recipe

Mini Fruit Tarts

Blueberry Mini Tarts

These little tarts are a perfect dessert any time or place. They are a wonderful dessert for picnics. They pack and travel well and make use of seasonal fruit. I used blueberries this time, but cherry or peach pie filling would also work. You can also fill them with jams. I have a nice supply of cherries in the freezer and I think cherry tarts might be next.

I used coconut oil in the crust recipe instead of butter. The crust worked out fine, although it is very crumbly. The texture after baking is amazingly tender, but I found the dough a little harder to handle than when made with butter. It’s a nice choice if you need a vegan dessert.

I used a jar of homemade blueberry pie filling made with wild Maine blueberries. You can use store bought, but I include the recipe at the bottom of the post. The recipe makes 4 cups of filling- you can use all the dough and all the filling and have 48 tarts. I didn’t need that many.

I made 24 and used a little over half of the dough recipe. Had I rolled them out a little thinner, half a recipe would be enough. I had a little blueberry filling left over, too.

Blueberry Mini Tarts

dough for 1 pie crust

About 2 cups blueberry pie filling, room temp or chilled

Flaky Pie Crust

2 c. flour

1 t. salt

3/4 c. coconut oil, chilled – you could use butter, lard or shortening

1 T. cider vinegar

4-5 T. cold water

Combine flour and salt in food processor and add coconut oil. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Toss in vinegar and water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing as you add, until dough just holds together. Remove from processor and press dough together to form a ball. Chill at least 30 minutes before using. Makes enough for 2 pie crusts or up to 48 tarts.

Blueberry Pie Filling

3 1/2 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen

3/4 c. sugar, or to taste

1/4 c. cornstarch

1 c. water

1 T. lemon juice

In saucepan, bring blueberries and sugar to a boil, stirring often. Combine cornstarch with water and lemon juice and add to the blueberry mixture. Return to the boil and cook until thickened and bubbly. Makes 4 cups. You will not need the whole batch for the tarts.

Note: This recipe could also be made with blackberries or raspberries.

To make the tarts: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness on lightly floured board. Cut out with 2-inch round cutter and place dough circles in mini muffin tins or mini tart pans. Re-roll scraps and keep cutting out until you have 24 circles. Save the rest of the dough for another use. It can be frozen. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in each tart. I used fairly shallow pans, you can add more filling if your pans are deeper. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 350 and bake about 15 minutes longer, or until edges of the tarts are golden brown. Cool a little before you remove from the pans. Makes 24.

Tarts right out of the oven

Easter Egg Biscotti

Easter Egg Biscotti

I get so many requests for this recipe, I decided to post it again. This is a treat from my childhood. Rose Dieglio was the mother of my best friend, Debbi. Rose made these every year, and I loved them. Years later, she was kind enough to share her recipe with me.  I always make a bunch to hand out to friends and family. It is a tradition I enjoy very much.

The dough is a type of cookie. You roll the dough out in pieces about the size of eggs. Make an indent in the dough and press in a tinted egg. The egg does not have to be cooked- it will cook when the biscotti bakes.

The dough will be a little sticky. Just add some flour to your fingers when shaping the dough, if needed.

The original recipe calls for shortening. I make them with butter, instead. If you use butter in the dough- chill it before baking.

For years I made the biscotti with hard cooked eggs, that I dyed. My mom always asked if I needed to cook the eggs. She wondered if the eggs would cook during the baking process. So I tried it a few years ago. I placed a raw, un-decorated egg on one of the biscotti “nests” and baked it with the rest. What do you know? The egg cooked in the oven when the biscotti baked. The lesson here- always listen to Mom. Saves a whole step in making this recipe. Just be gentle when you press the eggs into the dough. They are raw eggs, after all.

Once baked, the biscotti can be topped with a powdered sugar glaze and sprinkles, if you like. Because they have hard cooked eggs in them, store in fridge after cooking.

