Category Archives: Food

Life In My Kitchen

Spaghetti Dinner at the Cains

One of my favorite pictures! Spaghetti and Roast Chicken at the Cains.

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
Julia Child

They say the heart of the home is the kitchen and I cannot help but agree. It is at my house for sure. We do everything in our kitchen and over the years, we have the best memories that one could ever hope for.

First I have to tell you that Jim’s mom graciously sold us her house when she remarried. That was thirty years ago this week. What a blessing. I doubt we would have been able to afford much at the time and my mother in law made it happen. Thanks Mom. 🙂

From the birth of our son John (Michelene was already born by this time) to the acquisition of cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, cockatiels, you name it, our kitchen has witnessed the evolution of our family. But besides pets and friends, what is really noteworthy is the volume of food that has been consumed over the years from our kitchen table.

Hundreds of pounds of Greek food- spanakopita, baklava, fish plaki, roast lamb- have graced the table. Tons of pasta, interesting soups, Thanksgiving turkeys, Jim’s famous flank steak, amazing chicken egg omelets, bacon, mounds of salads with Michelene’s heirloom tomatoes have all been a part of our food landscape.

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

If the walls could talk they would tell the tale of the recipes, good and not so good, and certainly the triumph of success with feeding the entire Cain family on Christmas Eve. Everyone pitches in and the noise, bedlam, fun, and gaiety is simply exquisite. This Christmas there was spiral ham, potato salad, amazing cheeses, little hotdogs in crescent rolls, shrimp cocktail, potatoes, green beans, cranberry orange relish, and my son’s smoked brisket. Oh my.

Jim and his siblings hamming it up! From Left, Chuck, Tom, Katie, and Jim.

Jim and his siblings hamming it up! From Left, Chuck, Tom, Katie, and Jim.

At other times, our kitchen table is the forum for discussions, problem solving, joke sharing, and hilarity over steaming plates of fish plaki and mashed potatoes. Afterwards, during cups of coffee and whatever sweets are in the house- usually something chocolate!- we finish the conversations and clean up the dishes.

I don’t have a fancy kitchen but it is well worn, tried, and true. It has everything I need including a gas oven and two refrigerators- one of which is at least twenty years old and one fairly brand new. It was my intention to take the old fridge downstairs and use it as a backup, but that has never happened. It doesn’t matter now. It’s so darn convenient to have two fridges during holiday entertaining and summer garden harvests. I really like having them both.

About seven or eight years ago, we decided to expand the kitchen and add on a real dining room. Our cousin Clint broke through the wall (a momentous occasion) and added on a spacious extra room. I have a large wooden table with two inserts that I absolutely love and we made the addition big enough to accommodate the table when both leaves are in it. Now we have a small kitchen table and the larger dining room table, perfect for when we have all those family gatherings.

My sister Cally and her husband Raymond in the new dining wing

My sister Cally and her husband Raymond in the new dining wing

My grandson is at our house every day after school and his mother (my daughter Michelene) comes about an hour later after work. It is not unusual for us to eat dinner together four nights a week; true sit down dinners with plates, silverware, warm meals, and dinner conversation. When I tell people this they almost always say “wow” but to us it feels entirely normal.

I’m going to share my fish plaki (meaning braised or baked fish with vegetables) recipe as this is one of our evening favorites. It’s very simple and when served with mashed potatoes or rice, it’s a definite winner. Believe it or not, I made this last night to test the recipe and I forgot to take a picture!! I promise you’ll love it.

Joanne’s Fish Plaki

4-6 Tilapia Loins (thawed & patted dry), or other meaty white fish

1 large sweet onion

4-5 Carrots

16 oz diced tomatoes, (canned, organic, whatever you have in your cupboard)

6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6 tablespoons of butter

Salt and Pepper

1 Lemon

Hot Mashed potatoes or cooked rice to serve on the side

Peel and slice carrots into small medallions. Microwave 3-4 minutes covered or steam in a double boiler until just barely tender. Set aside.

