Simple Bolgnese (fast...ish?)

by Thursday, December 20, 2018
From Recipes From Italy
My husband turned me onto a channel on YouTube which features prominent Italian chefs watching American cooking videos, and critiquing their versions of Italian dishes. Now, fully knowing there is no one way to do anything, I take it all with a grain of salt, but found I learned a few little things to up my bolognese game. Taking the techniques shown, and their critiques of the work done, here is what I made this past Tuesday--I loved how it turned out!


  • 4 slices of smoked bacon of choice (mine was a cherrywood thick cut)
  • 1 lb ground beef (we had 3/4lb of ground Wagyu, I would have liked more, so say 1 lb)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 a medium-large white onion
  • 1 16oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup red wine
  • Fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • pasta of choice


  1. Have two pans at the ready--a deep sautee pan and a large sauce pan.
  2. Cut the bacon into 1/4" chunks and put in sautee pan to start rendering yummy fats
  3. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in the large sauce pan over low heat. While it is heating, cut celery, carrot, and onion into big chunks and toss into a food processor (I have a little Ninja that works great for me) and fine chop. Add this to the olive oil in the pan and sweat the vegetables over a low heat until they release a fair amount of moisture.
  4. While the veg sweats, back over in the sautee pan, add your ground beef and brown over medium heat. You want some crispy brown bits in there, so don't be afraid to bump the heat to get the Maillard reaction you want here.
  5. Once beef is browned and veg has sweat it out, add veg to the sautee pan with the bacon and beef, stir to combine. Add in the can of tomatoes and the red wine (I briefly swish the wine around inside the tomato can to get the last of the juices outta there), stir to combine. 
  6. Reduce over low heat as long as you can stand it. I only had 45 minutes to do it, since it was late at night and we needed to eat, but 2 hours is better. I add the fresh herbs about a half hour before the end of the cook, because personally I like it to retain some of its "greenness" in the flavor profile. If you don't care about such things, add it when you add the tomato sauce.
  7. While sauce is reducing, add water to the sauce pan you used for the veg and cook your pasta. A good spaghetti noodle is good in a pinch, but a wider noodle is preferred if you have it.
  8. Drain pasta and spoon a bunch of the bolognese in with the pasta and stir to let the pasta soak up and "finish" in the sauce.
  9. Tong a nest of pasta into a bowl, top with sauce. Add grated parmesan cheese on top if you like (this is blasphemy to some Italian chefs, but hell...we're Americans and we like our cheese).
This made four servings. We ate two that night and then portioned the other two into lunch servings in handy glass containers in the fridge!

Shay's Whole30 Sweet Plantain Tortillas

by Monday, November 12, 2018
We are finishing up our Whole30 this week, and had some meals prepped for the final two days, which included a batch of my favorite IP pork carnitas. Since we're still off All The Things, we couldn't use regular tortillas yet, but I had great success with making plantain tortillas a couple weeks prior and was eager to try to improve upon it. The flavor and consistency of those were mostly good, but they were a bit dry and dense. I hoped to simply mix up a little bit more moist batter, and add some compliant baking powder to maybe add some fluffiness.

Well, best laid plans... My green plantains intended for my tortillas had turned brown in the middle, and all I had were ripe ones. What came next was messy but delicious! The "batter" is more sticky and temperamental, due to the more ripe plantain, but the sweetness from the plantains were amazing and the texture of the tortilla was stellar. Chris made a point to tell me I needed to write this recipe down, so here it is!


  • 2 yellow plantains, mid-ripe ideal, with some browning
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, refined, melted
  • 1 Egg Whites
  • 1/8 tsp Whole30 compliant baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp Tapioca Flour, or more (or whatever non-gluten flour you like)


  1. Cut plantains into 2-3" chunks. Boil for 5 minutes to soften and remove skins. (you can also microwave for a couple minutes, if you prefer).
  2. Put all ingredients except for tapioca flour in food processor and blend. If it seems too sticky and wet, add a little tapioca flour to help bind. It should be pretty wet, but able to be molded into soggy ball/lumps with your hands (sounds SO appetizing, doesn't it?!).
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a little tapioca flour (you can skip this, but I felt it helped work the batter). Divide plantain mixture into four balls and place well spaced apart on the floured paper. Spread into desired shape with your fingers, wetting them with water as needed to prevent sticking. Optional: Sprinkle flour over the tops, then place a second piece of parchment paper on top. Roll/press out plantain mixture until desired size and thickness. With a couple small plantains, mine came out to about 4" across and 1/4" thick. I would try to make them a little thinner and wider next time.
  5. Remove top parchment paper, if used, and place in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and bake another 5 minutes. Check for doneness and remove when browned.
These will reheat well, so you can make multiple batches and save some for later in the week if you wish.

Whole30 Home Stretch: Reintroduction

by Tuesday, November 06, 2018
Soon, my precious.
We are in the home stretch of reintroduction right now. What I can say is: Feh. Nothing has changed, really. Chris MIGHT have a slight corn sensitivity (he got stuffy overnight after having precisely six corn chips, so it seems unlikely, but maybe?), but nothing else has changed. Dairy had no effect, alcohol is back in rotation (though more moderate than before for now), non-gluten grains nothing for me for sure. Tomorrow we do legumes, and Saturday we do gluten grains, then we'll be all done.

We slept a bit better during the middle and end of the experiment, but that's likely more not having sugar, especially in wine or end of day meals or desserts. But nothing like "I SLEPT LIKE A BABY!" Just, "Yeah, I guess I have been sleeping a little better."

We have both cut way back on sugar in our tea in the morning and are more aware of sugar in stuff than before. And I got some new recipes we like very much to carry into the future.

That's about it. Nothing life-changing like they try to promise.

Is it worth it? I am glad I did it. I don't plan to do it again (some people do it as a reset once a year or whatever). It was a lot of work. I am lucky that I don't have a lot of hangups around food and eating, but some people report feeling AWFUL emotionally/mentally on Whole30 because it makes them even more obsessed with what they're eating and increased feelings of shame, guilt, or worry about what they are cooking/eating. I can totally see that. I had to think about food a lot more than I do, and while some of it was good (aforementioned paying attention to sugar and corn in EVERYTHING), sometimes it was exhausting and/or downright frustrating.

