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DianaB

Cooking from Meal Kits (Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot, Gousto, and so on)

103 posts in this topic

41 minutes ago, liamsaunt said:

Well, here is the latest snafu with my Purple Carrot TB12 meal kit.  I came home from work and there was no box!

 For most of us, as you quickly demonstrated, this would not be a true catastrophe. But I can see how for some people who depend on the service there might be no simple fallback plan.   It's not as if anybody is likely to starve but if you are challenged mentally or physically it would take an effort to recover. 

I hope you get to the bottom of it.  


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, liamsaunt said:

Well, here is the latest snafu with my Purple Carrot TB12 meal kit.  I came home from work and there was no box!  According to FedEx tracking it was delivered to the front door this morning.  I suppose someone could have taken it, but I am skeptical.  My house is on a cul de sac that is not off a main road and my driveway is so long that you can't even see the house from the street.  It's pretty unlikely that someone looking to steal packages would have ventured up here.  I have an email in to Purple Carrot and we will see what they say.

 

this happened to me with an order of Darwin's frozen dog food.

My previous UPS driver retired and I was getting a new guy every visit.

I got an email that my package (30 lbs.) was delivered yet there was no package at my door.

I called Darwins and the CS person said she'd check with UPS.

Turns out the package was delivered to a neighbor.  Woman then suggested that I schlepp over and get the package from the neighbor.  I said no (I have a bad back and can't walk very far, let alone carrying a heavy package).  UPS driver appeared shortly and got the package to me.

Doesn't happen often here; we're a small town and most people know their way around.  And I get a lot of deliveries so unless the driver is new to the area the service is very good.

I do like that I get emails now announcing the deliveries otherwise they may sit at the door until I happen to upon them.

It has happened more often that I get mis-delivered mail, but even that is now a rarity.


Edited by lindag (log)

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My Schwan's delivery is coming today.  Not a meal kit, but it works better for me.

Today's is cod, chicken spinach ravioli (I got some Rao's marinara for it), garlic French bread, chicken cheese quesadillas, chocolate brownies, and ham and cheese omelets.  The quality has been very, very good and I can put my meals together anyway I like.  I'm only limited by the available space in my freezers!

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I heard back from Purple Carrot and got an apology and a refund.  I'm still not sure what happened, but I suspect that my usual FedEx driver is on vacation and the box went to one of my neighbors houses.  Of course, now I have to go food shopping.  Luckily I have the day off for a doctor's appointment so it's not as much of an inconvenience as it normally would be.  

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Wow!  I should have been checking in to egullet more often.  Thank you liamsaunt!  We recently started getting some purple carrot kits (mix of TB12 and non, depending on which menu looks better) and having missed the first few weeks of TB12, I wondered which recipes they were.  Thanks to you, now I know!

 

We've been using meal kits for over 2 years now.  We get between 6 and 9 meals a week from various services. We've tried Gobble, Blue Apron, Plated, Green Chef, Din (RIP, we loved you!), Chef'd, Sunbasket, and now Purple Carrot.  Have not tried PeachDish or Hello Fresh. My husband hates food waste, we are busy and eat out a lot, and prefer lots of vegetables and variety in our meals.  Meal kits are cheaper than eating out and usually provide more diverse vegetables than restaurants.  So they are a big win for us.

 

We started with Gobble first.  Still our most regular supplier, but they are nowhere near as amazing as the first year.  I'm finding most services get dumbed-down over time, in that the less common ingredients, bold spicing and spicy-hot ingredients start to go away.  Gobble used to have amazing garnishes, more aggressive spicing, and more diverse ingredients.  It has strongly tilted to meat and potatoes and chicken breast (which we don't like).  Probably because is the company grows, the customer base becomes more like USA average in taste and preference and this puts pressure on the company to deliver to that preference.  Just read Blue Apron comments from customers on the more interesting recipes -- "too spicy", "too weird", etc.  Unfortunate, but what can you do?  This problem likely doomed Din (a higher priced, extremely amazing and more exotic service out of SF with recipes from a set of rotating restaurant chefs). 

 

What makes Gobble our most-used service is that they are halfway between you-cook-it-all and just-heat-it-up meals.  Many sauces are pre-prepared.  Longer cooking ingredients (rice, potatoes) often come pre-cooked and you heat them up.  Some veggies are pre-chopped.  So meals take just 15-20 minutes to make.  And better than a frozen dinner.  They also let you choose the number of dishes you want from a set of 7 recipes provided you get at least 2 (each serving 2 people).  So you can get the typical 3 different dishes, or just 2, or even 4 or more .  And you can double, triple up.  Say this week has your favorite pork tenderloin with carrot-ginger puree (bring it back, Gobble! the chicken breast version was just sad) -- you can get 2 of them and 1 of something else.  They also have interesting soups and sides as an add on sometimes.

