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Thai Tom Yum Vegetable Soup

Sensual-Foodie-Tom-Yum-Soup

Thai soups are plentiful in their many variations and flavors. The base of this vegetarian soup recipe, known as Tom Yum, is lemongrass, galangal root, lime juice and kaffir lime leaves, plus tomato and spices. I simply used whatever veggies I had at home— bok choy, broccoli, tomato, orange and red sweet peppers, zucchini— and I just could not resist adding coconut milk. I tend to shop at Asian supermarkets as I love the selection of vegetables. Lemongrass is easily found in the Asian markets, as well as galangal root, which is a cousin to ginger, though completely inedible as far as chewing it— please don’t do it— but it perfumes this soup so beautifully (remove it from your soup bowl once served but leave in pot to simmer). When I say don’t chew galangal, I say this from experience. Before I really had much experience with eating Thai cuisine, I made such mistakes. I recall it tasted camphorous and medicinal, with a funky odor that went up into my nose. However, I promise you, the main reason that galangal root is used is because it creates a magical flavor.

I realize this is not the traditional hot and sour Tom Yum (“Tom” refers to boiling and “Yum” or “Yam” is a reference to a Thai spicy and sour salad). This is my version, a vegetarian/vegan version, and very ‘California style’ Thai, if you will. The sweet, sour, spicy and citrus notes swirl together in the pot and make it a favorite soup of mine.

The base broth for the traditional Thai Tom Yum soup is typically fish/shrimp stock, fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal root, lime juice, fish sauce, and chili peppers. Then the vegetables and shrimp are added in, along with cilantro leaves to garnish.

Galangal root and lemongrass create the pungent flavor while kaffir lime leaves and freshly squeezed lime juice give citrusy sour flavor to the soup. There are many variations of this recipe as it is made differently according to the region of Thailand— my recipe is adapted from a traditional Bangkok/Central Plains version, omitting shrimp and fish sauce. Not using fish sauce in particular in this soup makes it less authentic and probably unheard of by traditional methods. But that is fine because this is a vegetarian recipe and not exacting, so I added a splash of coconut milk and ginger too. Because I am in love with turmeric’s golden orange color, I had some fresh turmeric root and grated it in with the ginger. I am a California girl that loves Thai cuisine, and considered garnishing my bowl with slivers of avocado! You won’t find avocado listed in the ingredients, but go ahead and experiment with your own soup.

I have fun experimenting with different ingredients and don’t follow many rules. In my own way around the kitchen while creating a recipe, I mingled the Tom Yum soup base with Tom Kha, a coconut milk and broth based Thai chicken soup. Tom Kha is aromatic and creamy, using the same ingredient base as Tom Yum, but for the addition of chicken and coconut milk. Rather than leaving it on a sweet and sour note with just tomato and lime juice essences, the coconut milk gives a dimension to the texture and flavor. Tofu is sometimes added in place of chicken, though I recommend adding the tofu to each individual serving instead of the entire pot, that way it doesn’t crumble into the soup. In Thai restaurants the tofu seems pan-fried before adding to the soup, making the tofu flavorful instead of bland.

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Another Thai ingredient is kaffir lime leaves. These fragrant leaves are wonderful and quite like using bay leaves. If you can find these in the Asian supermarket they are in the produce section. The market I go to has the leaves prepackaged in a little cellophane-wrapped flat, and there are more kaffir lime leaves than I can use up entirely, as you only need a few per soup pot.

I think once you try this recipe, you may make it more often. Since Asian supermarkets are easily found where I live in Los Angeles, Thai groceries are at my fingertips. I’ve found many Asian vegetables at my local farmers’ market as well. If you aren’t in an area where these ingredients are as accessible, move to sunny California or Thailand, though you could adapt this using ginger, lime and veggies. Also, a great online resource for Asian vegetables is Melissa’s Produce. I am searching for a pre-made vegetarian nam prik pow paste (black chili paste) but meanwhile I’ll try my hand at making one at home without the shrimp paste that is the standard of most Thai seasoning.

Please have fun with this and enjoy making your soup! I hope it adds spice, flavor and sunshine to your palate and bowl.

Thai Tom Yum Vegetable Soup

INGREDIENTS

3 cups clear vegetable broth

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine/mirin

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 shallots, sliced

5 kaffir lime leaves

3 thin slices fresh galangal root

2 stalks lemongrass, lower white portion, cut into 4-inch lengths, pounded and bruised

5 green Thai chili peppers, optional, to your liking in spice level

2 tomatoes, cut into small wedges

2 zucchini, quartered and cut into wedges

6 baby bok choy, whole

2 small orange sweet peppers, chopped

2 small sweet red peppers, chopped

1 cup of baby broccoli crowns

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only

2 limes, cut into wedges

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup sautéed tofu (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Add the garlic, shallots and tablespoon of coconut oil into the pot and sauté on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. Splash in a dash of rice wine (or mirin) and allow it to cook off a little, about 2 minutes.

