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Ballpark Caramel Corn

Fall has snuck into our lives. The air is crisper and the sun peaks out of the clouds on rare occasion. I am beginning to really worry about November; for the last four years, we have Novembered in Arizona, where it’s sunny. Every. Single. Day. November in Toronto is dreary at best, cold, grey and wet. Generally not very pretty. We have decided to postpone any travel plans for the next year or so until this COVID beast works itself out. So we will not be spending the month of November in Arizona. I am concerned.

November is a bear, but so can the odd day in September and October. One such dreary late September afternoon, we decided to watch a movie and I made this popcorn recipe. I did not make the fourteen cups that the original recipe called for, ours worked out to be about half which was too much for the two of us, but should suffice for three or four. To be honest, I’ve never had Ballpark Caramel Corn (but I have been to a couple of ball games). This recipe intrigued me because of the molasses addition which gives the corn a slightly anise-flavour.

This recipe is perfect for movie night or Halloween night. We have decided to heed government advice and not participate in Halloween, so we’ve opted out of decorating our house for the occasion but some people have gone all out. This house is about a 20 minute walk from our place on an adjacent street.

Ball Park Caramel Corn

For the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g peanuts
  • 120 g kernels
  • 75 g butter
  • 165 g brown sugar
  • 60 mL molasses
  • 2.5 mL salt
  • Pinch of baking soda

Directions:

  1. Pop the kernels. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Prepare a large baking sheet by spraying with a non-stick spray.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients but the baking soda, popcorn and peanuts in a heavy-bottom pan, mix well.
  3. Heat until it reaches a temperature of 268° F, quickly stir in the baking soda, being careful as it could bubble over. Combine the popped corn and peanuts, mix well. Pour the molasses mixture over the popped corn and peanuts, working quickly to mix the molasses into the corn.
  4. Pour the coated corn and peanuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out, it doesn’t have to be in a single layer and clusters are preferred. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once around 7 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely, then break apart into varying cluster sizes. Serve in ballpark popcorn containers.

Notes:

  • The original recipe suggests salted peanuts, we are trying to reduce our salt intake so I used plain peanuts.
  • This is a richer flavoured take on caramel corn, which I find equally as delicious.

Hummingbird Cake

For special occasion desserts, I like to pop over to my long-time blogging-friend Liz, Skinny Chick Can Bake. Liz has the most beautifully presented desserts that I have seen from a home cook. Most of Liz’s recipes are also unfamiliar to me as I grew up in a European household. A dear friend was turning 70 in September and I wanted to make a special dessert to celebrate the occasion and this beauty did not disappoint. It has a lovely banana flavour but the pineapple isn’t flavour-forward other than providing some added moisture. It reminded me of banana bread but it was much moister than the standard quickbread. And that cream cheese frosting is one that dreams are made of.

Hummingbird Cake

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 20 cm cake, about 16 servings

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 400 g flour
  • 300 g sugar
  • 6 g cinnamon
  • 6 g salt
  • 5 baking soda
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 375 mL vegetable oil
  • 7 vanilla extract
  • 540 g mashed bananas (use ripe bananas)
  • 228 g crushed pineapple, drained (about 1/2 a container)
  • 120 g chopped pecans, toasted for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees

Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • 500 g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 40 g butter, room temperature
  • 10 mL vanilla
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 500 g icing sugar, sifted
  • Pecans, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350° F and prepare three 20 cm round cake pans by lining with parchment paper and spraying with a non-stick spray.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl, set aside.
  3. Combine the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, mashed bananas and crushed pineapple and fold into the flour to make a smooth batter. Pour evenly into the three prepared baking pans.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  5. Meanwhile, cream the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat well until incorporated. Add the sugar a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently until all of the sugar has been incorporated.
  6. When the cakes are thoroughly cool, cut the dome off the top is there was one. Lay the first cake on a serving platting protected by parchment (in short rectangles so that they are easy to remove). Spread a thin layer of the icing over the first layer, place the next cake on top and spread again, add the final layer to the top. Crumb-coat the entire cake in a thin layer and refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When the frosting is firm, finish the cake with the remaining frosting or as desired.
  7. Decorate the cake with more pecans that have been toasted.

Notes:

  • Although the cake has a whopping 300 g of sugar, it is not excessively sweet, it’s the frosting that takes it over the top! I won’t kid you, it is sweet but not as sweet as it was in the original recipe.
  • I reduced the butter to about one-quarter of the original recipe, it still made a super-rich frosting.
  • Neither our friends nor we like super-sweet desserts so I opted to reduce the sugar from 6 cups to 4 cups in the frosting and added the juice of half a lemon to help cut it even more. The resulting frosting was still sweet but it didn’t make your teeth tingle. If you prefer an even less sweet frosting, I suggest you reduce the cream cheese by one quarter so that you require less the icing sugar thicken it up. As it was, 4 cups of icing sugar to 500 g cream cheese and 40 grams of butter made a light fluffy frosting but it needed refrigeration to keep stiff. It was a hot and humid day when I served this cake and my version of frosting didn’t melt but it wasn’t as stiff as frosting usually is.
  • I baked the three layers in a 20 cm (8-inch) round pans because I did not have 9-inch pans as Liz’s recipe calls for (hence the slightly longer baking time as they turned out somewhat thicker.
  • The original cake had coconut but I omitted it because our friends do not like coconut.

