Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad

Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad

When I was a kid, my mom used to make a wilted salad. She would toss spinach with a hot dressing and then top the salad with hard cooked eggs and croutons. The dressing was made with some of the bacon fat, since there was always bacon in the salad, too.  That was the inspiration for this salad.

I had planned to make a tossed salad with some fresh spinach, but something told me to go in another direction. Since I already had bacon and shrimp, I decided to just put them all together. With just a few extra ingredients tossed in, I ended up with a really good dinner. Sort of like those wilted salads my mom used to make.

I didn’t have a lot of time, so the fact that it was ready in about 15 minutes was nice, too. I put the pasta on to cook when I started cooking the bacon to save even more time.

Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad

3-4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots- or 1 small onion- chopped fine
2 cloves minced garlic
8 oz. fresh spinach
8 oz. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
¼ c. sherry
¼ c. chopped parsley
½ t. grated ginger
½ t. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked pasta

 

Cook bacon in skillet until almost cooked. Add the shallots and cook until shallots are just turning brown. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add spinach and cook, stirring often, until spinach is wilted down. Add shrimp and continue cooking until shrimp are just barely cooked. Add sherry and seasonings and cook 2 minutes more. Toss with hot pasta and serve. Serves 2.
Note: You can add some fresh Parmesan cheese when serving, if you like.

Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake

This pear-studded cake is perfect to have with that morning cup of coffee- or for dessert. The tender cake is topped with a lot of pears, cubes of cream cheese, cinnamon sugar and a vanilla glaze. The taste is amazing. I used Bartlett pears, but any ripe pear would work. The 4 pears weighed about 2 pounds.

I will say up front, that this is not the prettiest cake out there. It comes out of the oven kind of lumpy, from all those pears and the tiny cubes of cream cheese. Once you top it with the cinnamon sugar, and later the glaze, it looks a lot better. It is one of the tastiest, though, and isn’t that what’s important?

So if you want to enjoy one of my favorite Autumn fruits in a new way- try making this simple, tasty pear coffee cake. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake

1 stick (½ cup) butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 c. half and half

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

2 t. baking powder

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

2 lbs. pears, about 4 large, cored, peeled and sliced *

8 oz. cream cheese, cut in small pieces

Topping

3 T. cinnamon sugar

Glaze:

½ c. powdered sugar

1-2 T. milk

½ t. vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and pour into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, half and half, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour directly over the butter in the baking dish, but do not stir. Drain pears well. Add the pears, arranging in a single layer as much as possible. Sprinkle cream cheese pieces over fruit. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown and edges are bubbling. When you remove the cake from the oven, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Set cake aside to cool.  Make glaze by combining glaze ingredients. Add just enough milk for a nice consistency for drizzling. Drizzle over cooled cake. Store leftovers in fridge. Serves 12.

 

* To keep pears from discoloring place in a bowl with 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Baked Eggplant

Baked Eggplant

I love eggplant prepared in a lot of different ways. I must say, this preparation is one of my favorites. I think it is because it reminds me of my parents.

My mother used to bread and bake eggplant this way. My dad loved it- and he was not a big eggplant fan. I guess pretty much anything tastes better when breaded. She would top the eggplant with some cheese and sometimes with some marinara sauce.

I cut the eggplant in slices, but you could also cut them in strips and serve like French fries, if you prefer.

One of the problems  with eggplant is about how much oil it will absorb when cooking. If you fry these slices in a skillet- they will soak up the oil like a sponge. I prefer to bake the eggplant, with a drizzle of oil. They come out crispy, but not greasy.

They make a nice side dish or even main dish. I topped mine with fresh tomato sauce and Asiago cheese.   Mozzarella was what my mom used. I often use Parmesan cheese or a Pecorino Romano.

