My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Lovely Lemon Curd

Lemon curd.

Deliciously smooth. Sweet and tangy. The taste of spring in a spread. O.k., I’m waxing a little poetic, here. But lemon curd rocks. It is expensive to buy, but easy and inexpensive to make. So make some! And then eat it with everything: on waffles or shortbread cookies. In yogurt (with or without granola!), with fresh berries. In a cheesecake. With ice cream. On gingerbread. As a cake filling. Then try the same recipe with limes. Or oranges!  These citrus curds would be beautiful additions to your Easter brunches!

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Ingredients:

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

½ cup lemon juice. I used Meyer lemons here, and needed three lemons

1.4 cup butter, cubed

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

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How to Make It:

In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Add the butter and the lemon zest and cook, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. You will see it thicken, and feel it thicken as you stir. Test with a metal spoon: the curd is ready if it coats the back of the spoon. Be careful that you don’t let it boil, or it will curdle.

Pour the curd into a small bowl and let cool slightly before transferring to the refrigerator. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the curd so you don’t get a skin.2019-03-22 10.58.13

Don’t panic if you see little bits of cooked egg white in your curd!  The egg whites coagulate at a lower temperature than the yolks. If this happens, all is not lost! The egg bits won’t affect the flavor of the curd, and you can simply strain them out. Spoon your curd into a strainer over a small bowl and gently press it through. Goodbye, egg whites. If you don’t like the zest in your final curd, this method will strain it out, also.

This makes a soft, spreadable, sweet curd. Use within a week, or freeze!

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Try it on vanilla yogurt! It tastes like a lemon meringue pie! Plus it looks like a fried egg. Which is fun. (For me.)

 

 


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Delicious Crab Cakes

Crab cakes are one of my favorite seafood dishes! They’re ridiculously easy to make and very comforting. This recipe is fresh and delicious and lets the crab be the star. Try them with a dollop of kimchi mayo for a little added tang.

Ingredients

2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 Tablespoon flat-leaf parsley

2 Tablespoons chopped green onions

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon mustard

½ teaspoon Old bay seasoning

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 egg, beaten

12 ounces lump crabmeat

Olive oil

Lemon wedges, a nice remoulade sauce, or kimchi mayonnaise for serving

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How to Make It:

Combine 1/3 cup of the panko and all the other ingredients up to the crab in a large bowl, stirring well. Now add the crab, stirring gently until just combined. Place the remaining 1/3 of the panko on a plate or shallow dish. Shape the crab mixture into patties, about 4-inches around. I made mine a little larger and came out with 5 patties. Coat the patties in the panko.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and coat the pan. Now, add your crabby patties. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they are nice and golden.

These are delicious! Serve with lemon wedges or top with an easy remoulade sauce or a spoonful kimchi mayo! We like sweet potato fries and green salad with these crab cakes in the summer and steamed broccoli in the winter.

What? Kimchi mayo?  Oh yes! Stir together ¾ cup of your favorite brand of kimchi (or make your own, like we do) and 3 Tablespoons of mayo. or less, to taste. The less mayo, the more zip to the kimchi)

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This is great on fish, crab cakes, burgers…Yum. And yes, I realize I forgot to get a picture of a beautifully-plated crab cake. We were hungry.


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Pure Heaven: The Best Angel Food Cake

Ever since I was little, angel food cake has been my favorite cake of all. Light, fluffy, just sweet enough, it lends itself to all kinds of toppings. Strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier. Butterscotch sauce. Frosting. Lemon glaze. Yum. In fact, my wedding cakes were angel food with a selection of choose-your-own toppings.

It is cold outside. I’m in need of a little happy-memories comfort food. That, and we now have six chickens and an over-abundance of eggs. Clearly, time for angel food cake.

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Apologies for this photo: We ended up eating the whole cake except for this last little raggedy piece before I remembered to take a picture. (It’s that good.)

