SPINACH ARTICHOKE RAVIOLI LASAGNA

SPINACH ARTICHOKE RAVIOLI LASAGNA  Yields 8 servings

This is a GREAT and super EASY shortcut lasagna that packs an extra punch of flavor!

3 tablespoons butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons WONDRA flour
2 1/4 cups WHOLE milk
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1-14 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (see notes) and chopped
2 cups frozen spinach, defrosted, drained WELL and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds frozen cheese ravioli (see notes)
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Whisk the flour into the butter and garlic and cook until the mixture is bubbling and golden, 1 minute more. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly.
  • Bring mixture to a simmer then stir in cream cheese, 2/3 cup mozzarella, and Parmesan.
  • Let simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Fold in artichoke hearts and spinach, then add lemon juice and red pepper flakes, if using, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • Spread a thin layer of your prepared sauce onto the bottom of a 9″-x-13″ baking dish or lasagna pan.
  • Lay ravioli in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish, then top with half the prepared sauce and a thin layer of cheese.
  • Repeat with remaining ravioli, most of the remaining sauce and another thin layer of cheese.
  • Top with remaining sauce and cheese.
  • Bake 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and ravioli are tender.
  • If you’d like the top to be more golden, broil on high for 1-2 minutes.
  • Garnish with parsley and serve.

NOTES:

  • I drain and save the oil marinade to use for future meals.
  • I usually prepare half again as much sauce because we like it saucy 😀
  • By having a choice on the ravioli, it can easily be vegetarian or protein packed with a meat 😀

STUFFED SHELLS

STUFFED SHELLS
24 JUMBO pasta shells
2 CUPS shredded Mozzarella cheese

BALSMELLA (Italian Bechamel)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
2 1/4 cups WHOLE milk
1/2-1 teaspoon FRESH grated nutmeg
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper, to taste

  • Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in flour cooking 2 minutes until golden.
  • Whisk in milk and nutmeg, bringing to a simmer.
  • Reduce heat and cook, whisking periodically for 10 minutes until thick.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper.

STUFFING
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 SMALL onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup QUALITY DRY sherry

  • Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions, cooking 3-4 minutes until softened.
  • Add garlic, cooking until fragrant.
  • Add ground beef and pork, cooking until browned, breaking up meat pieces into fine.
  • Drain off excess grease.
  • Stir in sherry and cook 5-6 minutes until nearly evaporated.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Let cool completely.
  • Stir in Balsamella sauce.

TOMATO SAUCE
3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 small red onion, chopped
24 ounce can whole tomatoes
1 KNORR beef gel packet
3/4 cup moscato white wine
Juice from 1 lemon
5-6 cloves garlic, finely minced into a paste
3 tablespoons Classico sundried tomato pesto
1 teaspoon fresh ground Himalayan pink salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground red pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

  • Heat avocado oil in a large saute’ pan over medium high heat.
  • Add onions and garlic sauteeing until tender.
  • Whisk together the beef gel, wine, pesto and juice from the tomatoes.
  • Add seasonings, blending well.
  • Add tomatoes and gently crush.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 2 hours.

ASSEMBLY

  • Spread 3 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3 quart baking dish.
  • Spoon meat mixture evenly into shells, arranging shells on top of red sauce in baking dish.
  • Cover with foil and bake 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove foil and sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake another 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbling and golden.
  • Let rest 5 minutes.
  • Garnish and serve with remaining tomato sauce.

NOTES:

  • I like to cook the shells the day before, chilling in the refrigerator over night so they are pliable and easy to work with the next day.
  • A potato masher helps to make a finely minced meat.
  • If you have any extra meat mixture I either sprinkle it over the shells or freeze to use later in a lasagna.

BAKED ZITI

Like Lasagna, but not all the hassle? Makes Broken Lasagna AKA Baked Ziti or ANY pasta for that matter – it’s all about the flavors 😀

BAKED ZITI Recipe Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 55 minutes Yield: Serves at least 8
1 pound ziti or pasta of your choice
Avocado oil
1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef or pork
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon FRESH basil, minced
1 tablespoon Garden Gourmet Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
32 ounces marinara (jar or your own homemade)
1/2 pound of grated Mozzarella cheese
1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese
1 cup FRESH grated Parmesan cheese

  • Heat a large pot of water to a hard boil.
  • Add a tablespoon of salt.
  • Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm to the bite.
  • Drain the pasta well.
  • Toss with a little avocado oil so it doesn’t stick together.
  • Set aside.

