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Caramel Budino

Caramel Budino

One of my favorite restaurants here in Reno, Campo, serves a wonderful dessert called “Caramel Budino”.  It’s essentially a layered dessert with chocolate cookie crumbs, vanilla pudding, and a wonderful sea salt caramel topping, all served up in a cute mason jar.  It’s to die for!

For our wedding anniversary this year I thought it would be fun to try to recreate this dessert.  I already knew which pudding recipe I would use:  the “Vanilla Layer” from the Split-Level Pudding recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.  It’s my favorite vanilla pudding recipe!

Caramel Sauce Drizzle

Next, I had to find a worthy caramel sauce recipe.  I found it when She Makes and Bakes published a Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce recipe earlier this year.  This recipe made the rounds on the internet and was originally inspired by The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz.  It was just what I wanted for this dessert.

Delicious Caramel Budino

Finally, the cookie crumbs. Why buy them when you can make your own? Actually, I probably would have bought some chocolate wafer cookies if I hadn’t recently made the Bouchon Bakery TKOs. I saved the scraps so I could turn them into cookie crumbs. Perfect!

Ready to Eat

Now, you could easily simplify this recipe by buying a high-quality caramel sauce and using a favorite vanilla pudding recipe, but I have to say that using all homemade, from scratch, ingredients really took this over the top. It was delicious!

Even if you don’t make the whole dessert, I encourage you to try the Sea Salt Vanilla Caramel Sauce. It is so good that I have eaten all the leftovers by the spoonful!


A quick shout-out to the Dorista’s favorite cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan. Her birthday is tomorrow (October 24). Happy Birthday Dorie!

Caramel Budino

Print Recipe

  • ¾ cup chocolate cookie crumbs (purchased or homemade)
  • heavy cream, lightly sweetened and whipped


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 2 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


For the Caramel Sauce:

Combine the 1 ¼ cups heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract and set aside.

Place the sugar in a heavy saucepan and spread in an even layer.  Heat the pan on medium-low without stirring the sugar.  When the edges of the sugar begin to liquify, gently stir with a silicone spatula until all the sugar melts and liquifies.  If you are overeager like I was and stir too often or too vigorously, your sugar may clump.  If this happens, stop stirring so much, and wait for the sugar to melt again.

Once the sugar is melted and is a deep amber color, remove it from the heat.  Slowly whisk in the cream.  Be careful!  The caramel will bubble violently!  Again you may see some clumping (I did).  If you do, return the caramel to the heat and gently (and patiently!) stir until all the sugar is melted and you have a nice, smooth sauce.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sea salt and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.  Allow the caramel sauce to cool for a few minutes, then place it in a heat-proof container for storage.  A mason jar works well.  Stores for several weeks in the refrigerator.

For the Vanilla Pudding:

Bring 2 cups of milk and 3 tablespoons of sugar to boil in a medium saucepan.

While the milk is heating, place the cornstarch and salt into a food processor and pulse to blend.  Remove to a small bowl or piece of wax paper.  Put the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolks into the processor and blend for 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, then add the remaining ¼ cup milk.  Pulse a few times just to mix, then add the cornstarch mixture and pulse again.

With the food processor running, slowing pour in the hot milk.  When the milk is blended in, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until the pudding thickens and you see a few bubbles come up to the surface.

Pour the pudding back into the food processor.  Add the butter and vanilla and pulse a few times until the pudding is smooth and everything is blended in.

To Assemble:

Have ready 5 half-pint mason jars or 5 dessert bowls (clear is best to see the layers).

Place 2 tablespoons cookie crumbs in the bottom of each jar or bowl (you will have some left over; set aside). Divide the vanilla pudding evenly between each dish. Cover well and chill for at least 4 hours.  If you wish to prevent a skin from forming on the pudding, press plastic wrap against the surface.

When ready to serve, drizzle a tablespoon or two of the Caramel Sauce on top of each serving (if the sauce is too stiff to drizzle, you may need to warm it up slightly).  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cookie crumbs.

Note:  You can top the budino with the caramel sauce a couple of hours in advance, but not longer.

Serves 5



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Pumpkin-Apple Muffins

Pumpkin-Apple Muffin

This is one of the first recipes I shared here on From Scratch.  Since we’re in full-on pumpkin season I thought I would share it again for those who may have missed it!  Original post follows.


