It’s National Cookie Day, friends!
It is also 61F here in my corner of CA today, and clear as a bell. There is not even clouds in the forecast let alone, you know, weather. It’s part of what spoils a person about living here, and one of the top responses one hears when someone dares to question living in such a place (“…but the weather…”).

What it does not lend itself to, though, is that wintry, snowy, bundle-up-for-the cold and hunker down with a hot cocoa feeling. I’m getting there, but my roll is slow. I still have apples, for goodness sake; I’m just not ready for all of the incredibly adorable Christmas-themed cookies taking over my Instagram and FB feeds. They’re inspiring, but also come on- it’s Monday and I don’t have the time.

So let’s you and I make a batch of bars. Apple-Date Bars, to be exact. With a crumb top and brown butter glaze. Because Winter-adjacent is great, so are bar cookies, and so are you.

Apple-Date Bars with Brown Butter Glaze

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cold water
4-6 (5 cups) medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4″ thick
3/4 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Combine the first 2 cups of flour, the salt, and the butter in a medium bowl with a fork. The mixture will be crumbly. Set aside one cup. Mix in the cold water. Mix just until evenly combined, being carefule not to overmix (it’ll be tough if you do). Press the dough evenly across the bottom of a lightly greased 13″x9″x2″ pan.
In a larger bowl, combine the apples, dates, sugar, and vanilla. Layer evenly over the crust.
Combine the reserved flour mixture with the brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and cinnamon. Sprinkle in an even layer over the apples. Bake for 35-45 minutes.

While the bars are baking, make the glaze*:
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp whole milk
Small pinch of salt

Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the milk solids sink to the bottom and turn golden brown. When this happens, it happens quickly, so don’t burn the butter. Immediately remove from heat and pour just the liquid into a heat resistant bowl, leaving the browned bits in the pan. Add the other ingredients to the bowl and whisk until smooth.
Drizzle over the cooled apple bars. Cut into 24 pieces and eat with reckless abandon.

*This glaze recipe was lifted directly from The Spruce’s recipe here, which believe me needs to be in your life.

I have always loved eggnog, and I know it can be one of those polarizing holiday foods, but I’m telling you, my heart THRILLS at the sight of pumpkin spice eggnog in all its orange-tinted glory -IN OCTOBER! when the rest of me is humbugging over the sight of X-mas decorations in stores (Michael’s, I’m looking at you). I will try any variation happily and probably ask for seconds just to make sure I caught all the noggy nuances.

So, Eggnog Pie. December 1st is National Pie Day, which is NOT the only National Pie Day on the Food Holiday calendar, and being that it is that time of year again, I’m looking to multitask with a recipe that will satisfy two food holidays. Because National EGGNOG Day is coming up too, and why not plan ahead since you’ll probably be busy, riiiiight?

Right-o, here you go.

Eggnog Pie

The Crust:

2 cups Nilla wafer crumbs- about 75 smashed-up wafers
6 Tbsp melted butter, warm
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients, tossing together lightly with a fork until well-combined and sandy in texture.

Like this.

Press into a 9 inch pie dish, being careful to evenly spread across the bottom and up the side. Bake for 10-ish minutes, or until the crust is dry and slightly sand paper-y to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

Mmm, toasty!

The filling:

8 oz whole milk
12 oz heavy whipping cream, divided
2 Tbsp cold water
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
4 oz granulated sugar
1/2 oz cornstarch
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp brandy
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

Place the milk and 4 oz cream in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a scald. Remove from heat.
Pour the cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, egg, yolks, nutmeg, brandy, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and well combined.
Pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk again until thoroughly combined. Return to the pot, crank up the heat to medium-high, and bring up to a low boil, whisking constantly. Allow to boil for just 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cooled and set.
Whip the remaining 8 oz of cream and powdered sugar to medium peaks, and garnish the pie. Eat with reckless abandon.

Well, hey there! Been a while (like 11 months), hasn’t it? So how’ve you been? Lots has happened since I put up a post and I’ve got to say, I hope this year has been kind to you.

