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I can’t help it…when autumn strikes, I crave the foods that the season brings…like pumpkin, squash, apples and pears.

And since I haven’t shared a cooking post in the longest time, I thought it a fine time to do just that!

First I made stuffed acorn squash (using a variation of this recipe)…

And then warm pear gorgonzola salad (that I just throw together with this salad dressing)…

Butternut squash soup (using a take on this version)…

And pumpkin pancakes (love this recipe!)…

I also made an apple pecan cobbler (didn’t take photos) and have been drinking copious amounts of pumpkin coffee and salted caramel hot chocolates.  Oh yeah, feeling the bloat ;)

What kind of foods do you have to have in the fall???

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I love me some citrus, I love me some berry, but even better in the hot, summer months, is the combination of both!

I think that’s why I keep talking about this freezer jam recipe that I landed upon recently – it marries berries and lemon so beautifully with the lemon enhancing the flavors of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

So after making my last batch, I had a bunch of strawberries and blueberries leftover and was thrilled to find a lemon berry shortcake recipe on allrecipes.com

Strawberry Lemon Shortcake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • SHORTCAKE:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 3 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • LEMON BUTTER:
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • WHIPPED CREAM:
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
 Directions
  1. In a small bowl, combine strawberries and sugar; cover and refrigerate until serving.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the milk, egg yolk and lemon peel; stir into crumb mixture until a soft dough forms (dough will be sticky).
  3. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 10 times. Divide dough in half. Gently pat or roll each half into a 3/4-in.-thick circle. Place 2 in. apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack; cool for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine butter and lemon peel; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form.
  5. To assemble, split shortcakes in half. Place cake bottoms on dessert plates; spread with lemon butter, then top each with a fourth of the strawberries and whipped cream. Cover with shortcake top and remaining berries and cream.

Oh Em Gee – this is soooo good!

We enjoyed this on the deck following a hearty grilled steak and loaded baked potatoes.  It was light yet so satisfying…

I would have taken more pictures, but I actually caught my foot on a piece of splintered wood that had unknowingly peeled up off our deck and well, after pulling that puppy out and then digging the stuck splinter, let’s just say I was not in a photographic mood!

With the same meal, we sucked down a mint limeade I made earlier in the day which was also awesome and so refreshing on a hot day and together we drank a half gallon of this drink reminiscent of an alcohol-free mojito.

Mint Limemade (makes 1 gallon)

  • 8 limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint (I used 1/2 of the 1 oz. container in the store)
  • 1 gallon water

Mix together (but here’s a tip, although I did it for decoration in my glass, I don’t recommend keeping sliced limes in your gallon as it turns the taste bitter the next day; keeping the mint in there is no problem though).

Yup, me thinks I’ll be making both of these often this summer!

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Recently we purchased a boat load of fruit…and not just because I was craving fruit salad with the rising temperatures, but because I also need to make more freezer jam as the batch I made only 6 weeks ago is already gone (and we only gave one of the 6 pints away!) and using frozen fruit this time of year seems blasphemous.  But David also mentioned that he’d like some fruit with his yogurt, something he often does with granola.

So it got me thinking, “why don’t I just make some from scratch?”  I don’t know why I haven’t thought of that before; if you’ve followed me for a while you know that I’m always trying to think of new ways to make he very items we normally purchase packaged.  And granola is quite expensive in the store and there’s nothing quite like warm, homemade granola!

I embarked on a search by checking my favorite place, AllRecipes.com, and made a simple, no-fuss recipe that would pair well with fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt.  I combined a couple recipes, took reviewer comments into consideration and focused on the two main ingredients David was interested in (maple and walnuts).

Though it takes a bit of tending to once in the oven to prevent burning, it really couldn’t be simpler to make.

Homemade Maple Walnut Granola

  • 4 c. rolled (not quick) oatmeal
  • 2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 c. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of cinnamon
  • sprinkle of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix oatmeal and nuts in one bowl; in another bowl, mix oil, syrup, vanilla and cinnamon.  Add wet ingredients to dry mix and combine thoroughly.  Spread onto 2 ungreased cookie sheets (I put mine on parchment paper on top of the cookie sheets per one reviewer, but found it unnecessary).  Lightly sprinkle sea salt on top of mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 10 min.  Then lower oven temperature to 250 and bake for 30 more minutes, stopping every 10 minutes to stir the mix.  It will smell AWESOME in your home…trust me.

Let cool completely before storing in mason jars (but not before enjoying!)

