Grated Shortbread Bars w/ Saskatoon Berry Filling

Ever thought of grating your shortbread dough? Perhaps frilly doesn’t quite capture these bars. Airy doesn’t quite fit either, but compared to other shortbread I’ve made, that’s exactly what they are. You see, instead of the dense texture associated with many recipes for shortbread bars, these are light (but no less buttery) because you shred the frozen dough on the coarse holes of a grater before baking. The final product is almost chewy, with an open-crumb texture, something that you wouldn’t get if you just rolled the dough. By avoiding the use of pressure, the dough bakes with all the air pockets between the grated pieces, melding into an almost fluffy result which crumbles and melts in your mouth. The glue for the two layers is the saskatoon berry filling.

Here on the Canadian prairies we have a native berry called a ‘Saskatoon’. These berries are very special …. the kind of special that only comes once a year. Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, but in fact are part of the rose family which includes apples, cherries, plums and of course roses. Trying to explain their flavor to anyone who has never tasted them is difficult and elusive. They’re sweet, dense, rich, seedy, slightly blueberryish, more almondish, a bit apple-y, dusky and deep. Like I said …. difficult to explain!

At this time of the year when these little gems are available, I always like to make numerous things with them as they work well in either sweet or savory applications. They certainly make a nice filling for these shortbread bars.

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Grated Shortbread Bars w/ Saskatoon Berry filling
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BARS
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Saskatoon Berry Filling
Shortbread Crust
Servings
BARS
Ingredients
Saskatoon Berry Filling
Shortbread Crust
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine berries & water & simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. In a separate bowl, mix sugar & cornstarch; add to berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice & vanilla; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
Shortbread Crust
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, cardamom & salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in butter & lemon zest. Mix ONLY until combined, divide in half & wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place in freezer until slightly frozen.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer. Using the large hole side of a 4 sided grater, grate dough into a 4 1/2" x 14" baking pan. Pat the dough but don't press it, so it gets evenly spread in the pan.
  4. Carefully place the saskatoon filling evenly over the crust. Grate remaining ball of dough & carefully spread on top.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until shortbread is golden. Cool to room temperature on rack. Cut into 14 bars. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • I found that if I placed the pan of bars in the freezer for about an hour, I was able to cut cleaner slices.

Pineapple Meringue Tarts

There’s just something incredibly refreshing about pineapple tarts with their tangy, bright, acidic flavor nestled in shortbread crusts. Adding meringue puts a tropical twist on the classic meringue pie making them a perfect summer treat.

When it comes to making meringue, simple ingredients and instructions can lull you into thinking preparation is quick and easy. Make it once under the wrong conditions, however, and you may quickly change your mind.

Meringue is temperamental. Getting it right can be a tricky process. Weeping meringues aren’t very pretty. The meringue pulls back from the crust, moisture beads on the topping, and a clear liquid forms below the crust. It doesn’t hurt the pie but it’s not presentable.

Years ago, when I worked in the commercial food industry, I started using the idea of adding cornstarch to meringue to help stabilize it. Cornstarch is especially helpful in hot, humid weather when a meringue is most likely to absorb extra moisture.

The science behind this ‘secret ingredient‘ is that cornstarch is composed of long molecules that it is believed insert themselves between egg white proteins to prevent them from clotting too much while meringue is baking. Corn starch molecules also provide more hold for meringue. It will be easier to cut and is less likely to weep.

Brion & I are not crazy about meringue but do enjoy it for a treat once in a while.

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Pineapple Meringue Tarts
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Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Pineapple Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Pineapple Filling
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Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl combine butter & sugar; beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder; add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together. Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
Pineapple Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine cornstarch & sugar. Gradually add water, stirring until mixture is smooth. Add lemon zest & undrained pineapple. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Reduce heat, boil 2 minutes while continuing to stir. Remove from heat, quickly stir in butter & egg yolks blending well. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
Meringue
  1. In a small saucepan, combine water & cornstarch. Heat & stir until it boils & thickens. Cool thoroughly.
  2. Beat egg whites & salt until a stiff froth. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff & sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla & cornstarch mixture. Beat until blended & stiff.
Assembly
  1. Divide pineapple filling between tart shells. Pipe meringue over tarts sealing to edges. If not sealed well, meringue will shrink when cool. Bake in 350 F. oven about 10 minutes until golden. Cool away from drafts.

Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid

Hot Cross Buns, the sweet roll with a mythical history, are an Easter classic. This simple piece of spiced bread decorated with a cross, while not an extravagant treat, is a global food tradition. Given their long running history, it is no wonder there are so many fables surrounding their origin. From warding off evil spirits to cementing friendships, the stories of hot cross buns can be documented back to 6th century Greece.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. Brion & I are extremely fond of these little gems, so every year I enjoy to come up with a new version but still not straying away from the original iconic bun (or bread) taste.

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Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid
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Instructions
Marinate Fruit
  1. In a bowl with a lid, marinate prepared dried fruit in your choice of alcohol or orange juice overnight or at least 30 minutes.
Sweet Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 Tbsp sugar; allow to sit until frothy.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom & ginger.
  3. In a larger bowl, melt butter slightly; add remaining sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, a portion of the marinated fruit & frothy yeast mixture. Combine then add flour mixture & continue mixing to combine all ingredients.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 15 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more flour. Shape into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turn over once or twice to coat the dough with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla & any excess rum drained off fruit until smooth.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly floured work surface or parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, ensure an even thickness of 1/4 inch.
  2. Along one long side of the dough make parallel, 4-inch long cuts that are 1-inch apart (like piano keys), with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Repeat on opposite side, making sure to line up these cuts with those you have already made on the other side.
  3. Spoon all but 1/4 cup cream cheese filling down the center of the rectangle. (Reserve the 1/4 cup of the cream cheese for making crosses on baked braid). Leaving 1-inch on the top & bottom unfilled. Smooth cream cheese mixture then top with remaining marinated fruit.
  4. Begin folding the cut side strips of dough in pairs over the filling at an angle, alternating left, then right, as if you were braiding, until you reach the other end. Tuck the ends underneath the braid.
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet; cover with a loose plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Just before placing braid in the oven, make the egg wash & lightly brush over the top of the braid.
  6. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes; if the braid is starting to brown to fast, float a piece of foil, shiny side down, over it. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
Decorating
  1. Place 1/4 cup cream cheese mixture in a small piping bag that has been fitted with a small round tip. Make crosses on braid.
Recipe Notes
  • If you would prefer, mix all the marinated fruit right into the dough instead of putting some in the filling.
  • If you would rather not decorate with some crosses on top, use all cream cheese in the filling, your choice.

Glazed Peach Coffeecake

Coffeecake as we know it today wasn’t so much a creation as it was an evolution, with many countries given as the potential origin point. It is generally accepted that coffeecake originated from northern or central Europe during the 17th century. At that time, coffee was still fairly new to Europe, having only made it to the continent in the previous century.

While the earliest coffeecakes included coffee as an ingredient, updated popular recipes recommend eating the cake with coffee and instead deriving flavor from nuts, dried fruit, oats, cinnamon and other spices. Another addition to coffeecakes has been to incorporate yogurt, cheese or sour cream in the batter to produce the cake-like texture which further deviates from its bread origins.

The countries laying some sort of claim to the coffeecake such as Germany, Austria and Denmark were already well versed in sweetened breads and cakes and found that their local sweet paired incredibly well with this new beverage. It became very commonplace in these countries to have a small sweet served alongside coffee.

When the coffeecake made its way to North America via German immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bolstered by the creation of refrigerated sections in grocery stores, the addition of sour cream became more common place, both as a means of adding more moisture into the cake as well as activating the baking soda. Another modification to the coffeecake came with the popularity of the Bundt pan in the 1950s. With its ring-shaped design, the Bundt pan allowed bakers to drastically increase the moisture content in their cakes without having to worry about the center being uncooked.

Sometimes cake, sometimes bread, the only real defining trait of a ‘coffeecake‘ is that it is meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee.

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Glazed Peach Coffeecake
Since the recipe calls for canned peaches you can enjoy the taste of summer early.
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Instructions
Peach Glaze
  1. Drain peach halves; set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice & peach syrup. Bring to a boil then stir in butter & almond extract. Set aside.
Coffeecake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 8-inch pie pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in cream cheese & shortening until mixture resembles coarse peas. Stir in milk & lemon zest. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough gently & form into a log shape. Do not overwork dough. Divide into 12 slices.
  3. You will need 12 peach halves (or pieces). Alternating with dough rounds & peach halves or pieces, form a ring around the sides of the pie pan. Fit the last 3 pieces of dough & peach in the center.
  4. Bake cake for about 10-15 minutes then pour WARM peach glaze over the PARTIALLY BAKED cake & continue baking for another 45-50 minutes or until cake tests done. Serve warm as is or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Amaretto Cherries w/ Dumplings

It may seem hard to believe, but the importation of amaretto liqueur to North America did not occur until the 1960’s. The almond flavored cordial quickly became a hit in cocktails and food preparation. By the 1980’s, it was second in sales only to Kahlua.

