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*hang on, soupy.

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There are only a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in my municipality, but I credit one of them with introducing me to the concept of pho, which I believe is Vietnamese for "noodle soup."

This isn't pho (I admit I don't know much about the various incarnations of this across the Asian continent—I'm sure there are many, and I beg forgiveness for the many ways I've destroyed their authenticity in my own kitchen), but the overriding factor in my adoration is depth. There just seems to be this bottomless layering of flavors that seems beautifully endless: starchy noodles, spicy broth, hearty chicken, crisp onion, bright lime, soft egg, and, in this case, chicken broth, curry paste, fish sauce, soy, coconut milk, sriracha ... Every bite is the definition of satisfaction.

It's without doubt the best cure for a cold—all that warm comfort and gentle heat are soothing, while the protein and carbohydrates (hello, lover) restore your energy. I'm not ill, thankfully, but last night proved surprisingly cold in the Deep South, and it felt like the perfect excuse to make one last bowl of soup for the season.

I've made this a few times now, adapted each time more and more from a recipe I found at When East Meets West. I'm a bit flummoxed by it—the components seem to be there, but there's still some missing chromosome that's keeping it from being all it can be. The first time I made it, I attempted to correct its flatness by stirring in a king's ransom of sriracha, and while it was delicious, it was still missing something. This time I added curry paste, a step in the right direction, but it's still not all the way there.

As a personal preference, I don't adore poached chicken. I think next time the chicken might get sautéed. Maybe less broth? More lime? It's a testament to how good this is that I keep making it, but I'm going to continue to tinker with it.

If you want to be a little bit bad, I suggest eating the good stuff and then throwing a bit of hot cooked rice in to soak up the broth. Or maybe you could just put the rice and noodles on a pizza crust between two slices of bread. Carbs are your friend.

I'd love for someone to make this and tell me what it needs to reach its full potential. No chicken noodle soup left behind!

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Chicken Coconut Noodle Soup
1 large sweet onion, halved and cut into thin crescents
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons red curry paste
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons ground paprika
3 (13.5-ounce) cans lite coconut milk
7 cups chicken stock
½ cup cornstarch
16 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
Sriracha, to taste
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 limes, quartered

1. Place sweet onions slices in a small bowl, and cover with cold water. Set aside.

2. Combine fish sauce and next 5 ingredient; add chicken, and stir well. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Stir in yellow onion, and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add paprika, and mix until onions are well coated.

4. Add chicken and marinade; raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and stock, and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

5. Whisk together cornstarch and ½ cup warm water; stir into soup, and return to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat 10 minutes or until the soup thickens slightly. Reduce heat to low, and keep warm until ready to serve.

6. Cook noodles according to package directions. Divide among individual soup bowls, and ladle over each about 1½ cups soup. Top with reserved sweet onion slices, eggs, sriracha, green onions, and cilantro. Serve with limes. Makes 6 servings.

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*i like big bundts.

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This one is an oldie but a goodie—it dates from Christmas 2010, back when the kitchen was my oyster, work wasn't requiring every second of my days, and my checking account still had no idea how hard it was about to be hit by overzealous trips to the grocery store.

As a rule I'm not much of a sweets person, and particularly not a dessert-for-breakfast sort of girl. (I will spare you my diatribe on the evils of "doughnuts," which is apparently Latin for "stale bread covered in snot." That counts as sort of sparing you, right?)

But as on most occasions, that sensibility was set to rights by Ina Garten, once upon a time many years ago when I first made her Sour Cream Coffee Cake. (Please click on that link and tell me that Sandra Lee's cracked-out Cocktail Time ad is popping up in the right-hand sidebar. It's completely worth the visit to foodnetwork.com, one of the worst Web sites on the Internets. I heart you, Food Network, but your carrier pigeon-style search engine and resulting desperate error messages do you no favors.)

Where was I? Ah, yes. Sour cream coffee cake, with a sweet, nutty streusel (yes, it's still nutty if you omit the nuts) and a decadent glaze. It was my first foray into the world of the bundt pan, too, which was nonstick and worked beautifully, contrary to my every expectation. JBSH and TFin subsequently gifted it to me (their bundt cake-making days being few and far between), and it is now one of my most treasured kitchen implements. Despite all its nooks and crannies it's infinitely forgiving—no matter my lazy buttering/flouring attempts, each cake I've made in it slides out placatingly every time.

But Ina, as we all know, is a girl who loves her ingredients, and even without the walnuts I'm counting 16 different pieces to her puzzle. There were already a lot of dishes planned for that Christmas morning, with LSis's breakfast casseroles and my Easy Cheese Danish (also courtesy la Contessa), so I was craving something simpler.

As you may have guessed from my ongoing obsession with sriracha, I am a lady who loves her spice, so I was instantly sold on Sing for Your Supper's Cinnamon Pound Cake. Only seven ingredients and a procedure that is 80% "stir it together and pour into pan"—even a notorious baking disaster such as myself can manage to pull that off.

I've made this now a few times, and that sweet-hot cinnamon-sugar crust is perfection, like a snickerdoodle pound cake. (HA! Remember these? Good times.) I have tweaked the recipe a bit—my current favorite approach is to stir in semisweet chocolate chips (they MUST be semisweet or darker; milk chocolate would be too cloying here) and to add, sinfully I admit, the glaze from Ina's coffee cake. It does skew things even sweeter, but I just can't resist the combination of maple syrup and cinnamon.

Remember, because we're making this cake in place of coffee cake, that makes it breakfast, and therefore above dietary reproach. So have three slices.

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Cinnamon-Chocolate Pound Cake with Maple Glaze
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
1 box butter cake mix (I used Duncan Hines's Butter Golden mix.)
1 (4-serving size) package instant vanilla pudding
½ cup canola oil
8 ounces sour cream
4 eggs
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, optional
½ cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bundt pan.

2. Stir together 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon; sprinkle mixture into buttered bundt pan, tilting pan to coat bottom and sides evenly. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon, cake mix, pudding, canola oil, sour cream, eggs, and chocolate chips, if desired. Pour into prepared bundt pan, and bake 45 to 50 minutes or until cake is springy. Let cool in pan 20 minutes.

3. Remove from pan to wire rack, and let cool completely. Meanwhile, whisk together confectioners' sugar and maple syrup, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to reach the desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled cake. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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