Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Archive for the category “ECMP 455”

Summary of Learning

As I reflect all the way back into January, I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable about using technology in teaching, learning and overall life. However, as the course continued, this feeling alleviated due to the constant help and guidance from my classmates and of course Alec and Katia. Throughout this course I definitely became more critically informed about the latest trends in technology, in education and society. Every week, our conversations and interactions in different online spaces enabled me to step outside of my comfort zone, which ultimately helped in creating my positive digital identity through the development of my online portfolio and other social networking tools such as twitter and Google Plus. This course really helped me develop a greater awareness of advanced technology-based learning resources and online professional learning opportunities. I can definitely say that ECMP 455 helped me get over my fear of technology. I am certainly more confident in my abilities and pleased with the social connections I have made. I will without doubt be integrating technology into my classroom one day so that my students can gain the capacity to further develop their own technological abilities.

I underestimated the potential of this class, however, my personal learning network is growing by the minute and I owe it all the Alec. Thank you ECMP 455.

For my summary of learning project, seven of my classmates including myself made a music video that incorporated all of our learning projects, as well as our own personal takeaways (as exemplified through our flip grid videos).

Enjoy our dance moves!

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Apples On Apples

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As my learning project comes to an end, I really wanted to go out with a bang. That being said, I desired to make a dessert that I never imagined myself to bake –I needed to challenge myself in all aspects. I thought about this for a few days and finally decided that I wanted to bake pie. I love pie –the flaky crust and flavorfully, sweet filling is a great way to end a meal. I have never baked a pie before, mostly because I imagined it to be extremely difficult; therefore, I thought this would be a perfect way to end my learning project.

Last week I mentioned how useful the Smitten Kitchen Blog was in helping me find a dessert recipe. That being said, I thought I should look there first, since I am already familiar with the blog. I once again clicked on recipes and scoured through the recipe index. As I was looking through the sweets section, I came across a fairly large section dedicated to pies! I looked through the options and to be honest there were so many delicious choices. I wanted to make all of the pies –but not all in one night obviously. However, the more I thought about it the more I wanted to stay with and bake a classic: Apple pie.

Even though I have never baked a pie, as I was looking through the recipe and directions it all seemed fairly reasonable. The ingredients were all very common for baking, and/or I have worked with them before in other baking recipes. If anything the only component in this recipe that I felt uneasy about was the piecrust; however, as part of the pie section on the blog there were three links that were dedicated to pie dough –Pie Crust 101, Pie Crust 102: all butter, really flaky pie dough, and Pie Crust 103: rolling and crimping. I took a few minutes to look through all the links, and about an hour later I was feeling much better about pie dough. I highly recommend looking through the above links if you are going to make pie dough; I personally found them to be very helpful.

Before I started to bake the pie I wanted to make sure I had all of the ingredients. Thankfully, I had everything that I needed and got ready to bake.

Recipe:

American Pie Dough:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

7 tablespoons all vegetable shortening, chilled

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ¼ inch pieces

10 tablespoons ice water

Apple Pie:

1 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)

2 pounds McIntosh apples (about 4 large)

1-tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon

¾ cups plus 1-tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 egg white, beaten slightly

Directions: From Smitten Kitchen

For American Pie Dough:

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In a medium sized bowl, measure out and mix together flour, salt and sugar (you could also use a food processor). Add shortening, and using a pastry cutter, cut the shortening into the mixture until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. I found this to not be very difficult, mostly because the shortening was soft enough that it blended in nicely with the other dry ingredients. Add/scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; using the pastry cutter cut the butter into flour mixture until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas. This was much more difficult than the shortening. The reason being that the butter was a little firm, so it required more upper body strength to cut the butter into the flour mixture. This probably took me about 15-20 minutes, no joke.

Sprinkle 8-10 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Then using a rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if it will not come together. I found that I needed to add 9 tablespoons of ice water. Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each piece separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling. Instead of wrapping the dough in plastic wrap, I placed it in a plastic container and sealed it tightly. I also left the dough in the fridge for about 5 hours before I started to assemble to rest of the pie.

For Apple Pie:

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat to 425 degrees. Depending on how hot your oven gets this temperature may be to high/hot. I know for a fact that our oven gets really warm, so I turned down the temperature to 400 degrees. Remove dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).

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Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over 9-½ inch pie plate or by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of pie plate and unfolding. Work around circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate. Before I started to roll out the dough I placed wax paper down on the counter. Then, I lightly floured the wax paper. The reason I placed wax paper down on the counter was because my mom stated that despite the flour being sprinkled dough always seems to stick to the counters, so the wax paper was to prevent this from happening. As I was rolling out the dough I found it hard to make a reasonable sized circle that will cover the pie plate; however, after rolling and rolling for a few minutes I eventually ended up with something that would work. As well, I found it quite difficult to get it to the desired thickness (or rather thinness). However, I managed.

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Peel, core and cut apples in half, and in half again width-wise; cut quarters into ¼ inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, or same bowl, mix ¾ cup sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss together. Turn fruit mixture, including juices into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Thankfully, we own an apple corer and slicer two-in-one. This little tool really came in handy because it saved me the time of coring and slicing all 6-7 apples. However, once the apple were cut into 8 pieces from the tool, I needed to cut it further, but this didn’t take as long.

