Sourdough Pasta

pasta made from sourdough starter

A bowl of chicken and rustic sourdough noodle soup with a side of buttered sourdough bread. It doesn’t get much better than this, folks!

Pasta has always been my “go-to” favorite for an easy, quick meal.  Of course, that was when I purchased the pasta, pasta sauce, the meat or cheese (or both) and spices!  Now that I know better and have more time, I have started canning my own pasta sauce, grinding my own beef and even growing and dehydrating my own spices!  Naturally, I also make my own pasta.  A couple of months ago I began experimenting with sourdough, and when I found a recipe on Cultures for Health for making sourdough pasta, I was all in!

how to make sourdough noodles

This is fresh out-of-the-refrigerator, hungry sourdough. Do you see that brownish liquid? That means this starter is HUNGRY!

My sourdough starter has performed very well.  When I first told people I wanted to try sourdough, I was given all kinds of dire warnings about how I would have to bake every week or the starter would die.  Well, I can tell you now from experience that I don’t have to make something with the starter every week – it hibernates just fine while in the refrigerator!  All I really have to do is feed it by stirring in some flour and water once a week, set it back in the fridge, and all is well! I even forgot it for a few weeks, but once fed and out of the fridge, it perked up just fine! :D

how to make noodles out of sourdough starter

This is my expanding supply of sourdough starter, warm, fed and very, very happy!

Now that I have been experimenting with the sourdough starter for a while, when I plan a sourdough baking day, I make it worth my time!  Instead of throwing away half the sourdough (oh no) and feeding the rest, then repeating every 8-12 hours for at least three feedings, I save all of the sourdough and feed it all!  That way, I can make a lot of stuff with the sourdough!

pizza crust made from sourdough

This is the first batch of sourdough pizza crusts ready for the oven.

This last week I made a bunch (eight, to be specific, but who’s counting!) of sourdough pizza crusts, shaped into rectangles (it fits better on my baking sheets and in the freezer) and partially cooked them before I froze them for future meals. Sourdough pizza is really delicious!

Then I made some bread.  You can see this post on some of the first sourdough bread I made.  The olive and parmesan loaf is wonderful!  On this most recent epic sourdough day, I tried adding Italian flavoring to one loaf – oregano, basil and garlic – and it was really, REALLY good!  I will do that again!

♪♫♪♪ O sole mio ♫♪♫♫

So, let’s see – two loafs of bread, eight pizza crusts…   lots of sourdough starter left!

Hmmm…

Now what…

That’s when I went to the Cultures for Health website and saw it…   Pasta!

I won’t go through all the recipe details here, but in a nutshell you add whole wheat flour to the starter along with egg yolks, mix it up until it forms a nice ball (not much kneading necessary) and then let it sit for at least 8 hours or over night.  This allows the sourdough yeast to work it’s magic throughout the mix. I let mine rest overnight because I figured the longer it fermented, the better the dough would be for my health!  I also assumed it would be easier to roll it out, and I was right.

The next morning I was happy to see that my sourdough pasta dough had become spongy, which is a good thing. Sourdough is more digestible than standard bread and more nutritious, also. Lactic acids help neutralize the phylates in flour which can interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. The acids also slow down the rate at which glucose is released into the blood-stream, lowering the bread’s glycemic index, preventing insulin spikes. They also make the gluten in flour more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance.

Rustic sourdough noodles

I love my pasta roller! It rolls out pasta in 10 different thicknesses and does a much better job than I can do with just a regular rolling pin!

I grabbed a handful of the dough and rolled it flat with my handy-dandy pasta machine. One important note when rolling sourdough through a pasta roller – make sure both sides are floured first!  If the dough is not floured, it will stick in the roller and make an epic mess! Haha – I know this well from experience! Of course, you can roll it out by hand. Once flattened, the pasta dough goes through the noodle cutter, which you can also do by hand. Waa Laa  – sourdough pasta noodles!  (waa laa means “there it is” in redneck French)

How to make noodles from sourdough

“Necessity is the mother of invention”, or in my case, “making do”!

But then, where to hang them to dry?  My dearest has already agreed to make me a pasta drying rack (thank you in advance, sweetheart), but what do I do now? Improvise! :D  This large container with the wooden spoons laying across actually made a decent pasta dryer!

