Monthly Archives: October 2015

Cowboy Meatloaf

Hey, believe it or not..I’ve never been a fan of traditional meatloaf and don’t even get me started on that nonsense ketchup topping  (bleh!!).  Maybe it is because I had it all too often growing up or …well, I’m just not sure, but THIS is a winner!! (yes, I do like my Cowboy & Italian meatloaf.  I must be a bit biased ;))

This meal has all the great flavors of the West, without being overpowered by any ingredient!  The ground beef PLUS sausage is ideal, BBQ sauce for some depth & tang, combined with crunchy bacon & fried onions, potatoes and gooey, melted cheese!  Now you tell me what’s wrong with this??  Nothing!

Plus the mashed potatoes go right on top!  Not only is this kind of “fun”, but while it’s broiling, you can quickly clean up your kitchen, making for little to no cleanup afterwards!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1lb ground beef (lean)
  • 1lb ground sausage
  • 3/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 packet ranch seasoning (i.e Hidden Valley)
  • 1/2 cup bbq sauce
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 lbs potatoes (plus milk, butter, S&P), OR prepackaged potatoes fine too
  • 1/2 cup fried onions (i.e Frenches)
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • Non-stick spray

Garnish (optional)

  • Green onions, sliced
  • Bacon, crumbles
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Jalapeno, slices
  • Fried onions, (i.e Frenches)
  • BBQ sauce  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef & sausage, chopped onion, the packet of ranch seasoning, bbq sauce, breadcrumbs, chili powder, pepper and the 2 beaten eggs.  *I use my hands here..your best tools!  

   Bake this meatloaf (uncovered) in the preheated oven for 30 minutes/until cooked through.  There may be a bit of extra fat/grease once finished, so simply spoon a bit out of dish.  If there’s a bit left, that is A-ok!

**While the meatloaf is baking, now is when you’ll be preparing the mashed potatoes (whether from a packet or homemade) and you’ll also have the bacon crisping away, then crumble.** 

   The meatloaf should be done now, set aside for a quick second.  

Next, add the crumbled bacon (reserve a bit for topping) and the fried onions (reserve a bit for topping) to your mashed potatoes.  Top the cooked meatloaf with a good layer of these badboys and the shredded cheddar cheese.  Place this now back into your oven, set ON BROIL (baking sheet 6″ under broiler) for 4-6 minutes, until browned. 

         Once the cheesy-potato topping is browned and crisp to your liking, remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.’s quite hot!! 

 Cut and serve big square wedges topped with the garnish of your choice…pair with a crisp salad and my easy dressing, Redneck Ranch – Railroad Wife in Texas ENJOY!! 


Redneck Ranch

Ok..I love ranch dressing.   Whether it’s on the obvious salad, a french fry dip, tacos, on pizza…a spoon.  You name the food and ranch dressing is likely a great add-on!

However, one day we apparently ate our fridge worth of bottled ranch and I had to come up with something quick to satisfy our need of fried chicken tender dip, and that I did.  

The below ingredients can be altered (of course) to your specifications, but they do make a great ranch substitute (Hidden Valley) with a bit of a fun tang.  That same tang is excellent with fried chicken, on burgers & fries…and yes, even vegetables..

*I took pictures of both the whisking/bowl “technique” or the mason jar “technique”.  I do hope that the word, technique, is more comical than anything.  You either stir or shake people.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1/2 cup mayonaisse
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup creole mustard (spicy brown would work too)
  • 3 Tbsp of pimiento peppers
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Hefty pinch of ground pepper and salt


  • Mason Jar (to shake..looks great and keeps the dressing fresh)  

Like I mentioned above, this is silly easy.  You combine all of the ingredients into either a bowl or into a mason jar (with lid) and whisk or shake till combine. 


  I prefer to then place the dressing into the refridgerator for at least 30-60 minutes to blend the flavors, but if your’e in a hurry, go ahead and dig in!  Enjoy!  


Easy Caramel Apple Pie Dumplings

“Oh my, oh lord, get out of town”…Which one of these description’s deem more appropriate??  Ok, maybe we said all of the above.  Yes, even my lil boys.  Yes…again…we may of had a second helping, perhaps even a third and if you blame us, then please unsubsribe.

Sooooo crazy good!!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 roll unbaked pie dough (i.e Pillsbury)
  • 1 can apple pie filling ( you may have extra with spoon)
  • 1 jar caramel sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water
  • cinnamon (for dusting)
  • Flour dusting (optional)


  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Pecans/Walnuts  

Preheat your oven to 425 degress and have a baking sheet ready (non-stick, Parchment paper, foil, etc).  