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Roll out second piece of dough and place over the filling. Trim top and bottom edged to ½ inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Cut four slits on dough top. If pie dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Rolling out the second pie dough was definitely easier than the first. I found that I was able to control the rolling pin better the second time as well. Brush egg white or melted butter onto top of crust, and if desired, sprinkle with remaining 1-tablespoon sugar. I had some pie dough left over so I rolled it out, and using cookie cutters, cut some little shapes to add on top of the pie.

Place pie on baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425 degrees. In my case, I lower the temp to 375. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375 or in my case, 350. Continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer. Once the pie is done, cool to room temperature.

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This pie was not half bad. The crust was definitely flaky and the apple filling was certainly juicy; however, I do believe that the pie dough was a little too thick. It seemed like one portion of pie was 50% apple filling 50% crust. This was not a bad thing, but the dough should have been rolled out a lot thinner. As well, as you can seem from the photo above, my little cookie cutter shapes burnt to a crisp in the oven. Don’t know why though? To accompany my pie, I scooped some vanilla ice cream on the side. This was the best pairing. The pie was still a little warm so the ice cream melted a tad to a consistency that I really enjoy. I got my family, or rather my parents to taste my pie. My dad seemed to really like it; however, he appears to like everything and anything that I make, even when I know that it isn’t the greatest in flavor. He did agree with me however, on the fact that the piecrust was a little too thick. But that was the only criticism. Everything else seemed to be great though.

Well ladies and gents, that concludes my learning project. As I reflect back to my first week in January to where I am now, I can definitely say that I learned a significant amount and have become more confident in the kitchen. Every week I conducted some online learning, which assisted me in making succulent and eye appealing dishes. The number of resources that I was able to find was overwhelming and made me realize the potential for online learning. I am extremely happy and proud of myself for accomplishing what I did each week. Even though my learning project is complete for this class, I can confidently say that for me the learning doesn’t end here. I will be cooking much more now for sure and referring to blogs, and other online resources to assist me when I need it. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone during these past few weeks, but I came away with a practical life skill that I will carry with me forever.

Scrumptious Crumbs

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This week marks the beginning of the dessert category, which just so happens to be the last category for my learning project. I am very excited for these next few weeks because as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed baking. That being said, I am very comfortable with this category, and in my baking abilities.

I decided early on in the week that I wanted to bake some bar cookies; however, I didn’t know what flavor. I began my search a few days earlier than usual because I knew that there would be many options to look at. However, I quickly remembered all the way back to week one when I was introduced to the blog Smitten Kitchen. I remember going through this blog and noticing all of different dessert categories/recipes. As a result, I began my search there. I clicked on recipes and an entire recipe index popped up. To top it all off, this index was organized further into different sections such as Ethnic foods, Seasons, fruit, vegetables and of course sweets. As I was searching through the sweet recipes I came across a tiny section dedicated to bar cookies. How convenient! I looked through the options and one recipe stood out to me: Blueberry Crumb Bars. I love blueberries, so this recipe was perfect.

As I looked through the recipe, the directions were all very explicit. As well, the ingredients were all very basic and I have worked with them all before in other baking recipes. That being said, I felt like I didn’t have to conduct any online learning for this particular recipe because I was feeling very confident. However, before I could start anything I needed to make sure that we had all of the ingredients. I scavenged the house for everything that I needed and it just so happened that we had everything. This was a plus. So I organized all of the ingredients on the counter and got ready to bake.

Recipe:

1-cup white sugar

1-teaspoon baking powder

2 cups all purpose flour

1-cup cold unsalted butter

1 egg

¼ teaspoon salt

Zest and juice of one lemon

4-cups fresh blueberries

½ cup white sugar

4-teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Depending on how hot your oven gets this temperature may be to high/hot. I know for a fact that our oven gets really warm, so I turned down the temperature to 350 degrees.

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In a medium sized bowl, stir together 1-cup sugar, baking powder and 3 cups of flour. Once these ingredients are blended together mix in salt and lemon zest. Then use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. I happened to come across a new kitchen tool while preparing this mixture. A zester! First of all, I didn’t even know that we had one, and second of all I was very excited to use it. I assumed it would be more complicated than it actually was –it was very simple to use. You just grate the lemon on top. After the zest was in the bowl the smell of lemon overwhelmed my senses –but in a good way. The aroma was so fresh and light. Blending in the butter and egg was definitely a process. I used a pastry cutter to blend in these ingredients and man I’ll tell you it took a lot of upper body strength –of which I don’t have. It probably took me about 10 minutes to cut the butter up in fine enough pieces. Once everything was mixed together the crumble/dough was so light and, well, crumbly. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Then take half of the dough and pat it into the prepared pan, and spread evenly.

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In another bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries trying not to pop any. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. The recipe called for fresh blueberries; however, fresh blueberries are not really in season right now. That being said, I used frozen blueberries instead. I simply took the blueberries out of the freezer and let them sit for a bit so that they could un-thaw. Then I measured out what I needed, placed them in a colander and strained them under cold water so that the ice would melt off of the blueberries and ultimately clean them. I also made sure that the blueberries were mostly if not completely dry before I added them to the bowl. Once the blueberries are evenly distributed over the crust, crumble the remaining dough over the berry layer.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown. As well, the blueberries should be bursting or bubbling up the sides. Cool completely before cutting into squares. If would like you could crumble the bars over ice cream!