Don’t laugh, it works!

But I didn’t stop there.  Did you expect me to?

I bought a ravioli maker last year because it looked like it would be an easy way to make a lot of raviolis.  I got it on sale at Williams-Sonoma (free shipping also!) and when it came in the mail I had to set it aside because Christmas was coming, the goose was getting fat, and I had other things to do.

Today was the day to try it out.

First, I rolled out some of the sourdough pasta dough and got it pretty thin.  Then, I laid the pasta on top of the ravioli maker after it had been floured, and gently…  oh so very gently… pushed the dough into each depression.

Sourdough ravioli

After placing the dough on top of the ravioli maker, then pressing into each depression gently, I placed the filling into each and then covered with another layer of sourdough pasta.

Hmmm.  I got a couple of tears in the dough, but was able to patch them.  Then I filled each depression with a mixture of cooked chicken, some gouda and crimini mushrooms, all diced very small to fit a good mixture into the pockets.

Making ravioli with sourdough pasta

This was Mmmm Mmmm good! A light bechamel sauce with mozarella topped the ravioli quite well!

Next, another sheet of pasta was rolled out and placed on top of the first!  Then, all I had to do was take a wooden roller (included with the ravioli maker) and roll over the top, and – presto – ravioli!

I can see how I could spend an hour making a lot of raviolis and freeze them for several meals later in the month.  After-all, once you have all the equipment out and everything is coated in a fine dust of flour ;) , you may as well just get a bunch done!  Right?  Just remember to lay the ravioli on a parchment or waxed paper lined baking sheet and freeze for about an hour.  Once frozen, you can throw them into a freezer bag or other freezer container and they shouldn’t stick together.

How did they turn out?  Absolutely delicious!  What would I do different?  I think next time I will add a bit of sauce into the filling mixture so that it is more “full”.  The chunks of chicken and mushrooms and cheese had pockets of air between them after they were cooked.  Luckily, that didn’t effect the flavor, but I need to experiment just the same.

How to make ravioli with sourdough starter

Just for fun, I thought I would show you a few of the “fails”! Remember – flour, flour, flour!

Whew – what a day – actually almost two!  But look at what I accomplished – all done with Frank, my sourdough starter.

Frank?  Well, yes.  I name my cultures…  don’t you?  I decided to call him Frank because my specific culture is San Francisco Sourdough.  Francisco…  Frank… get it?  :D

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Tea of Immortality

In my quest to find a healthier, more self reliant lifestyle, I came across a beverage that has been called the “tea of immortality”, otherwise known as kombucha.  My husband and I are trying to completely kick the soda pop habit, and since kombucha has a natural fizziness to it after it’s second ferment, I thought we would see if this would be a viable alternative.

The history of kombucha is long and varies from country to country, but the truth is that kombucha has found it’s way around the world.  In Germany it is called heldenpilz, in Russia it is known as kvas, and in China they call it cha Ju.  I thought that anything known by so many different names and passed down by so many different cultures must be worth investigating. Kombucha is supposed to be one of the best probiotics around, and as we all know, good gut health means everything!

I got my Kombucha starter from Cultures for Health.  What you get is a dehydrated SCOBY, which is actually an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  You can also call it a tea mushroom, Manchu fungus, tea mushroom, etc., but for purposes of clarity, I will call it a SCOBY.  The SCOBY is what turns sweetened tea into kombucha.

how to brew kombucha

I started out with black tea, since this is generally the most recommended type of tea to use for kombucha.

The instructions for re-hydrating your SCOBY are clear and simple. For full instructions or if you want to order a dehydrated SCOBY, you can visit Cultures of Health.  I am not an affiliate of theirs, but I think their website gives out all the information you might ever need on fermented foods.  I used black tea for my first try, which is the recommended tea. You should not use tea that has added oils in it for flavoring, such as Earl Grey, and herbal teas don’t work unless they are used along with regular tea and a mature SCOBY. The sweetened tea, with vinegar and the dehydrated SCOBY is then covered with a coffee filter or clean cloth, placed where it can breathe in room temperature (not in a closed cupboard), out of direct sunlight and where it won’t be moved or vibrated for 30 days.

