Grapefruit & Blood Orange Salad

posted on: Friday, August 15, 2014

Grapefruit and Blood Orange Salad | via Chandara Creative

Last year I cooked and styled a shoot for Retrofit Republic's Tastemaker's Lookbook, and one of my favorite dishes was a salad featuring a medley of seasonal citrus. The other day, while the baby napped and I had a good hour to myself, I realized that I could whip up this refreshing salad and take a nap too, so I got right to it. My days and nights have been so swamped lately, which made me realize that I needed a bit of vitamin C to boost my energy.  I realized that I never shared the recipe with you, so here it is again with a plateful of ruby red grapefruit, oro blanco (literally means "white gold" in Spanish and is the pale, white cousin to the grapefruit & pomelo), plump Satsumas, and juicy Moro blood oranges.

Grapefruit and Blood Orange Salad | via Chandara Creative

Grapefruit & Blood Orange Salad
Serves 2

  • Ingredients 
    • 2 grapefruits/oro blanco, peeled and supremed, juices reserved
    • 2 blood oranges, peeled and supremed, juices reserved
    • 2 fresh or frozen Thai chili peppers, thinly sliced
    • 1 tsp fresh lemongrass, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 tbs cashew halves
    • 20 mint leaves, thinly sliced
    • 1/4 cup fish sauce
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • • 1 tbs palm sugar (add more to taste)

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Whisk fish sauce, sugar, chilis, citrus juices, lemongrass, red onion, and garlic in a bowl. Stir in grapefruit, oranges, and cashews. Sprinkle with mint leaves and enjoy!

Wild Blackberry Margarita

posted on: Friday, June 13, 2014

As summer's sweltering heat ushers in this weekend's Father's Day festivities, I'm tempted to make a pitcher of these juicy wild blackberry margaritas to help cool me down. Every summer, while my hubby casts his line, I'm eyeing the thorny bushes dotting the American River trail where we live. Vibrant and bursting with so much juicy flavor, these prickly berries will no doubt stain my fingers and make my lips pucker, but I love them...everything about them!

Wild Blackberry Margarita
Serves 2

  • 1 handful wild blackberries, macerated
  • 1 part tequila
  • 1 part cointreau
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tsp agave nectar
  • 3 ice cubes
  • margarita salt to rim edges of glass
  • extra blackberries & lime wedges for garnish
  1. Combine all in a cocktail shaker. Shake, shake shake! Pour into a glass rimmed with salt, and garnish with lime wedge + blackberries, and you know what to do! Cheers!

Memorial Day: Honoring the Brave

posted on: Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014 | via Chandara Creative
Memorial Day | via Chandara Creative
As I read news reports surrounding the recent string of political turmoil in Thailand with the military junta barring further dissent against its coup, and hear how anti-nationalist sentiments, especially those against their revered King are banned in that country, I am reminded that the freedom we enjoy today--the freedom that so many of us take for granted because we feel privy to them--do not exist in so many parts of the globe, and they certainly do not exist without the sacrifices of our brave men and women who defend our country.  So, on this day, as families all over America gather together for a day away from work, let us remember the real reason for this holiday, and let us never forget the honorable men and women who sacrificed everything for us on this Memorial Day. 

Celebrating My First Mother's Day

posted on: Sunday, May 11, 2014

It is my first Mother's Day. It is 4:17 am and I've just finished nursing my son, who at 13 weeks, miraculously sleeps through the night in 4-5 hour intervals. And that, my friend, is the best Mother's Day gift of them all.

Wow. It seems all too surreal that the day would come when I would pen these words, and feel incredibly happy doing so. And while I realize that not every night will be like tonight, and that motherhood will not remain free from blemishes, there is one thing I know for sure: mothers are the true healers of this world. The past 3 months have been the most challenging, but the most life-changing and truly rewarding moments. Seeing the compassion that mothers have for one another has been uplifting for my spirits as I attempt to navigate this new vessel--from the emergency texting and Facebook messaging for advice on how to conquer the perils of breastfeeding to witnessing a mother soothe an inconsolable child whose screams ring through the crisp night air, I am in constant awe of the healing powers of the moms in my life.

