Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's Baking: Beef & Guinness Pie

It's Thursday y'all! And this weekend is Labor Day weekend. How in the world did that happen?? Summer has just flown by and it'll be cooler weather around here before we know it. Well, if we're being honest, it probably won't get much cooler around here until November. But cooler than 100 degrees is cooler nonetheless,even if only to 90 degrees. With the cooling fall and winter weather, however, comes the desire for warm, comfort foods. And thanks to this months What's Baking challenge, that's exactly what I'll be sharing with you!! Ali from Sparks from the Kitchen is our August host and her challenge was for us to bake something that represents our heritage.

Beef & Guinness Pie

My dad is adopted and we don't know his lineage,but on my mother's side, the majority is black Irish. There are other bits and pieces of black Dutch and such, but Irish is the main component and also what I identify as my heritage. I searched and searched for a traditional Irish dessert or baked good, but had  a reeeeeallly hard time finding anything that I thought J would like or eat. So, I headed to Facebook and messaged one of my truly Irish friends - like she has family there and goes to visit - and asked her for some suggestions. She reached out to the family, and this was one of the suggestions. 

Beef and Guinness Pie. When I first saw the name of the recipe I was like...uh...what? But then I looked it up and it's basically a big ol' pot pie with Guinness beer in it. I'm not a beer drinker myself, but figured I'd give it a try. And wound up having one of my besties and her family over for dinner the night I made it, as well. 

Beef & Guinness Pie 3

I actually wound up making this on two different occasions because, frankly, I had poor time management the first time and sort of threw the puff pastry on top and it was rather...ugly. So, I made it again this past weekend so it would look a little nicer for you all. You're welcome :)

It was a little thin and liquidy the first time around, so I added less beef broth on round two and it was much more pot pie-like. I used the adjusted measurements in the recipe below. I'd say all around it was a great dish and a great nod to my Irish heritage. A big thanks to Ali for a great challenge, and be sure to check out her blog for the round-up soon!

Beef and Guinness Pie
As seen on Leite's Culinaria

  • 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, such as chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 tsp flour (I used white wheat flour)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 beef broth 
  • 24 oz Guinness beer
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbsp A.1. Steak Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 sheet good-quality puff pastry (allow to thaw while you are cooking the beef)

  1. Place the beef chunks in a large bowl, sprinkle the flour over the top and toss or stir to coat. 
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the meat, in batches if necessary to not overcrowd, and cook until browned on all sides. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, along with the onion and garlic, and cook over medium heat until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Return the meat to the pan, then add the stock or broth, Guinness, canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, and chopped herbs and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. 
  5. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered, until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally,  for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. 
  6. Spoon the mixture into a 7-inch-diameter ovenproof pot or casserole dish** (round, square, oval...shape doesn't matter). Allow to cool while you preheat the oven. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
  8. Brush the top edge of the pot or dish with water, then gently place the sheet of pastry over the stew, pinching the pastry against the edge of the pot or pie dish to seal. You can crimp the pastry to form a decorative edge, if you so desire.) 
  9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden brown. Serve immediately while still hot. 
** I took my dish and placed it top-side down on the puff pastry - before filling it - and used a knife to cut about 1/2-inch extra in the shape of the dish, for better fitting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday News

Hello, friends! Have you missed me?? Well, it's been a very busy and very exciting week! My last post was on my birthday - do you remember? Well...what  a birthday it turned out to be!! J and I met his family out for dinner that night and at the end of the meal they had a BIG surprise for me! I told them no singing, because I hate, hate, hate being the center of attention like that. But I could hear all the whispers and the disappearing family members, and sure enough, they came back to the table with all of the waitstaff.  Let's just say I was less than pleased. And when they pulled the saddle in with them...hell no. I was determined to hold my ground in my little corner of the booth, holding on for dear life to J's arm. They begged and pleaded, told me to just do it for them, and eventually I gave in. Not gracefully or happily, but I plopped my 34-year-old butt on that damn saddle while they embarrassed me to death.

