Turning Frozen Fruit Into Healthy Desserts with Yonanas

1 Sep

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Disclosure: I was given a Yonanas machine to try out and I thought it was pretty cool, so I thought I would tell you all about it. All opinions are my own.

I’m more than a little obsessed with kitchen appliances. If it does something new and different, I must have it, much to the dismay of my hubby who is trying to declutter our home while I clutter it up. One of the machines I’ve had my eyes on for some time is Yonanas, a frozen fruit dessert machine that lets you take any frozen fruit you have and turn it into a creamy, non-dairy soft serve dessert. I was already having high hopes for this machine…

The box arrived and I couldn’t wait to tear into it. The instructions were great and it was very easy to assemble, I had the machine up and running within minutes. I had some frozen banana and frozen blueberries that I wanted to try mixing first as this is one of my favourite fruit smoothie combinations. I started with two frozen bananas and one cup of frozen blueberries. I read that banana needs to be placed into the machine first before adding any other fruit. Sure enough, it was a good tip as the banana kicked things off and acted as a base. Thanks to a tip from a friend who owns a Yonanas machine, after running all of the fruit through the machine, I passed the fruit through a second time to get the soft texture I wanted. It was pretty amazing to see how quickly it turned my boring old fruit into a creamy looking frozen dessert. After tasting it, I was really happy….there was no added sugar and no additives, just the pure flavor of my own frozen fruit.

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Since that first trial run, I mostly throw in whatever frozen fruit I have on hand along with frozen bananas, which we always have in the house. This machine is the perfect place to use up spotty bananas that are a bit past their prime to eat fresh. I find that I get the best texture when I use a mix of old and new bananas (ones that have been frozen recently) along with a few handfuls of my favourite fruits. If you’re not a fan of bananas, you can use any other frozen fruits that you have on hand, just remember to let them sit out and thaw for a few minutes (less than 10) for best results.

To me this is a great machine for families to have as it can please everyone…ice cream lovers, people who are lactose intolerant, vegans and anyone who wants to make their own healthy, frozen desserts. I’ve used it to introduce my son to different fruits and as an added bonus, the cold helps to relieve his teething discomfort. His favourite combo…mangoes and strawberries…yum! The possibilities are endless, I have only tried a handful of the recipes on the Yonanas site…there are still so many others I have to check out.

To learn more, visit http://yonanas.com/ for info about their products and tips and recipes for frozen fruit desserts made both with bananas and without them.

Here are a few of my favourite “no bananas” Yonanas recipes, taken from their website. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen strawberries and 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen strawberries. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pineapple. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

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Peach and Cherry Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen peach slices and 1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen peach slices. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pitted cherries. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

Mini Vacation – Chicago, Illinois

18 Jun

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Disclosure: I received a media rate from the Renaissance Chicago Downtown hotel. 

My maternity leave was about to end and I needed to take a trip before I headed back to work…really badly. We were still too nervous to fly with a very active Baby R (yes, that’s first time parents for you), so a driving trip to the U.S. sounded like it would be the next best thing. The plan…head to Chicago to explore a bit and then visit friends in Indiana.

We were only in Chicago for a day and a half, so we needed to make the most of it with baby in tow. Traveling with baby is certainly different but with the right stroller (yay for our City Mini Baby Jogger) and a bit of advanced planning, it’s definitely doable. Add in a great hotel and you’re all set. Here’s the best of Part 1 of our trip – Chicago, Illinois!

The hotel:

The Renaissance Chicago Downtown was smack dab in the middle of the city and within walking distance of tons of restaurants and shops. We really couldn’t have asked for a better location. Add to that the fact that the hotel just completed $27 million dollar renovation of their lobby and guest rooms and we couldn’t wait to check it out.

I don’t know what the lobby looked like before their renovations but it looked amazing after the renovation. High ceilings, great art and a bar with an open kitchen came together to create a great vibe. The lobby was lively and people seemed to be happy and having a good time, which was nice to see. They have an espresso machine and pastries available for purchase in the lobby, so we grabbed a snack on our way upstairs.

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When we got to our room, we were greeted with a tasty welcome surprise from the hotel (yum!) and we were happy to see that Baby R had his own little bed in the form of a stylish Pack ‘n Play with nice bed sheets in it. For those non-parents who are reading this, it’s a portable crib/containment device, I mean play area, that’s perfect for use when traveling. Baby R didn’t feel like hanging out in his Pack ‘n Play, so he made himself right at home on the king-sized bed while I wandered around the room. The room was a great size for us and even with the Pack ‘n Play in it, we still had quite a bit of space for the three of us and the assortment of luggage and other paraphernalia needed to keep a baby fed and happy.

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The room had been updated in the hotel’s recent renovation project and it looked fresh and modern. My husband and I both thought the decor was cool and contemporary and the artwork had a great city vibe to it. The king-sized bed was very comfortable for the both of us and we had more than enough room for my son to sleep in between us when he got fussy that night (phew!). IMG_6108

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The hotel has a full service spa, fitness center and a pool, which hopefully I’ll have a chance to check out on a future visit. Guests we met in the lobby told us the pool was terrific but sadly we just didn’t have the time to enjoy it. Definitely a great reason for us to come back again!