IF NEEDED, on a light dusting of flour, I will roll out the pre-made dough into a more rectangular shape and then using a pizza/pastry cutter, slice into 3×3″ squares.  

    Brush a bit of the melted butter over top each dough square and then spoon about 1-2 TBSP of apple pie filling onto the middle of each dough square.  Pinch the 4 corners together around the filling (pinch it all over..if a bit of filling comes out..fantastic! ūüėČ and there is your ‘dumpling’!

  Now, after the dumplings are filled and pinched closed on the baking sheet, brush the beaten egg + water over top each one.  This makes for a crispier, golden brown crust.  Who doesn’t love that??  I then recommend a pinch of cinnamon/sugar over the top of each.  This will also help for not only flavor, but a golden color.

   Place these into the oven for 10 minutes to brown. 

 Meanwhile..heat up the caramel sauce on the stove top or microwave…I just pop the lid and microwave it..this is an easy dessert afterall, right??

Once the apple dumplings are warmed & crisp, I prefer to serve them over some cold vanilla-bean ice cream scoops with a caramel drizzle.  Goodness Gracious!!! 


Loaded Beer, Kielbasa & Potato Soup

It’s a beautiful October weekend…and by beautiful I mean it will not stop raining, the windows are open in my home with temps being in the 60’s and my Fall candles are burning. ¬† Yes, these are the things that bring me pure happiness. ¬† Well…that and a big pot of comforting soup of course. ¬† I decided to make this dish so it can last us a couple of days..more time to enjoy doing nothing. ¬†Bliss.

There are all sorts of potato soup recipes out there, and they are all delicious. ¬†However, my husband will not eat a ‘meal’ without some sort of meat in it. ¬†Now while I found some yummy soups with loads of cheese, broccoli, asparagus, pumpkin, etc in them, I just knew that wouldn’t cut it in my carnivore household. ¬†Soooo…what does my man like more than meat, beer and potatoes?? ¬†Not much. ¬†Hopefully me…but even that could be pushing it ūüėČ

Well after trial with no error, I can assure you that this is a winner!  Please enjoy with your family on a chilly day with a few slices of crusty bread for dipping!

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes, baked
  • 1/2 lb bacon (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 pckg kielbasa sausage, sliced
  • 1 onion, yellow or sweet, chopped
  • 3Tbsp flour
  • 1 12oz beer, I prefer Texas’ own Shiner Bock
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  • Green onions, sliced
  • Bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • Jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • Sour Cream¬†

Well start with getting a few of the ingredients prepped! ¬†Now you can absolutely bake your potatoes in the oven as you normally may, but if you’re in more of a time crunch, then just “bake” them in your microwave till soft. ¬†While the potatoes are becoming fork tender, you can slice up the kielbasa sausage and chop up the onion.

 In a large pot/dutch oven, lay in the bacon and cook till crisp (medium heat).  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Now in that glorious bacon grease (do not drain), add in the cut up sausage and the chopped onion.  Cook till the onion becomes translucent, stirring occasionally.  After about 5 minutes the onions and sausage will be good to go.  With a slotted spoon transfer them to a bowl and set aside, while keeping the grease in the dutch oven.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†*While these above ingredients have been cooking, your potatoes should be ready. ¬†IF you do not like potato “skin”, youre more than welcome to remove. ¬†In our home and in this recipe we actually prefer it. ¬†It adds great color, flavor and texture to the meal. ¬†So, anyway, just roughly cut up the baked potato, skin or no skin.

 Back to the dutch oven!  Sprinkle the flour into the bacon and sausage renderings and whisk till a rue is formed (thick and clumpy basically).  Next pour in the entire beer while continuously whisking followed by the chicken broth till smooth.

   Now add in those cut up baked potatoes and mash up in the liquid.  I like to leave a bit of chunks in my soup, so I just use a good, old-fashioned, hand-held potato masher till I like what I see.

   Next, stir in the cups of shredded cheddar cheese until melted, followed by the milk.  Bring up to a boil and then down to a simmer and stir back in the bacon (crumbled) and the sausage and onions.  Let sit and thicken up for about 10-15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and top with the garnishes of your choice and a hunk of fresh, warm bread….this tastes best with a cold brew on a cold day with the ones you love..