Kedgeree, my way

Some time ago, the wee menu on Facebook on my iPhone changed to include videos and a whole bunch of other garbage I wasn’t interested in. I figured out a way to customize it but I left in the videos because it made me look at suggested videos on my feed which was advantageous because I would have never come across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Kedgeree. The ingredients and origin of the dish enticed me.

“According to “Larousse Gastronomique”, what we call kedgeree originated from a concoction of spiced lentils, rice, fried onions and ginger known as khichiri dating back to the 14th century and eaten across India. The early colonists developed a taste for it, as it reminded them of nursery food” (from The Economist, please click here for the link).

Nigella’s version was made with rice and some simple spices such as curry. On perusing the internet, I discovered that many recipes did not include curry powder but a variety of spices to make the flavours more interesting. We love cumin, coriander and turmeric so those were my spices of choice. I also found a few recipes to include raisins which brought me right back to Morocco. I thought I’d give the dish a go and it was very successful with the exception that it was a bit dry. I have amended my ingredients to include a little extra chicken stock to give it a bit more wetness, not quite like risotto but just this side of it.

The recipe is full of flavour and works well as a quick weeknight meal.

Kedgeree

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g hot smoked salmon
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • 100 g sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 30 g butter
  • 5 g cumin
  • 5 g coriander
  • 5 g turmeric
  • 130 g basmati rice, rinsed
  • 300 mL chicken stock, plus more for wetness
  • 8 g puréed roasted garlic
  • 10 mL fish sauce
  • 25 g sultana raisins
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. In a medium sauce-pan, sauté the onions in the butter until translucent, add the spices and cook until fragrant. Rinse the rice and strain. Toast the rice with the onions and spices until it’s fairly dry.
  2. Combine the chicken stock with the roasted garlic and fish sauce and add it to the rice cooker, mix in the sautéed onions, rice and raisins and cook as directed by the manufacturer. When cooked, stir in a little additional chicken stock to achieve the desired wetness in the rice.
  3. Flake the salmon and toss it with the cooked rice on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the cilantro and lime zest and juice. Garnish with the hard-boiled eggs. Serve at any temperature you wish.

Notes:

  • This is not an authentic kedgeree recipe, it is my version of several recipes after I discovered this dish on the web.
  • Most recipes use curry powder but I prefer the flavours of cumin, coriander and turmeric in this recipe.
  • As with many Indian foods, this is likely an English bastardization.
  • To make this dish vegetarian, or vegan, use coconut oil instead of butter, vegetable stock instead of chicken and tofu or beans instead of salmon.
  • We grilled our Pacific Salmon on the Big Green Egg which provided enough smoky flavour to the dish. If it’s not enough, add a little smoked paprika to achieve a slightly smokier flavour.
  • It seems that this dish can be eaten at any time at any temperature but we prefer it warm for lunch or dinner.

In late August we had friends over for a wonderful outdoor dinner and I asked if they wouldn’t mind bringing dessert. I usually like to control the entire event, but summer is a lot more casual and dining al fresco has added more of a casual flavour to our entertaining, so I thought, why not. My friend made these chocolate brownies (with raspberry instead of cherry) from Donna Hay and I must say they were totally swoon-worthy. So rich and chocolatey and the preserves just added a lovely moist texture. I did not have raspberry jam but I did have a good handful of frozen cherries so I popped them into a pan with a drizzle of water and a spoon of sugar and cooked them, then I puréed them with my stick blender and further cooked them down to just less than 125 mL.

Just dollop the preserves on top and swirl a knife through to make this marble-like pattern.

Chocolate-Cherry Brownies

Makes 1 23 cm square pan. Original recipe by Donna Hay

Ingredients:

  • 114 g butter
  • 125 g unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 375 g sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 125 g all-purpose flour
  • 125 mL cherry preserves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm square pan with parchment and butter or spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the flour and stir in.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Dot with spoonfuls of cherry preserves on top. Run a knife through to make a marbled pattern.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick still has a few moist crumbs attached when extracted. Allow to cool completely in the pan and cut into even squares, I got 16.

Recently, we have fallen in love with Cholula Green Pepper Hot sauce but it is very difficult to find in Toronto. Sure, everyone carries the original red version, but we can never seem to find the green one. It’s not quite as hot as the red one but it really livens up flavours, like our Huevos Rancheros! I decided I would try and make my own and so I shall share it with you.