If you want a challenge to reset some habits or thoughts around food, try it. But don't allow yourself to feel pressured and brow-beaten into doing it perfectly in every minute detail if that brings you more stress than you are ready to take on. A lot (a LOT) of people quit after a few weeks due to the stress they felt, and I can totally understand it. We made it, but barely.

Halloween Headdress - Some details

by Saturday, October 27, 2018
I have had some online friends inquire about my process of making my Halloween 2018 headdress, so I thought I would share a few pics and short videos I tried to make during the process. It is not comprehensive, but it may give a little helpful insight?

First of all, materials:
One inch wide transparent plastic headband ($5 locally at Display and Costume)
Clear plastic hair combs
Thin beading wire (I think mine was .024")
Heavy beading wire (I got 18 gauge)
Wire tools (mainly something to clip wires with, but some small pliers are helpful in twisting wire when needed)
High temp glue gun
Multi-temp glue (100 mini-sticks)
Various beads, jewelry bits, and some wedding/holiday floral decorations*

*I was in around the Halloween season, so Christmas stuff was already out. I chose silver, glitter, frosted things for my theme. Luckily, even in the "off season", wedding floral stuff can often have similar glam.

For the glue gun, I prefer high melt for projects like this. Specifically, I was using materials that would not melt under the heat of the glue, which is your number one consideration. After that is considering how strong of a bond you want and your working time. I find that high temp guns have a shorter working time--that is, it cools and sets a little more rapidly. While some might prefer the longer working time and flexibility of a low-temp glue, for this project I was going to be making a lot of items made just from glue, with no structure underneath them; and additionally, they would need multiple layers of glue, where I would need it to set, then lay down another layer on top. My process was sped up a little bit with a faster-setting glue.


Prep the headband: I took the hair combs and lined them up where I wanted them on the headband, roughly about 3-4 inches to either side of the center of the headband. I made a little mark with a Sharpie (very tiny, just so I could see). Then I laid down a line of glue on the top of the comb and glued them to the underside of the headband. 

Taking some jewelry wire, I anchored them in place further. I eventually decided I was going to wrap them entirely and lay glue down over it, for extra security and to keep the wire from poking.

Then I started playing around and gluing the biggest pieces and background pieces in place. I knew I wanted something kind of horn-like, so I put these "frosted branches" on either side.

Then I started making a lot of "icicles". These are just multiple layers of hot glue laid down. I lightly oiled the bottom of a glass baking dish and used this as my surface. You can use any smooth, heat-tolerant surface to do this on, including ceramic plates, metal pans, non-stick trays, etc. The oil helps the glue to release. Re-apply between batches, and be sparing--it doesn't need to be dripping with oil to work. Some crafters use Pam, but I just used a paper towel with some canola oil.
I made a short video. I tried to replace the audio, but some stuff on YouTube as an option was either too short or too irritating. So you may get to hear my listening to the Wicked Broadway soundtrack, or a collection of inspirational Unitarian sermons a friend sent to me. Lucky you!
Some more footage of releasing and cutting to shape when needed.
And more, this with me doing some more cleanup with fingers and scissors to get rid of fly-aways and errant glue loops.
And finally, this isn't my headdress but my husband's, which is all made of glue entirely to make an icicle crown. I thought I'd show a little bit of the gluing/attachment. You do this for 15 minutes, and you'll figure out what you need to do for your specific project.
Then I started adding the icicles to my headdress, continuing to add more background stuff (branches, silver glitter doo-dads). And when I felt I had all my icicles in place, I started "encrusting" it with some jewels at the base of the icicles. I didn't want it to appear too "formal" or regular, as I wanted this character to be more "fae royalty" and found-objects, so I made a point to make it a little asymmetrical as I went along. This is NOT easy for a Virgo, I am telling you.

A close up of me starting embellisment. Nothing fancy.

A better look at the overlapping icicles. The three middle there are different on purpose. I bought some glitter covered plastic spiral "icicles" at Display & Costume and covered them with glue to make them irregular and smooth to match the others. These are more rigid and form the central part of the crown.

To help me as I went along, I laid out a collection of icicles on my work surface, which is an old broke-ass cutting mat which conveniently has a ruler on it. Then I could see the length of each and it was easier to make the crown peaked by grading the height of the icicles placed.

And then here is my final result. The center piece was on clearance in JoAnn's jewelry section. I bought this one for this project, but any time I am there I peruse their clearance stuff and will buy cheap materials to add to my collection for future projects. On this project, I am using about 75% new stuff, and about 25% from my stash.

Whole30 Home Stretch

by Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Whole30 Realness:

By this stage in Whole30, it seems a lot of people are feeling improved energy, gut happiness, improved skin, maybe a little weight loss (feeling like clothes fit better, not scale-weight), better sleep, and/or generally good about the struggles of the first three weeks. Some people talk about "Tiger Blood" in week 3 or 4--a feeling of high energy and enthusiasm.

Not so much for me.

I am broken out in weird ways, my energy is no different, my gut isn't really any different, and sleep is maybe marginally better if I am being generous.

I am sick of cooking all the time and not being able to just order a pizza after a long exhausting day, or grab a sandwich when I am running errands.

I miss making a little tea with milk and a lump o' sugar to soothe my spirits on a busy work day or during a stressful time (my mommy made this for me growing up when I was stressed before an exam or going onstage for a play or singing). I haven't had "my tea" in almost two months now, with my gentle ramping up I did weeks before starting Whole30.

I am tired of doing so many dishes all the time.

The meal planning is a part-time job, and we are spending a more on groceries in general. I mean, we ate a lot of fresh food to begin with, but this is...more).

The upside: I still like the food I am cooking very much. It's delicious and satisfying (if not a lot of work). Planning to have real breakfasts, in some form every morning, has been good for my hunger levels throughout the day, and is worth the effort. I am not sick of chia seed pudding yet. Trying new recipes and ingredients I haven't tried before is fun (mostly! Ha!). I discovered there is tons of awesome grain-free and gluten-free options out there that are damn tasty--I always poo-poo'd them!