Easter Egg Biscotti

1 c. shortening or butter- I use butter*

1 ½ c. sugar

4 eggs

5 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

2 t. vanilla

1 c. milk

6 c. flour

24-30 eggs, plain or dyed

Powdered sugar glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter or shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add next 4 ingredients and blend until smooth. Stir in flour 2 cups at a time. Dough should be pliable. If dough is too sticky add a little more flour. Take a piece of dough about the size of a large egg and place on a greased baking sheet. Indent middle slightly and then place an egg in the center, pressing down slightly. It should look like a nest. Continue with remaining dough allowing about 2-3 inches in between as they spread when baking. You can fit 6-8 on a large baking sheet. Bake 20 –25 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Cool on wire rack before drizzling with frosting. Makes 24-30. Store in fridge.

* If using butter- chill dough a couple of hours before baking.

Sugar glaze

2 c. powdered sugar

2-3 T. milk or orange juice

1 t. vanilla

Food coloring, if desired

Mix together until smooth and of drizzling consistency.

Cooling down

Coconut Shrimp

Coconut Shrimp

Coconut shrimp is a favorite of mine, and pretty easy to make.  Cleaned, raw shrimp are dredged in flour, egg wash and a Panko bread crumb-coconut mix, then fried.  I add some homemade curry powder to the eggs, for a little extra flavor.

You can serve coconut shrimp as an appetizer or over rice as a main dish. I serve mine with a sweet chili sauce. These would be fun to serve for a Super Bowl party or Valentine’s Day.

At a recent class, I was using desiccated coconut in a dessert. I was asked a lot of questions about it. This is not the coarsely shredded sweetened version you will find at the local grocery store. Desiccated coconut looks like white bread crumbs. That is the coconut used in this dish.

Here is my recipe for coconut shrimp. You don’t need a special occasion to make it, but it makes any occasion special.

Coconut Shrimp

2 cups oil – I like to use peanut oil or avocado oil
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut- often found in Asian grocery stores or in candy making stores
1 pound  shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1-2 t. curry powder, or to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. In a large bowl, combine Panko bread crumbs and shredded coconut; set aside. Combine eggs with curry powder, set aside. Season shrimp with salt and pepper, to taste. Working one at a time, dredge shrimp in the flour, dip into the egg mixture, then dredge in the coconut mixture, pressing to coat. Working in batches, add shrimp to the Dutch oven and fry until evenly golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve immediately with sweet chili sauce, if desired. Serves 4.

North Carolina Lemon Pie

North Carolina Lemon Pie

This might be one of the best lemon pies I have ever had. It was simple to make, with a surprise ingredient in the crust. That ingredient is saltine crackers! They work so well in this crunchy and slightly salty/slightly sweet crust. Perfect with the lemon filling.

I first heard about this pie in one of my cooking classes. A woman mentioned it to me after class. Said she saw it on a TV show. I looked for it online. Odd thing was that every recipe was exactly the same. Even down to the wording in the directions.

I found one reference to the recipe first showing up in Cook’s Country Magazine about 6 years ago. I prefer to credit the source of a recipe, when possible.

I did change a couple of things from the original recipe. I added more lemon zest- from 1 tablespoon to 2. What can I say? I like a zesty pie.

I also thought it was odd to make so little whipped cream for the topping. Assuming you had a cup of whipping cream to start with, you use 1/4 cup in the pie filling. That leaves you with 3/4 cup of whipping cream. The recipe only calls for whipping up 1/2 a cup of whipping cream. I rounded it up in the recipe to 3/4 cup. Honestly, I would make even more topping the next time.

I really enjoyed the pie. I think you will, too.

North Carolina Lemon Pie

Crust

6 oz. saltine crackers (about 1½  sleeves)

1/8 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup light corn syrup

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14-ounce)

4 large egg yolks

¼ cup heavy cream

1-2 T. grated lemon zest- I used 2 tablespoons

½ cup lemon juice

Topping

¾ c. heavy cream, chilled- increase from original recipe. I think even more whipped cream would be better. Just my preference.

1 T. sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add the saltines and salt to the food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs (about 15 pulses). Add the melted butter and corn syrup and pulse until the crumbs are well combined.* Add the cracker mixture to a greased 9-inch pie plate. Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup or glass and press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 17 to 19 minutes. Prepare filling while the crust is baking. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, cream, and lemon zest together in a bowl, add the lemon juice and whisk until well combined. With the pie plate on the baking sheet, remove it from the oven and pour in the filling (the crust does not need to be cooled) and place it back in the hot oven. Bake until the edges of the pie are set but the center still jiggles, 15 to 17 minutes. Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool completely. Refrigerate the pie until completely chilled.