Pancetta, Kale & Butternut Squash Lasagna 

There is not one person who will object to this recipe..the meat-eater gets their crispy and flavorful pancetta and the lighter plate’r gets the freshness of the kale and butternut squash…and what’s not to like about b√©chamel sauce??!  This is a lasagna that will fulfill everyone’s palate while still leaving you not carb-crashed on your couch.

Plus…yes, there is a plus!  You can absolutely make this a bit more simple with ‘ready to bake’ lasagna noodles, precut and washed kale leaves and already cubed butternut squash in your produce section..Remember though, that there are still produce scales that you can weigh the squash to what you need..cheaper!  

The Starting Lineup

  • 3 lbs butternut squash, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, skin intact
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus leaves of 2 springs
  • 3 Tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 lb pancetta, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed and patted dry
  • 5 Tbsp butter, divided (4:1)
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, plus 1 leaf rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Lasagna noodles, ready to bake (2 packs depending)
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper


  • Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly chopped parsely, Italian flat leaf    

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare a large baking sheet with either nonstick or parchment paper.

Like I mentioned above, you can either peel and cube the butternut squash yourself or buy it already done in your produce aisle..I suppose it depends on how much of a ‘purest’ you are..delish either way.    We’ll just pretend you are and you’ve prepped the squash and also rinsed & patted dry the kale leaves *remove the leaves from the stalk. 

   Place the cubed squash in an even layer on top of the baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp of evoo and mix around to coat.  Sprinkle the squash with a bit of salt and pepper and toss on about 3 springs of fresh thyme.  You also want to put the garlic cloves onto this sheet *Remember, leave the garlic skin on to roast.  Place the baking sheet onto the middle rack of your oven and let roast and become tender for 40-45 minutes…Talk about a smell good home!!  

While the squash and garlic are roasting, you’ll heat a splash of evoo in a saute pan and once hot, add in the pancetta.  Cook this (stirring around occasionaly) for about 4-5 minutes till it starts to crisp *just like American bacon.  Once brown and crisp, toss in that pile of kale leaves.  *Make sure they’re all DRY…you do NOT want to add in wet (water covered) greens into a pot of hot oil/grease.  Bad, bad things will happen…Once the leaves have wilted and soaked up a bit of that marvelous pancetta flavor, scoop that mix into a paper towl lined bowl and set aside.  Dispose of excess grease. 

     About now the roasted vegetables are done alongside the kale & pancetta.  Just set both aside to cool a bit.  Drop the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

Lets start that tangy, gooey b√©chamel sauce!  In another pan (saut√© or sauce pan), heat up 4 Tbsp of the butter on medium-low heat till melted (don’t burn this)…Immediately, once melted, toss in the 3 sage leaves and cook in the butter (while stirring) for 3-4 minutes.  Discard the sage and add in the flour.  Whisk till smooth (2-3 minutes). 

       Gradually whisk in the milk and cook until thickened enough to coat a spoon, while whisking occasionally (15 minutes). 

   Next, stir in the goat cheese, 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, nutmeg, salt & pepper.  Whisk till smooth and then set aside 2 cups of the cheesy b√©chamel, while reserving the rest for the squash mixture. 

   In a large bowl, combine the roasted squash (REMOVE the thyme sprigs), the leftover b√©chamel sauce and squeeze out the garlic from the roasted cloves, discarding the skins.   Sprinkle with another pinch of salt & pepper and mash together with a potato masher or fork (for more texture) or a handheld mixer for creamier results.  *I prefer the handheld way. 

     Breadcrumb Topping:  In a small bowl, add the Panko breadcrumbs with 1 Tbsp of melted butter and the chopped herbs (sage & thyme), a pinch of salt & pepper.

Assembly time!!  In a 9×13 dish sprayed with non stick, add a couple of Tbsps of b√©chamel sauce to the bottom and top with enough lasagna noodles to cover.  Break if needed to fill in gaps.  Next spread about 1 cup of the mashed butternut squash mixture over the noodles. 

 Follow with some of the pancetta & sauteed kale overtop.  A bit more bechamel…another layer of noodles and repeat until ingredients are gone…but please try to end up with the top layer of noodles and b√©chamel (I always get 3 layers with this amount). 

 Sprinkle the entire top of the lasagna with the Panko bread crumb mixture and the other 1/2 cup pecorino cheese.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Remove the foil, sprinkle with the pine nuts and now bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.  Once the top is browned and bubbly remove from the oven and allow to cool and set for 5-10 minutes before cutting into.  