 

  • Heat a tablespoon of avocado oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the sausage and ground beef or ground pork, breaking up any large chunks as it cooks. Brown well.
  • Season with FRESH ground salt and pepper.
  • Drain off any excessive grease, but leave a little for flavor.
  • Add onions and garlic, sautéing until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the basil, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes, stirring to combine and coat well.
  • Add the marinara sauce and stir well.
  • Bring to a simmer.

 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole pan.
  • Add dollops of half the ricotta cheese.
  • Ladle a spoonful of sauce into the pasta, stir it well and then add the pasta into the casserole.
  • Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta.
  • Add dollops of the remaining ricotta cheese over top.
  • Sprinkle the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese on top.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the cheese melted.

NOTES:

  • I sometimes add small mini meatballs for fun 😀
  • You can substitute dried herbs if that is all you have on hand. Use 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme to replace the Italian seasoning.

LASAGNA with MEATY SAUCE

LASAGNA with MEATY SAUCE serves 12
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 small white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 14.5 ounce cans whole tomatoes
2 – 6 ounce cans tomato paste
2 + 2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons garden gourmet Italian herbs
1 teaspoon garden gourmet basil
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
2 LARGE eggs, beaten
1/2 cup FRESH grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Salt
1 pound Sliced or grated Mozzarella Cheese

1 – 10 ounce package lasagna noodles
salt
olive oil

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.

 

  • Over medium high heat, brown the ground beef and ground pork.
  • Add onion and garlic, cooking until meat is browned and onion is softened.
  • Drain off half the fat.
  • Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley, Italian herbs and basil.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Simmer 30-45 minutes.

 

  • In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and a teaspoon salt.
  • Stir together well. Set aside.

 

  • Add a generous amount of salt and a drizzle of olive oil to the boiling water.
  • Cook lasagna until JUST “al dente” – DO NOT OVERCOOK!
  • Drain.

ASSEMBLY

  • Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary.
  • Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles and spread evenly.
  • Cover cottage cheese and ricotta mixture with a layer of mozzarella cheese.
  • Spoon a little less than half the meat sauce mixture over the top.
  • Repeat, ending with meat sauce mixture.
  • Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan and a bit of the Mozzarella.
  • Bake 20-30 minutes until top is hot and bubbly.

WHITE MISO CREAM SAUCE PASTA

PASTA with MISO CREAM SAUCE

8 ounces uncooked pasta (see note), prepared per package directions
1 1/2 cups WHOLE milk
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
4 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
FRESH ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 pound Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled small
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups heirloom grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
2 teaspoon chopped thyme
4 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves, optional
18-20 mini mozzarella balls, halved or quartered
Torn basil leaves for garnish

  • Place 1/2 cup of milk in deep bowl.
  • Whisk in flour and miso until smooth.

 

  • Add remaining milk and stock to saucepan. Bring to a SLOW boil over medium-high heat.
  • Whisk in flour mixture and reduce heat. Simmer 4-5 minutes until slightly thick.
  • Add pepper.

 

  • Heat oil and butter in skillet over high heat.
  • Add tomatoes, stirring and cooking 2 minutes until beginning to char and pop.
  • Add thyme and garlic, cooking 1 minute more.
  • Add spinach, cooking 2 minutes more until wilted.
  • Remove from heat.

 

  • Add pasta sauce and half the cheese to the skillet, tossing to combine.
  • Serve in pasta bowls.
  • Top with remaining cheese pieces and torn basil.

NOTE: Any pasta works with this recipe!

CHICKEN BLT CASSEROLE

CHICKEN BLT CASSEROLE serves 6
12 ounces Barilla cellentani or rotini pasta
6 slices bacon, chopped, cooked until crispy
3 cups rotisserie chicken pieces
2 cups alfredo sauce (homemade or jar** – your choice)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups micro arugula
2 large green onions, sliced thin
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Spray 3 quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Cook pasta al dente per package directions. Drain well.
  • In a large mixing bowl toss pasta with chicken pieces.
  • Add alfredo sauce and toss until well coated.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground salt and pepper.
  • Fold in green onions, bacon pieces and tomatoes.
  • Cover and bake 25 minutes.
  • Top with cheese and return to oven uncovered for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Enjoy.

NOTES:

  • This recipe is good leftover. BUT is BEST FRESH because of the lettuce and tomato. 
  • RAGU makes a basil alfredo that is super yummy!

