This post was originally published on our predecessor site, BCCT.
BCCT asked me to write a blog post on “eating well” for the holidays. In these unusual times I will take the license to expand the topic to nourishment, which includes, but isn’t only about eating. According to the Oxford dictionary, nourishment is “the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.” Those “other substances” may vary a bit from one person to the next, but in general, we are all nourished by so many health-supportive things that we take in through our senses: smells, sounds, sights, tastes, touches. Those inputs end up as “ingredients” that your body-mind-spirit converts into health-enhancing substances and wondrous biochemical reactions.
I wonder if before you read on, you would think about what those nourishments might be for you. Then, ponder on how you might create opportunities to bring nourishments in to your holidays in light of all the changes and challenges of this pandemic.
This blog post is accompanied by recipes contributed by me and other BCCT staff for making nourishing foods for the holidays. However, I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on how I will shift from my typical holiday focus of big social gatherings centered around eating, to satiating my appetite with the “other nourishments.”
For the last few years, my partner and I have hosted a “Sunday after Thanksgiving” potluck gathering of neighbors who community garden together. We’d gather around the modern-day cauldron filled with frying sweet potato chips from tators we harvested in October. While we would crunch on chips, the Cajun greaseless turkey fryer was turning an organic turkey into the juiciest, tenderest, tastiest turkey we’d ever eat, with plenty of leftovers for everyone to create “Deja Chew” meals of turkey soups, casseroles and salads.
Everyone contributed their signature dishes, including green bean casserole, cranberry relish, cornbread dressing, mac and cheese, lemon squares and sweet potato pie. I required that lots of healthy veggie and fruit dishes appear on the buffet, and in this crowd, they disappeared quickly. The main dish for my vegetarian guests was my acorn squash stuffed with rice-lentil pilaf. I knew to make plenty extra as side servings for the omnivores of the group.
We socially lubricated the group (though that was hardly needed) with our experimental cocktails. Last year the feature was local Virginia hard apple cider with a stir-in of pureed cranberries and oranges and a splash of bitters.
Of course, the real sweetness and joy of these gatherings was our coming together to tell stories and openly gush our gratitude for another year of friendship and support.
Somehow, over the last year we all sensed that we wouldn’t be able to gather in this way over Thanksgiving, so we took advantage of the beautiful warm Virginia days and nourished our friendships with long walks, brunches made from the garden harvests and served in the community garden, and campfire circles on cool autumn evenings where we caught up on our life stories. Somehow, overcoming the challenges of physical distancing made us even closer and more committed to caring for each other.
I am honing in on what nourishes me.
With that backdrop, I now am planning how I will spend this Thanksgiving. I am honing in on what nourishes me, knowing that food is only one nourishment I need. As morning light comes in my window on Thanksgiving day, I will relish staying in my cozy bed a little longer, knowing I don’t have to think about the logistics of entertaining a houseful of people. I will let my muscles marinate in my unhurried Yoga practice. My precious little dog will spread her happy spirit and unconditional love all over me, like frosting on a cake. A holiday from work will find me eating a more leisurely breakfast enlivened by spicy conversations between me, a Cajun, and my partner, a Brazilian.
My partner and I will cook a Thanksgiving meal, but without the pressure of setting up the house to accommodate 16 dinner guests. I won’t have to fret over a timetable. That will free me up to enjoy the meditative and healing power of cooking.
I will prepare turkey in the usual way, in my greaseless infrared turkey fryer, only this time there will be far more leftovers. I will be sure to infuse the bird with an extra measure of love, because most of it will go to 3 friends who are going through health crises compounded by being isolated. Classic holiday dishes from our respective cultures will show up on the menu: Cornbread Dressing, Cajun Dirty Rice, Brazilian style collards and Pumpkin Sweet. We’ll throw in some healthy translations of classic comfort food like Mac and Un-Cheese as well as green beans casserole. I will save aside some turkey for us to have Turkey Pumpkin Peanut Soup and turkey salad over the coming days.
While we eat, we’ll Zoom with our family members who are spread all over the country and the world. My older sister and brother-in-law are celebrating their 50 years of marriage this week, so reminiscing about their wedding in 1970 and all our years together tending our family circle will be sweet.
I will turn off the light, thankful that there will be plenty of leftover food, love and caring to nourish me during this unpredictable time.
Then, we’ll walk our dog along the lovely Roanoke River, and hopefully be joined by a few good friends. The sound of the river, the view of the boulders towering above the water, the crunch of the leaves, the smell of the forest, the throaty call of the blue heron, the delightful laughter and story-telling among friends will satisfy our appetites for nature and friendship.
I will be full by bedtime—full of the many nourishments in my life. I will turn off the light, thankful that there will be plenty of leftover food, love and caring to nourish me during this unpredictable time—this time that calls me to discover what is most essential.