Cut the sweet onion into medium slivers and lightly saute in a large skillet in 4 TBS of the olive oil and 3 TBS of butter over medium heat. Lightly salt and pepper them. Cook until barely soft but do not brown. Turn heat down to medium/low.

Spread the sauteed onions out flat and lay the tilapia loins on top of the onions. Lay small slices of the remaining butter on each of the tilapia loins (more or less to taste!). Salt and pepper the loins and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Pour the diced tomatoes over the tilapia, coating them as much as possible.

Cover the pan and simmer on medium to low for approximately 20 minutes. If you need to, flip the loins mid way through the cooking time to evenly cook them. When they are almost done, add the carrots on top of the whole tomatoes. Salt and pepper everything, cover and simmer for another five minutes.

Check your fish loins at this time by breaking one of them in the center. Cook more or less to taste. (I don’t like my tilapia over done)

To serve: Present fish with mashed potatoes or rice and spoon the tomatoes and carrots over top of everything. Splash alittle lemon juice over all or serve a lemon slice with the plate.

*Notes: This is a pretty healthy recipe. (well, minus the butter!) If you want more flavorful fish, lightly brown the loins in butter and/or olive oil before placing them atop of the onions (then adjust your cooking time as well). You can also add cooked green beans or peas at the end, really any kind of vegetable that would go well with the tomatoes.

Happy Eating!

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Love and Prosciutto

Joe and I in da' cooler

Joe and I in da’ cooler

God is in the details. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Talk about coincidences. Jim meets a wonderful man last year. It was Joe (above), and Jim fondly nicknames him “Prosciutto Joe.” They click. Joe invites Jim over, Jim buys a prosciutto. (so far, I’ve not met Joe)

In a separate state of affairs, I’m taking a water movement class at the YMCA. I overhear the ladies talking about the recent death of a butcher who was in the class. His name was Joe. He makes prosciutto. I tell Jim. Could it be the same man? We wonder. We think Joe is no longer on this earth. This makes us very sad.

But wait! Joe turns out to be alive and well. AND definitely IN MY SWIM CLASS. Joe and I have a good laugh over the coincidence. In his gorgeous Italian/English way of speaking, he says, “Next time Jim comes over, you come.”

So last Saturday, we came, we ate, and we left with prosciutto. Joe only makes so many and most of them are taken. I think someone else is probably getting one less prosciutto because of my husband.

The first thing we did when we arrived at Joe’s was eat. We were invited to the dining room table where his daughter LIdia made us fresh cappuccinos to go with our slices of homemade apple pie. Then Joe’s wife Ida presented us with little handheld pies, made with a filling of ground chickpeas, cocoa powder, and of course, Jim’s honey. Amazing.

When I was at that dining room table, I felt like family. We told stories, heard about Ida’s recent miracle, and talked about everything under the sun. Joe took a small break to attend to matters outside but when he returned, into the cellar we went.

The basement reminded me of my grandmother’s house. There was a washer, dryer, a stove, sink, and a table and chairs. Ida showed me her summer herbs, drying on a rack in her gas oven. It’s the old style, with a pilot light!

Sweet Ida and her Herbs, Parsley, Rosemary, and Basil.

Sweet Ida and her Herbs: Parsley, Rosemary, and Basil.

Next, Joe, JIm, and I went into the cooler so JIm could pick his prosciutto. Jim looks around a bit (they are everywhere) and picks THE ONE. Joe says, “Looks like a good one Jim!”. While Ida and I talk (and she gives me a jar of her homemade grape jelly) I hear Jim and Joe talk about salt. Joe tells me it’s all about the salt. I believe him.

I hope this isn't a secret. ;)

I hope this isn’t a secret. 😉

Then Joe and Jim cut a hunk off of the prosciutto, slice it paper thin, and we all taste. And moan. It is so good. So awesome. I can hardly believe I’m witness to this whole morning.

I know from experience that God is truly in the details. The salt, the herbs, the apples in the pie, the foam on the cappuccino, the amazing prosciutto. The deep down warmth of this family is just beautiful. I promised Joe that I would wrap some of his paper thin prosciutto around melon slices for my son’s upcoming baby shower. Joe, it would be my pleasure.

