Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Most Valuable Piece of Cooking Advice You Will Ever Get

And a Crash Course on Flavor Adjustment

With the year coming to an end and bloggers and TV personalities bombarding everyone with elaborate Christmas and New Year dinner menus, it’s time to go back to the basics. Sometimes no matter how diligently you follow a recipe, something still goes wrong and the flavor is off. Luckily there is a way to nip potential problems in the bud, and it comes down to one very simple trick:


That’s right, taste your food.

Taste your salad dressing before putting on your salad. Taste your marinade before pouring it over your meat. Taste your frosting before spreading it on your cake. Taste your sauce before adding it to your pasta.

If you don’t like the taste, neither will your guests.

Trust your palate. You’ve had good food before and you’ve had bad food. You know when something is too salty or too sweet or too spicy or too acidic or too rich.

If you feel the flavor of your food is lacking, adjust it according to the basic flavors: sweet, salty, fatty/richness, acidic, spicy, and umami (that meaty flavor you find in cooked mushrooms, meat, and soy sauce).

You adjust by adding an ingredient with one of those flavors, A LITTLE AT A TIME, to your food.

Here are some examples of what you can use.

Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Agave
Liquid sweeteners will mix into liquids like marinades and sauces better than powdered ones, especially if the liquid you’re mixing it into is warm or hot. Powdered sweeteners like sugar will give something more liquidy like a runny frosting some bulk and substance.
Some sweeteners like Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar and Molasses have stronger flavors than plain sugar so be mindful of that when choosing what to add, and remember that brown sugar is a little acidic.

Table Salt, Sea Salt, Kosher Salt.
You can even get flavored salts like smoked salt, but if you’re a beginner, the ones listed here are safe bets.

Olive Oil, Butter, Margarine, Ghee (clarified butter), Bacon Fat, Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream, Table or Whipping Cream
Oils, butter, and fatty dairy products are great ways to add richness to a dish. Like the sweeteners, some like Olive Oil, Butter, and Bacon Fat have stronger flavors than others.

White Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice
Some of these are stronger than others, so keep that in mind when deciding what to add.

Hot Sauce i.e. Sriracha, Frank’s Red Hot, Tabasco, Cayenne Pepper, Chili Flakes, Jalapeños, Habaneros
Some sources of spiciness are stronger than others and if you plan to use raw chillies like Jalapenos or Habanero peppers ALWAYS USE GLOVES AND NEVER TOUCH YOUR EYES DIRECTLY AFTER HANDLING THEM. Remember that leaving the seeds in the pepper will double the spiciness factor in any dish as the membrane that connects the seed to the flesh is the hottest part.
If you use a liquid hot sauce, smell it before adding it as some hot sauces are more acidic and others have a smokey taste to them, the scent of the sauce will usually be enough to tell.

Soy Sauce, Worcestshire Sauce, Tomato Paste, Miso Paste
Miso is the funkiest tasting of the three and doesn’t react as well to heat. Tomato paste needs to be cooked a little in a dish after it’s added to purge the canned taste. Add these VERY sparingly as they can also be very salty.

These can not only boost your food, but also cancel out or help to neutralize an overly dominant flavor in a dish.

Salt, Umami, or Acidity will neutralize blandness.

Sweetness and Richness will help neutralize spiciness.

Richness can also neutralize acidity and saltiness.

Acidity will help neutralize richness.

Spiciness will give your food an extra kick.


It might be just the thing to turn something boring into something extraordinary.


-Samantha R. Gold

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Easy Greek Style Chicken and Potatoes

A Healthy Pre-Holiday Meal

With the holidays just around the corner it’s time to make an extra effort to eat healthy before the calorie-laden festive feeding frenzy begins.

When I want to make a healthy meal I generally turn to one of two types of cuisine: Asian, which includes masterfully prepared vegetables, and Mediterranean which knows how to use simple ingredients and healthy fats to prepare quick tasty meals.

For this dish, I took my inspiration from Greece, marinating chicken breast in Greek yogurt and olive oil flavored with lemon and garlic before roasting in the oven. The potatoes are roasted in Olive oil, herbs and spices just long enough to make em so crispy you’d think they’d been fried.

The best part about this dish?  You hardly need to be in the kitchen to make it. Your fridge and oven do most of the work. Set a timer on your phone and go back in for the extra steps. If you want to make the meal REALLY Greek, serve with a Greek Salad.

