1 Turkey, 15 Freezer Meals for 4 in 4 hours!


First of all let me say this: I am lucky enough to have a standing freezer in my basement. If you don’t have freezer space, bulk cooking might not be a viable option for you.  I use it to stock up on things when they go on sale, berries, homemade stock, etc. Every once in a while I get motivated to do a big bulk cooking day and stock the freezer with meals for those nights (and I know they are coming) that I don’t feel like cooking. I am a teacher, so August always fills me with a sense of new energy and purpose.  I’m ready to start a new year.  This year I will be heading to work full time for the first time in 8 years.  Until now I have been able to plan meals and shop on days when most people are working.  I could roast a whole chicken on a Tuesday because I was home. Times are changing and I need to have the peace of mind that we can still eat a nice dinner as a family every night, even though I will have less time to cook.  I am a big fan of quick dinners.  In fact I have a whole slew of recipes that can be made in 20 minutes or so in my Quick Dinners category.  Sometimes 20 minutes even feels like too much work.  My goal this year is to skip that weekly pizza delivery and pop something in the oven instead, straight from my freezer cache.  We wait 45 minutes for a pizza, why not for baked rigatoni?

When I say a meal for four I am talking about two adults and two kids.  If I were feeding four adults I probably would have made the servings a bit larger and ended up with fewer meals.

I am also lucky enough to have a black market turkey dealer who hand raises about 30 birds every year.  This year I bought two with the intention of roasting one for Thanksgiving and one for all of those leftovers.  I never got around to roasting the second one until this week.  Remarkably the turkey had been in the freezer for nine months and was none the worse for wear.  It was still as juicy and delicious as if it were November 2013.

So, I roasted the 24 pound turkey (more on the method later) and once I carved it and picked it over it yielded about ten pounds of meat. I estimated that I could make about 10-12 dinners with that amount.  Then I started to think about what I could make in large batches and freeze in family size containers.  I didn’t want to do too many different dishes: too many ingredients, too much time, too much work.  So I settled on two different dishes, Turkey Rigatoni Bake and Turkey Pot Pie.  Both freeze very well and both can go directly from the freezer to the oven to the table. My thinking is that if we eat one of these freezer meals each week and we alternate the dishes every other week, we won’t get sick of them. I ended up with a bit more turkey and threw together a couple of crustless quiches as well.


I ended up with a grand total of 15 meals.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1 dinner roasted turkey/potatoes and gravy the first night(couldn’t resist) approx. 1 lb.
  • 5 9×13 pans of Turkey Rigatoni Bake approx. 3 3/4 lbs. (3/4 pound per container)
  • 7 Turkey Pot Pies, 5 topped with traditional pie crust, one topped with biscuits, and one topped with tater tots (because I weirdly had only 5 pie crusts instead of the 6 that I thought I had, then I needed something to top it with and found tater tots in the freezer).
  • 2 Turkey, Spinach, and Cheese Impossible Pies (crustless quiche)
  • I also made stock with the turkey bones that yielded about ten cups which I used for the pot pies.

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The time on day one was minimal- roasting the turkey was hands off, just throw it in the oven. Then it took me about half an hour to break it down and separate all the meat and bones. That evening I tossed the bones into a big pot and covered them with water.  The stock simmered for about two hours while we watched Netflix.

Day two I took in two stages.  In the morning I made the rigatoni.  The whole thing took about 30 minutes from start to finish.  It doesn’t take any longer to make a triple batch of tomato sauce, just a bigger pot. In the afternoon I did the pot pies.  The filling and assembly took about an hour.  I saved time by using store bought pie crust and frozen veggies that were already diced.  Don’t judge, we are going for easy and efficient here, not haute cuisine. The two quiches took literally five minutes.

I hesitate to talk about cost per serving.  I have seen on Pinterest lots of bloggers talking about prices of things and trying to give price per serving.  It doesn’t make sense to me to include it here.  What I spend on the milk or eggs or even the turkey could vary so much from what you might pay in another store or another state. I also believe very strongly in buying the highest quality food that I can afford.  This means that black market hand raised turkey cost me a pretty penny.  You could probably buy a frozen factory turkey for much, much less. I try to buy organic when I can afford to, so again you could make your version of these dishes for less. For me this experience was not about saving money (though it has and will) it was about saving time and energy during the upcoming months when I know I won’t feel like cooking and might be tempted to call Round Table.