Baked Eggplant

1 large eggplant or 2 medium

salt

1 egg

1/2 c. milk or half and half

pepper

1 T. Tuscan seasoning* recipe follows or use another blend of Italian herbs

1 t. garlic powder

about 1 cup of bread crumbs

1/2 c. oil

1/2 c. Asiago cheese, or more

Peel and slice eggplant. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for 20 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry. Prepare egg wash by mixing the egg with the milk or half and half, pepper, a little more salt, Tuscan seasoning and garlic powder. Place in a shallow bowl. Place bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. One slice at a time, dip eggplant in egg wash, then in the bread crumbs, turning to coat evenly. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Drizzle with the oil and bake for about 25 minutes. Turn slices after 15 minutes and continue baking until eggplant slices are golden brown and tender. Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for 5 minutes longer. Serve as is, or with a marinara sauce. Serves 3-4.

 

*Tuscan Seasoning

½ c. dried basil

½ c. dried oregano

½ c. dried marjoram

3 T. dried minced onion

2 T. dried minced garlic

2 T. dried rosemary

2 T. dried parsley

1 t. crushed red pepper

 

 

Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Crumb Cake

I love apple season. I will go to local farm markets and orchards several times, picking out different varieties. Several of my favorite varieties won’t be around until October, but there is a great selection already.

I eat plenty of them fresh, but I  also cook with them. This is one of my favorite apple recipes.

The tender cake and crunchy topping seem like the perfect combination. Most days I would rather have a crumb topping on a cake than frosting. This recipe hits all the right notes. Sweet with apple chunks throughout, a nice touch of cinnamon and that crunchy topping that I love.

 

Apple Crumb Cake

For cake batter:

2 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

½ stick (¼ cup) butter, softened

¾ c. sugar

1 egg

½ c. milk

2 c. chopped peeled, cored apples

For topping:

½ c. sugar

¼ c. flour

2 t. cinnamon

½ stick (¼ c. butter, chilled and cut into bits)

 

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and milk. Add flour mixture gradually until just mixed in. Fold in apples. Grease and flour an 8 or 9-inch pan and add prepared batter. Combine topping ingredients until they resemble coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the batter in pan and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 35-45 minutes. Use toothpick to test.

Note: I used a 9-inch square pan and it worked fine.

 

 

Kahlua Chocolate Bars

Kahlua Chocolate Bars

I taught a class on making homemade liqueurs last night. Everyone had a chance to taste a number of different liqueurs.

We also cooked with some of them. One of the recipes we had were these decadent Kahlua Chocolate Bars. These yummy treats are brownie-like in texture, studded with nuts and chocolate chips and full of Kahlua flavor.  There is Kahlua in the batter, Kahlua brushed over the squares after baking, and Kahlua in the brown butter frosting.

These are definitely a treat for the grown-ups in the family.

 

Kahlua Chocolate Bars

1 ¼ c. all purpose flour
¾ t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ c. butter, softened
¾ c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
¼ c. coffee liqueur
1-c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. walnuts
1 T. coffee liqueur (for tops of bars)

Brown butter icing

2 T. butter
1 T. coffee liqueur
2 t. milk
1 1/3 c. powdered sugar

Walnut halves or chopped walnuts

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg then stir in liqueur, then flour mixture. Fold in chips and nuts. Turn into greased 7×11 inch pan and even out. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Top should spring back when touched lightly. Cool in pan 15 minutes then brush with remaining liqueur. When cool spread with brown butter icing and top with nuts. Makes 24 bars.

To make icing:
Brown butter in small saucepan. Do not burn. Remove from heat and beat in remaining icing ingredients. Spread on bars. Allow frosting to set up before cutting.

Apple Pie Blintzes

Apple Pie Blintzes

Since I posted the recipe for making your own apple pie filling recently, I thought I’d share a fun way to use it- other than in a pie. I made blintzes with the pie filling.

I used flour tortillas for the crepes. Don’t get me wrong, I love making real crepes. But, when you don’t have the time, the tortillas are a fun and tasty substitute.

I soaked the tortillas in milk – actually I soaked them in almond milk because that is what I had- but you could use regular milk if you prefer. By soaking the tortillas in milk, they soften up and can be used like a crepe. Soak them for at least 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. I placed the tortillas in a shallow baking pan and made sure to drizzle each one with almond milk as I added them to the pan.