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Oh my word. These blueberry crumb bars were so unbelievably good. They were moist and the blueberries added just the right amount of juiciness. To be honest, as I was putting them in the oven I was worried that they weren’t going to taste very good because the crumble seemed sort of off to me. On the contrary, it was the best part. I got my parents to taste them and they seemed to really enjoy them. My dad was literally freaking out. He repeated about ten times how delicious they were –he even ate an entire row to himself. I am very pleased with myself as well with this dish. I have always loved to bake so I knew I was going to do well with this category. It is definitely a nice way to finish off this learning project. Even though these crumb bars are delicious on there own, I bet they would taste even better with ice cream.

MMMMmmmmm.

Next week is the last week for my learning project. However, I am not that bummed since my learning project revolved around learning a practical life skill that I can put into practice any day, even when the semester is over.

Subjects To Topics

Photo Credit: schoolux via Compfight cc

Education in Finland is hailed internationally for their extremely high educational ‘outcomes’ –or standards, as we know them to be. For many years, they have been international leaders in both numeracy and literacy. However, now the education community in Finland has decided to take on a new approach. According to this article by Richard Garner, Finland is scrapping traditional “teaching by subject” and replacing it with “teaching by topic” or what the Finns call “Phenomenon” teaching. The idea is to introduce a specific topic and then integrate all of the different subject areas that relate to it at one time. The example they provided in the article was, “a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services’ lessons, which would include elements of math’s, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.” With this new approach, however, comes other changes within the classroom. For instance, there will be more collaboration between teachers and students, with students working in small groups to solve problems and teachers collaborating on lessons plans. Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager stated, “We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow.” In other words, the Finnish want to make changes in their education that are necessary for society, and according to their research, this approach shows that students are really benefiting.

I find this new approach in education really interesting. What do you think? Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?

Ground Keeper

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This week happened to be different from every other week. The reason being that instead of me searching and searching for a recipe, my mom already had a recipe chosen for me. This, in my eyes, was great because it saved me serious time. Yesterday, my mom mentioned how she found this recipe for taco pie, which looked really appealing. I have never heard of taco pie before; however, I was in for cooking something different and unique. She showed me the website, which just so happened to be the Betty Crocker blog –I mean who doesn’t love Betty Crocker? Anyways, as I was reading through the directions and the ingredients this recipe looked very reasonable. In the end, I was happy that I didn’t have to search for hours on end for a recipe, but once again I was not to thrilled to be working with raw meat… However, I wanted to conquer this ‘fear’. As a result, I was ready to cook Taco Pie. Well, hopefully ready.

Before I started to assemble the pie I wanted to make sure that I felt confident in the ingredients as well as the directions. To be honest, as I looked through everything I felt pretty certain about this recipe. Most of the ingredients were all very familiar and/or I have worked with them before. As well, the directions were very explicit and easy to follow. However, despite my confidence with majority of this recipe, I was a little uneasy about working with ground beef. Do I have to touch it? How do I brown ground beef? How do I know when the meat is cooked all the way through? The later is a serious question, because the last thing that I want to do is serve raw meat to my family. As mentioned last week, I dislike the smell, touch and look of raw meat so this was not something that I was looking forward to at all. Despite my aversion I needed to conduct some online learning.

I found this website to be helpful because not only did it provide a step-by-step process with pictures, but it also included a small tutorial video. Basically, you preheat your frying pan or medium saucepan for a few minutes. Once the pan is heated add the beef. Then, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mash, stir, twist and turn the meat so that it gets broken up and cooks. Keep stirring and mashing until all the pink has disappeared, and all the meat has turned brown. This indicates that the ground beef is fully cooked, which should take approximately 5-7 minutes. After the meat is cooked, if you would like, you could strain it in a colander to drain out all the fat and grease. After I went through and read these instructions, this process does seem very simple; however, my problem is that I just do not want to touch the raw meat. That being said, I will have to find a creative way to not touch the slimy meat.

After learning how to properly brown ground beef I felt a little better about this step. However, before I started to cook I needed to make sure that I had all of the ingredients. Thankfully, we had everything that I needed, which in the end saved me a trip to the store.

Recipe:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped (approximately ½ cup)

1 package (1 ounce) Old El Paso taco seasoning mix

1 can Old El Paso chopped green chilies, drained

1-cup milk

2 eggs

½ cup original bisquick mix

¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese

Salsa

Sour Cream, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Depending on how hot your oven gets this temperature may be too high. I know that our oven gets really hot so instead of heating the oven to 400 I set it to 350 degrees.

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Place a medium sized skillet or saucepan on the stove. Heat the pan first before adding the ingredients. Chop the onion and then add to the pan and stir occasionally so that the onion does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the onions have started to brown add the ground beef. Mash, twist and turn the beef to break it up into small pieces. Stir occasionally so that the beef does not stick to the pan, and keep stirring until brown; drain. Prior to cooking this meal I let the ground beef sit on the counter in a bowl overnight because it was frozen and I wanted it to un-thaw. The sight of the raw meat in its packaging alone grossed me out. Blood was coming out of the sides of the wrapping and setting in the bottom of the bowl it was sitting in. I was wondering how on earth was I going to get the meat of the wrapping and transfer it to the pan. Well, the thought came to me immediately. I found some tongs and a pair of scissors and with some difficultly I managed to get the meat out of the packaging and into the sizzling pan. I was relieved in the end that I didn’t have to touch the meat, but I still ended up washing my hands after. I really need to get over this. Anyhow, once the meat was finally in the pan I took a spoon and started to mash and twist and turn the meat just like the website said. This was a fairly easy task; however, I found that the meat took longer than 5-7 minutes to brown. It took more like 15 minutes, but that could be a result of the stove not being hot enough. Now, even though the video said that the meat is cooked once it turns brown, I was a little worried or rather paranoid that it was still raw so I cooked it longer than necessary. Anyways, once the meat was cook fully to my likely, I drained it and placed it back in the pan. Once the meat is back in the pan stir in taco seasoning mix.