While its known that the drink was made in Italy, pinning down its exact origin story can be tricky. Two different families claim responsibility for the cordial with both having equally interesting stories to back up their claim.

Although, amaretto liqueur has an almond flavor, surprisingly, it may not contain almonds. The standard base of the liqueur is primarily made from either apricot pits or almonds or both. The drink like many other alcohols may contain any number of added spices and flavorings.

While amaretto cookies are probably the best known recipe made with this liqueur, its actually got many uses in the kitchen. You can add it to pancake batter for a richer flavor or to ice cream and is a common ingredient found in tiramisu cakes. You can even use it to add a touch of an almond kick to savory meats like poultry and fish.

These Amaretto Cherries w/ Dumplings are such a nice ‘homey’ dessert for this time of year.

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Amaretto Cherries w/ Dumplings
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Amaretto Cherries
Dumplings
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Ingredients
Amaretto Cherries
Dumplings
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Instructions
Amaretto Cherries
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch & salt. Stir in the reserved cherry juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking until thickened. Remove from heat & fold in the cherries. Pour cherry mixture into a 8 X 8-inch baking dish. Drizzle amaretto over cherry mixture. Cover & keep hot until dumplings are mixed.
Dumplings
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest & salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together milk & melted butter. Add to flour mixture; stir until moistened.
  4. Drop by tablespoons on top of hot cherry mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of dumplings comes out clean.
  5. If desired, serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Orange Slice Cookies

For many, orange juice and oatmeal are seen as breakfast food. I like both, so using them in baked goods works for me.

Most of the time, when it comes to cake or cookies, extract is where your flavor will come from. I recall an orange loaf my mother made by first cooking the sugar with orange zest and adding it to the batter. It gave the loaf such a bold orange flavor.

In these cookies, I’m using both the zest and juice of a fresh orange and a tiny bit of lemon zest to add another dimension of citrus. The oatmeal is processed to an oat flour.

The use of both butter and olive oil further enhances the flavor of the cookies. Butter is smooth and creamy, adding the dairy richness, while the oil provides a unique flavor and aroma.

Once the cookies are baked, a glaze using more fresh orange juice and zest makes these orange slice cookies ‘addicting’ as Brion says.

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Orange Slice Cookies
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Cuisine American
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cookies
  1. In a bowl, combine sugar, butter & oil; beat until fluffy. Add yogurt, vanilla, orange juice & zests.
  2. In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds. Add oat flour, white flour, baking powder, cardamom & salt. Blend ingredients together well to form a soft dough. Evenly divide dough into 10 pieces; form each into a ball. Cover & refrigerate for 20 minutes so that the dough becomes a little firmer.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.
  4. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator; slice each ball into 4 pieces & shape each piece to resemble an orange slice. Place on baking sheets spacing about 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake cookies about 20-25 minutes or until the sides of the cookies become a light golden brown.
Glaze
  1. Combine remaining orange juice & zest with enough powdered sugar to make a glaze consistency. When cookies are cool, brush with glaze,

Mango Scones w/ Chambord Glaze

Scones are the quintessential, must be baked at home and eaten immediately foodstuff. Good scones are all about lightness and texture …. crumbly but a little moist, slightly dense but not grainy, flaky but not powdery.

The secret to a good moist scone that is also light, is in the proportion of rising agent to flour. Use too much leaving and your scone will definitely rise but be overpowered by baking powder chemicals. It is also important to keep the mixing to an absolute minimum or the gluten in the flour gets overworked, which makes the dough elastic and consequently the baked scones hard.

Many recipes call for self-rising flour as a staple ingredient. Often times, we find ourselves passing these recipes by because we don’t have it on hand, or because we don’t use it enough to actually want to buy it. Luckily, self-rising flour is easy to make at home. It requires only three ingredients and can be used in both recipes that call for it as an ingredient, and as a substitute for regular flour in quick-rise recipes to cut down on separate leavening agents.

The glaze is definitely the ‘icing on the cake’ when it comes to these scones. Chambord Liqueur is created using all natural ingredients. Black and red raspberries are blended before being steeped in Cognac to achieve a highly concentrated base. The mixture is then extracted and a second infusion captures the remaining flavors from the berries. The final step marries the berry infusion with Cognac and extracts of Madagascan vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and hints of fragrant herbs.