I am curious to see what introduction will be like in a little over a week. Maybe then I will see what I am not noticing now? Some people report not noticing the ABSENCE of certain food sensitivities, but certainly saw the PRESENCE of them on reintroduction. So we'll see.

7 days to go. We are right now having discussions about what celebratory reintroduction we will have on Halloween. Wine seems an obvious one, but it may be something as simple as rice/grains with our meals that day. We'll see...

But right now...I am just kinda grumpy about it. Here's a photo of Benni's ridiculous underbite at us all to make me feel better.

Unexpected travel; Whole30 success!!

by Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I survived a week of Whole30 while traveling! My happy report:

Just one week into my Whole30, I was given an opportunity to go to Rachel Brice's 8 Elements Initiation. A friend was unfortunately injured and could not longer go and was selling her spot. The trick? It would require I drop everything and leave in 48 hours. The intensive being in Portland means it was driving distance away, so that was going for me. And I got a private room at the awesome Northwest Portland hostel, with a kitchen just down the hall from my room. WOOT! I could not have done it quite this successfully without one or both of these incredibly helpful facets of my trip, but my determination to stay compliant saw me through even hiccups in the week.

The Moore Test Kitchen
My husband has been super supportive, and he went grocery shopping with me and spent nearly an entire day playing sous chef to my head chef as I planned out a week of compliant, satisfying breakfasts, lunches, and most dinners in anticipation of the possibility of not finding compliant places to eat (or time to seek ones out). My schedule was going to be very full, and once my car was parked, I was going to be walking everywhere. I was dancing on and off for 5-6 hours a day; plus I was walking 20 minutes to the intensive in the morning and back to my hostel in the evening. I had to eat a compliant breakfast before I went, have a healthy-but-not-too-heavy lunch packed and ready to bring with me, snacks in case I needed them mid-workout, and have a meal I wasn't too tired to prepare when I got back late in the evening.

I got a medium sized cooler on wheels (an Igloo MaxCool from Target), and it was fully packed! I used mainly Ball jars of various sizes, as well as some ziplock bags and Glad food storage containers, which all nestled together well. I planned to go get ice from the corner store every few days, but the hostel had a big shared fridge where you could label your food and store it there, which was SO helpful.

For breakfasts, I boiled a dozen eggs, made up single serving sizes of chia pudding with different fruit-on-the-bottom, mixed fruit and bananas, and Spanish tortilla with sausage my husband made for me (potatoes, onions, sausage, bound with eggs).

Lunches included a pre-made twice-baked baked potatoes and home made bean-free chili, tuna salad stuffed avocado, spicy chicken patties with "sriracha" dipping sauce, apples and nut butter packets, carrots and cashew hummus, single serving containers of black olives, unsweetened applesauce, and guacamole. I made pumpkin n' walnut "energy balls" which were a big hit with my classmates as a little pick-me-up before the afternoon push.

Dinners in were things like spaghetti squash with homemade pesto sauce and roast chicken, coconut curry chicken meatballs, pork "egg roll in a bowl" with spicy "sriracha" sauce, seared steak with mushroom "cream sauce" over sweet potato "rice" or mashed potatoes.

A typical lunch.
Snacks included nuts, dried mango (a fave of mine any time of year!), bananas, some of the same lunch stuff (carrots and dippers, applesauce, etc), and a couple RX bars (I only ate half of one on my last day when our session ran long and we didn't eat lunch on time). I brought some "baby food" packets, but still haven't had them. I even had enough of various healthy snacks to share with my study buddies in the evening when we were doing homework, which made me happy to be able to share.

Bonus about Whole30 meals is that the recipes are generally focused around consistent energy and low-inflammation. For dancing hours every day, this was perfect.

Sticky bits: being in a hostel around all the fun social energy, and everyone drinking beer and wine around me, was tough. Not AS hard as I imagined, but yes, still hard. My pal Brittney from Canada would often have one beer and then switch to herbal tea in support of me, and that meant a lot to me. Similarly, we had a lab one night where we were provided popcorn and wine to enjoy while we learned/studied. Popcorn and wine is one of my comfort food combos, so that wasn't the best feeling. But I drank my water and kept my eye on the prize, as it were, while 40 fellow dancers around me drank and munched. *soul crush* LOL Dining out wasn't impossible, but I felt like it created a little hassle, and limiting, for those with me. I felt I had to avoid international restaurants I would normally have loved to have sampled, but with potential language barriers and foreign ingredients I may not recognize, staying on the simple American-fare side of things seemed safest.

The servers were really great and the chefs made my meals colorful and wonderful. The only issue was one where they put corn in with the roast veg, but luckily not much and I was able to push it aside and eat the rest no problem. I did have a case where a group were all heading out to eat and they suddenly decided they HAD to have ramen (Who can blame them? RAMEN, Y'ALL!), so I almost had to go eat alone. But my pal Mandy from CA decided to break off from the group and come eat with me instead, which was really sweet, and we had a delicious simple salmon dish together.

Ultimately, my extensive preparation was the key. I spent so much time and effort making sure that if all else failed, I could go back to my room and have something nourishing to eat at any time, it took the pressure off. I was able to "grab and go" with my lunches, and my breakfasts were simple and kept me full without feeling heavy until my next meal (unlike cereals I may have had in the past which wouldn't last, or pastries or something quick to grab that would leave me feeling bloated and then sugar crash later). And I can say that this clean eating kept me fuller longer, kept my energy consistent, and I was able to get through a physically challenging week of dance-and-more-dance-and-then-some without feeling deprived or energetically tapped. I am not sure I could have said that at any other time in my life under similar circumstances.

So that's my happy tale of success. I am now three days into my third week. Sadly, I am now sick with a bad cold, so I feel like some of my cravings are just now coming on stronger as the desire for "comfort food" goes up as my literal physical comfort goes down. Luckily, my husband is fully on board (he stayed compliant the entire times I was gone--I am really proud of him, a guy who said he wasn't "into this fully" when we started!), and he has taken over cooking the last couple nights so I can rest up and heal. I could see how some people could hit an illness or stress in their life, and absent this kind of support system, feel like giving up. So I know how blessed I am.