Brewing Kombucha

A rehydrated kombucha SCOBY, ready to make some kombucha.

After one month, I took the now rehydrated SCOBY out of the jar and, following instructions, placed it in a freshly prepared tea, sugar and vinegar solution.  Did I try the kombucha from the first batch? You bet!  Did I like it?  NO!  It was very, very vinegary!  I could easily swallow a tablespoon per day if this is what I needed to do for good health (I have done this with apple cider vinegar and fire cider), but drink it as a beverage?  Absolutely not!

The good thing is that I knew from reading about kombucha that the longer the sweet tea is allowed to ferment, the more acidic and vinegary it will become, and this batch had fermented for 30 days.  No wonder it was so vinegary!

With the second batch, which is really the first drinkable batch, I let it ferment for the suggested 14 days.  It was apparent that the SCOBY was very happy, because I could see the trail of yeast and bacteria descending from the SCOBY, and a new scoby was forming just under the first scoby!

Brewing kombucha

Look closely at this kombucha brewing. The SCOBY is the thin white layer on the top of the tea, with a new SCOBY developing underneath. You can see tendrils of the SCOBY reaching down into the tea/sugar/vinegar mixture. Looks kinda creepy, doesn’t it?

I will be honest with you.  Looking at this made my stomach a bit queasy!  All my life I have thrown out foods that were moldy.  I know, I know, mushrooms are a fungus.  And cheese, well, cheese is also made from mold, which is a type of fungus.  But seeing the trailing mold running through something I am supposed to drink?  Well, let’s just say I was a bit…  um…   repulsed.  The SCOBY itself looks like something out of science fiction. Everytime I held one, I kept waiting for it to start breathing!

But, you know me.  I am willing to try something if it means better health, frugality or even self-reliant living.  (Doesn’t that all pretty much mean the same thing? :D )  Since I was trying to find an alternative to commercial soda-pop, I was willing to give it a good try.

Brewing Tea of Immortality

When you buy a dehydrated SCOBY from Cultures for Health, they include a package of pH testing strips. These strips ensure that you kombucha is ready to drink by being acidic enough.

After the 14 days of brewing, I tested the kombucha to make sure it was acidic enough to drink.  It was.  Then I tasted it and…

drum roll…

it was still vinegary.

Not as strong as the 30 day vinegar taste, but vinegary just the same.  I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.  I wondered if perhaps this kombucha culture had a bacteria and/or yeast that made a particularly vinegary and acidic tasting tea, because most SCOBY cultures aren’t exactly the same as the next.  Some have more of this yeast and some have more of that bacteria.  I had read that you can start a kombucha SCOBY from store bought kombucha, and since the store bought kombucha didn’t taste as vinegary to me as the ones that I had home brewed, I wanted to see if I could get a SCOBY started with the store bought stuff.

How to brew kombucha

You can see the scoby starting to develop on the top of the sweet tea/vinegar mixture. By golly, you CAN get your own scoby from a bottle of raw, unfiltered, unflavored kombucha!

I bought a bottle of kombucha from our local health food store and, sure enough, there was a glob of “stuff” at the bottom.  I followed the instructions just the same as I did for the rehydrated batch of SCOBY, but instead of adding a rehydrated scoby, I added the entire bottle of purchased kombucha with the glob SCOBY in it.

Yes, I know.  It does look like something you would blow into a tissue!  In fact, I enjoy showing the kombucha to everyone who comes to our home.  Their first reaction is “what do you do with it?” and when I tell them I drink it, their second reaction is always “eeewwwww”.

I get a kick out of it every time!  :D

How to brew kombucha

Two layers of kombucha SCOBY the newest is always on the bottom.

My experiment with the store bought kombucha worked!  Within one week I could see a new SCOBY growing on the top of the tea!  In fact, it seemed like this SCOBY grew a lot faster than the dehydrated one I had purchased.

So now I had two SCOBYs.  I decided to let both of these ferment in new sweetened tea/vinegar solution for just 10 days and then try it.  At Cultures for Health, they don’t recommend fermenting for less than 10 days or the brew may not be acidic enough to kill off all the bad bacteria and such.

The result after 10 days?  Not bad.  Not really good, but not really bad either.