Green Pepper Jalopeño Hot Sauce

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 400-500 mL hot sauce

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL olive oil
  • 440 g green peppers (about 355 g cored and seeded)
  • 320 g jalapenos (about 235 g cored and seeded)
  • 1 large shallot (about 65 g)
  • 15 mL puréed garlic
  • 300 mL water
  • 75 mL cider vinegar
  • splash of agave syrup
  • Salt and white pepper

Directions:

  1. Core, seed and remove veins of the peppers (to your taste) and toss with the olive oil.
  2. Roast the peppers until their skin blisters. Peel off the skin as best as you could. Roast the shallot so that it’s almost soft.
  3. Add everything but the agave syrup to a pan and cover with the water and vinegar. Simmer until everything is super soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Purée the pepper mixture until smooth and press through a fine sieve. Add in a splash of the agave syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer to sterilized jars and refrigerate. Will last a few months in the fridge.

Notes:

  • The quantity will depend on how fine a sieve you have. I generally run it through a fine metal sieve to catch larger bits, then I press it through a very fine, reusable coffee filter. It makes a beautiful, silky sauce.
  • If you prefer a hotter sauce, leave more of the ribs on the Jalopeños. I can’t tolerate the extreme heat so my sauce is only mildly hot.

 

Way back in 2009, I blogged about this recipe from the LCBO magazine, Leek and Mushroom tart but I didn’t have a photo of it. It’s quite a tasty tart, particularly if you use puff pastry as the base. It’s definitely not something we eat often so I thought I’d splurge and reblog about it. It makes a lovely brunch dish.

LCBO’s Leek and Mushroom Tart

Makes one tart 35.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 2.5 cm (14″ x 4.5″ x1″)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 375 mL Evaporated Milk or heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 250 g mixed mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, cremini, oyster etc.), stems removed where necessary and thickly sliced
  • 1 medium wild leek cleaned well and cut into thin slices
  • 30 mL white wine
  • 2.5 mL chopped fresh thyme
  • One 35.5 cm x 11.4 cm x 2.5 cm tart shell, partially baked
  • 2 long slices of prosciutto, or 4 small rounds, cut or torn into smaller bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Place Evaporated Milk or heavy cream and garlic cloves in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until milk is flavoured with the garlic and reduced to 250 mL and garlic is very soft. Set aside to cool. Remove garlic cloves, mash with a fork and return to cream. When cool add egg and beat until uniform. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 15 g butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste and scrape into a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining 15 g of butter to pan and heat over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 1 minute or until they are softened. Add wine and thyme to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more or until leeks are limp and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  5. Arrange mushrooms and leeks in the tart shell and pour milk over top (making sure that mushrooms and leeks peep through the cream.
  6. Top with prosciutto (this will get very crispy).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

I may have bought a few too many pistachios when I made the gelato so I thought I’d recreate the almond cookies  of Sevilla with pistachios, we loved them so much. I also had exactly 7 g of the matcha powder which was the perfect amount for the cookies. I served them for dessert one evening we had a friend over (in the back yard) and she couldn’t stop raving about them.

Pistacho-Matcha Tuiles de Sevilla

Makes one sheet pan about 34 cm x 38 cm (13.5″ x 15″)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 80 g sugar
  • 30 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 50 g cake and pastry flour
  • 7 g matcha powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 75 g pistachios, chopped

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  2. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flavourings and cooled butter.
  3. Sift the flour with the salt and matcha powder and fold into the egg mixture.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 265° F (130° C).
  5. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out with an offset spatula until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm) works out to about 34 cm x 38 cm. Evenly sprinkle the chopped pistachios onto the batter and gently push into the batter.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until evenly golden, turn the pan once about halfway.
  7. Cool completely and break into uneven pieces.
  8. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Vanilla Bean Gelato

We have been eating a lot more ice cream this year than any other year. In fact, I bet if I added up all the gelato and ice cream we have eaten since May, it will exceed my lifetime consumption! In one summer! JT has never been a big fan but for some reason, this year he is ravenous for it! I generally don’t like to keep ice cream or gelato in my freezer because it literally calls my name at all hours. Anyway, it doesn’t count if you eat it directly out of the container, standing up with the freezer door open. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Vanilla Bean Gelato

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 550 mL gelato

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL 2% milk
  • 250 mL 35% cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 65 g sugar
  • 16 g cornstarch
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • 5 mL vanilla bean paste

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the egg yolk, sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. The day you wish to make the gelato, fold in the vanilla bean paste until thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

In mid-July, we were one of five couples invited to a socially responsible BBQ at a friend’s house. They put three tables together outside giving us ample space to distance ourselves. Each couple was asked to bring something and this marvellously flavourful side was one of the dishes someone brought. Everyone asked for the recipe, including me! I chose to make it as a dip for a summer evening cocktail party, socially responsibly distanced, of course. Each couple had their own plate!

The beans and lentils are packed with flavour, the salsa and lime yoghurt just up the ante.

Baja Mexican Beans and Lentil Dip with Lime Sauce and Salsa

From Bowls of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full of Nourishment By Nina Olsson

For the original recipe please click here

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until needed
  • Olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 200 g dried navy beans (400 g cooked)
  • 100 g dried lentils du puy (200 g cooked)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 avocado, finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  1. Cook the beans and lentil until softened, rinse.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the shallots until caramelized, add the garlic and cooked beans and cook until they can easily be mashed about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Serve in a bowl or on a plate drizzled with the Baja Sauce and Salsa with baked tortilla chips

I chose blue tortilla chips because they were gluten-free and organic.

