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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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.

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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.


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White Pizza with Salami and Blue Cheese

A few weekends ago, I visited Pittsburgh for the first time and had a blast. My husband and I stopped at the National Aviary – a wonderful, non-profit indoor bird zoo – and walked around downtown for hours. We ended up in the Strip district, gaped our way through the amazing Robert Wholey & Co.’s fish-and-everything-else market and had lunch at Enrico Biscotti Café. Next door is the Biscotti Company, a veritable paradise of baked goods. The Café’s lunch menu features rustic pizzas and pastas, salads, and various sangaweechs. Sangaweeches? (Yeah, I’m not sure what the plural of “sangaweech” is so bear with me, here). Whatever the plural form, a sangaweech is a hearty sandwich made on their house pizza dough.

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I had a delicious artichoke, mozzarella and roasted red pepper sangaweech. My husband got the special pizza of the day and it blew our minds. In a good way. And I am not a fan of salami! This however, was delicious: Garlic. Salami. Mozzarella. Blue cheese. Incredible. We left determined to replicate this pizza at home at all costs. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company was just couple blocks away and there we purchased a pound of Daniele Genoa salami: fresh, melt-in-your-mouth salami. Yum.

This recipe is our recreation of that magnificent pizza. Which we basically made the next night. And, o.k., again two nights later. It is that good a pizza! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Pizza dough for one pizza – make your own, or store-bought is fine. The better the dough, the better your pizza.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon dried Italian herb blend

¼ cup Parmesan*

12 large, thin slices of good salami. Good salami.

1 cup shredded mozzarella

2 tablespoons minced garlic – fresh or jarred

¼- ½ cup blue cheese crumbles

* You know your tastes: More or less garlic? Go for it. More or less cheese? Of course. This is a base recipe for you to modify at will. The Café’s version was minimalist and delicious.

white pizza ingredients

Try to ignore your Miniature Schnauzer, who waits, ever hopeful, for food to fall from the sky.

How to Make It:

If you have a pizza stone, put it in your oven and preheat the oven to 425F. Give the stone a half-hour to heat up.

Spread the pizza dough out on a sheet of parchment paper.

Drizzle olive oil over the dough and spread to cover with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush.

Sprinkle the Italian herbs over the olive oil.

Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on next.

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Layer the slices of salami to cover the whole thing.

 

Add a sprinkle of minced garlic.

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Next, crumble on the blue cheese so that a little bit lands on every slice of salami.

Last, top it all with the shredded mozzarella.

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Slide your pizza into the oven and bake at 425 F for 12-14 minutes or until the edges of the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

 

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Dark Chocolate Coconut Candies

Looking for a fast, insanely-easy Valentine’s dessert bite?  Try these delectable chocolate coconut candies.  If you are a fan of Mounds bars – or Almond Joys – you will adore these.  They are moist, rich, and incredible and come together in minutes.  Better than those old candy bars, any day! I love these: I think the original recipe came from a long-ago issue of Gourmet. Customize with your own decorations for Valentine’s day.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut

¾ cup unsweetened dried coconut

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Optional tasty/festive garnishes:

Almonds

Sea salt

Red hot cinnamon hearts or other little candies – or try a piece of candied fruit.  Ginger, maybe?

How to Make Them:

Line the bottom and two opposite sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan with wax paper.  Leave an overhang on both sides.  You’re only using the pan to shape your treats – the wax paper will allow you to pull the whole square out of the pan in one piece.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the sweetened coconut, the dried coconut and the sweetened condensed milk.  Use a spoon to get everything evenly combined.

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Press the coconut mixture into the pan in a nice, even layer using an offset spatula.  A regular spatula works, too, but the offset is helpful.  I recently got my first offset spatula and it turns out I didn’t know what I’d been missing.  They’re not expensive, either – this one from Amazon was only $5. I put a link down at the bottom for you, if you want.

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Put the coconut mixture, uncovered, into the refrigerator for 5 minutes to chill.

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate until it is smooth. Ideally, use a double-boiler.  A microwave works too. Or a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Pull your coconut mixture from the fridge and spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the coconut layer.  Here’s where the offset spatula comes in handy again.*

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* Want to fancy things up?  After you spread the chocolate over the coconut, add a sprinkle of sea salt or stud some almonds across half of the chocolate.  Half, because when you cut your candy, half of that chocolate is going to be on the bottom. Put your beautifully-decorated half on top when you sandwich the two pieces together.

Chill in the refrigerator until firm, 5-10 minutes.

Lift the whole square out of the pan and put it on a cutting board.  Cut the square in half with a sharp knife.  Now you have two rectangles.

