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91. Vegan Las Vegas – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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So, the end of August was my birthday. But not just any birthday, it was the big 3-oh! Can’t believe that I’ve been on this planet for 3 decades!!!
(And what’s even more unbelievable is that I ate animals for 2.5 of those decades 🙁 Still, shows it’s never too late to change for the better!)

Anyway, in order to celebrate, my lovely husband had planned a semi-surprise trip to Las Vegas. I ate sooo much amazing food whilst I was there, most of my clothes are too tight now!
#noregrets.

A lot of people had “warned” me that I’d really struggle out there… but they were so wrong, just check out Happy Cow and the PETA “Eating Vegan at Fast Food Chain Restaurants” guidance.

Not all the food was great though, so I have split my review into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

The Good

Nacho Daddy
I’ll start with the best, Nacho Daddy was SO good that we went twice!
Although this Mexican restaurant is a bit of a carnist’s dream, it has an entirely separate vegan menu and it is aaaaamazzzing! They even do vegan queso and sour cream <3
On the first visit I went for the quesadillas and a side of chips. And on the second visit I went for the loaded nachos. Holy guacamole, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
They also do tacos, burritos and fajitas. In fact I think the only thing that was missing was a chimichanga (my absolute favourite).
They were open until 1am as well – making it a perfect stop after a few drinks on Fremont Street or after seeing a show.

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Loaded vegan nachos

Quesadila

Quesadila

Ronald’s Donuts
Ronald’s Donuts is a little place that not-surprisingly serves donuts as well as coffees.
What was surprising was that over a third of the donuts were vegan! And it was here that I lost my bear-claw virginity. I also had a gorgeous raspberry and a custard donut. They were REALLY good. But it was a REALLY bad idea to go on the rides at Circus Circus afterwards, eeeeeurgh!
I thought the donuts were very reasonably priced as well – cheaper than a Krispy Crème with the added bonus of being cruelty free.

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Bear Claw!

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Custard donut

Pop Up Pizza
Pop Up Pizza is a little pizza bar located in the Plaza hotel. The plastic furniture and casino surroundings don’t make for a romantic meal setting, but its well worth a visit. Or, they deliver if you’d rather eat in the comfort of your hotel room.
They have various vegan toppings – including Daiya cheese- that you can use to create your own (massive) pizza, or if you are passing by, you can pick up just a slice or two of their “Soho” which is vegan mozzarella, spinach, roasted mushrooms, artichokes, and roasted bell peppers. Bellissimo!

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The Soho

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Komol Restaurant
Another place which is good for pleasing carnists and vegans alike is the Komol Thai restaurant.
They have a really extensive selection of tofu and mock meats – including vegan shrimp which I added to my veggie chow mein (made with rice noodles). It was sooooo tasty and I really like the fact that you are asked how spicy you would like your order. The portions were mega generous too – I had my leftovers doggy bagged up so I could give them to a homeless person (there are a lot of people sleeping rough in LV).

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Chow Mein with rice noodles and faux shrimp

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Red 8 (located in the Wynn Hotel)
The Wynn and Encore hotels are awesome for vegans. Every restaurant has a separate vegan menu!
Red 8 is located in the Wynn and offers an Asian style menu. It is a little pricey but the food is very good and the restaurant makes a great location for a special date night.
I had the Gardein Cashew Chick’n with Celery, Mushrooms and Ginger. The Chick’n was so realistic I had to get the hubby to try it and convince me that they hadn’t messed up my order!

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Gardein Cashew Chick’n with Celery, Mushrooms and Ginger

Rainbows End
Rainbows End is a fantastic vegan and veggie store with a café attached. I spent most of my spending money in here! Unfortunately the café was closed when I visited but luckily they have a chiller full of burritos, hummus pots, potato salad and other yummy treats to take away. I went for the burrito and also bought a ton of treats to bring home, including jerky, blue tortilla chips, Dandies marshmallows, Chao cheese and some Tofurkey sausages (luckily the aircon in the room was so cold that everything kept!)

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Shop front

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Burrito

Einstein Bros Bagels
So no, the vegan friendly bagels here weren’t the most interesting food I ate during my visit, but what vegan doesn’t love PB&J?! (Except maybe one with a peanut allergy…)
I used this site to check out what was safe, there are quite a few options, including hummus 🙂
Don’t be afraid to order what you want if that particular combination isn’t given as an option on the menu.

PB&J

PB&J

Chipotle
I never thought for a second that a fast food joint like Chipotle would have a vegan option! But they do and it was yummy! I had a tofu sofritas taco with guac and I loved every second of it.20160830_135017 20160830_135025

Amorino Gelato
These gelato bars are actually all over the place (including Europe) and there is more than one in Vegas itself. But the first time that I ever saw one and realised that they did vegan sorbet was at the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. They offer various different vegan flavours, including pistachio and blood orange and ginger (the two that I picked) as well as mango, chocolate and banana.
Pricey but definitely made trainer shopping with the Hubby more worthwhile!

