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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: Pandoro Star Shaped French Toast

Turn star-shaped pandoro into holiday French
toast. Photo courtesy Giovanni Rana
Pastificio & Cucina | NYC.

 

At least three famous Italian Christmas sweet breads are imported to the U.S.: panettone (a Milanese specialty), panforte (originally from Sienna) and pandoro (from Verona). Most regions have their own Christmas bread recipes.

Panettone is a yeast loaf packed with candied fruits and raisins; panforte is a short, dense loaf with spices honey; and pandoro is an eggy yeast bread made in an eight-pointed star shape, topped with icing or confectioners’ sugar.

All have become popular gift items—the equivalent of the English fruitcake.

As with any prepared food, brands range from mediocre to magnificent. Chef Francesco Berardinelli of Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market prefers the Perbellini brand, which others also feel is the best brand in Italy. You can get it in the U.S. from A.G. Ferrari: sweet, light and delicate yet rich.

Here’s his recipe for Pandoro French Toast, a lovely star-shaped breakfast treat; you can also serve the French toast with fried chicken, instead of waffles; or serve it à la mode or with whipped cream for dessert.

 

RECIPE: PANDORO FRENCH TOAST

Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 slice pandoro bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom honey, or to taste
  • 5 whole strawberries
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CUT a 1-inch thick slice of pandoro.

    2. MIX the eggs and cream in a bowl. Submerge both sides of the pandoro in the mix.

    3. MELT the butter in a hot sauté pan and sear the bread on both sides.

    4. GARNISH with confectioners’ sugar, orange honey and sliced strawberries.
     
    Variations

  • Substitute strawberry butter for the honey.
  • Add orange zest to the cream mix.
  • If you don’t have orange blossom honey, use the honey you do have.
  •  

    Pandoro is molded into an eight-point star and typically topped with confectioners’ sugar or icing. Photo courtesy Know.brrp.com.

    OTHER THINGS TO DO WITH PANDORO

  • Make breakfast toast, served with butter and marmalade.
  • Make baked French toast, which surrounds the pandoro with rich custard (here’s a recipe).
  • Slice it and layer with custard, fruit curd or icing into a stacked “Christmas tree.”
  • Eat for dessert with a glass of sweet wine; crème fraîche, mascarpone or whipped cream optional.
  • Make bread pudding or trifle.
  •  
    Other ideas? Let us know.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Fruit Christmas Tree

    We always serve a fruit platter at parties, to provide a healthful option for those who are doing their best to steer clear of the cake and cookies.

    How about this creative alternative to a fruit platter?

    We found it on Dole’s Facebook page; it was previously pinned on Pinterest by Monique Douglas. Monique, you’ll have to tell us where you found it, so we can give proper credit.

    Starfruit (carambola) are perfect for the tree. If you can’t find any, you can cut the star and other “ornaments” from pineapple or melon. Consider using a melon baller to scoop the ornaments; and use small cookie cutters for other shapes.

    RECIPE: FRUIT CHRISTMAS TREE

    Ingredients

  • Black and red or green seedless grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Pineapple
  • Starfruit
  • Strawberries
  • Optional: cubes of cheese
  • Supplies: styrofoam cone*, plastic wrap, toothpicks
  •  

    A healthy holiday treat. Photo via Pinterest and Dole.

     
    *Available at florist supply shops or online, usually in sizes from 4″ through 15″. For a party, use the largest size; for a sit-down individual dessert, use the smallest size.
     
    Preparation

    1. COVER the styrofoam cone with plastic wrap.

    2. PREPARE fruits: wash, dry, cut. You can do this in advance on the day of serving, then store the fruits in the fridge, well wrapped so they don’t dry out.

    3. ARRANGE the fruits on the cone with toothpicks.

     
    CHEESE CHRISTMAS TREE

    Take a look at this stunning, easy-to-make cheese Christmas tree—it’s all cheese cubes and herbs.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Peppermint Ice Cream Pie

    Make this peppermint ice cream pie in just
    15 minutes. Photo courtesy Blog.HWTM.com.

     

    Take advantage of the limited edition peppermint and candy cane ice creams and make this festive peppermint ice cream pie with a chocolate cookie crumb base.

    And it couldn’t be easier. Prep time is just 15 minutes for a nine-inch pie that yields eight servings.