Overall, we enjoyed our visit and we look forward to staying at the Renaissance hotel again next time. We definitely needed more than one night in this city! Between dealing with traffic, baby’s feeding/sleep times and a general desire to otherwise take it easy, we didn’t make it to too many places on this visit. Note: I am leaving out an unfortunate experience with an Asian restaurant…sadly, not all food is perfect in Chicago! Here are a few of our favourite shops and restaurants from our short visit:

Eataly Chicago

If there’s an Eataly in the city I’m visiting, you’ll bet that I’ll head there. After talking my hubby’s ear off about Eataly New York (which he hasn’t been to yet), I knew I had to take him to the Chicago location. With two floors of food goodness, this store can’t be explained in words or photos, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. We decided to have a late lunch there and enjoy their fresh pasta. Hubby had a pappardelle in a Bolognese sauce which he was swooning over and I had their spinach and ricotta ravioli in a lemon butter sauce with pistachios. The sauce was so delicious, I wanted to lick the plate. I took a photo of some chocolate chip cookies that looked incredible and I posted it to Facebook while I was in there. Several people then asked if they tasted as good as they looked but I didn’t buy one as I was trying to be “good”…but in the end, I caved in and I was so glad that I did, that cookie was one of the best I had ever had! I wish I had one right now actually…

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Garrett Popcorn

Yes, I know what you might be thinking…popcorn? Why do I need to buy popcorn in Chicago? Garrett Popcorn is a hot spot in Chicago and it’s not just the tourists who are in line to buy from their shop, the locals go there too. The signature item is their Garrett Mix popcorn, a mix of their CaramelCrisp and their Cheesecorn popcorn flavours. It’s an interesting combination that is a bit of an acquired taste but once you try it, you’ll be addicted. My husband’s favourite flavour is the Cashew CaramelCrisp and I love their Almond CaramelCrisp. Both of these are specialty flavours, packed with whole nuts. They are absolutely delicious and we actually prefer them to the bestselling Garrett Mix (yup, we said it!). We were only in Chicago for a little over a day and we went to Garrett Popcorn twice….that’s how much we love it there : )

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Eggy’s Diner

The breakfast places we wanted to go to all had HUGE lineups so I pulled out my trusty phone to see what our fends on Yelp had to say. Eggy’s Diner popped up and it was within walking distance so we decided to check it out. We were so glad we did! The restaurant had a funky, relaxed vibe and bonus points, they had a high chairs for Baby R!

We started off with some pancakes, because I always have to try the pancakes at a breakfast restaurant. The verdict….they were delish, so we knew we were in good hands. Next up, I had the Benedict Florentine, a toasted English muffin topped with sautéed spinach, two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, complete with a side of breakfast potatoes. I threw some hot sauce on that bad boy and I was in my happy place. Hubby had the Corned Beef Hash and he too was in his happy place. Baby R enjoyed a lovely breakfast of milk and bits of pancakes, so he gives the place a thumbs up too : ) We will definitely have breakfast here again next time we visit! P.S. They have really cute mugs for sale with their logo on it. We bought one and we know you’ll want one too.

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Once again Chicago, we only visited you for a short time! Hoping for a longer visit next time around. Until we meet again…. : )

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Addresses:

Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel

1 West Wacker Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60601 USA

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chisr-renaissance-chicago-downtown-hotel/

Eataly Chicago

The Shops at North Bridge

43 E Ohio St.

Chicago, Illinois 60611 USA

http://www.eataly.com/eataly-chicago/

Garrett Popcorn Shops

26 W Randolph St.

Chicago, Illinois 60601 USA

http://www.garrettpopcorn.com

Eggy’s Diner

333 E Benton Pl

Unit #103

Chicago, Illinois 60601, USA

http://www.eggysdiner.com

How a Strauss WaterBar Can Grow With Your Family  

4 May

Disclosure: Baby R and I were recently invited by Strauss Water to join their team for an afternoon of fun at the BabyTime Show in Toronto. Again, I’ll say that I only write about products/services I actually believe in and have tried on my own. This is one of them!

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I recently had the chance to join Strauss Water at the BabyTime Show in Toronto, to learn about how their Strauss WaterBars can help families to consume and enjoy purified water – chilled, boiling or room temp – all at the touch of a button.

I’ve written about this product before but the more I learn about it, the more I can see the benefits of having one in our home. Since we are in a period of transition at the moment, it doesn’t make sense for us to purchase one just yet but hopefully we will very soon. (Hubby if you’re reading this, I think I might want an orange WaterBar now).

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At this event at the BabyTime Show, Strauss Water focused on how their WaterBars can support families as they grow. The key points I took away were:

  • Water is ready for formula mixing – already purified and can be set to the perfect temp. It’s a small thing but one of the most annoying things my husband and I have experienced about making formula is the need to constantly boil and cool water, so having a machine that removes these steps from the process would be so useful.
  • The WaterBar is great for breastfeeding moms who need to make sure they are hydrated all the time as they can dispense various temperatures of water at the press of a button. No need to wait too long for a hot drink anymore! Who has time when a little person wants cuddles (or is screaming at you LOL)?!?!
  • As my son grows up, so will my nephews and I know that they would love it if we had a Strauss WaterBar because kids (and adults) love to use machines to pour themselves a drink. There’s something that makes it a bit more special than turning on a tap and if that gets all of us to drink more water (myself included because I’m always dehydrated) then so be it!

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To learn more about Strauss WaterBars, head to:

Website: http://www.strauss-water.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StraussWaterCanada

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StraussWaterCA

Hashtag: #StraussWaterBar

Warming Up With Pastries at Starbucks

2 May

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Starbucks (where I pretty much live anyway) gave me a gift card to try La Boulange pastries and others that were introduced into their stores.

