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8/31/2015

Cucumber Pickles 

Have you ever wanted to…
• make your own pickles, but became discouraged and overwhelmed with the amount of work involved with traditional recipes?
• make just one — or two — jars of pickles and not have to deal with canning them?
• introduce more probiotics into your diet, without the time, unpredictability and potential odors associated with fermenting your own vegetables?

Well, here’s a recipe that’s the answer to all of the above. These quick, easy and delicious fermented pickles are made right in the jar. They take very little work or prep time and are delicious, healthful and ready to eat in a week. Not bad for about half an hour of work!

I spent years searching for a recipe that would result in pickles that tasted just as good as the barrel-fermented ones I ate as a kid. “Manufactured” pickles pale in comparison. Like other prepared foods (or embalmed, as I think of them), they’re soaked in artificial ingredients and their goodness has been cooked out of them through pasteurization and high-heat canning processes.

Recently, fermented foods are becoming available at some grocery stores, which is handy if you don’t want the satisfaction of making your own or the privilege of adjusting seasonings to your own liking.

But to me, nothing tastes better than homemade. And nothing tastes better than a homemade something that was also quick and easy to make!

Last summer I finally found a recipe that not only resulted in great-tasting pickles, but also included natural lacto-fermentation plus raw vinegar, which takes the worry and extended wait time out of the fermentation process.

Now, when my garden is just beginning to produce pickling cucumbers and I don’t have enough to start an entire crock, I make one jar at a time using this recipe. You can make more than one quart at a time, just adjust the ingredients accordingly.

Homemade Dill Pickles 

Lacto-Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

Makes 1 quart

Recipe adapted from A Platter of Figs, David Tannis

Main Ingredients:

• 5-6 medium pickling cucumbers (about 1 lb) - look for firm, unblemished, bumpy ones
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
• 1 sprig thyme
• 1 sprig oregano
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 small bunch of dill
• 3-4 small grapevine leaves (optional, but keeps the pickles crisp)

Brine Ingredients:

• 2 tsp coriander seeds
• 1-2 tsp turmeric powder
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
• 1-2 TB sea salt (I prefer a rounded tablespoon)
• 1-1/2 cups filtered water
• 1/2 cup raw, unfiltered cider vinegar

Pickling Supplies

Instructions:

1. Wash the cucumbers, but don’t scrub them (you want to leave some lactobacillus bacteria on them) and rub off any spines.

2. Trim about 1/8 inch off the blossom end of the cucumbers. This removes an enzyme that can make your pickles limp. I also cut the cucumbers into halves or quarters so they fit together better in the jar.

3. Put the other Main Ingredients in a 1 quart largemouth canning jar and then pack cucumbers in as tightly as possible (try not to bruise them in the process).

4. Mix the brine ingredients together in a bowl and then pour the mixture into the jar to cover the cucumbers completely, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace.

5. Cover with a canning jar lid and band, write the date or day on the jar (a Sharpie works), place the jar in a bowl (to catch any overflow or leakage on the days the jar is inverted) and once a day, for a week, flip the jar over to redistribute the spices that will tend to settle to the bottom.

6. After a week, keep the jar in the refrigerated. Enjoy!

The original recipe said these would keep for a month in the refrigerator, but I have some that are several months old and they are just as crispy and delicious as they started out. Remember that with fermented vegetables, if they look or smell bad or appear slimy, don’t eat them!

Next I’ll be experimenting with this recipe to pickle different vegetables… any suggestions?

Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado.  When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban Farmer.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/31/2015

In this post I'm going to cover how to dehydrate:

1. Fresh or frozen fruit

2. Fresh or frozen vegetables

3. Cooked meats

Why "cooked" meats, you ask? It's easy and it's safer. I'm not talking about jerky-making here as that needs spices. What I'm proposing is to use the Sunday dinner's leftovers. I'll continue with the cooked meats shortly.

