I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Real Cajun Etouffee ~ Becky Turner Style

With this being the third Creole/Cajun themed dish that I've posted in as many weeks, it appears that I've subconsciously been in the mood for low country cuisine.  Most people initially associate Creole or Cajun dishes with spiciness and while they can certainly contain an element of heat, the dishes are mostly composed of several layers of complex flavors derived from the combination of  various ethnic backgrounds.  Most are roux-based and use spices and seasonings that are not typically used in everyday cooking.

Earlier in the week I posted a tribute to the lovely Becky Shauberger Turner and this post is dedicated to her as well.  It was hard for me to choose just one recipe from Becky's website so I chose several to pay homage to her.  Becky's home state was Louisiana and she grew up eating Creole cuisine so she was well versed in preparing it as well.  This recipe for Cajun Etouffee was prepared for her by her sister during a time when she wasn't feeling well.  The recipe came together quickly and easily with few ingredients but it was loaded with deep, rich flavors.  Where the recipe states "add water to cover," I used about 6 cups but in retrospect I should have stopped with 4 or 5.  My etouffee was a bit thin but it was still delicious.  I only had 4 pounds of shrimp on hand, so if you use the full 5 pounds, you may in fact need 6 cups of water.  Just use your best judgement. 

My etouffee was served in pink and blue Fiestaware, no doubt just the way Becky would have served it up.  

Real Cajun Étouffée

1 1/4 cups oil
1 cup flour
4 large onions, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
5 pounds peeled and cleaned crawfish tails or shrimp
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 lemon, juiced
8 cups hot, cooked rice

Make a roux of oil and flour. Cook it until tan, not brown. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, salt and cayenne. Stir over low heat until vegetables are tender. Add crawfish or shrimp, and water to cover. Add green onions and parsley. Turn up heat, cover and bring to boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and cook about 15 minutes. Add bay leaf and lemon juice. Stir and let stand 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve over rice.

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A Tribute To Becky Shauberger Turner

Throughout the years I've been a follower, reader, contributor, and lurker to numerous food blogs and recipe boards. And just the same as frequenting a restaurant, club, or store on a regular basis I became acquainted with other regulars. I came to know the lovely Becky Shauberger Turner through one of these sites and although I never met her in person, I'm proud to call her a friend.
Becky departed this earthly world last month due to complications associated with MDS, a blood-related syndrome formerly referred to as "preleukemia."  I'm sad to say that I didn't really know much about Becky, except that along with her hobby of cooking, she was also an avid collector of vintage and art-deco dishes and tableware.  She would take the time to stop by Wish Upon A Chef fairly often and leave a nice comment or keep in touch through Facebook.  But, I do know this about Becky: she was true testament of inspiration, courage, and compassion.

While her blog, Random Musings of a Deco Lady, focused primarily on her tableware collections and cooking, Becky also used the blog to update family and friends about her medical condition.  I'll admit that reading the updates gave me that weak, queasy feeling ~ the one you get just before you faint from the sight of blood, and I sort of skimmed over those posts and skipped reading words like blood, transfusion, biopsy, needle, and bone marrow.   How shallow am I to avoid reading about something that someone else is dealing with on a daily basis?  I cannot fathom the health issues that Becky endured but not just because I didn't read about them, but because she never eluded to the struggles that she faced.  Becky's outlook on life was always positive, bright, and cheery.  She never complained or felt sorry for herself or faltered in her belief that she would beat this affliction and be well again.  She fought a courageous battle and faced it head-on with a fierce attitude.  She made the most out of every single day.

When I catch myself complaining about inconsequential things, I stop and remind myself of the trials and tribulations of failing health that Becky faced every day and remember the positive front that she presented for her friends and family.  I want Becky's attitude and I want her determination and inspiration of thinking anything and everything can be overcome.  I want to remember Becky Shauberger Turner as someone who positively influenced me and I want to remember her as my friend. 

Today, on this day that would have been Becky's birthday, all those who were fortunate enough to know her personally or distantly will pay tribute to her by remembering her for the lovely art-deco tablescapes and/or down-home-goodness recipes she shared.  I have chosen her recipe for Nutella Brownies with Salted Caramel Glaze.

