Raw & Healthy (Tasty Too!) Peanut Butter Cookies

Time for another recipe. But first a little trip down the dietary memory lane.

Two years ago when I wrote about our homemade harvest/halloween party I mentioned that our family limits processed sweet treats to one serving each week.

We’re fairly hard core about what we consider processed sweets. Basically, if it’s not a whole plant food such as dried or fresh fruit, it’s a processed sweet.

I know this goes against many people’s opinions about the “healthfulness” of maple syrup and honey. I realize that honey has antibacterial and other "medicinal" properties and I do use it for sore throats and occasional herbal remedies. But the fact is, refined sweeteners are not nutrient dense foods (foods that promote health and longevity) and as such we limit them in our diet.

Drawing a boundary line against sweets while living in our society of excess and desserts at every-single-turn is difficult.  And sometimes the line gets smudgy.

The line got fairly smudgy during the last year and especially during our move.

One way we responded to the stress of moving was to reach for the sweets and other food pick-me-ups. But that is not the way we want to live or how we want to hardwire our children - using food to feel better emotionally.

We also don't want to set our children up (through example and upbringing) for a lifetime of reaching for processed sweets - sugar, brown sugar, sucanat, molasses, maple syrup, etc...on a daily basis.

After we moved we drew the line again. This hasn't been easy.

Taking back lost ground is never easy especially when you are living in someone else’s kitchen, even one as accommodating as my mother's. But our health matters to us. It’s one of our family’s core values.

And so we’re back to one processed sweet treat a week (or thereabouts) - homemade or bakery goods, ice cream, etc..

On a daily basis we eat dried, fresh and frozen fruits for sweets. And we allow ourselves a small smidge (I'm talking one teaspoon) of maple syrup on breakfast or in an afternoon lemonade or something.

When we backpack and need more calories we indulge with more honey, sucanat, and maple syrup sweetened foods. And in the spirit of full disclosure we also feast on a large, very un-vegan, calorie and fat laden meal when we come out of the woods after expending a lot of energy for days. There is a time and place for feasting, it just isn't everyday.

backpacking dried fruit mix

I say all that to preface this recipe (good grief that was a long preface).

But you need to understand that when I call these peanut butter cookies that’s what they are to my family. Really delicious, rich, sweet cookies.

Get on with the recipe already

I make this recipe or a variation of it a couple times per week. They are very easy to make and require no baking, though I do give that option in the notes. You’ll definitely need a food processor to chop and blend the dates.


  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup dates*, pitted
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ -1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste), I like to use a medium grain sea salt


  1. Blend walnuts in food processor till mealy. There should be not big chunks but don’t make it into flour either.
  2. Remove walnuts from food processor.
  3. Put dates and raisins in food processor and blend till in a smooth, smooshy ball (see above photo). If you are using a drier date* this could give your food processor quite a work out. 
  4. Add walnuts and remaining ingredients to food processor. Process till well mixed.
  5. Roll into balls and leave as is (peanut butter balls) or lay on large plate and press down with fork for a more “cookie” look. Cookies will be quite soft and crumbly.


  • Makes approximately 2 dozen tablespoon sized balls or cookies.
  • Can be baked for 7 minutes at 350F for a firmer cookie. In which case let cool completely or they will crumble also (I can never wait).
  • Peanut butter balls transport fairly well in a covered container but they don’t hold their shape so great and can get quite greasy from all the nut oils so I don’t recommend putting them in a baggie.

* About Dates

We are going through dates these days like nobody’s business.

Smooshed up dates are the base of most nut/dried fruit dessert type recipes. Mom and I just bought a 20 lb box through her natural and organic food club to help make this more affordable.

Medjool dates are by far the tastiest and best textured dates to eat “fresh” and they blend so well for making treats, like the crust in this pie recipe. They are also more expensive. So I am trying to use the less expensive “honey” dates or Neglet dates, as I've seen them called. They look like the Perny dates on this page. If you use this kind of date it will require more processing or blending (for sweetening drinks) than a softer date.

For more inspiration check out these recipes:

Just want to say also how much I love each of these blogs - thanks ladies for sharing such great recipes.

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  • Leslie

    Leslie on June 24, 2011, 12:43 p.m.