BEEF RAGU & PASTA ala SLOW COOKER and A LITTLE PASTA HISTORY

Strozzapreti AKA priest-choker or priest-strangler are an elongated form of cavatelli, a hand-rolled pasta typical of the Tuscany region of Italy.

The name has many theories as to the name. One of the theories is because of gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves. Another explanation involves the “azdora” OR A  ”housewife” who “chokes” the dough strips to make the strozzapreti. It is presumed that the housewife would express such a rage possibly triggered by the misery and difficulty of her life that would fill her with enough rage to be able to strangle a priest!” And yet another legend suggests that wives would customarily make pasta for priests as partial payment for land rents (the Catholic church rented to many farmers) and their husbands would be angered enough by the priests eating their wives’ food to wish that the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouths with it. And yet another possible explanation is that the pasta resembles a clerical collar which is commonly referred to as a “Priest Choker”.

The more commonly accepted theory is that following Sunday mass, a priest would visit homes of the villagers and enjoy dinner with them. The more pleasant the experience for the priest the more often they would come back to that particular home. As a means for the family to let the priest know that he might have worn out his welcome, they would serve this pasta which later earned the name “Strozzapreti.”

The dough is first rolled out in thick flat sheets. It is then cut into strips. The strips are lightly rolled or twisted between the palms. The large pasta is separated into 3-4 inch pieces by pinching it. Unlike spaghetti or macaroni, this pasta is not uniform in size or shape.

Different regions makes this pasta slightly different. In Romagna it is made with wheat flour, water, salt and sometimes eggs. Where as in Emilia it is made from flour, water, Parmesan cheese and egg whites which are all beaten together. In Pici it is more similar to the Tuscan style which is hand rolled, solid fat tubes of dough that are cut, but not twisted giving it the appearance of a taut rope. In Corsica it is a large gnocchi made of cheese and vegetables and then baked.

Unless you make your own pasta regularly this is a difficult pasta to find in your average grocery store. I usually substitute the Barilla Campagnelle pasta which is a thinner cone shaped pasta with a ruffled edge and is often known as “little bells”.

BEEF RAGU ala SLOW COOKER
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 -3 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon House Seasoning (see below)
28 ounce crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Prepared pasta
Parmesan cheese, grated

  • Spray a large slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Arrange the onions and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Sprinkle the roast with the house seasoning on both sides.
  • Arrange roast on top of the onions and garlic.
  • Sprinkle the carrots on top of the roast.
  • In a medium bowl, blend together the tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, red wine vinegar and Italian seasonings.
  • Pour over the roast.
  • Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours until the beef is EXTREMELY tender and falls apart.
  • Skim any fat from the top.
  • Use 2 forks to shred the beef.
  • Stir beef into the tomato sauce.
  • Adjust seasonings.
  • Re-cover and cook for another hour to allow the flavored to meld together.
  • Serve over prepared pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

HOUSE SEASONING MIX

1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon FRESH ground black pepper

  • Combine in a small bowl until well blended.
  • Store in an air tight container.

 

BLT PASTA with GARLIC BREAD CRUMBS in WINE SAUCE

While this is NOT a salad, it is STILL refreshing and YUMMY!

CBLT PASTA with GARLIC BREAD CRUMBS in WINE SAUCE
4 ounces fettuccine
1 cup cubed day old baguette bread
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt, to taste
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 1/2 cup shredded chicken pieces
1 leek, sliced
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white moscato wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 cup FRESH spinach

  • Prepare fettuccine according to package directions. Drain WELL and keep warm.
  • In a food processor pulse garlic and bread cubes until crumbs form.
  • In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat.
  • Add crumbs and toast until golden, stirring frequently.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain on paper toweling.
  • Add remaining oil to skillet.
  • Add leeks and sauce 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes, sautéing another 2-3 minutes until soft.
  • Add broth, wine and vinegar. Simmer until reduced by at least a third.
  • Add spinach, stirring just until spinach wilts.
  • Fold in bacon and fettuccine noodles.
  • Divide between 2 pasta bowls.
  • Sprinkle with crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  • ENJOY!