Serve with an extra garnish of shaved parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley…enjoy! 


Cola Carnitas

I often say that simple ingredients can make the most delicious meals.  This recipe is yet another that helps make that thought true.  Given there are no complicated add-ins or cooking techniques, you REALLY taste the sweetness of that Coca-Cola, the brightness from the fresh oranges and the savoriness of the seared and braised pork.  I’d eat this delish delight off of a shoe…but a warm tortilla is better. ūüėČ

The Starting Lineup

  • 2-3 lbs pork butt/shoulder
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 12oz Coca Cola (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp cumin, to taste
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp evoo
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil  

We’ll start this Mexican food favorite by mincing the garlic, quartering the oranges and heating the canola oil to a medium high heat in a large dutch oven.  Also sprinkle the entire pork with a liberal amount of cumin, salt and pepper and the extra virgin olive oil.  

    Working in small batches (you do not want to overcrowd the, no, no…), sear each side of your pork in the hot dutch oven.  Once seared nicely, set aside as you finish the rest of the pork.  This will take roughly 20 minutes for the entire pork butt/shoulder to brown.  



Next, add all of the seared pork back into the pot along with the Coca-Cola and water.  You will now also squeeze in those fresh oranges!  After each quarter has been squeezed dry, toss the whole thing into the pot. 

 Bring to a boil, while scraping up the yummy brown bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.  

Lower the temperature to a simmer and add in the Bay leaves, garlic and a pinch or two more cumin, salt & pepper.  Simply cover and keep on that low temperature for 2-3 hours…just walk right away and relax! 

 ….I do believe that time is now up!!  Carefully uncover that pot (steam hurts!) and remove that tender, fall-apart pork to another dish.  Pull apart with two forks or let cool slightly and use your own two hands!  *I like to sneak a bit straight into my mouth too, sshhhh…. After its fully shredded or chopped up, ladle in a bit of the juice from the dutch oven to keep warm and not dry out. 

 Serve this as you wish!  However, around here we top warmed tortillas with this sweet and citrusy pork, along with a bit of cilantro, chopped white onion and thinly sliced radishes.  Enjoy!! 


Chicken Broccoli Parmesan Bake

Here is an easy comforting dish for these cool months that are approaching fast!  The creaminess, that crunch…oh my!  I do not know one person that does not like the combination of chicken, cheese and broccoli together..and if you stumble upon such a away!!

This meal can be on your family’s table in less than an hour and it WILL fill everyones belly.  Assured!  

IF you have any leftovers (it does make a bit afterall), just cover and store in the refridgerator.  The next meal, pop this back in the oven (now covered) for 25 minutes and then uncover for the last 5-10 to regain that great crunchy top!

The Starting Lineup

  • 2lbs (4 breasts) chicken, cooked
  • 16oz bag frozen broccoli, slightly defrosted
  • 2 cans cream of chicken (‘with herbs’ if possible *Campbells)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio/sauvagnon blanc)
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened/melted
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded & divided (1/2 cup-1/2 cup)
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper, to taste


  • I like to serve ours either alone or overtop rice or rotini pasta.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Assuming your chicken is cooked and shredded or cubed (I prefer either a roasted chicken or Ill just quickly poach the breasts myself, which I did above) and that your broccoli is slightly thawed (I’ll pour it into a microwave safe covered dish, hit defrost for a few minutes and then drain any excess water through a collander) you can now begin assembling. 

 In a buttered 9×13 casserole dish, layer the broccoli down first, followed by the cooked and shredded chicken. 

 In a seperate bowl, combine the 2 cans of soup, sour cream, mayo, dijon mustard, cheddar cheese, white wine and salt & pepper to taste.  Give this creamy mixture a good stir. 

   Now you will simply pour this directly over your chicken and broccoli..use a rubber spatula to create an even layer and then sprinkle about 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese over top. 

   In a second bowl you will combine the Panko breadcrumbs, butter, remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and a pinch of cayenne.  Mix this together until the panko is coated in butter, cheese and spice and then evenly sprinkle over the top of your casserole. 

     Now that is ready to go, pop in your oven (uncovered) for about 30-45 minutes, until that top coating gets a beautiful crunchy, brown! 

 Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes and then serve, enjoy! 