I hope you’ve also been enjoying some of the best parts of this season. The weather here in NorCal is finally changing to Fall, which means crisper days and cold-to-us weather. Flip flops are being put away and clogs are coming out. There’s rain!! Talk to anyone out here, and they’ll tell you we need it.
It looks like all of the apples have been picked, and the u-pick season is coming to a close. I made it just in time to get a bunch of fresh cider (surprisingly hard to find in my area) and a few too many pounds of some gorgeous apples for baking. Mostly, it was about getting that cider, though.

November 18th is National Apple Cider Day, which gives me all the warm fuzzies. There’s a Hard Cider Day too, but today is about the cold-pressed, straight-from-the-orchard bottles, frozen solid to sustain a long car ride home to the city.Of course I bought too much to fit into the fridge. There’s a remedy for that though, and it’s caramel sauce.

Apple Cider Caramel Sauce will not bring about world peace, but if you make some in time for Thanksgiving and drizzle it over a fat slice of pie, it could possibly make it to Aunt Betty’s mouth before she says something inflammatory about a) your outfit, b) sexual misconduct in DC and Hollywood, c) Trump d) all of the above.

Apple Cider Caramel Sauce

1 cup apple cider
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, cold, sliced
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (this is optional, but if your cider doesn’t have much acid in it and you want a bit more zing in your sauce, this helps)

In a 3 qt. heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, bring the apple cider to a boil. Allow it to reduce to 1/3 cup. Add the remaining ingredients and bring back up to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow it to boil for an additional 2-3 minutes (keep on stirring). Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve warm, and eat with reckless abandon.

Oh, babka. You know someone likes you when they pass one of these your way. I said in an earlier post that I was not exactly filled with the holiday spirit, but baking for my friends is a nice kind of self-care that costs way less than going to therapy. They get something yummy, I get a smile, the world is a little nicer. Self-care achieved!

Don’t forget to count yourself as a recipient, by the way!

Babka Dough

2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, room temp
1 tsp sugar
3 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher
2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Banana Butter With Lots of Rum -find the recipe hereBanana Butter With Lots of Rum

1/2 cup crushed vanilla wafer-like cookies. You know the ones. This is entirely optional, but if you have said cookies, you should pound them into crumbs and add them in.

Crumb Topping
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup butter, ice cold, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp kosher salt

Rum Syrup

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark rum

Prepare a 9″ loaf pan by lightly coating the inside with melted butter.

For the dough:
Combine the yeast, milk, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside. Allow the yeast to fully dissolve and foam up, about 10 minutes. Using a dough hook, gradually add the butter bit by bit, on medium speed. Add the egg, vanilla, and salt. Add the remaining flour and cinnamon and mix on medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with plastic wrap. (Remove the dough hook, too) Allow the dough to rise to about double, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the crumb topping:
Using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, cut the butter into the other ingredients until the butter pieces are very small. This mixture should be loose and sandy in texture. Store in the freezer until ready to use.

Remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface. This dough is slightly sticky and somewhat difficult to roll, so gently spread/stretch/squash the dough into a 12″ x 20″ rectangle with your hands. You can flour your hands if you need to, but try to keep it minimal, as too much additional flour will make the dough tough.

Spread the banana filling evenly over the dough.

Thin, but potent

Sprinkle the cookie crumbs over the filling in an even layer (if using).

Starting at the bottom edge, begin to roll the dough tightly into one 20″ log.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough down the length of the log. Now twist the two pieces together into a long rope by crossing one piece over the other, always with the cut side up.
Scrunch the completed twist into the prepared loaf pan, still keeping the cut sides facing up. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the babka. Allow to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until the loaf has nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Bake the babka on the middle rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the babka is in the oven, prepare the syrup by placing the sugar and water in a small pot. Bring it up to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.

Once the babka is out of the oven, allow it to cool for 5 minutes before thoroughly dousing the top with the rum syrup.

Allow the babka to cool another 20 minutes before removing from the loaf pan.
This bread is wonderful warm, but please allow it to cool completely before attempting to slice it. Then eat it with reckless abandon.