I love these stamps. Joe is a butcher, after all.

I love these stamps. Joe is a butcher, after all.

Jim and Joe and the prize Prosciutto

Jim and Joe and the prize Prosciutto

PS. The barn wedding I did a month ago? Joe is the bride’s great uncle. I saw him at the wedding!

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Jim’s Favorite Egg Story

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I woke up to the sound of little feet running past my bedroom window.

As I opened my eyes I could see the early summer light streaming through the room. I heard the back door open and shut. I realized it was my grandson Gavin.

He had just come in from collecting fresh eggs from our backyard chicken coop. One of his favorite things to do was to feed and water the chickens and look inside their nests for eggs.

As I started to get out of bed, I could hear him running into the bathroom. The high pitch sound of his voice made me figure something was wrong. “Ah man, this is bull#!@*. This is BS! AH!”

I knocked on the bathroom door and asked “Gavin, what’s the matter?” He said it was ok for me to come in.

DSC_0028What I saw was a young boy with yolk on both of his hands and in his hair. I asked him if the chickens had thrown eggs at him? 😉 “No Jim! There were so many eggs I put some in my pockets. When I went to get them out, one broke. When I went to get the other one out, that one broke too. I forgot I had eggs in my hand and I got it on the door handle. When I saw this, I smacked myself on the head and it went into my hair!”

I had lectured Gavin about using inappropriate language in front of his Nana and girls. It was ok for him to use it in his tree house and in front of guys. But I tell you, I had to hold my laughter back in these crazy few moments.

I had Gavin step out of his pants and reassured him that tomorrow would bring more eggs. No harm done! And Nana came to the rescue with a special basket, just for gathering eggs. So no more need for eggs in pants’ pockets!

Thank you to my husband Jim, for this great contribution of his favorite egg story! Do you have a favorite story that involves an egg? I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below or send me an email at katherinesdaughter@gmail.com.

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Egg-actly Wonderful!

Photo Courtesy of Sunday Child

All Photos Courtesy of Sunday’s Child

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child

I have a confession to make. When my husband wanted to raise chickens a few years ago, I was not in favor of it.

Yes, it’s true. I pictured my grandfather’s chicken coop, messy and scary with cackling chickens all around my feet, just scaring the beeswax out of me.

Well, here I am all these years later, admitting the truth. I love fresh eggs. Jim and our daughter Michelene have kept their word and they’ve taken good care of the chickens, all without any responsibility on my part. That was the other thing I was wary of. That the care of the chickens would become my responsibility.

Nothing of the sort has happened. And in the meantime the delicious yellow yolks, bright as sunshine, coupled with the delicate white have graced our table many times. In any way shape or form, the eggs are delicious. Scrambled or sunny side up with a side of toast, or cracked into the latest cake, those eggs have become a part of our lives.

Now some of you know I have been blessed to have a blogger friend on the west coast, Sunday’s Child. She began her own love affair with chickens last year! She has an awesome coop and has just embraced the whole chicken raising thing, chick and caboodle.

Daffodils and the EggRecently, Ms. Child began to place her light brown or green eggs amongst her pitcher collection or in other very creative places and snap beautiful artistic pictures. The juxtapositioning of the eggs! The beauty of the pitchers! The sunny yellow of the daffodils! My oh my, my heart was singing!

I casually mentioned to Ms. Child that she ought to consider a coffee table book with those spectacular pictures, alongside say some great egg stories and perhaps some yummy egg recipes. At first she said, “Haha, funny, yes, you and I would be the only ones buying the book!”

But then her friends started to tell her the same thing. I sent her an email and she said someone had mentioned the coffee table book idea to her right before I did. (I think there are no coincidences!)

So we are exploring this idea of an artistic, yet country style EGG BOOK. What do you think? Are you an egg lover yourself? Do you have an inspiring egg story to share? Better yet, do you have an original or favorite egg recipe that you’ve made for years? Believe me the simplier the better. I love easy recipes.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with us. If you want to email me privately at katherinesdaughter@gmail.com, that’s fine. If not, leave a comment below and I’ll know egg-actly how you feel!