Blood orange & ginger and pistachio

Blood orange & ginger and pistachio

American Airlines
So, American Airlines didn’t provide me with the best meals of my life, but the food I received was at least vegan and was neither bad nor ugly. In fact it tasted pretty good!
For dinner I receive a yummy veggie tagine as the main, with a fresh salad on the side, a bread roll, a nice vegan marg (wish I could remember the name – I also had it on my trip to Kos), a jam, some crackers and a reasonable sized bottle of water. Unfortunately the pudding was the dreaded fruit salad (I HATE melon, good people of the world – please use your imagination and stop offering me this as a dessert!!! I want cake dammit!), but otherwise I was very impressed.

Breakfast was some mini hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. Again, not gourmet but I did enjoy it.
Such a shame that we only flew with this company in one direction!

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American Airlines vegan meal

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American Airlines vegan breakfast

Starbucks
Starbucks is Starbucks….. but as far as I am aware, we can’t get the infamous “pink drink” in the UK! Order a Strawberry and Acai Refresher – but ask for it to be made with coconut milk instead of water. This was such a delicious treat 🙂 probably for the best that I can’t get one over here. All that sugar, I’d have no teeth left!

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The Pink Drink!

The Bad

Wendys
Hahah, oh Wendy’s!
I followed PETA’s advice and asked for a “veggie sandwich” – which I thought was going to be a bread bun filled with a bit of salad and pickles. I had planned to fill it with French fries to make a chip butty…
The lady who worked here was so super lovely, she said she would make the sandwich herself to make sure that the new person “didn’t mess it up”. She did mention that the tomato and pickles would be wrapped up in lettuce… but I hadn’t twigged that the lettuce was substituting the bread!
Most.tasteless.lunch.ever! To be fair, I could also have had a plain jacket potato or a salad… but maybe I’ll just not bother with Wendy’s again unless it’s an emergency!

Wendy's

Wendy’s

Ihop
I saw that Ihop did grits and so I told the hubby that we could go there for breakfast. But I couldn’t find them anywhere on the menu!!! So I made do with hash brown, an un-buttered English muffin and some avocado. The avocado was beautiful, but I was paranoid that I could taste burnt meat juice on the hash brown. It didn’t look like it had been cooked on a dirty meaty grill but I just couldn’t enjoy it.

Hash brown, avocado and English muffin

Hash brown, avocado and English muffin

107 Sky Lounge
I got a little bit tipsy when we went to the 107 Sky Lounge in the Stratosphere hotel (where we were saying). I was getting a little peckish whilst looking at the stunning views when I saw that they had hummus and lavosh on the menu…. (Let’s forget that I’m pretty certain that I have a chickpea intolerance!) I ordered and was well excited to see that it came served in a Martini glass! Classy as f*ck!!!! But my excitement was short-lived when I saw that the lavosh bread came with cheese on it 🙁 So I sat there, in a swanky bar eating a Martini glass full of hummus with a teaspoon – not my finest moment!

Hummus cocktail :')

Hummus cocktail :’)

The Ugly

British Airways
We flew with British Airways for the journey home. This airline claims that “your sense of taste changes when you are flying at 30,000 feet” and that “After conducting extensive research we have improved the food and wine we offer, so it tastes even better in the air than it does on the ground.”

Well I don’t think for a second that anyone tested the vegan option before selling it – either in the air or on the ground!!! Bleurgh.
I was given a tray that was marked as vegan, but the main hot dish was labelled as being lacto-ovo vegetarian… also there was a carton of milk for my tea and a salad dressing that contained milk as an ingredient. Good job I am suspicious of everything and checked! So I called the air steward over and asked her if I had received the correct meal. She said “yes, it’s marked as vegan”. To which I replied “no – it’s labelled as vegetarian”. So it got taken away and brought back to me and I was told “It was just the main meal and the milk that wasn’t vegan so we swapped the meal and removed the milk”.
Err no, the salad dressing?!
Seriously, I could have eaten that – what if I was allergic?!

So, alongside my dry salad and cup of black tea, I got some veggies, some rice and some brown stuff. Controversially, I usually quite enjoy airplane food… but this had a really weird aftertaste to it. Not nice at all. And the dessert didn’t make up for the disappointment of the main – whilst everyone else chomped down on a piece of cheesecake, I got the usual crappy token fruit salad. Booooo.
I got excited when I saw breakfast consisted of a huge slab of tofu, spinach and potatoes. But again, there was a weird aftertaste and everything was coated in oil. Seriously, spinach is the wettest vegetable ever, why the heck did it need so much oil?!

Must do better, BA! If you need someone to give you some ideas and taste-test your offerings, drop me a line! :’)

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BA vegan meal

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BA Vegan breakfast

 

 

Whilst I’m still typing, I HAVE to give a mention to the following establishments:

Others:

Veggies House
I’m sooooo sad that we didn’t find the time to visit this place. The menu looks amazing and the reviews I read were really good. If we are lucky enough to visit Vegas again, we are 100% giving this eatery a try! If you’re into your mock meat, I definitely think Veggies House will be a winner!

Vegan Bites Bakery
Another place I’d really wanted to go to. I’d planned to make a stop for some cookies, or maybe a brownie. But after that bear claw I just didn’t fancy it 🙁 I regret it now!