Recipes from BCCT Chefnurcian (chef, nurse and musician) Laura Pole and others. Laura is a health-supportive chef and culinary translator. She is Director of Nourishment Education Programs as well as head retreat chef for Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC.
4 large servings
- large organic acorn squash, Kabocha squash or small pumpkins
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ yellow onion, minced
- 1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 organic zucchini, medium dice
- 1 organic carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks organic celery
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, chopped up the size of ground meat
- 4 cups organic kale or spinach greens, chopped
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Splash of toasted pumpkin seed oil or olive oil
- ½ cup cooked green lentils, cooked until just tender (don’t overcook)
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa or brown rice, al dente
Preheat oven to 375 ⁰ F.
Halve each squash or pumpkin and scoop out seeds to create 4 bowls. Cover the bottom of a glass baking dish or dishes with a thin layer of filtered water and place squash or pumpkin halves face down. Bake about 30-45 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle it enough to scoop out some of the flesh (leaving ¼ inch of the flesh inside the skin). Reserve the pulp.
Meantime, heat a large pan with coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add ginger, zucchini, carrot, parsnip, celery and shiitake mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes; add greens, pumpkin seeds, thyme, cinnamon, salt., vinegar and pumpkin seed or olive oil. Cook for about 2 more minutes until vegetables are soft. Stir in the lentils, the quinoa and the reserved pulp from the squash. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Remove from heat and spoon the mixture into the cooled squash halves. Return to the oven and cook for about 10-15 more minutes. Enjoy straight from the squash or pumpkin bowl or scoop onto a serving plate.
Extra filling that doesn’t fit in the squash halves can be served later as a side dish.
Adapted by Laura Pole in 2015, from a recipe by Brianne Williams that appears on the website The Myer’s Way.
Laura’s note: I find that many traditional Thanksgiving meals often don’t include fresh veggies. Many folks are used to using canned vegetables cooked in a casserole, which often adds calories, salt and fat without enhancing the nutritional value of the vegetable. Here’s a delicious, more health-supportive alternative to that popular green bean casserole. Even my die-hard “pot luck” frequenters like this version of the traditional dish!
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, diced small
- 8 ounces fresh sliced baby Portobello mushrooms
- 2 lbs. fresh green beans, stems removed (I like the fresh French green beans, Haricort Vert, the best. If fresh not available or of good quality, use frozen)
- Water for steaming beans
- 4-6 ounces Imagine brand Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup
- 3-4 tablespoons whole grain bread crumbs (If you have a wheat or gluten intolerance, you can either use gluten-free bread crumbs or omit the bread crumbs entirely and top the casserole with almonds.)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 ⁰ F.
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until golden brown. Add mushrooms and sauté until golden.
Add green beans. Sauté about 1 minute, then add a small amount of water (1 tablespoon), then cover and let beans steam until “al dente.” Salt lightly.
Meanwhile, toss bread crumbs with minced garlic, olive oil, almonds and a little salt.
Transfer beans to a casserole dish. Pour mushroom soup over beans—add more or less soup depending on how “soupy” you like your beans. You might want to heat the soup before adding to green beans to reduce cooking time. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over beans. Bake, uncovered, until soup is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Serve hot.
© Copyright Laura Pole. All rights reserved.
- 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ medium shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Optional: 1 tablespoon chickpea miso (or light soy miso such as mellow or white)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (reduce salt if using miso)
- 1½ cups butternut squash or other winter squash such as kabocha or acorn, peeled and ½-inch dice
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed, cut into ½-inch wide ribbons (about 5 cups)
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
- Optional garnishes: fresh pomegranate seeds, Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Whisk 5 tablespoons oil, vinegar, shallot, Dijon mustard and miso (if used) in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine squash and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.
Transfer squash to prepared baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, until squash is tender and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Layer sliced red onions on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add kale and cook, tossing frequently, until bright green and slightly wilted, 1–2 minutes. Remove from heat; add 3–4 tablespoons dressing and toss to coat. Transfer kale to a baking sheet and cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add reserved squash and almonds to kale; toss well, taste and adjust seasonings.
Divide mixture among bowls; drizzle with more dressing, if desired. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. Using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan over, if used.
Adapted by Laura Pole From: GFGP, Wintershare newsletter, 11/13/12.
- 1 ½ pounds of whole raw Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded or very thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
- ¼ cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 400⁰ F.
Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and spread out on low-rimmed roasting pan. Roast about 20 minutes, stirring several times, until they turn slightly brown and some are a bit crispy. If desired, toss with raisins or cranberries and divide into 4 portions. Serve as is or with grated parmesan sprinkled on top.
© Copyright Laura Pole 2009, all rights reserved.
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and sliced lengthwise in half
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup dried unsweetened (or sweetened) cranberries
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- two pinches of kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450⁰ F.