Dehydrating Fresh or Frozen Fruit

Pardon me for plugging my own website here: Easy Food Dehydrating. In my Fruit section that currently lists the top 14 fruit, you'll see exactly what each fruit needs (prep wise) and at what temperature to dehydrate them at and for approximately how long. Notice that I use lemon juice to deter oxidation (browning) — a prep step — and I use a glass bowl in which to spray and toss the fruit (and veggies). Here are my top five fruits to get you started:

• Apples - peel and slice - spray with lemon juice - lay on trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees for 4-10 hours until pliable
• Bananas - peel and slice lengthwise or in coins - spray with lemon juice - lay on dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-12 hours until they are leathery
• Grapes (for raisins) - rinse and pat dry - slice in half, cut side facing up on the dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-10 hours until pliable
• Pears - wash them - peel if desired - remove the core and cut into halves, quarters, or 3/8-inch slices (so long as they're all roughly the same size for even drying) - spray with lemon juice - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-16 hours until pliable
• Strawberries - wash and cut off the top, cut into 1/4-inch slices or into halves - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-15 hours until crisp and leathery

Even though the "owner manuals" state you don't have to rotate the trays during drying, I do. Those trays closest to the fan are obviously going to dry faster — and it's better to have them all dry at the same rate!

Don't forget to use your dehydrator sheets to keep your trays clean. Check out this post for more information on accessories to use when dehydrating sticky fruits.

Regarding using frozen fruit, you do not have to do any prep steps! In the five fruits I mentioned, their prep steps included washing, slicing, and spraying with lemon juice. When using frozen fruit, any big clumps of fruit can be run under (good) tap water for a few seconds to loosen them (while on the dehydrator tray). If the fruit is still in the bag, thump it on the counter-top a few times to loosen clumps — and don't blame me if the bag bursts — just be careful!

Dehydrating Fresh or Frozen Vegetables

Again, visit Easy Food Dehydrating. In my Vegetable section that currently lists the top 16 veggies, you'll see exactly what each vegetable needs (prep wise) and at what temperature to dehydrate them at and for approximately how long. Here are my top five veggies:

• Broccoli - cut your broccoli florets into even-sized pieces, rinse - blanch for 2 minutes - lay on trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-14 hours until brittle
• Carrots - peel and slice in coins — or dice them - blanch for 3 minutes (see note below) - place on dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-12 hours until they are leathery
• Garlic (regular or elephant) - peel and slice as evenly as possible (mandolines are great for elephant garlic) - place on the dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 6-12 hours until brittle
• Onions - peel - slice into rings, chop into slices, or dice (so long as they're all roughly the same size for even drying) - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 4-12 hours until pliable and please keep your windows open or run your stove's vent hood to remove odors. Why? Onion odor is poisonous to pets.
• Zucchini - wash and slice into 3/8-inch slices - arrange on your dehydrator trays - dehydrate between 125 degrees and 135 degrees for 5-11 hours until brittle

Note for the carrots: if you don't want to blanch your carrots, you can simply spray them with lemon juice instead. Much faster!

Don't forget you can also dehydrate frozen vegetables just like the frozen fruit.

 

Back to Dehydrating Cooked Meats

To dehydrate cooked meat, it really is simply a case of cutting up leftover chicken, beef, or ham into pieces that are roughly the same size. Consider dehydrating tubs of cooked meats, or if you have time to stand in line at the deli, ask them to slice your chosen cuts of cooked meat about 1/16-inch thick. When you get home, cut into strips and dehydrate at the higher temperature of 160 degrees F.

In the next post, I'll get into the step that many fans of dehydrating omit. It's a super-important step, especially for mushrooms! It's called "conditioning." Until then, have a super week!

To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies toofor long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry fullwhatever the reason or season!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/28/2015

 

My four-year-old has a sticker chart to incentivize learning her memory verses. For every 25 stickers on the chart, she gets to pick a special treat to make with mommy.

Usually I hand her a stack of colorful cookbooks, and she flips through the pictures till something special catches her eye. Sometimes she just comes up with her own idea, and we blaze our own trail.

When she asked to make pistachio cookies last week, I was inexplicably set on using a recipe, but my books were no help. Thus, I sort of adapted (read pretty much ripped off) April Bloomfield’s Pistachio Shortbread recipe, as seen here.

Now these cookies—the version you’ll see below, that is--are not at all what I’d call shortbread. Their texture is a more like a gingersnap: a little chewy, a little crisp.

