"Whole food cooking acts as the foundation of physical vitality, and works to balance us in mind, emotions, and spirit."

Balance Heavy Holiday Meals with Dark Leafy Greens

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IMG_4072Bitter Greens such as kales, collard greens, arugula, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, are not only amazing nutritional powerhouses, but they aid digestion, reduce sugar cravings, help metabolize fats, and work many other magical effects on the human body.

Half a plateful of steaming kale is what I believe is missing alongside our proteins, unrefined carbohydrates, and good fats everyday in this modern world of fast food & packaged food…especially alongside rich holiday meals! Rural Asian and Indian people who experience vital health late into life, eat diets of 60-70% seasonal vegetables, and one person commonly eats an entire bunch of bitter greens daily.

Bitter greens help cleanse and tonify (strengthen) the liver and gallbladder by pushing bile out of the gallbladder and into the stomach. This action aids in the digestion of fats and proteins, especially high-purine proteins like meats. Bitter greens also act as a gentle diuretic to purify the blood and thusly help cleanse the entire body, which often leads to weight loss, clear skin, normal bowel function, and lower blood pressure. Along with all these wonderful effects, bitter greens also provide us with a wide scope of bio-available minerals (especially iron), they help lower our serum cholesterol, and they greatly reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup.

All Kales & broccoli family dark leafy greens (always steam or cook at least lightly)
Amaranth greens
Beet Greens, Spinach, & Swiss Chard (always eat raw instead of cooked)
Broccoli Rabe
Dandelion Greens
Mustard Greens
Turnip & Radish Greens

To counter the bitter taste, try lightly sautéing greens with a small amount of salt and good fat. Adding unrefined salt and high quality fat like virgin coconut oil when cooking reduces bitterness, enhances digestibility, and even releases nutrients for easy mineral absorption. Also, as a general rule of cooking, the sweet flavor balances the bitter flavor, so cook them or serve them mixed with bite size pieces of carrot, yam or winter squash.

RECIPE: Steamed Veggies & Dark Leafy Greens
In a deep, medium sized stainless steel saucepan, place a fitting steamer basket and about 2 cups of water in the bottom. Wash and slice about 2 cups of any sweet veggies like carrot, yam, fennel bulb, or winter squash into 1/4 inch pieces. Place the sweet veggies in the bottom of the steamer basket, and steam for about 3 minutes until almost tender. Next, add about 2 cups any medium-dense veggies like broccoli, fresh green bean, bok choy, or cauliflower, etc. and steam for another 2 minutes. Lastly, stuff big handfuls of washed & chopped kale, collards, or any cruciferous greens on top of the other veggies, cover again, and steam for another minute. Uncover to make sure all greens are slightly wilted and wet-looking. Steam another 30 seconds if not. Remove lid immediately, and carefully (so you don’t burn your hands with the steam) turn all the veggies out onto a plate. Drizzle everything with lemon juice and a high-quality virgin olive oil. Voila! After you eat this with your heavy holiday meals, or with your meats or eggs or brown rice/beans/avocado, you’ll feel invincible all year long!

Here’s some salad dressing ideas which are great for the kinds of bitter greens which should be eaten raw due to the oxalic acid content like spinach, beet greens, & Swiss chard.

Sweet Fennel Salad…2 cups each: chopped celery, grated carrot, and sliced fennel bulb. Add 3 cups each chopped arugula and spinach, and toss.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing…3Tbsp olive oil, 3Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2Tbsp lemon juice, and 1tsp grade B maple syrup or raw honey.

Italian Salad Dressing…Making this dressing is so simple – it just depends on your preference for each ingredient. You can make it extra lemony or extra herby if you like. Here’s the basics: 3Tbsp good quality virgin olive oil, 1Tbsp lemon juice OR raw apple cider vinegar and finely minced fresh herbs of choice (marjoram, sage, rosemary, parsley, dill, fennel, etc).