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Next, make a sandwich. Flip one half of the candy over so the chocolate is on the bottom and the coconut faces up.  Place the other half of the candy with the coconut side down on top of it.  Both coconut sides are in the middle, and chocolate layers are on the top and bottom. Press down lightly. Get rid of the waxed paper.

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Cut into 1-inch squares.  Make sure your knife is cold and clean between cuts.  Chill, covered, until you are ready to serve.

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These keep in the fridge for a week.

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Enjoy! If you want to modify things further, consider melting more chocolate, cutting the plain coconut layer into little rectangles and using a fork to dip and coat them completely.

Oh! Here is the offset spatula on Amazon:  Ateco 1305 Ultra Offset Spatula with 4.25 by .75-Inch Stainless Steel Blade, Plastic Handle, Dishwasher Safe


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Sweet & Spicy Candied Pecans

It is negative two degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, with a wind chill of negative thirteen. It’s warmed up a bunch since yesterday! With arctic air blowing in the new year, a chilly salad may not sound like the most appealing meal, despite your resolution for healthier eating.

Don’t despair! These candied pecans add a richly satisfying crunch of sweet and spice that will elevate your obligatory bowl of greens.

Granted, these delectable nuts probably aren’t that healthy, and you’ll most likely end up eating them straight out of a bowl as a comfort snack but, hey. All things in moderation.

These nuts are super-easy to make, and your house will smell fabulous while they’re in the oven. They may also remind you of outdoor festivals –  like my winter favorite, the National Western Stock Show – cheerful events where they sell those cinnamon almonds (but these are better).  Happy times!

Sweet & Spicy Candied Pecans

Sweet & Spicy Candied Pecans. Yum.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg white

1 Tablespoon water

1 pound of pecan halves*

* I used 8 oz for today’s batch. If you use fewer pecans, which is fine, you don’t have to change the proportions on the sugar mixture. You’ll just have a slightly heavier coating. Which, trust me, is not bad. Similarly, use the whole egg white and the full tablespoon of water.

 

How to Make Them:

Preheat your oven to 250F.

Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt in a bowl.

Whisk the egg white and the water together in a separate bowl until frothy. Really frothy.

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Put the pecans in the egg white mixture and toss well to coat.

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Remove the pecans with a slotted spoon, letting the excess egg white drip off, and put the pecans in the bowl with your spice mixture.

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Mix the pecans in until they’re evenly coated in spice.

Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet.

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Bake at 250F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until they are evenly browned. Meanwhile, accomplish small tasks in those 15 minute blocks between stirring. Taking short, unsatisfying naps? Watering the plants? Starting a load of laundry? Watching almost all of a beloved episode of Hogan’s Heroes?

The image above left shows the pecans half-way through baking.  The photo on the right shows them at the end.

Remove them from the oven and let them cool a little bit.  I transferred them to some parchment paper to cool.

Then, snack away.  Or – save them for your salad!

Happy New Year, Everyone!


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Wickedly Delicious Russian Teacakes

I knew it was time to bake when I put on a beloved episode of Hogan’s Heroes and reached for a Russian Teacake. And I didn’t have one. Crushing.

From an early childhood, these two disparate things have gone together and somehow signify the holiday season, taking me back to a comforting time.

I think most people have some version of this cookie in their repertoire under a variety of names – Mexican Wedding Cookies, Pecan Balls – but I’ll share the recipe that my mom passed down. There is a little extra step that makes this one stand out on your cookie tray. Since these are one of my favorite cookies, I always double the recipe. They also freeze beautifully.

I know it is down to the wire for holiday baking, but if you have a little time today, treat yourself to a batch of these. You probably have the ingredients around, and these are a simple cookie to bake. If you don’t get to them for this holiday, don’t worry: you really don’t need an occasion. They’re delicious anytime. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

¼ cup sugar

½ pound butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups finely chopped pecans

Confectioners’ sugar

How to Make them: 

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

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Add the flour and salt and mix to a soft, smooth dough. Stir in the pecans.

Shape into 1-inch balls by rolling between your hands, and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

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Bake for 25 minutes until the cookies are firm and light brown on the bottom.

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This cookie is nicely light brown on the bottom: this batch is done.

Remove from the cookie sheet and gently roll in the confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

Now, here’s the “something special” step: when the cookies are totally cool, roll them a second time in confectioners’ sugar.

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The cookies to the right and bottom middle have been rolled a second time in the powdered sugar…see how much snowier they are than the single-roll cookies!

This leaves them snowy and beautiful! Store in an airtight container or freeze.  Happy Holidays!

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