Togas are optional.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep time: 5 - 10 Minutes
Marinating Time: Minimum 1 Hour
Cook Time: 1 Hour



3 Chicken Breasts cut into 1 inch wide strips

¼ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 Large Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Zest of 1 Lemon – The zest will impart all the flavor of the fruit without the acidity of the juice, which would cure the meat before it’s cooked.

1 ½ Teaspoons of Oregano

1 Teaspoon of Salt

½ a Teaspoon of Pepper – Freshly ground is ideal, but you what you have


3 to 4 Potatoes, washed and cut into evenly sized pieces – Yellow fleshed potatoes, often known as “Yukon Gold” are ideal, but use what you have or what's on sale

½ Teaspoon of Paprika

½ Teaspoon of Garlic Powder – I normally prefer fresh garlic, but for potatoes that are going to be a while in the oven the powder works better because it distributes evenly over them and there’s no risk of the garlic burning and turning bitter

1 Teaspoon of Oregano

½ a Teaspoon each of Salt and Pepper – You may want to adjust this amount after cooking, but this is a good place to start.

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Lemon Juice – Feel free to get the juice from the same lemon you got the zest from for the marinade


2 Baking Pans

2 Spatulas - 1 for the chicken, 1 for the potatoes

1 Large Zip top Bag

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Whisk

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Cooking Spray


In a bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon zest, salt, pepper and garlic and whisk it all together to combine.

Dump the yogurt mixture into a zip top bag and add the chicken strips. Close the bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible and squish the bag around so the chicken gets evenly coated.

Stick the bag in the fridge and walk away for at least an hour to let that marinade really sink in. You could also prep this chicken in the morning and let it marinate all day in the fridge.


Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

In your first baking pan, dump in all the ingredients for the potatoes and mix them around with your hands to evenly coat them with the herbs, spices, oil, salt and pepper.

Stick the pan on the lower rack of your oven and walk away for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, coat your second baking pan with cooking spray and put in the marinated chicken.

Stick the pan with the chicken on the top rack of the oven and take out the potatoes.

With your trusty first spatula, flip the potatoes over and stick the pan back on the bottom rack.

Close the oven and walk away for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, take out the potatoes but leave the chicken in and turn the oven on broil.

Leave the chicken in the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes to brown it a bit.

Let the chicken rest in the pan for 5 minutes and serve with the potatoes.


-Samantha R. Gold

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I can be reached at:

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Speedy Spicy Red Curry and Pumpkin Soup

Anyone who’s ever made a dessert with pumpkin has come to acknowledge one universal rule: there is always too much or too little pumpkin in a single can than any recipe calls for. It is due to this dilemma that I came up with this recipe which, unlike others, actually uses a whole can of the stuff.

This is a cold weather miracle. It’s warming, healthy, cheap to make, and ready start to finish in 15 minutes. It’s also ideal for cold sufferers as it’s sinus-clearingly spicy, but if you can’t take the heat you can easily temper it by cutting the amount of red curry paste in half.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Serves 4 to 6 as a meal or more as an appetizer


3 Cups or 1 Whole Can Puréed Pumpkin

2 Cans (400 oz each) Coconut Milk

2 Cloves of Garlic, grated or finely minced

1 to 3 Tablespoons of Red Curry Paste – Available in the Asian foods’ section of most grocery stores and in Asian market. This is potent stuff and the coconut milk and pumpkin help to temper it. If you’re wary of all things spicy, start with one tablespoon and then increase by half tablespoons until it’s how you like it.

2 Cups of Water

Salt – To Taste


A Sprig of Fresh cilantro/coriander – It adds a wonderful brightness and makes the soup look pretty, but if it tastes like soap to you, don’t add it.


1 Medium or Large Pot

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Grater or Knife and Cutting Board – For the Garlic

1 Wooden Spoon

Dump all the ingredients except the salt into a pot, stir it all together with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil.

Taste the soup and adjust the salt to your taste.

Serve and Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Slow Cooker Beef and Cranberry Red Wine Stew

The weather is getting colder and wetter by the day and it’s time to eat things that are not just nutritious but hearty and stick-to-the-ribs filling. If you live an area when temperatures can drop to 40 below at the peak of winter, or even if you’re sensitive to the cold, this stew is for you. Packed with beef, vegetables, holiday-friendly cranberry sauce and red wine and finished with a little Greek yogurt, it’s heaven as is or with rice or mashed potatoes.

