Pumpkin, Sausage and Sage Pizza

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Okay, in full disclosure, this pizza elicited more teen jokes than any other meal I’ve prepared. Trying to by “artsy,” I made a flower design with the sage leaves. My daughter thought it looked like a marijuana leaf. I’m always glad to be the source of amusement. And really, no more trips to Spencer’s Novelty Shop.

This pizza is super tasty and full of fall flavor. It involves no illegal substances, although pumpkin is so addictive this time of year, it probably should require a driver’s license to purchase. We used a spicy chicken sausage, but I think an Italian sausage or sage sausage would be pretty terrific as well. Or even soyrizo if you are going meatless. I replaced our usual mozzarella with a blend of Swiss and Gruyère cheese–I think those cheeses taste great with the sage and pumpkin (and they melt beautifully).

I used organic canned pumpkin for this recipe because it is already cooked and it is very thick with little residual moisture. If you use fresh pumpkin, make sure you cook it down to a very thick paste or your pizza dough will be quite soggy (I made that mistake with butternut squash once and it was not good).

Pumpkin, Sausage and Sage Pizza (makes 1 pizza)

  • 1 whole wheat pizza crust (recipe HERE)
  • 8-10 fresh, organic sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. local, spicy link sausage, casing removed
  • 1 organic yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup organic pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups grated Swiss and Gruyère cheeses
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium skillet or saute pan, heat the olive oil to medium high.
  3. When oil is hot, add the sage leaves and fry them for about 90 seconds per side or until they are crispy, but not browned. Remove sage leaves to a paper towel to drain.
  4. Add the sausage to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the sausage until no longer pink, breaking up any large clumps with the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Remove the sausage from the pan to a colander or paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  6. Add onion and garlic to the pan with the drippings and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and starts to caramelize a bit. Remove the onion and garlic to a small bowl.
  7. Assemble the pizza by stretching the dough (my pizzas are never round–more like rounded rectangles) onto a flour dusted baking sheet or pizza stone.
  8. Top the dough with the pumpkin, spreading it across the dough, leaving a 1-2″ crust around the edges.
  9. Sprinkle the onions and garlic over the pumpkin.
  10. Crumble up 2-3 sage leaves and sprinkle them over the onions.
  11. Top the onions with the crumbled and drained sausage.
  12. Cover the whole thing with cheese.
  13. Arrange the remaining sage leaves into a flower that will be completely misinterpreted by your family.
  14. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until cheese is just browned and bubbly.
  15. Cut the pizza and serve immediately.

Locavore Pumpkin Ale Chili

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Chili is a great fall staple that everyone in my family loves. My usual strategy for chili involves ground turkey, a packet of chili seasoning, some organic canned beans and some chopped tomatoes–nothing fancy, but it’s quick and good. Last year, I ventured out of my safety zone and made a pumpkin chili that was super good. If you have visited your local farmer’s markets lately, you have probably seen a proliferation of peppers. Our markets are chock full of sweet peppers, hot peppers, super hot peppers, stuffing peppers and more. They are everywhere and are so pretty. My only trouble was making up my mind! I took all my beautiful chilis home, roasted them on the grill, and added the chopped peppers to the chili. Wow, what a difference a roasted fresh chili pepper makes!

This chili is rich, spicy and a bit sweet from the pumpkin and the beer. It is definitely not a five alarm chili, but I actually like it better than searingly hot chili. The cinnamon adds a lovely depth to the flavor.

A note about the beans in this chili. I used organic, dried heirloom beans from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and rehydrated them by soaking them overnight. You can of course substitute canned beans–they are a lot easier and quicker. I love the flavor of the (formerly) dried beans, especially when I can use several different kinds, but using canned beans can be a life saver!

Locavore Pumpkin Chili (makes 8-10 servings)

  • 2 pounds local, grass fed ground beef
  • 4 cloves organic garlic, minced
  •  1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  •  2 large, sweet Italian peppers, 3 poblano peppers, 2 green bell peppers and 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 15-ounce can organic pumpkin puree
  • 1 bottle pumpkin ale
  • 4 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped
  • 3 heaping cups of rehydrated, organic dried beans (I used ½ cup each of dried black beans, Anasazi beans, and adzuki beans, soaked overnight in water)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Heat your grill or a grill pan to medium high. Toss the whole peppers with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Grill the peppers, turning frequently, until peppers are charred on the outside (about 4-5 minutes total). Put all the peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl with a plate. Let the peppers steam for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel and seed the peppers. Chop the roasted pepper flesh and set aside.
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and saute for about 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the peppers and saute for about 5 minutes more.
  4. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon, and brown. Stir often.
  5. Add the spices and tomatoes and stir well.
  6. Add the beer and stir again. Let simmer about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the pumpkin puree and beans. Season to taste.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about an hour. Your house will smell truly amazing.
  9. Drink the remaining beer. Marvel at your domestic skills. Remember to be thankful for the farmers who produced your food!

