Archive of ‘food’ category

Chocolate Caramel Crack: So Easy to Eat & Relish

If you’ve been hanging around here for any time at all, you know I’m much more inclined to know which shoes are the best selection for a certain ensemble over which ingredients work together to make an edible meal. (1. Always opt for the higher heels 2. When do you use regular vs self-rising flour? I still don’t know.) 
With our office holiday lunch fast approaching, I was desperate for a fun and different and EASY recipe. I had to bring a dessert and I was not about to walk in with another straight-from-the-box boring cake. 

Through the magic of Facebook, I stumbled upon this super simple recipe over at Eat and Relish. I say it was social media magic because it really is remarkable how in touch you can feel with people after only a few clicks.
The most amazing thing – homemade caramel! Who knew?
I knew Cory, the fabulous girl in the kitchen, when we were Rho Gammas (or sorority recruitment guides, in plain English) at Florida State. She was a KD, I was a Gamma Phi and along with about 50 other Panhellenic veterans, we were shuffling the new recruits-to-be from house to house, passing out coffee filters (for blotting, naturally) and tic tacs like they were going out of style.
I can’t tell you how many times we reminded every girl to smile and relax, relax and SMILE. It seems like eons ago.
After FSU, I moved to the beach and Cory to New York.  I’ve been able to follow along her culinary adventures as she started posting links to her blog. One day, I clicked and got sucked in. I read every post to the very first one.
I was so impressed and inspired with her culinary skills and creativity. She writes beautifully, takes lovely photographs and could make a PB&J seem like a gourmet feast. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve even followed along as she got married and moved to Colorado. I love reading her posts and getting inspired by her recipes.
Let’s face it, though. I’m pretty hopeless. I need simple, easy-to-make recipes that satisfy both my hubby’s basic taste and my slightly more adventurous and more healthy preferences. (Sometimes healthy, anyway). In this case, we were bringing food for beach maintenance guys to visitor center staff to the marketing and pr teams. Enter the totally easy, totally addictive Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers). These little goodies are amazing and the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Yum YUM!
They were so easy to make, even I could do it AND at the same time watch this little nugget crawl around my parents’ kitchen saying “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma.”
The recipe was enough for multiple batches (and a little snacking along the way). I left some at my parent’s, took some to work and took some home for later. Everyone at work was very impressed 1. that I didn’t bring something pre-made and 2. that they were so good. There was not even a scrap leftover.
You must must MUST make these. They are easy peasy and yes, pretty much like crack.
Here’s the recipe from Cory. You’ll thank me later.
Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers)
From Smitten Kitchen by way of David Lebovitz by way of Marcy Goldman by way of Eat and Relish

Approx 1 sleeve of Saltine crackers
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into Tbsp sized pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
A pinch of sea salt (
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bitter- or semisweet chocolate)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit in the bottom of the pan. The parchment is key, as it will prevent sticking.

Line the bottom of the baking sheet with the crackers, covering all parts. (If using matzo, you’ll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces.)
In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well the entire time to prevent burning. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove it from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour the mixture over the crackers or matzo. Spread the mixture quickly over the crackers to cover the entire surface area of crackers. Do this quickly, as it will begin to set and harden quickly.
Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn — reduce the heat if you see this happening.
Remove from oven and immediately cover the baked caramel crackers with chocolate chips. Let it stand five minutes, and then spread the chips evenly across the caramel – they will be melted and it will be surprisingly easy to do so. Sprinkle the surface with a bit of sea salt.
Proceed to enjoy and reach for another until you realize you have devoured the entire jar. It’s okay. You’re not alone.