David wanted a large bowl of yogurt, fruit and granola.  Me?  Not being a huge yogurt or granola fan, I went for a smaller portion and made a pretty parfait out of it (and I must admit, I was smitten!)

David said he is also interested in a version with honey and almonds which is what I’ll make next in lieu of maple and walnuts; I’m betting it’ll be just as good.

Enjoy!

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It’s no surprise I have a sweet tooth.  I concede…I’m French Canadian.  Maple runs in my blood.  I’m just meant to crave the delightfully sinful stuff.

And I haphazardly bake despite my high altitude restrictions.  They don’t need to look pretty, they just need to taste good!

And this plate of goodies would have you thinking that I went on a baking spree, right?  Actually, this is a result of my cumulative baking efforts over the past 2 months.  Since it’s just the two of us, we always have too much to consume, so I always freeze about 3/4 of my batches after I make them.  That way, we get to enjoy the treats when they are fresh, but have only enough to satisfy our cravings before we get sick of them.  And then we get to enjoy them again at a later date without any effort put forth (and I swear they taste just as good…that’s if you use them up within in a couple months…I wouldn’t push it too much).

I find the best way is to put each muffin, cupcake or bar on a cookie sheet (fruit/cookie bars should be individually cut up and place on a sheet of wax paper atop the cookie sheet) and into the freezer for several hours or even overnight (a deep freezer/chest freezer is best as it will help to flash freeze the product).  I then take my frozen treats and place them into freezer ziploc bags and release as much air from the bag as possible.

Then all I’d have to do is take a sweet out of the freezer and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so (if I planned ahead) or throw in the microwave for a few seconds if I was impatient or didn’t plan ahead.  But now with the accumulation of baked goods over time, I now have an assortment of goodies for us to enjoy over the next couple of days.  It’s brilliant I tell ya!

Now, I just have to share with you the best jam recipe…and it’s so stinkin’ easy.  No cooking, no canning.  And you don’t even need fresh fruit!  It’s called freezer jam and you literally stir your ingredients, pour into jars and stick in the freezer for up to a year (or keep in your fridge for up to a month).

I had made freezer jam last year when I had a huge amount of blueberries on hand and we were getting tired of eating them.  David, having a former career in microbiology and fearing botulism, was weary of my canning anything.  Plus, I didn’t want to mess with the process.  I’m all about easy-peasy!

So I found a recipe somewhere (can’t recall where) and it came out pretty good…and sure enough, the batch lasted us almost a year.  But this time of year, we still don’t have lots of fresh fruit to pull from and I knew I had a bunch of bags of frozen fruit in the freezer that were once destined to get into healthful fruit smoothies, but alas were succumbing to freezer burn if I let them sit in there any longer.

Whenever I get the “I-wonder-if-I-can do…” moments, I start googling.  Google is my friend and has really helped me to be resourceful over the years.  So I started googling freezer jam with frozen fruit and everything required pectin.  So I picked some up at the grocery store and even found one by Ball specifically made for freezer jam.

Here is the their online recipe…I love it because it’s not too sweet, the addition of lemon zest imparts a wonderful clean/tangy flavor and it could not be easier.

For my recipe, I had two bags of frozen mixed berries and one bag of raspberries on hand, so that’s what I used; (I’m not sure exact size, but I’m thinking 10 oz?  Whatever the standard size is in the grocery store).  This amount was perfect to reach the 4 cups of fruit required.  I defrosted them a bit then gave them a whirl in my food processor to make it less chunky.  Added in the water/sugar/pectin mix and that’s it.  Done.

David and I were shocked at how good it was and have already polished one 8oz. jar.  A couple days later, I brought one jar to a friend with some scones and she, leaving the next day for a week long trip, sent me home with all the leftovers, except for the jam which she demanded to keep (to which I happily obliged!).  Seriously good, folks…you gotta try!

Have I mentioned I’m a really messy cook/baker?  It’s pretty bad.  But I’m good to clean it all up once I’m done…just don’t have the “use it and put it right away” mentality.

Finally, I checked out my favorite bread book – from which my homemade bread recipe is from – out of the library again, for like the 3rd time!  Each time I plan to make more recipes but end up running out of time.  Now that things have slowed down, I have it flagged with recipes I’m hoping to try and share with you in the next couple weeks before it’s due back (which means I should just break down and purchase it since there are always a ton of holds on it and I can’t renew).  More good stuff…

Food is good and I’m getting too fat.  Is there such a thing as happy fat?  ;)

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God, I love a good chocolate cupcake.  In my attempts to make a new cupcake every week or so (I’m freezing half of my batches so I don’t gain 5 lbs. a week!), I decided to make a german chocolate cupcake last week.  I had a boxed cake mix in my cupboard (must have purchased during a sale and I’m really trying to use up food in my cupboards/pantries right now) so I decided I would use it up and then wow it with a homemade frosting.  Just as I anticipated, the cake was meh…bland and boring.  But the frosting which I found here on AllRecipes.com was outstanding (a bit time intensive to cook, but worth it).