NOTE: If you have the time, make this chili a day or two before you need it. It is even better after the flavors have a chance to blend!

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Shrimp and Kohlrabi Stir Fry

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Have you ever seen a strange, new vegetable at the farmer’s market and wondered what in the world to do with it? We tried a new vegetable this week–kohlrabi! I had seen it at the markets, but I had no idea how to cook it or what parts of it to cook. So, I decided to ask the folks at In Good Heart Farm. Turns out, the leaves and root are both edible and the root, once peeled, tastes like very sweet broccoli–yum! The leaves taste much like collard greens. So, I bought a bunch and used it in a shrimp stir fry with green beans and tatsoi–another sweet green. The result was quite delicious and fresh tasting. We are now checking to see if we can plant some kohlrabi in our winter garden!

Stir fry dishes are terrific for using up leftover bits of vegetables. This stir fry features some leftover green beans that didn’t get cooked last week and some fresh, baby ginger we got at the market. In addition to our kohlrabi, we used fresh tatsoi, an Asian green that is crunchy and sweet, some sweet, local onions, and some organic garlic. Topped off with local shrimp, this dish was so good that it was hard for us to stop eating! This is a great combination we will repeat in the future.

Shrimp and Kohlrabi Stir Fry (4 servings)

  • 1 sweet, organic onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1″ piece of fresh, baby ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 organic kohlrabi, the roots peeled and sliced and the leaves washed well and chopped
  • 1 large, organic carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 2 small bunches of organic tatsoi, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 lb. fresh green beans, washed and trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon organic sesame seeds
  • Organic tamari soy sauce, to taste
  • Cooked rice
  1. Make sure all ingredients are washed, cut up and ready to go–cooking will go fast!
  2. Heat the grapeseed and sesame oils in a wok or large skillet over high heat.
  3. Add the onion to the hot oil and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the kohlrabi leaves and root slices and stir fry 2-3 minutes or until leaves begin to wilt.
  5. Add the garlic, ginger, carrot and green beans. Stir fry for another 2-3 minutes, tossing ingredients well.
  6. Add the tatsoi and shrimp. Toss and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until leaves are soft and the shrimp are just pink and opaque.
  7. Remove from heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over hot rice.
  8. Sprinkle with tamari, to taste.
  9. Serve immediately.

Chicken, Rice and Acorn Squash Soup

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This soup is total comfort food. Think of it as your favorite sweatshirt in food form–simple, but soothing. It is easy to make, delicious, and is the perfect food for a rainy, fall day. I used the last of our homemade turkey broth from last year’s Thanksgiving feast and wow, that made a huge difference. If you have some homemade stock, it will make a great soup superior. If not, use a good quality chicken or vegetable stock.

Chicken, Rice and Acorn Squash Soup (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 quart homemade chicken, turkey or vegetable sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 large, sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 cup organic rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half widthwise and remove seeds.
  3. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, and put squash halves cut side down on the lined baking sheet.
  4. Roast squash for 45 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.
  6. In a large stockpot, add stock, thyme, onion and garlic, and warm over medium heat.
  7. Scoop pulp from the squash halves and add that to the stock. Blend with an immersion blender.
  8. Add rice and chopped chicken, stir and simmer for about 45 minutes.
  9. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve hot with a green salad.

Week 42 Budget and Menu

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I know I resisted fall for as long as possible, but I am finally embracing it (which is good since I can’t do anything about it anyway!). We are all about warm, cozy, plant-based suppers this week, and I’m looking forward to trying out some new ideas, like acorn squash soup with heirloom beans, which is an invention born of necessity (I rehydrated too many beans for another recipe!), and pizza with pumpkin, sausage, fried sage and gruyere cheese, which has been on my mind a lot lately. Do you ever dream about recipes?

Our budget this week is helped by Tom’s big score! After a day of fishing, we have some lovely bluefish and mackerel that we will be enjoying over the next couple of months. We have a busy week ahead, but it should be fun as well! Have a happy and healthy week!