Pour in the vegetable broth, continuing to keep the heat set on medium flame. Add in the lemongrass, galangal root, chili peppers, kaffir lime leaves and heat for about 6 minutes. Add the coconut milk into the soup.

Now add the veggies in— bok choy, red and orange sweet peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini— and cook for about 10 minutes on a medium-high heat. Do not over-boil your veggies! You want everything very fresh and crisp. The bok choy and broccoli especially, otherwise it will turn color and look less appetizing, plus it gets mushy.

Using tongs, remove the galangal root, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass and set aside. This way you do not serve it in your bowl, however, save them to add back into the pot to simmer and flavor your remaining soup.

NOTE: One trick is to place the galangal root slices, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass inside a herb sachet. That way you can continue to season your soup without worry of eating these aromatics. 

Turn off flame and serve in wide bowls, adding in fresh grated ginger (if you like) and garnish with squeezed lime juice and cilantro leaves. if you have any additions that make you happy, add them in to your serving bowl. Enjoy!

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Sensual-Foodie-turmeric-almond-mylk-chai-lattes

Turmeric. It’s earthy flavor enhances spice blends like garam masala. The rich gold of turmeric, a saffrony yellow, reminds me of Indian silks and golden spices. Turmeric is an aphrodisiac spice for wellness as it contains antioxidants, phytonutrients and a wealth of B vitamins. I’ve added this spice to soups, curries and rice dishes. Then I discovered turmeric in an almond milk latte.

This turmeric milk tea recipe is a soothing, warm and comforting chai latte made with turmeric, fresh ginger, manuka honey, homemade almond milk and chai spice. It’s a healthier version of a latte (rather than the usual milk-based kind) that is nourishing and satisfying to the senses. I crave this tea in the morning and as a bedtime treat. Maybe you will crave it too.

I’ve preferred to make my own almond milk rather than buy the processed stuff in the carton at the supermarket. When I’ve used the store-bought almond milk it tastes bland and flat. The boxed almond milk is fairly lifeless and lacking in the essence of what I enjoy most about fresh nut milks. So I’m sharing a homemade almond milk recipe to use as the foundation for this turmeric latte. Though it takes some straining with cheesecloth or a fine chinois, it’s totally worth it. You can enhance your nut milk (almond, hazelnut, cashew, etc.) by making it with fresh coconut water, vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt. This may seem a lot to go through for a chai latte. The difference is a nourishing cup of warm spicy tummy-pleasing goodness you can’t get from a processed, empty calorie mix. Simply make your own almond milk and froth this up in a blender. You may discover a new way to enjoy turmeric as well as tea.

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TURMERIC ALMOND MILK CHAI LATTE

Turmeric has antioxidants and lots of benefits in every warm sip of this tea latte. Fresh turmeric is the best ingredient for this recipe (I have found turmeric root in the produce section near the fresh ginger at my local Asian supermarket). Of course, ground turmeric from the spice drawer is just fine to use in place of fresh turmeric root. I hope you like this as much as I do. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

2 cups of homemade almond milk (see recipe below)

1 tablespoon honey, optional (manuka honey is my favorite for this latte)

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon ground/freshly grated turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2-3 cardamom pods

1 cup of brewed chai tea

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer and whisk to combine ingredients into a froth.

Strain the warm milk if you have large pieces of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom pods, tea leaves. Remove the large pieces from the pot and pour into a blender that can handle hot liquids, such as a Vitamix. Blend for about 1 minute. You can add a little spoonful of coconut oil, maple syrup or honey, and extra turmeric and ginger if you like. This latte gets frothy while blending and smells amazing. Pour the latte mixture into your favorite mug and enjoy!

NOTE: Curcumin is a powerful component in turmeric and is found to help wound healing, improve liver function, and many other benefits according to medicinal research, mainly in cancer prevention. If you are taking medicines, please check with your medical practitioner about the contraindications of using and consuming turmeric, especially if you are taking Coumadin, as turmeric may have an interaction with anticogulant/antiplatlet medicines. Its beneficial nutrients include vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate), vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, copper, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, manganese, as well as curcumin.
 

HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK 

This recipe may be modified according to desired texture and consistency. Just change the ratio of more liquid— coconut water or filtered water— to amount of nuts. You can use this recipe as a guide however you please!

