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Good morning, readers. As we begin this column, I anticipate what you will send to fill it. We live in a world with many individual dietary recommendations, to which you have applied both great creativity and efficient use of time.

Today's first requests are cloaked in anonymity: "I would like a make-ahead recipe for mashed potatoes for the holidays and one for pigs in a blanket." This reader seconded Carolee Edwards' recent request for fruitcake recipes for Christmas, "but perhaps individual fruitcakes made in muffin tins, since this is such a calorie-dense dessert."

 

VEGAN BESTS

In the ongoing discussion of best of the current best in any reader's kitchen, we had both a request and a couple of answers from "Indigo's Girl."

She is a health-conscious and creative college student who is finding her own way to live vegan. "I am in search of any vegan recipes that are not too complicated and that have options for ingredients.

"I often use Pinterest to get ideas, and then I make the recipes my own way at home. Here are two examples."

 

Vegan Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

1 organic sweet potato per person

Canned or frozen kernel corn

Black beans

1 large or small green, red or yellow pepper, chopped

Sliced avocado

Unsweetened cashew yogurt

Cashew nacho cheese

Bake the sweet potato as usual. In a skillet, sauté together corn, black beans and pepper in your choice of oil or butter.

Scoop out the insides of the potatoes into the skillet. Turn off heat, and mix them well.

Scoop skillet ingredients back into the skins, and bake for 10 more minutes at 400 degrees.

When stuffed sweet potato is done, remove from oven and add sliced avocado, cashew yogurt and nacho cheese on top of each sweet potato.

 

Vegan Hummus Pasta

Garlic hummus

Cherry tomatoes

Mushrooms, sliced

Broccoli florets, cut small

Olive oil

Salt, pepper and any other desired seasonings

Tricolor rotini — or any gluten-free pasta or pasta with gluten

Spread garlic hummus in the bottom of a baking dish. Surround it with tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and broccoli.

Drizzle everything with olive oil, salt, pepper and other seasonings, and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.

While this bakes, boil rotini or any pasta according to package directions.

When pasta is done, drain and combine with the hummus mixture and a small amount of water, and heat gently until mixture thickens. Serve hot.

 

PASTRY PIZZA

We'll turn over the remaining lines of this column to E.E., who saw the request for puff pastry pizza and shared the basic recipe and her unique toppings.

She began, "Although Margherita pizza is my favorite kind, for this recipe I like to toss zucchini and feta and purple onions with olive oil. I bake according to the directions below, then top with our favorite seasoning, za'atar, from Israel. The original source for this recipe, Julia Frey, noted that puff pastry pizza can be ready in 30 minutes, because it doesn't require the rising time of traditional pizza."

 

Puff Pastry Pizza

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

13 ounces puff pastry (from the freezer section)

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Fresh basil leaves for the top

5 to 7 spiced salami or pepperoni slices (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Stir olive oil into the crushed tomatoes, sprinkle in some dried oregano and chopped fresh basil leaves with a pinch of salt.

Divide your puff pastry and roll out each ball on a floured surface 1/4 inch thick. Prick with a fork all over, then transfer them to parchment paper lined baking sheets. (If using pre-rolled puff pastry sheets, feel free to keep them whatever shape they came in but they might need to be rolled out thinner.)

Then spread the pizza sauce on your pizza base, scatter mozzarella cheese all over, then fill the gaps with fresh basil leaves. If using salami or pepperoni, place the slices on top of mozzarella.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly. You can bake both pizzas at the same time, if your oven is large enough, or one after another.

This puff pastry pizza recipe makes 2 (9-inch) thin-crust pizzas.

This recipe will feed 2 as a main course or 16 as an appetizer.

 

MINTY BROWNIES

And here are the sought-after crème de menthe brownies, from E.E. as well. "This is our traditional Christmas gift. I work from a recipe that appeared in The New York Times."

 

Crème de Menthe Brownies

Brownie:

8 ounces chocolate, chopped fine

1/2 cup butter

2 large eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and line the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Make the brownies: In a heat-safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the 8 ounces chocolate and 1/2 cup butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.

In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar together, until the mixture lightens a bit in color and texture, about 1 minute. Whisk in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt, followed by the chocolate and butter mixture. Fold in the flour until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until the brownies are set and a toothpick inserted into the center has a few moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool completely.

Buttercream:

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoons crème de menthe liqueur

1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Pinch salt

2 cups confectioners sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the crème de menthe, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and a pinch of salt and mix until smooth. Lower the mixer speed, and slowly add the confectioners sugar. Increase the speed, and beat until smooth. Taste and add more peppermint extract if desired.

Spread the buttercream over the cooled brownies, then refrigerate the brownies until the buttercream is cold and firm, about 30 minutes.

Frosting:

6 ounces chocolate

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

Pinch salt

Combine all of the ingredients for the frosting in a heat-safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally until it is melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate over the cooled buttercream, and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Chill until the topping is set, about 30 minutes. Store the brownies in the refrigerator. For the cleanest slices, make sure to remove the brownies from the pan and wipe off your knife in between cuts.

***

With this sweet ending, we will close today's Exchange, looking forward to next week and what will come.

 

REQUESTS

— Make-ahead mashed potatoes

— Pigs in a blanket

— Fruitcake made in muffin tins

— Easy and adaptable vegan 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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