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Ok, so 6 Flags Magic Mountain is most definitely not in Las Vegas. In fact, it is in Los Angeles. It’s a four hour drive away – 7 hours if you get stuck in a horrific traffic jam coming back like we did. BUT I think they deserve a mention for having a clearly labelled vegan option at the “Go Fresh Café” stand – AND ITS NOT SALAD!
I had some Gardein crispy tenders and fries (although I could have had fruit or baby carrots if I’d have preferred). I was well impressed! External food and drink isn’t allowed so I’d honestly thought I was going to starve to death 🙂 Good job Six Flags! I hope you continue to impress us by extending your menu!

 

So here we are at the end of my Las Vegas adventure! Still alive, not protein deficient and once again proving that it really isn’t that hard to remove cruelty from your plate 🙂

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Giant Harley

View from the hotel

View from the hotel

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Along the Strip

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

 

Flash-Gordonette…X

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81. Dining in Düsseldorf

How awesome is Düsseldorf for vegans?! Seriously!

A couple of weeks ago I flew to Düsseldorf for a boring work meeting. Since it was a Friday I decided to stay on and fly the husband over for the weekend. Originally I had wanted to move onto Berlin, as it has recently been named the “vegetarian capital of the world”, but the flights were expensive so we decided to stay put.
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At first I was a little dubious. I mean Düsseldorf is beautiful and there is loads of amazing buildings and plenty to do… but it was hard to ignore all of the places selling fur, bratwursts and veal. Not to mention the millions of buttery looking bakeries.

But, a quick search on Google maps reassured me that I was not going to starve during my visit (seriously, search it!). There were so many fun and tasty places to try out that I think I must have put on a stone in weight! Worth it though ☺

Husband didn’t arrive in Düsseldorf until late on the Friday night, so we stayed at the Maritim hotel which is right next door to the airport. And what an amazing hotel it was! The room was lovely but even better was the choice of 5 restaurants and various bars downstairs.

The Maritim hotel website boasts about its vegan and vegetarian options (even the magazine in the room mentioned vegans) but unfortunately the Düsseldorf Airport branch doesn’t have many choices available. However the staff were very accommodating and went to a lot of trouble to make sure I was well fed.

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Vegans get a mention on the front cover of the Maritim hotel magazine!

We picked the Bistro “Bottaccio” restaurant as it seemed to have the most adaptable menu. After negotiating with the waitress I had a blood red tomato soup (served with bread and plenty of olive oil) followed by a very nice tofu Thai green curry with wild rice.  We were too full for dessert so we headed for the bar and had a few cheeky gin martinis instead, lovely! Overall it was a bit on the pricey side, but we accepted that we were a captive audience and just enjoyed the experience.

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Tomato soup

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Thai green curry

On the Saturday we skipped breakfast, jumped on the train and headed straight into Düsseldorf itself. After dumping our stuff at the hotel, we wandered around the shops and ended up at an amazing buffet style restaurant called Sattgrün. Husband was very reserved and just had a bowl of sweet potato and coconut soup (which was absolutely divine) whereas I went for the buffet and LOADED my plate full of seitan, tofu and vegetable dishes ♥ Every single thing I ate was so delicious that it brought a wee tear of happiness to my eyes. I REALLY wish we had a place like this at home.PS17

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Sattgrün

There are quite a few health shops in Düsseldorf. I visited two – Bio Park and Vita Nova. In Bio Park I just bought some crisps and an iChoc, Choco Cookie bar (which to be honest I can get at home). In Vita Nova I could have spent a million pounds but unfortunately I’d only brought a small suitcase… I got a white chocolate bar which to be honest was disgusting, but I also tried some cheeses I’ve never had before and some veggie bratwurst which were AMAZING. Also I had the best vegan sour cream I have ever tried – it was super realistic.

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Chilled vegan selection in Vita Nova

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Vita Nova – not everything was vegan but there was still a lot of choice

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You can get this in the UK, but sometimes you just fancy something familiar 😉

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Bratwurst, cheeze with tomato and basil, cheeze with mushroom (best thing ever), amazing sour cream and not so amazing white chocolate

All that shopping tired us out so we visited a gorgeous little coffee shop called Carrot Cake. I had a whacking great slice of stodgy pumpkin cake and Husband had a Halloween chocolate cake (with a red raspberry filling). We both had a latte which came with a cute little biscuit. Everything was to die for and in my opinion, ridiculously cheap! No wonder the place was full.

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Pumpkin cake

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Chocolate Halloween cake

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Oat milk latte

In the evening, despite the fact we weren’t particularly hungry, we paid a visit to a place called “What’s Beef”.  I know this doesn’t sound particularly vegan friendly, and perhaps it isn’t the best choice for the more sensitive vegan… BUT they do a veggie beet burger on a vegan bread bun with tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion and homemade tomato sauce and it was gorgeous!!!  Especially since I asked for extra avocado on top. Win.