seaside saturday

It was one of those mornings when extra coffee is not an option, but a requirement. I desperately needed the caffeine boost and every time I saw this little Christmas tree pop up at the bottom of my mug, I went straight for a refill. It’s only Saturday, but I knew I would need to keep my energy up and let’s face it, it’s been a long week.
This festive mug helps perk up my morning.
You’ve heard the saying “Work to live; don’t live to work.” As much as I love what I do, I wouldn’t trade mommy time with Emery for anything. The two full days of chasing after her, changing diapers, tickle time, giving bottles and talking in every silly voice I can muster are priceless. She’s so inquisitive and wants to explore everything. She crookedly crawls all over the place (one leg bent, one leg straight) and grabs my leg to stand up and look around every moment she gets. She likes to be part of the action. Emery is a big fan of anything shiny or sparkly (naturally) and carefully inspects all my jewelry choices on a daily basis. 
She also likes to eat the shiny, sparkly things I wear. No big deal.
This morning, we made our way to the Farmer’s Market in Seaside and I’m fairly sure that it was the coldest day of the year we’ve had thus far. Even so, I decided to park and walk for a bit. I love walking around and seeing the sights. Lovely homes, cute signs and the beauty of scenic highway 30A.
It was f-f-f-freezing outside at the Farmer’s Market, but we made the rounds and picked up the essentials we needed. 
Had to pick these up for my hot chocolate-loving husband. 
A sweet little owl girl all bundled up.
While I was in the neighborhood, I took a peek into Pizitz Interiors. The color palette inside was decidedly white and neutral and the shop even included some nice budget-friendly items along with their high-end selections. I love these Seaside matches!
I want these stools!!
If you’re looking for a fun place to try in South Walton, check out Raw & Juicy for healthy goodies. It’s really the originator of the Farmers Market and helped it grow to the level it is now, impressive for our small beach town.
Raw & Juicy
Decked for the holidays!
I wanted to get a picture of Emery in front of the Seaside post office, but she was out and this was all I could steal.
Despite the unpleasantly chilly temps. the beach looked so nice and inviting. I, for one, am already counting down and looking forward to a warm early spring. For now, I’ll just settle for the pure views. 
 By this time, my sweet Emery was fast asleep and looking like an angel. 
 I packed her up, squeezed our FSU Fight Song- playing horse Renegade (or Ren Ren as we now refer to him) into Emery’s lap and headed home with our purchases in tow. I have to say I’m most excited about the Ocheessee Milk and the goat cheese made from their cream. Yum, yum, and double yum! I may or may not have popped open the cheese and sampled a healthy portion on the way home. 
And before I go, I had to share this. Emery is now holding her bottle up by herself, not just with two hands, but with a little added support – her feet!  That’s my girl! Growing up so fast, one Saturday at a time.

currently obsessing over…

The awesomely preppy trays, plates notepads and such by the fabulous Dabney Lee. I will take one of each of these.

lucite tray

ice bucket

I didn’t realize I was so preppy at heart until browsing some of the goodies on the site. Perhaps my inner nerd should have been an indication. I even got excited about seeing all the different swatches and color options. A plethora of preppy prints!

Now I need to cleverly place a hint where Hunter will see it or leave the webpage open next time he gets on the computer. Christmas will be here before we know it! (wink, wink)

Currently devouring the latest issue of VIE Magazine, which also happens to be the fashion issue. A more perfect combination could not be created. This winter issue is fabulous!! It is my absolute dream to attend a fashion show during New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and I’m wondering how I can pay the lovely ladies and gents at VIE to take me along next time. I would die. For now, I can dream and let my heart skip a beat at these chic, glossy pages.

This mouth-watering, amazingly delicious, full of goodness tomato mozzarella and avocado salad from ValSoCal. Seriously, what’s not to love? You should know by  now that I am always obsessed with avocados and a caprese salad is anyone’s friend, right? The best part is this looks easy enough for even me to handle.

image: ValSoCal

Val’s Recipe:

       Mozzarella, Tomato and Avocado Salad

       1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in half
       1 carton fresh mozzarella cheese pearls, drained
       1 avocado, peeled and diced
       1/3 cup basil, julienned
       2 tablespoons fresh parsley
       1/4 cup lemon juice
       1/4 cup olive oil
       salt and pepper

        1) In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and parsley, Set aside.
        2) In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over tomato
        mixture. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
        3) Just before serving the salad, stir in the chopped avocados. Serve salad with
        slotted spoon and toasty bread.
        4) Goes perfect with a glass of Pinot Grigio ; )

Can’t wait to whip this up again and again!

taste of south walton, part 2

taste of south walton, part 1

I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. 

Weekends like these make it so easy to repeat this and who wouldn’t be proclaiming their affinity for work when it means spending three days wining and dining throughout South Walton, galavanting from one beach neighborhood to the next sipping fine wines and tasting creatively concocted dishes that are just as delicious as they are presented. Life. Is. Good.
Enough chatting and mouth-watering. Let’s get to the food!