The total combination of scone and glaze is absolutely awesome!

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Mango Scones w/ Chambord Glaze
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WEDGES
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Glaze
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WEDGES
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Glaze
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Instructions
Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cardamom & lemon zest. With fingertips, cut in grated butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg & vanilla; add to flour mixture. Fold in JUST until incorporated then carefully fold in mangos.
  4. Place dough on parchment paper lined baking sheet. With lightly floured hands, pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Score into 8 or 12 wedges.
  5. Bake 20 minutes or until golden & test done. Cover lightly with foil if over browning before finished baking. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. cool slightly before glazing.
Glaze
  1. In a small dish, combine glaze ingredients & drizzle over cooled scones. Decorate with raspberries & mango if desired.
Recipe Notes

Self-rising flour contains baking powder in a proportion that is perfect for most sponge cakes, cupcakes and scones. Some recipes may ask for a little additional baking powder to be added, particularly if the cake is made with an all-in-one method as omitting the creaming stage in the cake making means less air is incorporated into the batter during the mixing stage. Other times a small amount of baking soda is added if the ingredients include cocoa powder, yogurt or buttermilk.

  • For 1 cup of self-rising flour use: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt. Multiply the amount as needed to create a larger amount.

 

Salmon, Leek & Potato Gratin

Special birthday wishes are going out to my sister Loretta today on July 25th. Loretta you are a treasure that our family holds dear. We appreciate you as a person, sister, friend, mother and any other function that you hold in your life! You don’t have a bad bone in your body and you never do anything to compromise your kind heart and tender soul, you are one special lady.

Even if Brion & I can’t have a ‘birthday supper’ together with Loretta, I still like to post a meal I think she would enjoy to have on her day.

This is a gourmet take on a classic potato dish. Its creamy, cheesy and comforting but instead of making this gratin with cream, I am using a béchamel sauce made with milk and two cheeses. Gruyere and Parmesan together with parsley, thyme & Dijon mustard give it a lovely flavor which highlight the taste of the leek & salmon.

WE CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE, LORETTA!

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Salmon, Leek & Potato Gratin
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Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, lemon zest & thyme for 2 minutes. Add flour & cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Remove from heat & gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, then return to the heat & cook, stirring until thickened.
  2. Add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard & 3/4 cup of the combined parmesan & Gruyere cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) & stir until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat & stir in the parsley & lemon juice.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish lightly with olive oil.
  4. Wash & pare potatoes (leave the skin on if you prefer). Slice very thinly; place one sliced potato in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping slightly.
  5. Arrange one third of the sliced leek & salmon evenly on top, then spoon one quarter of the cheese sauce over all. Repeat the layers with the remaining potatoes, leek & salmon, finishing with the final layer of potato & topping with the last quarter of the cheese sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup grated cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil & bake for a further 30 minutes. Allow the gratin to stand 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • If your making this for a 'special' occasion, you may want to make them in individual servings as I did in the picture. I used 5-inch round pans with removeable bottoms & lined them with parchment paper so they couldn't leak.

Strawberry Madeleines

A summer twist on classic French madeleines. Not quite cookies and not quite cakes, madeleines are a buttery seashell shaped treat that’s usually flavored with nothing more than a wisp of vanilla. With the addition of some fresh strawberry puree and lemon zest these strawberry madeleines are transformed into something quite special.

Fruit puree is the go-to companion for desserts. Who doesn’t enjoy the taste of fruit, accompanied by the backdrop of something sweet? Its hard to replace the taste of real fruit with fruit flavored extracts.

Fruit purees can be used for a range of different things although baking seems to be one of the most popular. The natural sugar in fruit, alongside the retained flavors, colors and smells help create some really good baked items. Purees can also be frozen to last longer.

Strawberry madeleines are simple and quick to make but special enough to stand out!

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Strawberry Madeleines
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Strawberry Puree
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Ingredients
Strawberry Puree
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Instructions
Strawberry Puree
  1. In a food processor, place strawberries & sugar. Process until smooth.
Madeleines
  1. Butter madeleine baking pans. Sprinkle with some flour then shake off excess.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs & sugar until mixture becomes almost white & foamy. Add strawberry puree, flour, baking powder & lemon zest; whisk until flour is incorporated. Stir the butter gently into the batter using a spatula.
  3. Using a pastry bag, fill each madeleine cup of the tray 3/4 full. Refrigerate the pan with batter for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Remove the pan with the batter from the fridge & bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool a little bit on a wire rack before serving. Dust with powdered sugar if you wish.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.