Note: Before I begin, I KNOW I’m more than a tad late on this, but hey, I’ve been soaking up the last few weeks of my maternity leave with Baby R (*sniff*)!

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The team at Starbucks Canada recently offered to send me a gift card and asked if I would like to try the line of La Boulange warm pastries that they had released. The invite came at a bit of an odd time because my husband and I were trying to reduce the amount of sugar we were eating and we had told ourselves that we would cut out pastries and other treats from our diets. So what do you do when you get an invite like this one from one of your favourite coffee companies (hello Pike Place coffee on tap….yum!)….you strap your baby into his car seat, you make an exception and you head out to try things out anyway : )

So I’m a bit obsessed with pastries and I seek them out wherever I go in the world. I first visited a La Boulange shop when I visited San Francisco a few years ago and I loved their pastries (I ate there every day pretty much), so I was excited to see Starbucks Canada partnering with them to introduce a line of warm pastries to their stores.

My husband and I shared the Almond Croissant Blossom and the Single-Origin Chocolate Croissant. Hubby had his with an iced black tea lemonade and I had mine with their Pike’s Place coffee. Both pastries were tasty in my opinion but my husband and I both agreed that the Almond Croissant Blossom was the clear winner as it reminded us of a pastry we had tried when we were in Europe. It wasn’t too sweet, there was just the right amount of almond flavouring, the pastry was flaky and it went well with their coffee. It’s a nice addition to their pastry lineup and an item that isn’t easy to find in our area….actually I would say that it’s quite a challenge to find an almond pastry in anything but a specialty bakery.

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The Single-Origin Chocolate Croissant was also good, hey, a girl needs some chocolate to get her day going sometimes : ) The pastry was decent but I wished that it had the light crunch that I associate with chocolate croissants a.k.a Pain Au Chocolat as it’s known in France. I think this might be due to having it warm, so I’ll have to try it at room temperature next time.

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I also found out that they had updated some of their other items including their Banana Loaf. Their new Banana Loaf is moister, more pillowy and to me it has more of a true homemade banana bread taste than the older version. Warmed up, the new Banana Loaf is definitely one of my favourites. Another item I enjoyed warm is their Fruit and Oat Cookie, which a gentleman in line randomly told me that I “must have” a few months ago. He told me that he buys one 2-3 times a week, sometimes more!

Overall, I think the addition of warm pastry items and a revamp of some of their other baked goods was a good move for Starbucks Canada. Next up, I hope they can upgrade to a model where each store bakes at least some of their own pastries in-house. How lovely would it be to be greeted by the smell of fresh coffee AND baking when approaching a Starbucks location? Fingers crossed!

Why We’re In Love with the Strauss WaterBar

31 Mar

Disclosure: I received an invitation from Strauss Water to learn more about their Strauss WaterBars at the Green Living Show in Toronto. I only share info about products I think are cool. Let me know what you think!

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My husband and I first saw the Strauss WaterBar at a food show in Toronto a few months ago and I can honestly say that we were smitten at first glance. I was drawn to it immediately because I love funky kitchen appliances in bold colours. At first, I thought it was a new type of espresso machine but I was surprised to find out that it was a water machine. Yes, a water machine…it can dispense cold, room temperate, hot and boiling water at the touch of a button.

 

 

After getting a small taste of what this clever little machine was all about, I was excited to have an opportunity to get a closer look at it at the Green Living Show, which took place a few days ago. The machine is more than just a pretty face, it takes the water through a triple-filtration and purification system that it is tapped directly into your main water line, so that there’s a continuous supply of water. The folks at Strauss say that once the water has been processed, the essential minerals stay in the water but bacteria and bad tasting chlorine is reduced by 99.9%. Since our son was born last year, we have always used filtered and boiled water for his formula and solid food, so the concept of having purified water available at all times with no effort on our part is very appealing. They currently sell two machines in Canada, the T6 and T7 and both are available in a ton of cool colours, with yellow being my favourite.

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While Strauss Water has only been in Canada for a few years, as a company, they’ve been around for over 40 years. While we have been blessed with a decent water supply here in Canada, that’s not always the case in other countries. Water machines have been popular in Asia for a number of years now. The last time I was in India, I was surprised to see them in quite a few of my relatives’ houses. Water purification is a huge business there as water treatment varies from region to region. A number of my relatives had machines hooked up to their taps that would boil, cool, filter and dispense water in a range of temperatures from cold to boiling. They all swear that they can’t live without them.

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So, you might be wondering why anyone living in North America would want a Strauss WaterBar. I mean, you’ve lived without one until now right? Well check this out….

  • Water is dispensed at the touch of a button, at the temperature you choose. The machines have an energy-saving sleep mode and an automatic wake-up mode, so you can wake up to water at the temp you need, even boiling. 
  • Instant boiling water for preparing food or your favourite hot beverages. Note: The hot and boiling water functions on a Strauss WaterBar are more energy-efficient than a kettle. I boil a lot of water for my son’s baby formula and his food. On average, we use our kettle at least three times a day, so there would be a savings for us. On a side note, parents (myself included) will be happy to find out that they have a child safety lock on the hot and boiling water functions of the machine.
  • Eco-friendly water consumption. The average family wastes 400-600 small plastic bottles every year (we are guilty of this!), not to mention the large plastic jugs some families use. Add to that the use of gas and carbon emissions from driving….
  • Innovative and funky design helps to encourage family members to drink more water. How gorgeous would that yellow one look on our kitchen counter? Right babe? (Husband’s read blogs too). The folks at Strauss say that not only do adults drink more water with a Strauss WaterBar in their kitchens but so do kids!