First stop: Seagar’s at Hilton Sandestin 

Started with a brief tour of the Hilton Sandestin before arriving at the elegant Seagar’s Restaurant
First Course: Caesar Salad prepare table-side 
Sizzling steaks at the end of our table. Smelled delicious!
The flaming table-side prep of my favorite Bananas Foster.
Oh. My. Word. Now this is heaven in a bowl. 

Seagar’s was amazing. The tasting was a sort of tour of the menu, so the portions were perfect to ensure we made it all the way to the dessert. I should note: Not one person had an ounce of leftovers when the plates were collected.

After a full night of sleep to recover and make room for more goodness, we met at Watercolor‘s Fish Out of Water for breakfast the next day. Have you ever been? They have two fun swings in the lobby wait area that are hard to resist.  Rachelle Lucas of The Travel Bite was one of our visiting journalists and she and I hit it off. I loved hearing her travel stories and discussing our addiction passion for social media.  I have so much Twitter love for you, Rachelle! :) One thing we did not have in common: she is a fabulous cook and as you know, I’m…. culinarily challenged.

Rachelle & me at Fish Out of Water
A beautiful breakfast view from Fish!
I think everyone was inspired!

Crispy Rice-Crusted Bourbon Vanilla French Toast

Baked Eggs Florentine

Love this glass decor/art in the lounge

From Fish Out of Water, we went on to Mac Farms, a local grower that supplies some of the fresh produce used by many of South Walton’s restaurants. Check out this setup!


Loving Rachelle’s shoes!

 We even took a little souvenir on to our next stop: lunch at Viking Cooking School. This place was wonderful and fascinating and confusing all at the same time. I didn’t know what most of the kitchen gadgets were or how in the world to use them, but it made me want to learn! The instructors were so personable and informative that I actually felt like I could cook a gourmet meal when I left. Yes, they were that good.

I’ll take this Viking kitchen.

Delicious red snapper for lunch.

Our Mac Farms greens!

Fresh and tasty

 Definitely felt the need for a quick walk on the beach after that one. Wow, was it good!

Next on the agenda was a trip to the top of the Luau condo at Sandestin for a small taste of this picture perfect view. We sipped champagne, snapped pics and felt like we were on top of the world


From there we went on to the Village of Baytowne Wharf.

Had to put on flats for this segment.

Farmer D produce

Needless to say, I went home full and happy!

birthday fun and v

What a wonderful and relaxing day I had yesterday! It was the first day of my twenty-eighth year and I so relished kicking my feet up, floating in the pool, spending a lazy day at our new home and being treated to a fabulous dinner by my handsome husband. Life is surely sweet and I’m currently riding a blessed sugar high.
We spent the morning in the pool, splashing in the water, laughing and watching the clouds roll by. It was heaven. Emery was well slathered in sunscreen and her bright pink hat while I was hoping for a sun kiss.

 How cute are those pink ruffles and giant chubby cheeks?

It takes her a little while to decide that she likes the water, but once she does, she can’t get enough. She even tries to lick the water droplets off the float or her hands.

 After lunch we took a family ride in the mule down to the scuppernong vines. Hunter’s grandparents owned a nursery years ago and still pride themselves on the variety and deliciousness of these succulent fruits.


We eat them right off the vine.

…and take a bowl-full home to snack on later. 

 Hunter had to stop at one of his deer food plots and toss out a new bag of corn.

He takes his hunting preparations very seriously.

Meanwhile, Emery and I hang out in the mule and she sees how tightly she can ball her fists.

Then we head back to the pool. It is August after all and just under 100 degrees. There’s our house in the distance! Can you see it?

 More fun in the pool, this time without the pink ruffles.

Before I knew it, the day is done and we were dropping off Emery at my parents’ house. Being treated to a romantic date with my hubby was just what I needed!

 The sunset over the bay was gorgeous!

Of course, we had to stop at Bud & Alley’s before dinner to watch the end of the sunset and reminisce.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were enjoying our second first date at the rooftop bar and even less time since this handsome man was down on one knee with a shiny ring in his hand. It’s definitely a special place for us and one full of fond memories.

Cheers to all of the fun we’ve had and all the fun to come! (If you’ve never tried the Mo-garita, you’re missing out!)