I ‘m not going to lie, I’m humbuggin’ a little. As years go, 2016 has been a bit of an overbearing twat, hasn’t it?

Current mood

Current mood

We don’t need to go into it. We all saw what happened. We lost more great people than we gained, careened headlong into unknown territory, and haven’t quite found a quiet place to collect ourselves and find that lost shoe yet.

It wasn’t all bad. Good things happened which I am exceedingly grateful for (Gilmore Girls, La Croix)
And, you know… it’s that time of year again. Put down the cruddy attitude and do something to make someone smile. A hug, a nod, be nice in heavy traffic. Gifts.
This makes a nice gift, for yourself or someone you like quite a lot. It tastes darn nice with a scone or on a spoon while binge-watching *insert show here*.

Hmmph. Feeling better already.

Banana Butter With Lots of Rum

2 lbs aged bananas (5 or 6 will do it), peeled and broken into medium chunks
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
5 Tbsp. dark rum, divided
1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp extract), split, seeds removed
Pinch of kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice

Place the bananas, brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. of the rum, the seeds of the vanilla bean, and the salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.

Technically, you could stop here if you like things a little chunkier. Not me. Keep going.

Technically, you could stop here if you like things a little chunkier. Not me. Keep going.

That's more like it.

That’s more like it.

Pour the mixture into a large, heavy-bottomed pot (or a deep pan) set over medium-high heat. Add the vanilla pod. Once the outer edge begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium.
Stir the mixture frequently with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching*.

Continue to simmer and reduce for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture has darkened and thickened to the consistency of apple butter. You should be able to easily see the bottom of the pot as you stir.
Remove the pot from the heat and add the spices and remaining rum. Mix thoroughly, then simmer over low heat for 10 more minutes (still stirring). img_20161127_115410638
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the vanilla pod.

Pour/squish into a heat-proof container and cover tightly. The banana butter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Makes 1 heaping cup.

Problem is, it doesn't last long.

Problem is, it doesn’t last long.

*A note about scorching: It’s awful. It makes the rest of your banana butter taste bad, and it is hard as hell to clean. Just take my word for it and stir the pot more than would seem sensible.

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Today is National Eat Your Jello Day. It’s a big sale day (with a mathematical sounding name that sadly has nothing to do with math, other than perhaps, economics) on a HUGE shopping site. Side note: just bought my first Kindle, WOO!
And it is this guy’s birthday. I kind of have a big squishy spot in my soul belonging to the marvelous sparkle angel that is
Richard Effing Simmons.

This sweet glitter doodle is 65 years awesome today, and I just realized that he has been a celebrity my entire life. He had his own show when I was quite small, has been a resident ofPort Charles, and built a healthy living and eating empire that thrives today.

I have largely ignored his principled approach to eating to establish my own pastry regimen, but whatever. My parlor trick is that I can nutritionally justify pretty much any food. That said, I think if I handed Richard one of these, he’d be pretty pleased. Plums are low glycemic index, high fiber, and heart-healthy. Red wine is delicious. And it has antioxidants. Gelatin is protein-rich. Ta-da! Nutrition!

Red Wine-Plum Gelee`
yield: Four 3/4 cup servings

1 1/2 pounds Santa Rosa plums, halved and pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine
A pinch of ground cinnamon
A small pinch of salt
1 cup water
1 Tbsp gelatin
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2 tsp sugar, to medium peaks

In a medium pot, simmer the plums with the sugar, red wine, cinnamon, salt and a 1/2 c. water over medium heat until they are tender but not falling apart.

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Just a simmer, NOT a boil

Just a simmer, NOT a boil

Remove from heat.
Strain out all the plum chunks and reserve the juice. Puree the plums until no chunks remain. Pour through a fine mesh sieve (you may need to force a bit of it through). Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cooled juice and allow to bloom for five minutes. Return to low heat, and gently stir until the gelatin is completely melted.
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Stir in the pureed plums and remove from heat.
I need a sweater this color

I need a sweater this color

Pour into glasses and chill, covered, in the fridge until set, about 3 hours.
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Top with whipped cream and fresh plums and eat with reckless abandon.