Over halfway through. I got this! 

Sausage, Spinach, & Egg Cups

by Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As I have noted in past posts, breakfasts on Whole30 are definitely going to be the toughest for me. Not because the recipes are not good, but because...I don't normally eat breakfast. So going to a lot of work to have a balanced breakfast with proteins and VEGETABLES (what?!) is going to be challenging.

I made these little guys because they are similar to other breakfast cups I have made in the past. This is with 100% less cheese, no milk, and amps up the veg with the addition of spinach and mushrooms. I would love these with green pepper, too, in a Denver omelette kind of range of flavors, but I am hoping my husband will want to eat these, too, and he prefers to limit bell peppers in his meals.

1 pound Hot Italian sausage (Isernio's is compliant and our favorite)
2 large onions, finely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, rough to finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 oz bag of torn fresh spinach
16 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or more to you your taste


Crumble sausage into large pan, cooking over medium heat until no longer pink. Remove sausage, then sauté the onions, mushrooms, garlic and seasonings until vegetables are tender, adding oil if needed.

Add spinach in batches; cook over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes or until spinach begins to wilt. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and hot pepper sauce. Return sausage to skillet, breaking it up with your fingers into smaller pieces as you incorporate it so it gets good distribution in the veg mix.

Line two cupcake pans with liners. Fill each cup half way with the sausage mixture. Pour egg mixture over the top to just below the edge of the cup to allow for expansion when baking. Tap the pan down on the counter to make sure egg gets between all the crevices.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove to cooling rack.

Eat immediately while warm. YUM! Will store in the fridge for a week. If freezing, let cool on counter, then freeze individually on a baking sheet. Once frozen toss into a large ziplock bag. Remove and thaw in fridge or cook from frozen in microwave. 

Whole30 Sirloin Steak with Caramelized Onions and Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Puree

by Wednesday, September 19, 2018
1 small-medium* butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 large sweet potato
Olive oil
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large onion, sliced into strips (sweet onion is best)
2 servings of sirloin steak (our serving sizes are 4-5oz in our house)
salt and pepper


Sweet Potato + Squash Puree
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap sweet potato in foil. Place the split halves of squash face up on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and break up bits of the ghee over the squash halves. Put the sweet potato right on the rack, and squash on the baking sheet in oven and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Scrape the inside of the squash into the bowl of a food processor/blender, peel sweet potato and cut into a few smaller chunks, and pulse until it is a smooth consistency.

*Note: I recommend getting a nice large butternut squash and baking two sweet potatoes, making more than you need for this recipe. Then you can use the leftovers for other meals or soups.

You can make the puree ahead of time, if you like. It can refrigerate for a couple days, or freeze it in portions. Warm in a saucepan over medium heat before serving.

Caramelized Onions
Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the onions to a large saute pan. Toss the onions to coat with oil. Cook the onions over medium-low heat for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so to allow the onions to brown, but not burn. You can add ghee and some salt to this as well if you like.  For another layer of flavors, add some balsamic vinegar to the onions in the last 5 minute of cooking. Remove onions from heat when they are dark brown and sweet. Reserve any sauce to pour over steak!

Sirloin Steak (Alton Brown Method)
Prep the sirloin by setting on the counter at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Coat all sides generously with kosher salt and let sit another 5 minutes. Rinse off salt with cold tap water.

Once you take the sweet potato and squash out of the oven, while the onions are finishing caramelizing, continue to prepare the sirloin. Set oven on broiler setting. Make foil 'snake' out of aluminum foil to use to keep oven door slightly ajar so that broiler won't turn off if it gets too hot.

Brush steak with oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place a piece of foil on the bottom rack as a drip pan. Place another rack in the position above this and put the steak directly on this rack. Cook steak in this position for 5 minutes.  Flip steak and cook for another 5 minutes. Move rack with steak to top position in oven, keeping rack with foil and drippings just underneath, and cook for 3 minutes. Flip 1 last time and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer steak to wire rack and rest for 3 to 5 minutes. (These times are for medium doneness. Adjust cooking times up or down as desired.)

Once rested, cut steak against the grain in 1/4"-1/2" slices.

Scoop a generous mound of sweet potato-butternut squash puree in a line down the center of the plate. Lay sliced steak on top of puree, and top all with a mound of caramelized onions and any pan drippings. Tucking some celery leaf or basil leaf into the end of the golden puree tops this plate off colorfully and beautifully.

Shay's Simple Whole30 Chia Pudding

by Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Photo credit Sunkissed Kitchen
There are a million and one chia pudding recipes out there. Many are Whole30 compliant, though not all are. I am a babe in the woods on this one, as I have always dismissed chia seeds as "that tree-hugger bird food". Never had occasion to eat them, never sought them out, end of story. But then this recipe kept popping up in my search for breakfast options, so I thought "What the heck" and gave it a try, and I am so glad I did! Bonus? Chia sees are high in fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Like...those are THINGS you guys. THINGS that are GOOD for you. What?!

This is a hybrid recipe of my own making, blending a few different recipe suggestions into one, keeping it Whole30 compliant. The end result is like a tapioca pudding, but with a little crunch to it which I like. But I read you can blend the seeds up instead and get a smoother texture, so that's an option. Also, you can mix in so many things to this--fruit, drizzle with nut butters or sprinkle with chopped or sliced nuts--the options are kinda endless.

And yes, Whole30 has a policy against SWYPO (Sex With Your Pants On); meaning no substituting, say, almond flour pancakes for regular pancakes, because the point is to not have pancakes in the first place. For me, I don't normally eat breakfast at all. So finding breakfast options that are enticing, compliant, and have beneficial nutrients IS an improvement. And I am not eating a damn arugula salad for breakfast. So here ya go:

Note the BRAND of coconut milk can vary the results widely. One brand I used didn't soak up into the chia seeds very well, and they stayed a lot smaller and crunchier. Another brand soaked up more and was more tapioca-like, but had less coconut flavor to it. So experiment with different brands to see what you like best. I have included brands I have tried, and marked my favorites at the end of this recipe.