In all seriousness, I think it’s a great product and I want one in my home (and so does my husband) which is why I’m sharing this info with you. If the market for water machines in Europe and Asia is any indication, I think they will soon takeoff and be popular in North America too. On a side note, I spotted a version of the Strauss WaterBar that’s sold in other parts of the world that has a sparkling water function….fingers crossed that it makes its way to Canada soon!

To learn more about Strauss Water, head to:

Website: http://www.strauss-water.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StraussWaterCanada

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StraussWaterCA

Hashtag: #StraussWaterBar

 

Fattoush Salad

16 Mar

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Disclosure: I received a gift card from Ozery’s Pita Break to purchase the ingredients for this recipe.

I’ve been in a salad rut for some time now and it was time to push myself out of the bad habit of making the same salads over and over again. One of the things I enjoy doing the most is trying to replicate my favourite restaurant dishes at home, especially the ones I spend the most money on : )

One salad I adore is a Middle Eastern one called Fattoush (the spelling varies). I often order it when I’m out and I knew that the ingredients were simple enough for me to make the salad at home. I got the little push that I needed to make it when the folks at Ozery’s Pita Break, an awesome company that started right here in Toronto, asked me if I would like to try and make a recipe with their pita products. Ozery’s produces a number of bread products including flatbreads, buns, pitas and crackers that are free of artificial preservatives, colours, flavours and additives. I live in a Jewish neighbourhood, so another point I wanted to share is that all of Ozery’s products are certified as kosher under the Orthodox KSA (Kashruth Supervision of America) organization. In other words, no dairy or animal products or by-products are used, making them great for vegetarians and vegans. Some of my favourite Ozery’s Pita Break products include:

 

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A search online will show that there are many ways to make a Fattoush Salad but I chose to make it the way I enjoy it the most, with basic ingredients and a lovely spice called sumac.

“Sumac is the berry of a shrub that grows in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. It is little known in Western cuisine, but it is an essential ingredient in Arab and especially Lebanese cooking. It has a tart, fruity flavour, and is used to add acidity to food in the same way that lemon is used in Canada and tamarind is used in Asian countries.” (Source: The Silk Road Spice Merchant – http://www.silkroadspices.ca/products/sumac)

The recipe below is my creation and it’s a mashup of several recipes I reviewed online. You can add additional ingredients such as torn romaine lettuce, chopped green, yellow or red pepper, purslane, arugula, radish or use a creamy dressing….as you can see, there are tons of options. If you make your Fattoush Salad a different way, I would love to try it! Please leave a comment below the post or connect with me on Twitter @savvari. Enjoy!

Fattoush Salad

Creator: Sandy Avvari-Nayani – http://www.milkandeggs.ca

Ingredients:

Toasted Pita

2 tablespoons olive oil

One Ozery’s Pita Break Large Regular Pita, split in half to make two separate layers, then tear each layer into bite-sized pieces or cut the pita into 1-inch square pieces.

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons sumac (found at most Middle Eastern grocery stores)

Salad Ingredients

3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

2 Lebanese cucumbers, halved lengthways, chopped (or a medium-sized English cucumber, halved lengthways, chopped)

½ a medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon sumac

Kosher salt (for seasoning)

Preparation:

Toast the pita: I used my toaster oven to toast the pita pieces. Line your baking tray with parchment paper. Place the pita pieces in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil. Spread the pita pieces onto the parchment-lined baking tray. Toast in the toaster oven until they are crunchy, likely about 3-4 minutes depending on the settings on your toaster. Watch carefully to make sure they brown but do not burn! Once ready, transfer pieces back to the bowl and set aside.

Make the salad dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar or other container with a tight fitting lid. Secure lid. Shake until well combined. Set aside.

Salad: Place tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, parsley and mint leaves in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with sumac. Drizzle with dressing. Toss gently to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Add toasted pita pieces to the salad. Toss gently and serve. Taste again and add more kosher salt and lemon juice if needed. Serve immediately.

Sandy’s notes: I tried this salad with Ozery’s Organic Whole Wheat Pita as well and it was also delicious. In order to stay “true” to the original recipes for Fattoush Salad however, their plain pita is the best option.

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To learn more about Ozery’s Pita Break, please visit:

Website: www.pitabreak.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ozerybakery.pitabreak

Twitter: @OzeryBakery or www.twitter.com/ozerybakery

 

CONTEST: Enter to win an Ozery’s Pita Break prize pack!

This prize is valued at over $110 and it includes:

  • A range of Ozery’s Pita Break products
  • Toaster
  • Cutting Board
  • Bowl Dip Set

You can earn entries by doing the following:

  1. Leave a comment below this blog post and tell me what your favourite way to enjoy pita bread is. Do you like to dip it? Stuff it with toppings? Make a pizza? Maybe you’ll teach me something new!
  1. Follow both me Sandy Avvari-Nayani @savvari and Ozery’s Pita Break @OzeryBakery on Twitter. Then, retweet my tweet about this blog post/contest from my Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/savvari

Additional Info:

The contest begins on March 16, 2015 and will end on Tuesday March 31, 2015 at 12 pm EST. The winner will be announced later that day.

You can enter via each method once per day until the end of the contest.

The contest is only open to Canadians with a Canadian shipping address. Ozery’s Pita Break will ship the prize package directly to the winner’s home.

Good luck!

