Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

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Milkweed for knee strength? I wish...

Just back from the doctor, where I finally discovered why my knee(s) has been giving me fits for so long. X-rays showed a couple of bone spurs, one almost 2" long and broken, on a knee cap that is not shaped quite as it should be. Might have to get it scoped and cleaned, or just continue to live with the periodic debilitating pain...I'm thinking that the scoping is the way to go. The doctor seemed quite surprised and almost "excited" to have seen something on the x-rays that, he said, was so unusual and that he had never seen before. 

So, I decided to buck the "take it easy" route and immediately tramped through a field near my parents' house to pluck a bunch of milkweed flowers along with a handful of tiger lily flower buds from Mom & Dad's place, in order to make a quick breakfast before work. 

Simple: Sautee milkweed flower clusters and lily buds in butter with a little sea salt and cracked pepper, add a handful of spinach picked yesterday from the garden, quickly fry a duck egg, slice up a fat red tomato and badaboom badabing, there you go.

I'll write more about milkweed in the days to come. But for now, it's 90° and time for a lengthy soak in a tub of cold water before work. By the way, as far as I know, milkweed sap has absolutely no inherent attributes that may be beneficial to one's knee joints...I just like eating milkweed.Enjoy the day!

Breakfast doesn't get any fresher

It's hot on the lakeshore this morning, 84° before 10:00am. Some of the greens are beginning to bolt, so I cut a handful of sweet spinach and peppery arugula, and went around all of the pots pinching basil flower heads off, before things turn bitter.

I also pulled one nice, 6" or 7" yellow squash, the first of the year, from one of the vines. It was fat and juicy. The zucchini and yellow squash vines are putting out a lot of beautiful yellow flowers now, so I plucked a few of those as well. 

With a countertop full of colorful and fresh garden bounty, some big duck eggs, a bowl of fresh peaches Kim picked up the other day, and a bottle of black truffle oil I've been eager to open I decided to make something fun for breakfast.

With two iron skillets heating up I sweated an onion and the spinach stems in butter while crisping a few slices of whole wheat chia seed bread I made the other day in some of the truffle oil (as soon as I opened the bottle - really a metal can - an earthy truffle aroma filled the room...happiness!). When the bread had browned I sauteed the zucchini flowers in the same skillet, added the handful of spinach and the sliced yellow squash to the other pan and began to toss until the spinach wilted. 

Once the vegetables were ready I pulled them from the skillet and added some large chunks I cut from one of the peaches. Then, a little more truffle oil into the pan to fry the duck eggs. Duck egg yolks are so large that I cook them over-easy and let the yolks harden just a little around the edges, otherwise our plates are swimming in yolk when we cut into them. We finished by sprinkling some of the purple Thai basil flower heads on top.

There you go...savory with a little sweet, an underbelly of earthy truffle, fresh greens picked minutes before, and crusty bread. And coffee, of course.

Making time for breakfast again

I decided that regardless of how weary I feel lately or how little spare time I seem to currently have I am going to make time for breakfast again, and I mean the kind of breakfast I enjoy making, something with a little punch.

So, this morning's sustenance included a couple of duck eggs sauteed over-easy in pork fat and butter, on a bed of mustard greens and thistle stems sauteed with lardons and diced ramps. Simple, quick and good for the spirit.

Now to finish transplanting some herbs and hot peppers we picked up yesterday.

more ramps - pizzas

It probably goes without saying that during ramp season we use them in a lot of our cooking. Basically anywhere we might normally use onions, leeks or shallots as ingredients, and then in a few things that feature ramps specifically.

Many of the ramps we harvested this week boasted really beautiful, large bulbs, some as large as my thumb.

Had some of the crew over last night to welcome our friend Pat back from his short vacation. We made pizzas, had some wine and beer, and hung out around the fire for a while. The pizzas all featured ramps that I harvested the day before. 