I add a touch of almond extract, a bit more vanilla, and a pinch of cardamom for a little interest. Also, I roll the edges of the cookies in sugar before baking to perk up the visuals. Conventional wisdom suggests fashioning the dough into a log, rolling the log in sugar, then slicing and baking to achieve this result. I opt to scoop balls, flatten them, and then roll the edges in sugar because it is tough to roll this coarse dough into a tight log without sizeable air pockets.

My family agreed that these cookies deserve a spot in the standard cookie rotation around here. I hope your family will love them as well!

Sugared Pistachio Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

• 1 cup shelled, roasted, salted pistachios
• 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cups sugar
• 1 tsp coarse kosher salt (like Morton)
• 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
• 1/2 cup (I stick) chilled butter, cut into 12 pieces
• 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp almond extract
• 1-2 tbsp ice water, as needed
• 2-3 tbsp granulated sugar, for rolling

Instructions:

1. Place the pistachios in the food processor and process 45 seconds or just till finely ground—do not let turn to pistachio butter. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom and process for about five seconds to combine. Scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the processor, add the butter and extracts and process about 10 seconds to distribute the butter throughout the mixture. With the processor on, drizzle in just enough ice water to bring the dough together.

2. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper, pat it into a disk, wrap it up in the parchment, and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

3. Position your oven racks in the centermost spots, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Place the sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.

4. Using a small cookie scoop if desired, make two-teaspoon-sized balls of dough and flatten with your palm or a flat-bottomed drinking glass (the cookies should be about two inches in diameter). Roll each disk through the sugar as if you were turning a wheel until the edges are well-coated, and space evenly between the two baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or till just beginning to darken around the edges. Allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, Texas. More of her work can be found at Being The Secret Ingredient, a blog about food, life, and love.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/27/2015

 

Making corn relish and canning it in a water bath canner is an easy and delicious way to preserve end-of-the-season corn. Open these colorful jars for a taste of summer in the middle of winter.

Getting Started

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens’ America’s All-Time Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes. I like to use half-pint jars to arrange in holiday gift baskets with homemade pickle relish, mustard and ketchup. I also have had fine results making a half-recipe, adjusting all the quantities by half. (But most experts shudder at modifying canning recipes. Follow recipes in trusted canning guides to ensure safety.)

Yield about 5 pints.

Ingredients:

• 12-16 ears of corn
• 2 cups water (for boiling corn)
• 3 cups celery, chopped
• 3 cups chopped red sweet pepper (or mixed red and green sweet peppers)
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2-1/2 cups vinegar
• 1-3/4 cups sugar
• 4 tsp dry mustard
• 2 tsp pickling salt
• 2 tsp celery seed
• 1 tsp ground turmeric
• 3 tbsp cornstarch
• 2 tbsp water

Prepping the Jars

As always, wash the jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water. Or wash jars and bands in the dishwasher and lids by hand so the rubber seal doesn’t overheat. Fill your water-bath canner with water and bring to boil. You want the water to cover the filled jars by at least two inches.

When the water comes to a boil, lower the clean empty jars into the canner to sterilize while you mix up the corn relish. Pour boiling water over lids and bands in a heatproof dish.

Making the Relish

1. Cut corn off the cobs to measure 8 cups.

2. Combine corn and water in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about five minutes or until corn is nearly tender. Drain. End-of-season corn is just as sweet as early summer’s, but can be a little tougher so making relish is a great way to use it.

3. Return the corn to the pot; add celery, pepper and onion.

4. Stir in vinegar, sugar, mustard, pickling salt, celery seed and turmeric. Bring to boiling. Boil uncovered for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. In a separate cup, mix the cornstarch and water, then add to corn relish.

6. Continue to cook mixture until slightly thick and bubbly and time for one additional minute.

7. Remove sterilized jars from the canner and place on a towel by the pot of relish.

8. Ladle relish into the canning jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a sterilized stainless knife to coax out any air bubbles, wipe jar rims and adjust lids and bands.