    Oh, Renee, thank you! We also highly limit our sweets, and dates are one of our favorite "candies." The link you provided is invaliable. I have been wondering where I could get dates bulk, because we only buy them in the winter when they are on sale during the Christmas baking season. And thank you for the wonderful recipe. We will definitely be making those soon! I also feel I should say that I am very impressed with your family's strength and determination in going for what is best for you in every way. I hope that this move will bless you all with a healthy, happy future. ~ Leslie


  • Jennifer @ kidoing!

    Jennifer @ kidoing! on June 24, 2011, 1:09 p.m.

    Thank you for this scrumptious recipe! I think I will make those today. All of the photos are beautiful, but I especially love the one with the peanut butter balls on the rocks.

    For the past several years, our sweet treats are fruit or some sort of a highly-nutritive raw food dessert. There are so many amazing raw dessert cookbooks out there (and web sites, too). I find them more satisfying than the typical flour-based goodie (although I do occasionally make vegan muffins/cupcakes/cookies - maybe once every 4-6 weeks or so depending on the time of year).

    We also have been bringing our own baked goods when we travel to birthday parties lately. I have a hard time eating anything made with sugar and since we don't eat dairy or eggs (my son has a mild allergy or so we have been told!) it is the best way to go.

    As far as sweeteners, I rely on dates for the majority of the time but I use fresh fruit juice and applesauce, too (along with occasional honey/maple syrup). I just bought a case of Shiloh Farm date sugar from my local co-op. I like using this, but it does turn whatever you're making brown.

    I would love to buy a 20lb box of dates. Do you store all of them in the refrigerator? I have never tried freezing them.

    I always love to see what you're cooking (or uncooking) Renee!


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2011, 5:36 p.m.

      No, they don't need to be refrigerated. Cool, dark place in the pantry does it. Damien likes to use date sugar and we used that in Maine but, sigh... can't find it yet here. That would be my preference for a powdered sweetener.


      • Jennifer @ kidoing!

        Jennifer @ kidoing! on June 24, 2011, 7:16 p.m.

        The cookies are fabulous! So much more decadent than any baked flour-based peanut butter cookie I've had. Maybe next time I'll add some cacao nibs or roll the balls in raw cacao powder...one can never beat the combo of chocolate and peanut butter. Cheers!


  • Spalva

    Spalva on June 24, 2011, 1:09 p.m.

    I admire how stick to your family values.

    What I notice (a lot) from Europe is that people constantly joke about those things that are worst for them: ie. "Ahhh, ice cream makes everything better!" I never hear that kind of remark in Europe.

    I have always missed our Uzbek market guy in Kiev who sold us all of our humongous dates and sundried fruits and almonds. Here I can't get unsweetened peanut butter, and my food processor quit on me. Time to budget that in. I want that soy milk maker too (though I can't get soybeans...sigh).


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2011, 2:27 p.m.

      If it's any consolation... I'm struggling in moving to Canada to source the stuff I'm used to buying (cheaply) in the US. I hear you and feel your pain (to a certain degree) - smile.


      • Nola

        Nola on June 24, 2011, 10:44 p.m.

        I also am in Canada (Ontario) and I read blogs and think WOW they get really good deals, its amazing...especially when I see prices and bulk for Azure, or even what people buy off Amazon.com Have you looked into the Ontario Natural Food Co-op? I do believe that they will ship to the east coast, I've read that before, I believe it was to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick or both...perhaps they would other places but just there isn't interest... but I am not sure about Quebec. Unfortunately its no where as good as Azure, and most of the stuff, I find anyways, in their catalogue, is the type of prepackaged health food stuff and not bulk, but there are some bulk items in there, some are good deals, some are not. I do buy from them but in a limited way. I am part of a group but because we are out of their truck delivery area we have to pay the shipping about $100 and split it between all of us, and we cannot get anything refridgerated or frozen, just dried goods etc. I have to watch that my costs I am saving is worth the hassle and the shipping but if I watch their sales and stock up and be careful and know my prices I end up saving some, enough that its worth it to me.

        So anyways...might be something you want to look into. I wish there was something else in Canada that was bulk based and big...please do post about it if you ever find anything!