TEX-MEX MAC-N-CHEESE

TEX-MEX MAC-N-CHEESE
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 can shoepeg corn kernels
1 medium Vidalia onion, small dice
3 small sweet red pepper, seeded, small dice
1 can original ROTEL tomatoes with green chiles, drained WELL
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, cold
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
FRESH ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound mini rigatoni or pasta of choice, cooked al dente
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
OPTIONAL GARNISHES
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
Minced cilantro leaves
Pickled jalapenos, drained and minced

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Add the butter, corn, onions, red peppers, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, sauteing until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cumin, chile powder, cayenne pepper and flour, stirring frequently 3 to 4 minutes until roux forms.
  • Pour in the cold milk in a steady stream, stirring vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture starts to thicken, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the cheddar and Monterey Jack. Cook until the sauce is smooth and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the scallions, tomatoes, peppers and rigatoni, mixing well to combine.
  • Pour into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
  • Sprinkle with panko crumbs evenly over the top and cover with foil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
  • Remove to a cooling rack and let rest for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with the Cotija cheese, jalapeno and cilantro.
  • Serve immediately.

SPAGHETTI with RICOTTA MEATBALLS & PECORINO GARLIC BREAD

In my humble opinion (especially now that bread is a rarity in my diet) a “dressed” garlic bread is the ONLY way to go! The strong penetrating flavor of the  Pecorino cheese in the garlic bread as well as the meatballs raises your normal spaghetti to a NEW level.

 

SPAGHETTI with RICOTTA MEATBALLS & PECORINO GARLIC BREAD – serves 2

2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped FRESH Parsley, minced
2 tablespoons chopped FRESH Basil leaves, chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, minced and divide in thirds
3/4 pound LEAN ground beef
2 tablespoons Ricotta cheese
¼ cup Italian Breadcrumbs
1/3 pound spaghetti noodles
1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
Avocado oil
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
1 French Roll

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a FULL boil.
  • Prepare a small baking sheet with foil
.

 

  • Mix together the ground beef, ricotta cheese, parsley, 1/3 of the garlic, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the Pecorino cheese with your hands until well blended.
  • Shape meat into ping pong sized meatballs.

 

  • Heat avocado oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add meatballs to hot oil stirring occasionally until browned ALL over, 6-9 minutes.
  • Set aside.

 

  • While meatballs are cooking cook spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente, 8-10 minutes.
  • Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • Drain pasta. Toss with oil.

 

  • In a small mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon of Pecorino cheese and 1 tablespoon avocado oil together into a paste.
  • Stir in 1/3 of the garlic.
  • Place bread on lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Spread paste over bread and bake until golden brown.
  • Top with sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

 

  • In a medium sauce pan combine marinara, a pinch of salt and reserved pasta water. Bring to a boil.
  • Return meatball pan to a medium heat. Add remaining garlic, cooking until fragrant.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until meatballs are warmed through, 8 minutes or so.
  • Plate and serve immediately.

Linking up to FULL Plate Thursday.

ITALIAN PIGGY SHELLS

ITALIAN PIGGY SHELLS
SHELLS
1 pound sweet Italian ground sausage
12-15 jumbo shells
1/3 cup diced onions
1/3 cup diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon avocado oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced celery & leaf tops
3 tablespoons quality DRY sherry
Fresh ground salt and black pepper, to taste
1 batch Balsamella (Italian béchamel) recipe below
2 cups fresh tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh torn basil (small pieces)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Add shells to boiling water for 4 minutes in boiling water. Drain in colander and rinse with cool water. Drain again.**
  • Heat avocado oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions and celery, stirring to cook until soft.
  • Add pork, cooking until completely browned. DRAIN off any fat.
  • Add sherry and simmer over medium heat until liquid is completely absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile prepare the balsmella sauce recipe below.

  • Combine the meat mixture and the balsmella sauce until well blended.
  • Combine tomato sauce and basil pieces.
  • Pour half the sauce into the bottom of your baking dish.
  • Carefully stuff each shell and arrange on sauce in the baking dish.
  • Cover with foil.@@
  • Bake 15 minutes.
  • Remove foil.
  • Drizzle remaining tomato sauce over top of all the shells.
  • Sprinkle with cheeses.
  • Bake 5 minutes more until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
  • Garnish with basil.

**NOTE 1: BE SURE TO BREAK DOWN THE MEAT INTO TINY PIECES to make stuffing the shells easier. I use my NINJA to breakdown the meat mixture into a smooth consistency.
@@NOTE 2: This can be refrigerated overnight and baked the following day. Bring to room temperature before baking.

BALSMELLA (Bechamel)

1/2 tablespoon unsalted better
2 tablespoons Wondra flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste

  • Melt butter to a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in flour until golden brown.
  • Whisk in milk and nutmeg until well blended.
  • Bring to a SLOW simmer, whisking intermittently. Simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from heat and cool slightly.

**NOTE: Cook the shells 4 minutes ONLY – JUST enough to be pliable for filling! They will continue cooking while the dish bakes.

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