In the end, I decided the frosting wasn’t enough to carry the cupcake so I didn’t blog about it and frankly ate a couple and was done.  So this week, I decided to go back to scratch and create a through and through chocolate cupcake.

I poured over a variety of recipes but decided to go back to my ol’ favorite chocolate cake recipe: the one on the back of the Hershey’s can (and can also be found here).  This recipe doesn’t disappoint and while the frosting doesn’t yield a huge amount (in other words, too little to pipe), it’s so rich, it’s like a sliver of ganache atop these mini cakes and is plenty enough (may not be the prettiest cupcake, but it is goo-ood!).

Of course I didn’t get that beautiful rounded cupcake either, but I’ve given up that hope being in the high altitude.  I’m just happy if they’re edible and these were beyond edible.  They are addicting, I’ve already had two three today and wanting another!  As she breaks out the Wi Fitness…

While I had these cooling for frosting, I started on a big pot of tortellini soup with veggie broth I made last weekend.  I’ve talked lots in the past about the DIY veggie broth I often make.  It just kills me how easy this is and with this last batch I not only used frozen scraps, but also tossed in some leftover parsley that had been sitting in the fridge too long and a couple mushrooms that were beginning to shrivel.  That’s what I love about veggie broth; it uses up items before they go south.

This was after only boiling for 30 minutes; it was so potent and flavorful, I poured out, refilled the pot and boiled a second batch using the original scraps for another hour and a half and ended up with a little over 2 gallons in all.  I froze half and used the other half to make my soup today:

And while digging in my pantry, what did I find?

I had these potatoes hanging in a nice, breathable tote bag hanging on the inside of my pantry door and conveniently forgot about them for about 2 months!  The longer shoots measure about 18″!  I was sad to see food go to waste, but it did provide a bit of comic relief to my day, LOL!

After cooking/baking, I was able to enjoy the beautiful sunny 70 degree weather while painting…what an awesome day!  Come back on Wednesday to see what I worked on.  Now go make cupcakes and broth, pronto :)

 

 

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The nutritionists/dieticians of the world will likely disagree with me, but food is a way to show love in my book…

As previously mentioned David was dealing with a family emergency last week and by the time he returned home on Friday, he was fried.  So I really tried to make it a fun, relaxing weekend for him and took both Friday and Saturday off.  Having two days off in a row was divine and such a treat.  We literally lounged in our bed for hours on Friday, just rehashing the week and decompressing.  Sometimes its easy to have the TV on all the time and be in each other’s presence, but not connect.  But to really have a deep conversation for hours with no distractions is wonderful.  Connects you on a whole new level.

And in addition to listening, I cooked.  I knew it would be another way to perk up David’s spirits.  Poor guy has eaten awful buffet food every single day for a week+ (no choice of his own) and I knew he’d be hankering for some homemade meals.  so I made cilantro lime pulled pork with baked macaroni and cheese and buttered corn (so bad for the diet, so good for the soul!).  And pumpkin pancakes with bacon.  And mushroom prosciutto quiche.

And…pumpkin spiced cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Oh yum.

You may recall a little while back I was raving about Gigi’s cupcakes.  They really are that fantastic.  But pricey at $20+ for 6 cupcakes.  Surely I could make my own you would probably think.  However, high altitude baking is a NIGHTMARE!  More flour, less sugar, more water, less baking powder, lower, slower temperature…what a pain in the ars.  And I’ve tried countless times only to have burned, pitted cupcakes.  The high altitude (8,300 feet) just is not compatible with easy baking.

But…in my strong desire to make the cucpake we like the most at Gigi’s (Pumpkin cream), I decided to give it another go…and to what my wondering eyes did I see?  A perfectly cooked, perfectly risen (at least what I’m used to!) cupcake!  Allelujah!

This is magic I tell ya!  (hey, it’s the little things in life, right?)

And since I don’t have any fancy pastry bags/piping tools, I used a good ol’ ziploc bag to pipe the delectable frosting…

It ain’t fancy but’ll do just fine.  And the restless soul of a husband that came home on Friday, had perked back up by Monday morning.  I’d like to think it was being home, being surrounded by love and being fed with love!