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Grease or butter a pie plate. Spoon the beef mixture into the pie plate and spread/flatten it evenly. Drain the green chilies and scatter on top of the beef mixture.

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In a blender or small bowl stir together milk, eggs and Bisquick mix. I decided to stir the ingredients in a small bowl because our blender appeared to not be working that day. As well, once all of the ingredients where in the bowl I used a whisk to smooth out all of the lumps. As well, I remembered to crack the eggs in a separate bowl so that I was not fishing for eggshells. I did happen to get a small piece of shell in the bowl that I cracked the eggs in; however, I just used a small spoon to scoop it out. Once the mixture is smooth, pour over the meat mixture into the pie plate. The mixture should cover the meat mixture entirely.

Place the pie plate into the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Then, sprinkle the shredded cheese on top and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Once the cheese has melted remove from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes so that all of the ingredients set. Serve with salsa and sour cream. Enjoy.

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I have to admit, this was not half bad. To be honest, I was a little skeptical about this recipe because I was not sure if it was going to taste very good. On the contrary, it tasted really good. The meat was seasoned just right, the Bisquick crust was flaky and the cheese was of course very gooey. As well, the result just so happened to look identical to the picture on the Betty Crocker recipe, which was very reassuring that I did something right. The rest of the family really enjoyed it as well. They said it was very flavorful and that I should really make it again in the future. As well, they suggested that next time I should top the pie off with some diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce to add some texture and crispness –just like the photo in the website. In the end, I was happy with the result. In total, this recipe only took me about half an hour to prepare, which is really reasonable. As well, I have to say that my mom did a great job in choosing this recipe. It was definitely different and unique as it is not one that you hear about. Maybe I should let her choose all of the recipes from now on!

Well, that marks the ending of the meat dishes. For the past few weeks I have truthfully been dreading the meat category, however, now that it has been completed, I realize that it really was not that bad. But I am still glad that it is over. Next week I move onto desserts and I am extremely excited! I love dessert! That being said, these next few weeks are definitely going to be my favorite.

Have any suggestions on what I should bake first?

Meat ya’ll here next week!

What Runs The World? CODES

Coding (also known as scripting or programming) is a hot topic right now. Constantly, we hear of new initiatives to get kids coding, and in fact is it becoming an increasingly important skill to have. But what exactly is ‘coding’? Quite simply, coding is telling a computer or device what you want it to do, which involves typing in step-by-step commands (like a list of instructions) for the computer/device to follow. The world runs on code. Every time you use a mobile phone, a calculator or even a microwave, a code is being run. That being said, it is fair to say that code powers our digital world because without programmers/coders writing that code, or that set of instructions, computers would be incapable of providing you with anything –they would simply just it there and do nothing.

We live a world that is becoming more and more reliant on technology. That being said, coding is extremely important. We need coders to keep on telling computers what to do and how to perform these tasks that we see as complex, yet useful. In the end, as our reliance on technology grows, our understanding of how things work needs to ultimately grow too because computers, well they are not going anywhere.

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It was stated by our professor, Alec Couros, last week that coding provides children with some really important skills and a way of looking at the world. However, my question is, how do you incorporate coding in the classroom? As part of our discussion as a class, Alec introduced us to a kid-friendly computer programming language called Scratch. Scratch is a free programming language that allows you to make stories, animations and games. As part of our learning we were all encouraged to try out this program. I have never coded before so this was going to be interesting.

Due to the fact that I was very unfamiliar with this program and coding in general, this became a very time consuming task for me. As well, I found this to be very frustrating because 1) I could not get the music to work and 2) sometimes I could not get the sprite to move the way I wanted it to. Even though I had difficulties I was able to come up with a simple code for my sprite; however, there is still no sound. If anyone knows how I can fix this please help me out! Anyways, you can watch my sprite dance (more of a glide really) and unfortunately not sing under the spotlight here. As you will see, this is not very well done, but for someone with my technical abilities this is not that bad. I definitely need to work on this coding…

 

 

Yes, I Can–nelloni

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This week marks the beginning of the meat category. Now, as stated last week, I am sort of nervous for these next few weeks because I am not a big fan of touching/handling raw meat. I try to avoid touching raw meat at all costs actually, because, for me, it is a texture thing and I also dislike the look of it when it is raw. However, I need to put this fear aside for the sake of me learning how to cook.