I made three different pizzas, but each was highlighted with diced ramp bulbs and leaves. In the image above, from left to right, we have almost-ready for the oven: 1) tomatoes, ramps and cheddar cheese, 2) roasted red peppers, pickled artichokes, kalamata olives, ramps, 3) sliced baby red potatoes, mushrooms, ramps (I added mozzarella cheese to the final two pizzas after taking the picture).

Stumpjack Potato Hash w/ Kale

A few of us got together at our friend Dixie's flat yesterday morning for breakfast. Dixie made a huge German Apple Pancake, Pat brought the ingredients to make Mimosas with fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, Marty recreated the Brown Sugar Bacon we used to serve at Stumpjack and I made the Potato Hash (with a slight twist) we also used to have on the Sunday morning menu.

This time I added kale and sweet potatoes to the hash recipe and it turned out great, with the oven crisped kale adding an interesting texture and slight note of tasty bitterness to the sweet and savory hash mix. And it looked pretty too.

Here's the recipe (the ingredient amounts are what I used to make enough for the seven people at breakfast).


  • 7-8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chunked (I prefer my hash a bit on the larger side, but you can cube it into smaller pieces if you so desire)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chunked
  • 2 large onions, cubed
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ~ 1 lb thick cut bacon
  • sea salt and cracked pepper
  • 1 tbl fennel seed
  • ~ 1 tbl honey
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • couple medium leaves of kale, chopped
  • 3-4 tbl olive oil

Pre-breakfast coffee appreciation moment.

1. Preheat oven to around 375° (I'm a little waffley on that temp because our oven is wacky right now and doesn't seem to want to behave consistently, so I'm constantly adjusting the dial and checking the temp.)

2. Place all of the chunked potatoes, russet and sweet, in a very large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over and toss to thoroughly coat. Season with salt and pepper, and a couple pinches of the fennel seed. Toss again. (When we made this hash at the coffee house we usually used a variety of heirloom finger potatoes, which made for a lovely dish with potatoes of white, yellow, red and purple).

3. Coat a couple of baking sheets with a bit of olive oil and spread the potato mixture on each pan. Bake for approx. 25 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked but still slightly firm.

4. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onions and half of the fennel seed and simmer for about 15 minutes, until everything is softened up and the butter has thoroughly embraced the flavors of the garlic, onions and fennel.

5. Cook the bacon; set aside to cool. After it's cooled and hardened a bit chop it into approx. 1-inch pieces.

6. Once the potatoes have cooked, return them to the bowl. Add the chopped kale, garlic/onion butter mixture, the rest of the fennel seed, and the bacon pieces. Drizzle with the honey. Gently toss to thoroughly coat and mix. Season with salt and pepper again if you think it needs it (I did).

7. Turn the oven up to 400°. Return the potato hash to the pans and bake for around 5 minutes, until the kale crisps up nicely.

Good food and good company make for an excellent breakfast. Image by Marty.

We had to drive over to Dixie's place so we transferred the hot hash to a large lidded pot and made the trip. Once we got there we didn't eat for another 45 minutes or so, so we kept the pot warm in the oven during part of that time (had to remove it to cook the brown sugar bacon, but it still maintained some heat and was warm when we sat down to eat). All of the flavors came together nicely during that time and the kale softened up as well. We left with an empty and clean pot.


Apple Wine Braised Rabbit

Here's a tasty recipe for rabbit I made the other night. I made some rabbit a few nights prior, using a recipe I pulled from Jamie Oliver's Italian cookbook. I didn't really care for it, but that was most likely due to me simply not being partial to a citrus based marinade rather than any shortcoming with the recipe, as I had seen rave reviews of that particular Oliver recipe.

In any event, as I had a couple rabbits awaiting the table I decided to go the route I almost always enjoy most, and that is coming up with my own recipe. So, I made a quick inventory of what we had in the cupboards and fridge, and then decided to use some of our still unbottled apple wine as the foundation for the marinade.

I snapped some fairly awful pictures of the process, feeling confident that the dish would turn out well. It did in fact come out wonderfully. No doubt this recipe would work well for just about any small game mammal or bird.