    If you’re not a peppermint fan, substitute egg nog ice cream, pumpkin ice cream or other holiday flavor and garnish with a circle of gingersnaps.

    PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM PIE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 20 chocolate sandwich cookies or 40 chocolate wafer cookies (a 9-inch prepared chocolate cookie crust may be substituted)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 pints/1.5 quarts peppermint ice cream
  • 1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping
  • Garnish: crushed candy canes
  • 2 cups hot fudge sauce
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN ice cream in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

    2. COMBINE cookie crumbs and butter in large bowl. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and side of 9-inch pie plate. Freeze for about 15 minutes or until firm.

    3. SPREAD softened ice cream evenly into frozen crust. Pipe or spoon whipped topping around border of pie.

    4. WARM the fudge sauce just enough to make it spreadable and frost the top of the pie. Garnish with crushed candy canes. Freeze for several hours or until firm.

     
    We are grateful to the Blog.HWTM.com (Hostess With The Mostest) for the loan of the photo of the pie. We simply can’t find ours! See more pictures on how the Hostess With The Mostest prepared the recipe.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Christmas Cupcake Tree

    Deck the cupcakes with lots of candy! This holiday cupcake tree from Jelly Belly is a fun project that uses jelly beans and Sunkist Fruit Gems to decorate a cupcake tree. It’s an opportunity to practice your frosting piping skills. Even if your cupcake trees don’t look as professional as the ones in the photo, they will be eagerly devoured just the same.

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS CUPCAKE TREE

    Ingredients For 4 Cupcake Trees

  • 4 jumbo cupcakes, baked in green paper liners
  • 4 standard cupcakes, baked in green paper liners
  • 4 mini cupcakes, baked in green paper liners
  • 1 can (16 ounces) plus 1 cup vanilla frosting
  • Green food coloring
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) assorted green jelly beans in different flavors (e.g. Jelly Belly’s Kiwi, Green Apple, Margarita, Sunkist Lime and Sour Apple)
  • 1 cup assorted jelly beans in assorted colors (e.g. Jelly Belly’s Berry Blue, Bubble Gum, Lemon Drop, Red Apple and Sour Orange)
  •  

    The dessert can also be a centerpiece. Photo of Christmas Cupcake Tree courtesy Jelly Belly.

  • 4 yellow Sunkist Fruit Gems—or—crystallized ginger slices
  • 1 cup coconut jelly beans—or—shredded coconut, for “snow”
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TINT the vanilla frosting dark green with food coloring. Spoon some of the frosting into a freezer weight zipper bag or a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip. Snip a small (1/8 inch) corner from the zipper bag.

    2. TRIM the tops of the jumbo and standard cupcakes to make them flat.

    3. SPREAD a thin layer of frosting on each cupcake. Pipe the green frosting around the cupcake edges, always pulling the frosting away from the center. Pipe a second row of frosting inside the first, overlapping slightly. Leave center of cupcake open. Cover the tops of the mini cupcakes completely. Stack the cupcakes to make the tree shape with the jumbo cupcakes as the base, a standard cupcake in the middle and topped with a mini cupcake, pressing to secure.

    4. PRESS the green jelly beans randomly over all of the cupcakes. Cut the remaining colored jelly beans in half crosswise. Press the cut sides of the jelly beans, which serve as the lights, into the frosting (all over the cupcakes).

    5. CUT the yellow Sunkist Fruit Gems or crystallized ginger into star shapes for the tops of the trees, using a small (1 inch star) cookie cutter or scissors. Press the star candies on top of the cupcakes.

    6. ARRANGE the coconut jelly beans or shredded coconut all around the base of the cupcake trees to represent snow.
     
    Here’s the recipe video.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY & GIFT: Hot Chocolate On A Stick ~ Party Favor & Place Setting

    Christmas hot chocolate on a stick. Swirl
    it in milk or water. Photo courtesy The Ticket
    Kitchen.

     

    The Hot Chocolate On A Stick from The Ticket Kitchen was a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week earlier this year. Made from the finest French couverture chocolate, it creates a delicious and interactive cup of hot chocolate in milk or water.