 

Sunbasket is our next favorite.  More labor intensive than Gobble, but often more interesting.  You must order 3 dishes and only 3, but can double/triple up.  More organic and carefully sourced ingredients.

 

I liked Blue Apron but you can't freely pick your 3 dishes (as soon as you pick a dish from the offerings, others are made not available to pick -- not all combinations are available).  We like vegetarian dishes and found that our most wanted veggie dish was usually only available if you choose all vegetarian and we also usually want one fish or meat dish as well.  I've heard they are running a trial of more flexible offerings so we may re-try them when/if that rolls out to everyone.

 

Chef'd is neat since you can order from their entire set of possible offerings and don't need to subscribe.  But I found the ingredients to be lesser quality and the fish to be less fresh than the others.

 

Right now, Purple Carrot has been impressing us.  Beet curry?  Sauteed radishes?  Sauteed chayote? Brazil-nut 'kung pao' with shiso leaves? Yeah! Bring it.


Edited by SJMitch (log)
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With the hundreds of meals we've had, we are used to the not-so-good parts.  And they are significant.

 

All services have had missed ingredients, cracked eggs and sauce containers, and arrived with not-frozen meats/fish at times.  Since we get 6-9 meals,  there's always something else to cook if one dish or one service messes up.  All have provided credits.

 

We've eaten lots of bad dishes, although we are very tolerant if the service is taking a chance on something really unusual (no risk, no reward!).  We are now wary of recommending them to friends since, especially with Gobble, we can go through a few weeks with excellent dishes and then get months of mediocre or worse.  We had one friend try and sure enough they got one of the worst dishes Gobble has likely offered.  They complained and Gobble offered them a second try (this was all from a free week offer) and when they told me they picked korean beef, I knew it would go badly again.  I have a good sense now of what Gobble dishes we will like and which not.  I knew to avoid that one.  Embarrassing to talk up the service and then have them get some really not-good meals.  Oh well.  In fact, we lucked out our first 3 weeks of Gobble and they blew us away with how good they were.  We would never have seen what they are capable of if our experience had been like our friends'.  That said, we never get really impressed by Gobble anymore, but they are often decent-to-good.

 

Because of the occasional non-frozen arrival of meat/fish, I think a big bacterial food incident is likely to happen sooner or later.  Already the meal kit packing warehouses are pushing back on health agencies who are starting to crack down on their food handling processes.  Not good.  I'd like to see them adopt higher standards.  

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OK, this is a more pedestrian dish from sunbasket, but it's what we had for lunch today (#8 of our 9 dishes that arrived mid last week).  Steak romanesco with baby kale, olive, and artichoke salad (to which I added pear, tomato, almonds and parmesan).  It's one of their 20-minute faster recipes.  Their pre-prepared romanesco is very good.  The sirloin was decent (I had mine rare, my husband's, here, is well-done).

 

steakromanescocrop.jpg


Edited by SJMitch (log)
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And from Saturday, the Beet and Cauliflower Curry from Purple Carrot.  It was supposed to be served with a peanut-hemp brittle, but the directions said to bake for 15-18 minutes and ours was burnt in less than 10 minutes.  So I added almonds and dried fruit to the brown rice (which I'd cooked with chicken stock instead of water -- oh, oh, not vegan anymore.  :-)  ).

 

 

ourphoto.jpg

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Thanks for sharing, @SJMitch!  You raise a good point about the importance of being able to deliver flawlessly (or close to) on initial orders in order to keep customers.  

 

I also totally agree with your observation about offerings trending towards a least common denominator as they expand. Personally, I'd like a service to give me meal-sized portions of unusual ingredients to sample and play with but I've heard the "too weird" comments from friends about Blue Apron meals, too, so I suspect I'm in the minority.

 

I've been curious about Sun Basket since they offered a set of Paula Wolfert dishes a few months back. Their menus are generally appealing to me but I haven't tried them.  I notice that they offer a breakfast option (2 breakfasts subbing for a dinner choice - one a smoothie and the second breakfast was something eggy or otherwise breakfast-y. I haven't seen that from other services and thought it was an interesting option.  Have you tried any of their breakfasts?

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22 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

 Have you tried any of their breakfasts?

 

I'm not a big fan of most breakfast foods or smoothies so not the best person to ask, but we've gotten a couple of the breakfasts.  Usually when they have chilaquiles or overnight oatmeal/chia pudding type dishes.  It's a good value when it's something you want. 