Roasting The Turkey:

I am a big fan of turkey and I love a good brine.  This wasn’t about having a pretty turkey to carve on Thanksgiving.  It was just about getting a lot of tasty meat.  I thought about using the crock pot, but the bird was way too big and I didn’t really want to try to cut it into pieces. Disclaimer: my method is not approved by any FDA standard or health department. I am just explaining what I did.  You can choose to roast yours according to the FDA recommendations instead.  So, here is what I did:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the thawed turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up. No rack. Drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  I placed a bunch of fresh thyme in the cavity-optional.  Roast at 400 for one hour uncovered.  Remove the pan from the oven. Turn the entire bird over, breast side down. Cover the whole pan tightly with foil. Return to the oven.  Continue to roast for a second hour.  At this point I had to leave the house, so I turned the oven off and left the turkey inside.  I returned to the house several hours later, hoping it would be done.  The turkey was still quite warm, and completely cooked.  Not only was it cooked, but it was super juicy and falling off the bone.  Not only was it juicy, but there was also a good 3-4 cups of drippings in the pan.  Score!  Roasting it breast side down really helped keep the white meat from drying out. Many recipes will recommend roasting at a low temperature for a long time, but I have always found that roasting on high heat, whether it is chicken, or beef, or pork, for a short time, yields a juicier end product.  Again, if my method worries you, don’t do it. I went about picking all the meat off and chopping it or tearing into bite-sized pieces.  Then I covered it and put it in the fridge.  I put the bones in a large pot, covered them with water and brought it to a simmer.  I would normally add veggies, but I couldn’t be bothered.  I let it simmer for two hours.  Strained it and put in into the fridge as well.  It had a nice, clear turkey flavor.

Day 2, Turkey Rigatoni Bake: Makes 5 13 x 9 pans

  • 3 lbs. rigatoni or other pasta shape (farfalle would work well)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, diced
  • 1 heaping cup carrots, diced
  • 1 C. parsley, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 45 oz. plain tomato sauce such as Hunts (three 15 oz. cans)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 3/4 lbs. cooked turkey, about 3/4 lb. per pan
  • 10 C. fresh arugula or baby spinach leaves
  • 2 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and cook the pasta until it’s nearly ready- it’s going to bake in the oven so you don’t want to overcook it. Drain and set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and carrots and cook until the onion is almost transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Pour in the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes.  Meanwhile, Arrange your 5 9 x 13 inch casserole containers on a table and spray them with cooking spray.  Use containers that can go straight from the freezer to the oven, like foil or ceramic.  Distribute the turkey evenly among the containers, about two cups each. Distribute the arugula or spinach evenly among the containers.  Toss the sauce and drained pasta together and distribute it evenly among the containers.  Stir the pasta, turkey, and greens together a bit, right in the pans.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top, dividing it equally among the five containers. Allow the pasta to cool a bit before covering  with plastic wrap.  Otherwise the steam that’s trapped will continue to cook the pasta, making it mushy.  Once cooled, wrap tightly with plastic, then cover with foil.  It’s a good idea to label the foil so you can easily read what it inside.  These will keep in the freezer for about three months. When you want to bake one, remove the plastic wrap, re-cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered until the cheese is melted a bubbly.  For faster baking, remove it from the freezer the night before and place it into the fridge, then by the time you are ready to bake it will be defrosted and bake in about 20 minutes. As a freezer meal, baked pasta is easy and very economical.  You could replace the turkey with any cooked meat or sausage. Or, add some sautéed mushrooms and zucchini and make it vegetarian.

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Turkey Pot Pie, makes 7 9 inch pies

  • 1 T. olive oil, 2 T. butter
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3/4 lb. celery, diced, about two cups
  • 2 lb. red potatoes, diced, unpeeled
  • 2 lbs. mixed frozen vegetables (mine were carrots, peas and corn)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 t. dried thyme
  • 1 C. flour
  • 9 C. turkey or chicken stock
  • 1/2 C. cream
  • 10 C. cooked turkey meat
  • 7 pie crusts, rolled into 10 inch rounds ( I used Pillsbury)