Good Quality, Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled over salad with a squeeze of Meyer Lemon Juice is simple & tastes fantastic!

For a No-Sugar, but Pleasantly Sweet Dressing…3Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar, and 5 drops Nu Naturals brand vanilla stevia.

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Your Colon Health

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Celery Root Stir Steam PAN at Farmer's Market TableFor those coming off the standard American diet, colon cleansing is one of the most important first steps on the road to vitality. The colon works with the liver and lymphatic system to keep our entire bodies free from toxic accumulations. It’s the first organ you’ll want to cleanse, so that there is a clear pathway out of the body when you finally decide to do a liver or gallbladder cleanse, etc.

You see, every time we’ve eaten mucos-forming food like pasteurized dairy products especially melted cheese, refined flour products, meats, and heavy fats/oils (sound like the standard American diet?), a thin layer of sticky matter adheres to the walls of our colon. These layers (called peutrifecative matter, which is literally decaying food that houses parasites) builds up, and the passageway through the colon gets smaller and smaller. Over time, the layers get harder and dryer as the colon is constantly working to dry out feces so that they’re solid and thusly passable. These layers block the body’s cleansing action of the colon, liver and lymph, and we then experience lethargy, headaches, distended abdomens, irregular bowel movements, acne, and a whole host of other symptoms of systemic toxicity. The colon’s peutrifecative matter can get very thick over time. There has actually been a 40lb colon removed from a man!

Intense colon cleansing is usually most needed when initially getting off years of eating the standard American diet. A whole foods diet is gently cleansing over time, so, those who have been mostly off refined/processed/fast foods for several years, won’t need intense colon cleansing, but gently cleansing the colon, at least yearly, benefits everyone.

A whole food diet, by the way, looks like this:

  • seasonal, regional vegetables (some raw, some cooked) as the base of the diet (50-70% of diet)

  • either soaked or cultured, low-glycemic, whole grains

  • grass fed/organic animal proteins when needed for warmth or building strength (during pregnancy, for people who work hard physically, or according to ancestry – type O blood)

  • getting 60-100oz per day of re-mineralized water

  • unrefined (extra virgin) oils and moderate amounts of saturated fats

  • whole sea salts like Celtic, Himalayan pink, or Real Salt  

  • small amounts of unrefined sweeteners like grade B maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, sucanat/rapidura sugar, etc.

Colon cleansing is NOT a fasting cleanse, and can be done comfortably from 1 week to 3 weeks. But you don’t want to eat any mucos-forming food (mentioned in the second paragraph above) while cleansing your colon, because the herbs you’ll be taking need to be able to reach the walls of your colon to break up and help you pass out the old matter, instead of those valuable herbs getting caught up in mucos-forming foods.

“But where do I get my protein during the cleanse?” you may ask. What I’ve found works best is 1-2Tbsp spirulina or chlorella powder daily. You see, these blue-green algae have everything your body needs. That’s why they call them superfoods – you could live well on them exclusively. They will give you enough protein and other nutrients while on your cleanse to curb your appetite for building foods, and the chlorophyl they contain is VERY cleansing. Midway through your colon cleanse, when you start getting the old matter out and you’re feeling lighter, more energized, and your belly is flatter than ever, you’ll get excited and want to keep doing it for whatever length of time feels right to you. Your body will tell you when it’s time to quit the cleanse.

I have done various cleanses, and I wholeheartedly believe in the revitalizing and re-balancing powers of cleansing. I’ve come up with step by step recommendations and guidelines for this first and most important cleanse, the colon cleanse, which I give participants in my information-packed class, “Whole Food Cooking for the Optimal Woman”. If your intuition is telling you that you need to colon cleanse, I hope you’ll join me for this class on Sunday February 7th, 2-4PM at Whole Foods, SLO to hear my personal experience with colon cleansing, as well as diet and lifestyle tips for natural hormone balance, calcium and iron uptake through various combinations of whole food, strategies for getting off sugar, and to receive support and guidance on your path toward reaching your highest health potential.