For the filling, I used some of my homemade apple pie filling. If you have fresh apples, you can just peel and slice the apples, then cook them in a little water and sugar until softened. You can make them as sweet as you like. You made need less sugar if the apples are extra sweet. Add some cinnamon and nutmeg, too. If they are too watery- combine a little cornstarch with cold water and drizzle the mixture in until the apples thicken up. Don’t add too quickly or you might them too thick and gummy.

To assemble the blintzes, place a softened tortilla on your work surface and spoon a little apple filling in the middle. You can do this with hot filling, or even make the filling ahead of time and use it cold. Don’t over fill them or you won’t be able to fold them up. I used 8-inch tortillas and used about 1/4 cup of filling for each one. Fold the sides in until they almost meet in the middle and them roll the tortilla up to cover the filling. Place seam side down until ready to fry them.

Heat butter in a skillet, and brown the blintzes over medium heat until lightly toasted on both sides. They will be crispy on the outside, but tender in the middle. Put on a serving plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve while warm. These are fine just as they are, but feel free to add ice cream or whipped cream, too.

My guestsreally liked them and said they did not realize they were made from tortillas. I have made these before and use different fruit fillings. I’ve even made a cheese filled version a few times. It seems I usually have a package of tortillas, so it is a go-to dessert for me in a pinch.

Homemade Apple Pie Filling

Apple Pie Filling

While I think the best pie is made with fresh apples, I also like making and canning my own apple pie filling. It is a handy way for me to enjoy local apples throughout the year. It is also a whole lot better than any commercial pie filling I have tried. Loaded with plenty of big chunks of apples and seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg- I think it the next best thing to fresh apples for baking.

I use my canned filling  to make pies, but I also use it for kolachy, blintzes, cakes and more.

The hard part, for some, is getting a hold of Clear Gel. It is a special type of cornstarch. I buy mine on line, but you can find it in stores where the Amish shop. Clear Gel stays thick, even if it is reheated. Regular cornstarch will not.

Here is the recipe I use. You can tweak the seasonings to suit your own taste, but keep in mind that spices sometimes get stronger when canned, so don’t go too crazy!!

 

Apple Pie Filling

6 qts. apples, sliced and blanched

5 1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. Clear Gel- modified cornstarch available on line and in Amish stores

1 T. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

2 1/2 c. cold water

5 c. apple juice

3/4 c. lemon juice

If apples lack tartness use an additional 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Wash, peel and core apples and cut into 1/2 thick slices. Place in water treated with either lemon juice, citric acid or ascorbic acid to prevent darkening. Remove from solution and drain well. Blanch in boiling water- 2 quarts at a time- for 1 minute. As you finish each batch place in a bowl and cover to keep warm. In large pot combine sugar, Clear Gel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water and apple juice. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute. Add drained apples and stir gently to combine. Ladle into hot, clean jars leaving 1 1/2 inches of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process in a boiling water bath- pints or quarts for 25 minutes. After the time is up, turn off canner and let jars sit in water bath for 5 minutes before removing. This will reduce the chance of siphoning.  Makes 7 quarts or 14 pints.

For only 1 quart

3 1/2 c.apples

3/4 plus 2 T. sugar

1/4 c. Clear Gel

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/8 t. nutmeg

1/2 c. cold water

3/4 c. apple juice

2 T. lemon juice

Apple Cake Roll

Spiced Apple Cake Roll

I really look forward to apple season. I enjoy eating plenty of apples fresh, but I also like cooking with them. I’ve made a lot of different cake rolls in the past, and decided to make a cake roll with apples this time. Good decision.

This is a fun dessert, and easier to make than you might think. I also added whole berry cranberry sauce. I made my own, but feel free to use canned if that is what you have.

The filling is not terribly sweet. I like it that way, but you can add more sugar. You can serve it plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or with a scoop of ice cream. A drizzle of caramel sauce would be nice, too.

The cake can also be served for breakfast or brunch.