I come from a big Italian family. That being said, we eat a lot of pasta –probably 2-3 times a week. As a result, I wanted to find a pasta recipe that not only incorporated meat, but also incorporated many new cooking skills. Now, there are many different kinds of pasta so somehow I needed to narrow down my search. In conversation with my family, my mom stated that stuffed pasta dishes are usually more complex. During our conversation, I searched through our pantry to see if any particular pasta stood out to me, and in particular, to see if we had any pasta that could be stuffed. We had packages on packages of spaghetti and penne; however, at the very back of the cupboard we had cannelloni shells. For those of you that don’t know, cannelloni are cylindrical shaped pasta that is generally stuffed with either meat or vegetables. This was exactly what I was looking for. Cannelloni is definitely going to be more of a challenge. Now that I decided what noodles I wanted, I needed to find the recipe. I went onto Google, like how I always do, and typed in Cannelloni recipes. I clicked the first link, which happened to be a food blog called taste.com, and to be honest the recipe looked very good and the directions were very easy to follow. Truthfully, the picture drew me in. I looked it over a few times and I honestly felt like I didn’t have to look any more. My mind was made up; I was making Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni with Béchamel Sauce.

Before I started cooking I wanted to make sure that I felt confident in the ingredients as well as the directions and what was ultimately asked of me. Going through the recipe the first thing that I wanted to inquire on was what is Béchamel sauce? For some reason, I feel like this is a white cream sauce because I believe I have heard of it before on TV. Anyways, before I started to make anything I wanted to make sure I knew what it was.

Well would you look at that, I was actually right! Béchamel sauce is also known as white sauce, and it is made from a roux (butter and flour) and milk or cream. It is considered to be one of the mother sauces of both French and Italian cuisine. This website was very helpful in describing Béchamel sauce. As well, it even provides a recipe for how to make it. I just gradually skimmed over the recipe because there was a recipe for this particular sauce in the dish that I am making.

Another thing that I wanted to inquire on before I started cooking obviously related to meat. How do you poach chicken breast? This is a serious question because honestly, I have no idea. I found this website to be particularly helpful, since it provided a step-by-step with clear and concise directions. Basically, you start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and place them in either a pot or a pan. Then add enough water so that you cover the chicken breasts with at least two inches of water. If you wish, you could add some aromatics such as onions, carrots or celery, or you could just season with basic salt and pepper. Next, place the pan in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes –during this time the water should be boiling. If you decided to place the chicken in a pot on the stove, bring the water to a boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. At this time, take the chicken out of the oven or remove from the stove and let the chicken breasts sit in the hot water for another 5-10 minutes. After going through these directions, it actually didn’t seem that bad. Now the task of poaching the chicken isn’t the issue for me, it is actually placing the chicken in the pan that I am nervous about.

The last thing that I wanted to inquire about before I started cooking was how to stuff the cannelloni without cracking the shell? Was there a certain technique? Well I was about to find out. This video seemed to be helpful. The reason I say seemed is because the video did not seem to capture everything that he was doing. I looked at other videos as well, but this one appeared to be the best. Anyhow, according to the video, the best way to stuff cannelloni is with a spoon. Basically, using the spoon you scoop and fill one end of the shell, than when you can’t fit anymore filling you switch to the other end of the shell and repeat. The goal is that the filling should meet in the middle. As well, you can pack the shells more tightly by using the end of the spoon. This seems fairly reasonable but we will just have to wait and see.

After going over some basic techniques that will help me with this recipe I felt more confident. However, before I started to cook I needed to make sure that I had all of the ingredients. Thankfully, we had everything that I needed, which in the end saved me a trip to the store.

Recipe:

2 packages of frozen spinach, thawed, drained

300g fresh ricotta

200g feta cheese, crumbled

2 white onions, thinly sliced

16 or more dried cannelloni tubes

2 cans chopped tomatoes

3-4 chicken breasts

Béchamel Sauce:

4 cups of milk or cream

1 dried bay leaf (optional)

1 onion, coarsely chopped

90g butter

½- cup plain flour

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and Pepper

½-cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or any other type of cheese.

Directions: As you will see, I added to and modified this recipe a tad

While preparing the filling preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, feta and onions. After I combined the following ingredients into a bowl I noticed that there were hardly any vegetables. As a result, I added celery and red peppers to the filling. I washed and finely chopped the celery and peppers and mixed them in with the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. This mixture is going to be the filling for the cannelloni. After I finished the filling I set it aside in the fridge.

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Place the chicken breasts in either a pan or casserole dish. Cover with water completely and place it in the oven to poach for approximately 20-30 minutes. The water should be boiling. Once chicken is cooked all the way through remove from the oven and let it sit to cool. Once the chicken has cooled chop finely and then add to the filling mixture. To be completely honest, the task of handling the chicken was actually not that bad. However, this is partly because the chicken breasts were frozen so I did not really have to feel 100% raw and slimy chicken.

Before starting to fill the cannelloni, generously apply butter to a pan. This process will hopefully prevent the shells from sticking to the pan. Once the pans are buttered, and using a spoon, gently fill/stuff each cannelloni tube with the mixture. Place the cannelloni in a single layer in the pan until all tubes have been filled. As I was stuffing the cannelloni I found that the spoon was just not working for me. As a result, I tossed it away and just started to use my fingers. Basically, I blocked one end of the cannelloni with my index finger so that the mixture didn’t come out while I was stuffing it. Then with my other hand, I gently stuffed the filling into the opposite end. You want to stuff as much in the cannelloni as possible, making sure not to crack the shells. I found that the less I stuffed in at once the lesser my chances of cracking the shells. That being said, this was a very time consuming task because I was really being careful and stuffing little at a time. Once the pan is filled, set aside and begin to make the sauce.