Our sacrifices run deep, but then, so does our love for our children -- little people who provide us with a recurring reminder of what it means to live with our hearts beating outside of our bodies each and every day we share with them (Thank you, Vickie). And to that, I honor you...Happy Mother's Day!

Fruity Fetish: Banana Blossom

posted on: Monday, April 28, 2014

In the cultures of Southeast Asia, there appears to be a consensus among the mothers that the blossom of the banana tree yields amazing powers when it comes to nursing your baby. A little over two months have flown by since I embraced motherhood, and to say that it's been a huge learning curve is merely an understatement. One of the most challenging aspects in all of this is breastfeeding, but lo and behold, my mother, such as she is, has her age-old remedy: banana blossom, or hua pbee in Laos. Word has it that this richly-hued fruit, with its milky white sap, is the key to helping nursing moms with their milk production. I kid you not.

The trick to preparing your banana blossom for any dish is to soak it in a bath of cold water sprinkled with the citrus from some slices of lime (or lemon). The citric acid in these fruits stops the oxidation process so that the flesh of the blossom doesn't turn an unappetizing dark color. Afterwards, you'll want to drain out the water and use the sliced blossoms immediately in your favorite soup or salad. Stay tuned for more recipes featuring this healthy delicacy in the upcoming month. 

The trick to prepping a perfect banana blossom:  A citrus ice bath prevents discoloration | via Chandara Creative

How to Prepare a Banana Blossom
Serves 2

  • Ingredients 
    • 1 medium-sized banana blossom
    • 2-3 slices of lemon or lime
    • 1 cup water
  • Instructions:
  • 1. Wash and peel away the darker outer 3-4 "petals" of the banana blossom.  Cut in half lengthwise and thinly slice into small pieces. Soak the prepared banana blossom slices in a bath of cold water sprinkled with lemon or lime for at least 10 minutes. Drain and use immediately in your favorite soup or salad.  

Fruity Fetish: How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket

posted on: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

These days, time is of the essence. With a little guy that demands to be nursed around the clock, I realize that concocting lavish meals, plating, and photographing them have really become a new challenge to say the least--one that I'll hopefully learn to master in due time. So as I embrace my new role, I'm also going to undertake a new series of posts where I'm going to go back to the basics and share with you some fun how-to posts highlighting cool & easy recipes along with some staple ingredients & condiments of Lao cooking, such as my recipe for toasted rice powder that seems to make its way into every dish I love. If this sounds new to you, then let me just preface this by saying that it's quite possibly the key ingredient into amping the volume of any meaty larb dish or refreshing salad, such as my Calamari + Pomelo Salad I featured a while back. So, those are just some of the upcoming posts that's been brewing in my head for quite some time now.

This week, however, I'm sharing a little bit of sunshine with you with my pineapple fruit basket. In lieu of my baby's first Easter basket, he received his own little fruit basket along with a book. I know what you may be thinking: Chandara, the boy doesn't even have any teeth yet and you're one nutty mommy for making this for him (Yes, guilty as charged), but I couldn't help myself seeing that these are currently what's in season at my local grocer. It was actually a pretty fun project and I was quite happy with the final result. I think it would make a lovely Mother's Day centerpiece as well, so why don't you give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Baby's first gig as mommy's professional hand model. It appears that we are still working out the specifics of his compensation package.

How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket | via Chandara Creative
Step 1: Wash your pineapple and slice it in half, lengthwise

How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket | via Chandara Creative
Step 2: Using a small paring knife, slice into the inner perimeter of the pineapple, then make 2 cuts down both sides of its core. I find it easiest
this way since you can then slice out the core, and leave the rest of the edible flesh in tact.