  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 can unsweetened full fat coconut milk*
  • 3-4 pitted dates, (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • fruit, nuts, and whatever you like


  1. Soak dates in some water for about 15 minutes. This gets them a little less sticky and they blend better.
  2. In a blender/food processor/Ninja mixer, finely chop up dates. You may need to fish around to get the dates from sticking to the blades, but pre-soaking them helps.
  3. Add coconut milk and blend lightly--don't whip it up! I found whipping the coconut milk up too much interferes with soaking into the chia seeds in the next step. We just want to distribute the dates in there.
  4. Add cinnamon and chia seeds and pulse just enough to blend together. Again, don't whip it up. If you're worried about that happening, just stir by hand in a bowl to incorporate the ingredients.
  5. Place in container in fridge to soak at least 1 hour to overnight (a few hours is best if you want it "now", IMO).
  6. Divide into four portions, serve with fresh fruit and/or your favorite raw nuts or nut butters.
I put mine in four small canning jars, which filled them 1/2-3/4 of the way up. This is just enough room to throw some sliced fruit on top of and enjoy along with a soft boiled egg on the side for a little more protein. You may wish to enjoy one with your damn arugula salad for breakfast.

You can use a lite coconut milk if you Prefer, though the finished produce will be a bit thinner.
Add a dash of fruit juice of choice for still more fruity flavor--orange juice, pineapple juice, etc?

Update 9/24/2018 I am trying a hybrid recipe this time which makes a sort of cashew milk as part of the blend. 1 cup water + 12-18 cashews + the dates, blend it up until smooth as possible. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe. Will see how it goes!

Update 9/27/2018 It really really changed the texture. I feel the wazzed-up cashew mixed in changed how the chia seeds absorbed the liquid. It has much smaller "gel" bits. It's not bad, just different. I prefer the non-cashew version at this time.

"It looks weird."

My results:
Husband asked, "What's that the the fridge?"
"Chia seed pudding."
"It looks weird."
"I made it with black chia seeds so it looks a little strange. But it tastes really good! Like tapioca pudding, but with a little crunch from the seeds."
"That sounds weird."
"Yes, it looks weird, but it's delish."

I make him sound like a real neanderthal here, which is so far from who this man is. But it was like talking to a kid who just saw his first Brussels sprout. And I wasn't even asking him to eat it. Maybe he'll come around, but if not...more for me!

Here are some other recipes I want to try in the future, and thought you might want to check out:
I like the idea of a vanilla bean pod to flavor the recipe a bit more. And pumpkin spice in the winter? Oh yeah!
This one blends up cashews in the mix as well, which I imagine makes for a different texture all around. Not sure what the hemp seeds add, but given my recent foray into chia seeds, I adit I am curious...

The ones I recommend/liked are noted with an asterisk.

* 365 Organic (Whole Foods brand)
Chaokoh (too solid when cooled)
* Thai Kitchen organic
* Thai Kitchen organic lite (thinner than I prefer, but good)
Sun Luck

Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bake - Recipe Review

by Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Okay so I just finished baking up the Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bake from Wholesomelicious (awkward name alert), and it's...okay.

Photo Credit Wholesomelicious Blog
The main issue I have is that, like many paleo recipes, they include non-compliant ingredients that are often kinda important to the outcome and then say, "Just leave it out for Whole30!" It's like giving a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich and saying, "Just leave off the cheese! and the bread! and the butter!" Okay, this wasn't THAT bad, but, when you are making a baked good that calls for baking powder, and you flippantly add, "Just leave that out!" I am already on alert to shenanigans. Baking powder is kinda important in some baked goods, to get it to fluff up and have the proper body and texture.

But I forged ahead, because I didn't want to make any tweaks right off the bat, and just trust. Foolish? Let's see...

Ingredients: Easy to source, compliant (without the baking powder)
Preparation: Easy, Fast
Cook time: Meh. 45 minutes for a breakfast prep isn't my favorite.
Finished result: Okay, but would try again.

The finished result was an unappealing flat, wet, brownish casserole. Semi-soggy, really. I had to scoop it out with a spatula, as it wouldn't hold its form like a little square cake, as shown in the original recipe photos (see above). It needs something more to beef it up to hold its form better.
Not super appetizing. Photo credit: Me

For flavor, it works for me. I like my sweet things to not be too sweet, and this hits that spot well. If I were drinking sweetened tea with it, I think this would not be the case, but with black tea or coffee in the mornings, this pairs well. The banana in the wet ingredients along with the pop of green sweetness in the strawberries is satisfying for me. The crunch of coconut gave the otherwise overly-soft texture a little boost.

What I would do differently: Many websites recommend substituting baking soda for baking powder. I like this recipe enough to want to try it again, so will finish up this batch over the course of this week and maybe try again next week with a fresh batch.

Eureka! Home-made mayonnaise success: two tips I wish I had known!

by Monday, September 10, 2018
Edited to add: NO FER REALZ, this is my best mayo yet. I like it a bit salty, only mildly tangy, very creamy. I have been using this in any recipe I want to make creamy in lieu of cream or cheese as I have in the past (Whole30 necessitates it), and it has been fantastic!

I have tried to make home-made mayonnaise before, and the results were fine, but not great. I felt like I was missing something. Turns out, I was! The basics, I knew: emulsify egg with a portion of oil, salt and lemon juice to taste. What I was missing is that the oil you choose makes a HUGE difference, and...MUSTARD POWDER! Like wow. All the difference in the world.

So I used EVOO the first time. And that ended up being the source of my major complaint, in fact! It is just tooo heavy. And the mayo felt...oily. I wanted the lightly whipped mouthfeel of mayo and I got something a little more thick mousse like. I assumed that was just a side-effect of home-made mayo, but turns out if you use a high-oleic oil, like safflower or sunflower oil, avocado oil, or extra light olive oil in a pinch, it lightens the whole thing up.