INGREDIENTS
1 cup almonds (or 1/2 almonds, 1/2 hazelnuts or cashews)

2 cups filtered water

1 whole fresh coconut, water and flesh

pinch of sea salt (pink Himalayan sea salt)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

INSTRUCTIONS
Soak the nuts for at least 4 hours in filtered water, rinse.

Blend all the ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender until all of the nuts have been well blended.

Use a nutmilk bag or cheesecloth, strain the milk through a sieve. (I have successfully used a chinois and have been very inventive with various coffee filters, tea strainers and what not.)

Pour your nut milk mixture into the nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Stir the milk through so the pulpy blended nut grains are filtered out and the thinner “milk” is strained.

Store in a pitcher for up to 4 days. You can use this mixture for your lattes, hot tea or serve cold as you would dairy milk in cereals, over granola or in smoothies.

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BREAKFAST-Lavash-Wrap-Mise-En-Place

I’ve been a little obsessed with this supermarket in my neighborhood. It’s definitely not at Whole Foods level by any means— and quite thankfully there aren’t constant eyefuls of gluten-free, organic, farm fresh, dairy-free, vegan reminders to prod health-oriented purchases— but it has me captivated nonetheless. Perhaps it’s the choice of music they play — The Bee Gees, Barry White, Earth, Wind and Fire — while I scoop up a bounty of avocados into my bag for .79¢ each. Maybe it’s the ethnic pride I feel when I walk down “the aisle of my people” with bagels on one side of the aisle and vodka flanking the other. It appeals to the Russian Jewish girl in me with my borscht-as-blood genetics, as I’m ever so compelled to buy the darkest of earthy dark rye bread from their bakery. Breads full of gluten and best eaten toasted and slathered with real European butter. You understand me here, I’m a true bread lover.

What makes this supermarket profoundly cool is the way the various ethnic foods are mingled all together— Ukrainian, Armenian, Mexican, Greek, Persian and other cultural foods— with bread as the most obvious of staples. Among the Mexican breads like bolillo, the Armenian breads and Russian rye, are flat packets of lavash— the Armenian version of a tortilla.

Lavash is a versatile flatbread. It’s pillowy tortilla-like texture and flexibility make it perfect for wrapping up any sandwich filling imaginable. When lavash becomes slightly stale, just cut them in triangle strips, place them on a sheet pan, brush them with olive oil, garlic and herbs and then lightly toast them to make lavash chips. But being a breakfast sandwich/burrito lover, breakfast wraps are marvelous using lavash bread.

I made these easy and delicious breakfast wraps one morning and they were the perfect nosh after a sweaty workout in the gym. I felt so good after eating this and thought the lavash worked well in place of a tortilla, in some ways it wrapped up the fillings a little better. The only thing I did come away with that’s worth mentioning is the lavash is best filled using two layers of lavash flatbread rather than one thin layer. Otherwise it is too thin. Then you have breakfast all over the place rather than inside the lavash. 

You can fill your breakfast wrap with whatever inspires you. Scrambled eggs, scrambled tofu, beans, rice, avocado, guacamole, salsa, veggies, cheese, vegan cheese, really, whatever makes you happy.

Here is what I filled my breakfast lavash with:

  • roasted chiles, sliced
  • black beans
  • orange bell pepper, chopped
  • kale, chopped
  • cilantro
  • smoked gouda cheese, shredded
  • chili garlic sambal
  • sriracha sauce
  • scrambled eggs
  • smoked paprika
  • cumin spice

You can add other ingredients to your preference and pleasure. If vegan, I’m sure you’ve got the beans in your head to figure out that scrambled tofu is marvelous as a replacement for eggs with turmeric, garlic and other seasonings. I didn’t have any avocado left in my kitchen or I’d add it in— avocado is my daily thing— but if you have a few ripe avocados they are a perfect addition. As a salty condiment, use miso paste. Just a smear of miso paste is all you need on the surface of your lavash. Add beans, veggies, greens of your choice and you are in breakfast wrap heaven.

BREAKFAST-WRAP-HOW-TO

 If you enjoy your extra fillings and run out of lavash, there’s always the option of serving it up in a cast iron skillet. I did this and my honey was pleased to eat the extras this way. Usually I eat fresh veggies in the vegan manner and keep my dairy intake down to the minimum, but my reasons are to enjoy the occasional indulgence in high quality cheeses, farm fresh eggs, real butter and whole cream every once in awhile. I love dairy, but for health and wellness purposes I save myself for the good stuff. My sweetie has been eating more vegan meals along with me and he feels so much better. He recently noted a big shift in his overall energy level and clarity. Balance, moderation and the every once in awhile treat makes for a happy body and soul.