    The Ticket Kitchen in San Francisco molds blocks of chocolate onto stirring sticks and serves them up in different flavors, currently:

  • Belgian Milk Chocolate
  • Bolivian Single Origin (66% semisweet)
  • French Truffle (dark chocolate)
  • Peanut Butter (dark chocolate with a peanut butter cup)
  • Peppermint (milk chocolate with a peppermint stick)
  • Salted Caramel (caramelly milk chocolate topped with sea salt)
  • Spiced Ginger (spiced dark chocolate with a piece of crystallized ginger)
  • 3 Chili (dark chocolate topped with a blend of ancho, cayenne and chipotle)
  • Vanilla Mint (milk chocolate with an Andes Mint)
  • Venezuela Single Origin (68% semisweet)
  •  

    They all make great gifts, but two of the flavors are perfect for holiday entertaining:

    Spiced Ginger Hot Chocolate on a Stick (60% Cacao). Rich dark chocolate is blended with ginger, cinnamon and seasonal spices to make a magnificient mulled mug of winter hot chocolate. You can nibble on the crystallized ginger garnish or blend it into the beverage. More information.

    Peppermint Hot Chocolate On A Stick. Finest Belgian milk chocolate is garnished with an old fashioned peppermint stick come together to make a perfect mug of peppermint hot chocolate. More information.

    Gift boxes are available in sets of 1, 2, 4, 5 or 12 sticks, with or without accoutrements such as mugs and handmade marshmallows.

    To see the full line, visit TheTicketKitchen.com.

     

    Add a name tag to use as a place setting and party favor. Look hard and you’ll see the piece of crystallized ginger on the Spiced Ginger flavor. The chocolate itself has gingerbread spices. Photo courtesy Ticket Kitchen.

     

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Beet & Bean Dip

    Instead of hummus, consider this equally nutritious, healthful and tasty beet and bean dip.

  • Beets are one of the world’s healthiest foods, with a mix of powerful antioxidants that help to protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers.
  • Beans are rich in protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins and are beneficial to digestive tract health. Beans are healthy carbs—a low-energy-dense food, which means they have a low calorie ratio to the serving size.
  •  
    Serve the dip as a snack or hors d’oeuvre with crudités, pita chips or other crackers; or as part of a light lunch. The recipe is courtesy LoveBeets.com, whose ready-to-eat beets make this recipe a snap. Prep time is just 10 minutes.

     

    Colorful beet hummus. Photo courtesy
    LoveBeets.com.

     

    RECIPE: BEET AND BEAN DIP

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 8.8 ounces cooked beets dipped in vinegar* (we used 1 container Mild Vinegar Love Beets)
  • 1 can (about 14.5 ounces) butter beans (baby lima beans) or white beans†, drained & rinsed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Small bunch fresh chives, finely chopped (reserve some for garnish)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    *You can toss conventional cooked beets in wine vinegar.
    †You can substitute white beans: cannellini, great northern or navy beans. See the different types of beans.

     

    If you like a saltines and similar crackers,
    try these pita chips from New York Style.
    We’ve become addicted to them. Photo
    courtesy New York Style.

     

    Preparation

    1. CHOP the beets into small dice; set aside in a medium bowl.

    2. PURÉE the beans in a food processor with the garlic, chives and olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

    3. TRANSFER to the bowl with the beets and gently fold through to mix. Scoop into a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some snipped chives.
     
    COOKED VS. DRY BEANS

    Despite the convenience of cooked beans, if you want the most nutritive value, you need to use dry beans. It’s easy to do.

    Health Reasons

  • Lower sodium. Canned beans are high in sodium; dry beans have none. There is far too much salt in prepared foods. Do what you can to cut back on it.
  •  

  • Preservative-free. Canned beans have enough added preservatives to last five years on the shelf. Dry beans have none (yet they last twice as long—up to 10 years in a cool, dry place!).
  • BPA-free. Studies suggest that the controversial chemical Bisphenol A, found in the plastic white lining of most cans of food and in some plastic beverage bottles, may contribute to certain cancers, insulin resistance and birth defects.
  •  
    More Reasons

  • Environment. Dry beans use less packaging than cooked beans, lowering the waste sent to landfills.
  • Cost. Dry beans are much cheaper per serving than canned beans; and if you buy them in bulk from the bin, even more so.
  • Texture and flavor. Canned beans are mushier and more bland. If you cook dry beans, you can make them as firm as you like.
  •  
    HOW TO COOK DRY BEANS

    It’s easy to get in the dry bean groove. All you need to do is:

  • Plan ahead. Soak beans overnight or for at least eight hours (e.g., before you leave for work).
  • Use a pressure cooker. No soaking is required and they’ll cook in 20 minutes instead of an hour or more on the stove top.
  •  
    Here’s the drill.