And when that was over, did they let me get off the saddle? Nope. I pretty much behaved like a 5 year old from the time that saddle entered the room until then. I saw the waitstaff reaching for a cake and I was like, crap. Now they're all going to sing happy birthday (the family). They handed the cake (later I found out it was actually brownie, not cake) to J, he took the lid off, placed it in front of me and said, "Happy birthday baby." I look down at the guys. It said, "MARRY ME?"

OMG!!! He got down on his knee (I'm still on the saddle, btw) and put the ring on my finger and asked me himself, "What'd ya say? Marry me?" I was in such shock, I couldn't even SAY yes, I just shook my head. I had no idea that this was coming, but what an amazing surprise!! There were about 15 of his family members there, and of course they all knew and were in on it in one way or another. I felt kinda like an ass for acting like I did about getting up there, but hey...I didn't know!! And, it made it a little more fun for them, I'm sure. It's definitely a night, and a birthday, that I'll never forget.

And the so perfect for me. He pointed out that the way the bands intertwine represents unity. My God, I love this man. He had another plan originally, that was cancelled due to weather, and rescheduled for the following weekend (this past Sunday), and as if the birthday proposal wasn't amazing was a hot air balloon ride!! I don't know how I got so damn lucky, but what a guy I have.  He knows me so well and he tried so hard to make this special. Good job baby - you succeeded, and then some!!

I knew, at 10:35pm on March 1st, 2013 that the man that walked through the door of that country bar was the one God meant for me. He was tall and handsome, with gorgeous blue eyes and I couldn't believe he was there for ME. Even more, I couldn't believe that he continued to be there for ME every day after that. My heart was his the moment he said hello. I never stood a chance and I couldn't have fought it if I had tried. That country drawl, those baby blues, and that sarcastic, smart-ass mouth of his. I love every part of him.  His drive and ambition, his heart to help others, and those strong arms that wrap around me and make me feel safe and loved.

Is he everything I ever wanted and needed in a man? In a partner? No.

He's more. He's so much more than I ever knew I needed or wanted, and I thank God for blessing me with his love, his friendship, and his companionship. He is my best friend, my partner, and my whole world. For the last year and a half, I've been honored to be his girlfriend, but on that day…on my birthday… I was blessed beyond measure when he asked me to be his WIFE!

So today, I wanted to take a moment to share this new happiness, this new excitement with you all. And I promise tomorrow I will have a new post. About food. You know...the reason you come here. But thank you for letting me gush a little since it's all I can think about these days! 

And here we are about 700 feet in the air, in the hot air balloon. All around, Best.Birthday.Ever!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lemon Chicken Parmesan

In about half an hour (at 7 am), I will "officially" have been on this Earth for 34 years. I don't have any issues with getting older, but it is hard for me to believe sometimes when most days I still feel like I'm that carefree 19-year-old girl, wild-eyed and ready to conquer the world. But you know...there are worse things in life than being eternally young-at-heart, right?

Since it's my birthday, I decided to share with you one of my new favorite dinners. I mean...who could resist breaded chicken breasts topped with lemon zest, lemon juice, and piled on top of lemony pasta?? Not this girl!

Lemon Chicken Parmesan 2

When I was first reading the recipe I wasn't sure how the pasta would hold up in the oven. And I discovered that you want a skillet large enough to hold the chicken breasts, but not much bigger than that. This will keep the pasta covered and less likely to turn into crispy pasta critters. 

Lemon Chicken Parmesan

We're going out for a family dinner tonight at a local steakhouse with J's family, so I won't be cooking supper, but if you want to celebrate with me, you should make this dish!!

