Good Greek Food & Healthy Yummy Eats

This is what I have concluded after months of dieting. The gluten products in my pre-diet such as: pasta, rice, and bread are what make a person gain weight or at least that is what puts weight on me. It makes me feel bloated and blah. No, it makes me feel crappy! Without it, I can maintain my weight and feel MUCH better. The sugar however is the REAL culprit here. THAT is what is causing the aches and pains. Maybe it is the breads too, but I think the sugar has a bigger impact on me. I feel it in my feet! So strange. I am not going to go the rest of my life without sugar. It is impossible. It is in virtually everything. However, I am going to periodically let myself cheat and suffer the pain for those few moments of pleasure.

At least I now have a valid excuse for not drinking anymore. I drink to be social. I drink out of peer pressure and I know I am too old to feel it, but sometimes I do. ALWAYS HAVE!!!! I do not like the taste. If I never had a drink again, I could CARELESS! And now, I can’t because drinks are loaded with sugar and I am off sugar for the most part.

Now, I do slip…we all slip. You need to slip. Life is too short to go without a cup of Graeter’s ice cream! I had a REALLY, REALLY big slip last weekend. The Greek Festival comes to Cincinnati once a year and I love good Greek food. I always, ALWAYS ask Greek people where the BEST Greek restaurant is in the city and I ALWAYS get the same answer. “MY HOUSE!” I find that fascinating!

I dragged a friend along with me and I told her that I planned to eat my way through the festival. I think she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. We split a slice of Spanakopita.

My mom used to make it. I love it!

Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)

Original recipe makes 1 – 9×9 inch pan

3 tablespoonsolive oil

1 largeonion, chopped

1 bunchgreen onions, chopped

2 clovesgarlic, minced

2 poundsspinach, rinsed and chopped

1/2 cupchopped fresh parsley

2eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cupricotta cheese

1 cupcrumbled feta cheese

8 sheetsphyllo dough

1/4 cupolive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9×9 inch square baking pan.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to sauté until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in spinach mixture. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough in prepared baking pan, and brush lightly with olive oil. Lay another sheet of phyllo dough on top, brush with olive oil, and repeat process with two more sheets of phyllo. The sheets will overlap the pan. Spread spinach and cheese mixture into pan and fold overhanging dough over filling. Brush with oil, then layer remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with oil. Tuck overhanging dough into pan to seal filling.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.

Then we split a piece of cheese pie. That did nothing for me. Hence, no recipe.

Then Moussaka….I love Moussaka….it has about a MILLION calories in it and I just DO NOT care!!! This is probably my all-time favorite Greek dish!! This is a shortcut recipe I found in Bon Appetit.

Shortcut Moussaka

YIELD: Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, sliced into thin rounds

Preparation

Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and chopped onion and cook until beef is brown, breaking up beef with fork, about 15 minutes. Mix in tomato sauce, red wine, parsley, crumbled oregano and ground cinnamon. Simmer until mixture thickens and is almost dry, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk, whisking until smooth. Boil until thick, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Beat eggs in small bowl to blend. Whisk small amount of milk mixture into eggs. Return mixture to saucepan. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Remove custard from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season custard to taste with salt and pepper.

Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange half of eggplant in bottom of dish. Season with salt and pepper. Spread meat mixture over. Top with remaining eggplant. Pour hot custard cheese sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil and bake 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until golden and bubbling on edges, about 10 minutes longer. Cool 10 minutes.

Then I bought a Gyro and I FINALLY learned that the correct way to pronounce it is phonetically spelled… YEAR-O. If you don’t know it…it is pita bread loaded with sliced lamb, onions, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce (which is a yogurt based dressing). I can NOT begin to tell you how many times I walked by Gyro places in Athens, Greece and I was too scared to taste a Gyro and now I love and crave them and I missed the opportunity to eat them in Greece. It PAINS me so!!! In my opinion, the best place to get a Gyro is NOT my house but the Greek stand inside the Findlay Market. It’s very good.