The full recipe can be found here at AllRecipes.com

Now I’ve already started planning a whole cupcake line-up…chocolate, maple, champagne strawberries, carrot cake… (voice trailing off)

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I could have alternatively titled this post “Diabetic Coma” but didn’t want to take the fun out of this annual treat ;)

Both my parents were born and raised in Quebec and moved to the states in the late 60s, specifically Connecticut.  Being that we were only a 5 1/2 hour drive to our Canadian families, we went back often – typically every couple of months.  Just like we all have favorite foods/flavors of our respective homelands, I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of maple products everywhere in Canada.  But one of my absolute favorites was maple taffy.

Not at all like traditional wrapped up taffy you see in candy stores, maple taffy is just another name for boiled down maple syrup which becomes a soft malleable texture after cooking the super heated liquid and pouring it over snow (hence the reason many New Englanders, particularly those in Vermont, call this treat “sugar on snow”).

Every spring we’d pick up small tubs of maple taffy to store in the freezer and keep us going throughout the year, but as long as you have snow (or even shaved ice that represent the consistency of snow cones) and REAL maple syrup (and a candy thermometer) then you’re good to go!

Since we got a good foot+ of snow over the past couple of days and because I had a couple extra cans of syrup my mom brought me from Canada, I figured it would be a good time to make this.

This is really simple to make but takes some time and a very watchful eye (as in, don’t leave the stove for about a 1/2 hour less you burn your taffy or worse yet, have a sticky, nearly impossible-to-remove goo all over your stovetop).

First pour approximately 2 cups of syrup into a medium saucepan (you can more or less depending on how much you want) and bring to a boil (this will happen relatively quickly, in a couple minutes, and you need to watch for this to happen as it will otherwise boil over).  Once it starts to boil, lower heat to medium-low so it continues to lightly boil (but doesn’t boil over; that last picture was a bit too close so I lowered heat even more)

While the syrup is boiling fill a large casserole dish with snow and pack it down really hard so that it almost represents an icy snowball; put in the freezer until it is needed; this will further harden it (and keep an extra batch of snow to the side to refill the dish as the hot syrup will naturally start to melt it and you’ll need to refill your dish

Simmer the syrup until it reaches 232 degrees (took me about a 1/2 hour, but then again water boils much slower at high altitude and I’m at 8,300′ feet); slowly pour over 1/3 of the syrup in the middle of the snow-packed casserole dish, spreading it out so it doesn’t puddle in one spot

Let syrup remain on snow for about 20-25 seconds, then pull it off the snow with a spoon (it will seamlessly  pull away as the snow has cooled it to a malleable consistency); put in glass bowl and refill casserole dish with more packed snow and continue process 2 more times with the remainder of syrup

Use spoons to twirl taffy around and enjoy in small doses!  As it cools/hardens even more, it will turn into a chewy taffy and even harden more so that it will be like a lollipop on a spoon

I warned you, this is not for the faint of heart (or for those with sugar issues!) but it’s a fun treat to make annually and as a way to enjoy the snow.  And for me, it brings me back to my New England/Canadian roots.  :)

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I don’t know about you, but we find that every holiday season, we purchase a container of eggnog, only to find it’s rich contents too much to finish.  There are only 2 of us here after all and we’re not exactly hosts of any holiday parties.  So the carton sits in the fridge for a couple weeks until I inevitably come across its spoiled contents sometime around the New Year.  Drats, I hate wasting food.

So this year, I decided to approach it differently – use most of it in a recipe then save the remainder of it for us to savor.  Perfect.  And eggnog french toast was just the ticket (and can I say, super easy peasy?).

Usually I buy Texas toast for a nice thick piece of french toast, but this year I spied “french toast” bread which has the same thickness as Texas toast but has a hint of spice and sweetness.  You can certainly use whatever bread you have on hand, but I really did love this loaf!

You can also use any ol’ egg nog (though I bet homemade tastes really good as would a pumpkin egg nog!)  I happily settled for Southern Comfort’s vanilla spice…mmm…

Okay, ready for the directions?  The ingredient list is intense.  Ready?

2 eggs for every 1.5 c. of eggnog and some cinnamon

Sorry, my kitchen stays dark until, oh...10 am or so!

*phew, that was tough!*

Okay, seriously speaking, I found that using 3 cups of eggnog and 4 eggs was the perfect ratio and covered the entire 22 oz. loaf of bread I had (however, if you are using less than a large 22oz. loaf, or more for a large gathering, then use the ratio of 2 eggs for every 1.5 c. of eggnog).