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To make the Béchamel sauce, combine milk or cream, bay leaf (optional) and onion in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Strain milk through a fine sieve. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat until foaming. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the flour becomes grainy. Remove from heat and add the milk mixture. Use a whisk to stir and combine. Place back over medium heat and cook stirring constantly for 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to boil and thicken. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add half the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Along with the Parmesan cheese, I also added Swiss cheese because I love the rich flavor. As well, I wanted to thicken it a little more because for some reason after everything was finished my sauce did not seem to come together as nicely, but after I added the Swiss cheese in it thickened more.

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Once the sauce is complete, pour it evenly over the cannelloni. Shake the pan to distribute it. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. I also, added the remaining Swiss cheese as well. If desired, place the chopped tomatoes either underneath the sauce or on top of the sauce. Instead of tomatoes I decided to place mushrooms on top for some texture. Place in the oven for an hour and a half or less, until heated through and golden brown.

This was actually very tasty! It was gooey, creamy and full of flavor. However, this was not the healthiest of dishes due to all of the cheese and the sauce, so it was a good thing I guess that I added the celery and peppers early on in the recipe. Speaking of the sauce…oh my! It was very good, yet rich. But that didn’t seem to bother me. My family really enjoyed this recipe as well. They thought that it was definitely a keeper; however, they thought that it needed the tomatoes for some juiciness, but they did like the mushrooms on top. I guess next time I will have to add the tomatoes. This dish is also very filling. I only had one or two shells and I was stuffed…no pun intended.

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Since I worked with chicken this week, I plan on cooking with a different type of meat next week. Any suggestions?

Ciao.

 

Hola Senorita

This week in my ECMP 455 online class, our professor, Alec Couros, introduced us all to some ‘new’ and exciting tools, of which we all wish we had known about before. Firstly, we spent some time looking at Chrome Extensions such as, Hola, Screencastify, and Ad Block Plus. However, in order to have access to these lovely tools you need to have Chrome. I unfortunately do not have Chrome on my computer, but I plan on downloading it very soon –preferably after classes are done so that these tools, especially Hola, are not distracting me from my homework. Hola is an extension, which allows Chrome users, anyone anywhere in the world, to have access to movies and TV shows that are blocked in Canada. It functions like Netflix. Now, as Alec was introducing this extension to us he mentioned that Hola has Disney Movies. Well, I love Disney Movies. So I knew right away that if I downloaded this tool I would be completely distracted from everything.

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That’s How We Roll

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For my second meatless main dish, I really wanted to try and cook something that was out of my comfort zone. Conveniently, this week I have been on an International food kick, in particular Mexican food. Actually, my mom has been cooking Mexican related foods all week, such as quesadillas and Mexican style fried rice. As a result, I was really inspired by these flavors and therefore, wanted to make a Mexican inspired dish. I went directly to Google and started to search/look for Mexican recipes. Once again I was overwhelmed by the options. This really shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but some how every week the countless options that appear on my laptop continue to amaze me. As I was searching through numerous blogs and food websites, one Mexican dish kept on appearing: Enchiladas. It was literally calling my name through the computer screen. Therefore, I was set on making enchiladas, however, I needed to find the perfect recipe. I know that enchiladas are not the healthiest of dishes so I wanted to find a recipe that was healthier but still tasty. I came across this blog called Cookie + Kate, in which a plethora of fresh, healthy, vegetarians dishes were listed. Her recipe for Enchiladas was just perfect. So it was decided that I was making Black Bean Enchiladas with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

Before I started to assemble the enchiladas I wanted to make sure that I felt confident in the directions, as well as the ingredients. To be honest, as I looked through everything I felt pretty certain about this recipe. The ingredients were all very familiar and/or I have worked with them before. However, there was one thing that I was not very sure about. How do you successfully roll the enchiladas such that the tortilla doesn’t break and/or so the filling doesn’t spill out? Before I could even start cooking I needed to conduct some online learning to find out how to successfully roll enchiladas.

I found this video very helpful. The lady conducting the video used a “tuck and roll” technique. Basically, you lay the filling down, sort of in an oval shape, in the centre of the tortilla. Then, taking the two edges, which will be the ends that tuck, fold them into the middle. Then, take the edge that is closest to you, and fold it over while still pinching the two edges. Lastly, you simply roll, hoping that it is snug enough such that the filling does not spill out. Now, I know that my explanation above is probably not the clearest, so I recommend checking out the video to visually see the process. Truthfully, after I watched the video this did not seem that much of a daunting task. However, we will just have to wait and see.

After learning how to roll enchiladas, I felt like I was ready to start cooking. However, there was one more thing left to do: check to see if I had all the ingredients. As I was going through the recipe, I realized that we didn’t have four of the ingredients: spinach, roasted red peppers, feta and tortillas. Well, it was a good thing that I didn’t start cooking yet because how was I going to make enchiladas without tortillas? Anyways, I quickly ran to the store, grabbed what I needed, and headed back home. Once I got home, I laid/organized everything out on the counter so that it was easier for me to access. In my eyes, everything was ready to go.