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On the Sunday we again skipped breakfast and enjoyed a lovely autumnal walk around the “posh” part of Düsseldorf. We were surprised to find that most of the shops were shut but luckily the weather was good so we enjoyed the fresh air and picturesque views. We cut through a shopping centre where the corridors were being used as a catwalk for some fur-clad models *vomit*. I managed to get myself punched in the face by one of said models – which Husband found hil-ar-ious!

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I was so traumatized that we were forced to head to Space Burger so I could recuperate! Like What’s Beef, this burger place also sells meat so won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. BUT, they have a separate menu for vegans with lots of choices! I went for a Mexican themed burger called “El Vegano” which comes with avocado, guacamole, salsa, faux cheese and nachos. I also had some fries and curry sauce on the side, it was bliss ♥

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Space Burger sign

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El Vegano!

Again, in the evening we were far from hungry but we couldn’t resist trying out What’s Beef’s sister company, “What’s Pizza”. This place does a “meatless Monday” but what really caught my attention was the option to have “vegan mozzarella” on my pizza! Unfortunately the mozzarella just turned out to be silken tofu, but it still worked really well with my mushroom, spinach, olive and chilli combo. The pizza bases were lovely as well – it was a joy to eat my crusts.

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It was very fortunate that we ate so much during our stay because on the Monday we headed straight to the airport where our flight ended up being delayed. Luckily our newly acquired fat reserves kept us going for the journey back, ha!

So, if Düsseldorf is this amazingly fantastic for vegans, I really really really can’t wait to pay Berlin a visit!

Bis zum nächsten Mal….

Flash-Gordonette…X

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79. The Vegan Venue – Warrington

I live in Warrington, a town in the North West of England, almost halfway between Liverpool and Manchester. Warrington is famous for its Rugby team (the Warrington Wolves), steel wire and the famous song “Zombie” which was written (and performed) by the Cranberries, about the IRA bombing of Warrington in 1993.

Warrington however is not exactly on the map for being a vegan hotspot! But perhaps times are beginning to change… hooray!

I was so sad that I nearly cried when our first and only vegan restaurant, “Shambala” closed down. But today I nearly cried because I was so happy after visiting Warrington’s newest vegan joint, “The Vegan Venue”!

Rumours of this new takeaway / shop crept onto my Facebook page late last week and it didn’t take me long to discover that its ONLY 2 FREAKING MILES AWAY FROM MY HOUSE!!!! I cycle further than that to work! So today being Saturday, there was no way that I wasn’t going to pay a visit.

Placed in Padgate, The Vegan Venue is fairly easy to get to and has a sizable carpark across the road. First impressions when you enter the building is that it’s CLEAN! Now I’m not saying that all vegan eateries are dirty (V-Revolution in Manchester for example is spotless). BUT, I’m sorry to say that are lot are grim. Not that mucky cutlery and sticky menus puts me off tasty cruelty free food….

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from such a new business (they’ve not even been open a week yet) but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a pretty impressive menu! (I’ve posted a photo of it below). They sell everything from fresh juice to “bacon” bagels to calzone to burgers, pies and wraps. They also have a daily specials board and a cabinet with the most gorgeous looking vegan cakes you have ever seen!

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So what did I go for? I chose the daily special – a huge, great, massive, big-as-my-head burrito (and my head is pretty big!) It was filled to the brim with rice, marinated “beef” strips, lettuce, tomato, courgette, black beans and freshly homemade guacamole.  It was deeeeeelicous!

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It’s huuuuuge!

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Serious, even my massive mouth couldn’t get around it!

I also bought a piece of orange and pistachio cake. OMG! Yet again it was huuuuuuuuge! And so amazingly, mouth-wateringly yummy.

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Drooling just looking at this photo! (Orange and pistachio cake)

AND I picked up a pack of ten acres crisps and a very nice vanilla Nespresso latte (would deffo recommend!)

One of the very best parts about the shop however was how lovely and kind the owners are :o)
(Not to mention how reasonable the prices are!)

I really hope all the vegans and veggies of Warrington and its surrounding areas make a special effort to make sure that this place does well. Would be great to see them be able to extend their opening hours and get permission to transform from a takeaway to a sit-down café!

So, massive thanks to The Vegan Venue! You made my Saturday :o)

Flash-Gordonette…x

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71. Cheezy biscuits

I’ve had such a lovely weekend 🙂

On Friday I went to The Ship at Lathom’s 4th Annual Beer and Pie Festival with the Hubby, my Bestie and her Fella. Unfortunately I was unable to find a vegan friendly beer there (I emailed most of the breweries who were taking part who all confirmed that isinglass was used in the fining process) however all the ciders were safe and there were not one, but TWO vegan pies!!! And I made the discovery of the decade… I like mushy peas! I’ve hated them since childhood but something told me to give them another chance, and I’m so glad that I did.

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Spicy bean and mushroom pie, topped off with mushy peas and washed down with a “Strawberry Fields” cider.

We stayed over at the Bestie’s house so on Saturday (after a lovely breakfast of croissants, crumpets and cinnamon rolls) we trotted off to Southport to do some shopping followed by a fabulous tea at a Turkish restaurant called Havin. We had hummus and Patlican Tarator (sans yoghurt) with bread for starter followed with the Sebze Guvec (sans feta). The day was completed with a nice walk up the pier and a scout around the arcades.