The next step is to try a second ferment to get the natural effervescence like a soda-pop, and also add some flavoring to hopefully mask the taste. ;)Home brewed kombucha

After perusing several blogs on the internet, I decided to try two different flavors:  cherry vanilla (supposed to be reminiscent of Dr. Pepper) and blueberry lemon.  I had one growler (a bottle commonly used by beer brewers with a flip-top “bail type” stopper) from a long extinct craft brewery in Sonora, California, and purchased two more at Ikea for only $3.99 each.

Brewing Fermented Sweet Tea

The kombucha is allowed to ferment a second time with flavorings, so that it will get that “soda pop” fizz and taste better.

I poured the kombucha into each bottle and using a funnel added a handful of blueberries and a few lemon slices to one bottle, and a 1″ piece of split vanilla bean with a handful of dried cherries to another.

After one day I tested the bottles kombucha by opening them and ♪♫♪♪ pfffttt-plunk ♪♫♫♪  they had fizz!  In fact, the blueberries quickly rose to the top of the bottle carried by wings of little bubble angels.  However, I knew from reading other blogs that it was imperative that I let it go through at least 3 days of a second ferment – just to get that really good fizz.

 

Three days later, I put the bottles in the refrigerator in anticipation of drinking the now flavored and fizzy kombucha with dinner.

Fermented Sweet Tea

A cold glass of the Tea of Immortality!

How did it taste?  Well, let’s say it isn’t my favorite.  It isn’t good, but it isn’t bad either.  I think I can easily drink about 2-4 ounces a day, just for it’s health benefit. At first we thought we liked the blueberry/lemon best, but then the cherry vanilla ended up the clear winner. However, this won’t be gracing my table anytime soon to serve alongside dinner.  My husband’s palate is even more sensitive to the vinegary taste than mine is, so no, this won’t be a sodapop substitute for us.

Not yet.

If you know me, you know that I don’t give up so easily!

I want to try a few more rounds of brew using Oolong tea, green tea and white tea and see how that tastes.  I also want to try brewing the kombucha with a little less vinegar to start with, and see if that makes a difference.  So, stay tuned – there will be more to post soon!

If anyone has any suggestions or blog posts about kombucha and flavored kombucha, please leave a comment below!

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Orange Peel Candy

recipe for orange peel and chocolate candy

This is a section of our naval orange tree! It is absolutely loaded with sweet and juicy oranges.

When we sell our home and move up to our future homestead, the thing I will miss the most is our orange tree.  For the past 15 years (the tree is about 20 years old) we have been blessed with the sweetest, juciest and most abundant oranges one could ever wish for!  We did plant a Tango Mandarin in a large pot a couple of years ago and this year we will have our first actual harvest!

For years, our favorite dessert in the winter has been to sit down with 1/2 a Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bar (yes, we share one bar) and a big, juicy orange.

One bite of orange, one bite of chocolate.

Repeat.

:)

Recipe for candied orange peel and chocolate candy

A great book – lots of wonderful information and laugh out loud funny!

Over the holidays I read a new book I got from our library sale called The Quarter-Acre Farm – How I kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family for A Year.  This is a really good book. Spring Warren, the author, lives in Davis, California, which is smack dab in the middle of Northern California – not far from where I am living right now!  Her writing style is very humorous and I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit!

Anyway – in the book she gives a recipe for Candied Orange Peel dipped in Chocolate.  Holy Cannoli – this sounded like a recipe from heaven and I just had to try it! candied orange peel in chocolate

The first thing to do, of course, is peel your oranges.  The recipe calls for the peel of six oranges…. no problem.  :D  I peeled mine in strips, then scraped most, but not all of the pith off.  The pith is where a lot of nutrients are, and since the peel is being candied, the pith won’t taste so…  well…  pithy.

chocolate covered candied orange peelThe next step is to place the orange peels in a pot, cover with water, boil, drain, boil again, drain and boil once more for a total of 3 times.  I guess this is to get a lot of the oils out of the peel (which can be bitter) and also to soften the peels a bit.  Then, I added about two cups of water and one cup of sugar to the pot, placed in the boiled orange peels, set the pot on the stove at the lowest simmer, and let it simmer for about an hour.