This breakfast wrap idea can be made as you like it. I hope you enjoy this little post of inspiration!

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Chai Impérial Pears

Sensual-Chai-Poached-Pear-Flowers-Maple-Berries

This is one of the most elegant desserts to make. It may take an afternoon or a day to poach these pears properly, but the rest of it is absolutely simple. I wanted to feature the beauty of tea in a dessert, so pears gently poached and steeped in chai tea was the perfect recipe. Palais des Thés Chai Impérial is a delicate black tea blend paired with an aromatic melange of green cardamom, pink peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger and orange zest.

I’ve loved chai tea for many years, and as you can imagine, being a lover of tea and spices, I can never have enough of either. There is a definite difference between a powdered sugary “chai latte” and the real thing. True chai tea— “chai” translates as “tea” in several languages— originates in India. In every Indian household, making chai is just making tea, a leftover custom from the British Raj influence in Indian culture. There is no one way of preparing a cup of chai.

A pear is a juicy and subtle fruit, which allows the chai tea leaves and spices to perfume its sumptuous plump flesh in a marvelous way. In an attempt to keep the flavor of the Chai Impérial tea as the main note upon the tongue, I first poached then steeped the pears overnight in the tea. The result? Incredible taste.

Sensual-Chai-Poached-Pears-Maple-Berries

This recipe will delight your senses. In my tea drinking experience, Palais des Thés Chai Impérial tea is a harmonious match for the pears. I do not suggest trying to make your own with any sort of black chai tea blend because the flavors will differ, particularly if it is heavily spiced with cloves which has the tendency to overpower. The cardamom note in this tea is quite beautiful and will enchant your palate. I find this recipe to be quite romantic and an aphrodisiac for the senses. Serve this to someone you love, especially if you know they love tea.

Chai Impérial Pears

INGREDIENTS

1 quart water

3 heaping tablespoons Palais des Thés Chai Impérial tea

4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and halved

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons maple syrup

 

1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and tea gently on low flame until warm. Please do not boil. Add maple syrup and vanilla extract.

2. Slide in the pears with a spoon and cover with parchment paper. This keeps the heat to poach the pears evenly. You can cut the parchment paper in a circle to fit the top of the saucepan and poke a few holes on top to allow the steam to escape.

3. Keep the liquid at a very low simmer until cooked through, 15-20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. You don’t want mushy pears, but a pleasant firmness with some soft bite.

4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid. I suggest placing the pot in the fridge overnight after cooling, or transfer to a tempered glass bowl, cover and put in refrigerator.

SERVING

Serve the pears warm or at room temperature by reheating the pears carefully on a low flame until just warmed. Don’t cook them.

I prepared a coconut cashew cream as a vegan alternative to custard, and garnished the pears with maple vanilla infused berries, silvered almonds and a sprinkle of chai tea and cinnamon.

If vanilla custard is more to your liking rather than the vegan coconut cashew cream, you can serve with the whole milk custard and berries as you please. Below is a recipe for coconut cashew cream. Infusing berries is really easy— just soak your berries in vanilla and maple syrup.

To plate as I have in the photographs:

1) Spoon a little coconut cashew cream (or vanilla custard) in the center of the plate and swirl it around to make a flat circle for its base.

2) Carefully place the pear (half or whole) upon the circle of cream/custard.

3) If you are serving a halved pear, fill the cored center with a spoonful of cream/custard. Just a dollop enough to fill.

4) Spoon some infused berries upon and around the pear, then sprinkle with almonds, toasted coconut flakes, and chai tea leaves (as garnish). If you have edible flowers (such as the borage flowers pictured) they will look beautiful with this dessert.

 

Coconut Cashew Cream (vegan)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup raw cashews (soaked at least 4 hours)

2 tbs coconut butter

2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup coconut water

vanilla extract

 

INSTRUCTIONS
Drain and rinse cashews. Combine ingredients in a food processor (except for the coconut water) and blend until creamy smooth.