National Sugar Cookie Day, folks!
IMG_20160709_122037I hope you’re celebrating along with me, because these are one of life’s little simple culinary pleasures. I’m not much for “secret” ingredients usually, but this recipe kind of has some; believe me, if you skip them, you’ll miss them! That teeny pinch of cinnamon and squirt of lemon juice are not obvious when you eat a cookie, but add that little extra *what* that give these soft and chewy sugar cookies a bit more dimension. Let’s get baking!

Thin, crisp, butterry, CHEWY!

Thin, crisp, buttery, CHEWY!

Sugar Cookies

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 1/2 c.sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp.baking soda
1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
1 small pinch of cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 large egg
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the butter, sugar, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Start on low speed to combine, then kick it up to medium and cream until light and fluffy, 5 minutes.

In the bowl it looks like this...

In the bowl it looks like this…

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Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula. Add the egg and continue to cream the mixture on medium an additional 5 minutes, then scrape the bowl down again. Add the flour a 1/2 c. at a time on low speed and mix just until everything is well combined.
Roll the dough into Tbsp.-sized balls, and place on a paper-lined sheet pan. Bake until crispy on the outer edge but still pretty soft in the center, and light golden brown.
Obligatory cooling rack pic

Obligatory cooling rack pic

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Let them cool just enough so they don’t burn your tongue, then eat with reckless abandon.

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Well Hey there! It’s been a minute since the last post, hasn’t it? Have you ever noticed how fast time flies when things slow down? That’s what it’s been like over here.
What’s been keeping me busy, though, are all the plums growing, falling, and collecting in my yard. There are…lots…of plums. It’s a nice dilemma. One that lends itself to visiting the neighbors with gifts in hand, discussions on what to do when you’ve reached saturation point with jam and need some new ideas.
There's way more where that came from

There’s way more where that came from

I’m getting a lot of good ideas, and I’m starting with this one. This plum cake is plucked from David Lebowitz’s Ripe For Dessert, which I made a couple of teeny changes to. It reminds me of the kind of cakes my grandmother would make- not too sweet,redolent of her Austrian heritage, and filled with the best of the season’s fruits. Blueberries were her thing, plums are mine.

Plum Cake

1/4 c warm whole milk
2 tsp. dry yeast (not instant)
1/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small pieces
6 medium plums, pitted and cut into slices
1/2 c. raspberries
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 c. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and side of a 9″ springform pan.

Place the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir and allow the yeast to dissolve a bit. Add the first 1/4 c. of sugar and stir well, then add the vanilla and eggs. Continue to mix until the yeast and sugar are completely dissolved and the eggs are fully incorporated.
Add the flour and salt and beat on medium speed for a minute. Add the chunks of butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat for an additional minute.
Pour the dough (it will be very sticky and soft) into the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

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If after 2 hours the dough has not spread into the edge of the pan, dampen your hands and press into the corner and side. Sprinkle the raspberries on top of the dough, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edge. If the fruit is too close to the edge, it could stick to the pan and burn in the oven. Arrange the plums on top of the berries.
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Sprinkle the lemon juice on top of the fruit, then sprinkle the sugar evenly atop the fruit and exposed dough. Just as David Lebovitz states in the original recipe, it looks like a lot of sugar. Keep on sprinkling.
I know it looks like a lot. TRUST.

I know it looks like a lot. TRUST.

Let the cake sit, covered, for an additional 1/2 hour, to allow it to rise one more time.
Remove the plastic and bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the center is golden and slightly firm.
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Allow the cake to cool a bit before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature, and eat with reckless abandon.

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As in, what the heck happened to the last month and a half??

It’s all been a blur,I can tell you.

How have you been? If you’re reading this, let me just say THANK YOU, because Cousin, it’s been a little while.