Here we go:


  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • few tbl EV olive oil
  • Almost a whole stick butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 2-3 cups apple wine
  • 2 rabbits, quartered
  • 1 cayenne pepper
  • few strips of salt preserved lemon
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tsp Pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • some rosemary sprigs
  • 1-2 tbl fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup canned tomato or puree
  • tbl peppercorns
  • tbl fennel seed

1. Grind the peppercorns and fennel seed in a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle, add around a tbl of rosemary leaves and continue to grind til well pulverized and mixed.

2. Make a marinade with the apple wine by adding the pepper/fennel/rosemary mix, the grated ginger, cilantro, juice of one lime, Pimenton and a couple pinches Kosher salt. Pour it over the rabbits and let it sit for at least a couple hours, stirring it around every so often.

3. After letting the rabbits soak in the wine bath it's time to get down to business. Heat 1/2 stick butter and a tbl olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook til they start to soften a bit. (If I had had celery on hand I would have added that to the mix as time.)

4. Add the coconut milk, cider vinegar, tomato puree, lemon zest and cayenne pepper and continue to cook.

5. Take the rabbit out of the marinade and dry it off. Add the marinade to the stewing veggie mix, making sure to get all the spices at the bottom of the bowl.

6. Heat rest of butter and tbl olive oil in another large skillet over medium high. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the flour and dust the rabbit pieces in it.

7. Brown the rabbit on each side in the oil/butter.

8. Add the remainder of the flour to the veggie skillet and stir it in well.

9. Add the browned rabbit pieces to the veggie skillet and cook over medium to medium low until the rabbit is cooked through and tender, around 45 minutes or so. Turn the rabbit pieces over after 25-30 minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken.

10. We plated it with some of the sauce/marinade and served with a small salad of greens and some garlic mashed potatoes (sweet potato/russet potato mix).

11. Our friend Pat joined us for dinner, pronouncing on facebook, "This was very good! I only remember having rabbit once before and it was fried in an Air Force dining hall. This was tender. The garlic mashed potato/sweet potatoes were excellent too." Pat brought a six-pack of Leinies Amber Bock, which looked and tasted great with the meal.

12. For desert we had a little shot of the rosemary peach noyau I made last summer. Candy alcohol heaven.

Road Kill Chili

I never did post the recipe for my "Road-Kill Chili" that won the 2011 Annual Manitowoc Christmas Parade Awesome Chili Cook-Off Death Match (I'm going with the notion that the more words you can fit into the title the more impressive it is; capitalizing the first letter of each word also lends an air of authenticity and prestige to the title). We held the potluck…er, I mean the 2011 Annual Manitowoc Christmas Parade Awesome Chili Cook-Off Death Match was held on November 23rd. I think there were a half-dozen entries, which I think is pretty impressive for something that was organized and marketed only a week before the actual event. And when I say organized and marketed I mean Kim (Geiser) made a facebook post that basically said, "Hey, anyone want to get together at my place during the Christmas Parade? How about if we each make some chili and we'll have a 'best chili' contest?" Such is the origin of many great and long-standing events.

This was the "trophy" for the chili cook-off: A bottle of merlot and sombrero.

There were some darn tasty chilis on the table, including a meaty chocolate chili from Jason Prigge, former chef of the much-missed Element Bistro in TR (I'm sharing that bit of information to reveal how stiff the competition was, which of course adds even more prestige to my victory…yes!). Best of all, the night was a lot of fun. Anyway, here's the recipe for the winning chili:

Road Kill Chili

I called the dish Road Kill Chili not because I incorporated any actual road kill, but because I used a couple ingredients I had foraged/hunted…that, and because it just sounds cool.