I fell in love with pumpkin muffins in the late ’90s when I worked in the Factoria area of Bellevue.  The Great Harvest Bread in Loehmann’s Plaza made these wonderful Pumpkin Hazelnut muffins that I used to buy when they were still warm.  So delicious, and addictive!

This Pumpkin-Apple Muffin recipe has been my go-to pumpkin muffin recipe for a long time now.  I try to make it once every fall.  I got the recipe from the Seattle Times years ago (at least 11 , since I haven’t lived in Seattle for 10 years now and I remember making these while I lived there).  A note on the recipe says it was originally from “Colonial Homes Magazine”, which apparently is no longer published.  Look!  The recipe is still available on the Seattle Times web site:  Pumpkin-Apple Muffins.

I decided to try substituting white whole wheat flour for part of the all-purpose flour.  The results were delicious, and the whole wheat adds a bit of extra nutrition.

Pumpkin-Apple Muffins

Click here to print.

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute 1 cup traditional or white whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose, if desired)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups chopped apples (Granny Smith are a good choice)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease muffin pan(s) or line with paper cups.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil until blended.  Whisk in the pumpkin until smooth.  Stir in the apples and walnuts.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened.  Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about ¾ full.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Turn out onto a wire rack and cool a bit before serving.

Makes 24 muffins.

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Hearts of Romaine with Sugar Snap Peas and Green Goddess Dressing

Hearts of Romaine with Green Goddess Dressing

A few weeks ago my husband and I celebrated my birthday by going to one of my favorite restaurants, 4th St. Bistro.  The meal was delicious as always.  I particularly enjoyed the salad I ordered: Hearts of Romaine with Sugar Snap Peas and Green Goddess Dressing.  Topped with thinly sliced radishes and a few chives, it was delicious and refreshing!

Salad and Salmon

I don’t often try to recreate dishes I order in restaurants, but this salad was so good, and seemed pretty straight-forward to copy.  I already had a recipe for Green Goddess Dressing, so I started with that.  Adding the proper veggies was a snap.

Romaine Salad

This salad came very close the restaurant version and I enjoyed it very much.  I hope you enjoy it too!

Hearts of Romaine with Sugar Snap Peas and Green Goddess Dressing

Print Recipe

  • One heart of Romaine lettuce
  • 4 oz. sugar snap peas
  • 1 radish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • ½ cup Green Goddess Dressing (recipe follows)

Chop the Romaine into bite-size pieces.  Cut each snap pea into 3 – 4 pieces.  Thinly slice the radish.

Place the Romaine and snap peas into a large bowl.  Toss with Green Goddess Dressing to taste.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.

Place salad in serving bowl or on individual plates.  Top with radish slices, and sprinkle with chives.

Serves 2

Green Goddess Dressing

Adapted from Greens Glorious Greens!

  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onion, white and green parts
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend for 1 to 2 minutes.  Taste and adjust for sweetness and seasonings.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup

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Crunchy Whole-Wheat Walnut Pancakes

Crunchy Whole-Wheat Walnut Pancakes

I have been wanting to share this recipe with you for a long time!  This might be my all-time favorite pancake recipe and I have been making them for years now.

What do I love about this recipe?  First of all, the healthy ingredients:  whole wheat, wheat germ, yogurt, and walnuts.  Secondly, the fact that these pancakes are lighter and fluffier than you would expect given those healthy ingredients.  Finally, I love how well these pancakes freeze.  I freeze them individually, then pop them in the toaster for an easy, healthy, school morning breakfast.

Pancakes and Syrup

The Crunchy Whole-Wheat Walnut Pancakes recipe comes from The Pancake Handbook: Specialties from Bette’s Oceanview Diner.  This recipe, along with the Buttermilk Pancakes recipe from the same book, are the only pancakes I ever make.  They are that good.

Whole-Wheat Walnut Pancakes

Crunchy Whole-Wheat Walnut Pancakes

Print Recipe

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups plain yogurt (I generally use low fat)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in the chopped walnuts.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, yogurt, milk, oil, and honey.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just to blend.  The batter will remain slightly lumpy.  Let the batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Lightly oil the pan with butter.  Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, portion the batter onto the hot griddle.  Cook for several minutes, until bubbles cover the surface of the pancakes and their undersides are nicely browned.  Turn them over, and cook for a couple minutes longer, until the other sides are browned.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200°F oven while you cook the rest of the pancakes.

