjoy, go wild and please serve at your next family gathering and drink one for me!

Unicorn punch!

Unicorn punch!

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Mexican Homestyle Soup

Being from California, we are graced with stellar Mexican food. Over the years I’ve taken advantage of this, and taken cooking classes, and sampled as many Taco Trucks as I could, you know, in the name of science and stuff! Actually I have this deep seated fear that when I move to Tennessee someday, I won’t have access to the same quality of Mexican food. I want to make sure I can re-create all my favorites, just in case. This is one of my favorites, something about potato with meat in a spicy broth just makes me happy. This is perfect for a cold day, it’s deeply comforting with a nice little kick.

Like a hug for your belly.

Like a hug for your belly.

Mexican Homestyle Soup

  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 serrano chiles, stems removed
  • 1 poblano pepper, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • Half of a head of garlic, paper left on
  • 1 pound carne asada, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3.5 cups beef broth
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen sweet corn
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cumin
Blistered peppers make me a very happy girl!

Blistered peppers make my taste buds pay attention!

Place the tomatoes, Serrano chiles, poblano pepper, onion and garlic in a 375 degree oven. For about about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic after 15 minutes and turn the other ingredients halfway through cooking time. Let cool. Remove the blistered skin from the poblano and paper from garlic. Add all the roasted ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.

Meat and potatoes make this cattle rancher happy.

Meat and potatoes make this cattle rancher happy.

Season the beef with salt, pepper and cumin. Preheat the oil in a large pot. Cook the beef until nicely browned. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring once. Add the broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
Add the pureed mixture to the boiling beef and potatoes. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add beans, corn, cilantro to taste and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Serve with tortillas, avocado, limes and sour cream.

img_0131

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Spring Sausage Breakfast Casserole

A major part of growing up on the ranch was food. I guess it is because we work so hard. We need to replace those calories! It was safe to say that whenever we had a big work day or a super busy time, my Mom would fire up her oven and keep everyone full, dumb and happy.

I’m pretty  much the same way. Whenever I know I am going to have a crew of people out here, I start planning a menu. I recently had the crew from FarmHer come out to the ranch for their show. Needless to say, I was 30 kinds of excited.

When I travel, I have a tendency to eat poorly. So a few days in, I crave fruit, fresh veggies, I was anticipating the FarmHer crew might be feeling the same way. So I told them I would have a breakfast ready for them when they came out. I planned on lots of fruit, nuts, this casserole, since I raised the eggs, pork, leek and asparagus and cookies, because cookies.

Fresh squeezed oj, fresh fruit, cookies and casserole is a typical "big work breakfast" here.

Fresh squeezed oj, fresh fruit, cookies and casserole is a typical “big work breakfast” here.

 

Every time I make this casserole, it is met with rave reviews. So I am sharing it in hopes your family will enjoy it too! It’s super easy to toss together the night before and seems like more work than it actually is, perfect for a crowd!

Spring Sausage Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 pound Brown Ranch pork sausage
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into bite sizes
  • 9 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 7 slices sourdough bread, cut into bite sizes
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I prefer a nice melty cheese like an Asadero Or Oaxaca)
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh ranch eggs, leftover bread and spring asparagus!

Fresh ranch eggs, leftover bread and spring asparagus!

 

Liberally grease a 9×13 baking dish. Layer the sourdough bread in the dish.

In a large cast iron skillet, crumble and brown your sausage. When the sausage is no longer pink, layer it on top of the bread cubes. Use any leftover grease to caramelize your leek, then layer those on top of the sausage. Do the same thing with the shredded cheese and asparagus.

I love a good melty cheese!

I love a good melty cheese!

Meanwhile, add the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and mustard in a large bowl and beat until well  mixed.

Add the egg mixture to the baking dish. Top with parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Caramelized leek in pork fat is amazing.

Caramelized leek in pork fat is amazing.

 

The following morning, remove casserole from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake i until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

This actually makes me happy to be awake early in the morning.

This actually makes me happy to be awake early in the morning.

This is great topped with some hot sauce, or even better, California avocado!!! Also you could add jalapenos, regular onion, or a variety of other veggies! This recipe is easily adaptable to your taste.

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Favorite Things 2016 – A Gift Guide

Oh, yes, friends. It is that time of the year again! Time of a list of stuff I love, aka The Aghag’s gift guide for difficult people. Now I have this set up where all you have to do is click on the picture and it should take you to the corresponding shop. These are all products I use and love and I am not being paid to say that!

My 11 Favorite Things of 2016

  • First on my list is a Traeger grill. Look at it as an investment. A glorious investment in your mouth’s happiness. Your life will be better for this purchase. I use mine weekly, everything from smoking to grilling to just sticking my face in it and taking a big whiff. Yes, they are pricey but quality costs! And they make smoking more of a fun activity then an all day, make sure your fire is right, it’s not right, no, wait, it’s right, chore.
Really, they are awesome.

Really, they are awesome.