I’ve had a mostly lazy day today, although I have been experimenting in the kitchen. I made bread rolls and seitan but today I am sharing my cheezy biscuits recipe!

Cheezy biscuits

Ingredients:

1 x cup all-purpose white flour
¼ x cup vegan marg
¼ x cup water
½ x tbsp. miso paste
¼ x cup nutritional yeast
½ x tsp garlic powder

Method:

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix until a smooth dough is formed.

Roll out onto a lightly floured surface and cut out the crackers using a knife or pizza cutter.

Place each cracker onto a greased baking tray and prick with a fork.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes at 180oC (until golden brown and slightly puffy).

Carefully transfer onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

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I intend on taking mine to work and eating with Toffuti cream cheese and a little mango chutney.

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Flash-Gordonette…X

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70. Roaming round Romania

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I had to go to Romania with work the last week. When I think of Eastern European cuisine I (used to) think of rich meaty stews and hunks of flesh served with cabbage. However, I was pleased to learn that wasn’t necessarily the case in Bucharest.

Remus and Wolf

Remus and the Wolf

A fact I didn’t know – around 87% of the Romanian population are Orthodox Christians. What is the relevance of this? There are times of the year where Orthodox Christians undergo a strict fasting period which basically means they follow a vegan diet! (More information here). So although I found that most restaurants didn’t understand the term “vegan”, they knew exactly what I meant if I mentioned fasting! And in some cases there was even an extra menu dedicated to this.

Not everyone in Romania is oblivious to veganism however. Whilst I was there I visited one vegetarian restaurant called Barca which had a very extensive menu, entirely vegan apart from the occasional guest-appearance from honey. I had falafel with a chopped parsley salad and it was very tasty and light. The restaurant itself was also very clean and fresh-faced. I wish more UK vegan joints were like this!

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Falafel and parsley salad

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Inside

I also ordered takeout from a place called Biofresh. I had a salad consisting of courgette, tofu, dill, wheat germ and garlic with a dressing made from tofu, basil, pine nuts, olive oil and spices.  It sounds like such a simple meal but it was so delicious I was inspired to make my own variation when I got home (recipe below!). It was just a shame that nearly all of the desserts from these places contained honey (miere).

A non-veggie place I visited was a restaurant called “Caru’ cu Bere” (or “The Beer Wagon” in English). This place is one of the oldest beer houses in Bucharest and although it was a bit of a carnivore’s paradise, it was amazing! There were traditional dancers performing at regular intervals and it was heaving with people, even on a Wednesday night. I shared a loaf of bread with an aubergine dip and a traditional dip made from a variety of vegetables for starter, followed by a traditional vegetable stew with polenta for my main course. Both were hearty and delicious! I didn’t really have room for a pudding but then I got passed the “fasting menu” and discovered that they had egg and dairy free pancakes!!! Nom!

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Starter

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Main

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Pudding!!!

Dancing Romanian stylee!

Dancing Romanian stylee!

Anyway, back in the UK now, where I immediately set to work creating my own raw courgette salad and a not so raw creamy pesto dressing to go with it:

Courgette, carrot and dill salad

Ingredients:

2 x courgettes
2 x carrots
1 x bunch of dill
Juice 1 x lemon

Method:
This recipe is super easy if you have a food processor with a grating function. If not, you’re going to need strong arm muscles and a cheese grater as you need to grate all of the carrot and courgette before putting into a large bowl.

Next, chop up the dill and mix into the courgette and carrot.

Pour the freshly squeezed lemon juice over the veg whilst stirring. You can add black pepper to taste.

Super easy!

Creamy pesto dressing

Ingredients:

1 x block firm silken tofu (I used Mori-nu 394g pack)
1 x jar (185g) vegan friendly pesto (or you can make your own if you have time!)
½ x tsp salt
½ x tsp black pepper
1 x tsp garlic powder
½ x cup soya milk (or any dairy replacement).
2 x tbsp. nutritional yeast

Method:
Put the tofu, pesto, salt, pepper, garlic powder and milk into a blender. Blend until smooth.

The sauce will taste a bit “beany “so next step is to transfer into a small saucepan and heat whilst stirring (a silicon spatula is perfect for this).

Once the dressing begins to bubble*, take off the heat and add the nutritional yeast. You will have to stir fairly vigorously to make sure its mixed in well with no lumps.

*Please take care because the sauce has a tendency to spit!

Allow to cool and serve over your salad.

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I combined my salad and dressing with some roasted baby hasselback potatoes and some chili and coriander beans. Satisfying, healthy, cruelty free and importantly,  delicious!

Flash_Gordonette…X

Ps, should my Romanian hosts happen to stumble across this post, I would like to thank them wholeheartedly for looking after me so well and going to such lengths to ensure that I was happy and well fed! ♥

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69. Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes

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Have you ever booked a weekend away and picked the hotel purely on the basis that it was in the same city as a café that sells vegan cupcakes…. only to find out that the café was sold 2 months’ earlier and now isn’t even vegetarian?!