  • Sort the beans. Place them on a kitchen towel or in a shallow pan; pick out and discard any broken or shriveled beans, pebbles, etc.
  • Rinse the beans. Rinse them thoroughly under cold, running water.
  • Soak the beans. Soaking helps to remove some of the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cool, clean water. Leave at room temperature for eight hours or overnight; drain well. NOTE: If you have a hot kitchen, soak the beans in the fridge to avoid possible fermentation.
  • Quick soak alternative. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cool, clean water. Bring to a boil and boil briskly for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and set aside off of the heat for 1 hour; drain well.
  • Cook the beans. Place beans in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water or stock; don’t add salt at this point since it will slow the softening. Slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any surface foam. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid as necessary, until beans are tender when mashed or pierced with a fork. Add salt in the final stages of cooking. Cooking times vary with the variety, age and size of beans. Plan for 1 to 2 hours.
  •  
    Enjoy those tasty, healthful, inexpensive beans.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Christmas Stuffed Avocado

    How red and green and Christmassy! Consider this festive avocado as the first course of a holiday dinner.

    Fresh lingonberries and their leaves have been used to garnish this stuffed avocado, but they are hard to come by. Instead, if you want to use the garnish, substitute pink peppercorns (look for the reddest ones). Note: You’ll get plenty of red and green without the peppercorn-leaf garnish, but it sure does look nice!

    We mixed in some crabmeat we had on hand. You can also add chunks of lobster or shrimp.

    This recipe is from Bella Sun Luci, whose sun dried tomatoes (from the sunny state of California) we used in the recipe. We love their entire family of sundried tomato products, which include:

  • Sun Dried Tomato Halves or Julienne Cut
  • Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes with Italian Basil or Greek Oregano, Basil & Garlic (we use them in omelets and pasta)
  •  

    A dish that says “Christmas!” Photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

  • Sun Dried Tomato Halves or Julienne Cut in Olive Oil & Herbs (great to toss into salads and on sandwiches)
  • Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with Whole Pine Nuts
  •  
    The line is certified kosher by Kosher Certification of Kashruth.

     

    Resealable packages keep the sun dried
    tomatoes moist. Photo courtesy Bella Sun
    Luci.

     

    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS STUFFED AVOCADO

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 avocado, sliced into halves, pitted and cubed
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomato halves, sliced or julienne style, drained, reserving seasoned olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil from jar
  • 1 teaspoon diced chives or to taste
  • Optional: crabmeat, lobster or shrimp
  • Optional garnish: 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • Optional garnish: sprigs of fresh rosemary (to replace the leaves in the photo)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCOOP out avocado meat and slice into 1/2-inch cubes.

     

    2. GENTLY TOSS avocado with sun dried tomatoes and seasoned olive oil from jar, and the optional seafood. Place mixture into avocado shells. Garnish with chives and a few peppercorns if desired.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: “Fruitcake” Ice Cream For Christmas

    It’s easy to make “fruitcake ice cream” Photo
    courtesy Vivolo.it.

     

    This photo from Italian gelato maker Vivolo inspired a recipe idea:

    Serve “fruitcake” ice cream/gelato for Christmas.

    Start with vanilla ice cream. You can soften it and mix in the ingredients (and return to the freezer to harden), or simply top the ice cream, sundae style. Use:

  • Fruitcake ingredients—candied citron, cherries and pineapple
  • Shaved or chopped dark chocolate
  • Cubes of pound cake or actual fruitcake—tossed with rum or orange liqueur (e.g. Grand Marnier), if you like
  •  
    Good fruitcake is a real treat. It has a bad reputation because of the many inexpensive, mass-marketed versions made from cheap ingredients that simply don’t taste good. The candied fruits are mediocre (or worse), the cake is mediocre, and no one wants to eat it.

    But start with top ingredients, and you’ll have a hit—with very little effort.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ICE CREAM & GELATO

    Pete Palazzolo, of Palazzolo’s Artisan Gelato & Sorbetto in Saugatuck, Michigan, sums it up: “Gelato is simply ice cream,” he states, “Ice cream the way it was before the American Industrial Revolution blew it full of air and artificially flavored it.”

