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Top 10 Slow-Cooked Dishes You Can Make At Home

Top 10 Slow-Cooked Dishes You Can Make At Home

If you love cooking, there’s nothing better than being in your kitchen and preparing a beautiful, elaborate meal. After a long day at work, cooking can be a wonderful way to slow down and refresh your mind and body. Sometimes, though, we just don’t have time to juilenne the veggies, braise the meat, caramelize the onions, or reduce the wine sauce. On busy days like these, the slow cooker is your best friend in the kitchen. And don’t worry; the days of prepackaged crockpot casseroles are long over. With these 10 amazing slow-cooked dishes, you can enjoy the same gourmet taste without the effort.

1. Meatball Sliders

Top 10 Slow-Cooked Dishes

    Required ingredients: red onion, frozen cooked Italian meatballs, jar of marinara sauce, balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper, cheese, Roma tomatoes, slider buns

    Combine the chopped red onions, meatballs, pasta sauce, vinegar and red pepper in a slow cooker. Cook covered on low for about five hours or on high for about two hours. Once cooked, stir the mixture evenly, and serve on a bun with cheese and tomato. For a zestier taste, top the meatball with fresh Italian spices like oregano, thyme, or basil.

    This dish is perfect as an appetizer for a party or a small dish for a potluck. The slow-cooked meat is tender and juicy, and it pairs perfectly with a lightly toasted slider bun. Try using Hawaiian rolls as the bun for a sweet and savory taste.

    2. Moist and Tender Turkey Breast

    Slow-cooked turkey

      Required ingredients: bone-in turkey breast, fresh rosemary, garlic cloves, water, brown sugar, black pepper, salt

      Place the turkey, garlic, and rosemary in the slow cooker, and cover with water. Sprinkle the sugar, salt, and pepper on top. Cook covered on low for four to six hours. Use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey has been safely cooked, reaching at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

      The best part about this recipe is that it yields enough juicy, slow-cooked turkey to feed the whole family, with leftovers to spare. Serve with blanched green beans and cornbread for a southern-style Thanksgiving feel, or make a sandwich with ciabatta and whole dijon mustard for a gourmet deli dish.

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      3. Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup

      Creamy Soup

        Required ingredients: uncooked wild rice, skinless chicken breast, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, chicken broth, seasoning blend, butter, all-purpose flour, milk

        Add the rice, chicken, chicken broth and water to the slow cooker, along with minced garlic, bay leaves, and chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Cook on high for about two hours or low for about six hours. Remove the chicken, shred it, and allow the rest of the soup to cook for another two hours. Right before serving, melt butter and flour together, and mix in the slow cooker to thicken the soup. Throw in the shredded chicken and add salt and pepper.

        This recipe is unbelievably smooth and creamy, making it perfect for a cold or rainy day. This soup packs a nutritional punch, too; the veggies add a nutrient-rich boost to the heathy fiber of the wild rice and the protein of the chicken.

        4. Paula Deen Crockpot Mac and Cheese

        Mac and cheese

          Required Ingredients: uncooked macaroni, butter, cheddar cheese, eggs, sour cream, condensed cheddar cheese soup, whole milk, dry mustard, salt and pepper

          To prepare, boil the macaroni according to the package instructions, and stir together the butter and cheese in a saucepan. Combine all these ingredients into the slow cooker, stirring to mix well. Cook on low for about two and half hours.

          This recipe requires a little preparation before throwing everything into the slow cooker, but the extra step is worth it. The macaroni and cheese is rich and creamy, with a sharp bite from the cheddar cheese. If you don’t like cheddar, substitute for a milder cheese. To make the dish healthier, add some broccoli, spinach, or kale to the slow cooker for some greens.

          5. Slow-Cooked Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes

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          Chili

            Required Ingredients: red onion, bell pepper, garlic cloves, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper, can of tomatoes, can of black beans, can of kidney beans, sweet potato, sour cream

            Add all ingredients to the slow cooker, including the liquid from the canned tomatoes and beans. Cook for about eight hours on low or five on high. Serve with sour cream and any garnishes you like.

            Chili is one dish that is made to be slow-cooked, allowing the spices to blend together. Requiring no preparation at all, this recipe yields a thick, mildly spicy vegetarian chili. The secret ingredient? Cocoa powder! The cocoa powder adds a subtle, complex flavor that balances the spices well. Serve with cheese or fresh green onions for extra flavor.

            6. Maple Bourbon Baked Beans

            Baked beans

              Required Ingredients: dry navy beans, bourbon, maple syrup, barbeque sauce, brown sugar, water, ketchup, mustard, molasses, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce

              Soak the beans overnight before cooking, rinse them well, and cook them for about 45 minutes on low in the slow cooker. Then add all of the ingredients to the beans, cover, and cook on low heat for around 12 hours. Depending on how thick you like the sauce, change the heat to the high setting or cook for a few more hours.

              This recipe will work for any diet in your family—it’s vegan, low sodium, and gluten free! Be sure to substitute the Worcestershire sauce for soy sauce if you want it to be vegan. Because you can change the cooking time and setting, the beans are sure to be the perfect texture for your taste. The sweet and tangy sauce plays on traditional Southern barbeque ingredients for a uniquely zesty flavor.