Pickled Daikon

We just love Asian flavours, particularly in the summertime. The food is light, fresh and easy to eat on these endless, hot, muggy, summer days. I’ve made quick-pickled daikon in the past as a garnish but this time I wanted something that will serve a few meals. I love Nami’s no-nonsense approach to authentic Japanese food so her blog Just One Cookbook is generally my go-to and this was no exception. I did make a minor change by omitting the heat and reducing the sugar (even though she warned against it). I love the fresh crunch of this daikon pickle. But be warned, the daikon odour will penetrate everything and it is potent! I put the Lamp Berger on every time I open the jar!

Pickled Daikon

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 500 mL

Ingredients:

  • 454 g fresh daikon, julienned thinly
  • 45 g sugar
  • 30 mL rice vinegar
  • 5 mL mirin
  • 2 g salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a tightly sealable container (you may wish to double bag it because it really stinks up the refrigerator).
  2. Mix well. Seal the container and place in the fridge for 2 days.
  3. After 2 days, rinse well and strain. Sterilize a jar and add the daikon to the jar, seal and refrigerate. Will keep for about 1 month.

Pistachio Gelato

It’s been brutally hot in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because -20° C with windchill will be here soon enough, so I look for cooling and comforting dishes to help manage the heat. We’ve been entertaining a lot but only outside. Most of our friends are uncomfortable about being indoors at the moment (as am I) and then you layer having to wear masks on top of the anxiety of being indoors and it’s no longer fun. But outside is much easier to transition to (from Zoom) so, we’ve been entertaining outside a lot. At the time of writing this post (July 21) Toronto was only in stage 2 of opening and looking at the poor example some of our cousins in the south have set, our government is being extremely conservative in getting back to “normal”. So we are entertaining a lot, outside. (Repetition was intentional 🤪)

This delicious gelato recipe was created for dessert for dear friends, served in homemade waffle cones, which didn’t turn out as successfully as I had hoped so they are not being blogged about! I had asked JT what flavour of gelato he wanted and he immediately said Pistachio, oh good, not too difficult, right? I decided on David Lebovitz’s recipe with a few minor alterations. The result was exceptional. I was not able to find his preferred pistachio paste in the timeframe I needed it so I improvised and made my own. I had not made a gelato using cornstarch as a thickener before but I must say, it did work out very well. I added the skim milk powder to make it even creamier and it did not disappoint. Skim milk powder absorbs excess water and gives the gelato a creamier flavour.

Fortunately, my pistachios were a lovely green so I didn’t need to add any food colouring. It’s all-natural!

Super creamy and full of pistachio flavour.

Pistachio Gelato

Makes about 750 mL gelato

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL 2% milk
  • 250 mL 35% cream
  • 65 g sugar
  • 16 g cornstarch
  • 10 g skim milk powder
  • ~200 g pistachio butter (see Notes)
  • a few drops of orange extract

Directions:

  1. Begin by mixing the milk and cream together. Reserve 65 mL of the milk mixture and make a slurry with the cornstarch, mixing until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Combine remainder of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and the milk powder and heat slowly until it almost comes to a boil making sure the sugar and milk powder have completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the cream to a bowl to chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. The day you wish to make the gelato, beat in the pistachio butter and a few drops of the orange extract.
  6. Freeze the gelato according to directions on your ice cream maker.

Notes:

  1. David Lebovitz suggests using Bronte Crema di Pistacchio which is made in Sicily. I was not able to source it so I made my own pistachio butter with 200 g of shelled pistachios with small amounts of water, a small dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, puréed until smooth using my Magic Bullet. You will need to scrape down the sides many times through the process.
  2. Next time I make this recipe, I will lightly toast the pistachios.

French Apple Cake

Several of our friends have July birthdays, as do I. We were invited to brunch (outdoors, of course) in early July and I offered to bake the birthday cake. This particular friend is not a traditional cake lover, no super-sweet icing or frosting for this guy, so I decided to find a nice European cake recipe with fruit, because they are always a hit!

This French Apple cake is made with rum and butter and is so delectable and moist, even though it has only 1 apple! I will definitely make this cake again for the non-cake lovers!

Super moist cake with little bits of apple and the lovely flavour of buttered rum.

French Apple Cake

For the original recipe, please click here. Note that I converted the recipe to metric measures and modified it a bit.

Makes 1 23 cm (9-inch) cake

Ingredients:

  • 114 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 130 g granulated sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 45 mL dark rum
  • 15 mL milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 140 g AP flour
  • 3 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 150 g baking apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 cm cubes
  • Sanding sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan by lining the bottom with parchment and buttering the sides.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla, rum and milk and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.
  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the butter batter and mix until combined.
  5. Fold in the apples.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and dust with the sanding sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake on a wire rack. When cool, run a thin knife along the sides to loosen and turn onto a plate. Flip right side up (sugar-side up).
  8. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature sprinkled with powdered sugar with whipped cream or Crême Fraiche.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

When I was first dating JT, back in the eighties, his dear Mom would make a version of this salad for lunch. She wasn’t into cooking so this type of dish was perfect, few ingredients and easy to assemble. She would poach the chicken where I prefer to use leftover BBQ’d chicken because of the additional flavours the smoke of a charcoal BBQ adds, but leftover rotisserie chicken works wonderfully as well. The original recipe was heavy in mayonnaise, I like to lighten it up with a little yoghurt and a splash of lemon juice. The flavours and textures really hit the spot.

