Food Blog

Healthy plant-based recipes full of good stuff whilst being free from refined sugars and wheat. The food blog is a space to kickstart your inner creativity!

Christmas Wreath Cheesecake! (with so many options!)

I recently took a trip to Spain to soak up some winter sunshine and do some work without the distractions of my kitchen. I have lots of travel plans for next year and this was something of a trial for a location independent work life.

That meant as soon as I landed back in the UK… I was straight back in the kitchen to unleash all that repressed kitchen creativity, ha ha

This was something of spontaneous unplanned creation, although the idea was triggered by a toffee wreath sponge cake in the Ocado Magazine. I veganized it, healthanized it, changed up the flavour and tuned it into a cheesecake. Nothing like the original really!

gingerbread wreath cheesecake 1.jpg

What I love about this recipe is the pure versatility…

  • you can make your own plain cheesecake base or if you are pushed for time buy a plain one and focus on making the bliss balls decorations.

  • you can use any cheesecake recipe you prefer (if you have a tried and tested version you love- just go for that!)

  • you can make it any flavour you fancy - I went for gingerbread but any festive theme (or non-festive) would be awesome.

  • You can make the topping ahead of time and then decorate your cheesecake last minute for a super speedy show-stopping dessert.

So have I got your attention yet? :-)

Below, I have provided the cheesecake recipe I used if you want to try it, but as I mention above the main focus of this post is on the decorations, so you could literally use any plain smooth topped cheesecake base you like.

I kept my bliss balls plain for a ‘simple’ understated cake but after I made it I remembered my ‘bliss baubles’ from previous years- they would look absolutely epic on this cake! (Why didn’t I think of that at the time!!)

I developed the ‘baubles’ for a brand so I don’t think I showcase them on my blog at the time - but the concept is simple. Toss desiccated coconut in a little turmeric, greens powder and beetroot powder and roll the balls in it to get a pretty multi-coloured batch!

baubles 2a.jpg

Recipe: Christmas Wreath Cheesecake!

Makes an 8’ cheesecake

Cheesecake Ingredients:

Base*

  • 1/2 cup oats

  • 1/2 cup nuts

  • 1/2 cup nuts

  • 1 tbs coconut oil

Cheesecake

  • 1 cup water (separated into 2 x 1/2 cups)

  • 1 tbs agar flakes

  • 1 cup cashews (soaked overnight in cold water or for a couple of hours in hot water, then drained)

  • 1/4 cup syrup of choice (I used coconut)

  • 2 tbs coconut oil

  • 1 tbs lemon juice

  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger

  • 1/4 tsp mixed spice

*NOTE: I found my base to be quite ‘bendy’ so it wasn’t as easy to remove from the pan as I would like. (But maybe that’s just me being clumsy as most of the recipe I have looked at use a similar base type)

Method:

Add the base ingredients to a food processor and blitz together until quite fine and clumpy. Press firmly into the bottom of a spring form pan (lining it may also help- optional). Set aside.

Add 1/2 cup water with the agar flakes to a small sauce pan. bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, blitz the remaining ingredients together in a food processor until thick and smooth (you may need to scrape down a couple of times). By this time the agar should be ready. Add this to the food processor and blitz for a further 20-30 seconds until the mixture is as smooth as it can be.

Working quite quickly (because the agar will begin to set) spoon/pour the mix on top of the cheesecake base. Tap the tin gently to smooth the top and get rid of any air bubbles. Once cooler enough place the cheesecake in the fridge to fully set (an hour or so).

Meanwhile, make the bliss ball topping as directed below.


Bliss Ball Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup dates (use medjool dates if you haven’t got a powerful food processor)

  • 1 cup dessicated coconut (or nuts of choice- cashew/almond/pecan or a mix all work well)

  • 2 tsp ground ginger

  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

  • handful of goji berries and pumpkin seeds for additional decoration.

*Remember you could use any flavour here or a mix of flavours - e.g orange, cherry bakewell, chocolate, vanilla would all work well depending on what base favour you opt for!