Elephant and the Egg

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My Daily Bread

Bread 2

Have you ever found a hidden jewel? An amazing place you just could not keep to yourself? Well I found one recently and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

It’s called Mediterra Bakehouse and I am in love with it! Since I made a recent commitment to eat healthier, I have tried to find new and exciting ways to enjoy good grains. So when a friend told me Mediterra had a local location, that was all I needed to hear.

Bread 4The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the row of Greek Orthodox icons along the wall. When I asked the owner’s daughter about this, she confirmed her father is from the same place in Greece as my mother’s family- the island of Chios. I have to say, I instantly felt at home.

It was difficult to make a decision at Mediterra. I saw kalamata olive loaf, peasant bread, Mt. Athos Fire Bread, and a delicious looking pecan raisin bread. I couldn’t resist the latter and actually tore into it on the way home in the car! (A day later I bought some Tzatziki just to dip it into!) I also chose the chile cheddar loaf, ah! with its chunks of vermont cheddar and petite slices of jalapeno pepper.

I headed back a week later and this time I bought the Sunflower Honey Whole Wheat. I can’t wait to try it with a bit of Jim’s honey.

The trip to Mediterra got me thinking about the similarities between daily bread and spiritual bread. Daily bread nourishes my body but spiritual bread nourishes my heart and soul. I have been trying to start my morning off with a good meditative reading, something that fills me with gratitude and awe for this wonderful life. That is my spiritual bread.

Here’s what I read today: Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir

Bread 5

May you be blessed today with your favorite daily bread! What’s your favorite loaf or spiritual saying?

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Grace at the Source

Farmer's Table 1

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” -Brillat-Savarin

The picture above is not out of a story book- it is for real. If you look closely, you’ll see tables of people at the V of the stone wall. It is right there that my friend Cathy and I had our first Farm to Table dinner.

We were at Manchester Farms and Left Bower Farm in beautiful Avella, Pennsylvania. The farmhouse is from the early 1800’s and is a real stunner.

I read about Jacob Mains and his Farm to Table dinners recently in our local newspaper. I was immediately smitten and am actually trying to figure out a way for us to work together (more about that on another post!) given my background in events planning. After reading about the dinner, I recruited my organic loving friend Cathy to go with me to our first ever farm sourced food event.

Farmer's Table 2What unfolded was an amazing evening under a blue summer sky. Vegetables that had only been picked out of the ground earlier that day were served beautifully on a white plate, exhibiting all their natural qualities. Diced beets, roasted turnips, kale, cabbage and fresh lettuce greens were featured, as was a delicious dairy cheese. There were yummy meatballs made with beef right from the farm. And to top it all off, a dessert of vanilla creme, topped with fresh berries from the farm next door. And did I mention the cookie? A delicious butter cookie made with butter from the farm was nestled into the dessert. Yes, I broke up the cookie in little pieces and dipped it into the vanilla creme and strawberries!

Cathy and I had to pinch ourselves several times as we met some amazing people. From Jacob and his parents, to Margie and Dave the farm owners, to the talkative radio station owner we sat next to, we were just in awe of the entire evening and the karma of the whole night.

Jacob and his Grandfather

Jacob and his Grandfather

There is something magical about eating outside, among beautiful surroundings, with happy people and enjoying food that is minimally handled and served in its natural grace. When bounty is pulled from the ground and nourishes us heart and soul, there is something very fulfilling and joyful about that experience.

I hope you live in an area where you have access to a farm or farmer’s markets. Please make an effort to support CSA- Community Supported Agriculture– when available. This dinner was an amazing event, one that I hope I will experience again and again!

Thank you to Drew Nicholas for sharing these photos with me!

What’s your favorite farmer’s market or place to buy locally sourced food?

