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Just in case you loved the cupcake idea

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Yes, I was back at Safeway in Tucson--the one at Broadway and Campbell--and sure enough, their pretty heart-shaped cupcake baking pan was back on the shelves. It is around ten dollars and you could probably find one there today, since I saw them Tuesday when I was there shopping.

In other food topics, the latest catalog from the King Arthur Flour Company arrived the other day and it is focused on bagels. It may sound un-American, but I don't like bagels, though my son Daniel did. I dislike the leathery exterior and the tough consistency they have when you try to eat one. They are completely unsuitable for sandwiches; ultimately I wouldn't dream of making them. This catalog did feature one thing, though, that caught my attention: a statement about the fine flour they sell. I completely agree, with the one caveat that I have also communicated to them: I am looking for lower-gluten artisan flour these days.

Last week I found the Navajo Nation's unbleached all-purpose flour at Walmart, and it is still there. I plan to keep buying it; at the very least, it will tend to be fresher than flour that is shipped from across the country down to Tucson. I also go to Native Seeds for Arizona Rose flour; you'll find it on the west side of Campbell just south of Fort Lowell.

And if you are getting more concerned with lowering your intake of gluten, I saw on the Huffington Post where there is a GF Girl Scout Cookie this year. If you stop by Sprouts in Tucson these days, you can't miss the huge selection of GF baked goods that are available, from pasta to bread to cookies to crackers to cereal. You can get any type of bread-based side dish nowadays, so that the term "crusty bread" no longer indicates that you will miss out on a beautiful accompaniment for your soups, stews and salads.

There is also more variety in GF flours for baking, including new grains that are available in the form of flour, such as teff and spelt, both "ancient grains." They are interchangeable with pastry flour, so make your coffee cake and muffins with them and see how you like it. I also use oat flour, especially in muffins and cookies, to stay away from wheat flour if I need to.

And if you are planning an important Valentine's Day dinner, I am including a recipe for a bright-pink vinaigrette that is really good. Stop by Whole Foods in Tucson or anywhere else that you can find Cheri's Prickly Pear syrup, and then try this on a green salad accentuated with red cabbage.

PRICKLY VINAIGRETTE

From Cafe Margot

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
1/2 cup prickly-pear syrup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Chunk of fresh onion, to taste
1-4 cloves of fresh garlic, to taste
1/4 cup sugar (taste first; it may be sweet enough to your taste already)

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Run the processor until everything is completely smooth and incorporated. Transfer the dressing to an airtight jar and store covered in the refrigerator until serving.

This sweet and tangy dressing will go well with a chicken dish and a light red or sparkling rose wine.

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