Method:

Blitz all ingredients together in a food processor. The mix should be soft and clumpy and easy to roll into balls. Using your hands, roll into balls of various (fairly small) sizes.

If choosing to decorate as multi-coloured ‘baubles’ - dust a little extra desiccated coconut with turmeric, greens power and beetroot power (plus blue spirulina if you can get your hands on it!- any other colours?!) and roll the balls in it.

Allow them to chill and firm up whilst the cheesecake base firms up.

Once ready to decorate, place the balls gently in a mix of sizes around the perimeter of the cake top. Sprinkle goji berries and pumpkin seeds as desired in the gaps as ‘foliage’.

NOTE: you could make these ahead of time as they will store in the fridge for a couple of weeks. They transport well too if you needed to take them elsewhere to a festive party and decorate a cake there!

The entire assembled cheesecake will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

gingerbread wreath cheesecake 2a.jpg
gingerbread wreath cheesecake 3a.jpg


Did you try it?

I’d love to see… tag @johodson on Instagram with your creation!! :-)


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The Festive Recipe Bundle!

A ‘Bliss’full Christmas?

With the festive season fast approaching… I had a slightly spontaneous idea to create a festive recipe bundle including a new version of my ‘top 5 recipes’ with some new favourites I have created since the first edition.

I coupled the Christmas Recipe Guides with my favourite Bliss Ball Guide (featuring loads of recipes that haven’t appeared on the blog) because, for me, Bliss Balls are the perfect Christmas homemade gift… so many of my customers and friends will likely attest to that, ha ha!

‘Printables’

The fun bonus with these ebooks is that they are designed such that you can print them (ideally on card), cut them along the dotted lines to keep on hand in the kitchen OR even better, use the recipe card as a gift tag when you present your homemade gift… that way your ‘giftee’ can make the recipe again for themselves. Fun, right? ;-)

All the recipes are vegan (of course) gluten free (some use oats so opt for GF versions) and refined-sugar free… so you have an indulgent Christmas without compromise.

*Note… I don’t want to imply that there should be any ‘food guilt’ I aim to inspire your creativity with food NOT make you feel bad about food! So go full out and eat sugar and refined foods if you want to, I just know many of us feel so much better in mind and body when sticking to mostly whole foods and unrefined ingredients if there is the option, and so if that’s you thing… I’ve totally got you covered!

The whole bundle is just £5…

You can buy it HERE (or click the pic below!)

P.s I’d love you to tag me on social media in any recipes you make - Instagram is my favourite hangout- I’m @johodson over there :-)

If you don’t fancy getting the guides right now, you can still get lots of recipe ideas right here on my blog… Here are a few to get you going!


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My top #Rawgust meal ideas & raw banana bread recipe!

It's coming up to the end of the month. The end of August.... and therefore the end of #Rawgust

I didn't announce it directly on my blog (kept that to social media) but I made the decision on the last day of their life to give Raugust a go - that's raw vegan for the month of August. My boyfriend was also up for playing along which helped!

RAWGUST.jpg

I felt very unprepared and aware that it may not run perfectly or smoothly but that's ok. It was the spontaneity that spoke to me in the moment when I saw a post by the Ethcs crew that I really resonated with.

Having spent time at Raw Fest on the last weekend of July, and more recently exploring the connection between a plant-based diet and our innate sense of creativity for my forthcoming book, I am learning that a raw vegan diet has the potential to bring you even closer to that connection with self, with source, with nature.

My good friend Rhiannon Van Der Griffin recently shared her raw journey with me a part of my book research and I was inspired more than ever to try it for myself. 

In moments like this I come back to this quote by Matt Cutts. It's simply about getting curious to explore what becoming the very best version of you could look like. For 30 days.

m4m17.jpg

So how did the month play out for me?

NOTE: more in depth update in this post!

Well, I admit I wasn't perfect. I wasn't 100% raw. Probably about 85% in reality. 