Rest in peace Becky.  We will certainly miss your smiling attitude here at Wish Upon A Chef!

Salted Caramel Nutella Brownies

½ cup flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp instant espresso powder
Pinch salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp good vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup Nutella
¾ cup chopped nuts

Caramel Glaze
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in pieces
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp finishing salt (I used Hawaiian red salt)

Preheat oven 350°F. Grease an 8”×8” square pan and set aside.

In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In large microwavable bowl (I use a glass measuring cup as it makes for easier pouring.), melt butter in 20 second intervals, stirring after each until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla, and whisk until well-mixed. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until fully combined.

In glass measuring cup or other microwave-safe bowl, melt Nutella in 20-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth and pourable consistency. Stir into batter along with the nuts. Pour into prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Once brownies are cool, make the caramel glaze. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm heavy cream, but do not let boil. Keep gently warm while melting the sugar.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water but DO NOT STIR. Place over medium-high heat & bring to a boil. Cook until mixture turns an amber colour, but not too dark that it looks like the sugar is burning. (This took me about 10 minutes, but it varies depending on your stove.) Remove from heat and slowly stir in the warm cream, butter, and ½ tsp kosher salt. Stir gently until smooth & well combined.

Pour over cooked brownies, tilting the pan to coat. Sprinkle with finishing salt and let glaze to set before cutting.

Credits: I adapted this from my friend Annie at From the Bookshelf, who adapted from Vittles & Bits, who adapted it from Noble Pig, with the Caramel Glaze slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

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How Ya'll Are?

Even with as many cookbooks and recipe resources that I have access to, I am a creature of habit when it comes to preparing dinners. Always defaulting to what is familiar, I've now grown tired of all my favorite "go to" recipes and taken to my over-burdened cookbook shelves for inspiration and new ideas.

Not only was this vintage Cooking Light recipe for Cajun Chicken Pasta quick and easy, it was delicious too ~ you'd never really suspect it was "light" because the cream sauce is rich and flavorful. According to the Cooking Light statistics, a 2 cup serving has 493 calories and 5g of fat (we'll not discuss the fact that it has 63.3g of carbs). Honestly, I couldn't eat a 2 cup serving of this in one sitting because it was that rich and the Cajun seasoning added just the right amount of spiciness to the dish. I'm thinking you could just as easily use shrimp in place of the chicken if you preferred.

I can gawr-on-tee even Justin Wilson would be pleased with this Cajun dish!

Cajun Chicken Pasta
Cooking Light Annual Cookbook 2001
Yield: 4 servings (serving size 2 cups)

1 pound skinned, boned chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)
cooking spray (I prefer a drizzle of olive oil)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced green onions
8 ounces uncooked linguine
2 cups evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (I used closer to 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Cook pasta according to directions. Combine uncooked chicken and Cajun seasoning in a ziplock bag or small bowl and shake or stir to coat well. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray (or olive oil) over medium heat. Add chicken mixture and saute for 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Add bell peppers, mushrooms and onions and cook for three minutes. Stir in cooked and drained pasta and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened and serve immediately.

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Holy Sugar Coma, Batman!

I could never quite wrap my head around the whole Twitter/Tweet craze, but Tumblr is a different story all together (like I need another internet addiction!)  A few months ago, I started following gastrogirl's tumblr site and it has now become one of my favorite sources for recipes and food porn.  Gastrogirl scours the internet for gorgeous food photographs and reposts them with the link to the original source/recipe.  It's like having the table of contents for a zillion cookbooks all in one handy place.  You'll mostly find photos of sweet treats but occasionally you'll find savory things as well.  You don't even need your own Tumblr site to view, but it's totally free to set one up and follow the stream of delicious posts if you'd like. 

I fell victim to a photo of White Chocolate Vanilla Marshmallow Bars originally posted at Love Veggies and Yoga, and if the name alone doesn't convince you to try them, Averie's photos will surely persuade you.  Averie is a yoga instructor but even still, I am very curious as to how exactly she can eat even a fraction of the desserts she posts on her blog and still look like this.  I think I'll be a regular follower of her blog now just to discover her secret. 