9. Process in your water-bath canner for 15 minutes in boiling water, adding minutes depending on your particular altitude. You can find accurate timing information online or in most canning books. After processing, lift jars unto a clean towel and wait for the faithful “ping” of each seal.

You can read more at Dede's website, or in her blog post archive on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/27/2015

 

Making corn relish and canning it in a water bath canner is an easy and delicious way to preserve end-of-the-season corn. Open these colorful jars for a taste of summer in the middle of winter.

Getting Started

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens’ America’s All-Time Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes. I like to use half-pint jars to arrange in holiday gift baskets with homemade pickle relish, mustard and ketchup. I also have had fine results making a half-recipe, adjusting all the quantities by half. (But most experts shudder at modifying canning recipes. Follow recipes in trusted canning guides to ensure safety.)

Yield about 5 pints.

Ingredients:

• 12-16 ears of corn
• 2 cups water (for boiling corn)
• 3 cups celery, chopped
• 3 cups chopped red sweet pepper (or mixed red and green sweet peppers)
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2-1/2 cups vinegar
• 1-3/4 cups sugar
• 4 tsp dry mustard
• 2 tsp pickling salt
• 2 tsp celery seed
• 1 tsp ground turmeric
• 3 tbsp cornstarch
• 2 tbsp water

Prepping the Jars

As always, wash the jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water. Or wash jars and bands in the dishwasher and lids by hand so the rubber seal doesn’t overheat. Fill your water-bath canner with water and bring to boil. You want the water to cover the filled jars by at least two inches.

When the water comes to a boil, lower the clean empty jars into the canner to sterilize while you mix up the corn relish. Pour boiling water over lids and bands in a heatproof dish.

Making the Relish

1. Cut corn off the cobs to measure 8 cups.

2. Combine corn and water in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about five minutes or until corn is nearly tender. Drain. End-of-season corn is just as sweet as early summer’s, but can be a little tougher so making relish is a great way to use it.

3. Return the corn to the pot; add celery, pepper and onion.

4. Stir in vinegar, sugar, mustard, pickling salt, celery seed and turmeric. Bring to boiling. Boil uncovered for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. In a separate cup, mix the cornstarch and water, then add to corn relish.

6. Continue to cook mixture until slightly thick and bubbly and time for one additional minute.

7. Remove sterilized jars from the canner and place on a towel by the pot of relish.

8. Ladle relish into the canning jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a sterilized stainless knife to coax out any air bubbles, wipe jar rims and adjust lids and bands.

9. Process in your water-bath canner for 15 minutes in boiling water, adding minutes depending on your particular altitude. You can find accurate timing information online or in most canning books. After processing, lift jars unto a clean towel and wait for the faithful “ping” of each seal.

You can read more at Dede's website, or in her blog post archive on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/27/2015

It’s Hatch Pepper Festival time! The peppers are being harvested in Hatch, New Mexico, now. They have a huge festival there in Hatch, but we don’t have to travel any farther than our local supermarket. The upscale market in Dallas has a lot going on with big mesh roasters going outside. Inside, their chefs think outside the salsa and have put some Hatch into everything from hamburgers and buns to brownies and ice cream. It’s mostly pretty delicious.

If you are lucky enough to come across some Hatch chili peppers and favorite variety of basil, here is a pesto recipe with a friendly amount of spice. Try it atop a Southwest chicken salad and transport yourself to New Mexico. (If you can’t make the festival, you can still make the pesto.)

Southwest Hatch Pesto Recipe

Make your most delicious Chicken-Pesto Pasta with this one. Add this kicky pesto to chicken enchiladas or tacos, stir it into the dressing for a Southwest Chicken Salad (see recipe below), or add it to a fajita platter. It’s absolutely yummy.

Ingredients:

• 2 medium cloves garlic, mashed or twice as much roasted garlic
• 1 large Hatch chili pepper - mild or hot, you choose - seeded and cut up
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 2 cups basil leaves, packed
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Wash the basil and drain well. If you have a salad spinner, use that or just shake it. Start with the garlic, pepper, and cheese.  Process a minute until well mixed and the pepper is chopped, then start putting in handfuls of the basil. When the basil is incorporated, add the olive oil slowly until you have a lovely grainy texture. If you’re not eating this immediately, put it into a bowl, smooth the surface and coat it with a film of olive oil to prevent darkening.