Waldorf Salad was created by Oscar Tschirky, in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City in 1896. The original Waldorf was made with only apples, celery, and mayonnaise, it did not contain a protein or nuts. The latter two were additions made in the 20th century. I like to make this salad with chicken or canned tuna, both are equally satisfying.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 portions for lunch or a light dinner

Ingredients:

  • 100 g BBQ’d or rotisserie chicken, cubed or 1 tin albacore chunk tuna in water or stock 
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (dice all items similar size)
  • 1/2 green onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 apple, diced 
  • 2 tbsp walnuts pieces, toasted
  • squirt of lemon juice, more for taste 
  • 15 mL mayo (I used full strength)
  • 15 mL yoghurt (I used an Icelandic style)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and set aside, if using.
  2. Add the apple to a small bowl and squirt a bit of lemon juice on it to prevent it from oxidizing.
  3. Add the celery, green onion, walnuts and apple to a bowl and combine well.
  4. Combine the mayo and yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Add it to the vegetable fruit mix and coat evenly.
  5. Add the cubed chicken or chunk tuna and stir until equally distributed.
  6. Serve on a bed of salad greens, butter lettuce is particularly nice.

 

We are always looking for ways to eat healthier, reduce the amount of sugar and carbs in our diet. I cook a lot of Asian flavours, particularly in the summertime, but unfortunately many of the store-bought sauces have a lot of sugar. Case in point, a popular brand begins its ingredient listing with, wait for it, SUGAR! So in an effort to be healthier, I came up with this recipe.

Low Carb Hoisin Sauce

Makes about 125 mL sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 9 g almond flour (see notes)
  • 10 g erythritol (see notes)
  • 2.5 mL rice vinegar
  • 2.5 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 2 g white soybean paste
  • 2 g garlic
  • 15-30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the water in an immersion blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a small saucepan and cook over low heat until it has thickened and darkened. Whisk in the water to the desired consistency.

Notes:

  • Instead of almond flour, you may use tahini (reduce or omit sesame oil) or smooth peanut butter.
  • Erythritol is a sugar substitute that apparently does not spike blood sugar levels. See this article.

Ikea Gravy

We don’t eat much fast food, if any. I can honestly say that the last time I ate a Mickey D burger was when I was 12 years old! I just don’t like them. But I do like Ikea meatballs. Once or twice a year, we treat ourselves to lunch at Ikea and I almost always have the meatballs. Now that things are slowly opening up, we took a trip to Ikea but unfortunately, the restaurant wasn’t open so we treated ourselves with a package of their meatballs. Yes, I can make my own meatballs, but sometimes, even I need an easy, mindless meal. I’ve made this gravy before and it was really good so I thought I’d post about it. Who knew the ingredients were so simple?

Ikea Gravy Copycat

Makes 250 mL gravy

Ingredients:

  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g flour
  • 250 mL beef stock, warmed
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • 15 g cream cheese

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and add the flour to make a smooth roux. Cook for about a minute.
  2. Slowly add the warmed beef stock and soy sauce, whisking to make a smooth sauce. Add the cream cheese and whisk to melt and incorporate. Serve hot over your favourite meatballs.

My friend David of Fine Dining at Home (blog on hiatus) put me onto this recipe on his instagram; it looked absolutely delicious, so, then and there, I decided I wanted to make it. I renamed the recipe mille-feuille lasagna because the number of layers reminded me of one of my favourite pastries. I won’t lie, this is a labour-intensive recipe, but then again, what lasagna recipe isn’t? I will say that it is well worth the effort. The homemade pasta is so delicious, light and somewhat crispy. The spinach and basil layers against the creamy béchamel and the stringy mozzarella are divine! Don’t skip the resting and searing step, it really makes the recipe.

Mille-Feuille Lasagna

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Spinach, blanched
  • ~50 g basil, blanched
  • 125 mL passata
  • 15 mL tomato paste
  • 15 mL roasted garlic, puréed (fresh is fine too)
  • 300 g mozzarella, ground

Directions:

  1. Combine the spinach and basil and wring out the water well. Set aside.
  2. Combine the passata, tomato paste and garlic and mix well. Set aside.

Ingredients for the Béchamel:

  • 30 g butter
  • 40 g flour
  • 500 mL milk, warmed

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottom pan. Whisk in the flour and mix well. Cook on medium-heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the warm milk and whisk. Whisk the sauce until smooth and creamy. Cool completely.

Ingredients for the Pasta:

  • 1 large egg
  • 125 g Flour (“00”)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Add the egg to the small bowl of a food processor and whisk. Add the flour and salt and pulse until it forms into a soft dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead gently a few times until it comes together into a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a pasta maker, create 12 sheets that are #8 thickness on the kitchenaid pasta maker. Cook the sheets in salted boiling water for 1 minute or less. Cool in an ice bath, remove and dry off.