The other was the mustard powder. I see now that some recipes call for dijon in the mayo, and I can't remember if I tried that on my last one. But I can say in this batch, the subtle effect of the mustard powder really balanced the mayo, and made it taste more like my favorite store-bought brand! A 1/2 tsp of salt and the juice of half a lemon and I have mayo I am thrilled to eat!

Now if I can figure out how to make it less messy. I use my emulsion blender and getting the mayo out of it and off of it is blech. And then the container it was blended in wasn't the one I was storing it in, so then I had a messy spatula and a messy blending cup, too, with a lot of wasted mayo in the process. Gotta get a wide mouth jar to do it in next time (all mine are in use right now), and plan to store it in what I make it in.

Anyhoot, that was a revelation, and now sharing the recipe here so I can refer to it later:


  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup safflower oil, avocado oil, or extra light olive oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt, + to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of


  1. Put egg, mustard powder, salt, lemon and the oil in jar.
  2. Using emulsion blender, push blender to the bottom of the jar and begin blending. Once you see mayo begin to form, draw upward slowly, letting oil slip down the sides to incorporate a little at a time.
  3. Remove blender and commence messy job of trying to extract the mayo from all around the tines and exterior of blender. Taste, and add more lemon or salt as you wish, blending gently with a spoon.
  4. Close lid, refrigerate to let it all blend and cool.
  5. Note you can do this in a blender, simply drizzling in the oil as you go. I don't have a blender, but this seems like a easy way to go.

Pro-tip: You can gently lift and plunge the blender, allowing a little bit of oil to blend in. Keep gently lifting and blending, not allowing too much of the oil to get underneath at a time. If too much oil tries to blend at once, sometimes you get a looser, less-thick result, so take your time.

Gaming Tables on Kickstarter in 2018

by Monday, September 10, 2018

Two board game tables launched on Kickstarter today alone, and yet another one launched a couple weeks ago. All are already fully funded, and are on offer for 25-30 more days as of this writing. For my geeky friends, here are some links and details:

Board Game Table's second KS is The Jasper. We bought their first table, the Duchess, which we play on all the time. Chad's a stand up guy and this table addresses the issues with the first KS and makes improvements on the table design itself, including smaller leaves (HALLELUJAH!). Also MADE IN THE USA.

This one is about $900 with the topper, $600 without (but the topper is part of the entire the point so...?). Downside: the only accessories are cup holders, which have fixed attachment points rather than a flexible rail system...and they cost extra, too. So all-in on this one is table, topper, and 6 cup holders is about $980:

Newest to the space, Seattle's own Wooded Realms is making the 2nd Breakfast table. They are trying to disrupt the market with the most affordable gaming table yet (outside of making your own). When they first launched there was only one table size, and it was too small, IMO. Since they funded in 3 days, they decided to add another table size and this one has the standard 3X5 play surface.

Features include a wider ledger space than the Duchess/Jasper, slide-out tables and a full rail system with cup holders and small tables included in the price, flippable vault surface with wood one side and speedcloth/fabric (TBD) on the other, AND a clear acrylic sheet for campaign maps. But the real kicker is that at this super low price, they also have LED lighting in the interior controllable by a Bluetooth phone app (can be set to sound reactive, music, or pre-sets), and 8 USB and 2 AC outlets built into the table.

I saw these tables in person at PAX West and they are sturdy, solid tables. They had a whole room where they let people play on them all weekend and they looked as good at the end of the weekend as they did at the beginning with a LOT of use.

Only downside I can see is a) unproven manufacturer with still some question marks on the project and b) made in China. (of course it would be at this price, but if it matters to you, make a note of it...)

Finally is the Table of Ultimate Gaming's new entry to the space, "The Game Changer". Their most unique offering is a modular topper which goes on your existing table, with several sizes on offer including a coffee table size option. They can grow and shrink the topper as you wish with a leaves/extension system. They also have a full table option in similar design, utilizing the same modular accessory options. And this goes to 11: they have up to 4X6 play space sizes. Aesthetically, their table designs leave me unimpressed. For some, though, they make up for it in modularity and functionality. The ability to extend it, or take it apart and put it away is a really great upside to the topper concept, particularly for more casual gamers who only want to bring it out once in a while for play sessions with friends/at parties, and/or people who have a dining table they love and don't want to replace.

The only downside I see of the game topper concept is that it raises your table edges up by 4 inches in order to have a recessed vault. For shorter players like me, part of the appeal of a vaulted table is I put my elbows on the edge and can look down over the game play area more fully. To raise up the edge by 4 inches isn't ideal, and just puts the height of the game essentially at the same height as if I was on my normal dining table. Not a complete deal-breaker, but it does remove some of the functional upsides of a vaulted game table.

A 3X5' topper starts at $300, with a full comparable sized table coming in at $400, with no bells or whistles (no dining table covers either). Bundles include various combinations of add-on accessories include the dining table covers, play mats, sets of 4 cup holders, and matching chairs. All in on a 3.5X5' play area table (+dining table top, play mat, cup holders) is around $600, the larger 4X6' play area is $700.

So that's what's up on KS right now in board game table world. What a time to be alive! While I still lament the loss of Geek Chic, and still dream of one day having a Wyrmwood Prophecy (swoon), these are some solid new entries in this market. In the meantime, I am happy with my Duchess and watch the market grow and change before us all as the joy of board gaming continues to expand into more homes. If you get one, I'd love to hear about it!

Types of gamers

by Sunday, August 05, 2018
Gamers are like the suits in a deck of cards:

Diamonds like to find treasure, rack up the points.

Spades like to explore and dig around in the game to expose new tiles, new strategies, how the rules work, that strange little rule that no one ever uses and why it is there. 

Hearts are there just for the social aspects of the game - they like to be with people and the social interactions are what is important to them. The game is secondary to enjoying the company of the people around him. During the game, they will help out other people, offer to learn the game to teach to other people, assist them with strategy or point out rules they may have missed (" you forgot to collect your income this turn"). 

Clubs, all they want to do is beat people - winning is all important to them and they can not enjoy themselves unless they win.