Budget [$111.63]

  • The Produce Box (lettuce, yellow squash, tatsoi, string beans, eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes, heirloom tomatoes): $41.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (mozzarella): $6.00
  • Locals Seafood (NC shrimp): $12.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (Italian sausage): $10.00
  • Trader Joes (organic rice, curry simmer sauce, pepperoni, sage, shredded gruyere cheese, frozen fruit, yogurt, Ezekiel bread): $42.63

Menu

  • Wednesday (scout night)–Green salad with hard boiled egg
  • Thursday–Girls night out
  • Friday (softball night)–Acorn squash soup with heirloom beans, cornbread
  • Saturday–Shrimp and vegetable stir fry with organic rice
  • Sunday–Curried eggplant, green beans and potato over organic rice
  • Monday–Make your own pizza night
  • Tuesday–NC bluefish, sauteed squash, green beans

Sausage with Braised Cabbage and Apples

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This meal is like having your own little Octoberfest on a plate! Fresh, local cabbage, apples and smoked sausage braised together until you have fall deliciousness that is tart, sweet and a little floral. No more of that stinky cabbage of years past–this is fresh and flavorful. I made extra just so I could take some for lunch!

You can use any kind of smoked, link sausage in this dish. We actually used a combination of smoked jalapeño sausage and smoked Polish sausage from Mae Farm. Their sausage is so good I could just inhale it. We used three kinds of apples as well–one tart, one more floral and one sweet. Our favorite is the crisp and tart Dixie Red, a sassy heirloom variety apple found here in North Carolina. Mr. Godwin of Godwin Farms helped me pick out a blend of apples that would go well with both the cabbage and the sausage, howgreatisthat?

Sausage with Braised Cabbage and Apples (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 1/2 pounds pasture raised smoked, link sausage, cut into 2-3″ lengths
  • 1 large organic onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 large apples, mixed variety, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
  • 1 medium head of fresh, green cabbage, washed, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • Kosher salt and ground, black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium heat, rendering some of the fat. This will take about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the sausage and set aside. Leave about 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan.
  3. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onions. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.
  4. Add the apple slices to the onions and stir well. Cook about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the cabbage, sausage, cider, salt, pepper and coriander to the pan or pot. Reduce heat to low, cover and allow everything to cook down, about 45 minutes. Stir often. If pan juices begin to dry, add some water to the pan.
  6. Serve hot.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Spice Muffins

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These muffins are more like dessert than breakfast, but they are still healthier than any baked good at a coffeehouse. Light, fluffy and spicy, they are a wonderful, early fall treat and a great break from pumpkin muffins. This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from Williams Sonoma, using some coconut sugar and chopped pecans. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Spice Muffins (makes 9 muffins)

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted, organic butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup unbleached, organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 stick unsalted, organic butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put chopped pecans in a shallow pan and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Butter 9 muffin cups of a muffin tin or use unbleached paper liners. Fill remaining cups with water.
  4. Using a standing mixer or hand beaters, beat butter and coconut sugar for 4-5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Stir well.
  6. Add flour to butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in vanilla and chopped pecans.
  7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let muffins cool 5 minutes, then remove muffins to a cooling rack and let cool another 10 minutes.
  9. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a wide bowl. Put melted butter in a separate bowl.
  10. One at a time, pick up muffins by the bottom, turn them upside down and dip the tops in the melted butter, then very quickly roll the tops in the cinnamon sugar. Put each muffin back to the rack and repeat with remaining muffins.

Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

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One of the most memorable meals I have ever had was in Corniglia, Italy, while Tom and I were hiking the Cinque Terre (if you haven’t done this, consider putting it on your bucket list). We had a simple lunch at a small restaurant operated by a woman in her 70s. She made everything herself and grew the vegetables in her garden. There was no menu, just a few daily specials that took advantage of what was in season.

A huge part of what made the experience so wonderful is that we ate on a patio outside looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. Far from the Olive Garden, billion calorie, sauce-laden pastas in America, the pasta we had was typical of the region–homemade pasta tossed with a light basil pesto and bits of potato and green beans. Delicious, satisfying and fresh. After hiking an hour and climbing almost 400 stairs to get to Corniglia, we were famished and ready to tuck in. When we finished our wonderful meal, we continued on our hike with renewed physical and emotional energy.

This recipe calls for all that is wonderful about summer–fresh potatoes, green beans, basil and (I veered from the traditional recipe) sun dried tomatoes. Yum!

Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

  • 1 lb. fresh or dried capallini or fettucine pasta
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 c. basil pesto (see below)
  • 6-8 small red potatoes
  • 1 c. green beans, topped and tailed and cut in 1/2
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Put a stock pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. While water is heating, wash your potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add salt and the potatoes. Boil potatoes for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans and pasta to the pot and continue to boil everything for 8-9 minutes.
  5. Reserve 1 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta and vegetables.
  6. Pour the pasta and vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the pesto, parmesan cheese and sun dried tomato. Toss to combine, adding pasta water if needed to thicken the sauce.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 c. fresh basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tsp. lemon juice
  1. Put basil and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend into a paste.
  2. Add pine nuts, cheese, garlic and remaining oil. Blend until smooth.