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Cereal Grains vs. Grain-Like Seeds

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Gluten & Sugar Free Lemon-Lavender Poppy Seed Cake

Gluten & Sugar Free Lemon-Lavender Poppy Seed Cake

For about the past 5 years in the healing foods community, there have been many proponents for a no-grain diet. Personally, I’ve enjoyed sprouted and simmered (or fresh ground and cultured), low-glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and brown rice as staple foods in my diet for 20 years with excellent health. But, I’ve recently had to re-evaluate which types of whole grains are actually serving my body best, since experiencing an unrelenting bout of rosacea acne since June.
Concerning ALL grains, I believe that there are definitely the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because of the genetic modification, the high glycemic aspect, and general overuse of hybridized, refined, gluten-brimming wheat and GM corn in processed foods, the regular consumption of these grains (as well as the other high-glycemic foods), are major factors in many modern diseases.
This article is a tad longer than usual because, in covering ALL grains, several factors need to be addressed such as: glycemic aspect of various grains, genetic modification, gluten-sensitivity, traditional preparation of grains vs. modern use of grains in processed foods, a whole foods diet and lifestyle, individual body type’s different needs, mindfulness, and finally, cereal grains vs. grain-like seeds. So, if you’re in for the ride, big thanks for your time, and hang on!

Why Are GM Corn And Modern Wheat So Ugly?
Beside the fact that both corn and wheat are very high glycemic, commercially grown corn is extremely bad for us because, like most other genetically modified (GM) crops, it contains pesticide. This is very maddening to me, considering that there are billions of people who eat processed foods containing corn as a main ingredient daily. Sterility and various cancers in mice fed GM grains were the first adverse effects discovered. Today, about 45% of modern people end up with some type of cancer, and millions of women can’t get pregnant.
One of Dr. Mercola’s articles, is about the dangers of eating modern wheat. Wheat now contains 80% more gluten than ever before, due to it’s hybridization over recent decades. With increasing exposure to gluten (a protein in the bran of wheat termed “wheat germ aglutinen” or “WGA”), more and more of us are becoming gluten sensitive, and many of us are even gluten intolerant. Gluten exists in large amounts in modern whole wheat, and in lesser but still significant amounts in refined wheat, spelt, barley, rye, kamut, and triticale. WGA has been recently proven to not only cause systemic inflammation (which has been known for years), but is now considered cardiotoxic and neurotoxic!

Wheat Sensitivity Symptoms
Each of us is sensitive to gluten in widely varying degrees, and with widely varying symptoms. For instance, if I eat a piece of wheat bread, I get a bit of a bloated feeling, as if I ate too much. For the past year since living with my new sweetie Matt who ISN’T wheat sensitive, I have been unwisely dabbling in wheat a few times a week (pizza, lamb shawarma sandwiches, beer, etc), unlike when I was with my last partner for 3 years who is borderline celiac, I ate almost no wheat. So, in eating about 1000% more wheat over the last year, it’s reasonable that I’ve developed a wheat allergy-induced rash (rosacea), which is a common symptom of wheat sensitivity.
Concerning the widely varying symptoms of wheat allergy, I know someone who, if he eats one bite of something made with any gluten grain, he experiences a cardiac inflammatory response causing heart arrhythmia. Also, he lost 50lb in one year, simply by quitting eating gluten grains! Another friend of mine can’t even have a crumb of anything made with a gluten grain, or she ends up in the bathroom all night with loose bowels. If she accidentally has a full bite of anything made with a gluten grain, her throat begins to close up and she has to go to the emergency room.
Wheat sensitivity symptoms vary as widely as the severity of them, from stomach pain and intestinal diseases/digestive disorders, to asthma and skin rash, malnutrition, to chronic pain and inflammation (arthritis), to heart arrhythmia, to infertility, to brain chemistry imbalance.