Garlic Brie Bread Bowl

by Thursday, July 26, 2018
2 sourdough bread boules (round)
a large wheel of a favorite brie (8-12oz triple cream)
olive oil
*1 head of garlic

*Roasted Garlic (optional step)
Pre-heat oven to 425
Cut top off of garlic head, place in a square of foil, drizzle with olive oil, close up foil and bake for 20 -ish minutes.
Let sit and cool enough to handle, then squeeze roasted garlic out into a small bowl.

Assemble Brie Bowl
  • Cut out the center of one of the boules to create a bowl, cut that removed center piece and the other boule into chunks good for dipping (1"-1.5" chunks)
  • Brush olive oil all around the interior bread bowl
  • *Smash and rub roasted garlic around interior -or- smash 3-4 fresh cloves of garlic, rub them around the interior of the boule, then chop up roughly and set aside.
  • Cut brie wheel into 1-2" chunks (rind on or off, as you wish) and dump that plus your choice of garlic into the bread bowl. You can add some herbs and spices here if you like, such as rosemary, thyme, herbes de Provence, etc.
  • Brush outside of boule with some olive oil as well. Place bread lid on top. Wrap boule in foil.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes, checking in the last 10 minutes or so to see how the melting is coming along. Bake until melted and bubbly. Serve with bread chunks for dipping.

Herb Goat Cheese Dip

by Sunday, June 17, 2018
4 oz goat cheese (typical small log)
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1 clove garlic minced
3 Tbsp mix fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme
salt and pepper

Leaving the goat cheese out to come to room temp makes this easier to mix but is not necessary.

Mix all ingredients and serve immediately or refrigerate until used.

I was amazed how flavorful this was right upon mixing. Letting it meld in the fridge at least a few hours or overnight will give you awesome results.

Serve with breadsticks or crostini.

Pimm's Cup

by Wednesday, May 23, 2018
2 oz Pimm's No 1
2 oz home made lemonade
1 thick slice english cucumber
3-4 springs mint, torn in half
Ginger ale (or 7-Up or Ginger Beer)

Muddle Pimm's, lemonade, cucumber, and mint. Add 4 oz. ginger ale. Fill 12oz glass with ice, pour or strain drink into glass. Accent with extra cucumber slice and/or mint as desired.

Random Thought Roundup

by Monday, May 14, 2018
I don't want to admit how dirty I let my makeup brushes get this time before cleaning them. Like...not even as a cautionary tale.

This year will be a big purge for me. The fact I feel anxiety about even writing that down shows how unhealthy my attachment is right now. Must meditate on this. Must remedy this attitude.

Chardonnay and Nut-Thins are NOT dinner, but they taste surprisingly good together.

I miss going to the zoo regularly. I updated my zoo membership and plan to go more often.

I am so grateful for awesome friends who go to the zoo with me/let me tag along to the zoo with them. This includes trusting me to be an auntie to their kids, or sitting on a log in the shade chatting about life. I am on a happy high today thanks to a lovely mother's day walkabout.

I am so giddy to be back in the garden this year. It has been 2+ years of not planting much, and longer since the last food harvest planting. Chris and I clearly love it so much, why did we let it get away from us so long?

In related news, beans are already sprouting tiny beanlets. Lettuces are gently lettucing more each day. Sage and basil are herbing beautifully. Yes, these are nouns and verbs.

I need to get back on my bike. Like, yesterday. I have only taken three rides in 2018. THREE. All under 10 miles. In 4+ months. This is dumb considering how much I THINK about wanting to bike. Less thinking; more doing.

Puppies are cool. So are husbands who think they are as cool as you do. So are mothers who understand your love of them entirely and Facetimes with you, on mother's day, about how cool dogs are.

Getting back to board gaming regularly is harder than I thought. Just not as much time, plus hubby's back bothering him. I am champing at the bit!

Studio ownership is no joke.

I am however enjoying the realization that, much like teaching, owning a studio has a "doula-like" aspect to it. You help foster other people's goals and dreams, massaging their ideas to fruition. I am loving this aspect of it.

By contrast, though...scrubbing toilets is not much like being a doula. Not the "good bits" anyway...

A Board Game Gal's Review of Grimm's Forest

by Thursday, May 10, 2018
Jenna pulled this out at Geek Girls Game Night last night. I am trying to get back into logging plays and reviewing games this spring/summer after an insane 2017, so here's my review pasted over from BGG.

Grimm Forest
This play was only the second game since the box was cracked. Jenna had played it as a two player and wanted to try four. Agree with her that four is really needed to get the most out of the game. Some details of card usage weren't clear from the rules as we understood them, but we worked it out. Would like to take more time reading the rules for myself before I play again to refresh details. Apparently...we own this one, too, according to Chris. I didn't know he had backed it!

Ameri(trash? I hate this term, there's gotta be another term!) can be hit and miss for me, with their hard stop endings. I prefer Euros with multiple paths to victory and being able to accumulate points in different ways. This game tries to introduce more complexity through Fable cards and Friend cards, which can give different powers and consequences, but it's still a race to built three houses and once that's's over. Turn order alone can make or break a winning run with a hard stop ending like that.

I also struggle with games where you have to track other people's tableaus/progress, in particular trying to read text upside down or having to ask constantly for reminders as to what everyone has/is doing. This wasn't a big deal with the houses, which are easily seen, but becomes a problem with the Friends aspect of the game. We spent a lot of time asking for clarification or re-reading everyone's Friends in order to make decisions about how to proceed, which slows the game. We were on a small table and even then there is simply no way to know what they have without asking, or having played a LOT and already knowing the powers of each potential companion.

Final thoughts: the theme is strong and thoughtful. Having various beloved  storybook characters as your companions or enemies, with really witty powers associated with their universe/storylines, was fun to discover. The insert was detailed and unique. The minis were a bit cheaply made and were often warped, but the sculpts were really cool. Artwork was beautiful, cardboard thick, card stock and finish felt good in the hand, fonts generally easy to read. I will withhold judgement on the rules as written until I read them for myself, but it felt like there was some lack of clarity in places, or could just be organization left something to be desired. We worked it out in the end and fun was had by all. Wendy won!