But since I don't yet know her secret to staying so slim and gorgeous while being taunted by freshly baked treats in the house, I divided this batch of bars up and sent some to my mother for her belated birthday day (yes, I am now very aware that her birthday was Wednesday and NOT Thursday like I thought it was) and most of the rest of them to The Boy because I totally love jacking his kids up on sugary treats because I'm nice like that.  

If you're looking for a sugar rush of epic proportions, this is it.  I'm talking like the kind of rush you get when you stand up too quickly and get that swimmy, light-headed feeling.  If you'd like to minimize the effects of the sugar coma just a bit, you can omit the 4th layer of white chocolate vanilla buttercream frosting but if you're glutton for punishment like me, go all the way.  Maybe I should sign up for one of Averie's yoga classes to clear my head of the desire to bake another whole batch of these to have all to myself.  Maybe she should give me one for free since she's the one who put those thoughts in my head in the first place.

Enjoy the sugar coma!

White Chocolate Vanilla Marshmallow Cake Bars – 4 Layers (Adapted from Jenny of Picky-Palate)

Posted By Averie (Love Veggies and Yoga)

Cake Layer (1st layer)

1 box vanilla, white, or yellow cake mix
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter, softened

Marshmallow/Peanut Butter Layer (2nd layer)

2/3 c marshmallow creme
2/3 c peanut butter
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

White Chocolate Layer (3rd layer)

1 bag (12 oz) white chocolate chips

White Chocolate Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Layer (4th layer)

1/4 c butter (half stick)
1/3 c white chocolate (use 2 bakers squares of white chocolate, or use white chocolate chips)
2 c powdered sugar (variable from 1.5 to 3 cups based on desired consistency)
2 tbsp cream (or milk)
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray well with cooking spray.

2. For the cake (1st/base) layer: Place stick of butter into a large bowl and microwave until the butter is softened (or just plan ahead and soften it at room temperature over time). Add cake mix, egg, and vanilla extract to the softened butter and mix with a spoon or your hands until well combined. It will be the consistency of very thick cookie dough and if it’s just not quite all combining, add 1 or 2 tbsp of water as needed. Press dough into prepared baking pan.

3. For the marshmallow/peanut butter (2nd) layer: Place marshmallow creme, peanut butter, condensed milk, and vanilla extract into a large bowl and mix until well combined. Pour over the dough.

4. For the white chocolate (3rd) layer: Sprinkle the white chocolate chips evenly over the top of the marshmallow/PB layer

5. Bake for 20-23 minutes at 350F. Center may seem somewhat jiggly, but will set up while cools. Don’t overbake. You want these gooey.

6. While bars are baking, make the white chocolate vanilla buttercream frosting (4th/top) layer: Add butter and white chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave in 30-45 second increments, removing from the heat, and stirring and re-microwaving until melted and smooth. Don’t scorch the white chocolate. Add powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla extract and stir until smooth and is in a semi-pourable consistency. For thicker frosting, use less cream or more powdered sugar. Play around with ratios to your liking.

7. After the bars are out of the oven, allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes and then drizzle the frosting over the top. You can also frost them in entirety rather than drizzling (you will likely have enough frosting to do so).

8. Allow to cool well before slicing and serving. Expedite this by placing in the fridge or freezer.

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Creole Cuisine

No doubt that where ever you are located, the outside temperatures are just as hot (maybe even hotter) than they are here in the Carolinas. It's been miserable here for days on end and quite frankly, so have I. The heat just seems to zap all my energy and social motivation, so I find myself declining most invitations to go out with friends and sticking primarily to the confines of my air-conditioned house.

One would think that I need to stay home more often, what with the mile-long list of things that need to be done around my house. But most of those things take time and money ~ one of which I have alot of and the other, I don't. I've gotten a few chores knocked off my list, including painting my laundry room a lovely shade of "Wild Wisteria" and I've even started stocking the freezer with meals for those impending cold and dreary days that are (fortunately?) right around the corner. The 100 degree temps should be enough to make me shy away from stoking the fires in the kitchen but dealing with all the food in my freezer and pantry has been a priority lately.