Tasty bites at Dr.Laffa Restaurant

13 Mar

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I recently had the opportunity to visit Dr. Laffa Restaurant in North York, Ontario for a family-style tasting session with a group of fellow food lovers. Like me, you’re probably wondering what this restaurant’s name is all about. Well, Yoram Gabay and his passionate team are serving up some tasty Israeli and Iraqi cuisine for their faithful customers, along with their delicious laffa bread, which is served alongside dishes or as a wrap.

Yoram came out from his busy kitchen to tell us a little bit about Dr.Laffa Restaurant. He wanted to create a restaurant in Toronto that featured the food and flavours he cherished the most back home. He tries to make everything as authentic as possible, going so far as to have spices specially delivered from his homeland every few weeks. He even designed his own laffa oven, so he could recreate his recipe perfectly.

After a warm welcome from the Dr.Laffa team, the share plates of dishes started to come out of the kitchen in a steady stream. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had quite a few vegetarian dishes on their menu, including a number of salads, dips, mains and sides. I love meals with lots of different things to try, so their cuisine was absolutely perfect for me.

Vegetarian Highlights:

Fresh laffa

This is why I wanted to visit Dr.Laffa Restaurant in the first place. I was dying to try this special bread that I kept reading about. Laffa is fresh chewy flatbread of medium thickness that to me tasted mostly like naan (an East Indian flatbread). Naan is fairly easy to tear and I found that the laffa bread didn’t necessarily tear easily, which is a good thing as it is widely used in sandwiches and wraps.

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Fresh, hot laffa!

Salads, dips and sides

Marinated beets, roasted peppers, tabouli, baba ganouj, falafel, grilled eggplant with tahini….there were so many fresh and tasty choices at Dr.Laffa. If you’re having trouble choosing what to try, don’t worry too much, you can order a platter with a variety of different items on it.

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Clockwise from top left: Hummus with fried eggplant, baba ghanouj, marinated beets, tabbouleh, roasted eggplant with tomato

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Hummus with fried eggplant and tahini

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Grilled eggplant with tahini

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Fresh, piping hot french fries

Sabich

I enjoyed these tasty potato fritters, they reminded me of pakoras, another type of fritter that’s common in East Indian cuisine. They were served with a sour mango sauce that one of the chefs said would take it to “the next level” and he was absolutely right! The sauce enhanced the flavours in the fritters and created a whole set of new flavours when everything was mixed together. They serve these fritters in a sandwich which they also call Sabich, so I found it a bit confusing! The sandwich contains these fritters, eggplant, hard boiled egg and your choice of toppings. Since we were tasting a ton of food as a group, we had the fritters straight up, but I’m looking forward to trying them in a sandwich on my next visit. They can also be purchased in the Sabich Plate, which includes the fritters and several salads.

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Fresh, hot sabich. Have them with sour mango sauce and watch your tastebuds explode : )

Shakshuka

My favourite dish of the night was their Shakshuka, an absolutely delicious piping hot skillet of stewed tomato sauce with poached eggs. I’ve had Shakshuka at a few restaurants in Toronto but this was my favourite version so far. Their tomato stew included small pieces of vegetables and beans along with a delicious mix of spices that I’ve never tasted before. It was so comforting… every bite just warmed up my tummy, the seasoning was perfect and the spices just took everything to another level. I can’t wait to bring my husband and son in sometime soon to share a skillet of Shakshuka with some fresh laffa.

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My favourite dish of the night, Dr.Laffa’s Shakshuka. Hearty, piping hot and packed with flavour!

Many thanks to Yoram Gabay and the hardworking team at Dr. Laffa for introducing me to their food. Thank you Vicky @momwhoruns for the invitation! I’m already looking forward to my next visit, this time with my meat-loving husband, as I know he would enjoy their Shawarma Laffa, Dr. Laffa Hummus (with ground meat and pine nuts) and their Pasties Plate a.k.a Moroccan Cigars (phyllo rolls with a meat filling). All of these dishes were very popular with the others at the table, so I know he’ll love them too.

Restaurant Info:

Important!

This is a Kosher restaurant, so they are NOT open after sundown on Friday’s. They are also closed on Saturdays. Please call the restaurant before heading over there so you won’t be disappointed!

Dr. Laffa Restaurant

3027 Bathurst St

North York, Ontario

M6B 3B5

Tel: 647-352-9000 or 647-352-9001

Website: http://www.drlaffa.com

Twitter: @DrLaffa

Instagram: @Dr.Laffa

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/18iq0yM

Zomato Meetup at The Good Son

22 Feb

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I haven’t had a fabulous vegetarian meal at a Toronto restaurant in long time. Now, I know that Toronto has a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants but I’m talking about great vegetarian dishes at “regular” restaurants, so I can enjoy a meal with my carnivore of a husband (I say that with love!). Just when I was about to give up hope, along came the amazing team at Zomato with an invitation to join them for a #ZomatoMeetup dinner at The Good Son. I quickly scanned the menu before heading downtown and I saw a few veggie dishes that sounded tasty, so I felt confident that there would be something for me to eat. Who knew that I was about to have a very exciting and memorable meal….

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I arrived to see that the Zomato group had reserved a large table near the Chef’s station…yippee! As soon as I saw that, I knew we were in for a treat. If you’ve never sat near the kitchen or at the “Chef’s Table” in a restaurant, make an effort to do so. You’ll be close to the action, you’ll get to hear all of those glorious kitchen sounds and you’ll often be surprised with off menu dishes and treats. To me, they are the best seats in the house. At the table were Zomato’s Toronto team, including Justin, Jimena and Pam and a group of fellow bloggers from a mix of food and lifestyle sites. Zomato is an online and mobile restaurant discovery platform and social food network, with presence in over 13 countries and 44 cities. They just upped their game and recently purchased Urbanspoon too!