Ingredients (no amounts here because I did it off the cuff and didn't really measure anything)

  • Chicken stock (I made my own stock but you can, of course, use any store-bought stock)
  • A couple of de-boned squirrels (or rabbits, venison, chicken or whatever meat you prefer, chunked small)
  • Apples, 4 or 5, peeled and chopped
  • Ground spices: cumin, curry, salt, pepper, chili powder, nutmeg
  • Hot sauce, I used just a couple of dashes of the hot sauce I make
  • Onions, 2 of them, chopped
  • Garlic, couple cloves minced
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Heavy Cream (or half-&-half or whole milk if you don't have cream)
  • Flour, maybe 1/2 cup
  • Pinto beans, couple cans
  1. Melt some butter and a bit of olive oil over medium heat in a very large saucepan.  Add the apples and onions and cook until they start to soften, maybe 4-5 minutes. Add most of the minced garlic; save a pinch for the meat. Season with a good amount of cracked pepper. Season with the other spices but less so because you're going to use the same spices on the meat and you don't want to overdo it. You don't want to overcook this; pull it when everything is cooked but still firm. Dump it all into a big pot and set aside.
  2. Add to the same saucepan you just used a little more olive oil and butter and heat over a low-medium heat. Add the meat, lightly salt and pepper it, and cook until tender over low heat. When it's about halfway finished add the pinch of garlic and season it with the spices like you did with the onions and apples.
  3. While the meat is cooking add chicken stock to the pot with the onions and apples, reserving a cup or two of the stock in another bowl. Add flour to the reserved stock and whisk until it gets creamy. Add the creamy stock to the pot and stir it all together.
  4. When the meat is finished add it to the big pot as well. Heat over low-medium heat. Rinse the beans and add to the pot. Gently stir everything together. Add the cream (or half-&-half) and stir. Give it a dash or two of hot sauce. When the whole thing is at a palatable temperature taste it and add any additional seasoning you think it might need.
  5. Ladle it up, pour a good lager for yourself and anyone else who's joining you, tell a few stories or watch the parade and enjoy!


Make your own "saltines" crackers

Kim and I made some creamy potato soup today. She is the one who actually made it; I was just the knife man in charge of chopping onions, celery and garlic. It was mighty tasty. But for me, soup without crackers is like a fried egg without toast, and we had no crackers. Solution: make your own saltines or oyster crackers. It's pretty quick and simple.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter
  • a little more than 1 cup cream or whole milk (no cream in the house so I opted for whole milk)


Toss the dry ingredients in the food processor and give it a pulse or two. Cut the butter into 1/2" chunks and add to the flour mixture. Pulse until it's well blended. You might have to take the lid off a few times and work the butter around and into the flour by hand if it doesn't seem to be integrating well; I think it depends on the processor you have.


After everything's well-blended run the machine while pouring the milk (or cream) in, until you get a nice stiff dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for a half-hour (or an hour, if you're going to go pick some apples like I did after making the dough).

Set your oven to 400º and line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Flour the counter and roll the dough out to 1/4" thickness. Cut it into cracker-shaped squares (or into little rounds like oyster crackers...I made mine square even though the final product is more like an oyster cracker in flavor and texture than a saltine). Brush some cream or milk on the crackers and sprinkle with cracked pepper and sea salt (I used red sea salt just because I like how the color shows up on the cracker). Bake until they start to brown (took about 18 minutes in my oven). Let 'em cool and there you go!

Take that, Nabisco!

Goosefoot Pesto

Goosefoot or Lamb's Quarters is one of the first wild plants that I tell people about who are new to foraging, just because it's so very abundant, tasty and easy to identify. We'll discuss more detailed goosefoot taxonomy and identification in a follow-up journal entry; for now I just wanted to share some images and the recipe for a pesto I made this morning using the plants that were growing in a small patch next to our house. They're forecasting frost and freezing temperatures for midweek, and I thought I ought to harvest what I can while there's still time.

This patch of goosefoot sprang up in two big washtubs I had filled with dirt and intended to plant something else in, but never did. Once I saw the washtubs being taken over by this "weed" I was more than happy to let that be my chosen crop.

Goosefoot is most often compared to spinach as a leafy green. I don't find that to be accurate as it concerns flavor (to my palate it doesn't have near the intensity or bitter qualities of spinach), but it's certainly true in how it may be used as an edible green. Use it fresh in salads, steamed with butter as a side vegetable or as an ingredient in ravioli or canoli. But one of my favorite ways to use it is as the green in pesto, in place of the traditional basil.