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Nourishment….Body and Soul

IMAG0071

We are spiritual beings living a human life. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Lately, I’ve been pondering a different approach to taking better care of myself. I have been thinking about Body and Soul. Sure, it’s a phrase that’s been around forever. But I’m taking it to heart and realizing that one without the other is like walking around with only one shoe.

First, SOUL. I am better at taking care of my spiritual self. Devoting a portion of my non working hours to service work is spiritually fulfilling for me.  This blog and you, my reader, are part of my spiritual life. Spiritual reading, volunteer work and even prayer and meditation are important parts of my soul work.

Now when it comes to BODY, that is a different issue all together.

Menopause (or, insert issue of choice here) has reeked havoc on my physical body. I am abit overweight, tired and admittedly, over sugared. This is where some change needs to occur. My thickening middle has me a bit depressed and there is really no one that can change that except me.

Though I have been trying to do little things to build a healthier me, I’ve not done a good job managing my weight. I rationalize it with my many obligations, stresses, weather, you name it. But deep down I know I really want to take better care of my “temple”.

At this point I have to tell you I don’t believe in diets. I don’t think they work. Having watched friends gain and lose the same pounds over and over through various diets, I believe the mental state of “diet” is starvation. That may not be the case, but perhaps the word reeks a mental manipulation within the heads of its participants. I’d rather make positive changes to eat healthier and get enough exercise.

I want to believe there is a direct correlation between faith and food. If I treat my body as the temple for my soul, does that make me want to treat it better? Yes, it does. So that is what I’m going to try.

By placing food in the same mental bracket as faith, I hope to change how I feed myself. By taking a moment to reflect and notice what I’m putting in my mouth and why, I hope to give my body a bit more respect. The respect it really deserves.

Are you better at Body or Soul? Or both? What works for you?

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Grace and a Great Greek Cookie

Delicious Finikia!

Delicious Finikia!

I am proud to say I am the grandchild of Greek immigrants. When I was growing up, and still to this day, the holidays were a splendid spread of amazing food and delectable pastries.

The Finikia Set Up Yiayia style!

The Finikia Set Up Yiayia style!

Lucky for me I have a daughter (Michelene) who has a desire to learn those old world recipes before my mom leaves this Earth. We’ve had two “cookie sessions” with my mom, fondly referred to as Yiayia by my daughter.

In these sessions, my mother completely sets up the entire event (as you can see above!), Cally snaps pictures and records video (priceless someday I’m sure), and I of course assist and sample the final delicious creations.

Yiayia decided on a soft nutty cookie called “Finikia” this time. If you have ever been to a Greek food festival, you have no doubt tried Finikia.

Getting ready....

My sister Cally on left, me on the right….Check out that bowl!

The most interesting part of this recipe was mixing  freshly squeezed orange juice into Cream of Wheat by hand. Then, this mixture was folded into the Crisco, egg, sugar, almond and flour batter and viola! a cookie of delicious-ness was born.

A separate hot syrup of sugar and water (with a splash of lemon!) was created and this is what we dipped the baked cookie in. Finally, we rolled them in ground walnuts and Yiayia sprinkled the cinnamon. Ah- they were amazing!

There is really something special about three generations of women coming together to learn a bit of their heritage. I imagine someday this will be a fond memory for my daughter who hopefully will teach her son, my grandson Gavin, how to make this wonderful cookie someday.

I think we ate at least a half dozen Finikia when they were done. Yiayia packed them all up for us so we were free to take them home to our family and friends. If you’re feeling ambitious, I’m attaching my mom’s recipe below for you to give a try. Happy Baking!

YiaYia sprinkling the Cinnamon

Yiayia sprinkling the Cinnamon

The Recipe

The Recipe

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Gifts from my Grandmother

Yiayia In Her Busy Kitchen

If God had intended us to follow recipes,
He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.
~Linda Henley

The older I get, the more I appreciate my grandmother. Though she has been gone a long time, my memories of her lately are stronger than ever. And more and more, I realize the great gifts she gave me that are very much a part of me.