Recipe:

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

8 ounces jarred, drained roasted red peppers

¼ cup water

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoons olive oil

1-teaspoon sugar

Filling:

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

8 ounces spinach

8 ounces frozen corn

1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 17-ounce can diced green chilies, drained

½ cup of the roasted red pepper sauce

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Remaining Ingredients:

8-10 tortillas

1 cup shredded Jack or cheddar cheese

3 avocados (optional)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

½ lime, juiced

Directions:

 

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In a food processor or high-powered blender, combine all of the sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth. I found that when I tasted the sauce it was very tart due to the limejuice and the raw onion flavor was very overpowering. Initially, I thought something was off, so I went back and double checked the recipe in case I missed anything or added too much of a certain ingredient. Thankfully, I did not miss anything or add too much of one ingredient. However, the recipe did state that, if you taste the sauce immediately after blending the raw onion flavor would overpower, however, that that is okay because it will mellow out with the lime after spending time in the oven.

 

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I set the sauce aside and started to assemble the filling. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and chopped onion. When it came time for me to chop the onion I recalled back all the way to week one when I learned how to successfully chop an onion. As you can see from the photo, I partly removed the bulb. I think the reason why I am still struggling to remove the bulb is because I am not placing the knife far enough inside the onion. However, chopping onions is becoming more of an easier task for me. As well, as you see from the other photo, my knife handling skills are becoming more innate. Sauté the onions for a few minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent and/or start to lightly brown. Add the spinach and frozen corn and cook until warmed through and the juices have mostly evaporated. Before I added the spinach I washed and cleaned the leaves. Once I added the spinach to the skillet I was amazed at how much it wilted. I put a good 9 ounces of fresh spinach into that skillet and it wilted to like nothing. Once the spinach and corn has been warmed, add the black beans and green chilies and cook until warmed through. Remove from heat and pour in ½ cup of the enchilada sauce and feta cheese. Mix and add salt and pepper to taste. Once everything was assembled I tasted the filling to see how it was. To be honest, it was very bland. There was hardly any flavor there. So, even though the recipe does not call for any, I added some chili powder, garlic powder and a little taco seasoning to spice it up in flavor. If by chance you decided to make this recipe, I would add some other spices.

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As the filling mixture is cooling, gently warm the tortillas so they don’t break when you roll them. This is like an old trick. When you warm up tortillas they become more pliable when rolling and are easier to work with. The easiest way to do this is to place them in a stack in the microwave under a damp paper towel and microwave for about 60 seconds.

 

 

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Before you begin rolling, take a baking pan and either butter the pan or spray with oil. As well, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. As you can see from the photo, I set up a little station so that this next task was more organized. Working one at a time, and using a ½ measuring cup, scoop up the filling and place it in the centre of the tortilla, in an oval shape. Than using the “tuck and roll” technique that I learned from the video above, roll snugly. Once rolled, place it with the seam down in your baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, placing each rolled enchilada snugly next to the other until you have used up all your tortillas. When rolling the enchiladas, the first few rolls were a little loose; it took me a while to get the hang of this technique. However, by the third or fourth roll, my technique was improving and the enchiladas were definitely more snug. I was a little nervous about this part because I didn’t want the tortillas to fall apart, and/or the filling to start spilling out. However, I was lucky as no tortillas broke (probably because they were heated through first which made them more pliable) and no filling spilled out. They stayed in tact the entire time.

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Once the baking pan is filled, pour the remaining enchilada sauce down the middle of each row of enchiladas and give the pan some little shakes to help distribute it. Sprinkle with the cheese and then place in the oven to bake for approximately 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted, the enchiladas are warmed through and the top of the tortillas are just crisp. Let the baking pan cool, during wish, if you want to, dice the avocados and chopped cilantro in a bowl for the topper.

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These hearty, produce-packed enchiladas mixed with the roasted red pepper sauce were truly great. I really enjoyed them! They were healthy, yet still consisted of a lot of flavor and cheese (the cheese wasn’t the healthiest but oh well). What it lacks in presentation (as seen above) it makes up for in taste. However, the sauce was still a tad bit limey, but with everything else within the dish the flavors seemed to all balance out. My family really enjoyed it as well. My mom even wanted me to share the recipe with her so that she could add it to her own recipe collection. Personally, I did not add the avocado mixture to my serving, because I am not a big fan of cilantro. However, I am curious to know what it would have tasted like with the creamy avocados and bitter cilantro. It probably is very good, but I liked mine without it. I highly recommend this recipe. It is a great Tex-Mex meal.

Well, another category complete! Next week I move onto the meat category. Personally, I am not that excited for this category because I do not like handling raw meat…wish me luck.

Adios.

Keen-Wah?

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This week marks the beginning of the meatless or vegetarian entrée dishes. Within my household, my older sister has been a vegetarian for approximately 9 years now, so majority of the time we are consuming vegetarian foods. My mom’s logic is that she would rather cook one vegetarian dish with maybe some meat on the side, rather than cooking two completely different dishes. I understand this completely because cooking can take up a lot of time depending on what you are making. And who wants to spend all day in the kitchen? Anyways, that being said, I needed to find a vegetarian dish that will satisfy everyone’s palettes. Like last time, I wanted to use/find other resources (online food blogs, websites etc) that will assist me in my creation. I went into Google and typed in vegetarian dishes. Once again the amount of options was overwhelming. Being seven weeks into my online learning project, I still happen to be taken back by the number of food websites/options. I happened to stumble upon this blog called, eating well living thin, and I was immediately pulled in by the layout and organization of the blog. I scoured the blog, literally making myself hungry because everything looked so tasty, but I eventually came upon one recipe, which I thought would be the perfect start to this category. It was difficult and requires me to learn some new skills, so I was all in to make Vegetarian Quinoa Burgers.

