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Good morning, foodie friends. A.E. is a fan of spicy pretzels, "not the plain old kind, but ones that have been tossed in other seasonings. I believe that Hanover pretzels have lots of those seasoned versions, and we received a big bag of another seasoned brand at Christmas. Here is my question. I typically purchase gluten-free or plain pretzels. How can we spice them up with homemade seasoning mixes?"

This next request is cloaked in anonymity, and it's more a "watching and wondering" than a request. This reader noted that Fare Exchange doesn't seem to place much emphasis on healthful recipes and then said, "I will keep watching."

Is this accurate? It may all depend on how one defines healthful. So let's talk about that. The question: In your kitchen, what constitutes healthy food? Is it a priority to be healthy and, if so, what matters in your kitchen, and what recipes and sources matter?

 

SHARPENING KNIVES

Mr. and Mrs. Sunday provided the sharp and efficient answer to your knife-sharpening question.

"First let's talk about knife edges; they're very thin wedges of steel. With heavy use, that thin steel wedge can get slightly bent over; with even harder use, the wedge gets worn away.

"The 'sharpening' steel that comes with a knife set (actually a hone) is intended to deal with the first issue; if used regularly, it will keep the edge in good condition. Once enough steel is worn away, then sharpening is needed to remove metal and get back to a thin wedge.

"There are lots of ways to sharpen; our favorite is a diamond steel (used exactly like the hone). It's a steel tube impregnated with industrial diamonds and will last many years. Amazon has them for under $20.

"As for a board, there are lots of arguments about what's best, but the worst is glass or ceramic. We use plastic (which can go into the dishwasher) with a piece of puffy shelf liner under it to keep it from moving."

 

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Mitra Malek shared a favorite recipe for stuffed mushrooms, a variation on a recipe she found in a community advertisement magazine a year or two ago, perhaps at Whole Foods.

As to Ms. Malek's authoritative kitchen presence, she explains, "I don't always measure ingredients when I cook, so I'm educated-guessing at the portions. I encourage people to taste as they go and vary the proportions of ingredients based on their taste."

 

Walnut and Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe is hearty and filling enough for a light meal.

6 large-ish mushrooms (so you can easily stuff them/layer the filling atop)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa (or cooked farro, millet, barley, even crumbled crackers)

1/3 cup Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt or, worst option, sour cream)

1/3 cup total: grated Parmesan or Romano cheese AND blue cheese (I use more or less of each depending on what I have on hand)

1/4 cup toasted walnuts (Toast raw walnuts yourself in a skillet on the stove; listen closely for a faint sizzle, and look for them to get glossy and smell good. If you toast them whole, break into small pieces or chop when adding to the recipe.)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 average-size clove garlic, minced or pressed, after you remove the central sprout (if there is one)

Few shakes of black pepper

Clean mushrooms, and then cut off their stems. Save stems, and chop them. Place mushroom stem side up in an ovenproof dish.

Mix everything else in the ingredient list, including the chopped mushroom stems, and place mixture inside and on top of mushrooms. The mushrooms should have generous heaps on them.

Cook at 400 to 425 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes. Pay attention; ovens vary.

I use a convection setting, 400 degrees, for 10-15 minutes. The original recipe calls for 425 degrees for 17-20 minutes. Makes 2 servings.

A second take on stuffed mushrooms came from Linda Robinson-Graydon. But before she shared them with us, they appeared in a family cookbook she put together. Before that, they began in the kitchen of her mother, Jeri Robinson.

"They are elegant and delicious and were always the first to be snapped up at a party. Her advice to me when I started making them was, 'Don't overcook or they will be tough.'"

 

Crabmeat-Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe lends itself to being served as an hors d'oeuvre, the main dish at a luncheon or a first course at dinner.

Mushrooms:

1 pound large fresh mushrooms

1/2 stick butter

Remove stems by twisting lightly. Then wipe caps with a soft damp cloth or use a soft stream of water. Never soak them. Dry immediately. Sauté in a heavy skillet to which you have added the butter. Cook on medium heat and avoid piling the mushrooms. When the edges begin to brown and turn golden, turn with a spatula. Drain on paper. This process will take about 10 minutes and may be done the night or morning before being used. Save the stems for use in other cooking.

Stuffing:

1/2 pound fresh or frozen Alaska king crabmeat

1/2 cup scallion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1/8 teaspoon mace

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1 slice white bread that has been soaked in cold water and squeezed out in a colander

1/4 teaspoon salt to taste

Bread crumbs to sprinkle on top

Butter to dot on top

If you use frozen crabmeat, it must be completely thawed and drained on a paper towel.

Put all the rest of the stuffing ingredients in an iron skillet: scallion, butter, mace, baking powder, white bread and salt. Add the crabmeat, and mix well using a potato blender. As soon as blended, spoon into mushroom caps, sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve hot. They are good cold, too. Makes 14 to 16 stuffed mushrooms.

There is a delicious little stack of recipes on this desk, waiting for publication. Please be patient as they come to your front door or your computer screen. We will meet, then, again in February.

 

REQUESTS

* Homemade pretzel seasoning

* Advice on healthful recipes

 

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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Jane Henegar
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