Don’t be put off by the cook time and number of ingredients. Whether you do it in the oven or in a slow cooker (crock pot) this is the kind of thing you can fix and forget until it’s time to put the finishing touches on to eat and enjoy, and most of the stuff on this list you probably already have in your fridge and pantry.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium
Prep  time: 25 Minutes
Oven Cook Time: About 3 Hours
Slow Cooker Time: 6 Hours

Feeds at least 4 to 6


1 Pound of Stewing Beef or Venison

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

1 Cup of Chopped Carrots

1 Cup of Chopped Onions – About half a large onion or 2 Medium Ones

1 Cup of Chopped Leeks

1 Cup of Chopped Celery

2 Large Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 Strips of Bacon, Finely Chopped

3 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard

3 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce

1 Cup of Red Wine – Use anything you have leftover or get something cheap just for cooking

2 Cups of Beef Stock – Instant or from a carton is fine

½ Cup of Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup of Jellied Cranberry Sauce – The kind that comes in a can

1 Teaspoon of Paprika

1 Teaspoon of Rosemary

Salt and Pepper to Taste

4 Tablespoons of Corn Starch mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Water or Until it forms a soupy paste - Optional

1 Tablespoon of Butter

1 Cup of Greek Yogurt – 5% or 2% Fat is ideal, but if you’re calorie counting, go with a lower fat variety


1 Slow Cooker or a Pot with a lid that can go in the Oven – If your pot has metal handles and is bottom heavy, it will probably be ok, but if you’re in doubt, use a deep baking pan covered in foil instead

1 Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Regular Bowl

1 Frying Pan

IF YOU’RE USING THE OVEN, turn it to 350 0F.

In a pan on medium high heat, add the olive oil.

When the oil slides easily around in the pan, add the leeks, carrots, celery, and onion. Stir everything around with a wooden spoon until the vegetables have softened slightly and brightened in colour.

Add the garlic to the veggies and stir it around until you smell the garlic.

Turn off the stove and dump the veggies into your slow cooker or pot.

Put the stewing meat in your mixing bowl and add the paprika, rosemary, and a little salt and pepper. Set aside.

Put the chopped bacon in the same frying pan you used to cook the vegetables and add a cup of water.

Turn the heat on high, stirring every once in a while until the water has evaporated and forced the bacon to release some of its fat. When the bacon is reddish brown around the edges, scoop it into the pot or slow cooker.

Without draining the pan of all that delicious fat, turn the heat on medium high and cook the stewing meat, stirring occasionally until all the pieces are brown on all sides.

Dump the meat into the pot with the other ingredients.

Add the beef stock, red wine, cranberry sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, and Dijon mustard to the pot and stir everything together with your wooden spoon to break up the cranberry sauce a little. The heat will do the rest.

IF YOU’RE USING A SLOW COOKER, put the lid on, turn it on high and walk away for 3 hours. Then turn it on low for the remaining 3.

IF YOU’RE USING A POT, put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 3 hours.

Whichever method you use, the stew is ready for the finishing touches when a piece of stewing meat falls apart easily when mashed with a fork.

Taste the stew and season with salt and pepper until it tastes good to you.

If the stew is too runny for you, stir in that mix of corn starch and water a little at a time until the stew is thick enough for you.

Stir in the butter. This gives the stew a nice glossiness, making it extra appetizing.

Stir in the yogurt.

Let it cool for 5 minutes and serve!

This will keep in the fridge for about a week.


-Samantha R. Gold

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crumble Top Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

If you’ve ever had an urge to try and bake something, a quick bread is a great place to start. Somewhere between a muffin, a cake, and bread, it’s a delightful breakfast, brunch, or tea party item that feeds many and makes a welcome gift.

Take this banana bread.

This bread is quick and combines two things I love: chocolate and nuts, with two things I generally have to force myself to eat: whole grains and bananas. The result is a moist, flavorful bread with a crunchy crumbly top that fulfills any chocolate fix while getting some nice whole grains and fruit in the process.

Try it out!