One of the biggest reasons for wanting to do it, was to increase my repertoire of raw meal ideas for the future, and that I did for sure. In particular, raw sauces, dips and dressings for salads can REALLY make a salad.... it doesn't often matter what veggies you have in the bowl if you have an incredible sauce to smoother them in, right? ;-) Make enough for the week and you have easy meals lunches you can make in moments. 

I am going to put together a separate post sharing a big roundup of raw recipes from a vegan community I am part of, but for now I'd like to share a few of my favourite discoveries and tips.

I'd also love to hear about your own 'raw' adventures...

Whether that might simply be incorporating a green smoothie each day, or a raw lunch Monday to Friday, or more raw snacks. It's not about hitting 100% perfect, what works for you?

Have you felt any benefits going more 'raw'? Or what are you currently struggling with?

My favourite things to make...

  • Raw sauces etc (as noted above) - make a weeks worth.
  • Deyhdrated flax crackers which are great as a snack in the go, as cracker as a 'bread substitute' and also as croutons in a salad when sliced into tiny squares- recipe here
  • Bliss Balls are also an obvious go-to, BUT I did have a tendency to eat a lot of them and then be too full for a massive salad- ooops!
  • Courgetti- spiralised courrgette and carrot for a fun pretty bowl. Also great with the chunky bolognaise- see pic above - recipe to come.
  • Smoothies of all kinds - green, berry or banana and raw cacao for a chocolate hit!
  • Overnight oats - this one is a little contentious as to whether it's actually raw, since rolled porridge oats are technically heated in the rolling process. But this was often nice to wake up to instead of smoothie or fruit bowl in the morning, or as lunch on the go.
  • Mushroom curry - so easy and so good (see pic above) based on this recipe using cashews.
  • Lettuce wraps with a peanut satay dipping sauce (technical the peanut butter component wasn't raw) note: gem lettuce leaves work best- those in the picture were from my veggie patch.

Still a few more days of #Rawgust to go, so I will see what creations catch my eye- I will be back with more raw recipes here soon!

For now, I'll leave you with this recipe for a raw banana bread... I totally made this up as I went along, but it worked so well as a spin-off on a bliss ball style creation.

raw banana bread rawgust.jpg

Recipe: Raw Banana Bread Slice

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tbs flax seed
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup nuts- chopped (I used macadamias*)
  • 1/2 cup nuts- ground (I used pecans*)
  • pinch salt

* I loved the flavour and texture of the chunky macadamia pieces, but I imagine cashews or almond would also work well. Any ground nut could be used.

If you want a more intense 'double banana' flavour, try using dried banana pieces (not banana chips) instead of dates - or half and half.

Method:

Blend the banana with the flax, cinnamon and dates until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well to form a stiff slightly sticky 'dough'. (I pulsed the mix together in a food processor but you could do it by hand). 

Form into a log on a liner and chill for at least an hour to firm up. Once firm slice into pieces and serve. Store in the fridge for up to a week. This freezes well too.

NOTE: It makes about three times the amount shown, but I gifted most of it to my boyfriend before I had a chance to shoot it ;-)

raw banana bread rawgust.jpg
 

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Chocolate Crispy Cake 'Bliss Bars'

So here's a super simple recipe that I first made a month or two ago and I think I have now made at least 4 times since! It's a great one to make with or for kids too.

They are soooooo moreish it's unreal.... a soft and chewy 'bliss ball' texture with loads of crispy flakes mixed through.

The added bonus with the high proportion of flakes mixed in is that it helps lighten up an otherwise dense snack... that's the only problem with bliss balls/energy balls- they are very dense for their size and if like me you have a tendency to 'eat with your eyes' - it's very easy to overdo it!

crispy cake raw bars 1a.jpg

Guilty admission- as I sit here writing this post, I have a box of these bites beside to take on a road trip with a friend this afternoon, BUT I have already munched through the about four of them! Oooops.... ;-)

This most recent batch I made had protein powder added instead of the coconut flakes. This really helps bump up the protein count, if that's your thing for for it. One tip- I found they flavour was so much better the following day- on day 1 I could slightly taste the protein powder but by the second day onwards it had pretty much disappeared as the flavours had time to meld.