That was my valentine’s weekend, haha! Aww well, we still had a lovely time 🙂

We went to Derby and despite a distinct lack of cake; I still managed to gorge myself silly. On the first night I enjoyed a lovely okra jalfrezi at Balti International (all dishes are cooked with veggie oil rather than ghee, apart from the butter chicken which obviously I wasn’t likely to order).Second night I had a fabulous Chinese meal at Excelsior where I had vegetarian hot and sour soup, choi sung and a mountain of sweet and sour tofu. I was VERY impressed by the owner’s knowledge of what was in each dish.

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Veggie hot and sour soup

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veggie choi sung

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sweet and sour tofu

 

Final day we stopped off at Café Yaffle where my omni hubby shocked me by sharing a couple of (very yummy) vegan cheese toasties with me (one with sausage and pickle, the other with pizza-cheese and tomato).  I also raided the shelves of Soundbites, an adjacent vegan store with a fantastic range of goodies. So all in all it was a pretty good trip!

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Harvest and pizza toastie

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vegan sausage, cheese and pickley goodness

 

Anyway, hubby bought me a silicone cupcake kit for Christmas so I decided to christen it by making lemon and poppy seed cupcakes. I loosely based the recipe on this non-vegan version and I have to admit that I was pretty smug about the result! Seriously soft and fluffy but delightfully tangy and not too sweet… I ate 7 out of 12, whoops! And my favourite part? They rose! It might be pancake day today but these beauties were most definitely NOT vertically challenged!

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super fluffy! ♥

 

Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes:

Ingredients (Makes 12):

13/4  x cups self-raising flour

1 x tbsp. slightly toasted poppy seeds (cook in a dry frying pan on a medium heat for 1 – 2 mins)

3/4  x cup sugar

Zest of 2 un-waxed lemons

3 x tsp No-Egg  in 6 x tbsp. water  (whisked together until white and frothy)

1 x tsp baking powder

1/3 x cup soya yoghurt (or any other dairy-free variety)

½ x cup vegan friendly marg

1/3 x cup soya milk (or any other dairy-free variety)

Juice of 1 lemon

Also: 12 x cupcake cases. I used silicone.

Method:

Preheat oven to 180oC.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, zest (reserve a quarter for decoration), poppy seeds and baking powder. Sift the flour if you want, but I didn’t bother.

In another bowl, electric-whisk up the No-Egg and water before adding the marg, followed by the sugar, yoghurt, milk and finally the lemon juice.

A spoonful at a time, add the dry ingredients into the wet and gently fold in. A silicone spatula is great for this

Using a couple of teaspoons (one for scooping, one for scraping), distribute the mixture evenly between the 12 cupcake cases.

Put in the oven and bake for 15 mins or until golden brown. A skewer should come out clean when inserted into the centre of each.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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These cakes are so tasty that they don’t really need icing. However, just to pretty them up, I added a small swirl of the following onto each and topped with some extra poppy seeds and a sprinkling of zest:

Icing

Ingredients:

4 x tbsp. icing sugar

1/3 x cup vegan friendly marg

½ x cup vegan cream cheese (I used Violife – now available in some Tesco stores!)

Juice of ½ lemon

 

Method:

Whizz together the marg, cream cheese and lemon juice using an electric mixer. Whizz in the icing sugar, cover and pop in the fridge for 20 mins or so. Once the cupcakes are COMPLETELY COOLED you can either spoon or pipe a small amount of icing onto each cake.

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Perfect with a cup of tea!

 

Flash-Gordonette…X

 

 

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60. Coconut and green veg soup

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Bonnie Edinburgh

Me and the bestie (aka @lalabrownie if you’re on Twitter) enjoyed a vegan pilgrimage to Scotland last week. Using her hometown, Livingstone, as a base we had a couple of days out in Edinburgh and a day in Glasgow. I can’t believe that the birthplace of the deep fried Mars bar and haggis have such amazing vegan joints! Seriously, just look on www.happycow.net!

So, the highlights in Edinburgh:The Baked Potato Shop on Cockburn St where I had the most amazing tattie of my life. It was filled with vegan haggis and topped with a sweetcorn curry. Thank goodness Lala knew to only order a small. I practically rolled around the landmarks of the city after nomming down this beast!:

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I was also super happy after a visit to Real Foods where I finally found the little squashy-pumpkin thing that I have been scouring the streets of Cheshire for after I sampled one in Croatia.

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And last but not least, we visited Jordan Valley Wholefoods where I filled a carrier bag with treats for the train ride home. Tres impressed with the selection available!

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Carrot cake, chickpea and onion pie, artichoke and quinoa dip, spicy veggie haggis roll and a bottle of “living tea”

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Check out www.equinoxkombucha.com

In Glasgow, we had a fantastic (and ridiculously good value for money) meal at Mono. I had a salami, red onion, pepper and cheeze pizza with a side of beer battered onion rings. Lala had moussaka which had a creamy nut based topping and looked very tasty. We both had the BIGGEST portion of sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice-cream that I have ever seen! Aww man, it was soooo good!(We met Lala’s wee Auntie as well and she had a seitan burger… but I didn’t get a piccie, boo).