The author warns not to stir the orange peels while they are in the sugar solution or sugar crystals might precipitate on the peel.  You don’t want that.

How to candy orange peel

Then, either set out on parchment paper to dry or place in a dehydrator.  Either way, the orange peels will still be a bit tacky when dry (because of the sugar) but when you bite into them, they taste like a burst of orange flavor!  So good!  The texture is somewhat like a gummy bear, but a bit softer.  And they are translucent!  We almost ate all of the orange slices as they were!

The dehydrator pictured hererecipe for candied orange peel was given to Ray and I a few weeks ago by a wonderful couple, my daughter-in-law Wendy’s parents!  Jack and Donna are two of the most positive and kind people I know. They are always quick to lend a hand and I have always enjoyed spending time with them. I am so glad our son blessed us with Wendy and her family. However, these past few months have seen some trying times for the two, and if you have a moment, Jack needs some special prayer and good thoughts sent his way. Thanks.

As you can see, I also dried some bananas!

candied orange peel in chocolateNow to dip the now candied orange peel in chocolate (the ones that are left!) for the ultimate yum!  After heating some dark chocolate chips in the microwave to melt the chocolate, I dipped each piece and laid it on parchment paper.  I also dipped the banana chips.  I took the banana chips out of the dehydrator before they were totally done, so that they were still pliable and not crunchy.

Now doesn’t that look good!  Let me explain to you how good these are.

Well…  You see…  Hmmm…   No words can describe how good these are! :)

And to think I used to throw the orange peel in the compost pile!!!

orange peel and chocolate candy

Now that it’s orange season again, I hope you try this recipe!  Even if you don’t eat too many oranges, save the peel in the refrigerator (scrape off some of the pith first) in a fairly airtight container, and when you have enough you can try this.  You won’t be sorry!  I’m thinking of doing the same thing with lemon peel.  I wonder if it will be as good?

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Rebatching Soap

If you have known me for a while, you know how frugal I am.  I don’t just pinch pennies, I crush them!  So, when I found out that you can take small slivers of soap, grate them up, melt them down, and make bath sized bars of soap again, I decided to dive right in.  You know that old saying “everything old is new again”?  Well, this is yet another example, because this is exactly what our forefathers (ahem, foremothers) used to do!

I did a lot of research to find out the best method to do this.  Apparently you can re-melt the soap on the stove, in a crockpot, in the microwave or in the oven.  I’m sure you could also melt soap in a barbecue, but thank goodness I didn’t see a tutorial on that one or I would have tried it!

Seriously, I would have. :)

After several tries, I think I have found the easiest and simplest method… for me, at least.

how to rebatch soap

A loaf of rebatched soap before being cut into bars. Isn’t it pretty?

Before any of you send me nasty e-mails or curse my first born son about the kind of soap I am using, I am going to add this disclaimer:

“I, Vickie, being of sound mind and body, do solemnly swear that I understand the health implications of using commercially prepared soaps containing caustic and poisonous chemicals and substances which potentially could be damaging to my health”.

That being said, read the first sentence of this post again. :)

It’s the same peril when you get a borer in your fruit tree.  If you spray the tree with insecticide, then the fruit can no longer be considered organic.  But if you don’t spray, the tree will die and you will therefore have no fruit!  I prefer to be organic, but that being said, I like to eat also!

Because of the peril that commercial soaps carry, I have recently begun to make my own soaps using home rendered lard and tallow, organic olive oil and coconut oil and pure essential oils.  You can see those posts by clicking on the tab above labeled soapmaking.  So, I hope to think that my penance will soon be paid and any future re-batching will be done with my home-made, totally organic, skin loving soaps.  I promise.

Enough said.