You can use any type of crispy flaked cereal you like, but for extra nutritional value I used these amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat cornflakes by RealFoodSource (amaranth is shown in the photos here) 

You can press the mix into a square pan and cut into squares/bars or roll into balls, both work great. They freeze well too, and can even be munch o straight from the feeezer (mind your teeth- you may prefer to defrost a little!)

Add any 'mix-ins' you fancy, some other dried fruits, nutty chunks or an extract such as peppermint, orange or almond always go down well. If using an extract- about 1/2 tsp should do mixed in at the start, with other ingredients pulse through at theed for a chunky texture.

crispy cake raw bars 3a.jpg

Recipe: Chocolate Crispy Cake 'Bliss Bars'

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (or raw cacao)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax (optional but I like the hidden nutritional boost)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or any ground nut)*
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flakes cereal

handful chocolate chips or cacoa nibs- optional for extra crunch and chocolateyness

* for the protein version I swapped the ground nuts for defatted almond protein powder- you favorite neutral protein blend would also work here.

Method:

Place the dates, cocoa, flax, nuts and salt in a food processor. process until you have a soft-ish, sticky and clumpy mix- you will likely need to add 2-3 tbs water to create the right consistency.

Add the cereal flakes and choc chips (if using) and pulse through to mix in evenly.

Press firmly into a tin or roll into balls, Chill for an hour until firm.

Will keep for a week or two in the fridge or you can freeze them.

crispy cake raw bars 2a.jpg
crispy cake raw bars 4a.jpg

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Chocolate Avocado Pudding (with medicinal mushrooms!)

I have been adding medicinal mushroom powder to everything recently- well mainly anything chocolatey as the colour and flavours are perfect masked!

I bought a selection of organic medicinal mushroom powders from here and mixed them together into one blend tub which I keep in the fridge. I like to have a teaspoon a day in a chocolatey dessert or as hot drink with some cocoa and/or vanilla bean.

 medicinal mushroom powder ready to mix into chocolatey porridge

medicinal mushroom powder ready to mix into chocolatey porridge

There are many reported benefits of medicinal mushrooms... I was first intrigued by the articles I read up on how mushrooms could help with focus (something I really struggle with as my creative brain fires off on all tangents!) I had also been aware of them at many health food shows but hadn't really explored them at that point. 

There are estimated to be over 5 million different species of mushrooms, yet only 270 are currently classified as ‘medicinal’ with their potent anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and immune-enhancing qualities. Some of the most popular are reishi, chaga and cordyceps- which are the three types I have.

This pudding recipe is a spin on a classic avocado chocolate pudding, and in putting this post together I realised I didn't actually have any other form of avocado pudding on this blog - every vegan food blogger has an avocado pudding!! ;-) (Now I do too!)

This recipe serves one (or two smaller servings), but I have also tried it with great success by multiplying and making a huge batch of pudding mix then freezing in muffin cups- perfect pudding portions at the ready!

You could mix other mild favoured superfood powders in if your preferred- such as maca or baobab or leave them out all together.

Bonus- this recipe only takes two minutes to blend up!

Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Pudding With Medicinal Mushrooms

Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Pudding with medicinal mushrooms

Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup medjool dates (approx 3-4)
  • 3 tbs raw cacao (or cocoa powder)
  • 1 heaped tsp cashew or macadamia butter*
  • 1/2 cup water*
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp medicinal mushroom powder (optional)
  • Tiny pinch of sea salt
  • Approx. 1 tsp maple syrup - only if needed

* You could also substitute the nut butter and water with 1/2 cup coconut milk.

Method:

Blitz all together in a small food processor/blender until super smooth. Taste and add a tiny drop of maple syrup if extra sweetness is desired. Spoon into a serving bowl and allow to chill a little to set if desired. 

I served mine with crushed frozen raspberry pieces and desiccated coconut. You could also add an extra layer of fruit at the bottom of the serving bowl.

Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Pudding With Medicinal Mushrooms

 

 

 

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The 'Bliss Cake' (aka a mega bliss ball!)

I have another Bliss Ball Workshop coming up this weekend and last weekend I was in full on recipe development mode last weekend which included making loads of Bliss Ball mix... but I fancied a different presentation to the norm to change things up a bit and so the 'Bliss Cake' was born.... Oh My Gosh..... a touch of heaven on earth!!

Recipe: The Bliss Cake 

Whaaaaaaa.... Why have I not create this before!

I love eating raw cakes BUT I am not typically big fan of making them, simple because of the time it often takes to make and freeze the different layers and also because they are often very neat and super slick and well, I guess I am a little more rough around the edges ;-) Basically, I like to keep things as simple and as quick as possible!

So this beauty ticked those boxes for sure. Be warned if you make it, it is VERY yummy and VERY moreish and a little slice is very rich and will go a long way!  As with blss balls themselves, you could literally make any cake base and then decorate with any toppings... as you can see I added as many colourful things as possible (I was trying out new freeze dried fruits from RealFoodSource at the time).

My base was a blend of dates, almonds, raw cacao and a touch of orange extract.

Other great options could be..... these turkish delight balls, these 'cake like' truffles, or a gingerbread slice. Or why not try a double-decker cake and layer it up- it will barely take any longer as you could just make the full mix without any cocoa, divide in half and add cocoa to the second half, press the first half into the plan followed by the second. 

If you wanted to add a frosting, then the raw frosting I used on these mini sweet potato muffins below (full muffin recipe here) would go down a treat!  Basically you mash slightly softened coconut oil, with a little syrup of choice and cocoa powder, the spread on top in rough peaks and store in the fridge.

vegan chocolate orange cupcakes

Or this lighter frosting (my classic go-to) uses silken tofu and is a total winner! (it just means the topping is not raw, if you were going for the raw cake thing!)

See... now you understand just how versatile the 'bliss cake' is! It;s going to be my new party piece for sure, I will be able to change up the flavours to suits my recipients favourite on a whim!

Recipe: The Bliss Cake 

Recipe: The 'Bliss' Cake 

Makes one 8" cake (or a deeper 6")

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates or soaked and drained deglet noor dates (I use the latter)
  • 1 cup ground almonds (or any ground nut/seed base)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (for a non choc option use a little extra dry ingredient)
  • 1 tsp orange extract (optional- rose water, mint or almond would be fab too)
  • Toppings galore!!!

Method:

Simple blend everything together in a food processor, you may need to do this in two batches defending on the side of your processor (mine is a 2 litre Thermomix). You want a fairly smooth texture with no big pieces, some texture if ok as it makes it 'cake'.

Press fairly firmly into a springform cake pan (or a silicone pan works too) then press into lots of amazing toppings. Or feel free to first it (you will need to keep in the fridge if frosted).

Keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks (unfrosted) or on the counter for a few days. 

Let me know if you make your own 'bliss cake' tag me @johodson on Instagram as I'd love to see!

Recipe: The Bliss Cake 
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Bliss Baubles... fun Christmas gift (and the Ultimate Guide!)

At the beginning of this month you may recall I launched a simple advent gratitude challenge on Facebook. I've been feeling festive now that all the adverts are on TV and the countdown to Christmas is in full flow...  I am also feeling very reflective and setting in motion what I want to create in 2017! Maybe this is what triggered the gratitude challenge.

I also ran another 'Bliss Ball' workshop a few weekends ago (we also had one on my last two retreats) and it was so much fun!  As I was making up all the mix I had an idea for a simple gift idea...

christmas bliss balls gift

Mini bliss balls in a bauble! Yay!

Simply, blend up some dates, nut butter and cacoa (or use your favourite bliss ball recipe) roll into small balls then dust in extra cacao. 

Below are the rough ratios (I rarely measure bliss ball ingredients these days!)... basically make sure you process the ingredients well and end up with a mix that tatses good and isn't too sticky to handle. Add more dry ingredient or chill for a while if too sticky.