Place the butternut squash chunks and halved Brussels sprouts on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and toss with your hands to distribute the oil evenly. Sprinkle the vegetables evenly with kosher salt and pepper, and toss them again with your hands. Spread the vegetables out evenly and flip the Brussels sprouts so they are cut side down to caramelize more evenly.
Roast the vegetables for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing them gently 1 to 2 times during the roasting time to ensure that they caramelize evenly on all sides. Scatter the dried cranberries onto baking sheet in the last five minutes of roasting time. Place the baking pan on a rack, toss the vegetables with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, and allow them to cool slightly while you prepare the Dijon vinaigrette.
In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and rice wine vinegar. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously until the ingredients are emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently place the roasted vegetables in a large serving bowl or platter. Pour on the Dijon vinaigrette and toss the vegetables gently until they are lightly dressed. Serve warm, lukewarm, or cold.
From Nancy Hepp, orignally from A Beautiful Plate
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and pierced in the center with a fork (preferably garnet or jewel yam, but other types will work)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated (I like to use a microplane to grate it) or ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
- ½-1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (increase to taste)
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400⁰ F.
Place sweet potatoes on a low-rimmed roasting pan and bake 30-45 minutes, until soft (to quicken cooking time, cut potatoes in half lengthwise and place face-down on roasting pan, and add about ½ cup water to roasting pan).
Remove potatoes from the oven and allow to cool. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out center flesh, leaving ¼-inch rim of sweet potato attached to the skin (this will help hold skin together).
Place flesh in bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Stir until smooth and creamy.
Refill potato skins with mixture, place on a baking sheet and bake until heated through and slightly golden on top. Serve hot.
© Copyright Laura Pole. All rights reserved.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium onion, cut in half and sliced thin
- 4 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 6 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- salt and white pepper to taste
Heat oil in a 12-inch or larger stainless steel skillet. Sauté onion over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for another minute, stirring constantly. Add sweet potatoes, cinnamon, honey, and broth. Mix and simmer over low heat covered for about 15 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
From Nancy Hepp, adapted from The World’s Healthiest Foods
Laura’s note: I grew up in southwest Louisiana, the Cajun Country. Our dressing to accompany turkey was made from cornbread. Some folks down there often bake the dressing in a casserole dish with a little extra broth in it, to make it very moist. I, and my cooking mentor, Angelle, like ours formed into balls and baked until golden brown, with a little “crunch” on the outside. Here is my more “health supportive” version of this classic dish.
This cornbread is “vegan”—no meat, dairy or eggs, in case you choose to make the vegan version of the dressing. This batch makes more cornbread than you need for the dressing. You can cut the extra into squares and freeze it.
- 1½ cups organic yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup organic unbleached white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry
- 1¼ tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2½ cups plain (unsweetened) almond milk or soy milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about ½ a lemon)
- 3 teaspoons *Ener G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons water (or 2 beaten eggs)
- 3 tablespoons organic sucanat, or rapidura or brown sugar
- ¼ cup organic cold-pressed canola oil
Preheat oven to 400⁰ F. Oil an 8” X 8” baking pan
Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
“Sour” the almond milk or soy milk by mixing with the lemon juice and letting it sit for about 10 minutes (it will clabber a little bit).
Combine the wet ingredients and add to the dry ingredients , mixing only until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted at the center is dry and the edges begin to pull away from the pan.
To make this recipe vegetarian, leave out the turkey neck and giblets and substitute organic vegetable broth for the chicken broth. To make it vegan, also leave out the boiled eggs.
- Cornbread: about 2/3 of batch made above
- Organic turkey neck and giblets (from an turkey) or a couple of bone-in chicken thighs if you don’t have turkey necks and giblets
- 3 cups organic chicken broth, plus extra broth if you wish to also make a gravy
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- l bunch celery tops
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of red pepper, up to ¼ teaspoon if you want it spicy
- 1 teaspoong cold-pressed canola oi
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ½ bunch scallions, sliced
- ½ bunch parsley, chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 3 hard boiled eggs, cut into chunks
- Salt to taste
- Canola or olive oil (can use canned)
Cook cornbread ahead of time and let cool.
Put the turkey neck, 1 teaspoon salt, chopped onions, celery tops and garlic in the water or broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the meat can be easily pulled off the turkey neck. Add the giblets and cook until they are tender (about 10 more minutes).
Remove the turkey neck and giblets and allow to cool. Strain and reserve broth. Discard the vegetables cooked in the broth.
Pull the meat from the neck and chop meat and giblets.
Heat canola oil in a skillet, then sauté celery until just soft. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until they just begin to release their juices. Add scallions and sauté briefly. Remove sautéed vegetables from heat.