Restaurant Style ‘Refried’ Beans (Crockpot)

Having the taste of restaurant style beans (for pennies) in your own home versus that glop from the can is priceless.  Who knew it could be sooo easy AND make so much!  Given the large batch this recipe makes and its simplicity, it is great for a gathering, a large family or to freeze for another Mexican inspired meal!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1lb bag of dried pinto beans
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 1-2 Jalapenos, halved and seeded (decide YOUR heat level)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp cumin, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt & ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp chicken bouillon, to taste (Knorr)
  • 6 cups water  

THE NIGHT BEFORE, pour your dried pinto beans into a large bowl and fill with water.  Cover with saran wrap or a plate and allow to soak overnight while you sleep your sweet dreams. 

 Let us now fast forward to the next morning….Drain the beans in a collander and give a quick rinse before pouring them into your slow cooker (sprayed with non-stick). 

   Next add in every other single ingredient listed above.  Dang..this is pretty easy right?? 

   Cover the crockpot and set to low for the next 6-8+ hours.  Your house will soon start to take on that delicious mexican restaurant “I need chips & salsa” smell.  Delightful. 

   After time is up you have a few options to finish the beans.  

  • Leave them whole and enjoy.
  • Literally refry them.  Add them to a hot pan with a bit of lard and mash them till theyre your desired consisitancy.
  • Ladle the beans into a food processor with a bit of the cooking water and puree.  Pour back into the slowcooker to keep warm.
  • Ladle the beans into a blender with a bit of the cooking water and puree.  Pour back into the slowcooker to keep warm.  *Be careful with HOT liquids in a blender.  Make sure to cover lid with a small towel and your hand as the heat causes everything to expand.
  • Ladle a bit of the cooking liquid OUT of the slowcooker and use your immersion blender to puree the beans right in the dish.  *Add the liquid back in IF needed.  We like them ‘soupy’ but not overly so.  This is the route I chose today.    

Now that they’re all mashed to their refried bean gloriousness, season a bit more to taste if needed.  Serve topped with a bit of cheese & cilantro.  Delicious! 

 *This makes A LOT.  So if you have quite a bit leftover, transfer to a freezer bag, zip up, lay flat and place in freezer.  To eat: defrost over night and reheat in a pan or microwave with a pad or two of butter.

Southwest Sausage Skillet (one pot meal)

Do you crave a bit of a ‘kick ‘to the flavor of your dinner? ¬†Possible something that could stretch into leftovers all while being easyand FAST to prepare?? ¬†Whelp…here you go my friend! ¬†It has a bit of heat from the spices and garnishes, savory from the sausage and broth and that rice fills everyone up!

This quick dinner is awesome since most of the ingredients may already be on hand, no store run needed (excellent)….and if not for dinner, this is also a great side dish for any pot luck party!

Plus, feel free to make this YOUR own! ¬†If you like different veggies, add them! ¬†If you want to add in a can of green chilies, please do!! (That’d be great in this by the way! ;))

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb pork sausage
  • 2 cups instant rice¬†
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 can Bush’s Grillin Beans (Black Bean Fiesta)
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes¬†
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • EVOO
  • Salt & ground pepper

Spices (optional)

  • 1/2 tsp each chili powder, cumin, coriander (to taste)

Garnish (optional)

  • Sour cream
  • Jalapeno slices
  • Salsa
  • Avocado slices
  • Cilantro¬†

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to medium heat. ¬†Once that’s ready, add in the red onion and bell peppers (with a pich of salt) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. ¬†Step one is done!

¬†¬†¬†Next, add in the pound of sausage (another pinch of salt & pepper) to the same skillet as the sweated vegetables and cook completely. ¬†Raw sausage is rather gross ;). ¬† *Here is where you can kick it up with the optional spices. ¬†If you choose not too (and that’s ok ;), don’t fret because the beans and tomatoes both have lots of flavor!

   After the sausage has cooked through, pour both the canned beans and tomatoes in the SAME skillet still and stir together.

¬†Finally, pour in the uncooked INSTANT rice and chicken broth (or water). ¬†Stir, bring to a low boil, stir, cover and set to low/simmer. ¬†The rice will only take about 5-10 minutes to soften. ¬†*If you’re feeding a large crowd/family, add in one extra cup of rice and an extra cup of broth/water.

     After the 5-10 minutes is up, layer that shredded cheddar cheese right on top, re-cover and remove from heat.  After just a couple of minutes it will have melted and be ready to serve!!

     Spoon the cheesy, rice & sausage skillet meal onto a plate and garnish with your favorite southwestern toppings!!  Enjoy!


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