I did some reading about Zomato before coming to the event and I found out that their team physically collects information from every single restaurant/cafe/bar in town (menus, photos, pricing, timings etc.) and they make sure this information is always up to date. Users of Zomato (which is free to join by the way!) have the unique opportunity to rate and review restaurants, follow other foodies and create a trusted network of people whose opinions they value, all based around one common love… food! They also have the opportunity to “wish list” restaurants, upload photos and tag their friends. It’s a really cool platform, so I do hope you’ll check it out. If you do join, please look me up under Sandy Avvari Nayani.

So why am I sharing this information? I wasn’t asked to share it, I want to share it, because the Zomato team is fiercely passionate about food and the work that they do and I don’t see people with that amount of passion very often. I’ve been using Zomato for a few weeks now and I can already see the benefits of it as I’m able to check out which restaurants my foodie friends have checked into and take a look at photos of the dishes they’ve had. It’s been a great resource so far.

So now onto the meal at The Good Son….oh and what a meal it was. There was a set menu for the evening and I was the only vegetarian at the table, so the restaurant made a special effort to provide me with dishes from their regular menu or vegetarian versions of dishes the rest of the group was having.

IMG_4469First course: Shishito peppers wrapped in potato. Crunchy, spicy goodness with a ton of flavour. I’ve never had anything like it. Oh yeah.

IMG_4464Second course: Watercress salad with poached pear, blue cheese and caramelized onion. It was my first watercress salad and it won’t be my last, the flavours were just incredible.

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Third course: Sweet potato soup with coconut milk. It was warm and comforting on a cold day. There was so much flavor in this soup, I could have eaten bowls of it.

IMG_4468Fourth course: Dupuy lentils with kale. It was so delicious I couldn’t even stand it. One of my favourite dishes of the evening. Where has this dish been all my life? Why haven’t I had Dupuy lentils before? So many questions….

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Fifth course: Spicy brussels sprouts. Another favourite of the evening. Sweet, spicy, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside…wow, wow, wow. Why haven’t I had them like this before? Mind blown.

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Sixth course: Rapini and roasted cauliflower with potato purée. A simple and delicious way to start winding down the meal.

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Seventh course: Poached pear with a Riesling sabayon, pear gelée and chocolate crunch. Lots of great textures, with a ton of flavour. A small but mighty dessert!

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Eighth course: We were all stuffed and happy and just when we thought the meal was over, out came this amazing dessert from Pastry Chef Sat Shastri – red velvet cake with chocolate mousse, cherries and meringue. It was huge and we easily could have shared the dessert and we all started to protest, but Chef Shastri insisted that we just dig in. It was not only beautiful to look at but also incredibly delicious to eat : ) Most of us managed to finish more than half of the dessert, myself included!

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While I was swooning over the creativity and care that went into my vegetarian meal, there were yelps and moans of foodie pleasure at the rest of the table, where my fellow food lovers were savoring their meat and seafood dishes. All in all, I felt that The Good Son did an amazing job at catering to everyone at the table, which to me is a huge feat. Huge thanks to Chef Vittorio Colacitti and the team at The Good Son for a fantastic vegetarian meal, the best I’ve had in a long time! Thank you Justin, Jimena and Pam from Zomato for creating an evening of great food and great people, I’m so thankful that I had a chance to enjoy a #ZomatoMeetup. If they are all this amazing, I would be happy to join again : ) See you again very soon Chef Colacitti! XO

Info:

Zomato – https://www.zomato.com

Zomato’s Toronto feed – https://www.zomato.com/toronto

The Good Son

1096 Queen Street West (at Dovercourt)

Toronto, ON M6J 1H9

Tel: 416-551-0589

Website: http://thegoodsontoronto.com

About Chef Vittorio Colacitti (from The Good Son’s website)

Born and raised in Toronto, Chef Colacitti, learned his culinary art from some of the best names in Toronto’s restaurant industry including: Lorenzo Loseto (George), Scot Woods (Lucien), and Didier Leroy who is a master Chef of France.  Chef Colacitti’s craft in the kitchen also draws from several years of international experience, having studied at the Thai & International Food Academy, staging in various regions across Italy and working as a stagiaire at Thomas Keller’s, Bouchon.

 

Mini Vacation – Monroeville and Grove City, Pennsylvania

13 Feb

Disclosure: I received a media rate to stay at the Hampton Inn in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Since I had baby Ronin last year, we’ve been on one family vacation and that was a road trip to Montreal. It was our first trip out with the baby and it went quite well, so we decided to be brave and head out to Pennsylvania with our whole family. The key reason was to visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, not only for our annual trip but also to conduct our son’s hair ceremony, an East Indian tradition where the baby’s first haircut takes place at the temple. The other great reason to visit the area….hitting one of our favourite outlet malls, Grove City Premium Outlets!

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I love to shop! Oh yes I do!

Since we were travelling with the whole family (all 11 of us!) we wanted a hotel that was near the temple and Grove City Premium Outlets. Bonus points if the hotel included breakfast and a pool. After some hunting, we chose the Hampton Inn Monroeville as it met all of our needs.