    In other words, gelato is:

  • More dense than ice cream.
  • Made with more milk than cream to better showcase the flavors (the more cream, the more fat coats the tongue and interfere with the flavors).
  • Bursting with natural ingredients—for example, actual puréed banana, not banana extract.
  •  
    Here’s more on gelato.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Nanaimo Bars For Christmas

    Nanaimo (pronounced na-NYE-mo) is a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, that has given its name to this delicious holiday bar cookie. If you’re looking for a special recipe, try this one from Jessie Oleson Moore of CakeSpy, via KingArthurFlour.com.

    A no-bake bar, the basic recipe consists of a graham cracker crumb-based layer topped by a layer of vanilla custard, which is then topped with a thick layer of chocolate. There are numerous variations on the recipe, including mint and mocha versions.

    While there are differing claims to the cookie’s origin, the earliest printed recipe using the name “Nanaimo Bars” appears in the Edith Adams Prize Cookbook (14th edition) of 1953.*

    “Nanaimo bars are unbelievably rich, incredibly indulgent, and completely irresistible,” says Jesse Oleson Moore. “This version embodies the festive flavors of the holiday season. The classic bar gets a minty makeover, yielding a rich, creamy, buttery and refreshing treat that is the kind of confection that peppermint patties hope to be when they grow up.”

     

    How can you resist? Photo courtesy ClosetCooking.com, which has a different, no-mint recipe.

     

    Jesse adapted this recipe from the Official City of Nanaimo recipe. We make our own “technicolor” holiday version with a white chocolate top, tinted with red food color, atop the optional-green-tinted middle layer.

    While the peppermint makes them spot-on for the holiday season, the optional-green middle layer also says “St. Patrick’s Day.”

    RECIPE: PEPPERMINT NANAIMO BARS

    Ingredients For 24 Bars

    Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
  •  

    How can you resist? Photo courtesy King
    Arthur Flour.

     

    Middle Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: several drops of green food coloring to color custard layer
  •  
    Top Layer

  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the bottom layer. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8″ x 8″ pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.

    2. MAKE the middle layer: Thoroughly cream together butter, cream, custard powder, peppermint extract and confectioners’ sugar. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely integrated. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (use a metal spatula to “scrape” it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set; alternatively, you can put the pan in the freezer so the layers will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.

    3. PREPARE the top layer: Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Add the peppermint extract and stir until incorporated. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, very gently spreading so that it covers the entire layer (you will need to do this fairly quickly so that the second layer doesn’t start to melt or meld with the top layer). Let chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Serve lightly chilled, or let come to room temperature.

    4. TO SERVE: Use a sharp knife to slice the bars; keep a towel on hand to clean the knife frequently between cuts to ensure clean, good-looking bars which showcase the pretty layers.

    Try this alternative recipe from ClosetCooking.com.
     
    *Edith Adams, a fictional persona like Betty Crocker, was the face of the food pages of the Vancouver Sun newspaper from 1924 to 1999. From the 1930s to 1950, the publication issued annual compilation cookbooks of recipes sent in by readers for a chance to win prize money.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Christmas Milk

    What’s Christmas Milk, you ask?

    It’s egg nog. How did it get a new name? From Joey Fausel.

    Heidi and Shane Fausel, the company founders, adopted Joey at age eight. He kept asking his new “forever family” for a drink that he had enjoyed in a foster home. He knew neither the name nor the ingredients. All he could remember was that it “tasted like Christmas.”

    Finally, during holiday season, his parents gave him a taste of eggnog. He excaimed, “That’s it! It’s Christmas Milk!”

    A few months later, Heidi lost her job, and was pondering her next move. She remembered Christmas milk. They couple thought about entrepreneurship, called a dairy and created an eggnog that “tastes like melted vanilla ice cream.”

    We can confirm: It is delicious. And there’s also equally delicious Christmas Milk ice cream, in Original French Vanilla Eggnog Ice Cream, as well as Chocolate Swirl and Sea Salt Caramel.

     

    Christmas Milk: beloved by elves and everyone else. Photo courtesy Christmas Milk.

     

    The Fausels, who have since adopted two sisters and a brother for Joey, donate 10% of sales to Second Chances, a program at the Fort Worth, Texas Gladney Center for Adoption, which works to find foster children “forever families.”

    So Christmas Milk not only tastes great; you’ll feel great about buying it.

    Learn more and find a store near you at ChristmasMilk.com.

      

    Comments

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