If you love it as much as I do, you can bake a few, wrap em in plastic wrap, tape on some ribbon, and keep them in the freezer for extra holiday gifts.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep  Time: 15 Minutes
Bake Time: 75 Minutes (1 hour and 15 Minutes)

Yields One Loaf Serving about 4 to 6


3 Very or Overripe Bananas, Peeled and Mashed – This bread is a great way to use any bananas with too many brown spots for you to eat as is. Mash them into a paste using either a fork or your trusty potato masher until there are little-to-no lumps.

¾ Cup Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

¾ Cup Canola Oil – Vegetable Oil, Crisco, or Sunflower Oil would work too.

½ Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

½ Teaspoon of Salt

1 Cup of All Purpose Flour

1 Cup of Oats – Plain instant Oatmeal works too.

½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour

½ Cup Whole Milk – I prefer whole milk for baking, but if you’re calorie conscious or want to make it nondairy, use water or skim milk

½ Teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder

¼ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Crushed Walnuts – Optional

¾ Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips


4 Tablespoons of Softened Butter

4 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar

5 Tablespoons of Oats

3 Tablespoons of Whole Wheat Flour

¼ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of Cinnamon


1 Large Mixing Bowl

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Loaf Pan – You can get decent ones in the dollar store for a couple of bucks, or a pack of disposable ones in the grocery store for the same price

1 Baking Sheet

Butter or Cooking Spray

Parchment Paper – This is a non-stick paper commonly used in baking. A pack of sheets is available at dollar stores for about a buck fifty

1 Regular Bowl

1 Regular Fork

1 Rubber Spatula

1 Kitchen Timer – Feel free to use your phone for this.

1 Potato Masher or Other fork – For mashing your bananas

In a regular bowl, mash together the ingredients for the crumble topping with a fork until it’s all combined and taken on the texture of clumpy wet sand.

Pop the bowl in the freezer while you get your bread ready.

Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

Line the bottom of your loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the paper and the inside of the pan not covered with it.

In your mixing bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, oil, and vanilla. Give it all a stir until well combined.

Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flour, the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir it all until slightly moistened.

Add the milk and stir JUST until it looks like a cohesive batter.

Gently stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and take the crumble topping out of the freezer.

Sprinkle it over the top of batter.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and put the loaf pan on top of it. The bread shouldn’t overflow, but this is a good way to avoid any drips.

Bake for an hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.

Cool in the pan and enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

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I can be reached at:

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pasta Alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca is one of the quickest pasta dishes there is with an interesting history.

Though its name means “whore’s pasta”, its story has nothing to do with prostitution.

Legend has it that one night in the fifties, a group of customers strolled into a restaurant in Italy demanding something to eat. As it was late, the chef and owner sheepishly told them that he was low on ingredients and couldn’t serve them anything. As they were hungry, the group said to serve them any “garbage” he had. The chef only had a few tomatoes, a couple of olives and some capers, so he threw them together to make spaghetti sauce.

The dish has been a classic ever since.

This dish takes about five minutes longer to make than it does to boil pasta and is my go-to meal when I’m either feeling lazy or in a rush. Packed with tomatoes, capers, garlic, olives, and anchovies, it’s not for everyone, but for those unafraid of strong flavors, you MUST try this! One bite and you’ll never ask whether great food can be made quickly ever again.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and cook time: 15 -20 Minutes

Serves 2 to 4


Half a Box of Pasta – For this photo, I used short pasta, but if you want the dish to cook extra fast, angel hair or vermicelli are great choices.

1 Teaspoon of Salt

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 Anchovy Fillets, finely chopped OR 1 Tablespoon of Anchovy Paste – Available in the fish section of grocery stores

6 or 7 Pitted Black Olives, finely chopped – Canned or jarred and packed in liquid is fine

2 Tablespoons of Capers – Available in the same section of the grocery store as the pickles

3 Heaping Tablespoons of Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons of Prepared Basil Pesto

4 Sundried Tomatoes packed in Oil, Thinly Sliced (Optional) – Available with the pasta sauces in the grocery store, these add an extra rich tomato flavor and chewiness, but they’re not necessary.

Zest of 1 Lemon (Optional)

½ Teaspoon of Dried, Crushed Chilies (Optional)


1 Pot to Boil the Pasta

1 Ladle or Other Scooping Spoon

1 Strainer

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Regular Bowl

1 Regular Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Pair of Tongs

Fill your pot with water and add the teaspoon of salt, stirring so the salt is dissolved. Though experts say you have to boil the pasta in tons of water, you don’t. Enough water to fully submerge the dry pasta is enough.