Add the chopped turkey/giblets, celery, scallions, mushrooms, parsley, pepper and salt to the cornbread and use your fingers to gently crumble the cornbread and mix the ingredients together. Toss in the eggs last.
Add the broth a little bit at a time, until the dressing begins to stick together enough to form into balls about 1 –2 inches in diameter.
Place the balls on a lightly greased baking sheet and lightly brush or spray with canola or olive oil and bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.
In memory of Angelle
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 navel oranges, supremed, sections diced (squeezing the remaining pith to extract the juice)
- 1 crunchy, sweet apple, small dice
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- ¼ cup Grade B maple syrup or Stevia (Truvia) to taste
- 1 or 2 pinches ground cloves
- 1 or 2 pinches salt
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on medium high heat until liquid begins to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until cranberries just begin to burst open and apples are al dente. Remove from heat.
Chill and serve.
© Copyright 2012 Laura Pole. All rights reserved
- 1 cup fresh (or frozen) organic cranberries, washed
- 2 mandarin oranges, peeled
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds (or ¼ cup pomegranate juice)
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar or to taste
- ½ teaspoon cocktail bitters (such as Agnostura or Regan’s Orange Bitters #6)
- 1 cup ice
- Sparkling apple cider (You can use sparkling water, but may need to add more agave nectar; if you prefer an alcoholic beverage, use dry sparkling hard apple cider or a jigger of vodka.)
Blend all ingredients but the apple cider in a blender on high speed until smooth. If necessary, add about ¼ cup of water to get the blender to pull in and liquify all the ingredients. Taste and add more agave nectar until the mixture tastes just barely sweet, but still has a sour taste.
Divide the mixture up into 4 cocktail (or wine) glasses. Add sparkling cider to fill each glass and serve.
© Copyright 2019, Chef Laura Pole. All rights reserved.
An outstanding use of leftover turkey!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
- ¾ cup chopped celery
- ¾ cup chopped carrots
- ¼ cup chopped shallots
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground rosemary
- 4 cups chicken or turkey broth
- ¼ cup uncooked wild rice
- ½ cup uncooked brown rice
- 3 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken or turkey
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots and shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour and all seasonings and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add broth and bring to a boil, deglazing pan. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in chicken or turkey, yogurt and parsley; cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more.
From Nancy Hepp, adapted from Eating Well
- 9 ounces whole grain elbow macaroni (such as Barilla PLUS Pasta Elbows Multigrain or whole grain spelt pasta or Tinkayada brown rice pasta)
- 1 cup boiling salted water
- 4 small or 2 large carrots, large dice
- 1 small yellow squash, large dice
- ½ small onion, diced
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1 15-ounce can of unsalted white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup water or leftover broth from cooking the veggies
- 2 organic eggs (for Vegan version can use EnerG egg substitute [follow package instructions for 2 eggs] or 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 2 Tbsp water)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Optional: 5 green onions, chopped; 2 tablespoons chopped parsley; ¼ cup diced pimento
- Garnish: 1 teaspoon plain or smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 350⁰ F.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Add the diced onion in the last minute of cooking. Drain and rinse with hot water.
Cook carrots and yellow squash in 1 cup boiling salted water until tender. Drain and reserve the cooking water. Blend cooked carrots and squash, cashews, beans, salt, turmeric, vinegar, nutritional yeast and 2/3 cup water or broth (or leftover carrot/squash water) in blender on high speed until a creamy sauce is formed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add egg or egg substitute and blend on low speed until incorporated.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pasta, cashew cream and desired optional vegetables and herbs. Add more broth or water, a little bit at a time, if you want a “juicier” casserole. Pour into a small square or rectangular casserole dish, spray or brush top with olive oil and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until liquid is bubbling. Sprinkle paprika on top, if desired. Serve hot.
from Laura Pole and Carole O’Toole
12 large muffins
For vegan muffins, substitute Ener-G Egg Replacer for the equivalent of three eggs, plus one tablespoon of soy-free Earth Balance. If using this method, increase cooking time by approximately 20 minutes.
- 1½ cup almond meal
- ¼ cup flax seed, ground
- ¼ cup red quinoa, ground
- ½ cup oats
- 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- Zest of 1 orange
- 3 eggs*, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 1 cup pear or Granny Smith apple, diced
- ½ cup frozen or fresh cranberries or blueberries or cherries
Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Line muffin tins with small paper muffin cups.
Combine almond meal, flax meal, quinoa flour, oats, baking powder, salt, pepper, spices and orange zest; set aside.
Combine eggs and maple syrup in separate bowl.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet mixture; stir to combine. Mix in pear and cranberries.
Fill muffin tins. Bake 20-25 minutes or until completely cooked in center.
Adapted by Laura Pole from recipe by Maggie Callahan. © Copyright, 2011. All rights reserved
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