Heat the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery, and potatoes for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Cover and sweat the veggies for about ten minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and toss to coat.  Cook for about two minutes, until the flour starts to take on a golden color.  Add the stock slowly, stirring constantly. Add the frozen veggies.  Bring the stock up to a boil and boil for one minute. It should start to thicken pretty quickly.  If it doesn’t, you can try a 1/4 C. cornstarch mixed with a couple teaspoons of water until smooth.  Stir the cornstarch mixture in and bring to a boil.  Once the sauce is as thick as you like, stir in the cream, and turkey meat.  Taste and adjust seasonings. A two crust pot pie takes much longer to bake, so I like to just cover the tops of mine.  Arrange your 7 pie dishes or foil pie tins on a table and spray with cooking spray.  Distribute the turkey mixture equally among all of the tins.  Allow the mixture to cool a bit.  Place a pie crust on top of each one and crimp to seal the edges. Cut a few vents in the center of each pie with a sharp knife.  A great alternative to pie crust is biscuit dough.  I just use Bisquick, cut it into rounds and place them on top.  They take the same amount of time to bake, and the biscuits soak up that gravy on the bottom, yum.  When the pies are cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap, and then in foil.  Label the outside of the foil and freeze.  Again, these will keep for about three or four months in the freezer.  When you are ready to bake, remove the plastic, replace the foil and bake at 350 for one hour, removing the foil for the last ten minutes or so.  When the crust is golden and the inside is bubbly, it’s ready. These are better if they go from frozen to the oven, don’t try to thaw them or the dough will be gummy.

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Impossible Pie (crustless quiche) Makes 2

  • 2 C. milk or cream
  • 2 C. Bisquick baking mix
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 C. cooked turkey meat
  • 4 C. baby spinach leaves
  • 2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

Spray two 8 x 8 square pans with cooking spray.  In a bowl mix the milk, Bisquick and eggs until smooth.  Distribute the turkey and spinach equally into the two pans. Pour half the Bisquick mixture into each pan.  Sprinkle a cup of cheese over the top of each pan.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze.  When ready to bake, bake uncovered from frozen at 350 for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I have never baked one of these from frozen, so I am making my best guess at the time. If you have a different experience, please let me know!


This whole process took me about four hours total, and some of that time was just roasting the turkey.  It’s going to save me a ton of time in the kitchen this fall.  I can’t wait!







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Adobo Corn Soup


When I have a barbecue I usually end up with leftover corn on the cob.  I always over-estimate the number of cobs I will need, since my kids love it so much.  Last week I had a large party and ended up with about 6 ears of corn and several roasted chicken drumsticks left over as well as half a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  There are a few ingredients that you buy for recipes only occasionally, and then end up with most of a can languishing in your fridge.  Chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeños) in adobo sauce is one of those ingredients.  Tomato paste is another. Most recipes that call for chipotle peppers just call for one or two, since they are fairly spicy.  So, you buy it and then what do you do with all the rest?  I guess you could freeze it, but if you’re like me you will forget that there is a little baggie of frozen chipotle peppers in your freezer somewhere and buy another can when you make a new recipe.  Anyhoo, what a great opportunity to make soup!

  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 4-6 thin slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 C. diced onion
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced, plus 1-2 T. of the sauce from the can
  • 4-5 C. cooked corn kernels cut off from the cobs (or use frozen) reserve the cobs
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 C. chicken stock
  • 2 C. diced leftover roasted chicken
  • sour cream, chives, and tortilla chips for optional garnish

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.  Fry the bacon and onions until the bacon is crisp.  Add the jalapeño and chipotle peppers and sauce.  Cook until the sauce begins to darken and the jalapeño and onions are soft, about three minutes. Add the corn and beans and season with salt and pepper.  Pour in the chicken stock and leftover chicken and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes with the lid off to concentrate the flavors a bit.  This soup was excellent the second day.  Garnish with sour cream, chives, and tortilla chips.

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Frozen Rainbow Chiffon Cake: Someone Attempted it!

You may remember this infamous cake that nearly wrecked me.  Well, despite my warnings, blog reader Julia, not only attempted it, but made it successfully!  In my original post (following) I stated that I would send a prize to anyone who makes this and sends me a picture of it.  Here is a lovely picture of her cake:


Great job Julia! Your cake is beautiful.  And thank you so much for reading swellkid.  I am sending you two prints from my swellkid collection.


M is for Modern and S is for Swell.  I painted these in 2008 as part of a Retro Alphabet series.  I hope you enjoy them!

If you are interested, the original post is below.