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We also enjoyed a couple of yummy “Scottish” breakfasts (tongue firmly planted in cheek!) – Redwood Cheatin Bacon on “Plain bread” and tatty scones on a Scotch roll (Tattie scone recipe here if you’re interested!)

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When I got home to Cheshire-land, the fella decided he had missed me so much that he wanted to take me out for tea at the vegetarian restaurant, Sanskruti. It was my 3rd visit to this amazing restaurant and I was so happy that omni hubby wanted to revisit. We both had the veggie kebabs for starter, then for main he had a massive dosa and I had the kaju karela with a side of onion rice. We both had vegan ice-cream for pud. Yet another fabulous belly-full!

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Meat eaters beware… a sneaky veggie could EASY trick you with these tasty bad boys 😉

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My curry and rice and the edge of the Hubby’s massive dosa

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Vegan ice-cream! Neapolitan at the front and mango and raspberry at the back.

So, after 4 full days of uber-scoffing, I decided that tonight I needed a light tea. Since I had some veg to use up and well as a can of coconut milk, I decided to go for a Thai themed soup.

Coconut and green veg soup recipe:

Ingredients:

1 x tbsp. coconut oil (or any other oil really)400 ml can coconut milk

200 ml of water

½ x leek (sliced)

½ x cup green beans (chopped)

1 x cup pak choi (chopped)

½ x cup courgette (chopped)

1 x cup potato (chopped)

2 x cloves garlic (finely sliced)

3 x kaffir lime leaves (dried)

2 x tsp minced ginger (I used frozen)

2 x tsp coriander leaves (chopped)

1 x tsp Thai basil leaves (chopped)

2 x tsp white miso

1 x tsp white pepper

1 x tsp ground coriander

¼ – ½ x finely sliced chilli (depending on how hot you like it)

Lime of 1 lime

 

Method:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Add the leeks and potato and fry until the leeks go translucent.

Add the green beans and garlic and stir.

Add the ginger, ground coriander, miso, pepper and chili. Stir constantly to avoid the spices from catching on the bottom of the pan.

When things start to get a bit aromatic, add the coconut milk. Add the water to the empty can and swizzle to get all of the milk out and add to the soup.

Add the lime leaves, basil, coriander leaves, courgette and lime juice.

Bring to a simmer and cook with a lid on until the potato goes tender (10 – 15 mins).

Take off the heat and leave for at least 2 hours to cool. I find that this helps the soup to infuse without evaporating off too much of the coconut milk.

Heat when ready.

Remove any lime leaves and serve in bowls.

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I poured mine over a bit of sticky rice and topped with some fried tofu. Deeeelicious!

 

I’ll be sad to go back to work tomorrow after an epic few days off, but at least I’ll have some leftover soup to take with me 🙂

 

Flash-Gordonette…x

 

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55. Blackpool and Brownies

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I went to the Northern Vegan Festival in Blackpool on Saturday with a few buddies, one of which was my uni-friend and fellow blogger, the Boltonian Vegan.

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This gorgeous sweetie is courtesy of the Run Free alliance (http://runfreealliance.co.uk/)

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 Lesson of the day – do not down 3 bottles of these in one go. Swear I didn’t know which end it was going to come out of first…

We had a good time but although the venue was absolutely stunning, I couldn’t help but think that the event lacked some of the atmosphere I experienced at the North West Vegan Festival that I went to in Lancaster earlier in the year.

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Perhaps it was the lack of a beer stall…which I did moan about. A lot. But I still enjoyed myself, especially when I got chatting to the lovely people at Harper’s Bizarre and Homemade by Erica Jayne. These ladies are crazy and I love them! It’s the second time I have visited their stalls and both times I have bought something. Delicious tasting chutneys and fabulous smelling candles… I can’t resist either!  I just hope my purchases made up for my foul dialect 😉 *has no internal filter*

I also bought a book from a really really nice gentlemen of whom I could have chatted to for a lot longer had other customers not turned up. Unfortunately I forgot to take down the name of his stall. Looking at the Northern Vegan Festival website, he may have been “Cruelty Free Cookbooks”. Hopefully I will find out for sure at the next event.

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The highlight of the day however had to be the big fat dirty burger I bought from the Vegan Grindhouse.  I’ve been DYING to try one of these guys’ burgers and I was not disappointed with my quarter pounder with cheeze, onions and burger relish *drools*.

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Anyway, a while ago (like years ago, before I turned vegan) I made some brownies for work, which had they not have contained dairy milk chocolate, would have been SFV. I was reminded of my recipe when I was flicking through a free copy of LABL magazine. Inspired by this article and also by a piece of pecan pie that I sampled at the festival (courtesy of The Homemade Vegan) I routed out my recipe and simply swapped the chocolate for a dairy free version. In fact I used a bar that I got in my Vegan Kind box this month, which for the record was gorgeous! Creamy with a hint of coconut:

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Ombar (http://ombar.co.uk/)

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Pecan pie

                                               

The best part of this recipe is that brownies are super easy to make!