The guide is my go too recipe when it comes to bliss ball making. The perfect beginning 'base'.

Guide recipe:

  • 2 cups medjool dates or soaked deglet noor dates (drain them very well!)

  • 1/2 heaped cup desiccated coconut, ground almonds or nut butter

  • 1/4 cup cocoa or raw cacao (plus extra for dusting)

  • few drops of flavour extract to taste (optional) - peppermint, orange and rosewater are my favourites!

Pop a handful of balls in a plastic bauble- the type made in two halves (I found a set of 8cm baubles on Ebay) add a ribbon and a gift tag with a little message if giving as a gift... or just hang on the tree! 

I didn't take a great photo as I hadn't initially planned to blog it (only Instagram it), but I thought it was such a lovely idea, I wanted to share it here too!

They'd make great stocking fillings, thank you gifts or healthy Christmas tree candy! 

 Here is a pic from the workshop in Lanzarote.... messy hands!

Here is a pic from the workshop in Lanzarote.... messy hands!

As I am such a big lover of bliss balls/power balls/energy balls... (whatever name floats your boat). I made a fun guide 'The Ultimate Bliss Ball Guide' and you can buy it here for just $5. You can simply view it digitally or print as cut into a card set as I have designed it be used :-)  No excuse for not having healthy, indulgent, energising snacks to hand any more!

Packed full with 20 EASY NO-BAKE RECIPES. Complete with lots of variations for endless fun and exploration!

Enjoy... be sure to tag me if you make any of the recipes!


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Mini pumpkins... speedy last minute halloween treat!

I have so many recipe photos stored up in my computer, ready for editing and blogging... finding dedicated time to do so is somewhat tricky at times!  But I promise I will get back on it much more consistently as we gear up to the end of the year since sharing recipes is something I love so much!

I made this pumpkin themed recipe yesterday AND I had to no choice but to get on here and share because otherwise Halloween would be over! ha ha

If you are planning a gathering of some sort over the weekend, or need to take a treat to one, these could be a great bet. I found the flavours a little more sophisticated than regular bliss balls, so adults taste buds may prefer them, but i'll let you decide on that!

These are really quick to make. I used roasted pumpkin for depth of flavour and a less wet mix, but for speed you could use fresh raw chunks or puree from a can BUT in that case you will likely need to add extra oatmeal (or a similar dry ingredient) since the resulting mix will be wetter than when using roasted pumpkin which has a lot less moisture remaining. I used a smaller culinary pumpkin but I don't see why regular larger carving pumpkins would not work just as well.

Don't skimp of dusting lightly in turmeric for the orangey glow, it won't be overpowering to taste and really makes them look the part (though take the clove out before eating!)

Enjoy your mini pumpkins and any festive fun you might be having the weekend! 

Recipe: Mini pumpkin bliss balls

Recipe: Mini pumpkin bliss balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups roasted pumpkin chunks or 1/2 cup puree
  • 1/2 cup ground oats
  • 1 cup dates*
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (or to taste) (note- this is pumpkin spice if in the US)
  • a pinch of salt
  • a light dusting of turmeric to coat

* Just using dates was sweet enough for me, but taste the mix and add a little coconut sugar or stevia if desired.

Method:

Chop a fresh pumpkin into small approx, 2cm chunks and roast for 15 mins or until golden. I didn't coat my chunks in any oil. Note: you'll need around 1.5 cups of chunks as it will shrink during roasting. 

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until fairly smooth. If the mixture is very sticky add extra oatmeal or other dry ingredient. 

I allowed my mix to 'set' a little in the freezer for approx 30 mins so it was easy to handle. Roll into balls and toss lightly in turmeric- add a little extra mixed spice to the turmeric if you like.

Press to form a squashed ball (pumpkin shape) and add a clove to the top for extra authenticity ;-)

Keep chilled until ready to eat.

Recipe: Mini pumpkin bliss balls
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