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I’ve had a series of failures lately. A few St. Patrick’s recipes that didn’t go as planned. A cake that was 5 kinds of awful. A bad batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were stacking up but that’s ok; it happens. Distractions, busy work projects and overconfidence were derailing my best intentions. I’ve also been eating a lot of overly rich, creamy foods lately that haven’t been sitting well so today I wanted a salad. One of those old school Italian, red sauce joint kind of salads with all the stuff in it. So I made one.

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It’s March which means its time to gather up those St. Patrick’s Day ideas. For some reason, some people inexplicably thinks this means green things flavored with mint. Yeah, I don’t really understand what mint has to do with the holiday but I don’t understand green beer either. Rather, I tend to think beer, real beer, specifically Guinness Stout. Good stuff, that beer but it’s a bit tricky to cook with. Reduce it and the bitter notes become more pronounced and unpleasant. It’s much better added to batters right from the can or used to deglaze a pan for a wonderful sauce. I’ve added it to cakes, breads and candies with great success and have made a rather fine chicken boxty dish with it. Today, I add it to biscuits and it’s a great decision.

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Last Friday was National Gum Drop Day, another in the long, often times puzzling, list of made up food holidays. I thought I had an idea for this one. I really did. I did not. While working on the Peco Brittle (peanut-coconut brittle) a few weeks back, I remembered something else my friends mother used to make that I thought was delicious: Gumdrop Cake. As I recall, it was a simple chocolate cake baked in a square pan, studded throughout with gumdrops and slicked with a simple chocolate icing. I seem to remember I liked it. I think I was wrong. It is horrid. And it kind of threw me off my game for a few weeks.

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My mother and I went out for dim sum last week, probably one of our very favorite things to do. We both are huge dumpling fans and while ordering off a menu is just fine, there’s something so much more fun about dim sum places that wheel the carts around, allowing you to pick and choose from what cruises by. In typical form, we ended up with far too many little plates and steamer baskets on the table and loved every minute of it. As the carts made their rounds, the one typically filled with the more dessert-y options stopped at our table. I don’t particularly enjoy the sweet options but the woman maneuvering this cart was pretty adamant that we should get the coconut buns, puffy hot dog shaped rolls filled with coconut. I was indifferent but damn she was persistent. I took the plate mainly to make her go away. But she was right. Warm, soft, tender and filled with a sweet coconut filling, these things were delicious. Dang it.

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I come from a family of great eaters. We cook – and eat – up a storm over the holidays but I have a cousin who typically doesn’t like what we serve. He’s not one for oysters or clams or herring so we usually buy some sort of frozen appetizer to get him through the first course of Christmas dinner. This year we found some fancy pigs in a blanket things at the grocery store and threw them in the cart. Everyone likes a pig in a blanket, right? Turns out, we were very right. My sister saw the box and wanted one. I’m pretty sure my dad sneaked one off the baking sheet before I had a chance to plate them. Everyone wanted one. Completely understandable – what’s not to like about mini hot dogs wrapped in pastry and baked until hot and crispy?

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Winter always slaps me in the face with a wet glove. Work is typically slow to pick up as I wait for clients to return from holiday travel and get back up to speed. I cooked so much last month that I draw a complete blank when coming up with ideas for January. I got nothing. So I turn to sometimes silly little things to generate ideas, like made up food holidays. There’s always something there to work with. Facebook cooking groups are another. Food in Jars has a monthly challenge I decided to do, though I have enough jars of jams, chutneys and pickles stocked up to last a lifetime. Eh, what the hell. The January challenge was citrus and I had a big bowl of fruit that needed to be used. Recipes with purpose I guess and I do love a good chunky marmalade.

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As I previously mentioned, made up food holidays have been giving me life this month. There are so many that it makes you wonder how these things happen. If you want to create holiday, regardless of the topic, it turns out it’s pretty easy (as I learned watching the latest episode of the questionable reality show Vanderpump Rules). Apparently anyone can do it. Go figure. So someone somewhere wanted today to be National Peanut Brittle Day though I’m not sure who that might be. Peanut farmers? The confectionary industry? The Corn Syrup Board? I’ve no idea but any excuse to make peanut brittle is fine by me.

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