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Mouse (aka Max) boiled and baked this week’s stash of homemade bagels. As a Christmas bonus, you’re also welcome to this Bagel Bitch’s favorite Sun-Dried Tomato Bagel recipe.

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I'm a big fan of Trader Joes' sauces. I keep a fat stash of them in the cupboard, including my favorite Curry Simmer Sauce, Thai Red Curry Sauce and their Basil Pesto. My favorite use of TJ's Pesto sauce dish consists of blanched asparagus and green beans tossed with a fresh cheese ravioli, but this quickie pesto chicken pasta dish is now a close second. I added fresh basil, toasted pine nuts and Parmesan to mimic the pesto and a pop of grape tomatoes for sweetness.

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Lentils find their way onto so many of those lists of foods we SHOULD be eating but in my house, shoulds are widely ignored. We eat what we crave, and finding ways to make lentils craveable was easier than I ever expected. Over the last year, I've fallen in love with the lowly lentil. From Mujadara (brown lentils, wild rice and caramelized onions) to Moong Dal (yellow lentil soup with carrots and potatoes) to my new favorite Spicy Red Lentil Soup. The pop of fresh herbs and the bite of hot peppers elevate this red lentil soup to a whole new level.

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In early June, we had lunch with friends at Santa Cruz Diner. The place is famous for its huge portions, relatively low prices and the diversity of its menu. This time 'round, I ordered their coconut curry chicken soup and I've been craving another bowl of it it ever since. I found a simple recipe for a coconut curry sauce and used it as base for my soup.

14 oz. coconut milk

1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp Turmeric
¼ tsp sea salt

Toss all four ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken when it cools. I made my sauce the day before I was going to try the soup and simply refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I poached a chicken breast (simmering, not boiling water, which will tend to make the meat tough) and par-boiled a sliced potato and three carrots, chopped into large chunks. I emptied the container of curry sauce into the soup pot and added the following: 

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[Today's post brought to you by The Man Dan, curator of The Chucklehut.]

Given this opportunity to speak to a larger world of larger matters, all that comes to my mind is the small stuff.  It seems right for these times when more people are living more simply, making do with less.  In that spirit, maybe it would be useful if I did a little kitchen talk about the small stuff.  Plus I could throw in some Fortuitous Pork for good measure.  That ought to do the trick.  

The key to making satisfying home cuisine (as opposed to merely palatable domiciliary sustenance) is flavor and variety.  Let’s take flavor first.  Flavor comes in small packages, and with small steps.  Brown the meat before roasting it; make stock out of $5 Costco chicken carcasses and cook rice with it.  Herbs and spices matter, too.  A little lasts a long time, and god knows good herbs make a world of difference.  Flavors pop.  Different ingredients take center stage. One smart turn can turn an old standby into something that really stands out.

All this is only part of what was going through my mind as I slapped together a quick supper a few weeks ago.  It was like a celebration of the small stuff.  You can make it if you like; better yet, you might-could gin up your own version.  It's not so much a recipe as a strategy.  These are good days to be strategic.  

I call this "Fortuitous Pork."  You are free, as ever, to rebrand.  

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