Hampton Inn – Monroeville, Pennsylvania

After a long drive, we arrived at the hotel and were promptly checked in by their friendly staff, who advised that there was complimentary coffee, tea and chocolate available near the front desk. They also had a popcorn machine and a basket of apples to welcome us. We were already off to a great start!

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We headed up to our rooms to settle in. Each room had complimentary bottles of water and packages of Oreo cookies, which I thought was a nice touch. I absolutely love it when hotels make an effort to make their guests feel welcome, it really seems to be a lost art. The beds looked comfy and inviting and my nephews promptly tested them out by jumping on them…we stopped them after a few jumps, don’t worry. Baby Ronin also settled in nicely on the bed, as you can see : )

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We were starving and it was late, so dinner was going to have to be delivery. We ordered pizza from Vocelli’s on a recommendation from the front desk and it was a good choice. We got their Spring Veggie pizza and their Deluxe Pizza and both pizzas were loaded with fresh toppings. The slices were large and the crust was nice and thin. We all enjoyed it and we agreed that we would order it again next time we were visiting.

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I had some time to explore the hotel after dinner so I headed down to the lobby. Along with a computer and printer for guests, next to the front desk was a small shop with a great selection of food, drinks and toiletries for purchase. I was impressed not only with the number of options they had but also that the prices for all items were very fair. Since they don’t have a restaurant in the hotel, it was great to see that they had something for guests who needed a snack or a meal in a pinch.

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We were up at the crack of dawn the next day as we had an early morning time slot at the temple for the hair cutting ceremony. Sadly, we weren’t going to have a chance to try the pool! Oh well, time to hit the breakfast buffet instead : )  I was happy to see that they had a pretty wide range of items, both hot and cold, including eggs, home fries, sausage (my hubby was quite happy about this!), a waffle maker and the usual suspects including a selection of breads, cereals, yogurt etc. There really was something for everyone and we all left with full tummies.

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Sri Venkateswara Temple – Monroeville, Pennsylvania

After breakfast, it was time to head to the Sri Venkateswara Temple, which according to their website is one of the earliest traditional Hindu Temples built in the U.S. My family has been making the trek to Monroeville, Pennsylvania to visit this temple for over 30 years and to this day, it still looks just as it did when I was a kid, all thanks to the staff who do an incredible job at maintaining the temple and the grounds. Everyone is welcome at this temple, so if you’re going to be in the area, please do make it a point to visit.

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Photo credit: Naveen A.

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Photo credit: Naveen A.

After the hair ceremony for my son was over it was time to head downstairs for one of my favourite parts of our annual visit…the food! The Sri Venkateswara Temple serves some of the best South Indian food I’ve ever had and the amazing part is that the flavours have been consistent for over 30 years. The dishes are packed in takeout containers, each costing $2 and they are filled with glorious South Indian delights such as pulihora (tamarind rice), perrugu annam (yogurt rice), sambar rice (a spicy vegetable stew mixed with rice), uppama (a polenta-like dish with vegetables), and pongal (a rice dish made with peppercorns and clarified butter). The temple is a busy place on weekends and the kitchen staff are constantly making new batches of each item, so you’re never waiting too long for the next batch to come out of the kitchen. I’m drooling as I’m writing this!

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We couldn’t leave Pennsylvania without visiting Grove City Premium Outlets. We’ve been shopping at this outlet mall every year since we got married and I’m so glad that I have a husband who takes shopping as seriously as I do! : ) We spent a few hours at the mall and guess what, I don’t have any photos….why you ask? Um, because I was shopping, there’s no time for photos! However, I do have a few tips to improve your shopping experience….

How to Improve Your Shopping Experience at Grove City Premium Outlets (Grove City, Pennsylvania): 

  • Take your passport with you as they have a special coupon booklet for visitors, with coupons for additional percentages off of your purchase etc. The staff at the desk are great and they are happy to let you take a look at the booklet before buying it.
  • A great meeting place is the food court. There’s only one and it’s pretty easy to find people there. While you’re there, be sure to take a break and have a snack and a drink in the middle of your shopping trip. Shopping requires energy!
  • Park at the “back” of the mall, there is more parking and you’ll have just as easy of a time accessing the stores.
  • Grab a copy of the mall map and circle the stores and locations of the stores before you head out to shop. If you’re on a schedule, this is the best thing to do to hit all of the stores you wish to visit. Otherwise, wandering around can take up quite a lot of time!

My “Go To” Stores at Grove City Premium Outlets (in no particular order):

  • Banana Republic
  • GAP
  • Adidas
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • J.Crew
  • Lucky Brand
  • The North Face
  • Nine West Outlet
  • Fossil

With a ton of bags from a successful shopping trip, we stopped in at the food court for a snack before heading out. I’m thankful that Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen continues to prepare tasty pizza slices and strombolis because the spinach and cheese stromboli with extra sauce is my favourite thing to eat whenever I’m there. The trip just wouldn’t be the same without it. See you soon Pennsylvania! Miss you already XO

o

Addresses:

Hampton Inn Pittsburgh/Monroeville

3000 Mosside Blvd., Monroeville, Pennsylvania, 15146

(412) 380-4000

http://www.hamptoninn.com

Vocelli Pizza of Monroeville

2644 Mosside Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146

(412) 856-5000

http://www.vocellipizza.com/monroeville_pa

Sri Venkateswara Temple

1230 South McCully Drive, Penn Hills, PA 15235

(412) 373-3380

http://www.svtemple.org

Grove City Premium Outlets

1911 Leesburg Grove City Road

Grove City, PA 16127

(724) 748-4770

http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=85

 

Spaghettini with Roasted Beet and Poppy Seed + a CONTEST!