This cake is amazing.  This cake is beautiful.  It’s like eating sorbet, but light and fluffy, like a cloud.  This cake will move people to sing your praises.  People will talk about this cake for weeks afterward.  This cake completely kicked my a**(as a teacher I have to bleep).

My best friend’s birthday was coming up and I happily volunteered to throw her a dinner party.  As we were discussing the menu while flipping through magazines I came across this cake in Martha Stewart Living.  “It’s perfect!” I exclaimed.  A five layer, multicolored, meringue masterpiece.  I skimmed the recipe, taking note of the ingredients and tools required.  I was up to the challenge!

Here is the magazine picture from August MSL:

The cake requires 5 different fruit purees which can be made up to two days in advance.  Each of the purees is then whisked in to meringue and frozen.  The whole frozen concoction is then slathered in Seven Minute Frosting, a marshmallowy, glossy, meringue frosting.

The cake was to be served on Sunday so I decided to make the purees on Friday, the frozen meringue layers on Saturday, and frost the cake on Sunday morning.  I was glad I took this approach considering this G** d**m thing took me the entire three days to create.

Friday.  Puree number one: blueberries and blackberries. Puree two: papaya. Three: apricot.  Four: strawberries and raspberries.  Five: kiwi.  Each puree is blended in the Cuisinart with lemon juice and then strained.  Translation: you have to wash the d*** Cusinart in between every one, not to mention get all the seeds and c**p out of the strainer each time.  Puree making time: two hours.

Saturday: You would think that you could make one giant batch of meringue and then divide it into 5 bowls.  No.  That would be too easy.  Martha felt that the texture just wouldn’t be right unless you made a separate meringue for each of the 5 layers.  I have heard people say that they think some of Martha’s recipes are purposely too complicated.  As though she wants to somehow make us feel just the tiniest bit inferior.  I never believed this until I attempted this cake.  Needless to say I made 5 different d**n meringues.  You have to beat the egg whites to frothy while heating sugar and water to 250 degrees, then add the sugar syrup to the egg whites in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixing bowl.  Then you have to beat the whole thing on high until it becomes thick and glossy.  If you boil that sugar even two degrees too hot you end up with a hard, rock candy coating on the sides of the bowl that has to be chipped away before you can start all over.   Once the meringue is made you can whisk in the fruit puree and pour it into the 8 inch springform pans that you have lined with parchment paper.  Then it goes into the freezer for two hours.  Of course you can’t really start on the next layer right away because you have to wait until the first layer is frozen before you can pour the next one on to it.  I started drinking adult beverages pretty early on this day.  Total active time: 3-4 hours.


Sunday: The layers are frozen, one pan has three layers, the other pan has two.  Now I have to ease the pans off, peel off the parchment, and stack the two together to make one 5 layer stack.  This part was the part I was most dreading.  I imagined the whole thing sliding onto the floor and splattering the kitchen with kiwi meringue.  Surprisingly this was one of the easiest parts of the process.  The frozen layers released easily from the pan, the parchment peeled right off, and I was able to stack the cake onto its serving platter with ease.


The whole thing went into the freezer while I made the frosting.  Seven minute frosting gets its name from the seven minutes it takes to beat the mixture to the correct glossy, stiff consistency.  You start out the same as the other meringues: sugar/water/corn syrup heat to 23o degrees this time.  Beat into a bowl of frothy egg whites with a little more sugar.  The end product is not unlike marshmallow fluff.  With the frosting made I got the cake out and began to slather it on.  Wait a second….is this wrong?  There are bits of the strawberry layer coming off into the frosting and marring the glossy-white perfection!  And, hold on…this isn’t working…it’s not going to cover it.  Are you kidding?  This isn’t enough G** d**n f-ing seven minute frosting to cover the cake?!  The recipe says it makes 4 cups, enough to frost a 5-layer, 8 inch cake.  Well, it’s wrong.  I had to put the cake back into the freezer, and go back and make a second batch of frosting.  Once that was done, I quickly finished frosting the cake and stored it in the freezer for the party that night.  Active time on day three: 2 hours


I brought the cake out – the requisite “oohs” and “ahhs” were uttered.  I cut the cake, and there was that rainbow slice of perfection I had been fantasizing about.  Everyone loved the cake.  It looked great (I thought it looked better than it tasted) and a good time was had by all.  The birthday girl loved it, and that’s what mattered.  Although I will never, ever, EVER, make this cake again, I will never ever forget it.   Here is a link to the actual recipe should you choose to ignore my warnings and try to make it yourself.  If you do make one, take a picture and send it to me, and I will send you a surprise!