Before I started to assemble the burgers, I wanted to make sure I was confident in the recipe and its ingredients. I read through everything and to be honest it looked very reasonable. The more and more I cook (having completed 3 categories already) the more confident I become in new and future recipes. However, there was one thing within the recipe that I was not certain about at all, and unfortunately it was the main star of the dish: Quinoa.

What exactly is quinoa? I have eaten quinoa in salads and casseroles before but to be honest I don’t really know what it is or how I would even begin to cook it. That being said, I quickly conducted some online learning to learn a little more about quinoa. I found this website to be helpful as it not only stated what quinoa was but it also provided the cooking instructions. It stated that quinoa is usually considered to be a whole grain, however, it is actually a seed, which can be prepared like whole grains. Really? A seed? That is something that I did not know. Another thing that I learned is that out of all the whole grains, quinoa has the highest protein content so it is perfect for vegetarians. Well how awesome is that! This must be a sign that I chose the right recipe! Quinoa provides 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein and a great meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. Now that I relatively know what quinoa is, I needed to learn how to cook it. According to the website preparing quinoa is very similar to preparing rice. Place the quinoa into a pot and cover it with water or even vegetable broth. Boil the quinoa until soft, which should only be about 15 minutes. It is important that you stir and keep an eye on the quinoa because it is very easy for it to burn. If you want to learn more about quinoa check out the following website. At the very bottom it provides more health benefits as well as a few quinoa recipes.

Now that I learned all that I could about quinoa I felt good going into this recipe. Now there was only one thing left to do. Make sure I have all the ingredients. Once I found an ingredient that I needed I placed it on the counter so that it was easier to access. Being organized in this way also saves a lot of time. Thankfully, we had all the ingredients that I needed, so I did not have to run to the grocery store this time.

Cooking rule #1: Make sure you have all the ingredients. CHECK.

Recipe:

2 rounded cups cooked quinoa

¾-cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other variety, if you prefer)

½ cup low-fat cottage cheese

1 medium carrot, finely grated

3 eggs

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 green onions, including white parts

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8-teaspoon salt

1/8-teaspoon garlic powder

Olive oil for frying

Directions:

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In a medium sized pot bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Add quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. Once the quinoa is cooked remove from heat and leave for a few minutes to cool. As the quinoa was cooking I was preparing all the other ingredients. After a while I kind of forgot about the quinoa because I was into my chopping and grating, so I quickly went over to the stove and thankfully nothing was burning. Cooking quinoa actually was not that difficult, but I am still glad that I went online to learn how.

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Grate carrots and finely chop the green onions. Then in a large bowl combine the 2 rounded cups of cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, sugar, pepper, cumin, salt and garlic powder. Before I even began to combine the ingredients in the bowl I measured out and chopped everything first. This way it saved time. When it came to cracking the eggs, I remembered all the way back to the first week when I attempted to make zucchini fritters. I cracked the eggs within the mixture, which turned out to be a mistake because quickly after I was finishing for eggshells and it was hard to tell how many were in there due to all the other ingredients. I did not want to make that same mistake this time so I grabbed a separate bowl to crack the eggs in. This way if by chance some shell got into the bowl I could easily see/remove them and than add the egg to the burger mixture. Thankfully, I did not see any shells in the bowl so I just added them to the mixture.

Once everything was in the bowl I mixed well so that all the ingredients could merry together. As well, I decided that I did not want to fry the burgers just yet so I placed them in the fridge to chill. While the mixture was chilling I cleaned the kitchen so it was a cleaner environment for me to fry in.

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Heat a frying pan and a couple teaspoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Recalling once again to week #1, I used my hands/spoon to shape the patties, which did not turn out great because they were uneven and seemed to fall apart quickly. As a result, and actually the recipe calls for this, using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop and drop the mixture into a pan and lightly flatten with the back of the measuring cup to ½ inch thick. Fry until golden-brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side. I really like the idea of scooping out the mixture with the measuring cup because than you can be guaranteed that all the burgers will be relatively the same size and shape. If I were to use my hands or even a spoon, like last time, they would probably be all different sizes and would have come apart. None of the burgers came apart while flipping.

Once all the burgers have been made, I left them to cool. During this time, I prepared some fixings for the burgers, like lettuce, tomato, cheese and condiments.

Take a bun and cut in half. Place the quinoa burger on one bun and layer with your choice of the fixings and enjoy!

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These were actually really good! The burgers were crispy, crunchy, and full of flavor, protein and fiber. They were also very filling. I could hardly finish mine to be honest. In total, this recipe took me about an hour and a half. It seemed to be much shorter than that really because I was very into what I was doing (time went by so fast). My sister, the vegetarian one, loved them! She had 3 burgers!! Well, without the bun. She even asked me to make them again sometime. This came as a huge surprise because at the very beginning of my learning project she was the one that doubted me. Well look at me now! Hahaha. The rest of my family really enjoyed them as well. I asked them if they would change anything and for the first or second time since I started my learning project, they said no. This made me really happy because it showed that I was successful and that in the end I am learning how to cook.

I am very thankful however, that I am taking the time to learn how to cook. If I did not take the time to carry out some online learning every week I do not feel like I would be as confident in my abilities.

I am unsure of what to make next week. There are so many great options I literally just want to make everything…

Do you have any suggestions?

Bye for now!

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