  • As I keep repeating, I went to the South a lot this year. I loved it. I fell in love with good BBQ. It changed me. So if you are gonna pull that trigger and get a Traeger, might as well get some bomb-ass seasoning! Enter: Dreamland. They are right, “ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere!’. Sadly I only have a few more uses of my BBQ seasoning left. I’m deeply afraid of getting on that website to order more. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with a whole bunch of ribs and a nana puddin’ getting delivered.
Sigh..... I would be a very happy camper if I got to go back again.

Sigh….. I would be a very happy camper if I got to go back again.

  • The Classy Trailer and I have been friends on Facebook for years. She thoughtfully sent me a beautiful memorial necklace a few years ago when my loyal cowdog of 16 years died. It was such a meaningful gesture to me. Anyway this year she sent me an awesome pig necklace! I have a collection of agriculture themed jewelry. It’s a great conversation starter when I am out doing the Megan Aghag show. The Classy Trailer has great handmade gifts for your agriculture/animal enthusiast in your life!
TheClassyTrailer's pig!

TheClassyTrailer’s pig!

  • I’ve been following Alyson Thomas for years now. I stumbled across her on twitter when she was asking butchers about cuts of meat. Her art – Drywell Art is my jam. Food and booze. I have several of her meat themed pieces. I especially love her pig work! I love to give her art out as gifts to my foodie friends. Plus I got to meet her in real life at the Renegade Craft Fair, and she was super cool!
Support art!

Support art!

  • Years ago I went to the Renegade Craft Fair in San Fransisco. It was like Etsy came to life. It was lots of fun and I picked up some great Christmas gifts for both myself and my family. My favorite thing is a feed bag purse I purchased from Selina Vaughan. I loved them so much I bought two! One for me and one for my Mom. We both used them for years and years. I use mine every time I go to an agriculture conference and always get tons of compliments.
Check her stuff out, so cute!

Check her stuff out, so cute!

  • Big things happen this year. I met my cooking idol, Alton Brown. Good Eats was a popular show when I was in college and I watched it regularly. I love how Alton uses a science based approach to explain the why’s and how’s of cooking. That tickles my fancy. When I saw he was going to be signing his new cookbook in California, I scheduled a day off, borrowed my Mom’s car (driving a truck in the city is a big cup of no fun) and went to meet him! And you know what? It was everything I thought it would be. He was warm and charming and he is still my celebrity crush. Aside from all of that, this is a great cookbook. Everything I’ve made has been amazing. Totally a great gift for your favorite Foodie.
This was one of my top 2016 moments.

This was one of my top 2016 moments.

Favorite cookbook right now!

Favorite cookbook right now!

  • I am a picky little thing when it comes to water bottles. I don’t like it when my water gets warm. I don’t like it when I can taste metal. I don’t like it when the part I put my lips on is exposed to “the outside”. I also hate using plastic water bottle once, then throwing them away (we actually recycle, but still!). But since I am outside so much during the summer I do need water with me or I shrivel all up. And that’s simply no fun at all. Swell is my favorite water bottle of all time. It keeps things cold, or hot for way longer than it takes me to drink it. The cap covers where I put my mouth so I have no fear of putting my lips in cow poo! And it doesn’t make the liquid taste like metal. Perfect gift for your favorite ranchster.
  • Speaking of water…..I’m bringing this one back from last year because I still love it. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back.
Don't question me. Just buy it.

Don’t question me. Just buy it.

  • My summer was rough. I worked hard. I drove a lot. I dealt with some deep shit, both literally and figuratively. By the time October rolled around, my mantra was “I worked damn hard, if I want something, I earned it, damn it”. This ring was one of those things I wanted. It matched my beautiful bag I got for my birthday. A local artist made it. And it was shiny! I like shiny things! Unfortunately, J Daily doesn’t seem to have an Esty store. But she does have an email address jdailydesign@yahoo.com. She had many beautiful and unique rings, earrings, necklaces – shoot her an email, check out her stuff, you won’t be sorry!
J Dailey Design

J Dailey Design

  • If you didn’t notice this was an election year. While post of the posts on social media were pretty horrible; but there was one shiny, hilarious light! The Liberal Redneck and the WellRED Comedy Tour. Trae is funny. His videos talk about very serious issues in a funny way. I like that. But hey, don’t believe me check one out. After watching his videos I really wanted to see him perform, and turns out, he was playing about a hour away from me! I saw the show, and loved it! All three guys were hilarious! And they hung out after their show and met their fans! So cool! Plus Trae follows me on Twitter now.  I got their book after the I saw the show, and again, really enjoyed it. It’d be a great gift for your liberal and not so liberal friends!
I made the WellRED Comedy guys laugh.

I made the WellRED Comedy guys laugh.

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto

  • Booze is always a popular gift during the Holidays. I mean it’s one of the few things you can get someone who has everything! And this particular alcohol is extra good. Lassen Cider is a new Chico, Ca business. He makes a mean cider from local, heirloom apples the traditional way. He gives the leftover apple pulp to my pigs and cattle, so he is being extra sustainable. I’ve had all three ciders he has available right now, and I must say, I am a fan. Unfortunately, you can only this cider is you are a Northern California native. Hunt some down, you won’t be mad about it!
Lassen Cider

Lassen Cider

There you go friends. Did I miss anything? What tickled your fancy this year? Care to share? Leave me a comment and hopefully I can feature it next year!

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