 

Not sure if I snapped a pic of them or not.  Probably not.  We've been taking more lately to show my husband's parents in China what we are eating.  They live in Shanghai with out-of-this-world food available (Taian Table, we will be back!), but mostly eat traditional home meals.  But, oh, now there's a breakfast I could go for everyday! Shanghai crepes with crispy crackers, egg, onions and sauce inside!  Miss those.  Or even just the drink-through-a-straw cups of tofu soup.  

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Here's a recent Gobble hit:

 

Shrimp with roasted tomato chutney and chimichurri sauce over pearl couscous.  This dish shows the strengths of the Gobble method.  The pearl couscous was precooked and heated up in a microwave extremely well, it was not gummy.  The two sauces (tomato chutney and chimicurri) were pre-made so the dish was very quick to make. These sauces also benefited from being made in advance so the flavors meld more.  Shrimp arrived frozen and can be thawed quickly right before prep.

 

Recipe card

IMG_20170609_130224.jpg

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And here's a less-pedestrian Sunbasket highlighting some of their strengths.  Mediterranean cod stew with broccoli. 

 

Their strength (when they hit it) is lots of good ingredients: ample almonds to add to the broccoli side dish, a section of preserved lemon for traditional flavor (preserved lemon keeps but I just don't use it that often, so this is perfect), anchovies (yes!), marash chili flakes, fresh oregano and parsley (I always have fresh herbs go bad when I buy them because I don't use the whole bunch fast enough), and just a Tbsp of tomato paste (another ingredient I have trouble using up fast enough or remembering to freeze, etc).

 

recipe card

IMG_20170609_192019.jpg

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BTW, if anyone is thinking of trying any of these services, do a search first on first-timer discounts!  They all have something (except TB12, I think, regular Purple Carrot, yes). Sometimes referral codes give better deals, sometimes not  (just ask anyone who is a subscriber).  

 

I sometimes have offers for a completely free week ($72 value, 3 meals for 2 people) of Gobble (I don't think I get anything in return for those -- sometimes a cookie, literally).  But if you do ask Gobble subscriber if they have any free week offers, be 100% sure you are (1) a new subscriber and (2) will absolutely sign up right away.  Those offers are limited and use-it-or-lose-it.  

 

Also, be prepared to go into the service and skip shipments for all weeks following the initial one so you are not surprised by an unwanted shipment and charge to your card.  And if it is not for you, cancel right away!  Some services make cancelling a pain.  Sun Basket, for example, requires them to call you to talk you out of it first (though they put a temporary hold till they get in touch).  Yuck.

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Here is today's dinner, the last of our 9 dishes: Jerk Tempeh Tostadas from Purple Carrot (TB12).

 

Jerk Tempeh Tostada Recipe Card

 

If you take a look at the recipe card, you can clearly see they made the dish with hand-made tortillas for the official card photo.  We got machine-made ones.  Bah.  A good Mexican place is next to my favorite coffee shop, so I picked up some just-made tortillas on my way home.  My husband swiped one of them before the dish was done, so I gave him one of the machine-made ones as a replacement.  :-)   You can see our results with the machine-made tortilla from the box on the right and the two hand-made ones left and middle.

 

The dish made two salsas: a cooked and blended tomatillo sauce (I used a food processor) and a fresh mango salsa.  We served extra salsa on the side.  At the bottom of the stack of yummy ingredients is swiss chard.  I added onions, garlic, and Tajin clasico seasoning when cooking the chard for another layer of chile taste and to brighten the dish more (fresh serrano in the tomatillo salsa, fresh fresno in the mango salsa).

 

 

ourdish.jpg


Edited by SJMitch (log)
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15 hours ago, SJMitch said:

BTW, here's the article I read about meal packing warehouses and food regulations:

 

Meal Kit Food Handling Regulations

 

And warning on bacterial risk when not arriving cold enough:

 

Food safety in home delivered foods

 

 

 

I have to admit that one of the appealing things about the TB12 boxes is that they are vegan, so I am not as concerned about food safety as I would be if there were meat or fish included.  Obviously, temperature can still be an issue with vegan foods, but I think you have a little more wiggle room with kale than you do with beef.  When I get home tonight I will take a temperature reading of this week's box and report that back.  It does sit on my steps for about 8 hours before I get to it.