4 Feb

 

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Disclosure: Italpasta provided me with a gift card to purchase the ingredients for this recipe.

I love pasta and I could eat it every day of the week if I had to. I’m serious. There are so many pasta shapes and so many ways to eat it that I’m sure I wouldn’t run out of options.

I was excited when Italpasta asked me to try a vegetarian recipe for pasta lovers, perfect for Valentine’s Day, featuring Italpasta Total Pasta Spaghettini. It’s a white pasta with the goodness of 10 grams of fibre packed into each serving, a great option for hubby and I because as much as we enjoy whole wheat and other “healthy” pastas, sometimes we just want (at least what looks like) the regular stuff!

This recipe features butter, spaghettini, beets and goat cheese and they all combine together to form a simple and tasty dish with a beautiful, vibrant beet red finish, perfect for Valentine’s Day or if you’re having guests over and want to impress them. At first I wasn’t sure about adding poppy seeds to the dish but they ended up adding a nice crunch. The texture of the spaghettini was perfect, I never would have known that I was eating a high fibre pasta. We’re adding this dish to our pasta rotation, that’s how much we both liked it! #win

I’ve added some of my own notes in the recipe below. If you make it and have any tips to share, please leave a comment below this post. Happy cooking!

P.S. Don’t forget to scroll down and enter my delicious Valentine’s Day contest to win an Italpasta “For Pasta Lovers” prize pack.

Italpasta’s Spaghettini with Roasted Beet and Poppy Seed

Link: http://www.italpasta.com/recipes-spaghettini-with-roasted-beet.php

Serves 2

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

½ pound      Italpasta Total Pasta Spaghettini         225 g

2                     small roasted red beets, peeled and cut into wedges (Sandy’s notes: You can save time by roasting the beets a few days before making this recipe).

2 tbsps          unsalted butter            30mL

1 tbsp             Italpasta Extra Virgin Olive Oil 15mL

1                      small shallot, minced  (Sandy’s notes: I used half of a small onion)

1 tbsp             poppy seeds   15mL

2                      sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped

salt and pepper

¼ cup              crumbled soft ripened goats cheese, for serving      60mL

(Sandy’s notes: I quickly roasted the beets by peeling them and cutting them into cubes. Then I tossed them in a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper and I spread them out on a baking sheet covered with a sheet of parchment paper. I roasted them at 425 F for 30 minutes. You may need longer depending on the size of the beets. While you have your beets in the oven, consider making some roasted potatoes or another dish to save on energy.)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente or to your taste. Drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, brown the butter. Reduce the heat slightly, add extra-virgin olive oil, and stir to combine. Add minced shallot, and cook for 2 minutes, until softened, stir in poppy seeds. Toast the seeds for 1-2 minutes.

To the shallots and poppy seeds, add the chopped beets and thyme, stir for 1-2 minutes. Add ½ cup of pasta water to the skillet. Simmer the sauce over medium heat for 2 minutes. (Sandy’s notes: At this point, I added a ½ teaspoon of chili flakes to add a little spice to the dish).

(Sandy’s notes: This next step is key…stir quickly and constantly to cover all of your pasta with that beautiful red sauce otherwise it will be unevenly coloured.)

Transfer pasta to the skillet and cook for 1 minute until combined, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasoning. Serve in warm pasta bowls and top with crumbled goat’s cheese.

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If you loved the look of this pasta, Italpasta has a second Valentine’s Day inspired pasta recipe – Red Wine Spaghetti: http://www.italpasta.com/recipes-red-wine-spaghetti.php

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If you’re looking for more ways to impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day, visit Italpasta’s special Pinterest board with tips on how to set the perfect table, host Valentine’s Day on a budget and of course, cook up some awesome pasta recipes here: http://www.pinterest.com/forpastalovers/valentine-s-is-for-pasta-lovers/

Get more tips and recipes from Italpasta here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ForPastaLovers

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItalpastaLimited

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/forpastalovers

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/forpastalovers/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ForPastaLovers

CONTEST – Enter to Win a Valentine’s Day Italpasta “For Pasta Lovers” prize pack!

Enter to win a prize pack valued at over $50. It will include:

  • A supply of Italpasta Tradizionale Pasta
  • Apron
  • Cheese Grater

To enter:

1) Follow me on Twitter @savvari or www.twitter.com/savvari

2) Follow Italpasta on Twitter at @forpastalovers or www.twitter.com/forpastalovers

3) Retweet my contest tweet OR tweet this message:

I want to win a #ValentinesDay prize pack from @savvari and Italpasta @forpastalovers http://bit.ly/1vszYbL #forpastalovers

Get a second chance to win by leaving a comment below this post. Tell me what your favourite pasta shape is and what your favourite way to prepare it is – macaroni with cheese? Linguine with alfredo sauce? If you have a great recipe, let me know! If you don’t use Twitter, this would be your method of entry.

You can enter on both Twitter and on the blog post once per day each until the end of the contest. Contest runs until Sunday February 15 at 5 pm EST, so get your entries in!

Additional info:

  • There is one (1) Italpasta prize pack to be won.
  • The winner will be announced by Monday February 15 at 5 pm EST.
  • The contest is open only to residents of Canada.
  • Prize will be shipped directly to the winner. A Canadian shipping address must be provided.
  • Total value of the prize is $50

 

 

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