Then the Dolmades…they are so well made. I would weigh 1000 lbs. if I lived in Greece. This is what fascinates me about this recipe…leaves and rice. How can it taste so flipping good, but it does!!

Greek Dolmades (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Ingredients

Servings 20

  • 1 (8 ounce) jar grape leaves (about 25 leafs)
  • 1 lb. ground round
  • 1 lb. ground lamb (You can use two pounds of Ground round if you can’t find ground lamb)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 (4 ounce) box tabouli mix (I cup raw rice if you can’t find Tabuli)
  • 1 onion, fine chopped any size you want, I prefer mild sweet onion
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed or pressed into meat mixture)
  • 3 (16 ounce) cans chicken broth (you can use just water if you want.)
  • 4 lemons, squeezed or 4 lemon juice, equivalent
  • 4 eggs

Directions

  1. Drain, rinse and dry grape leaves.
  2. Place off to the side.
  3. In a large bowl mix ground round, Lamb, salt, pepper, minced parsley, onion chopped, crushed or pressed garlic and Tabuli (or rice); mix well.
  4. Lay out one grape leaf stem up, place about 1 rounded tablespoon meat mixture near stem.
  5. Fold stem up over meat mixture fold one side leaf over mixture, fold top over then roll the rest but not tight.
  6. This is just like making a burrito.
  7. I use toothpicks to keep the stuffed leaves together.
  8. Place in at least 1 gal pot.
  9. Continue until all leaves are filled and snug in pot.
  10. If you run out of grape leaves that’s okay, you can roll little balls of meat mixture and place in pot.
  11. Cover all stuffed leaves with chicken broth adding water if you don’t have enough broth, more broth if you have it on hand (you can use just water if you want).
  12. Bring the broth to a boil then turn heat to low, simmer and cook covered until tender (pierced with a fork) about 30 minutes.
  13. Remove about 1 quart of broth from pot and let cool down a little.
  14. You want it hot just not scalding hot.
  15. In another bowl beat 4 eggs until frothy adding slowly juice from lemon.
  16. Take the warmed broth and add to the egg mixture slowly a 1/2 ladle at a time still beating the egg mixture.
  17. After all broth is mixed with egg & lemon slowly add to pot on stove.
  18. Cover the pot and turn flame off.
  19. Let sit for about 10 minutes then serve.
  20. I like it tart and rich so I use more eggs and lemon then the recipe calls for.

Most people would be finished eating but of course not me! If I was going to go off the wagon…I was going to go ALL the way off the wagon!

Greek desserts. The most famous is the baklava and how can you go wrong with honey, nuts, and phyllo dough? However, the one I have discovered that I REALLY love. I call Galakta ka lala….but it is really spelled:

GALAKTOBOUREKO

Now, you know why I call it what I do. I can’t BEGIN to pronounce it! No clue. I ask…the Greeks to tell me. It slides off their tongues so easily and it is LOST on me.

I love this dessert. I can’t explain why but I do!

GALAKTOBOUREKO

YIELD: Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour*
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 11 tablespoons (about) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 10 fresh phyllo pastry sheets or frozen, thawed
  • *Available at specialty foods stores, Italian markets and some supermarkets.

Preparation

Stir 1 1/4 cups sugar and 2/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add cinnamon sticks and 1/2 teaspoon orange peel and simmer 2 minutes. Set syrup aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix semolina and 1/2 cup sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk in milk and 4 tablespoons melted butter; bring to boil, whisking occasionally. Boil until mixture is thick and creamy, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk eggs and 1/2 teaspoon orange peel in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in semolina mixture. Mix in vanilla. Cool filling completely.

Lightly butter 10-inch glass pie dish. Place 1 phyllo sheet in bottom of dish. Brush with melted butter. Top with second sheet. Continue layering with 3 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Spoon filling into dish. Top with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter. Using scissors, trim excess phyllo from sides of dish. With very sharp knife, score tip of phyllo sheets, forming diamond pattern.

Bake pie until phyllo is golden brown and filling is set, about 45 minutes. Transfer pie to rack. Immediately strain 1 cup-cooled syrup over pastry. Cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve.