 

I did find last week's box eventually.  It was delivered to the door of a house on a nearby street that has the same house number as mine.  The regular FedEx guy must be on vacation.   I just happened to notice the box on their stoop when driving by on Tuesday.  Knowing that the family at the other house has been traveling for a few months, and wanting to deal with the box before it completely rotted, I brought it back to my house and opened it up.  At that point it had been sitting on their stoop for about 36 hours.  The inside temperature of the box was 74 degrees.  Given that it had been 92 the day before and was in the high 80s that day I was surprised it was as cool as it was.  Of course, the produce was all wilted and had to be thrown away (with the exception of a beet and a mango).  I was also able to salvage two cans of coconut milk, a box of Banza pasta, and a bag of brown rice.  I'll be checking their stoop for my box when I drive in to my neighborhood this evening :-)

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23 hours ago, SJMitch said:

Sunbasket is our next favorite.  More labor intensive than Gobble, but often more interesting.  You must order 3 dishes and only 3, but can double/triple up.  More organic and carefully sourced ingredients.

 

Update: Sunbasket recently changed it so now you can get either 2 or 3 meals (but not 4 or more).  If you get just 2, they are $1 extra per serving (or $2 extra per meal-for-two).  In comparison, ordering just 2 dishes from Gobble increases the price $2 per serving, or $4 per meal-for-two.

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On 6/19/2017 at 11:34 AM, SJMitch said:

I liked Blue Apron but you can't freely pick your 3 dishes (as soon as you pick a dish from the offerings, others are made not available to pick -- not all combinations are available).  We like vegetarian dishes and found that our most wanted veggie dish was usually only available if you choose all vegetarian and we also usually want one fish or meat dish as well.  I've heard they are running a trial of more flexible offerings so we may re-try them when/if that rolls out to everyone.

 

Hunh. How timely. Just got email this morning that they've now rolled this change out to many more areas including mine. I had emailed them last month asking to join a trial if available, but nope.  Now I can pick from 8 different meals in any combinations (no doubling up) but they still limit you to exactly 3 dishes.  I just re-signed up.  

 

And an upcoming meal features chicken thigh, not breast.  Yes!  Now if only Gobble would stop having every single chicken dish be chicken breast.

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We just got Purple Carrot (non-TB12 this week) this morning.  They currently arrive very early, so very fresh.  Delivery over the months/years for each service has varied.  Early morning arrival is best.  Gobble used to arrive early, but was very late for awhile and is now late afternoon/early evening.  Sunbasket just changed their delivery day to Monday for us, so we'll see what time of day we now get it.  So for freshness, you might need to try several services to see who currently has a good delivery for you (but keep in mind it can change).

 

We switched to the non-TB12 menu this week because they have corn risotto on the regular menu.  TB12 had it recently with roasted artichokes and it was delicious (although I wouldn't call it a risotto, personally)!

 

Purple Carrot Corn Risotto with Artichokes

myphoto.jpg


Edited by SJMitch (log)
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17 hours ago, liamsaunt said:

I did find last week's box eventually.  It was delivered to the door of a house on a nearby street that has the same house number as mine.  ...  Of course, the produce was all wilted and had to be thrown away (with the exception of a beet and a mango).  I was also able to salvage two cans of coconut milk, a box of Banza pasta, and a bag of brown rice.  I'll be checking their stoop for my box when I drive in to my neighborhood this evening :-)

 

I'm assuming that's the beet for the curry and the mango for the tostadas? 

 

Wait, what?  Cans of coconut milk?  You get that instead of the coconut "cloud" powder?

 

Gobble arrived early evening right before dinner.  The beef and fish was icy cold but no longer frozen (still safe).  But we decided to eat the fish right away.  As is common now with Gobble, we often augment the recipes.  This dish was tilapia served with rice and cabbage slaw.  

 

The rice was precooked and is always so-so, but this one was nicely cilantro-flavored.  We had a tub of fresh slaw from Whole Foods (with not just cabbage, but also kale and red peppers) with flavoring similar to the provided citrus-cumin flavored slaw so we mixed the two (more veggies, more betta).  The Gobble meal came with cilantro butter, garlic confit, a fresno chili and fresh limes to make the sauce for the top of the fish but we added spice rub to the fish as well.  The photo here is my portion, I give my husband over half the dish generally (this is probably about 2/5 of the overall amount made).

 

594a26ba1658c_tilapiaandslaw.jpg.22fdca8696aa8998bb165d3813486eba.jpg

 

Tilapia and Cilantro Rice Instruction Card

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3 hours ago, SJMitch said:

 

I'm assuming that's the beet for the curry and the mango for the tostadas? 

 

Wait, what?  Cans of coconut milk?  You get that instead of the coconut "cloud" powder?

 

 

I assume so.  I have gotten the coconut cloud powder before but this time received two cans of coconut milk.  I have not looked at the receipt cards yet to see what they were meant for.