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar, divided

1 ½ cups egg whites at room temperature (12-15 eggs, depending on egg size)

1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

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Thanks for the eggs, Babs (blue eggs), Agatha (dark speckled eggs), Jinx, Bubbles, and Fran! And thanks to Roo also, for over-zealous flock protection.

Special Equipment:

10-inch tube pan

Wire whip for your mixer

Cute little chicken egg separator, if you don’t want to get your hands messy. You can find an inexpensive, similar one on Amazon here.

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I usually separate the eggs individually into the small dish before transferring to the measuring cup—just in case I have a yolk break on me. I don’t want to ruin the rest of the whites. And, separate your eggs when they’re cold, then let them stand and come to room temperature for about an hour. They’ll whip better. Those extra egg yolks? Make a pound cake…or hollandaise…or pudding!

How to Make It:

Mix the flour and ½ cup of the sugar in a bowl and set it aside.

Place the egg whites in your mixer bowl. You’re going to use your wire whip attachment to mix, not your regular flat beater.

Gradually turn the mixer to a medium high speed (on my KitchenAid, I go to speed 6) and whip until the egg whites are frothy: not too long, just 30 seconds to a minute.

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Add the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Turn your mixer to high (speed 8 on my mixer) and whip until the egg whites are almost stiff, but not dry. 2-2 ½ minutes, tops.

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Drop to a low speed (speed 2 on my mixer) and gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix for 1 minute. Stop and scrape the bowl with a spatula.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Spoon your flour-sugar mixture ¼ at a time over the egg whites. Fold it in very gently with a spatula, just until blended. Don’t go crazy stirring, here: fold gently. You don’t want to lose your volume.

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Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Take a knife and gently cut through the batter to break up any air pockets.

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Bake at 375 F until the crust is golden brown and cracks are very dry. This takes about 35 minutes. As soon as it is done, remove from oven and invert it onto a bottle. You want to cool it upside down so it doesn’t collapse. Don’t worry! It won’t fall out! (Well, not as long as you didn’t grease the pan.) Cool completely and remove from the pan.

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Eat it plain or go crazy with your toppings! And yes, there’s no photo of me with the whole cake because we ate it before I remembered to photograph it. Next time I make one, which will probably be in a week or so given our crazy egg production, I’ll update with a finished product photo!

 


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The Basil Before the Storm: Walnut Parmesan Pesto

We’re well into October and my insanely wonderful garden is still producing. Tomatoes. Peppers. Greens. Zucchini. But, as House Stark knows, winter is coming…even though we’ve just had three gorgeous days in the mid-80s…and our cold snap is on its way.

For the first time, I’m going to try row covers to extend the season for our greens, but the writing is on the wall for the rest of the veggies, including our mighty basil plant, which has reached the intimidating size of a small hedge. So today I’m harvesting the rest of the basil and making pesto.

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Pesto rocks. You can use it in pasta sauce, as a topping for grilled salmon, on crunchy bruschetta, in a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, for a delicious pizza topping, on decadent French fries, stuffed with goat cheese inside your prosciutto-wrapped chicken thighs and grilled, baked on a wheel of brie, spread on your turkey wrap, heck; pesto all by itself on crackers is a treat. Pesto also freezes beautifully and keeps for months! What’s not to love?

For this recipe, I’m using walnuts instead of the traditional pine nuts because pine nuts are 1) hard to find out here, and 2) expensive. I think you’ll find the walnut pesto tastes equally delicious, especially when you take the extra step and toast the nuts first.

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In the words (sort of) of the 17th-century poet, Robert Herrick: “Gather ye basil while ye may, / Old Time is still a-flying; / And this same basil that smiles today, / Tomorrow will be dying.” So go make pesto.