For the topping, use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whipped the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium low until foamy (about a minute). Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie and serve cold.

*Note: I will admit to just crushing up the crackers by putting them in a bag and using a rolling pin. I had a few larger pieces. Still worked. I think it gave the crust a crunchier texture. Although it sank down into the pie pan when I baked it- so maybe next time I will crush the crackers a little more.   

Cooling down

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup

When I was a kid, I loved getting a baked potato, when we went out for dinner. I loved my Mom’s home cooking, including her baked potatoes, but it was different at a restaurant. It would come to the table wrapped in foil and all puffed up in the middle. As a kid it looked very special to me. They also had so many toppings you could get. Choices included sour cream, butter, chives, bacon and cheese. This soup starts off as a cream of potato soup, and then combines many of the toppings you might have on a baked potato. It feels just like those baked potatoes at the steakhouse. Comfort food on a couple of levels.

Baked Potato Soup

4 slices bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4- 5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

4-5 cups chicken stock

1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley

2 c. half and half

3 T. flour

salt and pepper to taste

Toppings:

Sour cream

chopped green onions or chives

shredded cheese

extra bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

In soup pot combine bacon and onion and cook over medium heat until bacon is cooked and onion is tender. Add potatoes and stock and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add parsley and most of the half and half. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the half and half and combine with the flour and stir until smooth. Ladle a little of the warm soup into the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.  Add the flour mixture to the rest of the soup and stir until smooth. Cook until soup is thickened and bubbly. Adjust seasonings and serve. Add toppings of your choice at the table. Makes 4 servings.

Salmon Quiche

Salmon Quiche

I like canned salmon. There, I said it. I know it sometimes gets a bad rap, but I find canned salmon very convenient to have around. If you didn’t already know this- canned salmon is made from wild caught salmon and has all the nutritional benefits of fresh.  If you are looking for something different to do with canned salmon, you might want to try this recipe.

If you prefer, you could use fresh salmon. About 12 oz. of cooked salmon, flaked, would be used in place of the canned salmon.

The crust is a breeze to make. It’s pressed into the pie pan, rather than being rolled out. The crust is made with whole wheat flour, almonds and cheddar cheese. Yum. You could use this crust recipe for other quiches.

Did I mention it also freezes well?

Salmon Quiche

 1 c. whole wheat flour

2/3 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 c. chopped almonds

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. paprika

6 T. oil

1 (15 oz.) can salmon, flaked, drained, liquid reserved, bones and skin removed

3 eggs, beaten

1 c. sour cream

1/4 c. mayo or salad dressing

1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 T. grated onion

1/2 t. dillweed

3 drops Tabasco

For crust, combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Add oil and mix well. Press into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove pie crust from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Meanwhile, begin filling. If needed, add water to reserved salmon juice to measure 1/2 cup. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, including reserved liquid. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 45 minutes or until set in the center. Makes 6 servings.

Finnish Nisu Bread

Nisu Bread

I wanted to share one of my favorite bread recipes. I seem to bake bread more often in winter. This wonderful recipe came from the Finn grandmother of two good friends. I think of her every time I make this bread. She was a sweet and loving woman.

Nisu is a soft, slightly sweet bread, made special with the addition of cardamom.

Cardamom is a spice that has a rich, sweet flavor and fragrance.  You can purchase it whole, in pods, or ground. Cardamom is often used in baked goods and adds a nice flavor to frosting and glazes. It is also used to flavor coffee. Cardamom is a little pricey. The good news is a little goes a long way. If you buy ground cardamom, you can store it in the freezer to keep it fresh longer.

This bread is lovely just toasted, and makes great French toast. It is also a nice sandwich bread. The recipe makes three loaves, so you can leave one out and freeze the other two.

Nisu

½ c. warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
2 c. milk
½ c. sugar
2-3 t. ground cardamom
1 t. salt
6 T. butter
6-7 c. flour, preferably bread flour
2 eggs

Dissolve yeast in water and set aside. Place milk in large bowl and add the sugar, cardamom, salt and butter. Heat in microwave until liquid is very warm. Butter might not be completely melted. Stir mixture until sugar is dissolved. Place 2 cups of flour in a mixing bowl and add the milk mixture, eggs and yeast mixture. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup more of the flour and beat 2 minutes more. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and turn dough to coat. Cover with a towel and allow to rest until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and divide into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a loaf and place in greased 9×5 inch bread pans. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped lightly. Makes 3 loaves.