Mexican Pork Carnitas - Slow and Fast Cooking

by Thursday, May 03, 2018
I have cooked pork carnitas many different ways, including trying to do it "traditionally" in lard. I'll just say "Hell to the no am I doing that mess again!" I can get moist, delicious results without all the greasy, messy lard business. My main inspiration for my carnitas comes from none other than Kenji at Serious Eats. I still make this full recipe from time to time, but I carve off some time by using jar salsa instead, and season various ways depending on my taste on a given day.

I make 4-5lbs whenever possible and eat the leftovers for a week. I will pluck some cold from the fridge for a snack; brown some in a pan, add avocado, and crack an egg over it for breakfast; throw some on nachos;and of course traditional tortillas and fixin's.

I also feel I need to say that every portion here is approximate. I don't really measure stuff any more as my recipe evolved. If I make the dry rub/seasoning and it doesn't seem like enough, I toss in more. Need more liquid? Add more. It isn't a science for me, is what I'm saying, but it always comes out SO DAMN GOOD. I just got done stuffing my face with cold leftovers from making this last night. Nom nom nom.

3-5 lbs boneless pork shoulder
1 onion, quartered
3-5 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp cumin
4 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp sea salt
fresh cracked pepper as desired
2 cups chicken stock or water
1 cup orange juice or juice from one large orange
optional: 1 16oz jar salsa verde in heat level of choice*
optional: a hot pepper of choice, seeded and sliced

tortillas, warmed in foil in the oven (we prefer flour)
sour cream
some of the green salsa*
pickled red onions
hot sauce
queso fresco
fresh limes
side of beans and/or rice

*Spoon out some of the green salsa if you want some with your meal. If lots of people are having this, just get a second jar.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 275.
  2. Smash and cut garlic into small chunks.
  3. Cut pork into 3-4 inch cubes. Combine dry ingredients (cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper) and sprinkle/pat/rub all over meat. Slice little holes in the meat and poke garlic inside.
  4. Heat a high smoke point oil (like safflower or canola oil) in open Dutch/French oven over medium-high heat (or similar pot that can later go in the oven with a lid). Using tongs, brown sides of pork chunks and then set aside.
  5. Deglaze pan with chicken stock or water. Toss in onions and break apart, add more smashed garlic if you like (I like) and any sliced peppers you are using. Tuck meat into pot--you're looking for a tight fit in a single layer as is possible, with the garlic and onion smashed between the meat chunks.
  6. Pour the jar of salsa over the top of the meat, if using. Pour orange juice or water into jar to swish out the last bits of salsa and pour that into the pan as well, filling the pot so the liquid level is covering halfway up the meat.
  7. Put lid on pot (or tightly wrapped foil in a pinch) and cook for 2.5-3 hrs
  8. Line a baking sheet with a layer of foil or two. Remove cooked meat to sheet (it should be fairly falling to pieces). Shred with two forks. Move baking rack higher up in the oven and set to broil. Crisp meat in 3-5 minute intervals, using tongs to turn meat in between to get more crispy bits. This step is optional, but for me it's not. The crispy bits are where it is AT!**
  9. Alternately, you can just take the portion you are eating immediately and crisp it in a pan on the stove, storing the rest of the meat in its own foil wrapped tightly in the fridge.
  10. While the shredded meat is browning, put tortillas into foil and close loosely, placing on the bottom rack of the oven to steam/warm. Then I prep the fixings I like best: sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese (we like to buy Tillamook Mexican cheese blend for simplicity), some of the green salsa, and fresh cilantro and lime wedges. My husband goes simpler with just the sour cream and cheese, sometimes a hot sauce of choice over the top.

"FAST" COOK METHOD - Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot
This cuts prep time down and halves the cooking time, so while it is still 90 minutes in the pot, it's a lot less time from fridge to the table.
  1. Cut pork into quarters. Season all over with dry ingredients (cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper). Cut small cavities in meat and stuff chunks of garlic inside.
  2. Set IP to sautee, heat oil, and brown all sides of the meat (if yours has no sautee function, do this in a pan on the stove before transferring to the pressure cooker).
  3. Add liquids (stock/water/OJ), onions, peppers (if using), and additional garlic if you like (yes, yes I do). Pour salsa over the top, if using.
  4. Cover and set to high for 75-90 minutes (depending on size of shoulder you got). You can quick release or natural release, depending on how eager you are to get it outta there. Use this time to prep your toppings/fixings, including setting the tortillas in foil sleeve in a warm oven for at least 5 minutes before you eat.
  5. If you're in a hurry, you can shred this right in the IP and eat now. I still always brown my meat under a broiler, so if you want to do that, jump to Step 8 in the Slow Cook method above to continue. Alternately, some people will pour the cooking liquid out of the pot and brown it in there to make this more of a "one pot meal". Just add some oil and brown in batches.**
**If you over-dry your carnitas, you can always just spoon some of the cooking liquid back into the shredded meat to juice it back up again. I haven't needed to do this, but it's good to have in your back pocket just in case it gets too dry for your taste.

One of the best things about an IP is the ability to cook from frozen cuts. I recommend no larger than a 3lb boneless cut for this method, because it probably won't fit in your liner if it's larger and can't be cut down due to it being a cold brick!

You can't sear or stuff this meat, obviously, so the flavor won't be as good, but it's good in a pinch, and you can season it up on the back end, and make sure to include delicious additional ingredients like queso fresco, sliced jalapenos, radishes, etc.

  1. Season frozen shoulder/butt with salt and pepper and put in pot.
  2. Add all ingredients to the pot, pouring stock/water/juice in, adding onions and garlic, and all dry ingredients. Pour salsa over the top last. Close lid, set to high pressure and cook 30 minutes per pound. NATURAL RELEASE is important on this one. It gives it a little more cook time, but also allows the meat to reabsorb some of the moisture it released during cooking.
  3. At least 5-10 minutes before you're ready to open the lid and shred the meat, warm your tortillas and prep your toppings.
  4. Jump to Step 8 in the Slow Cook method, or just shred in pot and serve without crisping if you're in a hurry. Add more salt/pepper/seasoning as you like to the shredded meat to taste.


On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

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