Yes, I really went off the wagon and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. I love Greek food. I probably love Greek men more, but in a perfect world I could have both. The men are so much less fattening.

Yoga in Washington Park on Tuesday evenings. I have been going to class weather permitting. I arrive with a stiff neck and I leave without one. I am really enjoying it. I have even been doing it at home on my own. Dulce, my dog inspires me. She does downward dog and plank ALL the time and she is so limber so I have been doing that more as well. Sometimes when I see her do it, I do it. I am sure she thinks I am nuts or a really big dog! My arms are looking good. I like it.

My dad and I had lunch at my Aunt Connie’s before she headed to Canada for the summer. She did the prettiest presentation of chicken salad in the center with avocado slices, olives, carved radishes surrounding it. It was lovely! Then she offered tomato juice with horseradish. Basically, a Virgin Mary. It was a perfect lunch! I would have never thought to serve that as a lunch drink. Brilliant idea and a perfect compliment to the meal.

My dear, dear friend Trouble has a grandson who lives in the building and he has asked me to teach him how to drive or go along with him. I have been doing this and he is a great kid. A good driver and we went to practice the driving test route and it was tricky. Supposedly, the hardest test site in OHIO. I think those of us who have driven for several years may fail it.

He takes his test on July 8 and I promised to take him on one condition. We go out for breakfast after the test.

Trouble’s granddaughter EmJ who you have heard me talk about was down from Michigan for almost a week. Sadly, Trouble’s hubby was sick and so I took EmJ. I took her to run in the Meadow with Dulce, to the pool to swim, to lunch at MELT in their garden and then she was stuck playing video games on her Kindle while I worked. She is a great kid too!

I played tennis with my friend Matthew. Dulce came along since it was a cool early morning and she could relax in the shade with a bowl of water. She so wanted to play with the tennis balls.

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Look at this beautiful butterfly that landed on my flowers while I was out on the balcony.

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Here is my mom’s new Facebook page with her signature Palm Tree (she sells these cards if anyone wants them!!!) and her wonderful Peri creation.

Mom's Palm tree with Peri

I have to create a company and I am working on finding a Chinese manufacturer since I can’t seem to find an American one. Any ideas are very welcome!! I went to Graeter’s with my friend Bill to pick his brain and we sat and talked for almost 2 hours. Ran into a childhood friend who probably thinks I am dating Bill, but for the record, if he wasn’t 76 years old. I would date him!!! But I am not. Such a nice, neat fella. Wish he was younger. Smart businessman.

Yes, I cheated again but I played tennis for an hour, walked the dog for an hour and walked in the pool for an hour. THAT ice cream was off my body before I ate it. I can rationalize ANYTHING!!!

I didn’t want to do it, but I had to do it. When I finished off the last jar of JIF. I handed it to Dulce to clean it out and then I have yet to open a new one. I eat TOO much peanut butter. Maybe that is why I am not losing more weight. So, I am off peanut butter for a little bit to see if it makes a difference. Or it is the Moussaka and Graeter’s? Nah….

On Sunday morning, my friend L asked me to go with her to Covington, KY’s Mainstrasse for a flea market. It was very fun! I bought the coolest ring for $5.

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Later that day, there was a Dog Day at the Spring Grove Cemetery. This is the closest setting I am going to get to take Dulce to Central Park. She would love Central Park and I would love to take her. The brilliance behind Central Park being what it is today is due to a fella named Frederick Law Olmsted. He came to Cincinnati and Spring Grove to get inspiration for Central Park. So, as I said it was the closest she is getting to my favorite or one of my favorite parks.

Dogs are allowed at Spring Grove one day a year. It is an event sponsored by a doggy shelter in Cincy and the dogs love it. At least my Dulce loved it! We walked and walked and she jumped in the ponds and she was a mess, but happy…

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Last night was a farewell to a really special lady down at WCET. Joycee was a CET fixture for the last 9 years. A wonderful worker and person and so personable and so fantastic. She will be so incredibly missed, but at least the wonderful Mary will replace her.