I am a bulk food and buy one/get one free shopaholic. My grocery bills probably come close to equalling those for a family of four.  At the moment, my freezer inventory contains no less than 6 pork tenderloins, 10 lbs of shrimp, 5 lbs of bacon, and at least 5 bags of Tater Tots (what can I say??  The tots were a good deal!).  I haven't found the chicken just yet to know what size Army platoon I can serve with that.  Once I get a stock pile of "raw" ingredients, I set about cooking up mostly entrees and some sides to be pulled out for lunches and dinners later on.  I eat home-cooked meals almost every meal on every day of the week, but I only do any major cooking once or twice a month.   I think if more people subscribed to the OAMC (once a month cooking) theory, there would be less focus on fast food and fewer unhealthy eating habits.  There are several great websites dedicated to OAMC and I highly recommend that you check them out.  In the end, I truly believe it's not only a time-saver but saves you money as well. 

This Shrimp Creole is a perfect recipe for making ahead and freezing.  Just pull together the rice (you can even go so far as to make the rice ahead and package it separately for the freezer) and a green salad and Viola! you have a delicious dinner in a matter of minutes without much effort.  Enjoy this tasty dish while I contemplate 101 uses for Tater Tots.

Shrimp Creole

Servings: 4    
Categories: Seafood

3 slices cooked bacon
1/2 cup  chopped onion
1 clove  garlic -- minced
1/4 cup  chopped green pepper
1/4 teaspoon  gumbo file powder
1-1/2 tablespoons  flour
28 ounces  diced tomato -- in puree
1/4 cup  chopped celery
2 teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon  Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon  salt
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons  chopped parsley
2 pounds  shrimp -- cleaned and deveined

Cook bacon in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Remove and drain. Pour off excess fat, reserving 3 tablespoons drippings.
Add onion, garlic, green pepper and gumbo file to bacon drippings and cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend in flour; return to heat and cook over low heat 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and puree.

Add remaining ingredients except shrimp, and cook over moderate heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add shrimp and crumbled bacon; cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, until shrimp are tender. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Makes 4 servings.

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Just Peachy

When fresh peaches appear here at Wish Upon A Chef, you can bet I've been to the beach. This is the third year in a row that I've stopped at McLeod's Farms in McBee, SC for fruit on my way home from Myrtle Beach, so it's pretty safe to say that it's become a ritual now. This year I introduced two of my girlfriends to the tradition and based upon the bags of fresh peaches, peach bread and peach ice cream they carried out of the store, I think they liked it!

The peaches are exceptionally sweet this year thanks to the weather that we've been having so I bought enough to share with my mother and to bake two peach cobblers ~ one to have all to myself and one to send home with a special friend. I hope you'll enjoy this Southern Peach Cobbler from as much as we all did!

Southern Peach Cobbler
submitted by: aeposey

8 fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water

Mix Together
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

2.In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

3.Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.

4.Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Reduce heat to 350 and bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

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A Natural Disaster

Yes, that's a cake complete with moving Nascar cars.

Through the wonders of Facebook, I was made aware that the ICES (International Cake Exploration Societe) was having their annual convention this past weekend at the Charlotte Convention Center and for the price of $10, visitors could view the beautiful creations. It promptly went to the top of my "To Do" list and was something that I looked very forward to doing on Sunday.

To call them "beautiful creations" is definitely an understatement because the amount of patience, creativity, and work that goes into each of the cakes is astounding and beyond my realm comprehension. When I catered, I had the idea of possibly adding specialty cakes to the repertoire until I took the series of Wilton cake decorating classes and learned very quickly that I couldn't be paid enough to concentrate on such intricate details of tiny flowers and scroll work. I'm more of a "throw it all together and see how it turns out" kind of girl. Detail is not my thing, and the classes quickly proved that. It's good to find out things like this about ourselves before we take a wrong turn into a career path that we are not meant for ~ sort of like me thinking I wanted to be a nurse when I was a kid until I grew up and found out that I'm not the most compassionate person in the world (according to a few of my former husbands anyway).

After you've taken a look at these absolutely gorgeous works of art (more photos of the ICES can be found here on my flickr page), I'll leave you with a recipe that is more my style of creating a cake ~ the Earthquake Cake. 