Serves 4 – 6

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Olive Oil Tasting at Round Pond Estate

When my husband and I took our trip to Napa Valley in April we had a very fun experience: olive oil tasting at Round Pond Estate. They grow and press their own olives to make a variety of oils. They also make two red wine vinegars using their own grapes.

After a quick tour of the oil-pressing equipment, we sat down to this intriguing array of plates and dishes:

Set up for olive oil and vinegar tasting

Set up for olive oil and vinegar tasting

I was very curious to know what the sugar cubes were for!

In the blue cups were four different olive oils, and in the white dish on the right were 3 infused oils.  We learned how professionals taste olive oil. First you stick your nose deep in the cup and take a big sniff. Then you take a little sip and inhale quickly to suck it across your tongue to the back of your throat. If it irritates your throat (or even makes you cough), that’s a sign of a high-quality olive oil!

Tasting the olive oil

Tasting the olive oil

It turns out the sugar cubes were for tasting the red wine vinegar. You pour some vinegar over the sugar cube, then quickly pick it up and suck the vinegar out before it disintegrates. The sugar helps takes some of the sharpness out of the vinegar so you can taste the underlying flavors better.

Pouring red wine vinegar

Pouring red wine vinegar

After the more formal tasting, we were given two plates of food and a bowl of salad greens and had free time to experiment with the different oils and vinegars to see how they affect the flavors of the food. It was really fun!

A plate of food for tasting...

A plate of food for tasting…

More food for tasting.

More food for tasting.

All in all, a great break from wine tasting and a very fun experience.

We came home with bottles of Blood Orange Olive Oil and Cabernet-Merlot Red Wine Vinegar.

I made a wonderful vinaigrette with the Blood Orange Olive Oil.  I served it drizzled over fresh, wild halibut and tossed it with asparagus.  Fabulous!  It was also good as a traditional salad dressing.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Print Recipe

  • 1/2 cup Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar or bowl.  Shake or whisk until combined.  Taste, and add more sherry vinegar or salt and pepper, if necessary.

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

When I was in grade school I was a Girl Scout. My mom was one of the co-leaders of my troop. We occasionally did special cooking nights, often centered around a cultural theme. For example, we had a Mexican theme where we made tacos.

What does this have to do about Irish Soda Bread? Well, one year our theme was Irish cooking, and we made Corned Beef & Cabbage and Irish Soda Bread.

Corned Beef & Cabbage

I was in the group that made the soda bread. I had been looking forward to it because we were using my mom’s recipe and it was a favorite of mine. I’m sure I even exclaimed to the group how good it was! We carefully measured our ingredients, mixed them together, and waited for the bread to bake.

When we finally sat down to eat our Irish feast, I eagerly tried the soda bread. It was awful! We concluded someone accidentally put in a TABLESPOON of salt instead of a TEASPOON. Yuck! Needless to day, it was inedible.

Fresh From the Oven

I still make my mom’s Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day most years, and every time I measure the salt I think about the awful bread we had that year. This year I tweaked the recipe slightly and I am happy with the results. I hope you like it too!

Irish Soda Bread

Printable Recipe

  • 3/4 cup currants
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch cake pan.  Rinse and drain the currants.

Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the shortening and butter.  Stir in the currants.

Beat the egg lightly and combine with the buttermilk.  Add to the dry mixture and stir quickly, blending only until the flour is moistened.

Turn the dough into the cake pan.  Bake until a tester comes out clean, 20 – 25 minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve warm with plenty of butter.

Serves 8


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Secret Valentine Cookie Exchange

The French Fridays with Dorie gang had a Secret Valentine Cookie Exchange (thanks Alice for setting this up!).  We were each assigned a Valentine and we made cookies for them!

My cookies came all the way from Australia!  My Secret Valentine was Gaye from Laws of the Kitchen.  Here is the package, which arrived today:


Gaye packed my cookies very well:


Each pair of cookies was wrapped in parchment paper, then placed in a plastic bag, and then finally wrapped in bubble wrap.  The cookies traveled extremely well, without a single crumb out of place.


Aren’t these cookies gorgeous?  They taste as good as they look!


The card is beautiful too (did you make it?).  Thank you so much Gaye!


I was the Secret Valentine for Adriana at Great Food 360°.  Check out her site to see what I sent her.