Alternate Grains and The Big Picture Of Diet And Lifestyle
There are many other, wonderfully nutritious, low glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat that are gluten-free, full of vitamins and minerals, and which you can you can make even more nutritious with certain traditional methods of preparation.
Okay. I believe that every part of the picture must be considered, before coming to the conclusion that all grains are bad for all people. Corn, wheat, white rice, oats, barley, rye, kamut, and triticale are all high glycemic grains. Thanks to articles like this one by Dr. Ron Rosedale, we know that these many diseases are all brought on by a high-glycemic diet: diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, depressed immunity, hormone and brain chemistry imbalances, depressed immune function and systemic inflammation. Wow!
And, of course, I believe it’s important to look at all the other major factors in the causes of disease: 1) the regular intake of refined salt, refined grains, and refined sugars, and refined vegetable oils (canola, corn, soy oils, etc.) via processed foods, restaurant food, and fast food, 2) the lack of seasonal regional vegetables (especially the dark leafy greens) as at least 50% of the diet, 3) the lack of sufficient daily hydration with re-mineralized water, 4) the over-consumption of pasteurized dairy and commercially raised meats, 5) sedentary lifestyles, and 6) the polluted, stress-filled lives we live with socially unbalanced, competitive, and emotionally void standards of behavior.
On the other hand, or should I say, on the ‘ancient hand’, a whole foods diet looks like this: seasonal regional vegetables as 40-60% of the diet, low glycemic whole grains prepared in the ways of our ancestors, soaked and simmered beans, fresh raw nuts and seeds, small amounts of seasonal, regional fruit, moderate amounts of whole sea salts, extra virgin or “unrefined” natural fats and oils, and consciously raised (preferably organic) animal proteins like meats and raw dairy products in moderate amounts when needed for building strength and warmth.

Individual Body Types
One of the basic guidelines of Macrobiotics (the Asian tradition of eating and living in harmony with nature): eat to balance your individual constitution. A person may need building foods like high quality animal proteins or spirulina/chlorrella algae if they do hard physical work, are pregnant or nursing, feel weak or cold, have a wasting or deficiency type illnesses, are underweight, or if they are a protein-type with meat-eating ancestry, and/or slower metabolism (usually people with type O blood). Dr. Mercola has an excellent, free, nutritional typing test, which can help you discover your individual constitution and needs, not only with particular foods, but with lifestyle too!
Until recently, I thought I was a carbohydrate nutritional body type, and now, if my health improves from cutting out even the low glycemic cereal grains like brown rice and millet, I will consider myself a protein type or possibly a mixed type.

Traditional Preparation Of Grains vs. Modern Use Of Grains In Processed Foods
When ANY types of grains are soaked (aka: sprouted) and simmered, OR freshly ground and cultured, they provide an easily digestible, nutrient accessible, long-lasting carbohydrate source. The modern processed food industry skips these important steps (soaking or culturing), which our ancestors nearly always took in preparing grains. These steps are important because they help break down the complex carbohydrates in the grains, making them much easier to digest. When our bodies don’t have to work so hard on digestion, our internal energy is free to heal and balance other areas. Also, soaking or culturing neutralizes the phytic acid in the bran of the grain, which makes it’s vitamins and minerals much more bio-available. AND, soaking (and thusly initiating the sprouting process) in grains, creates many more amino acids in the grain, which the body can use as the building blocks of proteins. Wow again!