My mother raved about this cake several years ago and kept telling me that I just HAD to bake it, so I did.  And I was horrified at what I pulled out of my oven the first time because the cake had overflowed the pan, burnt to a crisp on the bottom of the oven and smoked up the entire kitchen. Under normal circumstances, the cake itself is a frightful looking thing with it's sunken hollows of cream cheese swallowed up by chocolate cake, but this one was exceptionally scary with its burnt molten lava spilling over the edges of the pan.  When the Husband du Jour came home and saw it on the counter, his reaction of "What the hell is that??" instantly declared it a natural disaster (and he said I wasn't compassionate??)

Easy enough for kids to help with (or do on their own) and a real conversation starter when you show up with it at a potluck, the Earthquake Cake is an embellishment of a box mix (make sure you get the mix with pudding because it doesn't seem to turn out as well otherwise) and while it may never make it into the ICES hall of fame, I can guarantee it tastes as good as any of those masterpieces look with its delicious combination of chocolate, cream cheese, coconuts and pecans.

Chocolate Earthquake Cake
Categories : Cakes/Icings

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 package Devil's Food cake mix with pudding (plus ingredients to make per package directions)
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces cream cheese -- room temperature
1 pound confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup butter -- room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray.

Spread coconut and pecans over bottom of pan.

Mix cake mix according to package directions. Pour over the pecans and coconut.

Melt butter, add with cream cheese, vanilla and confectioner's sugar to a medium sized bowl and mix well. Dollop with a teaspoon over the cake (cover entire surface).

Bake 50-55 minutes or until done.

And the ICES award for ugliest cake goes to....

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In A Pickle

I've never eaten so much yellow squash in my entire life as I have this summer, thanks to my garden.  I'm sure by now you are as tired of reading posts and recipes about it here as I am of eating it!  It appears that I'm nearing the end of the Summer Squash Diet because the plants have nearly (finally) exhausted themselves, but over the weekend I was faced with what to do with the 20+ little yellow buggers laying on my kitchen counter. Having already sauteed, fried and Parmesan'd the hell out of them, the only thing left to do was pickle them.  I scrounged around in the garage until I uncovered my grandmother's water bath canner, cleaned it up and also dusted off my mother's Ball Blue Book canning guide.  Believe it or not, I even found a dozen canning jars under a few inches of dust!

The act of making the pickles themselves wasn't bad at all because slicing up the squash, onions, and bell peppers and making the sweet and sour brine didn't take very long ~ the worst part about all of it was waiting for the water in the canner to boil.  Not only does a watched pot never boil, but one left on the stove for nearly 2 hours doesn't either!  So a word to the wise....start your water to boil long before you even think about making the pickles.

The texture of a pickled squash is a bit different than a cucumber pickle because squash have a more spongy texture.  Slice them as thin as you can and the difference in texture won't be as noticeable.  After they are processed in the canner, give them at least a few days to soak up the tasty brine before you pop a top and enjoy.  Use them straight from the jar, on a sandwich, served as a side with barbecue, as part of an antipasta platter or even garnish a garden salad with them. 

Squash Pickles
Courtesy of


•8 cups yellow summer squash, sliced
•2 cups sliced sweet onion
•1 tablespoon non-iodized salt
•1 cup diced green bell pepper
•1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
•2 cups cider vinegar
•3 1/2 cups sugar
•1 teaspoon celery seeds*
•1 teaspoon mustard seed*

*I used 2 teaspoons pickling spice instead because it's what I had on hand, left over from another project.


Combine squash and onion slices in a large enamel kettle; sprinkle with salt. Let stand 1 hour. Add green pepper, vinegar, sugar, celery seeds and mustard seeds and bring to a boil. Pack in sterilized canning jars (I ended up with 3 quarts loosely using the measurements of this recipe). Bring water to a boil in a boiling water-bath canner. Place hot filled jars in rack and into the water. Starting timer when water returns to a boil with jars in it; process for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes for altitudes of 1,001 to 6,000 feet. Over 6,000 feet, process for 15 minutes.
Makes approximately 6 pints or 3 quarts.

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