Detail of Goosefoot/Lamb's Quarters leaf attached to plant. (clcik to enlarge)

Goosefoot leaf. (click to enlarge)

Harvested Goosefoot.


  • Goosefoot leaves
  • Oil (olive or canola, enough to create the consistency you want)
  • Pecans (you can use any kind of nut; I just happened to have a 1/4 cup of pecans left)
  • Sea salt (just a pinch)
  • Fresh crushed black pepper
  • Garlic (1/2 clove chopped)

Rinse the leaves well. You'll find that running water easily beads and runs off of goosefoot, a function of the white, almost powdery bloom on the leaves. It's nothing to worry about. Goosefoot is one of the cleaner plants you'll find, but rinsing under running water or immersing in a sink full of cold water should be standard practice for all plants anyway.

Assembled ingredients.

Add everything to a food processor (the really fun part) and pulse until you get a nice smooth paste. I always start with less oil that I think I'll need and drizzle more in as seems necessary (you can always add more, but you can't take any out once it's in there).

Adding the oil; canola oil in this case.

The fun part. Pulse, pulse, pulse...

What a beautiful color! (click to enlarge)

Tada! I like this image. That green is just gorgeous. (click to enlarge)

Ooh, that's good!

Label and refrigerate. It will last, if you let it, two or three months in the fridge.

Addendum: There is a cultivated variety of Goosefoot that I am considering trying next year, called Magenta Spreen. It's a beautiful plant, vibrant green with patches of brilliant purple/pink on the stem and base of the leaves. Seeds can be had from several sources, including Johnny's Selected Seeds (image of the plant at this link).


Stumpjack Hot Sauce

Here's the recipe Stumpjack Hot Sauce I promised I'd share. It's a riff on the Blue Ribbon Restaurant, New York, hot sauce recipe. The garlic and onion give it an extra layer or two of flavor and the carrots give it a nice mellow sweetness and great color. I especially like it on eggs and in certain creamed soups.


  • 3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • As many habanero and cayenne peppers as you want (I used 10-12 total, 5-6 of each), with seeds removed. The seeds add more heat but may not puree completely. If you want more heat just add more peppers.
  • 2 heaping tbsp coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 lbs carrots (trimmed & peeled, cut into chunks)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion


  1. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a wide saucepan. Sauté the onion, garlic and peppers for just a minute or two, just enough to soften everything up a tad and release some flavor and aroma.
  2. Add the vinegar and salt, and bring everything to a boil. (Make sure you open the door or a window to get some good ventilation; boiling vinegar can get pretty intense.) Let it cool.
  3. Add the chunked carrots to a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 8-10 minutes. You want the carrots tender but firm. Drain and give them a few minutes to cool.
  4. Add the peppers, onion, garlic and vinegar mixture to a blender or food processor along with two cups of the cooked carrots. Puree until smooth.
  5. Taste it. If it's got too much heat add another cup of carrots and puree again, until you get it to where you want it.
  6. Once you have the flavor and level of heat you're happy with you can either bottle it up right there, or strain it to get a greater liquid texture.
  7. Bottle it in a cool-looking bottle. It will last in your refrigerator for at least a year.

* variation: divide the vinegar mixture in half, pureeing one half just as directed, but to the other half add some fruit like papaya, peach or pineapple before pureeing. You can cut down on the carrots a bit if you add fruit. The best advice for making this stuff is to let your imagination be your guide, have fun and write your ingredient list and process down as you do it. You might come up with something that knocks your socks off and having it written down will ensure that you'll be able to replicate it again.

Curing Salmon Roe for the Kitchen

We went salmon fishing a few times this autumn and did fairly well, catching several. We released some of them because they were too far into their spawning run and were therefore too dark for good eating, but a few had enough good color and firmness to keep. Two or three big females we caught and kept also had excellent stores of roe.