Cereal Grains vs. Grain-Like Seeds
Okay. Cereal grains are the edible, carbohydrate-packed seeds of certain grasses including wheat, kamut, rice, rye, spelt, corn, millet, barley and oats. All of these grains are high glycemic except brown rice which is considered medium glycemic. What!?! Millet is high glycemic?!? I knew brown rice is medium-glycemic, but I thought millet is low-glycemic. Sheesh! My whole world is beginning to crumble here!!!
When one of my friends saw my rosacea recently, she said it looked like a food allergy symptom. Since I eat so many different grains, she said that it could be an allergy to the cereal grains. Okay, okay. No more cereal grains for me for a while!
Thank God I’ve learned to cook main dishes and sugar-free desserts with quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. I’ve loved the taste and the power-packed punch of these little “grains” for decades now. These three gains are actually small, edible, protein-rich seeds. They’re not grass seeds, and therefore, they’re not cereal grains. They provide much more protein than carbohydrate, and therefore, they don’t spike the blood sugar. Also, amaranth is highest of all the grains in both calcium and iron, and in countries where it’s a staple grain, there is no malnutrition. Hey! That’s nice!

The Body’s Changing Needs
Everybody’s body and needs are different, AND our needs can change over time. I’ll be experimenting with eating only quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth as my source of grain for several months to see how my skin improves. If healing happens, I may try re-incorporating small amounts of one type of cereal grain at a time, to see how my body tolerates each one. I’ll probably try millet first, see how that goes for a few weeks, and then I’ll try brown rice. My intuition tells me that I now needed to stay away from all glutenous grains, but I’m willing to cut out all cereal grains too, if that’s what my body needs. I encourage you to experiment with various whole foods for periods of time, to see which ones nourish your individual constitution, and give you the most energy and vitality.

Quieting Our Mental Chatter
Another key piece of the puzzle that I feel is of great importance, is consciously tuning into one’s changing needs on a regular basis. I’ve experienced the benefits of this practice myself, and I’ve seen it work for many other people. There are several ways to tune in, such as being quiet in nature, using mindfulness practices, or beginning to learn to meditate. Each of these will help steer you in the direction that’s best for you, for that period time in your life.
The body’s needs can change decade to decade, year to year, week to week, day to day, or moment to moment. I’ve found that quieting mental chatter is an invaluable tool, not only to discover which foods are best for you in the moment, but to establish a foundational way of being which leads to moving through life’s challenges with grace, non-judgement, fearlessness, and joy.


Much of the content for this article is brought to you by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For his helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book!

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Why Eating Cultured Veggies Makes Healthy AND Happy

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krautCulturing (aka: fermenting) vegetables has long been a tradition meant to extend the shelf-life of fresh summertime produce throughout the winter months. In our modern world, we don’t experience this particular dilemma much. But so much has been recently discovered about the health benefits of eating live-cultured (probiotic-rich) foods which are brimming with beneficial bacteria (about 100 times more than probiotic supplements!), that many people are now beginning to culture their own veggies at home.

Making your own cultured veggies like sauerkraut, kimchee, or beet kvaas, is a great, inexpensive way to re-establish a healthy population of beneficial bacteria. I say ‘re-establish’, because in our toxic, modern world, our natural bodily populations of beneficial bacteria get significantly knocked down by: the use of antibiotics (prescribed AND residual amounts in commercially produced animal products), corticosteroids, birth control pills, chlorine in tap water, heavily cooked meat, preservatives in processed foods, refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and oils, toxins in our food and environment, and stress.

The wonderful little vitality-givers should actually cover our skin, swim in our blood, and colonize our intestines and vaginal tracts. Some scientists say that we are ideally 90% bacteria, and only 10% human! Wow! That’s a really weird thought! But beneficial bacteria help our bodies to thrive on multiple levels. Aside from helping our bodies to better digest and assimilate food nutrients, they act as the foundation of our immune systems, they help lower blood pressure, they keep bad bacteria and yeasts in check, they contribute significantly to healthy skin, AND they work to help normalize our metabolism and thusly our weight. Oh! They also produce both vitamin B12 and K2 in our intestines. Wow, right?

As if all these various benefits of probiotics aren’t enough, here are more findings via Dr. Joseph Mercola:

“Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior….mounting evidence indicates that ignoring your gut may have far-reaching psychological consequences, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that nourishing your gut flora through proper diet, from cradle to grave, is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control.