        Just saw your comment and thought I'd let you know about that.


        • Kika

          Kika on June 25, 2011, 5:30 a.m.

          You could check out "Grainworks"; it is a farm/business based out of Alberta (or maybe recently moved to Saskatchewan).They sell 25-50lb bags of organic popcorn, oats, rice, beans and so forth.


  • Charity

    Charity on June 24, 2011, 4:51 p.m.

    Renee, Thanks so much for this post! Yummy! I was encouraged to hear your "one treat a week" habit. That is such a great idea! I grew up not knowing self control when it came to food and now that I have my own children, I really want them to be able to control what they eat and how much. Unfortunately, I am not a great example (I LOVE treats...especially the homemade kind, and I am always baking something). We talked to the kids today about limiting treats to Friday....having Friday be our day to have a treat, and they were all for it! We do not typically eat a lot of processed foods so we really do not have to eliminate boxes of crackers that have sugar in them which makes this easier. BUT, there are plenty of homemade treats in the house. In fact, I baked a chocolate cake last night at 7:00 because I just needed some chocolate (hehe). shi

    I am good at following rules, and I feel like this is what I will have to do until I can master self control over my intense sweet tooth. So, again, I am inspired by you and your commitment to living a healthy life! Thank you!


  • Shawn

    Shawn on June 24, 2011, 5:16 p.m.

    Yum! I was thinking it sounded simialr to Larabar Cashew Cookie, then saw you had a link to a Larabar type recipe. You discipline in the area of sweets is amazing! In a good way! I would have a long way to go in my family to get to one a week, but this is great inspiration to cut back even more. Thanks for so many wonderful, informative posts that always get me thinking! Cheers to your health!


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2011, 5:32 p.m.

      The key for me is having a husband who leads in this area.

      I don't talk about that much here but he definitely takes the lead in matters of our family's health and wellness, especially as related to dietary and physical activity. It's his diligence, research, and partnership in this area that makes this possible for me.

      I do all the cooking, or at least most of the major cooking but he's the one saying "let's eat more greens, less processed foods, less sweets, more whole plant foods" and raves about any meal/food I make that is along these guidelines. For him, the healthier the better. I am supremely blessed in this regard as I can both honor my husband and feed my family a really health promoting diet. Yes, I'm over the moon for this man.

      Also, I love sweets and working together at home during the day and being accountable to him has really helped me stick to my resolve to use sweeteners sparingly. As a family we hold ourselves accountable to each other, all around, regardless of age. Ie: I don't apply a different "adult" standard to myself where I get to drink iced cappuccinos (or whatever) and the kids go without. These are our family guidelines not "you kids can't eat treats". And trust me, they love holding me accountable. 


  • Vickie LeBlanc

    Vickie LeBlanc on June 24, 2011, 5:27 p.m.

    Those look delicious. Just this morning I made a batch of flourless peanut butter cookies; only a few ingredients and they are the best peanut butter cookies we've had. I must try yours though. Everytime I read one of your recipe posts I'm more and more inspired for Dave and I to eat whole plant foods (we've been eating this way for a while but your an inspiration to go a little further). A few weeks ago I made your mom's nut and dried fruit cake and boy was it ever a hit. A keeper for sure.


  • Kika

    Kika on June 24, 2011, 8:18 p.m.

    I certainly think a once/wk treat sounds reasonable. We do bake or make raw treats and use raw honey and/or nut butter but my baking has really gone by the wayside mostly because I'm busy and now that my kids are older they seem fine with smoothies and extra fruit for most snacks. Or, they can pull out leftovers or bake a potatoe if they're super hungry. For my youngest,with tons of allergies, we have been trying to stick to a once/mos special treat but I've been wimping out too often. My husband isn't like Damien in the food department so I often feel like I'm trying to convince four people as to why we ought to stay away from certain foods or embrace others. It does become tiring and I end up making concessions (like buying store-bought ranch dressing for my teenage son). I think it might be easier for you (correct me if I'm wrong) that your kids are not only homeschooled but then you do the weekly hiking thing rather than team sports. We are very involved in community sports, as a family, which means we are constantly having to deal with junk food being sold at concessions, teams wanting to stop at McDonalds, and so forth. I am always so grateful to find other local moms who are working hard at pushing for healthier options at these events. My husband recently went to a soccer meeting and insisted that they shouldn't be offereing pop at our year-end wind ups. So what did they do? They still offered pop but also offered other options including water and juice and gatorade. Not quite what we had in mind.


