Creamy Garlic Shrimp and a ramped-up Caesar Salad bring a celebratory flair to your week-night dinner. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

My sister-in-law, Mary, is an excellent cook as well as a passionate person who delights in bringing everything she does up a notch. It’s just how she rolls. On a recent stay with Mary and my brother Bill in upstate New York, she made this meal (after working all day, mind you), for my brother, me and our special guest, my nephew Matt.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

We enjoyed this beautiful meal and the much-needed evening of face-to-face conversation in their newly remodeled kitchen. The creamy shrimp and pasta main dish went together quickly while I contributed by chopping up the salad ingredients and setting the table. I admit I was skeptical regarding the pairing of bottled red peppers, shrimp and cream, but now I’m looking forward to preparing this dish here in my own kitchen on the cove.

And the salad! You’ll never want a plain Caesar salad ever again after tasting Mary’s version with all the extras. You can substitute bacon bits if you want to, but the real deal is always better, as is a homemade dressing.

Earlier that afternoon, my brother was leafing through our mom’s notebook of recipes and on a whim, decided to make Lightening Chocolate Cake, a dessert neither one of us had ever made before.

I have no idea why our great-grandmother named it so, but we discovered that the cake is wonderfully delicious in a nostalgic, grandma kind of way.

You can substitute regular milk combined with a teaspoon of white vinegar if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand. And if you don’t have cake flour in your pantry, remove 2 tablespoons of flour from your measured 1 cup and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch then sift it together thoroughly before adding in the other dry ingredients.

While the cake cooled, at Bill’s request I whipped up a decadent chocolate buttercream frosting and even licked the bowl when he wasn’t looking.

Oh yes, the following day we went back to our regimen of chicken, fruit smoothies and vegetables, but that night we treated ourselves like we hadn’t in a long while and made it a night to remember!

Creamy Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Red Peppers

14 ounces fettuccine
3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
2 cups heavy cream
1 pound medium peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red peppers and paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are heated through and butter is fragrant and vibrant red, about 2 minutes. Add cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes.

Add shrimp and cook until firm, about 5 minutes. Add pasta, Parmesan and salt. Toss until shrimp are well-coated with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 4 servings

Mary’s Caesar Salad

2 romaine hearts, torn into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
6 slices bacon, fried crisp and diced
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to pass at the table
Freshly ground pepper
Favorite Caesar salad dressing
Favorite croutons

Toss all ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Yield: 4 servings

Great-Grandma King’s Lightening Chocolate Cake

2 eggs
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and dust with a small amount of flour.

In a mixing bowl, beat together eggs, butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Stir together buttermilk and water. Alternate adding dry ingredients and liquid to sugar and butter mixture and mix until combined.

Pour batter into cake pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pans for 15 minutes then invert onto cooling racks. When completely cooled, spread with your favorite frosting and assemble. Yield: 8-10 servings

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