Speeches were given, food was served and a lot of happiness for her to retire and sadness to see her go!

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Last night, I came home from the party and boiled chicken in chicken broil. Cut it up into a bowl, added a dollop of mayo, baby spinach, tarragon, salt and pepper. It was yummy.

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If you are anything like me, every summer I hunt for the perfect watermelon and it is a crapshoot! I ask people how can you tell a good melon from a bad one. No one knows. I guess it is like hunting for men! Alas, there is a way to find the perfect melon. Thank goodness for Google. They told me. Now I am going to share it with you! So far I have followed these instructions and it has served me well.

WATERMELON SHOPPING

  1. Watermelon should be heavy
  2. Uniform in shape, no odd shapes
  3. It should have a creamy yellow spot on it
  4. It should be dark green, not shiny…that means it is ripe.

So, that is my first task and curiosity in the summer. The second is how to cut the bloody thing in an efficient manner.

CUTTING THE DAMN THING!!!

  1. Put a cutting board in a cookie sheet or tray with a lip to it, so it catches all the juice instead of your counter, floors and toes.
  2. Cut off the ends
  3. Cut it in half –the long way
  4. Cut those halves
  5. Then slice it out
  6. Pictures to explain and follow….

cutting watermelon 1 cutting watermelon 2 cutting watermelon 3

More yummy recipes that I have tried and enjoy!

Parmesan Spinach Cakes are a great healthy treat. The first batch I made I forgot the Ricotta and it was good. It reminded me of a Spinach Soufflé, which I love. I put the individual cakes on a fried egg one day, I put a clump of Ricotta on it another day and another day I put a slice of Mozzarella cheese on it. YUM!

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It is a 70-calorie cake/treat and it is healthy and good for you. Most importantly, it tastes good.

Parmesan Spinach Cakes

Makes: 4 servings, 2 spinach cakes each

Active Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Equipment: Muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups

 

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh spinach, (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, or low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Pulse spinach in three batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add ricotta (or cottage cheese), Parmesan, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper; stir to combine.
  • Coat 8 cups of the muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the spinach mixture among the 8 cups (they will be very full).
  • Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto a clean cutting board or large plate. Serve warm, sprinkled with more Parmesan, if desired.

Tips & Notes

  • Note: Baby spinach is immature or young spinach—it’s harvested earlier than large-leaved mature spinach. We like the sturdy texture of mature spinach in cooked dishes and serve tender, mild-flavored baby spinach raw or lightly wilted. Baby and mature spinach can be used interchangeably in these recipes (yields may vary slightly); be sure to remove the tough stems from mature spinach before using.
  • Weights & Measures
  • 10 ounces trimmed mature spinach=about 10 cups raw
  • 10 ounces baby spinach=about 8 cups raw

Nutrition

Per serving: 141 calories; 8 g fat (4 g sat, 3 g mono); 123 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrates; 13 g protein; 2 g fiber; 456 mg sodium; 560 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (170% daily value), Folate (46% dv), Vitamin C (40% dv), Calcium (30% dv), Potassium (16% dv).

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1 1/2 medium-fat meat

The above recipe was given to me by a friend who found it in an EATING WELL magazine.

 

In Bon Appetit, I found a recipe for Cheater’s Porchetta that I like. This time, I cubed the pork and placed it on a bed of spinach that I cooked in the same spices as in the pork recipe below. Then I tossed in crispy bacon and marinated portabella mushrooms.

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It was so yummy. P.S. I omit fennel. I don’t like it. And I don’t refrigerate for a day or let it sit for hours on end. Maybe I should, but I don’t. You can!