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2011, 8:48 p.m.

      Kika, You are 100% right. If we were involved with a lot of group activities around unhealthy food options it would be so hard for the kids (and me, I have like zero will power). We'd either have to make concessions or I'd never leave the kitchen so I could always have super-tasty, healthy alternatives. At home, when there is nothing else in the fridge and pantry but healthy options it's "easy" to eat healthy. But when you can't control those factors, oh man, does it get hard.

      If it makes you feel any better leading up to our move we were big supporters of Newman's Own charities (ie: bought a lot of bottled dressing for our lunchtime salads). I just didn't have the time to make it. Seasons, my friend, seasons. 


  • Nola

    Nola on June 24, 2011, 8:36 p.m.

    Thank you for this recipe. I'd love to read more recipes like this. I do not eat sugars in my diet (started as a way to save my health and now its just normal for me) and I limit the amount my family gets (more like special occasions and usually using small amounts of more natural sweeteners, or often things like applesauce and raisins, etc. I look forward to trying this recipe!!!!


  • Beetnik Mama

    Beetnik Mama on June 25, 2011, 1:44 p.m.

    I love reading about how people feed their families in healthy ways. Have I read about your day-to-day eating regimen before? I can't remember. I know I've read your vegan kitchen post lots of times, but I'd love to see something that spells out your every day foods. (Or maybe that post does and I have a horrible memory!)

    I would just love to stop buying stuff like boxes of crackers (organic, but still) for my kids. I am completely roadblocked as to what to feed them otherwise, though!


    • renee

      renee on June 25, 2011, 2:09 p.m.

      Maybe Jennifer from Kidoing could chime in here. She's all about feeding kids healthy and writes about that. 

      Snacks in our house:

      In the morning kids can snack on fruit or nuts - self serve. I don't make a snack in the mornings. They are old enough that this is sufficient. Younger children though seem to need to eat smaller quantities and more often.

      Our afternoon snack options are these:

      homemade whole food bar or cookies, like this peanut butter cookie recipe

      apples with almond butter (I make this once/week)

      cut veggies and hummus (least favorite of the kids)

      miso soup (for rainy days)

      popcorn, popped whole cereal (ie: not processed, just a popped grain like Kamut or something) or rice cakes

      fruit smoothies, my kiddos really don't like drinking greens but they eat copious amounts of salads so i'm ok with that

      dried fruits & nuts - I like to have a variety on hand. roasted hazlenuts are my indulgence right now

      fresh fruit - self serve

      I try to rotate through these options during the week, depending on the weather and what we're doing. Cookies and bars can be transported, smoothies - not so much!

      I will tell you I don't do well with taking snacks for on the go. I find it very difficult to prepare and pack meals for my family when we eat so much fresh and unpackaged food. This works ok because we are very home-based in our daily lives. The only time we spend significant time away is on the trail and my husband takes over the food for that. 

      I absolutely hate (really, it's that strong) to pack lunches. We eat very little bread which makes sandwiches a no go. Right now we're in the season of fresh and we eat a huge salad every day for lunch.  

      I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (old post, but it still holds true). Minimizing packaged, processed foods leaves you with no other option. I don't relish this part of my job but I'm mostly ok with it. I don't have a choice really (smile). Health takes time.

      On the flip side of that equation I spend almost zero time at the dr. office. No allergies, no perscriptions, no immune function related health issues. And my kids are almost never sick with colds or flu. You're going to spend your time and money somewhere. We choose to spend lots of both time and money in the kitchen. 

      Not sure if you've seen this post - our family food guidelines - which kind of lays our diet. 


      • Jennifer @ kidoing!

        Jennifer @ kidoing! on June 25, 2011, 5:32 p.m.

        I'm happy I popped back over to read this again!

        We used to buy organic snacks, but stopped a little less than two years ago when I decided to optimize our nutritional intake through all food (although the kids do have some on occasion, but not often in our house).