 

Last night's TB12 ingredients:

 

594a571211e0e_hawaiianbowlingredients.thumb.jpg.c48501a2fb2d73b8517181ab812fb853.jpg

 

Brown rice is cooked and then tossed with hemp seeds.  Cucumber and avocado are diced.  Plantain is peeled and sautéed, then salted.  Coconut chips are toasted. A dressing is made from coconut vinegar, guava paste, and sambal.  All are plated with butter lettuce, topped with cabbage and macadamia nuts.  You can eat it as a salad or as lettuce wraps.  I added a piece of Faroe Island salmon from my fish share.

 

594a5715e66a0_hawaiianbowl.thumb.jpg.955462e269c80f06b2ad8eea1cbd5f75.jpg

 

Verdict: very tasty, and there's enough left for two lunches.

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7 hours ago, liamsaunt said:

Brown rice is cooked and then tossed with hemp seeds.  Cucumber and avocado are diced.  Plantain is peeled and sautéed, then salted.  Coconut chips are toasted. A dressing is made from coconut vinegar, guava paste, and sambal.  All are plated with butter lettuce, topped with cabbage and macadamia nuts.  You can eat it as a salad or as lettuce wraps.  I added a piece of Faroe Island salmon from my fish share.

 

This is what I really like about Purple Carrot so far: less usual ingredients (that I'm unlikely to have on hand) like guava paste and macadamia nuts.  They've featured plantains a couple times already and I'm thinking of doing them cuban-style next time (twice cooked, with chunks smashed in-between cookings to give extra surface area for the final frying).  I hadn't realized my husband never tried the non-sweet ones before so we really enjoyed that.  I used to cook regularly with a partner with a Cuban background so I'm more used to having them. 

 

What I also really like about both Sun Basket and Purple Carrot is that they give you full recipes with amounts so you can make the dish yourself again later.  And for those who like the Paprika Recipe Manager, both sites' online recipe cards import easily with the Paprika bookmarklet.

 

Also, for pre-prepared ingredients like, say, lemongrass paste from Sun Basket, they are very forthcoming with recipes if you request.  And personable: when I requested the lemongrass paste recently, they emailed back to say that two of my recent dishes had the lemongrass paste in them and the ingredients slightly different and here are the two versions!

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Phew,  I just went back and imported all the recipes from the first year we used Sun Basket into Paprika Recipe Manager.  We've ordered 176 meals from Sun Basket consisting of 139 different recipes. 16 of them we had twice, 9 of them 3 times, and one 4 times.  I did not count extra dishes were we doubled up during the same week since that's a bit more of pain to figure out.

 

Some dishes are just minor variations.  E.g. we like their turkey meatballs.  We've had: Gingered Turkey Meatballs in Coconut Milk Broth, Gingered Turkey Meatballs in Japanese Mushroom Broth, Gingered Turkey Meatballs in Lemongrass Broth (the best!) and then the versions 'dry' with cauliflower: Middle Eastern Turkey Meatballs with Cauliflower "Couscous", and Tomato-Braised Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini and Curried Cauliflower (had this 4 different times!).  It's also extremely likely we doubled up on many of these, so we've eaten a lot of their turkey meatballs.  

 

I think that means I should just keep ingredients on hand to make them myself! For the 'dry' versions with riced/minced cauliflower, stores now sell cauliflower pre-minced, so no need to break out the blender.  Sun Basket initially sent whole heads of caulflower in the early days, but now ships it minced for recipes that call for it.

 

 


Edited by SJMitch Added links to recipes, noticed last two were same dish with different names (log)

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Two more dinners.  Last night was Gobble -- one of the meat+starch meals Flank Steak with Polenta   Way too much meat. I had mine medium rare and my husbands was done well done.  So much polenta and beef.  Very little veggies so we added more tomatoes, tri-color new potatoes, and asparagus.

 

flanksteakrare.jpg.734cb30983468186b7cd50e0f521e45b.jpg594c8f1c15860_flanksteakwelldone-002.jpg.ed08777314027a63cf2e591e768c1d41.jpg

 

Now that we have Purple Carrot and Blue Apron in rotation, I'm probably going to cut back on Gobble (although it is convenient to have them since they are quick to prepare).

 

Purple Carrot, regular meal (not TB12) was tonight.  Maple Tempeh with Couscous and Plums.  The asparagus was mixed in raw to the couscous but worked great!  The marinade on the tempeh was quite tasty.  Bright flavors with plum, fresh mint, juice from two limes, garlic, and scallions.  Couscous also had crunch from toasted almonds (I later added more the top, but after I snapped the photo!)

 

mapletempeh.jpg.d046afd5fd02bb046e4b14893b4b773c.jpg

 

 

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