Lemon Chicken Parmesan
As seen on Recipe Girl

  • 8 oz whole wheat angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 thin sliced chicken breasts (2 chicken breasts cut in half cross-wise)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, return to the pot, and stir in the butter and lemon zest until the butter has melted. Add in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  3. Place the egg in a shallow dish and in another similar dish, combine the Panko, Parmesan, basil, and salt & pepper, to taste. 
  4. Heat the butter in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon juice and garlic. 
  5. While these ingredients are melting/combining, dip the chicken, one piece at a time, first in the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, and place in the pan. 
  6. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove to a plate. 
  7. Spoon the mixed pasta into the skillet and place the chicken breasts on top. 
  8. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve the chicken with noodles and a squeeze of lemon juice if you like. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fresh Summer Chicken Salad with Watermelon & Strawberries

It's Friday!! I'm watching Rizzoli & Isles on DVR, drinking a cup of coffee with Bailey's Chocolatini creamer, and wishing that it was 4:30 in the afternoon instead of 6 a.m. so that we can get this birthday weekend underway!! Tomorrow is my first day off from both jobs in 19 days. I'm beyond ecstatic to spend an entire day with my love! We're meeting one of my besties and her family and the local Six Flags theme park for a few hours and then to dinner that night. But regardless of what we'll be doing, it will just be nice to have a full day to spend together. That's the best birthday gift I could ask for.

I'm sure I've mentioned on more than one occasion that I am a summer baby through-and-through. I don't do cold weather. I'd rather be sweating it out in 100-degree temps that deal with anything under 70 degrees. Soooo...this here little salad is the perfect plate of summer freshness. Summer in a bite (or ten) is a good description.

Chicken, Watermelon, Strawberry Salad

I mean, I guess I could be considered a "bad foodie" because most times I have no clue what produce is "in season", but I know that watermelon is a summer fruit. It's just one of those foods that tell you "summer is really here". And while I haven't eaten it much in the past, J and I have had quite a few of those little personal sized melons this summer already. I have no idea why I have denied myself the deliciousness for all these years. 

Combined with the fresh strawberries, grilled chicken and quinoa, and topped with the lemony dressing, goat cheese crumbles, and sliced basil, this really is the perfect salad for summer. And heck, you could even throw in some spinach and kale if you wanted it to be a "true" salad. 

Either way, you need to make this before summer slips by us and is gone, gone, gone! You do that, while I'm screaming down roller coasters and water slides and we can report back to each other on Monday, 'k?

Fresh Summer Chicken Salad
Adapted from Edible Perspective

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, stem removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Lemon Shallot Dressing (recipe below)
  • Goat cheese, crumbled
  • Basil, thinly sliced

  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and allow to cool before cutting into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package instructions. Allow to cool completely. 
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, quinoa, watermelon, and strawberries. Drizzle with dressing (as much as you like), and top with goat cheese crumbles and basil slices, and serve. 
Lemon Shallot Dressing
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar, seal firmly, and shake vigorously to incorporate the honey and until all ingredients are well-combined.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Shake before pouring to combine and reduce separation of ingredients. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

Do any of you watch The Next Food Network Star? I have to give these people serious props, because there is NO way I could subject myself to that sort of speculation...on TV or in a public scenario. I'm more of a cook-for-the-ones-I-love and share it with the world in print and photos, type. I have serious stage fright issues, y'all.

Despite what my astrological sign (Leo) implies, I do not enjoy being the center of attention. I don't like all eyes on me. I just like to work behind the scenes to get things done and take care of the ones I love. I'm fortunate to have a love and a knack for cooking. It's one of the best ways I can think of for me to care for and show love to the people in my life. So, as disappointing as I know it is for you all to hear ::insert a big wink and silly laugh here::, you won't find me being the next food blogger trying to get on a cooking competition TV show. I'll stick to watching the cooking shows, cooking at home, and sharing it with you all here.

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

It's been  a long couple of weeks and another long one yet to come, but I'm looking forward to the upcoming weekend (yes, I know today is only Monday) and going to a nearby Six Flags theme park for a little fun on my birthday weekend. A week from today, I turn the big 3-4. Ok, so this isn't a "big" birthday, but whatevs. Saturday will be my first day off in nineteen days, between my two jobs. Nineteen days, you guys. Geez. But that's just a part of life and being a grown-up sometimes, right? I'm not complaining. I do it by choice, but I do miss the time it takes away from J and the nights I miss cooking for him. That means I have to make the times I do cook really count.  