We went on to dinner at V Seagrove and proceeded to indulge in more tasty cocktails and delicious food than  two people should be allowed to enjoy. Our taste buds and bellies were happy!

We love to support local farmers and fishermen!

Our seats were at the Chef’s table, which overlooks the kitchen and gives an amazing, fast-paced show of organized chaos while we ate. I loved it!

 After an appetizer of shrimp…

… I had the tuna…

… and cheese grits… 

… while Hunter had what he said was one of the best steaks he’s ever eaten. (And he’s eaten a lot of steaks!)
By the time dessert rolled around, my iPhone died and I was enjoying myself way too much. It’s probably better that there isn’t photographic evidence after this point. It was a wonderful dinner with my man, a perfect day with the family and a birthday treat I was so thankful for.

these were a bad idea…

Since I’ve been home with Emery, I’m trying to do a little more cooking. I’ve followed a few new recipes and served more than one edible dish for dinner, but the sweet stuff is where I seem to have the most success. Is that bad? I might burn the greens or forget to season the meat we were going to eat, but the dessert is always reliable. I’m working through the Pioneer Woman’s cook book and made her cinnamon rolls, which were way too tasty for just two people. The first batch made so many that I couldn’t even think of making the second one for fear of turning into a giant cinnamon roll, similar to the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka. I ate them for days before finally giving them away just to get them out of the house. I hope the guys Hunter works with enjoyed them, because I sure loved the pile I devoured.

Of course, I wasn’t totally prepared (surprise!) and didn’t have the maple flavoring and Hunter doesn’t like coffee so instead I just squeezed a little syrup in the icing and it was delish. Wait, did I just edit a recipe and still end up with something edible? Aww, I’m growing up!

Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls
Prep Time: 2 Hours Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8

■1 quart Whole Milk
■1 cup Vegetable Oil
■1 cup Sugar
■2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25
Ounce Packets
■8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
■1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
■Plenty Of Melted Butter
■2 cups Sugar
■Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
■1 bag
Powdered Sugar
■2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
■½ cups Milk
■¼ cups
Melted Butter
■¼ cups Brewed Coffee
■⅛ teaspoons Salt
Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the
mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to
cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot,
sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then
add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for
at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of
flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this
point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it –
overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it
starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to
prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the
dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a
general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough.
Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in
a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch
the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in
a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls
approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise
for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees (see note below) until light
golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all
ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable.
Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and
don’t skimp on the frosting.

Note: My rolls don’t work for me at 400
degrees anymore. I now bake them at 375 degrees.

Mmm… I think I’m ready to start the next batch.

counting down and filling up

There’s been a lot of debate lately about when Miss Emery will actually arrive. Her official due date is April 9th, but judging by the size of my belly and discomfort level, it could really be anytime. Everyone in the family chose a date in March ranging from next week to the 31st (Lloyd’s birthday). Everyone except for Mom. For reasons unknown, she chose some date in February and watched it sail by with no baby arrival. Didn’t you believe me when I said she was due in April? :)

There is even a pool going at work with $1 per guess, winner takes all. If Emery comes on April 9th, I win the pot! So far the dates have filled up fast with only a few remaining. The first guess is this week — agh! — and goes all the way to one week past the due date — double agh!
I’m not sure I’m ready for her to come this week but a month from now seems like way too long to wait. We need at least until the weekend when the chair for the nursery should be shipped. It’s the only missing piece. Besides her, of course.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a little more cooking than usual, which Hunter is enjoying. I don’t have much room for food, but I’ve been doing a lot of nibbling. These “Chocolate Wows” from Good Housekeeping turned out pretty well. I can always tell if something is a hit by whether there are any left when I get home the next day. In this case, there were only crumbs. It was pretty simple, if you’d like to try them:

Chocolate Wows

• 1/3 c all-purpose flour
• 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 6 squares (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
• 1/2 c butter
• 2 eggs
• 3/4 c sugar
• 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
• 2 c pecans, chopped
• 1 c chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease two large cookie sheets. In a small bowl,
mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
2. In heavy 2-qt saucepan, melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool.
3. In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat eggs and sugar until light, about 2 min., frequently scraping bowl with rubber spatula. reduce speed to low. Add cooked chocolate mixture, flour mixture, and vanilla; beat just until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 min. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
4. Drop batter by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2″ apart, on cookie sheets. Wth small metal spatula, spread batter into 2″ rounds.
5. Bake until tops are shiny and cracked, about 13 min.
rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through
baking. cool 10 min. on cookie sheet. With wide spatula, transfer cookies to
wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.