To get the cream consistency, begin by blending 1 tablespoon of coconut water, adding more as needed until mixture blends smoothly.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Pears in the Time of Burnished Gold, a poem by Mohja Kahf

You bring me pears

The juice runs down your fingers

How long has it taken me to realize

that this is the place,

these are the times

which, if one day there is a paradise, 

we will look back upon and say

Yes, we drank a little of this wine

We tasted, yes, of this before

You bring me pears

They are so ripe the knife slides easily,

curving around the tender core

in a pear-cutting ballet

Your hands are whole

We have children, water, and good health

I am suddenly aware

how everything around us is of burnished gold

You bring me pears

You houri, if houris can be men

You lean toward me, dark of eye,

and I am almost afraid to let go my breath

For, from my armchair, in the ordinary light,

it seems as if your jeans are green brocade

embossed with silver, as, moon among men,

you orbit me and we put time on hold

You are the plenitude of every age

The Nile in its fullness

Baghdad in its day

A Michaelangelan resplendence

The cistern filled to brim

The gifts of heaven lie strewn

over my body like plump berries

You bring me pears 

and I take for a past or a coming poverty

from this munificence,

from this store of happiness and wealth

So let the glisten of my lips

express my thankfulness

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La Primavera Frangipane Tarte

Sensual-La-Primavera-Frangipane-Tarte

In celebration of spring, I’ve been creating recipes using edible flowers and experimenting with desserts. This tart was inspired by a raw vegan dessert cookbook and the beauty of all the flowers in my garden. The orange tree in my garden bloomed a few weeks ago in a magnificent perfume of orange blossoms. It seemed so sudden, but the fragrance! I’d open the sliding door wide to the backyard and the beautiful smell filled the house.

My friend Christina Ross just published her first raw vegan dessert recipe book titled after her blog, Love Fed, called “Love Fed: Purely Decadent, Simply Raw, Plant-Based Desserts” and it’s been waiting for me among the stack of cookbooks piled on top of my dining table. I had taken one of her raw vegan dessert workshops, chocolate making, a year ago just before Valentine’s Day. I’ve tried a few of her recipes so far and this tart was inspired by one of the many delicious treats described in her book. I could not decide upon several of her tarts and pies, so I made my own using her recipes as a guide.

Sensual-La-Primavera-Flower-Tart

The mint in my garden box is growing so bountifully so I plucked some mint leaves along with a few sprigs of chocolate mint and citrus mint. I had some borage flowers from the farmers’ market and plucked a few jasmine flowers from my climbing vines outside. The tart itself is adapted from a few Christina’s raw recipes, however, I toasted coconut flakes and sliced almonds to make it a frangipane tart.

La Primavera Frangipane Tarte

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CRUST:

1 cup raw almonds

6 Medjool dates, halved, pitted

1 cup lightly toasted coconut flakes, unsweetened

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon zest

 

FOR THE FILLING:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked and rinsed

1/2 cup coconut cream

3 Medjool dates, halved and pitted

1/2 cup agave nectar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/4 cup melted cocoa butter

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped

3 tablespoons agar agar flakes

 

FRANGIPANE TOPPING:

toasted almond slivers

toasted coconut flakes

 

BOUQUET GARNI:

jasmine flowers

borage flowers

mint leaves

 

DIRECTIONS:

 Make the crust by adding all of the ingredients— almonds, dates, coconut flakes, vanilla and lemon zest— into a food processor and pulse until fine. Form the crust by pressing the dough into a 9″ springform tart pan by pressing it in with your hands into the crust to shape it. Set aside and make the filling.

Warm the coconut cream, coconut oil, cocoa butter, vanilla and cut vanilla bean pod in a small saucepan. Please be gentle with this process and keep the heat on low. Grate the cocoa butter chunk with a grater over the pan as the coconut oil, coconut cream, almond extract, vanilla and vanilla bean are heating. Add the agar agar flakes. This ingredient will make your pie solidify, similar to gelatin but purely a ‘sea vegetable’ ingredient. (Agar agar is a seaweed that gels like gelatin.) The coconut oil will also solidify once turned cool. Turn off heat once the coconut oil has fully melted. Allow to cool.

Add the agave nectar, cashews, dates, lemon juice and maple syrup into the filling mixture and pour all into a food processor. Blend all ingredients. Please taste your filling with a tasting spoon. This way you will know what to add if you’d like more lemony flavor, or perhaps some more vanilla or almond extract, or more sweetener. The cashews will also turn creamy while blending the filling.

Pour a little of the filling into your tart crust shell once cooled off to room temperature. It shouldn’t be warm, however, since this recipe is raw, the tart crust is delicate and needs time to firm before adding the filling. NOTE: You won’t use all of the the filling— just spoon in enough to coat the base of the tart, but not too much. You can save or use the extra filling as a custard. I filled ramekins with the remaining “custard” and poured maple syrup on top with fresh blueberries for a “pot de creme” a la raw vegan! Once the tart has been filled and has set awhile on the counter, sprinkle the coconut flakes and almond slices all over the top and place inside of your refrigerator. Allow the tart to solidify and firm up, about 4 hours to overnight.

When ready to serve, garnish the tart with the edible flowers and mint leaves.

Sensual-Foodie-La-Primavera-Tarte-Picnic-on-Grass

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