How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket | via Chandara Creative
Step 3: Carefully slice out the meaty flesh of the pineapple 

How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket | via Chandara Creative
Tip:  I find it easier to slice small sections of the pineapple which leaves the flesh in tact enough so that you can slice chunks of it for your fruit basket.
How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket | via Chandara Creative
Step 4: Scoop out the remaining bits of flesh with a spoon. Since these chunks are small and uneven, save them to make some pineapple juice which you can
later sprinkle over the fruit salad you'll be putting into your fruit basket.
How to Carve a Pineapple Fruit Basket | via Chandara Creative
Step 5: Slice up a generous variety of colorful fruits for a vibrant pineapple fruit basket. I made mine with chunks of mangoes, nectarines, strawberries,
guavas, watermelons, and of course, pineapple! 

Published in Hawaii Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, April/May 2014

posted on: Thursday, April 3, 2014

It gives me great pleasure to finally blog about this because I've had to keep mum for a few months. A while back, I think you'll remember my post about my Rambutan Mojito Mocktail, and I guess somebody besides my own circle of friends was reading because the editors of Hawaii Luxury Lifestyle Magazine caught wind of it and decided to publish my work for an article on exotic fruits! I'm tickled as I write this because not only is it published in this amazing magazine, but it's for that beautiful place that is near and dear to my heart. If you're a regular on this blog, you already know just how much I adore the aloha aisles and if you also happen to be enjoying spring break on the islands during this time, be sure to snag yourself a copy before hitting the beaches. Mahalo!

Currently Coveting: Parisian Desserts

posted on: Sunday, March 9, 2014

Oh Paris. It's one of those dreamy destinations that is probably high on everybody's bucket list. I know it's on mine. Everyone who's been to Paris has told me the exact same thing: "Chandara, it's just what you've always imagined..romantic, ethereal, and just perfect!" While I long for the day to come, I'm currently living out my dream vicariously through instagrammers who pretty much packed up their bags for the Eiffel Tower and never looked back.

One of my go-to instagram feeds is from Nicole of Gary Pepper Girl, a fashionista who has the dreamiest of jobs--traveling, eating, and documenting her life in this city.  Another Parisian transplant is Carin of Paris in Four Months, a photographer who captures the most amazing images of her dining and sightseeing excursions. We both use the same camera equipment, and I laughed when I read her post about people attributing her amazing images to her camera versus her photographic talent. There are so many times when I get that same remark, and I wonder if I've ever told a host that their food was amazing because their stove was a great chef! Haha! It's probably the worst thing you can say to a photographer because truly, you can give 10 people the same exact camera equipment and I promise you that you will get a multitude of images where you can easily pick out who clearly has talent and who still has yet a ways to go. 

Photography aside, these bloggers have me lusting over Parisian patisseries where the desserts are just as decadent and eye-catching as their impeccably designed packaging and interior walls. These sinfully luxurious sweet pleasures are what I look forward to whenever I can make my way to Paris. What are your favorites? I'd love to hear!

Laduree in Paris | Lexia Frank Photography via Style Me Pretty

L'éclaire de Génie  | via Farfelue
3. Pierre Hermé
Pierre Herme Ispahan | Via Flickr
4. Angelina

Angelina | via Paris in Four Months

While Paris is still a long way from home, I'll definitely make it a point to hit up Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles for their macarons, eclairs, and pastries this summer. I cannot wait!

Bottega Louie | Bryce Covey Photography via SMP Living

Spicy Curried Shrimp with Thai Basil + Kaffir Limes

posted on: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spicy Curried Shrimp with Thai Basil + Kaffir Limes | via Chandara Creative

This is one of my favorite go-to stir fry dishes that I whip up when I feel like something spicy and full of flavor. It's a snap to put together as long as you have the pantry items in your kitchen, and the aroma is out of this world! Kaffir lime leaves are so fragrant when sliced thinly and paired with the zesty spice of red curry and chili paste, alongside the cool notes of coconut milk to tie everything together. 