Cheater’s Porchetta

Servings: 12-15

  • 1 5–6-pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
  • 1 (trimmed) 2-3-pound boneless, center-cut pork loin
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 orange, seeded, thinly sliced

Preparation

  • Put belly skin side down; arrange loin in center. Roll belly around loin so the short ends of the belly meet. If any of the belly or loin overhangs, trim meat. Unroll; set loin aside.
  • Toast fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Tip spices into a bowl; let cool. Finely grind spices in a spice mill and transfer to a small bowl, along with the sage, rosemary, and garlic; set fennel mixture aside.
  • Assemble porchetta according to steps 1-5 below.
  • Refrigerate roast, uncovered, for 1-2 days to allow skin to air-dry; pat occasionally with paper towels.
  • Let porchetta sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 500°. Season porchetta with salt. Roast on rack in baking sheet, turning once, for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 300° and continue roasting, rotating the pan and turning porchetta occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 145°, 1 1/2-2 hours more. If skin is not yet deep brown and crisp, increase heat to 500° and roast for 10 minutes more. Let rest for 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice into 1/2″ rounds.

HOW TO ASSEMBLE

  • 1. Set belly skin side down. Using a knife, score the belly flesh in a checkerboard pattern 1/3″ deep so roast will cook evenly.
  • 2. Flip belly skin side up. Using a paring knife, poke dozens of 1/8″-deep holes through skin all over belly. Don’t be gentle! Keep poking.
  • 3. Using the jagged edge of a meat mallet, pound skin all over for 3 minutes to tenderize, which will help make skin crispy when roasted.
  • 4. Turn belly and generously salt both it and loin; rub both with fennel mixture. Arrange loin down middle of belly. Top with orange slices.
  • 5. Roll belly around loin; tie crosswise with kitchen twine at 1/2″ intervals. Trim twine. Transfer roast to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet.

After living in France, I bought a yogurt maker. I go in and out of phases of using it. It takes 25 hours to make yogurt the consistency I like! Now, that I am steering clear of sugar, I decided to pull out the yogurt maker and give it a whirl. I used to add sugar to it, but now, I am eating it plain and drizzled over a piece of fruit for breakfast.

Sometimes, I experiment. The other day I sliced up a peach and put in two dates, drizzled with yogurt and then garnished with mint. Enough mint that every bite was peach, yogurt and mint. I liked it.

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I found this recipe below…not sure where…and I really like it. So much so that I have already made it twice.

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Peach and Plum Salad

Red wine vinegar balances the sweetness of ripe fruit, while cilantro and basil add a floral note to this fresh summer salad.

serves 4-6

15 minutes

Ingredients

4 peaches, pitted and cut into 1″ wedges

4 plums, pitted and cut into 1″ wedges

14 cup fresh lemon juice

14 cup red wine vinegar

2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 small red onion, thinly sliced, soaked in ice water 10 minutes, drained

2 oz. baby arugula

13 cup basil leaves, torn

13 cup cilantro leaves

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

Toss peaches and plums with 2 tbsp. lemon juice and the vinegar in a bowl; transfer to a serving platter. Add remaining juice, 2 tsp. salt, and the onion to bowl; toss to combine. Using a slotted spoon, sprinkle onion mixture over fruit, leaving juice in bowl. Add arugula, basil, and cilantro to bowl. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and scatter over fruit. Drizzle with olive oil and black pepper.

Well, that is all for now! Have a wonderful 4th of July…..

RED WHITE & BLUE

Until we meet again…

Enjoy! Eat, travel, laugh…often….

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2 thoughts on “Good Greek Food & Healthy Yummy Eats

  1. Thought of you during the past long weekend. Westerbeck Camp in Sonoma had the most delicious food, you would have approved of every meal. One could skip the meat and have a great meal, veggies are king in CA. I’ll try to find a typical day’s menu. One dish was cauliflower, it was moist, with bits of raisins and currents, don’t know what else, but it was labeled Sicilian Cauliflower, scrambled eggs were just the right consistency with a sprinkle of some sort of white cheese, not grated, but more like shaved cheese. Carrots were just bright in color and cooked just right, squash dishes were flavorful, and there was a risotto rich in flavor Potatoes were small chunky and lightly browned. There was a lot of green herbs and spices throughout all the dishes. Thought of you often! I may have to try one of the recipes in this blog.

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