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The opening theme for today is grits, inspired by a visit to The Camp House. Anonymous from Brainerd wrote, "I love grits. On their menu is an assortment of bowls with your choice of bases: jasmine rice, lettuces or buttermilk grits. I know that you get a creamy taste when you cook grits in milk, but they scorch so easily. Does buttermilk make them creamy? I would like a recipe for buttermilk grits or any other recipe for creamy grits. Also what is the best kind to buy? Is the stone-ground variety really better?"

Juanita Ellis had a cold-weather longing for old-fashioned gingerbread with lemon syrup topping, and so she wrote, "Do you have a good recipe that is simple to make?"

This one is for everybody. Please send us one recipe, just one, that you are planning to make for the holidays. That will fuel the Christmas fires in our kitchens.

CORRECTION

Before you dig into today's contributions, please add an ingredient missing from last week's column. The Sour Cream Coconut Cake that is a favorite of Janice Hixson and several other readers was printed without the necessary sour cream, and it's my error. Add 16 ounces of sour cream to the other frosting ingredients — 2 cups sugar and 2 (6-ounce) packages of fresh frozen coconut — and you have a dessert worthy of your own special occasion.

PINEAPPLE CASSEROLE

As December rolls in, we're all in planning mode. To that end, here are some great ideas. The first came from Rosemary Palmer, who blogs at homeandtravels.com. She described this one as "a delicious side dish for any holiday dinner."

Baked Pineapple Casserole

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

2 (20-ounce) cans pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve juice)

1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs, crushed 8 tablespoons

1 stick butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using additional butter or nonstick spray, coat a medium-size casserole dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar and flour. Slowly add in the cheese, making sure it is all well coated with flour and sugar mixture. Add drained pineapple, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour this mixture into the sprayed casserole dish.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix together Ritz cracker crumbs, melted butter and 5 tablespoons of the reserved pineapple juice. Spread this over pineapple mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Notes: The type of pineapple you use is to your taste. I prefer the tidbits since I like the texture, but you may also use crushed or chunks.

To make ahead:

Prepare pineapple mixture, and store in refrigerator the day before. Right before baking, add the Ritz cracker crumb mixture. Baking may take an additional 5 minutes.

SALAD DRESSING

We have been looking for homemade salad dressings. To that end, Dan Cobb opened his grandmother's recipe box, surely because he knew the value of its contents. Therein he found "one of my old-time favorites. I don't know how old it is or if it was her invention. All I know is that it beats anything you can buy in a store, even the fancy earth-mother type stores. I hope you find this worthwhile."

Yes, indeed, Mr. C. We do.

Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup Miracle Whip

4 tablespoons chili sauce

1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon vinegar

4 tablespoons green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before serving.

COCONUT SOUP

G.W.S., who has been experimenting with soups since she was a college student, is still at it. She explored the internet until she found the Thai coconut version that sounded right at allrecipes.com, then tweaked it slightly. If you want a really good recipe, it's interesting to Google "The Best" before the recipe's title. The only problem is that we don't know those people, and what if we have a different idea of what's best? This one, at any rate, worked for Ms. S.

The Best Thai Coconut Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 stalk lemongrass, minced

2 teaspoons red curry paste

4 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

3 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice – or more to taste

Salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Steamed rice

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Cook and stir the ginger, lemongrass and curry paste in the heated oil for 1 minute. Slowly pour the chicken broth over the mixture, stirring continually.

Stir in the fish sauce and brown sugar; simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and mushrooms; cook and stir until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp; cook until no longer translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, season with salt, and and taste to adjust seasonings.

Just before serving, garnish with chopped cilantro. Put steamed rice in individual bowls, and ladle soup over rice. The recipe said it served 8, but at our table 4 to 6 servings made more sense.

LIQUOR SUBSTITUTES

There was a discussion of substitutions for liquor in recipes. Mr. and Mrs. Sunday add some lively banter to the conversation.

"Since we're on the topic of cold medicine: One of our grandmothers was a pillar of the Baptist church (played the organ or piano every Sunday) in the Deep South town she called home and was fiercely anti-alcohol with but two exceptions (not that she ever admitted either one, of course). The primary exception was cold medicine, which was given to anyone in her charge that was under the weather in the wintertime. "At the time, of course, we had no idea why we felt so much better after a dose or why we fell asleep so easily, but we bet y'all can figure it out."

Cold Medicine, Adapted for Modern Use

1/2 lemon and peel

1 to 2 ounces "snakebite medicine" (substitutions follow)

1 teaspoon or so of honey (depending on the snakebite medicine used)

Boiling water

In a 12- to 16-ounce cup, put lemon and peel, snakebite medicine or substitution and honey to taste. Fill the cup with boiling water. Cool the contents of the cup, and serve to the patient, hinting at mystic lore handed down over the ages.

The Sundays added a little lighthearted history to the mystery. "Grandmother's exact source of snakebite products is lost, but may have involved a local family who specialized in such."

Substitutions

These days we have a larger set of choices, which include:

» Benedictine or Drambuie liqueur (already sweetened and tastes medicinal, so it must be curative)

» Southern Comfort (also presweetened)

» Scotch (medicinal, but you'd better add honey)

» Bourbon (yes, honey needed again)

It is a pleasure to keep company with you these wintry mornings, sharing recipes that delight us and are, just possibly, cures for what ails us.

REQUESTS

» Grits advice, recipes

» Gingerbread with lemon topping

» Go-to holiday recipe

TO REACH US

Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.

Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Email: chattfare@gmail.com

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