The last few times I made this dish, I realized that this dish stands out in my mind because it was faintly reminiscent of the flavors my tastebuds experienced while noshing on the famed Kuhuku shrimp plates served from food trucks that line Oahu's North Shore.  Everytime my hubby and I go back to visit Oahu, our trip is never complete without making our pilgrimage to the mecca of fresh Kahuku shrimp--more specifically to our favorite Fumi's Shrimp Truck. After a few quick snap shots next to their awesome truck mural, we make our way to the small window and even when our minds are already made up about placing our usual order of their spicy garlicky buttered shrimp plate, we can't help but drool over the rest of the menu items, including their coconut-battered shrimp.  And just like old times, each plates comes with a good-sized portion of spicy, buttered shrimp nestled on a bed of rice (and extra bits of garlic) with a small salad, a slice of golden Hawaiian pineapple, and washed down with a can of refreshing Pass-O-Guava (passion fruit, orange, and guava) juice. It's a tradition that dates back to over 10 years for us during the time my hubby was living on the island, and I would visit him during my 3-day weekends in college.  After a full day of lounging along the North Shore, we'd cap it off with a shrimp truck excursion.  To this day, Hawaii still holds a special place in both our hearts and we try and visit every chance we can, although I realize it may be a bit tougher now with our little one on the way. But, that of course, won't stop us as I would love nothing more than to share this tradition with our newest addition. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that I'll have a good eater on my hands :) And with that, I hope you'll give this recipe a whirl. 

Fumi's Spicy Buttered Kahuku Shrimp Plate | via Chandara Creative
Fumi's Spicy Buttered Kahuku Shrimp Plate | Oahu North Shore, HI | via Chandara Creative

Spicy Curried Shrimp with Thai Basil & Kaffir Limes
Serves 2

  • Ingredients 
    • 1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined
    • 1 tbs red curry paste
    • 1 tbs chili paste with soy bean oil 
    • 1/2 tbs tom yum paste
    • 1/3 cup coconut milk (or more based on preference)
    • 1-2 red chili peppers, thinly sliced
    • 1 tbs ginger, sliced into matchsticks
    • 1/2 tbs kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • • 3 sprigs Thai basil, washed & leaves separated 
    • 2 tbs vegetable or canola oil for stir frying

  • Instructions:
  • 1. In a wok or large saute pan, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat and spoon in the soy bean oil w/chili paste, curry, and tom yum paste. After 1 minute, add in ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and garlic and cook for another minute. 
  • 2.  Pour in coconut milk and allow to simmer with the curry paste mixture for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you prefer, you can add another dollop of coconut milk. Add the fresh red chili peppers and stir well. 
  • 3. Add in the shrimp and fish sauce and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, or until shrimp is nicely coated and cooked thoroughly.  Turn off heat and sprinkle in fresh basil leaves. Give it one last stir, and serve immediately over a bed of warm jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi

posted on: Monday, February 24, 2014

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi | via Chandara Creative

Oh that lovely peachy flesh on the salmon just makes me swoon!  Aside from the mega dose of omega 3 fatty acids that eating salmon provides, it's one of the healthiest fish options for anybody out there, especially my expectant mothers. While I wouldn't advise you to go nuts and eat it everyday because after all, everything must be eaten in moderation and we do need to be careful of heightened mercury levels in our seafood these days, it should still be on your must-eat list.

So, to be completely transparent with you, I don't normally cook salmon on a daily basis, but what I do pretty daily, admittedly, is stalk foodie Instagram feeds.  Yes, I said it: I'm an Instagram food stalker and my name is Chandara. But in my defense, it's just so tempting to simply sit back and drool over amazing food images. One of my favorite feeds out there is the one by the guys over at Heirloom LA. They're a catering company and food truck in Los Angeles and I must say, if ever I had the funds to have them cater my events or if you're a newly-engaged couple looking for a wedding caterer, they'd be the first ones I'd call or refer to you. I'm dead serious.  Their Instagram feed is always chock full of drool-worthy images of their culinary creations. I'm talking about pigs roasting over an open fire, and crudités artfully presented on wooden serving platters gracing a buffet table.  