Freeze in tubs, coated with olive oil.

Southwest Chicken Caesar Salad with Hatch Pesto Dressing Recipe

Try this salad either as individual dinner salads or one huge one to pass around.

Hatch Pesto Dressing Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
• 1/4 cup Hatch pesto (or more to taste)
• pinch sea salt

Pesto Dressing Directions: Stir up a bowl of dressing, multiplying to allow about ½ cup per serving. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Salad Ingredients:

• Romaine lettuce, half to a whole head per serving, depending on head size
• Cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, nicely sliced or bite-size dice

Additional Salad Topping Suggestions:

• Diced cucumbers
• Tomato wedges
• Sliced marinated dried tomatoes
• Cherry tomatoes
• Avocado slices
• Artichoke hearts
• Radishes
• Barely blanched corn kernels
• Cooked black beans
• Grated Jack cheese
• Peppers, crisp sautéed and cooled
• Black olives

Salad Directions: Season the chicken nicely with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Either sauté, deep fry or bake until cooked through. Chill.

Fill a generous bowl with torn romaine leaves and then top with as many of the above-mentioned suggested toppings as you want. I like to place the chicken in the center and then arrange the others in a pretty pattern around, like a Nicoise salad.

Drizzle on a little of the dressing, then serve the rest on the side, as pictured.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



8/26/2015

 

Elderberry, Sambucus, is a seasonal berry that fruits in time for the prevention of cold and flu season. A member of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae), elderberries are perennial shrubs with pithy stems that are typically found in valley bottoms or along streams.

Leaves are oppositely arranged on the stems with 5 to 9 strongly pointed and sharply toothed leaflets that are 2-5 inches long.

Flowers are white with many tiny flowers in clusters.

Fruit is in the form of pea-sized berries that ripen from green to dark blue or black with a waxy coating.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

North American, European, Western Asian and North African cultures have known the medicinal properties of the elderberry plant for thousands of years. The health benefits of the plant are widespread:

• Antioxidant
• Lowers Cholesterol
• Improves Vision
• Boots Immune System
• Improves Heart Health
• Fights Bacterial and Viral Infections

Most notably, the fruit ripens in time to make an elixir to prevent and treat the common cold and flu.

Elderberry Tonic Recipe

(adapted from WellnessMama.com)

Tip: Freeze freshly picked elderberries in clusters after harvesting to simplify the de-stemming process.

 

Ingredients

• 2/3 cup Elderberries (fresh or frozen)
• 3-1/2 cups of water
• 2 tbsp fresh or dried ginger root (or powder)
• 1 tsp cinnamon powder
• 1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
• 1 cup raw honey

Instructions

1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the liquid reduces to almost half (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).

3. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

4. Discard the elderberries (feed to chickens or compost) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.

5. Add 1 cup of honey and stir well. (Note: honey is added after the mixture has cooled to keep raw enzymes intact).

6. Pour mixture into glass jars to be stored in the fridge for up to three months.

Recommended doses

Prevention (can be taken daily)

1. Kids (13 months-12 years old): 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

2. Adults: 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon

Recovery

Take the normal dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms disappear.

Don’t get caught off guard by cold and flu season this year. Prepare this easy elderberry elixir for a natural alternative for flu prevention and recovery.

Special Notes:

1. NEVER give Elderberry Tonic to infants 12 months/under.

2. Elderberries can be used as any other berry for pies, jams, breads, stuffing, etc.

3. Consuming raw elderberries causes extreme GI distress in many people. Try a few berries raw before overindulging.

Resources:

1. Benoliel, Doug. Norwest Foraging. 2011. Skipstone.

2. Elderberry Benefits and Information

3. Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant

4. How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Flu Prevention

Author Bio

Lyndsay Mynatt, a dedicated forager and outdoor enthusiast, is a blogger for Mother Earth News. Published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and a forthcoming article on 5-Minute Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of Mother Earth News. Lyndsay and her husband, Jordan, are launching on a year of international rock climbing and trekking starting in October 2015. Follow their adventures at A Faithful Journey.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 












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