              7. Slow-Cooker Lasagna

              Lasagna

                Required Ingredients: Italian sausage, onion, tomato sauce, dried basil, salt, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, uncooked lasagna noodles

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                Lightly cook the sausage, onion, tomato sauce, basil, and salt in a saucepan. In the slow cooker, layer the sausage mixture with the lasagna noodles and a mixture of the three cheeses. Cook cover on low for about six hours. Sprinkle extra mozzarella cheese on top right before serving.

                Lasagna is another traditional dish that’s easy in a slow cooker. Substitute the Italian sausage with chicken or turkey for a lighter meal, and add carrots, zucchini, or squash for extra nutrients.

                8. Barley, Black Bean, and Corn Burritos

                Burrito

                  Required Ingredients: For filling: uncooked barley, frozen corn, can of black beans, can of tomatoes, green onions, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, red pepper; For burrito and garnish: fresh cilantro, cheese, lettuce, tortillas, sour cream, salsa

                  Add all of the ingredients required for the filling to the slow cooker, and cook on low for about four hours. Fill tortillas with the cooked filling, and top with garnishes like cilantro, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream. Serve with a side of salsa.

                  These vegetarian burritos are full of healthy ingredients. Lightly toasted tortillas and leaf lettuce provide a great crunch to the cheesy and flavorful filling. Drizzle the filling with fresh lime juice for a bite, or serve with guacamole for extra creaminess. Serve the filling cold with tortilla chips for a fun dip.

                  9. Easy Homemade Greek Yogurt

                  Greek Yogurt

                    Required Ingredients: whole milk, plain yogurt that contains live cultures

                    Cook the milk in a slow cooker on high until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the slow cooker off, let the milk cool for a couple of hours, and stir in the yogurt. Wrap the slow cooker in a towel, and let it sit overnight at room temperature. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth until it reaches the consistency you like.

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                    Who knew you can make your own Greek yogurt in a slow cooker? This surprising recipe is easy to make and cheaper than buying yogurt from the store. For safety, be sure to use a food thermometer to ensure that your yogurt reaches the correct temperature. The yogurt will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. Serve this creamy yogurt with granola, fruit, or spices for a great breakfast or snack.

                    10. Slow Cooker Chocolate Candy

                    Chocolate candy

                      Required Ingredients: roasted peanuts, sweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips, almond bark

                      Layer the ingredients in a slow cooker without stirring, and cook on low for about three hours. After cooking, stir the mixture, and drop into cupcake pan liners. Let the candies cool in the fridge, and remove them from the liners before serving.

                      These bite-sized chocolate candies are excellent as party favors or arranged on a small dessert plate. The rich chocolate and crunchy peanuts combine well, and you can add nearly any ingredient for a customized gourmet dish.

                      If you’re in a hurry but don’t want to pull out the slow cooker, try these simple and delicious veggie-packed pasta recipes!

                      Featured photo credit: Luca Nebuloni via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on March 30, 2020

                      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

                      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

                      Feeling tired all the time?

                      Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

                      I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

                      Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

                      If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

                      In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

                      What Happens When You’re Too Tired

                      If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

                      Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

                      • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
                      • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
                      • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
                      • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
                      • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
                      • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
                      • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

                      Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

                      Unfortunately, yes!

                      Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

                      Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

                      Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

                      Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

                      Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

                      Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

                      1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
                      2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
                      3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

                      The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

                      It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

                      Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

                      Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

                      If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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                      Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

                      Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

                      But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

                      Symptoms of fatigue include:

                      • Difficulty concentrating
                      • Low stamina
                      • Difficulty sleeping
                      • Anxiety
                      • Low motivation

                      These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

                      Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

                      How Much Sleep Is Enough?

                      The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

                      Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

                      So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

                      The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

                      Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

                      Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

                      If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

                      And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

                      It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

                      4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

                      Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

                      1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
                      2. Exercising regularly
                      3. Using stressbusters
                      4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

                      So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

                      After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

                      In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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                      I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

                      Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

                      • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
                      • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
                      • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
                      • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

                      The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

                      And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

                      But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

                      L — Living Healthy

                      Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

                      So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

                      In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

                      As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

                      Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

                      1. Unplug

                      Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

                      So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

                      2. Unwind

                      Do something to relax.

                      Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

                      3. Get Comfortable

                      Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

                      Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

                      Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

                      Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

                      If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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                      Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

                      This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

                      E — Exercise

                      Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

                      That’s what happened in my case.

                      But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

                      As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

                      My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

                      That made sense to me.

                      So, I decided to swim.

                      I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

                      Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

                      Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

                      So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

                      If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

                      A — Attitude

                      Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

                      When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

                      Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

                      Breathing.

                      But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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                      Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

                      1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
                      2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
                      3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
                      4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
                      5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
                      6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

                      This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

                      When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

                      Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

                      N — Nutrition

                      Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

                      If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

                      Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

                      For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

                      Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

                      Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

                      1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
                      2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
                      3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
                      4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
                      5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
                      6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
                      7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
                      8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
                      9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

                      Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

                      That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

                      Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

                      The Bottom Line

                      If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

                      If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

                      If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

                      • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
                      • Regular Exercise You Love
                      • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
                      • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

                      Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

                      More Tips to Help You Rest Better

                      Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
                      [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
                      [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
                      [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
                      [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
                      [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
                      [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
                      [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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