Ingredients for the Spinach Pesto Sauce:

  • 150 g spinach and arugula
  • 30 g ricotta or cream cheese
  • 30 g pesto
  • 200 mL milk or cream
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Blanch the spinach and arugula, immerse in ice water to stop the cooking. Wring out as much water as possible.
  2. Place spinach, arugula, cheese, pesto and milk into a bullet and purée until smooth. Season to taste.
  3. Press through a fine sieve into a heatproof container, set aside.

Final Assembly:

1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, it will make it easier to pull out.

2. Add one pasta sheet to the base, follow with

    • A thin layer of spinach,
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of passata
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of béchamel
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of cheese
    • Another pasta sheet

3. Repeat until all the ingredients have been exhausted ending with a pasta sheet and cheese on the top.

4. Bake in a 350° F preheated oven for 50 minutes or until cheese has entirely melted and béchamel is bubbling.

5. Allow to cool completely. When cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.

6. To serve, cut into 5-6 slices and reheat in the oven. Then sear one side on a non-stick frying pan.

7. Serve on a bed of warmed spinach pesto sauce (recipe above) with a little crème fraiche.

The pasta crisps up on the seared side to give you a wonderful crunch against the creamy textures of the cheese and spinach and basil layers. 

During the lockdown, a dear friend and neighbour made this awesome banana bread and brought us a slice! We toasted it and added a wee dollop of butter and OMG! It was so good!

It’s difficult to believe that there is no flour in this quick bread.

Low Carb Banana Bread

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large very ripe bananas, well mashed (375 mL)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • 230 g blanched finely ground almond flour (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, carefully lift out of the pan and cool on a rack.

Notes:

  • I use Kirkland blanched finely ground almond flour

This fresh, tasty bowl was a staple a few years ago and then I completely forgot about it. What I love about this dish is the versatility, it has a lot of fresh taste but if you don’t have something, don’t fret, just substitute it with something you have.

Presentation is always colour blocked but to eat, simply mix it all up. The dressing is super easy too, just mix and taste. The only downside is that there is a bit of prep but you can do it in advance and just assemble the dish. Below is a rough recipe for one person, just multiply it for as many as you need!

Avocado, Mango and Shrimp Bowl

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one bowl

Ingredients for the bowl:

  • 80 g cooked salad shrimp
  • 50 g sticky rice (uncooked weight)
  • 15 mL rice vinegar
  • 1/2 an Avocado
  • 1/2 an Mango
  • 10 cm Cucumber
  • small handful Corn
  • 1 rib of Celery
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Green onions

Directions:

  1. Cook the rice and sprinkle with the rice vinegar and mix well. Allow to cool.
  2. Chop the vegetables into similarly sized cubes.
  3. Layer the rice on the bottom of the bowl, then add each of the vegetables in groups. Add the shrimp and garnish with the green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • 15 mL rice vinegar
  • 15 mL hoisin sauce
  • 30 mL fresh lime juice
  • 2.5 mL toasted sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until emulsified completely.
  2. Pour evenly over the bowl, making sure you get it into the crevices so that the rice is evenly coated.

Notes:

  • Add finely chopped shallots if you can tolerate raw onion.
  • Change the flavour profile completely and add chopped black olives, marinated artichokes and roasted red peppers for a Greek bowl. Make a tzatziki dressing, or a simple white wine vinegar vinaigrette and olive oil with lemon juice and chopped oregano.
  • Use defrosted frozen corn or grilled corn if you have it.

This recipe has become a staple that we have once every two weeks. The pastry comes together easily (use any favourite pastry recipe you like), great texture and has a nice depth of flavour with the sesame seeds. The custard with spinach, shallots and goats cheese are a delight in every bite. 

Low Carb Spinach and Goats Cheese Tart

Makes one 20 cm tart

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 8 g psyllium husk powder
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 30 mL egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 20 g toasted sesame seeds

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the sesame seeds in a small food processor and process until smooth and totally combined. Gently knead in the sesame seeds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment, so that it is a bit larger than the pan. Gently peel off the parchment and roll onto the pan, pressing into the sides. Fold-down excess and press into the sides making the thickness even all around. Dock.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 40 g shallots, finely sliced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 100 g baby spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 mL roasted puréed garlic
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • Salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 15 g Beamster, finely shredded, divided
  • 50 g soft unripened goats cheese, sliced into 6 rounds
  • Directions:

  1. Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until soft. Add the baby spinach and wilt completely. Cool on a piece of parchment.
  2. Combine the eggs, roasted garlic purée, cream, salt, nutmeg and about half of the Beamster and whisk until smooth.
  3. When the spinach cools, evenly spread it into the baked tart shell and pour the egg mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle with remaining Beamster.
  4. Top with the sliced goats cheese and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the egg has set. You may wish to protect the side crust if it gets too dark.
  5. Serve with a green salad.