        The tipping point for me was when my son was old enough to eat solids and I found that he liked crunchy things like crackers and corn chips (harmless enough, right?, but not packed with nutrition which was my goal for his little one year old body). Since I wanted to satisfy his need for crunch, I researched what I could give him that would be from whole foods, minimally processed (or not at all) and crunchy.

        After reading some whole foods blogs, I found a dehydrator was what I needed since it could provide chewy or crunchy snacks made from whole foods, full of nutrition.

        When I bought my dehydrator I started dehydrating veggies - zucchinis, carrots, potatoes, beets, etc. I also make flax crackers that he loves. There are many versions of crackers you can make with fresh veggies and some seasonings (Ani Phyo, Matthew Kenney have some great raw books). The downside is that the food is so good that it doesn't last long, so like Renee said it's best to rotate through the snacks.

        Our food list looks just like Renee's, actually. I would add that my kids love fruit leather - again, another dehydrated food, but it can be made just like a smoothie so you can add fruits AND veggies to it.

        My kids swarm around me whenever I make hummus. I usually make different flavors such as almond red pepper and black bean orange hummus. Dreena Burton has a great cookbook Eat Drink and Be Vegan that has a whole chapter on different hummus recipes, which is where I got the aforementioned.

        For a treat I will make brown rice crispy bars - there are lots of recipes online...Heidi Swanson has one in Super Natural Cooking and Alicia Silverstone has one in The Kind Diet. Or, I will make oat bars made with oat flour and dried fruit.

        My kids love trail mix. I just posted on kidoing! about my daughter's love to make her own mix. http://kidoing.com/?p=1086

        I have just started experimenting with "uncheeses" and "uncheese" dips and dressings. These recipes are very flavorful and highly nutritious (using miso, tahini, etc) and mimick cheese and cheese dips. The book that I use is The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Uncheese-Cookbook-Delicious-Dairy-Free/dp/1570671516/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1309022436&sr=8-1

        Renee, I'm with you on lunches! A packed lunch is just not the same as a freshly prepared lunch.

        Eating this way does take time. Lucky for me, I love to eat so the time spent is well worth it! And, I am home with the kids which allows me the time I need to spend in the kitchen. Please feel free to visit kidoing.com for other ideas or email me with questions - jennifer@kidoing.com. Good luck!


        • Jennifer @ kidoing!

          Jennifer @ kidoing! on June 25, 2011, 5:37 p.m.

          And some thoughts on getting there...

          Once you have a list of snack foods you want to transition to, the best thing to do is make a list of ingredients you will need to have on hand and create space in your cupboard or pantry for them. If you have these things within arm's reach it will be that much easier to concoct the snacks. Clear containers with labels make it easy to see what you have and when you need to stock up.


        • renee

          renee on June 25, 2011, 5:40 p.m.

          Oh... I just knew you'd have some good stuff to share. Thank you so much Jennifer for offering that.


  • Beetnik Mama

    Beetnik Mama on June 25, 2011, 10:04 p.m.

    Yes! Thanks to both of you for such detailed, informative responses. I will definitely be doing more research, and Jennifer, I'll be perusing your blog for more ideas, too.

    Renee, just one more question -- how on earth do you all have the willpower to keep yourself to one serving of a sweet each week?! I love to bake, and I'm sure that doesn't help. Recently, we've had lots of homemade brownies and muffins in the house. So, if you do something like bake a batch of cookies, do you freeze them all? Give them away? Or is your one serving a really, really hefty one? (I'm secretly hoping you'll say you're pro-LARGE servings.) ;-)


    • renee

      renee on June 26, 2011, 12:33 a.m.

      Most often it's something we allow ourselves to eat out of the home. We need to give ourselves that margin because things come up when you're visiting or such.

      I don't bake. I stopped doing that years ago when Damien discovered his gluten intolerance and around the same time we decided to really focus on nutrient dense foods in our diet (which flour and sugars aren't) and baking lost all joy and practicality for me. 

      On the very rare occasion I bake honest-to-goodness cookies (which Damien usually doesn't eat) we just eat the whole lot of them, so about 2-3 each.