“This mysterious connection becomes easier to grasp when you understand that your brain and your gut are actually biologically identical, as they’re created out of the same type of tissue. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. The featured research, published in the August 29 issue of  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that the vagus nerve is indeed the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.”

There are even more amazing new findings on how probiotics influence our continued genetic expression. Dr. Joseph Mercola has explained this in another recent article. He says, “One of the most cutting-edge fields of medicine is epigenetics, which has shown that your lifestyle plays a significant role in how your genes are expressed. Probiotics influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner. The widely accepted dogma that your genes control your health destiny is now being completely uprooted, as your genetic code is not set in stone. Rather it is constantly changing based on factors like your diet and stress levels. To put it simply, the more dietary and lifestyle habits you engage in that positively influence your genetic expression, the more protection you’ll naturally receive against a host of chronic illnesses. For instance, eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions helps to activate tumor suppressor genes that fight cancer. Likewise, researchers revealed that eating probiotic-rich foods influenced the activity of hundreds of human genes in a positive manner.”

We can start to take advantage of epigenetics by incorporating probiotic-rich foods into our diets such as raw sauerkraut, kimchee, beet kvaas, miso, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc. Cultured foods should always be raw or unpasteurized, refrigerated, and never cooked or heated to boiling, so that the good bacteria are kept alive. I prefer making my own cultured veggies rather than buying a probiotic supplement, not just because it’s way less expensive, but because, as I said before, cultured veggies contain about 100 times the amount of probiotic bacteria than probiotic supplements. Also, the sour flavor satisfies the third taste according to both Ayurveda and Macrobiotics. So, if a meal contains all 5 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent), we’ll feel more satisfied and have less of a tendency to overeat.

Making your own sauerkraut can be tricky, but it’s very satisfying. The first time I made a batch of sauerkraut that actually turned out, I felt triumphant. The weeks of waiting had finally proven worthwhile. And, I realized that I was connecting to my ancestors by going through the motions they had gone through for so many hundreds of years.

Showing people what I’ve learned over the past 15 years about the art of culturing vegetables is very gratifying. I know I’m sharing a hugely health-promoting practice which they and their friends and family will definitely benefit from.

You’re welcome to come to my class “How To Culture Your Favorite Veggies”, at Whole Foods in San Luis Obispo, on Sunday July 19th, 2-4PM…

Class description and RSVP details below:

How To Culture Your Favorite Veggies!
Sunday, July 19, 2-4pm
 at Whole Foods, SLO
$35 per person

You’ll learn how to culture your favorite vegetables into body-beneficial, probiotic foods: sauerkraut (including flavored krauts with garlic and herbs, or carrot and fennel, etc), a spicy kimchee, or beet kvaas! These ferments are a wonderfully inexpensive way to supplement those important probiotics!

Cultured, probiotoic foods help us better digest & assimilate nutrients, keep bad bacteria & yeasts in check, greatly enhance our immune function, produce vitamin B12, contribute to beautiful skin, and balance brain chemistry to improve our moods.
Beet Kvaas is a mineral supplement drink and amazing vitality tonic from the Russian tradition. Not only is beet kvaas probiotic, it’s a liver / gallbladder cleanser, helps with disturbed cellular function, helps thin the bile and detox the body, keeps the bowels moving regularly, and builds healthy blood. You can add fresh ginger root kvaas for flavor and for digestive, circulation, and heart-healing properties, and/or fresh turmeric root for anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties! Wow! Why doesn’t everyone have this stuff in their fridge?
In this class everyone will get kimchee, sauerkraut & beet kvaas recipes, as well as a big bowl of delicious chipotle black bean & seasonal veggie stew with a side of tangy kraut to enjoy!

(805) 547-9073 or email: courtney@cookwell.org
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Go to Pay Pal website, log in, and send your Pay Pal payment to: courtney@cookwell.org
OR call (805) 547-9073 for address to send checks


Much content for this article came from Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author. For more helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book!

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