So, If you would like to venture into rebatching your used slivers of soap or even rebatching a bunch of those free soaps you get at the various motels and hotels you have visited, here is how I do it…

 

How to make soap bars out of soap sliversFirst, weigh your slivers to find out how big your batch of soap will be so that you can chose the appropriate mold.  This batch is about 2 pounds (just shy), so I set the free end of my adjustable soap mold at the 2 pound mark and lined the mold with waxed paper. That is when I took the picture below.  But then, mid shred, I found a bit more soap, so I reset the mold at the 3 pound mark but added one block on the inside because my batch was larger than two pounds, but certainly not three pounds. I forgot to take another picture of the mold with just the waxed paper rebatching commercial soap lining it in the three pound plus block position (wow, doesn’t that sound technical!), but you can see what it looks like in the picture below with the soap in the mold. The block is another adjustable end, so if I wanted to I could make two batches of soap at one time.  My husband made this mold for me (he is so clever and handy), and if you would like to see how to make one, go HERE.

making new soap out of old soapNext, either chop, shred, grind or grate your soap.  You want the pieces to be as small as possible.  You can use your cheese grater, your food processor or a cutting board and sharp knife.  The process is a bit tough on my old food processor and I found it to be just as fast and easy using old fashioned elbow grease, a good knife and a cutting board.

Pour the chopped/shredded/ground soap into a heavy bottomed, oven proof saucepan, then place on the stove on low.  I have found that if I start the process on the stove, I can tell if I need to add some more water or not.  With almost two pounds of soap, I started out with 1/2 cup of water.  This seemed to be sufficient because I saw the soap starting to melt on the bottom.  Be careful, though, because it isn’t hard to scorch the soap!  You are just jump starting the melting process at this point.  Once I can see that the soap is melting, I place the saucepan in the oven with a lid on at the lowest temperature your oven will allow.  Mine only goes down to 170 degrees.  After 1/2 hour, stir the soap and assess whether you will need more water or not.  I added just a bit more soap at this point, and the mixture seemed a bit dry, so I added another 1/4 cup of water.  You don’t want to add too much water at this point.  It won’t really hurt anything, but it will take longer for the bars to dry out and be sufficiently hard enough to use!how to make soap out of old soap

The soap was put back into the oven for another 1/2 hour.  At this point I had a fairly loose slurry of soap with small chunks interspersed, which I thought looked really cool, so I went ahead and glopped the soap into my soap mold.rebatched commercial soap

Yes, glopped.  Rebatched soap won’t pour like home-made soap will.  It glops.  Which makes it a bit harder to put into the mold, smooth out the top or get any bubbles out.  No matter, because I’m not entering these bars into the county fair, for heaven’s sake!

If you don’t want to see little chunks of soap in your final rebatched bars (I think it’s pretty, but to each his or her own), you can continue to melt and stir the soap in the oven, but depending on how small you got your chunks/shreds/pieces of soap, you may or may not be successful in getting a completely smooth, one color, no chunk bar of soap.

how to make old soap into new bars of soapLet your soap cool and re-harden in the mold for a day or so, then cut and use.  Unlike home-made soap, you don’t have to wait for re-batched soap to cure because the soap has already gone through the curing process  back when it was manufactured.  However, if you want to rebatch home-made soap that has not fully cured, you should either wait until the curing process (saponification) has been completed before you proceed, or make sure you let the soap cure again until it reaches a pH of 8.5 or less.

There you have it.  Rebatched soap.

I did a little calculating with this batch of soap.  The rebatched soap  was approximately 2 pounds and cost elbow grease and a little bit of energy, but certainly less energy than it would cost in gas to run to the store.  At Walmart, if I were to purchase about the same amount and same kind of soap, online it shows an 8 pack of 3.75 ounce bars (a couple ounces less than 2 pounds) of Irish Spring for $ 3.75

So, essentially I saved $3.75.  Yes, I agree, that’s not so much.  But it was fun and I had an hour to kill.  Plus…  I like to pinch pennies!how to make new soap from old

Actually, this is one of those skills that is good to know.  It’s not uncommon for soap makers to rebatch their botched batches of soap!  Say that one three times!  If a soap maker discovers that not enough lye was used, the fragrance was a bit off, etc., rebatching can save the cost of making the soap.

Oh, I forgot to mention something.  In case you were wondering…  no, rebatching used soap is NOT going to spread germs.  Period.  Most viruses are killed by 108 degree fahrenheit temperatures.  That’s why our bodies get a fever when we are sick!  And as any cook knows, pretty much all bacteria are toast when they reach 160 degrees fahrenheit. When you melt your soap in a 170-ish degree oven, all of that is taken care of!

So, what do you think?  Would you ever rebatch soap?

2 Crochet Hooks

 

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