In the past, while I've reserved some of the eggs for eating I've usually just collected most of the skeins and had simply frozen them for later use as fishing bait. But with salmon roe going for anywhere between $6 and $9 or higher per ounce there is plenty of incentive to make use of this delicacy in the kitchen.

Step 1: rinse/clean the salmon eggs

We'll try to add a few recipes that make use of roe when we make something we think you might enjoy as well. You'll probably have good results with salmon roe in dishes that combine it with other ingredients such as goat cheese, chives, farm eggs, mayonnaise, peppers, and certain fairly intense cheeses. Basically, wherever you might use anchovies, like on pizza, in spring rolls or as part of some tapas plates, you can use salmon roe.

Step 2: dissolve Kosher salt in warm water

Here's a simple recipe to cure or temporarily preserve fresh salmon roe. I'd also suggest letting yourself play with this in anyway that strikes your fancy. Try any number of curing or pickling ingredients (gin or vodka, hot peppers, garlic, cucumber, herbs, etc). It's quite all right if some attempts don't turn out so great; you might hit upon something that is totally awesome.

Step 3: add eggs to salted water and let cure for 2-3 hours


  • Salmon Roe
  • Kosher Salt
  • Water
  • Dark beer
  • Sugar

Here's the recipe I used to beer brine cure around 3 lbs of fresh roe (steps correspond with images):

  1. Rinse the eggs if they're loose and free of the skein (the membrane that holds the whole bunch together) to get rid of any bits of blood bits. If they're still in the skein rinse it thoroughly.
  2. Add and dissolve between 1/3 to 1/2 cup Kosher salt into around a quart of 100° water.
  3. Add the eggs to the salted water and let them sit for a couple hours. If they're cloudy going in they should be clear after the brine bath.
  4. After two or three hours rinse the eggs using a sieve and running water. If the eggs were still held together in a skein now's the time to peel the membrane from them so that they're free. Be attentive when doing this because the little things seem eager to escape and bounce around.
  5. Prepare a second brine of dark beer and sugar. I used a bottle of Dragon's Milk from Michigan's new Holland Brewing that my friend Brian gave me. It's a rich, creamy oak barrel aged ale, 10% abv, and goes down like a liqueur. Added (and dissolved) to the beer 7 heaping tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon or two of Kosher salt..
  6. Add the loose eggs and let them sit for two or three hours.
  7. After two or three hours drain the eggs in a sieve (don't rinse) and jar them. They'll last for two or three weeks in the fridge.

Step 5: prepare beer/salt/sugar brine

Depending on the character of the eggs when you brine them they may be a little "hard" and "poppy" when you bite down on them. They soften up a bit when heated during cooking and are easier to eat.

Step 6: cure eggs in beer/sugar/salt solution for 2-3 hours

Step 7: drain eggs

Step 7: jar the eggs and refrigerate (good for 2 or 3 weeks)

Below is a simple recipe to add a little color and interest to your breakfast, with beer cured salmon roe.

Scrambled Eggs with Roe & Chives:

  • Cut a few chives from your herb pot and scissor them up into tiny pieces.
  • Whip three eggs in a bowl with a bit of cream or milk and salt & pepper.
  • Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and sweat a little diced garlic and onion (around a teaspoon each).
  • Add a tablespoon of the salmon eggs to the skillet and cook them for a minute or so, stirring them around a few times. This will soften them up and let them soak up some of that good butter/garlic/onion flavor.
  • Pour in the egg/cream mixture, sprinkle the chopped chives over the top, and move it around like you do for scrambled eggs, until it's nice and fluffy and done. Drop a teaspoon of butter on top as it's about to finish cooking.
  • As soon as the eggs are plated turn the heat up a little and lay a slice or two of country bread, buttered on both sides, in the skillet to quickly toast it, flipping it once. About a minute and a half. Pour yourself a cup of coffee in your Stumpjack mug while the bread is browning.
  • Bonus points: take a picture of it all and share it with us and post it on facebook.

Final Step: eat 'em up!

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