Put the heat on high.

When the water is boiling, dump in your pasta and stir it all to fully submerge it. The cook time of the pasta will depend entirely on the type and your preference of doneness. Short, thick pasta like rotini will take longer than thin varieties like cappellini (angel hair), spaghettini, and vermicelli, especially if you prefer your pasta mushier than al dente.

While the pasta is boiling, chop up the anchovies, olives, garlic, capers, and sundried tomatoes, if using.

Put the tomato paste in a bowl. The minute the pasta water gets cloudy – this is from the starch in the pasta – scoop out about a cup of the water using your ladle and mix it with the tomato paste using your trusty regular spoon. This will not only thin the paste a little, but the starch will allow the sauce to stick to the pasta.

Drain your pasta in the strainer but DO NOT RINSE IT, and start your sauce.

In the same pot used to boil the pasta on medium high heat, add your olive oil.

The second the oil slides easily around in the pot, add your garlic, capers, anchovies, olives, pesto, and if using, lemon zest, sundried tomatoes, and chilies and stir it all with a wooden spoon.

The SECOND you start really smelling the ingredients in the pot, add the tomato paste and pasta water mixture.

Stir with a wooden spoon until it all starts to bubble.

Turn the heat to low and add the pasta back into the pot.

Toss everything together with a pair of tongs, making sure the pasta is fully coated.

Turn your stove off and serve!


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

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I can be reached at:

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Roasted Garlic “Vampire Killer” Soup

With Bloody Spicy Lemony Oil

Halloween is upon us and everyone is celebrating the macabre.

Unfortunately this dress-up holiday comes during flu season and many of us will be spending Halloween in bed high on cold medicine, too congested to taste the candy we get - either from the store or by “helping” kids we know out with the goodies they got while trick-or-treating.

Luckily, there are ways to celebrate Halloween by eating Halloween-themed foods that will also help us feel better.

According to all the health websites (I’m not a doctor), garlic, lemon, chilies, and chicken broth are all things you should eat when afflicted with a cold or (non-stomach) flu. According to folklore, vampires hate garlic, so help your cold and embrace your inner Vampire Killer by scarfing down this soup!

(Don’t worry, the oil doesn’t actually contain any blood.)

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium
Prep time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Serves 2 to 4



4 Garlic Bulbs aka Garlic Heads – (The whole thing holding the cloves)

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper – to taste

3 ½ Cups of Chicken Broth – Homemade or store bought from the soup section of the grocery store.

4 Tablespoons of Butter

½ Cup All Purpose Flour


¼ Cup Olive Oil

Zest of 1 Lemon

¼ Teaspoon of Paprika – This tints it red

½ Teaspoon Crushed Chilies (Optional) – If you can’t handle spicy, don’t add it.


1 Knife and Cutting Board

2 Medium Sized Sheets of Aluminum Foil

Measuring Cups and Spoons

2 Regular Bowls

1 Fork

1 Whisk

1 Grater - (for zesting the lemon)

Oven Mitts

1 Medium Sized Pot

Preheat your oven to 350 0F.

Cut the very tops off the Garlic Bulbs, drizzle them with some Olive Oil and sprinkle them with some salt.

Wrap all 4 Bulbs tightly in 2 sheets of Aluminum Foil, and once the oven is preheated, stick them in and walk away for 45 minutes or until the pack is slightly squishy when you squeeze it with an oven-mitt wrapped hand.

Open the foil and let the garlic cool a little until you can squeeze each bulb comfortably in your bare hand.

In your first regular bowl, combine the ¼ cup of Olive Oil, the crushed chilies (if using), the paprika, and lemon zest. Set aside.

Over your second regular bowl, squeeze the garlic bulbs until the cloves pop out. Don’t worry, they will.

Pick out any garlic skins and mash the cloves with a fork to form a paste.

In a pot on medium heat, melt the 4 Tablespoons of Butter.

Add the flour and whisk out any lumps.

Add the mashed garlic and whisk again until smooth.

Add the chicken broth and whisk again until smooth and soupy.

Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking every once in a while to avoid lumps.

Taste the soup and adjust for salt and pepper.

Scoop some into a bowl and drizzle with a little of that flavored oil.


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

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I can be reached at:

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