Season 20 of America’s Test Kitchen seems to be reinventing the wheel for the sake of reinventing the wheel. Case in point is this simple, yet flavourful recipe for steamed fish; ATK goes through some gyrations creating a foil sling to hold the fish and then wrapping the pan in even more foil. This presents two problems for me, it uses too much foil and the foil actually creates a barrier to the steaming ingredients. I created this dish the old fashioned way, en papillote, a tried and true envelope made of parchment paper and it worked perfectly. Although steamed fish can be boring, this one really brings it on so I would definitely recommend this as a dinner party main. It’s definitely a keeper.

The foil sling is a bit overkill, in my opinion.

Asian Inspired Steamed Whitefish

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 2 as a main.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL black vinegar
  • 45 mL soy sauce
  • 10 mL Chinese rice wine
  • 7.5 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 7.5 mL sugar
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • .5 mL ground white pepper
  • 4 scallions
  • 10 cm ginger, divided
  • 200 g firm whitefish (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine the black vinegar, soy sauce, rice wine, toasted sesame oil, roasted garlic purée, sugar and white pepper and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Cut two scallions in about 2 cm pieces. Finely slice the other two scallions and set aside. Peel and cut 3/4 of the ginger into about 2 cm pieces and add to the cut scallions. Slice the remaining ginger into matchsticks, set aside.
  4. Line a baking pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer with parchment (making sure there is enough parchment to enclose the fish). Add the scallions and the roughly chopped ginger to the centre of the parchment paper.
  5. Add the Fish on top of the scallion and ginger base, pour the sauce over the fish, allowing to pool below the fish.
  6. Bring up the sides of the parchment, to form a tent and fold and twist to seal and hold in place.
  7. Place the pan on the middle baking rack and steam until the fish reaches 125° F to 130° F.
  8. Meanwhile, heat 30 mL of vegetable oil in a small saucepan and fry the matchstick ginger until crispy.
  9. Serve on sticky rice garnished with the finely cut scallions and crispy ginger drizzled with the steaming broth.

Notes:

  • Firm whitefish options are haddock, cod, tilapia, monkfish. We used cod in this recipe. It is important to use similarly thick pieces of fish so they steam evenly.
  • I use this awesome wireless thermometer.
  • This recipe would be beautiful sous vide.

We have been watching America’s Test Kitchen to help us fall asleep, taking our minds off the news and the ugly reality of late. This recipe was on Season 20 and I was taken right away. We love lemon and this one definitely ticks a lot of boxes, it’s not sickly sweet and it IS sooooo lemony. If you like lemon, I urge you to make this tasty treat. Note that I did not love their pastry recipe so I substituted my tried and true Viennese Pastry recipe.

I decided to brulée the top just as my favourite French Bistro does with their Tarte au Citron (which incidentally takes two days to make!)

Lemon Olive Oil Tart

Please click here for the original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

Makes about six 8 cm pastry shells with a total of 300 mL lemon curd filling

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 145 g all-purpose flour
  • 60 g sugar
  • 2 g salt
  • 114 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Pastry Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Put all ingredients into a food processor and process JUST until the dough sticks together (over-processing will cause tough pastry). Divide into six even discs and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly flour your board and roll out the pastry to fit your preferred pan (I used 8 cm round pans). Dock the bottom with a fork several times.
  4. Blind bake the crust 30 minutes or until golden. You may need to reshape the pastry, mine got all puffy and misshapen because I didn’t refrigerate long enough and it was a super hot day.

Ingredients for the curd:

  • 70 g sugar
  • 10 g AP flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
  • lemon zest of one lemon
  • 130 mL lemon juice
  • 40 mL extra-virgin olive oil

Directions for the curd:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a small, heavy-bottom pan and cook on low heat until it is 160F, and just slightly thickened.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve for a velvety finish. Refrigerate with an oiled parchment placed on top to prevent a skin.
  3. Pour into the prepared, hot shells and bake for 8-12 minutes until the centre jiggles a bit.
  4. Allow to cool completely before serving.
  5. Sprinkle with sugar and brulée the top, just as you would with crème brulée.

A tangy, tasty, lemon treat.

Notes:

  • Fresh lemon juice is essential for a clean, lemony flavour.
  • ATK felt that the olive oil helps the lemony flavour shine better than butter.

Covid has forced us to try to reinvent our favourite restaurant meals. Not because we’d rather not get take-out, because we’ve been trying to support our local restaurants at least once per week, but it’s because some of our favourite places don’t offer take out right now! 

Some restaurants (who are not offering take out) are offering online demos of some of their popular dishes; my favourite French Bistro has two recipes on IGTV, French Onion Soup and their delectable Tart au Citron. The French onion soup takes about three days to make and the tart au Citron takes two days! They are a lot of work! I am happy to wait until I can go and order these in person because I don’t have the patience to wait three days for my soup to be ready. 

This is half of Playa Cabana Cantina’s huevos rancheros. It ain’t pretty but it’s damn good.