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad 2

This lemon orzo chicken salad was a definitely one that counted. Not only was it a great dinner, but the leftovers were perfect for lunch. And the best part, in my opinion, is the lemon zest. Yes, I said lemon zest. I find that anytime I add lemon zest to a dish, it has a lighter, fresher flavor to it. And J always notices when it's there, too. I love lemon juice, there's no doubt about that, but it's the zest that really kicks things up a notch. 

Lemon Chicken Orzo

Of course the asparagus and tomatoes scream summer and freshness, too. And the chicken and orzo make this a great entree dish that's filling, but still light. I told you before that I'm all about the one dish meals lately, and this one fits the bill. 

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

  • 6 oz of orzo
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 6 asparagus spears, hard ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Handful of grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook the orzo in a large pot, according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside. 
  2. Meanwhile, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board to cool before cutting into bite-sized pieces. 
  3. Using the same skillet, add a little bit of olive oil or cooking spray and cook the asparagus pieces until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. During the last minute, add the garlic, salt and pepper, and stir the mixture. 
  4. Now, add the orzo and chicken pieces to the asparagus skillet and stir to combine. Remove the mixture to a large bowl, then add the lemon juice, zest, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, then top with Parmesan cheese and serve. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Taco Tuesday: Crispy Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce

Making tortillas is hard. My mom told me that once many years ago. She can make pretty much anything, but these were her nemesis. I should have taken that into consideration when I decided to try and make my own. You see, I buy these corn and whole wheat blend tortillas at the grocery store and they ain't cheap! Over $2 for 8 tortillas. That's highway robbery, friends. So, I decided to see if I could make them myself alongside these yummy shrimp tacos.

Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce

As you can see in the pictures, they are a far-cry from picture-perfect. Don't get me wrong, they tasted just fine. But, I will refrain from sharing the recipe with you until/unless I perfect them. Despite how thin I rolled them out, when I warmed (cooked?) them on the griddle, they puffed up a little and were a little less floppy (pliable) than I think they should be. So...I need to tweak and toy with the recipe I used to see if I can get them right. Until then, it's back to highway robbery tortillas from the grocery store. And shrimp tacos. We can't forget about these shrimp tacos!!

Crispy Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce 2

When I originally planned this meal, I thought I had already made (and blogged) these tacos, so the post was actually going to be the tortillas. Good thing I was wrong, and I haven't posted these babies before, because the intended post didn't work out as planned! I'm not sure if it was the shrimp, the sauce, the garden jalapeno, but these definitely had a super spicy kick to them. I'm 99.9999% sure it was primarily the jalapeno. I ate my tacos first, so I was aware of the kick, and I have to admit that I got a leeetle bit of enjoyment out of watching J eat his. He likes spicy food just as much as I do, but it was even getting to him. I think he put a lot of jalapeno slices on his. Oops!

Taste your sauce when you make it and adjust it by adding more chipotle or more Greek yogurt if you need to tone it down a bit. I don't think you will need to, though, just be careful with the jalapenos!

Crispy Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce
As seen on A Bitchin' Kitchen


For the Shrimp
  • 3 Tbsp flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
For the Chipotle-Lime Sauce
  • 1 cup fat-free greek yogurt
  • 2 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo (or just use 3-4 Tbsp of crushed chipotles in adobo instead of the peppers and sauce)
  • 3 Tbsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo 
  • 1 tsp lime juice
For the tacos
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 Jalapeno, sliced (remove the seeds if you like your food less spicy)
  • 4-6 tortillas