Pecan and chocolate chunk brownies

Ingredients:

125g Plain flour
175g Caster sugar
35g Cocoa powder
125 ml Oil (I used sunflower)
125 ml

35g

35g

1 tsp

1 tsp

Water

Dairy free “milk” chocolate (broken into chunks)

Chopped pecan nuts

Baking powder

Vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Then, simply mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and cocoa powder together, before adding  the oil, water and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly until a smooth glossy batter is formed. Then fold in the nuts and chocolate chunks.

Pour the mix into a lightly greased 7 x 7” baking tin and bake for 20 mins. I turned the tin around after 10 mins to ensure an even bake.

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Before…

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…and after

Allow to cool before cutting into 8 triangles.

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Enjoy with a nice cuppa 🙂

 

Flash-Gordonette….X

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49. Fryangles!

I should be ashamed to admit how much the title amused me. My Daddy would be proud. The rest of the world, not so much. But who cares? I thought it was punny! 😉

On Thursday night I met up with some good buds and met some fab new folks too. We went to a vegetation Indian restaurant in Withington (http://www.sanskrutirestaurant.co.uk/) and I couldn’t write a blog entry without mentioning how amazing the food was! I was especially bowled over by the choice of vegan ice cream for pudding. I went for the wild blueberry, yum! (http://lovefoodheaven.com/).

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Anyway, me and the hubby usually either go out on a Friday night or order takeaway. But since I’d been out the night before I figured I’d best cook and use up the sweet potatoes I’ve been hoarding for weeks. But I wanted something dirty and hence Fryangles were born!

Smooth on the inside, crunchy on the outside, these little fried triangles are much tastier than armadillos and a lot less cruel too 😉

 

Filling

Ingredients (Makes ~ 40):

2 x sweet potatoes
1 x tsp chilli flakes (more if you like it spicy!)
1 x tsp garlic powder
½  x tsp ground ginger
½ x tsp ground cumin
½ x tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

Prick the sweet potatoes all over and bake in the oven at 180oC until soft all the way through inside (will take 30 – 45 mins). Take out of the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Peel and pop the flesh into a bowl.

Add the other ingredients to the potato and mash until smooth.

 

Dough

Ingredients: 

2 x cups flour
¾ x cup boiling water
Pinch of salt

Method:

The dough is super easy. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and mix with a metal spoon. Once combined knead with your hands until a smooth elastic dough is formed.

Roll out as thinly as possible (use a small sprinkling of flour if things get sticky) and use a square pastry cutter to stamp out as many squares as possible.

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Fryangles:

Method:

Add a teaspoon sized dollop of the sweet potato mix to the centre of each square. To make the triangle, pick up the square so you’re holding the centre (like how I’d imagine you’d begin to roll a cigarette?!) and fold diagonally. Press the sides together to seal them.

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Deep fry the Fryangles at 190oC until they are golden brown and floating. Drain and serve.

I served mine with a sfv chip-shop curry sauce. They were deeeelicous and even omni husband was in his element – he went back for seconds!

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And if you’re more health conscious than me, you can always fold your Fryangles into a tortellini shape and boil them instead. This creates a kind of pasta – dumping hybrid. Stodgy but satisfying!

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Flash-Gordonette…x

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47. Brackenborough Arms (Louth)

I had a bitter sweet day today.

We’ve hung onto my little brother’s, Nan’s and Granddad’s ashes for a few years now, wondering what to do with them. Finally we decided that we would sprinkle them into the pond where my Granddad was chairman. We had many a happy time sitting in my Grandparents’ little caravan, eating our dinner and watching the wildlife.

So off me, my mum, dad, auntie, her husband and my husband trundled off to Lincolnshire. Fortunately the weather remained dry and although it was a sad occasion, it was still nice to spend the day with my family.

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My mum had booked us into the restaurant at the Brackenborough Arms Hotel in Louth for dinner (http://www.oakridgehotels.co.uk/?site=2). When I found out I Facebooked them and asked if they’d be able to cater for a vegan. The lovely Lady who replied was very helpful, answering all my questions and discussing my dietary requirements with the chef.

I was provided with the following food and couldn’t have been happier. It was so refreshing not to be offered the usual veg soup starter, aubergine/ courgette based main and soggy fruit salad pudding.

 

Starter:

To begin with I was presented with a lovely tomato and parmesan-free basil pesto salad. Sounds a little boring but the tomatoes were a traffic-light display of red, yellow and green slices, perfectly seasoned with sea salt.

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Main:

Main was a five bean cassoulet served with wild garlic & olive oil mash. I’m not usually a mash fan but you could really taste the garlic. The cassoulet was very tasty; I think I could have eaten another two portions!

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Dessert:

Pudding was fantastic! A lime and coconut pannacotta – made with coconut milk. Being paranoid I asked them to confirm that it wasn’t set with gelatine and was happy to find out that agar agar was used. Fabulous!

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So to summarize, I just wanted to share my positive experience. It’s nice to know that with a little notice, some main-stream restaurants are more than happy to cater for vegans. Even better when they put as much effort into providing an original and interesting meal like the Brackenborough Arms did for me 🙂

 

Flash-Gordonette…X

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