Here is the recipe for the cookies I received:

Basic Sugar Cookies

  • 200 g / 7 oz / ½ cup = 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 400 g / 14 oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All-Purpose flour, sifted
  • 200 g / 7 oz / 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat until just becoming creamy in texture (Tip: Don’t over mix or the cookies will spread during baking).

Beat in the egg until well combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non-sticky dough forms.

Knead the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 or 3 pieces.  Roll out each portion between sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 5 mm (or .2 inch).  Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.  (Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in plastic wrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker).

Once chilled, peel off the parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.  Arrange the shapes on parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30 minutes to an hour. It’s very important to chill them again, otherwise they will spread while baking.

Re-roll the scraps and repeat the process until the dough is used up.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).  Bake cookies until golden around the edges, about 8 – 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.

Cool cookies completely on cooling racks.  Once cooled, decorate as desired.

Makes approx. 36 cookies

Royal Icing

  • 315-375 g / 11-13 oz / 2½ – 3 cups Confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp almond extract, optional

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.  Sift the Confectioner’s sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.  Beat on low until combined and smooth.  Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.

Tip:  Start with the lesser amount of confectioner’s sugar and add more until the desired consistency is reached.  The lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is good for outlining.

Tip:  Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air, so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.


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Fall Harvest Feast

A few weeks ago I made a wonderful meal with the last of our garden veggies. I love cooking with vegetables I grew and harvested myself. There is something very satisfying about enjoying the fruits of your labor. Plus, home-grown vegetables taste so much better!

I had a couple pounds of San Marzano tomatoes, several summer squash, and a bunch of potatoes. We had enjoyed most of the tomatoes in various pasta sauces and I wanted something different. I found a delicious-sounding tomato soup recipe on Epicurious. My Mom had given me a potato-zucchini casserole recipe that I wanted to try, so I decided to pair the two.

Roasted Tomato Soup with homemade croutons.

What a wonderful dinner! The soup was so flavorful and delicious. The casserole was fairly rich, so it went nicely with the lighter soup. It’s kind of like scalloped potatoes with a zucchini gratin on top. What a great way to enjoy the final harvest!

Cheesy Potatoes and Zucchini

The recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup with Garlic can be found on Epicurious, so I will not share it here.  FYI: I followed the suggestion of many of the reviewers and only used half the amount of chicken broth called for in the recipe.

I hope all of my U.S. readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Potato-Zucchini Bake

Print Recipe

  • 3 medium potatoes (I used red), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 3 medium zucchini, or other summer squash, sliced
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 10×6-inch baking dish.  Layer the potato slices with 1 cup of the cheese in the baking dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat, then blend in the flour, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the milk.  Return the saucepan to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and begins to boil.

Pour the sauce over the potato slices.  Cover and bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and uncover.  Layer the zucchini slices and the remaining cheese over the potatoes.  Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and combine it with the bread crumbs.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the zucchini and bake, uncovered, for an additional 40 minutes.

Serves 6


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Peaches ‘N Cream Smoothie

This quick smoothie is an easy and delicious way to get your fruit and use your peaches. It is one of my favorite smoothie combinations. I love how the peach makes it so smooth and creamy!

This one is so easy it’s almost seems silly to share the recipe. Put everything in a blender and blend! I like using the measuring cup/beaker that came with my immersion blender. It’s super easy to measure the ingredients and blend them up while only dirtying one dish.

If you don’t want to use milk, coconut juice also tastes good with the peaches. Try using frozen banana slices – it tastes like a milk shake!

Peaches ‘N Cream Smoothie

Print Recipe

  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk or coconut juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped peaches (1 or 2, depending on size)
  • 1 banana, sliced

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Serves 1 or 2

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Peach Sour Cream Muffins

For our next Peach Party entry, I turn to my favorite muffin recipe. I love this recipe because it is reliable, easy, and delicious. The muffins store and freeze very well. The crumb is so tender you might not guess they contain whole wheat flour!  I don’t even have to make any adjustments for altitude.  I usually make these with blueberries, but obviously this time I used peaches.

This recipe comes from my favorite whole grain cookbook, King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking.

Peach Sour Cream Muffins

Print Recipe

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and diced peaches
  • Course sugar for sprinkling

Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream; mix until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl again to be sure everything is well combined. Gently fold in the peaches. Refrigerate the batter at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the course sugar. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling.

Makes 12 muffins


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