These February days call for reviving with a cup of hot tea, and one among you has loved peppermint tea, "particularly Numi brand." So he or she wants to know "how to use my big mint bed, just sprouting up green in the yard, to make a homemade batch?"

Yeast of the Ridge has for many years asked questions about food. So she filled in this morning's queries to keep you thinking. "Where can one buy pots of fresh herbs? Does any grocery sell them, or do you have to go to a plant store? What is the best immersion blender, and are flat wire whisks as good as round ones? And I am always in the market for some proven slow-cooker recipes."



Joe Jumper, whose Clay Pot florist is also sometimes home to Clay Pot cookbooks, is a seasoned cook whose family enjoys festive events. "Joe's Hot Sausage Dip is a recipe I came up with that our family enjoys for the holidays. It's so easy to make and is always a crowd favorite."

Joe's Hot Sausage Dip

1 pound ground sausage

1 (10-ounce) can original Rotel, drained

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Heat oven at 350 degrees. Cook sausage in a large skillet; drain well. In mixing bowl, stir together cooked sausage, drained Rotel, softened cream cheese and 2 cups shredded cheese. Spoon into a lightly greased 1-quart baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup shredded cheese on top. Bake for 35 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with Scoops.



Sandra Oliver had an Italian Cream Cake that "is hard to beat. It came from a former caterer, Ann Slack, who lived in Red Bank. She used this often for wedding cakes and other special events." And we have it on a certain authority that a really good Italian Cream Cake, even if it's not the currently secret version from the late Mom's Pizza, should be just fine. Perhaps even a fine Valentine's Day dessert?

Italian Cream Cake

1 stick margarine

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

5 egg yolks

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 ounces coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

5 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Cream margarine and shortening with sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, and beat well after each.

Combine flour and soda, and add to creamed mixture, alternately with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla, coconut and pecans. Fold in egg whites.

Bake in 3 greased round 8-inch pans at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Frost with the following frosting.


1/2 stick margarine or butter

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 box powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chopped pecans

Cream butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla to combine. Add pecans.

Double the frosting recipe to completely cover sides and put on a decorated border.



Here is a Mary Ahern Flynn recipe from her favored Moosewood cookbook. Though she says it's great on a hot summer day, a cold February day sounds equally appealing. (The cookbook calls for the best summer tomatoes. Would you dare to try it before summertime?) This one is from "Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites."

Pasta With Salsa Cruda

Use this sauce not only on pasta but also as a lively topping for pizza, fish, grilled vegetables, toasted bread or baked potatoes. If you like, make the sauce a few hours ahead, cover and serve at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Or wait until you've started to boil the water for the pasta to pick the ripest tomatoes in the garden.

3 or 4 large ripe tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), divided

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup minced red onions

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

1 pound pasta, preferably farfalle (butterflies)

Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil for cooking the pasta.

Meanwhile, chop about half of the tomatoes into bite-size cubes, and place them in a large serving bowl. Add the basil and red onions to the bowl.

Coarsely chop the rest of the tomatoes, and place them in a blender. Add the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic, and puree until smooth. Transfer to the serving bowl.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, stir, and cover the pot until it boils again. Uncover, stir the pasta again, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, add it to the serving bowl, and toss well. Serve immediately.

Variations: Add a small minced chile, 1 tablespoon sliced black olives or about a cup of tiny cubes of fresh mozzarella, or any combination of these.

Makes 4 to 6 servings in about 28 minutes.



Jim Sparks answered the call for seasoned pretzels with a friend's recipe that they've made many times. "We've always used salted pretzels, but this should work fine with unsalted ones as well. The recipe makes a huge amount, so readers may want to make half or a third. The pretzels store well in plastic food storage bags." And what a fascinating ingredient: butter-flavored popcorn oil.

Seasoned Pretzels

3 (15-ounce) bags of pretzels, mini or squares preferred

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper

2 envelopes dry ranch dressing mix

3 cups Orville Redenbacher butter-flavor popcorn oil

Put pretzels in a large roasting pan. Mix all other ingredients well, and pour over the pretzels. Bake 1 1/2 hours at 200 degrees, stirring every 20 minutes.



Here's the last of a tasty threesome of soups from the kitchen of Jean Moore.

Cuban Black Bean Soup

1 pound bag dried black beans, soaked overnight in water, then drained, rinsed and cooked according to package directions until tender (Yields about 6 cups beans, or you may use 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans.)

1/4 cup olive oil or salad oil

2 medium-size onions, finely chopped

2 medium-size green peppers, seeded and finely chopped

5 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

3 cups water

4 beef bouillon cubes

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano leaves

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar

Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart kettle over medium heat. Add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring, until onions and peppers are soft. Add 3 cups of the water, bouillon cubes, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, vinegar and beans. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, add more water, if desired, for thinner consistency.

Ladle soup into small bowls, adding a generous spoonful of the marinated rice (recipe follows), or plain rice if preferred, to each serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Marinated Rice

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

1/3 cup finely chopped mild white onion or white part of green onion (scallions)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

In a bowl, combine cooked rice with onions, olive oil and vinegar. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or until the next day.

I will steal the last few lines from you to express my gratitude to local kindness in the food category. Last week I got curbside delivery of a special-sale meat at Food City, a day before the sale began. My mistake, and it was almost $30 in error. When I realized it and called the store, the gracious manager calculated the difference and left my cash in an envelope at the front of the store.

Secondly — and thirdly — twice we have picked up wonderful meat-laden specialties at River City Deli in Coolidge Park. My companion pronounced his Reuben Sandwich "the Real Reuben." I opened a chef salad filled with thick pinwheels of meat and cheese, a mere bed of lettuce and homemade dressing. This year hasn't been easy for Bruce Weiss' local treasure, but the food never disappoints, and it arrived at our car window almost before we ordered.

For whom are you grateful, foodwise, these days?



* Homemade mint tea

* Where to buy fresh herbs

* Best immersion blenders

* Round vs. flat whisks

* Slow-cooker recipes

* Food gratitude



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


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Jane Henegar