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Farro Tabouli


I love this salad for hot summer evenings when you don’t want to turn on the oven.  You can make this salad a day ahead and let it sit in the fridge until you need it. It’s great cold or at room temperature, so bring this to your next potluck.  It’s also vegan.  Farro is a nutty, chewy grain that is similar to barley, which would be a great substitute. Serve this salad with some hummus and toasted pita and you’ve got a healthy, fresh dinner!

  • 1/4 C. olive oil, divided
  • 2 C. farro
  • 4 C. vegetable broth or water
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 T. shallot, minced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice reserved
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 C. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 t. of olive oil in a medium pot with a lid.  Toast the dry farro in the oil until it begins to turn golden brown, about three minutes.  Add the broth and cumin and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the farro is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 12 minutes. Drain the farro if any liquid remains.  Place it in a large mixing bowl and allow it to cool, or cover and chill and finish the salad later or the next day.

Combine the cooled, cooked farro with the rest of the oil, the zest and juice of the lemon, shallot, garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and stir to combine.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

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Basil Whiskey Soda

Basil and whiskey go together surprisingly well! This basil simple syrup is easy to make and is a great addition to a gin and tonic or even a glass of bubbles. I like Irish whiskey for its drinkability, my favorite is Powers.

1 C. Loosely packed basil leaves
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Water
Irish whiskey
Club soda

First make the basil syrup. Heat the basil leaves, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Let the syrup cool completely in the pan. Strain the syrup into a jar and chill. Discard the basil leaves. The syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.

To make a cocktail, fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour in 1 1/2 oz. whiskey, 1 oz. basil syrup, and top with club soda. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with a basil leaf.


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Slavic Slaw with Paprika Vinaigrette


My husband loves cabbage.  Weird I know.  Who loves cabbage? “Like” cabbage, yes.  “Enjoy” cabbage, sure. Love it? He also happens to love root vegetables like turnips and radishes, so when I came across this salad in Food and Wine magazine I actually read the recipe out loud to him.  He got pretty excited. Incidentally, my youngest was begging me for leaves of cabbage to munch while I was making this, so I guess it’s hereditary. This is a beautiful salad to serve for guests at a summer barbecue.  Prep and chill all the ingredients ahead and toss with the dressing at the last-minute.  You want cold and crisp for this one. I used a mandolin slicer to do the julienned radishes, apples, and turnips.  You could also use a food processor with the grating attachment, but I liked that using the mandolin gave it a more handmade texture with pieces of all different sizes.  I made a few substitutions, but if you want the official recipe click here. My dressing is a bit sweeter and if I made this again I would add more apple. Serves 4.

  • 1 T. minced shallot
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1/8 C.
  • 1/8 C. white wine vinegar
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1t. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 green apple, julienned (i didn’t peel it)
  • 1/2 C. flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 C. cilantro, chopped
  • 4 scallions, sliced into thin strips, vertically (they curl up in the ice bath)
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and julienned
  • 3 large radishes, julienned

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.  Combine the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, paprika, and olive oil in a jar and shake it to emulsify.  Taste for salt and pepper and season to your taste.  Set aside.  As you prepare your vegetables, place them into the ice bath.  Slice the cabbage, plunk into the ice bath.  Slice the apple, ice bath.  And so on.  All the veggies and herbs can sit in the ice bath until you are ready to serve the salad.  Or, if you are prepping ahead, let them sit in the bath for about 15-20 minutes, drain, and place into a bowl in the fridge until ready to use. The ice bath keeps everything super fresh tasting and crisp.  When ready to serve, drain well and toss with the dressing.




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Easy Coconut Lime Sorbet


I had most of a can of coconut milk sitting in the fridge, begging to be used up.  20 minutes later, sorbet! Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 C. full fat coconut milk, cold (stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 2 limes, or 1/4 C.
  • 1/4 C. simple syrup (I keep a batch for cocktails, it’s just equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil and cooled. Or buy a bottle in the drinks aisle)

If your can of coconut milk separates into half clear liquid and half thick, white cream, just give it a stir before measuring.  Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.  I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  This took about 15 minutes to freeze into a sorbet/soft serve consistency. I imagine this would also make a terrific popsicle…

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