Ingredients:

2 cups (packed!) basil leaves

½ cup walnuts, toasted

¼ cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup grated Parmesan –  Romano or Asiago would also work nicely

Salt

Pepper

How to Make It:

Toast your walnuts first. Trust me on this: it doesn’t take long, isn’t hard, and it gives the nuts a deeper flavor and crisps them up. Heat your oven to 350F and put the nuts in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Let them bake for 5-10 minutes and keep an eye on them, stirring them around so they toast evenly. In our oven they take about 7 minutes. Don’t let them burn: you want them to turn just a little browner. You should just be able to smell a toasty aroma. Let them cool before using them in the pesto.

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See? Easy! The rest of the recipe is a breeze as well. Add the basil, cooled nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan, a pinch of salt, and a grind or two of pepper to a food processor. Blend until the pesto is a thick paste. If you want a thinner pesto, add a touch more oil or another squeeze of lemon until it is the consistency you’re looking for.

Delicious!

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Want to freeze it? No problem. You can freeze small amounts—1-2 Tablespoons—in ice cube trays, then put the frozen cubes into a freezer bag and pop out a cube whenever you need a little pesto. Or, freeze larger amounts of pesto in small containers—little Tupperware, small jelly jars, etc. If you put a thin layer of olive oil over the top surface of the pesto before freezing, it will help keep the pesto green. Keep your pesto in the freezer for six months. I will say I’ve kept it for longer without it losing quality.  Enjoy!


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Simple & Savory: Mom’s Salmon Bake

Mom’s Salmon Bake

It is a rainy spring afternoon (breaking news: spring finally arrived!) and a perfect day to make a big, comforting casserole. What better than my mom’s Salmon Bake?

Now, before you say eeew, hold on. This is loaded with rice and veggies and, yes, salmon. It works. It’s good. It is immanently customizable. Add other veggies. Use different cheeses. Spice it up. (I do!)  Try adding some herbs. Change your veggie ratios – I like more mushrooms, for example.

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Give it a try: I think you’ll be surprised and pleased at the result.

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped mushrooms

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ green pepper, chopped (optional)

1 Tablespoon butter

1 ½ cups wild rice, cooked

1 14-ounce can skinless, boneless salmon, flaked and drained (I use three 5-ounce pouches)

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 egg, beaten

½ cup Parmesan cheese

1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained.

1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper

Tabasco (optional)

How to Make It:

Heat the oven to 350F.

Make your rice according to the package directions – that’ll take a little time.

Sauté the onion, pepper, garlic, and mushrooms in butter until softened, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a big bowl, combine the mayonnaise and the egg.  Add in the rice (make sure it is cooled a little, first), the sautéed veggies, and the salmon.  I also add a few dashes of Tabasco at this point. Mix lightly.

In a 1-quart casserole dish, layer half of the salmon mixture, then half of the Parmesan cheese.  Cheese fiend?  Sure, toss a little of the cheddar in with the Parm for this layer.  Next, layer on half of the broccoli.  Cover this with 1 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Repeat the layers: salmon mixture, Parmesan, broccoli.  Stop there.  End with the broccoli.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese and continue to bake just until the cheese melts.  The casserole should look bubbly and melty.

 

Serve with some crusty bread or a side salad.  This reheats marvelously.  Enjoy!

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A Really Lovely Apple Pie. So What if it’s April?

A cold April rain is pelting the windows in my office-slash-craft room right now. It is dark and peaceful, and I could give in and take a Saturday afternoon nap, but I want something even more comforting: pie.

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Here is an apple pie recipe you’ll turn to again and again, and probably, knowing all you bakers out there, modify it some more yourselves with your own tricks. As it stands, however, this is a beauty of a pie. Your house will smell amazing as it bakes.

Ingredients:

Pie crust for a two-crust pie – use your go-to crust recipe or refrigerated crusts. You really can’t go wrong with this pie.

6 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced*

¾ cup sugar plus extra for sprinkling

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg white

* For heaven’s sake, use your favorite apple: Granny Smith are the traditional go-to baking apples because they add a nice tartness. Lots of folks enjoy McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, or a blend. Go with what you enjoy or what you have on hand. Like the crust, you won’t go wrong. I’ve got Fuji today, which are panned for their juices not thickening enough, but I’m not feeling picky. If you’re entering the county fair, then be picky.