I sprinkled in some cinnamon into my eggnog/egg mix, soaked each side of bread for a couple seconds and cooked ‘em up!  That’s it.

I officially suck at food styling…need to take some hints from my girl over at Pioneer Woman!  Hopefully with more food posts coming down the pike, I’ll have some time to practice.

So go.  Make these this weekend (or Christmas morning?) and enjoy with your loved ones!

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Herb Grilled Artichokes

I must admit that my appreciation for eating whole artichokes did not develop until much later in life (as in 2 or 3 years ago).

Sure, I always loved artichoke dip and anything made with the stuff that came out of a can, but whole artichokes eaten leaf by leaf seemed too much work for such little (and often bland tasting) meat.  However, over the years and over shared appetizers at restaurants with girlfriends, I learned to appreciate this gem, even if only it was cooked and prepared by someone else.

I had always heard that cooking artichokes was a tedious process including trimming each leaf.  Too much work (and a wee bit intimidating, I thought) to mess with for just a vegetable and I was resigned to just enjoying when eating out.

That is, until I had a really incredible batch of herb grilled artichokes at a recent outing.  That experience, coupled with a great sale at my local grocers gave me the push I needed to give it a try.

I found this great recipe at AllRecipes.com and the rave reviews piqued my interest.  After reading through the instructions, it seemed simple enough and sure enough, the reviewers were right on; these were delicious and I was so glad I took the leap and gave the good ol’ whole artichoke a chance.

Now although simple, this recipe is a two-part process and thus requires a little bit of planning.  Though the leaves don’t need to be individually trimmed, the choke (or fuzzy inside part of the veg) needs to be cut out, then the artichoke halves boiled in a seasoned bath then grilled.  But believe me, it’s worth any minimal amount of trouble.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • 4 artichokes

Directions

  • Fill a stockpot to half full with water. Stir Italian seasoning, basil, thyme, liquid smoke, olive oil, salt, and white wine into water. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the mixture and drop the wedge into the pot. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Cut artichokes in half and remove fuzzy choke and internal purple leaves.

  • Add the artichoke halves to water and continue to boil 30-45 minutes (or until the flesh on the outer leaves is tender). Remove artichokes from water and drain.  You can refrigerate until ready to grill or move right to the grilling step.

  • Lightly coat the artichoke halves with cooking spray. Cook artichoke halves on grill until edges are slightly charred, 5-10 minutes.

  • Enjoy on own or with edges dipped in a garlic butter (1 tiny clove of garlic lightly cooked in 2 tbsp. of butter) or garlic aioli (I like to use this recipe)

Fear not the humble artichoke!

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Typically I favor a dessert with chocolate over anything else.  I’m not usually a fruity dessert kind of person.  But this recipe…it’s our favorite summertime dessert, hands down.

I first found this recipe at AllRecipes.com while looking for something cool and that I didn’t have to bake in a hot house.  David is also partial to citrus flavors so I decided to give it a try.  We loved it and continue to make it often (actually made this only 2 weeks ago and David requested it again as his “birthday cake” this week).

It’s so simple, it’s stupid…and takes about 5 minutes, 10 max to put it together.

I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over time, but here’s the original.  And here’s mine:

Ingredients:

8 oz. block of cream cheese, brought to room temperature

14 oz. can of sweetened, condensed milk

3 limes, zested and juiced

1.5 tsp. vanilla extract

8 oz. frozen whipped cream topping, thawed (or you can use fresh whipped cream or even canned whipped cream!)

1.5 c. graham cracker crumbs

6 tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:

Zest the outer peel of 3 limes, yielding a couple tablespoons and set aside.  Mix room temp. cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and juice of the 3 limes at a high speed for about 2 minutes.   Fold in 1/2 of the whipped cream and 1/2 of the lime zest to the mixture and set aside.  Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and form into pie plate.   Pour cheesecake mix onto pie crust, then top with remaining whipped cream and lime zest.  Cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow it to set.  Enjoy this cool treat on a hot day.

I didn't have enough good skins (i.e. older limes) to zest, otherwise I would've had about double this amount

 

I started with the rolling pin method to crushing my graham crackers but accidentally put it in a reused bag that had holes in it...

...then I resorted to the food processor!

 


I had leftover whipped cream in a can from my hot cocoa days, but it was dating soon, so I decided to use it in this batch; normally the top looks more smooth

Now, go make this!

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