The Mexican chorizo recipe was in response to not being able to find it locally (yes, there are places downtown but I wanted to stay close to home in these unusual circumstances). We just love this Mexican place, because their Huevos Rancheros is simply TDF! We literally dreamt about this dish while we were in Spain, it was going to be one of our first restaurant meals back home. Then the sh%$ hit the fan and you know the rest. The first layer is made of rice and beans, then a warm, soft flour tortilla, then some wonderful flank steak with crispy chorizo and finally topped with a perfectly fried egg. Warm, smokey, earthy spices make this dish moreish. The dish is literally enough for two, we always share, getting a second egg for an extra dollar. I created the chorizo recipe for this dish and to be honest, it really hit the spot.

This is a version of the Huevos Ranchero we made about a month ago.

Home Made Mexican Chorizo

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 400 g of raw, loose chorizo

Ingredients:

  • 350 g ground lean pork
  • 60 g bacon, finely chopped
  • 5 g ancho chilli powder
  • 2 g smoked paprika
  • 1 g Mexican oregano
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 4 g salt
  • 10 g sweet paprika
  • 13 g roasted garlic

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and form into 80 g patties. Freeze in patty form, defrost in the refrigerator before use (you can also cook from frozen, it just takes longer).

Notes:

  • I’ve been watching a lot of cooking demos and one I recently saw was Chef Michael Simon from Food Network cooking ground meat as a patty. He wasn’t making patties, just searing them on both sides and breaking them apart as they cooked. It’s a fantastic method, you get even browning on both sides and the meat is very easily broken up.
  • I have made this recipe with Beyond Ground Meat and it works out very well; don’t add the bacon if you are cooking vegetarian but you may wish to increase the smoked paprika to 3 g to get a smokier flavour. 

Caramelized Onion Tart with Brûléed Gruyère

KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) tart. Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 240 g sweet onions, thinly skiced
  • 15 g butter
  • 15 mL cognac
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30 mL milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 60 g gruyère cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 single pie crust, blind baked

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Heat the butter in a pan until melted, add onions and cook until caramel in colour. Deglaze pan with cognac, set aside.
  3. Whisk to combine eggs, milk, nutmeg and season.
  4. Spread cooked onions into the pie crust evenly, pour in the egg mixture and bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Cover the tart with Gruyère and continue to bake until cheese is melted and somewhat brûléed. Cover crust with foil if getting too dark.
  6. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Almond Flour Pie Crust

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch)  pie crust.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 8 g psyllium husk, ground
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cold
  • 30 mL egg whites
  • 20 g toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
    2. Add everything but the sesame seeds to your food processor and pulse to make a soft dough. Remove and gently kneed in the sesame seeds.
    3. Roll between 2 sheets of parchment paper to fit a 20 cm (8 inch) tart pan. Press into the pan and up the sides evenly. Dock the pastry well.
    4. Blind bake the tart shell for 12-15 minutes, covering the sides if they bake too quickly.

Stroopwafels

I was introduced to Stroopwafels last summer when I assisted for a Tangerine Bank commercial. These gorgeous, sweet, caramel-filled wafers are served in Belgium and Holland with coffee or tea. They are generally a little hard so they are placed over a hot beverage so the steam could soften them.

I purchased my pizzelle maker in a wonderful little kitchen store in Brussels where I was totally lost for at least an hour; I was fully aware that the pizzelle maker was almost a kilogram (2 pounds) — at least 2 pairs of shoes. These delicious cookies were definitely worth it (but don’t tell JT)!

Stroopwafels

Makes about 50 stroopwaffles (25 filled) various sizes in diameter

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 8 g active dry yeast
  • 2 g ground cinnamon 
  • 150 g sugar 
  • 125 g cold unsalted butter, cubbed
  • 100 ml warm milk 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In the large bowl of your food processor, pulse the flour, yeast, cinnamon, salt and sugar until well combined.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the texture resembles small peas.
  3. Whisk the warm milk with the eggs and slowly pour into the flour mixture pulsing until a soft ball is achieved.
  4. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few minutes. Cover in plastic film and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll the dough out to about 1 mm and cut into just slightly smaller than pizzelle-size rounds.
  6. Heat your iron according to instructions. Place one round in the middle, press down the top lid and bake each waffle for approximately 16 seconds, flipping the iron over at 8 seconds.
  7. Carefully remove from the iron and lay flat to cool. Repeat to cook each round.
  8. When cool fill with a dollop caramel sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for the caramel filling:

  • 260 g light brown sugar 
  • 200 g unsalted butter 
  • 5 g ground cinnamon 
  • 100 mL corn syrup
  • 25 mL vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar and the butter, stirring slowly over a low heat. Add the cinnamon and the corn syrup and continue to stir until the caramel comes together and slowly bubbles (220F, softball stage). Add the vanilla extract and stir it in. Keep the caramel warm.

Notes:

  • I understand that true stroopwafels must be split and filled with the caramel, however, this pizzelle maker flattened them too much and splitting was impossible. Authentic Stroopwaffels are split when hot and filled. If you can make authentic stroopwafels you have to work fast to split each one while the waffle is hot. The moment it cools, it will break so make sure you have all the items you need within reach.
  • To evenly heat your pizzelle mould, place it over the heat and flip every 2 minutes until it has reached around 350°F.
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