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, chili powder, salt and pepper. 
  2. Add the (patted dry) shrimp and stir or toss to combine.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the butter and melt. Add the shrimp and cook fora couple of minutes, allowing the bottom to get crispy, then stir and cook another minute or two until cooked through.  
  4. Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, chipotles and sauce, and lime juice in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 
  5. To assemble, warm your tortillas and top with shrimp, sauce, a few avocado slices and a few jalapeno slices. It'll be a nice spicy kick in the mouth!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Balsamic-Herb Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Veggies

Do you ever watch movies that you loved years ago, only to discover that the picture quality (and possibly the acting, as well) are not all that great anymore? J wanted to watch Twister this weekend, and he was more than a little underwhelmed. Of course, he'd never seen it before so it was a little different than me, who has seen it 1,083,297 times. Like, every time it's on TV. I warned him ahead of time that it wouldn't be great picture quality compared to today's standards. He fell asleep about halfway through. I watched 'til the end. What can I say, I like happy endings. And tornadoes. I want to chase tornadoes, y'all. Not like up in one, close like they were in the movie, but close enough to see the funnel formation. Fortunately I don't live in tornado country, so...yeah. I'm talking about something I know very little about. Don't get me wrong, I know that they cause insane destruction and devastation. They're not to be taken lightly. But if you could get a safe distance from one, with no chance of harm, wouldn't you want to see it?? Or maybe I'm just a little bit crazy?

Maybe I should just stick to things I know about. Like cooking, perhaps? Are you back with me now?? I hope so, because I have a pretty yummy pork recipe to share with you.

Balsamic-Herb Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Veggies

Pork tenderloin is just about the only cut of pork I cook. Not including bacon, of course. But I can safely assume that it will always come out good. Pork chops...not so much. I've tried, a gazillion times, and I just can't get on board. So, I'm always looking for new variations of pork tenderloin. This one I found recently, and, Hello! Balsamic vinegar! Done and done. And look how pretty the turned out. 

Balsamic-Herb Pork Tenderloin

And the picture below? I find myself often having to blow at the food while I'm trying to take pictures, because the steam coming off of them can sometimes make the picture look blurry. I did that in the picture above, but then just for grins I stepped back and tried to get a picture of the steam coming off of it. I've never captured it before, only the blur effect, and I thought it looked pretty cool. So I shared it on Facebook, and decided I should share it with you here as well. Just because I think it's cool. 

Balsamic-Herb Pork Steam

I also wanted to clarify some of the directions below. I have a double oven. I realize that not every does. Both components of this recipe are cooked in the oven, but they don't cook for the same amount of time, so I gave instructions on timing, to get the veggies in just a few minutes before the pork so they can cook 30 minutes, while the pork only needs 20 minutes. You also have the option to put them in at the same time and have the veggies finish cooking while the pork rests on the cutting board. Do whatever works best for YOU. 

Balsamic-Herb Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Veggies

However you choose to time the cooking, this dish is amazing! Balsamic vinegar and herbs season the pork very nicely and roasted veggies - of any kind - are always a big hit for a side dish. Make this for your family soon!!

Balsamic-Herb Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Veggies
As seen on The Other Side of Fifty

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (+ 1 Tbsp for cooking)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 1/2 lb pork tenderloin 
For the roasted vegetables
  • 1-2 lbs baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag. Add tenderloins. Press air out of baggie and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  2. Move your oven racks to top and middle positions (unless you have a double oven - in that case preheat both and leave racks as normal.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil and set aside. 
  3. So that the veggies and pork will be ready about the same time, you want to start prepping your veggies about 10 minutes before you're ready to start the pork. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and green beans with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper and spread out on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the top rack of the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender inside but a little crisp on the outside. 
  4. Remove pork tenderloins from marinade and season with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. 
  5. Add the pork and sear on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place skillet on the middle rack of the oven and finish cooking, about 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. 
  6. Carefully (use your oven mitts!!) remove pan from oven. Remove pork to a large cutting board and tent with foil. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2 inch medallions. 
  7. Serve the pork medallions with the roasted veggies, and enjoy!
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