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How to Make It:

Heat your oven to 425 F.

Place your bottom crust into a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large bowl, mix the apples, ¾ cup sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and lemon juice. Do this gently, so you don’t break up your apple slices. Spoon the filling into the bottom crust.

Sprinkle on the cut-up bits of butter.2018-01-27 14.17.11

Cover with your top crust. Trim off any excess and tuck the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust. Pinch it together and flute it. (No woodwinds involved.) Use both hands and pinch and seal the dough with your pointer fingers and thumbs, giving a tiny twist as you go all around the edge of the pie. Check out my Bloody Good Cherry Pie recipe for marginally more details on fluting.

With a sharp knife, cut some slits in the top crust to vent the steam. Or you could use a pie bird, or little cookie cutters and cut shapes out of the crust (before you put it on top of the filling, making sure everything stays cool) to do the same thing.

In a little bowl, whisk the egg white until it is nice and frothy. Brush the egg white over the top of the pie. This will give you a nice shiny finish.

Now, sprinkle sugar gently over the top of the egg white. You’ll end with a sparkly, delicious top.

Step carefully around your mini-Schnauzer who is positioned so she can instantly grab any accidental food-from-the-sky.  She doesn’t look alert.  That’s a deception.  Just wait until you drop something…

Bake your pie for 40 to 45 minutes or until the apples are tender, you can see bubbling through the vents, and the crust is golden brown.

Before this happens, though, you need to check after 15 to 20 minutes of baking and cover the edges of the crust. You can do this with foil, or a pie crust shield. I got these little Norpro 3275 Silicone Pie Crust Shields, 5-Piece for Christmas, and I have to say, they’re the bomb. They’re adjustable to other sizes of pie, go on so easily (WAY easier than foil) and clean up fast. I do recommend them.

Whatever method you use, be sure you cover those edges on the crust, or they will be over-browned by the end of the baking time. And you’ll be sad.

Cool your pie on the cooling rack for at least two hours before serving. If you can wait even longer, believe it or not, that’s better: the filling will set even more and not seep when you cut it. Still, I know: it smells like heaven and you can’t touch it for two hours. Now is a good time for that nap.

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Crabby Melts

Winter seems here to stay, so I’m still cheerfully making comfort food.  Here’s an easy, substantial sandwich that will make a cozy lunch or dinner.  These originally started out as an appetizer recipe from, oh, fifteen years ago, but I’ve updated it over time to make it meal-strength.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

12 ounces decent white crab meat, picked over for shells – use what you can afford.  This is a cheesy sandwich melt, so the crab will be friends with some other strong flavors.  Maybe don’t drop a ton of money on the finest lump, is what I’m saying.

1 5-ounce jar of Kraft Old English cheese spread

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ cup butter, softened

½ teaspoon horseradish

Dash of Tabasco

8 English muffin halves, toasted.  (So, four English muffins, split.)

8 slices mozzarella cheese

8 slices tomato*

8 slices avocado*

8 strips of bacon, cooked, cut in half

2 scallions, chopped

* Optional: I usually use one or the other.

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How to Make Them:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, gently combine the crab, cheese spread, mayonnaise, garlic powder, butter, horseradish, and Tabasco.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or grease it well, and set your toasted English muffin rounds onto it.  To each round, add a slice of cheese, two pieces of bacon (the two halves of one strip), and slice of avocado or tomato.

Next, spoon the crab mixture over the top of each round.  Carefully avoid your mini-Schnauzer who has parked herself predatorily in the center of the kitchen, waiting for food to fall from the sky.

Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and everything is heated through.  Make sure your bottom slice of cheese is melty!  Garnish with chopped scallion.

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In the winter, crabby melts go great with fries and sautéed greens like spinach or chard, or steamed veggies. In the summer, they’re lovely with a crisp salad.