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Two pounds of jalapeños. Two pounds. They were leftover from a project and I had no plan on what to do with them. Various breads and other recipes used one or two, not nearly enough to make a dent in the pile. I had a pantry full of salsa so that was out. Someone had just given me a jar of pickled jalapeños and lord knows I didn’t need anymore. I was fully stocked with hot sauce. Jalapeño poppers were a thought but I had a better idea. What if I candied them? Sweet-hot is a wonderful thing.

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I’ve been on a salad kick lately and was looking for something bright and tangy the other day after eating several plates of filling, hearty spätzle. Vietnamese food came immediately to mind and thought a salad incorporating those flavors would be nice. Something with a bracing nuoc cham type of dressing, bright with lime juice, chilies and fish sauce. I pulled a chicken breast from the freezer. Took stock of my vegetable bins. Grabbed a package of rice noodles from the pantry. I hashed out an idea from a recipe I’ve used before, stopped by the Asian market for fresh lemongrass and picked up some mint while I was there too.

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I’ve been on a dumpling kick lately. A few weeks ago, I made out a bunch of Asian dumplings – pot stickers, won tons and the like – with various combinations of pork and shrimp fillings and homemade wrappers. Last week I made gnocchi, a frequent craving. In a few weeks I’ll make dozens and dozens of pierogis for my annual Polish Easter dinner. I’ve also made something simpler a few times to fill that dumpling gap – spätzle. Simple little noodle-type dumplings found in the cuisines of southern Germany and Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace, Moselle and South Tyrol. They come together with basic ingredients – flour, eggs, milk, salt, pepper – and are quickly cooked in hot water. I usually have these ingredients on hand and they’ve become a frequent meal around here.

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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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