Basil pesto should be made fresh and used the same day. Or, you can freeze pesto (this works very well if you buy a plastic ice cube tray and freeze the pesto in the trays–just pop out a cube and use in a sauce!).

Give Me Some (Healthier) Sugar!

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Baking season is upon us, my friends, and in the next 4-6 weeks many of us will be whipping up holiday cookies, cupcakes, breads, cakes, pies and whatever else we can think of. Yes, yes, I know some of you bake all year long, but it is just too hot here in the summer for me to invest much time in baking. Come fall, though, look out!

The world of baking has changed so much from when I was a child. The range of flours, oils, butters, and sweeteners available now is astonishing. Some of us are working on gluten-free, vegan or whole food recipes, and I can’t wait to see what everyone is creating! One ingredient that has vexed many of us is sugar. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to reduce our sugar consumption. But we all occasionally want a little somethin’ somethin’. No form of sugar is “health food”, of course, but some forms are better than others. So what are they and how can we use them to our best advantage?

I was working on research about sugars and sweeteners, when I came across a blog for Small Footprint Family. Their blog post on sweeteners contained so much wonderful information, I decided to just feature their post as it is and use my energies elsewhere (like finding more pumpkin recipes on Pinterest).

In our house, we use maple syrup, coconut sugar (LOVE it!), honey, dates and molasses as sweeteners, but I always have a backup stash of unbleached, organic cane sugar. We do not buy bleached sugars, chemical sugar substitutes or corn syrup and now I’m even more glad of that.

What should you do? Hey, your pantry, your rules, and I am not here to judge. But information is your best friend when shopping for any kind of food and this blog has lots to offer, including some types of sweetener that were completely new to me. Check it out!

Click HERE for their blog post!

Get those muffin pans and cookie sheets ready! Baking season is just around the corner!

Interested in reducing your sugar consumption? Here are a few tips:

  1. Make your own treats. I’m preaching to the choir for anyone reading a food blog, but really, when you make your own treats you can control not only how much sugar you use, but also what kinds of sweeteners.
  2. Read the label, read the label, read the label. Our national sugar dependency is not the result of mom (or dad) making cookies. It is all the hidden sugar in processed foods and it is everywhere (have you looked at your toothpaste label?). If you are buying foods labeled as “low fat,” chances are they are also “high sugar”, although the marketing people won’t tell you that. Fat is a flavor conveyor and when fat is removed, companies use excess salt and sugar to make up for the loss of flavor.
  3. Be patient with your taste buds. Reducing sugar (or salt, for that matter), may seem weird at first. Your taste buds may be set on “fructose jolt” and lower sugar foods may not taste as flavorful. It takes about 28 days to make a behavioral change, so give your body and your taste buds a chance to catch up!

White Bean, Ham and Quinoa Soup

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We definitely have fall here in North Carolina, and it is great soup weather! I love traditional white bean and ham soup–studded with tender white beans and aromatic rosemary, this soup tastes and smells wonderful. The combination of garlic and rosemary is pretty magic, isn’t it?

Although this soup has a thick, creamy texture, it is dairy and gluten free! I get the creaminess from blending some of the beans with an immersion blender. Voila! Creaminess without the fat or lactose of cream! This time I also added some leftover quinoa that was parked in the refrigerator and I have to say, I like it! The quinoa didn’t add any flavor to the soup, which was already very savory, but it did add protein and thickened up the broth even more. It was also very filling. A two-cup serving kept me full from lunch until dinner (bonus–no 3:00 snack craving!).

I used dried beans for this recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can substitute canned cannellini beans that have been drained and rinsed (look for BPA – free cans). Also, you could leave out the ham and use vegetable stock instead of chicken and make this a vegan dish as well!

You could double this recipe and freeze some for later. This soup freezes wonderfully!

White Bean, Ham and Quinoa Soup (makes 6 servings)

  • 2 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans (white beans)
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 cooked ham steak or 2 cups leftover cooked ham
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cooked white quinoa (or 1/2 cup of uncooked)
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper

If using dried beans, prep the beans the night before by rinsing them and putting them in a bowl. Cover the beans with water + about 2″ of water above the top of the beans. Cover the bowl and let the beans soak overnight.

  1. Put the beans and the stock in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook the beans for 20 minutes.
  2. While the beans simmer, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes or until soft. Add the carrot and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the beans, plus some cooking liquid from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add the cooked vegetables to the pot and stir.
  5. In a bowl for an immersion blender, combine the beans, cooking liquid and rosemary. Blend until thick, about 5 seconds.
  6. Add the bean paste back to the cooking pot and stir well.
  7. Chop the ham into bite sized pieces and add to the pot, along with the quinoa.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Simmer the soup for at least one hour if using dried beans (20 minutes for canned beans).
  10. Serve hot with crusty baguettes or with a tossed salad.
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