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Welcome to the March kitchen and all its promise. Shall we begin?

Michael Coleman can't find the maple bourbon spicy pecans of which he read. In a similar vein from a discussion about salads and spring, here are additional requests. Can you stir up sugared pecans for a green salad studded with strawberries and those pecans? How about an avocado salad dressing that won't get brown?

 

SPICE CAKE

In sending this favorite cake, DJS waxed nostalgic about her Grandma Victoria. "She was an amazing lady who raised seven children during the Depression, helped raise many of the 30-plus grands and never complained about anything, ever."

The Depression produced in her generous creativity. "She used what she had from their garden, her vast home canning and a few pantry staples. Growing up, I always thought she just loved oatmeal (as did I) since it was often included in her burgers, loaves, breads and even a pie that resembled pecan, just no pecans."

This simple cake recipe was popular in years gone by. Who needs two layers anyway, much less three, and icing to boot? As DJS noted, "If you need a dessert for a potluck, there won't be any left of this cake."

Oatmeal Spice Cake

Cake:

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup quick oats

1 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup Crisco

1 cup water

2 eggs

2 tablespoons dark molasses

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Put everything in a large bowl. Blend with mixer 30 seconds on low speed. Scrape down bowl. Beat on medium-high 3 minutes. Bake at 35 to 40 minutes in greased and floured 9- by 13-inch pan. Cool slightly.

Topping:

1 stick butter, melted

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/3 cup chopped pecans

3 tablespoons canned milk or cream

Heat broiler.

Mix together all ingredients, and spread over warm cake.

Place 2 to 3 inches under broiler. Broil 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Do not burn. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. This goes great with a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

 

CUCUMBER SOUP

Mary Ahern Flynn recommended this Cool Cucumber Soup from a favorite Flynn cookbook ("Salad People and More Real Recipes," a children's tome by Mollie Katzen). The careful directions aimed at the inexperienced cook are also useful to the more experienced. (The list of ingredients advised that the cook will need nonstick spray for the honey spoon.)

Cool Cucumber Soup

2 medium cucumbers

1 cup plain yogurt

10 leaves fresh mint

Nonstick spray for the honey spoon

2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel the cucumbers, then cut them down the center longwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. (It's easiest to do this right over, and into, the garbage.)

Cut the cucumbers into large chunks.

Place the cucumber in the blender with the yogurt, mint, honey and salt. Purée until smooth — or mostly smooth.

Serve cold, in bowls with spoons or in cups for drinking. You can eat or drink.

Note: This soup stratifies if kept in the refrigerator for more than a day. To blend again, just shake the container or stir from the bottom.

Yields 3 to 4 servings (2 cups total).

 

HEALTHFUL CHOICES

A Fare Exchange reader's comment on healthy eating has produced varied opinions, yes, in what one described as "a forum for education desperately needed in our area." And so, in addition to recipes that are the conversational bedrock of this column, we will continue to pass on teaching from some of you to the many of us.

Anonymous, a well-trained nutrition student, in a previous column mentioned "the Dirty Dozen" but didn't elaborate. The Dirty Dozen refers to "produce you should buy organically grown because it holds on to pesticide residue that can't be removed by washing, peeling or scrubbing. There is also the Clean 15: produce that is OK to buy conventional rather than organic because they contain less pesticide residue and are easier to wash clean. This information was published for 2020 by the Environmental Working Group."

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

"The Dirty Dozen includes strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes and raisins, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes and celery. Buy organically grown.

"The Clean 15 includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, onions, papaya, frozen sweet peas, eggplant, asparagus, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, honeydew melons and kiwi. These are easier to wash clean and therefore safer to buy conventional rather than organic."

 

VEGAN CREAM CHEESE

Cate Irvin explained that, in a diet free of dairy, a good vegan option includes using cashew cream cheese. This recipe for a cashew-based cream "cheese" is a tasty example.

Cashew Cream Cheese

2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water 4 to 8 hours, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste (up to 3 tablespoons total)

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Stir-ins of choice, such as chives, roasted garlic, veggies, strawberries, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers

Place the cashews, 1 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice and salt into the bowl of a food processor.

Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add a tablespoon or two of water to thin the mixture as needed.

Taste test and add additional salt and/or lemon juice if you like.

Add any stir-ins to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped and well blended.

Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Source: the website connoisseurveg.com.

 

FEEL-BETTER FOODS

Another reader, Susan Peel, explained why her household is mostly vegan. "Once in a while we will have some cheese or butter, but we both (husband and I) feel so much better physically when we leave off all dairy and eggs."

And how does she manage to make it cost- and labor-effective?

"It's cheaper to buy nonprocessed foods and fresh produce. I use an instant pot to cook grains and beans, and it saves so much time."

We return to Mr. and Mrs. Sunday's claim that healthful food, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. What foods make your diners feel better? That matters, and so we make our choices, and our menus. And then we share.

Thus challenged and/or inspired, shall we meet again?

 

REQUESTS

* Maple bourbon spicy pecans

* Sugared pecans

* Avocado salad dressing

 

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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