So a few weeks ago, the guys posted an image of their Salmon with Soba Noodles that I found so beautiful, and it inspired me to create my own version with my own twist: Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi, a dish that would be perfect for you to serve on any date night. When it comes to cooking, sometimes, all you need is a little inspiration to begin with, and then you just let your imagination do the rest. Now, why don't you give it a whirl and let me know how it goes! 

Salmon with Soba Noodles | Heirloom LA | via Chandara Creative
The dish that set it all off: Salmon with Soba Noodles | via Heirloom LA on Instagram 

Alaskan Salmon | via Chandara Creative
Oh the vibrant peachy hue of fresh Alaska Salmon | via Chandara Creative

Japanese Shimeji or Beech Mushrooms | via Chandara Creative
Japanese Shimeji or Beech mushrooms | via Chandara Creative

Green Scallions & Dried Shitake | via Chandara Creative
Dashi broth infused with scallions & dry shitake mushrooms lend a wonderful layer of umami | via Chandara Creative

Silken Tofu with Dashi | via Chandara Creative
Warm silken tofu with Shimeji mushrooms in a sea of dashi acts as a lovely side dish | via Chandara Creative
Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi | via Chandara Creative
Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi | via Chandara Creative

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mushroom-Miso Dashi
Inspired from the awesome folks of Heirloom LA
Serves 1

• 1 6 oz center-cut salmon filet (with skin)
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp or dash of black pepper
• 1 tsp olive oil 
• 1 tbs canola or vegetable oil (higher smoke point than olive oil)

Ingredients -- Mushroom-Miso Dashi
• 2 cups water
• 4 small dried shitake mushrooms
• 1 green scallion (green portion thinly sliced for garnish, white portion left in tact for dashi)
• 1 small piece Japanese seaweed or kombu
• 1 tsp white miso paste
• 2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
• 3 edamame pods, pre-cooked & shelled
 1/4 bunch of fresh shimeji mushrooms*

*NOTE: Japanese Shimeji or Beech mushrooms come pre-packaged in plastic as a small bunch. This recipe only requires 1/4 of that package.

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Prepare the Dashi: In a small sauce pan, pour in 2 cups of water along with the white ends of the scallions, kombu, and dried shitake mushrooms. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out the kombu, scallions, and dried mushrooms and return to stove. Allow dashi to simmer over low heat and stir in soy sauce and miso paste.  After 2 minutes, place the silken tofu cubes and shimeji mushrooms in the dashi and allow it to simmer for another 5 minutes over the the lowest heat setting. Keep dashi broth warm.
  • 2.  Pat your salmon filet dry with a paper towel, and season both sides with salt, pepper, and the olive oil.  Set aside.
  • 3.  In a stainless steel pan or cast iron skillet, heat 1 tbs canola oil over high heat. Once oil is hot enough or after about 2 minutes, place the salmon filet skin side down in the pan. You should hear a sizzle. If you don't then your oil is not hot enough and you'll need to wait a little longer. Allow your salmon filet to sear for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish, and then using a spatula, flip it over. Lower your heat to medium high, and sear for another 4-5 minutes.  Tip: The 2nd side should take slightly faster to cook. Once cooked to your desired preference (medium rare or well done), turn off heat and set aside.
  • 4. Spoon 3/4 of the dashi broth in a shallow plate. Gently place your salmon over the dashi broth, and sprinkle broth with edamame and sliced scallions. Garnish the salmon with a layer of shimeji mushrooms and extra sliced scallions. Serve with a side of silken tofu and the remaining dashi. Enjoy!

Nesting with Calamari + Pomelo Salad

posted on: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Calamari & Pomelo Salad | via Chandara Creative

I don't think I've blogged this frequently in quite some time, and I have to tell you: I miss it! I scheduled this post as I was nesting and counting down the days till our nugget's arrival, knowing full well that when that moment came, I'd have no time to even comb my hair, much less compose a coherent post for you.  So, consider this my treat for all those months that I left you neglected and yearning to drool over your computer screens from these food images.