Makes about 48 cookies.

Nutrition info (per cookie): 104 calories, 1 g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 8 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 14 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium


French Toast Success!

I don’t usually have much success in the kitchen. Let’s just get that straight. Sometimes, the dish I’m slaving over doesn’t turn out because I’ve burned it, completely overcooked it or forgotten to buy/include one of the key ingredients — “Sorry, honey. I forgot we need syrup for pancakes or potatoes for mashed potatoes.” Sometimes, I forget how long it actually takes to make more than a bowl of cereal and I give up before I get started. That was the case last week. Hunter was home between hunting trips for one day and I promised a nice, hearty breakfast on Saturday morning before he left again. We both should have known better than that. I overslept and was just beginning to slice a few pieces of bread when he was walking out the door. Fail! We ended up at the Waffle House instead. This Saturday, I was determined to make up for it and made sure I had all the right stuff to make Southern Living’s Praline-Pecan French Toast. It takes about an hour to prepare and cook, not counting the 8 hours you’re supposed to refrigerate before cooking. Of course, I hadn’t read that part til this morning so I just skipped it. Here’s the recipe:

1 (16-oz.) French bread loaf
1 cup firmly packed light
brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup
chopped pecans
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon
vanilla extract

1. Cut 10 (1-inch-thick) slices of bread.
Reserve remaining bread for another use.
2. Stir together brown sugar
and next 2 ingredients; pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
3. Whisk together eggs and next 4
ingredients. Arrange bread slices over pecans; pour egg mixture over bread.
Cover and chill 8 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake bread 35 to 37
minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

When I first took it out of the oven, it looked like dry, crunchy bread, and I thought for sure we’d be eating Kix for breakfast.
BUT once you scoop and flip it over onto a plate….
It was delicious! I was so proud of my edible breakfast and we both ate every possible bite. The recipe was easy for me (which says a lot) and I even had time to cook bacon while it was in the oven. To summarize, French toast = success all the way around.
I had a full belly, a satisfied husband, and earned major food points. Definitely a win in my book….. even if the kitchen was a total disaster.

The Honeymoon is Officially Over…

It is now Day One after the honeymoon and we are back to the real world with early mornings, work and piles of boxes and laundry at our new home sweet home. The days of endless frozen drinks, sleeping in and lounging waterside in St. Lucia are becoming a distant memory. Stay tuned for lots of pictures — wedding and honeymoon — there will probably be more than you care to see. Everything has been perfect in a completely relaxed, imperfect way. Even the fall of the cake at the reception (as we were cutting it) and the flight delay that put us one day late to our island destination couldn’t have taken away from all of the enjoyment. (More on that in a later post.)
Back to reality for now, specifically, the reality of the kitchen. I have resolved to make leaps and bounds with my wifely domestic duties and cooking skills. Hunter loves blueberry muffins and I wanted to try to make a healthier version than the usual stir-and-bake packet we buy at Publix. I found this recipe here which makes a lighter version with less fat and calories. Sounds perfect! If Martha and Paula can do it, I can do a fraction of it.
I can see trips to the grocery store becoming very routine instead of the infrequent field trips they were before. That place is like a foreign land. The problem is that I don’t know where anything is except fruit, milk and cereal and I know even less about what to buy or how to cook with different ingredients. How am I supposed to know the difference between baking soda and baking powder? I literally had to Google “baking powder on which aisle” to find it. My directions said the prep time was 10 minutes with a cook time of 20 minutes. After almost doubling those estimates, I proudly produced these edible blueberry muffins! If recipes also listed the equipment needed along with the ingredients, I might have stuck a little closer to the timetable. Turns out neither of us owned a whisk, a lemon zester (who knew lemon zest was in blueberry muffins?) or non-stick cooking spray. I ran out of cupcake wrappers, which were not listed on the ingrediens by the way, and it took me a little while to pry out the ones without one. Guess there’s always next time to get it right! It looks like I’ll be making a habit of this stuff.

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