Spiced Applesauce Cake

Spiced Applesauce Cake

This is a favorite recipe of mine. The cake is moist, lightly spiced and very easy to make. I shared it with a friend and he really enjoyed it. The applesauce adds moisture and flavor.

I used olive oil in the recipe, which makes this cake vegan. You can make this recipe with butter instead. The spices work so well together. Sometimes simple is the best. Before someone asks, it is not a misprint, there are no eggs in the recipe. The cake rises just fine without them.

I wish I remembered where this recipe came from. I have a piece of flowered stationery, a little crinkled around the edges, creased from being folded many times, with the recipe written on it. It is not my handwriting. I would love to credit the source of this wonderful recipe.

Spiced Applesauce Cake

2 c. unsweetened applesauce

½ c. butter, coconut oil, olive oil or avocado oil

2 c. sugar

3 c. flour

1 T. baking soda

½ t. salt

1 t. each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger

¼ t. cloves

1 c. raisins or chopped nuts, I used walnuts

Heat together applesauce and butter until butter melts. Cool down a bit. If using coconut oil, also heat up the applesauce. For other oils, just use room temperature applesauce and mix with the oil. Preheat oven 375 and grease 9×13-inch pan. Stir all ingredients together bake 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan.

Peanut Soup

Peanut Soup

This is one of the easiest soups I make. It is also one of my favorites. It’s a rich soup with a creamy texture and just a hint of heat. You could make it spicier, of course. The recipe is very versatile. As written, the soup is vegan, but you could make it with a meat-based stock, if you prefer.

If your only experience with eating peanut butter is on a sandwich or in cookies, you might be surprised at just how good this soup tastes. I have made it with almond butter. If you don’t have peanut butter, the almond butter works fine. Other nut butters would also work. but I still prefer it made with peanut butter. It freezes well, too.

Peanut Soup

2 c. chopped onions
1 T. oil
cayenne pepper to taste
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1 c. chopped carrots
1 c. chopped sweet potatoes
1 c. chopped white potatoes
5 c. vegetable stock or water
1 c. tomato sauce
1 c. smooth peanut butter
1 T. sugar, optional
1 c. chopped green onions

Sauté onions in oil until tender. Add seasonings and carrots and sauté 3 minutes more. Add potatoes and stock and simmer until vegetables are tender. Puree soup in blender in batches until smooth. Return to pot and add tomato sauce and peanut butter. Add sugar if soup is not sweet enough. I never add the sugar, but some people do. Warm gently and serve with green onions on top. You could also top with chopped peanuts, for a little crunch. Serves 6-8.

Pear Coffee Cake

Pear Coffee Cake

This may be one of my favorite pear desserts. I combined ripe pears with pecans and cinnamon sugar to create this moist and flavorful cake. I had Bartlett pears, but use whatever pears you have on hand. They should be ripe, but still firm. In the recipe directions I say to have the pears peeled and sliced, and ready to go in the cake. I actually made the batter first, then prepped the fruit. Mostly because I was distracted and forgot. It worked out just fine. The upside was that the pears did not have a chance to discolor, and I didn’t have to put them in lemon water until ready to use.

The cake is wonderful served all on its own, but I also enjoy topping it with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Pear Coffee Cake

1 c. oil- I like to use olive oil or avocado oil

4 eggs

1 t. vanilla

1/3 c. orange or lemon juice

3 c. flour

2 c. sugar

3 t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

3-4 pears, peeled, cored and sliced

½ c. sugar

1 T. cinnamon

¾ c. toasted pecan halves or pieces, optional

Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine oil with eggs, vanilla and juice until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients and add to egg mixture. Beat together until batter is smooth. Batter will be thick. Combine the ½ cup sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside. Place ½ of batter in prepared pan. Arrange pear slices on batter and sprinkle on ½ of the cinnamon mixture. Pour on remaining batter and top with the pecans, if using. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture. Bake 50- 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool before slicing. Serves 10-12.

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