One of my personal photographic goals for this year was to really learn how to shoot in manual so I could maximize the capability of my new Canon Mark II 5D when shooting food. When I first started out, I shot primarily in aperture priority auto mode, but so many fellow photographers and friends kept insisting that once I learned to master my camera, I would be mesmerized by what it was capable of giving me. And boy oh boy, I've been pretty amazed! I gravitate to visual imagery when it comes to blogs which clearly explains why I truly believe in honing in on this food photography craft alongside my food styling. When I finally decided to rebrand this blog, I knew that I wanted clean lines with lots of white space in the design aesthetic. As I sought to further elevate my food photography style, I also grappled with figuring out the mood that I wanted to convey with my images, and in the end, I realized that I love images that are light, slightly overexposed, natural, and cheery. I only photograph using natural light and I actually make & taste my food, so what you see is really what you get. I don't believe in adding fake inedible props to spruce up the look of my food because that's just not my style. In any case, if you're here reading this, I presume that you share my sentiments. Food is really an art, and food styling is how I paint on my canvas.

Speaking of which, I hope you enjoy this refreshing Calamari + Pomelo Salad with a Chili-Lime Dressing because it's just the type of salad that makes me want to snap pictures all day long! I had a fabulous time shooting this particular dish because if you haven't guessed it yet, I am smitten with citrus, especially blush-toned ones like these ruby pomelos!

Ruby Red Pomelo | via Chandara Creative
I love the ruby blush-pink flesh of pomelos

Ruby Red Pomelo | via Chandara Creative
Broken segments of pomelo getting ready to mingle with the calamari

Chili-Lime Dressing | via Chandara Creative
Chili-lime dressing infused with flavors of garlic and fresh Thai bird chili peppers

Red Onions | via Chandara Creative
The secret to crisp strands of vibrant red onions is to soak them in an ice bath
Calamari & Pomelo Salad | via Chandara Creative
Calamari + Pomelo Salad w/Chili-Lime Dressing | via Chandara Creative

Calamari + Pomelo Salad with Chili-Lime Dressing
Recipe Adapted from Calamari, Pomelo and Chili Salad, Gourmet Traveller (Feb 2009)
Serves 2

• 2 large calamari, cleaned
• 1/2 ruby red pomelo (or citrus fruit), peeled & segmented
• 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 small cucumber, preferably Persian or Japanese variety, sliced into matchsticks
• 6 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped or leaves plucked
• 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 tbs lemongrass, thinly sliced
• 2 Thai birdseye chili peppers (fresh or frozen), thinly sliced or minced
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 2 tbs lime juice, adjust according to taste
• 2 tbs fish sauce, adjust according to taste
• 2 tsp light soft palm sugar, or plain granulated sugar
• 1 tsp sea salt (for blanching calamari)
• Ice
• Water

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Prepare the chili-lime dressing by combining lime juice, chili peppers, garlic, sugar, and fish sauce in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  • 2.  Slice the calamari into 1/2"  bite-size rings.  Blanch the calamari in lightly salted boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on its thickness, or until calamari is no longer translucent. Be careful not to overcook the calamari or it will taste rubbery. Remove from water and shock the calamari by immersing it an ice bath. 
  • 3. Toss calamari with chili-lime dressing, herbs, broken pomelo segments, lemongrass, red onions, and cucumbers. Serve immediately and Enjoy!

My Sweet Valentine

posted on: Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's from Chandara Creative
Sweet Danish butter cookies and cup of coffee | via Chandara Creative

Our sweet little bun who's been baking for 9 months has finally arrived! I wanted to wish you and yours a very sweet Valentine. This year, we got ourselves the loveliest little cherub...warm, cuddly, and cute, and our hearts could not be more fuller! While we take some time to enjoy this special moment in our lives, rest assured I already thought about you and have some scheduled posts already coming each week. In the meantime, go out and show the people you love just how much they mean to you. 

Cheers to a Sweet Valentine's Day! | With Love, Chandara + baby

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