      Birthdays I'll bake a real cake and that will be our treat that week, for example. This week was my mom's birthday and she baked an amazing g-free almond cake (really healthy actually) and served it with homemade strawberry ice cream. You can bet those were big portions! The rest of the ice cream is in the freezer and will stay there till I don't know. Sometime next month maybe.

      I don't actually don't have a lot of will power, without boundaries like this. And I just don't buy what I don't want us eating. Now that we are living with my parents there are a bit more things around the house we don't want to regularly eat but my mom is very supportive and quite similar in her own dietary journey.

      My best tip to "combat" the desire for sugar and such is to fill my diet with lots of nutrient dense foods (your body really wants nutrients not crap) and then have alternatives for when I have a craving - like this cookie recipe.

      Lisa, at Well Grounded Life is giving away a Break the Sugar Habit 19 page workbook for signing up for her newsletter. Visit her site and check out Free Stuff in the right hand blue box. I've accessed it and it's great.

      Lisa's free workbook has some great practical advice, nutritional information and probably more importantly, information on why our body responds to stress with seeking sugar and how to change that.

      Hope that helps some.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on June 26, 2011, 5:55 a.m.

    Very, very interesting post and comments. I buy very little processed food in general, and almost no processed sweets, but don't really limit my use of sweeteners (raw sugar, mostly, but refined white sugar in homemade jam and ice cream) in the food we eat. We don't follow a raw diet, but raw vegetables and fresh fruit are always part of our meals. Dessert is not (unless it's a birthday or some special occasion), though we do have ice cream and popsicles as snacks in the summer, and I bake cakes in the winter. Neither I nor my kids ever crave sugar, but my husband who was brought up in the US and was used to ending a meal with dessert does. My kids are into sports, and exercise for hours each day. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, a lot of time in the vegetable garden, and A LOT of time at the doctors, when all goes well, and at the hospital, when things don't go so well. And we have allergies too: my eldest has bad allergies to various pollens, and the best cure for him would be to live in a city far from nature (or on top of a mountain at high altitude). I'll try your recipe with some other nut butter (any suggestion?), as I can't get peanut butter or unsalted peanuts here.


    • renee

      renee on June 26, 2011, 12:17 p.m.

      I'd try almond butter Francesca.

      I think it's very interesting the different cultural perspective you bring to the conversation. There is a huge culture of sweet foods in north america. And for our family part of the reason we have to have boundaries for ourselves is because otherwise we would be eating them all the time because they are everywhere, at every social function, every grocery store, every gas store, etc... Kids are offered lollipops, and candies for example all the time. I don't want them eating that all the time. But I want them to know there is a place for those things - as special treats. 

      I still have sugar, honey, maple syrup etc in the house for the times I do use it but it's for treats, not everyday eating.

      If I could be more disciplined myself, as mother and homemaker, we might not draw hard lines but I personally need to know what the boundaries are or, in my case, a little becomes a lot.

      I totally think there can be balance in these things but north american culture is very out of balance when it comes to diet (you've probably picked up on that already - smile) and it seems you have lean hard to other side so you don't get sucked into to a sugar, processed food obsessed culture.


  • Rachel Himes

    Rachel Himes on Sept. 21, 2012, 1:59 p.m.

    I found date sugar on Amazon in 4 packs. I love Amaazon. I live hours from a whole foods market and Amazon has been my reliable friend.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 21, 2012, 5:36 p.m.

      Lucky you. In canada we don't have access to a store like amazon.com with super saver shipping and prime membership. Enjoy having such great access to things. We make do here in Canada but shipping is so expensive. 


  • Cynthia Woods

    Cynthia Woods on Dec. 31, 2012, 7:16 p.m.

    I made cookies similar to these with almond butter but not quite as sophisticated. I'm definitely going to try your recipes. Just one question, is it still considered raw if you bake it for 7 minutes? My diabetic son wants to try a raw for 30 days diet. Dates and raisins have so much sugar they may be off the table anyway. Thanks, Cynthia


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 31, 2012, 7:48 p.m.

      Cynthia, I don't think they are "raw" if baked. At a really low temperature though they might still be considered raw but I'm no authority on raw cooking.


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