So, it’s National Cherry Cobbler Day, and I’ve got sort of a full circle feeling nipping at me. It’s not a blogiversary or anything; I think it’s just Spring springin’. The birds are chirping, there is a somewhat cool breeze blowing, I’ve got summer camp locked in, and the cherries are freaking wonderful. There’s really no improving on a solid cherry cobbler, but I do have one variation that I like to throw out there sometimes, and here it is:

Coconut Cherry Cobbler with Whipped Coconut Cream

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 oz. (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cold, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
3/4 c. heavy cream

6 c. fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, mix the flours, coconut, salt, and sugar together. Add the butter pieces, and using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like very coarse cornmeal. Add the cream and gently stir in. There should be large clumps and not trace of cream in the bowl. DO NOT overmix.

In a separate bowl, mix the cherries, sugar, and flour. Pour evenly into an 8″x 8″ oven safe dish. Arrange the cobbler dough pieces evenly on top.

Okay, okay, this is not the size dish I told you to put yours in. I'm baking half and saving half for later, so... this is a "cobblETTE".

Okay, okay, this is not the size dish I told you to put yours in. I’m baking half and saving half for later, so… this is a “cobblETTE”.

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Sprinkle with a Tbsp. of additional sugar, if desired.
Bake until the dough is golden brown and the filling begins to bubble through the dough. Allow to cool slightly before topping with whipped coconut cream (recipe follows).
Eat with reckless abandon.

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Whipped Coconut Cream

1 can coconut cream
1-2 drops almond extract
sugar to taste

Chill the entire can in the fridge for several hours. Sorry. Whip on high speed until peaks begin to form, then add the extract and the sugar. Continue to whip until fully combined and fluffy.
Whipped coconut cream does not hold up for very long when added to warm cobbler. Thus, whatever does not go onto the dessert should be spooned directly into your mouth as soon as possible.

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I knew we were moving into a new level in our relationship when he brought me to his favorite pho` spot. His search for the perfect bowl was something he mentioned before, and I knew he was making a serious gesture when he brought me to the little place he never took anyone to and didn’t want too many people knowing about. He and I are too similar in some ways. We both appreciate the little hole-in-the-wall places you pass by countless times, and when you find one that is justsogood, well that’s gold in your hand, baby. And this place was that good.

Eventually, the restaurant shuttered and we had to find other places to go. We married, became parents, and though there is no shortage of restaurants, time is a whole other box of crayons. I am making a whole lot more meals at home, including pho.

This is the stuff that gets me there, and I am kind of in love with it:


… and now Savory Choice makes a chicken pho concentrate, and it is justsogood. Non-GMO, no MSG, gluten-free, and it doesn’t taste like a salt lick. It just tastes like the concentrated flavors of chicken, spices, herbs, all in one squeezy little packet. Yum.

California Farmers Market Chicken Pho

2 oz rice vermicelli noodles
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 bunch Thai basil
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 4oz package of daikon radish sprouts
2-4 medium radishes (I used French breakfast radishes)
2-4 Thai chilies
1 stalk of green garlic
2 Tbsp flour
Pinch salt
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 packets of Savory Choice Chicken Pho Concentrate

Bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil and add the vermicelli. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Immediately drain the noodles and rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain and set aside.

Shred the chicken breast by pulling apart with two forks or with your hands.


Prep the basil and cilantro by plucking the top leaves and tender stems and the larger leaves from the tougher lower part of the stem.

Using a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, trim the roots away from the sprouts.


Thinly slice the radishes, chilies, and green garlic. Set the radishes and chilies aside.

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In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the green garlic slices and toss around to separate and lightly coat. Heat the veggie oil in a small pan. Add the green garlic, shaking away the excess flour before tossing into the pan. Stirring often, saute the garlic until light golden brown and crisp. Immediately spoon the garlic onto a paper towel-lined dish to drain and cool.

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Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer. Squeeze the pho concentrate packet contents into the water and give it a little whisk to dissolve.


Into two bowls arrange the noodles and chicken in the bottom. Pour in the broth. Add the other ingredients as you like.

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Grab some large spoons and chopsticks and slurp with reckless abandon.

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