 

 Apple Cake Roll

4 eggs, room temp

2/3 c. sugar

¼ t. vanilla

¾ c. sifted cake flour*

1 t. cinnamon

¾ t. each baking powder and nutmeg

¼ t. each  cloves and salt

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

2 lbs. apples, peeled and sliced thin- about 5 medium apples

1 c. whole berry cranberry sauce- homemade or canned**

Whipped cream, optional

Grease bottom of 15×10-inch jelly roll pan and line with wax paper. Grease wax paper. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla 5 minutes. Sift together flour with dry ingredients and fold into eggs. Spread in prepared pan and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 13 minutes or until light golden. Meanwhile sprinkle a tea towel with the powdered sugar. Loosen hot cake from sides of pan and invert onto tea towel. Remove wax paper carefully and roll up cake from the narrow side. Cool. Meanwhile combine apples with cranberry sauce in saucepan and simmer until apples have softened, but still hold their shape. Stir occasionally. Cool to lukewarm. Carefully unroll cake and spread with the apple mixture. Re-roll cake, discarding towel. Serve with dollops of whipped cream. Serves 8.

* To make your own cake flour just measure out a cup of all purpose flour- and remove 2 tablespoons for 1 cup of cake flour- or – remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace them with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. I normally do the cornstarch thing with several cups of flour at a time so I have cake flour on hand when needed.

** For homemade cranberry sauce place 1 1/2 cups of cranberries in a saucepan and add a little orange juice or water- about 1/2 c.- and sugar to taste. Simmer until berries burst and mixture thickens. Yield- about 1 cup of whole berry cranberry sauce.

 

 

 

Braided Herb Bread

Braided Herb Bread

One of the benefits about baking your own bread is the aroma. The house gets filled with the most wonderful smells. In this case, the experience is even better because the breads I baked are filled with herbs and shallots, so those fragrances are also in the mix.

I like to make these loaves in braids and place them on a baking sheet- but they could just as easily be baked in bread pans for more traditional loaves. Great for sandwiches.

I like to toast some of this bread, and use as croutons or as a base for stuffing.

You can also slice the bread, brush with softened butter, then toast, for a twist on garlic bread. The garlic is already in the bread, but feel free to add more to the butter, before brushing it on the bread.

 

Braided Herb Bread

5 ½ -6 ½ c. flour
2 packages quick rising yeast
¼ c. sauteed shallots
2 T. each dried marjoram and parsley
1 T. each dried oregano and minced garlic
1 T. honey
2 t. dried thyme
2 t. salt
¼ c. olive oil
2 ¼ c. hot water

In a mixing bowl combine 2 c. of flour with the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Beat with electric mixer 4 minutes then add 1-cup additional flour and beat 1 minute longer. Stir in flour ½ cup at a time until soft dough forms. Turn onto surface and knead, adding flour gradually until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in lightly greased bowl and turn to cover. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Turn dough onto surface and cut in half. Cut each half into thirds. Roll each piece of dough into an 18-inch rope. Loosely braid three ropes together and repeat with the remaining dough. Place on greased baking sheet and cover until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped lightly. Makes 2.

Variation: Whole wheat: Add 2 cups of whole-wheat flour to replace 2 cups of white flour. Also try adding ¼ c. of wheat germ, oat bran or 2 tablespoons of seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, poppy, etc.)
Regular yeast can be used, but rising times will be longer and water should be warm, not hot.

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur

I make a lot of different liqueurs. Raspberry liqueur is probably one of my favorites. It reminds me of a warm summer afternoon.

I love raspberries. My parents had a row of raspberry bushes at the back of the yard, so I grew up enjoying them fresh. I preserve raspberries to enjoy all year long.  I freeze berries, make jams and jellies and dehydrate some.

I also enjoy  using some to make homemade raspberry liqueur. You just start with alcohol – I  most often use vodka – then you add raspberries. I sweeten it later on, but you can leave it unsweetened, if you prefer.

Its beautiful color and great flavor make it nice for sipping, or used in mixed drinks. Think of it as just another food preservation method. Here is the recipe, in case you want to make it. Makes a great gift, too.

You can use fresh or frozen berries.

Homemade Raspberry Liqueur

1 lb. raspberries*
3 c. vodka, you could use brandy
1 ¼ c. sugar
Combine fruit and vodka and let stand 2 -4 weeks. Stir in sugar and age 3 months. Strain and filter. Makes 3-4 cups.

*You can use frozen berries, too.

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