Whenever I cut a good tomato, fresh from the garden, I think of my Yiayia. My grandfather always put in a big garden and by August, there were plenty of fresh vegetables to be had. Yiayia would make summer salads with her beautiful leaf lettuce and lots of those really red tomatoes.

I love having Basil around!

She also loved fresh basil and would frequently cut a small piece to put behind her ear. She’d walk up from her garden, the basil leaves facing front and she’d have a big smile on her face. I think she just loved the smell of it and liked keeping it close to her. These days, I love basil and we frequently grow a couple of big basil plants every summer. Rubbing the leaves between my fingers and smelling the fresh scent is one of my favorite things to do. I don’t remember if Yiayia cooked with her basil (I imagine she did!) but I love to snip up the leaves and put fresh basil on everything from roasted vegetables to green salads.

As with most grandmas, Yiayia was an excellent cook. She made everything from scratch, mixing most ingredients together with her hands. She had a big ceramic ware bowl she would use to make Greek avgolemeno soup. As a young child, she would let me use her hand held rotary beaters and I’d beat those chicken eggs to a frothy yellow. She’d have homemade chicken broth with rice all ready to go, and we’d add my yellowy beaten eggs to the hot broth just a little bit at a time. She’d finish it off with some lemon juice and the result would be a smooth, slightly lemony chicken soup that was just out of this world. I don’t ever remember seeing a recipe written down for it; I’m sure she didn’t need one.

Holidays were a big deal to her. At Christmas and Easter she’d roast a leg of lamb and do all the fancy sides: Greek oregano potatoes sliced longways into quarters and baked in the oven, a big salad with tomatoes and feta cheese, Easter bread with a red hard boiled egg baked right into it, little black eyed peas drizzled with olive oil and lemon. There was always amazing food at her table during the holidays.

I think the most important gift my Yiayia gave me was her example of what hospitality should be. When you had dinner at her house, she pulled out all the stops. The linen tablecloth and napkins came out, her most beautiful serving pieces and china were polished and displayed, candles were lit. I can remember numerous times when the table would be so full with multiple selections of food, we hardly had a place to eat!

It it really those great times, those “eating” times, that make me realize how lucky we really were. To have had her among us, teaching us all those traditional things that to her came so easily….what a gift!

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Grace is…a whole lot less worry

I was driving home from Amy’s house last night and while I was at a stop light, I happened to notice a beautiful old white house with blue trim on a corner lot. Blue is really my favorite color lately as I like how it goes with my silver hair, which is getting more and more silvery every day.

The windows seemed bare in the house and then I noticed there was a “for sale” sign in the front yard. I took in the house briefly, noticed the tiny front yard and the busy intersection. I thought “tough sale” as boy, you’d really have to like that house to accept the tiny yard and all the noise from the intersection.

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen (Photo credit: Lee Cannon)

But wait. There was a Dairy Queen across the street from the house. I was familiar with this Dairy Queen because I have stopped there numerous times on my way home from work. I used to work in the city and when traffic was overwhelming on the parkway, I’d go the back way. And sometimes, I’d stop at that Dairy Queen on my way home.

The DQ would almost make living there worthwhile. Just think of the ease in trotting across the street for a quick cone after dinner. (My favorite DQ treat is a soft serve cone). I really like vanilla and chocolate ice cream swirled together but will sometimes get all chocolate. If you know me well, you know I have a big weakness for chocolate.

The truth of course is I really have no desire to leave my house. Sometimes I get a bit worried about the day I may have to leave. Maybe someday my house will become too much for me; too much mowing, too much shoveling, and too much upkeep. That leads me to worry about Jim and whether we will grow old together, blah, blah, blah and so on and so on.

Sometimes, my mind loves to run away with outlandish scary thoughts. The committee in my head calls an emergency meeting and starts planning all sorts of solutions to my ridiculous problems. That’s when I stand up, as chairman of the committee, and announce that the meeting is over.

Grace is so much less trouble. So much less worry. When I turn my scared stuff over to God, it just melts away. I am lucky I can do this now. It used to be much harder. Thankfully, a little bit of Grace goes a long way.

I’m ready for a cone. How about you?

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