Lemon bars

Starting my new job, I knew I wanted to do something special for each of my team member’s birthdays. For the first birthday celebration, the lady of the day’s favorite flavor was lemon. I decided to make classic lemon bars for the first time. Plus I made candied lemon slices for an extra lemony garnish.

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First, you make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 in pan with oil. Line the pan with foil leaving as much overhang on the edges as possible. Grease the foil with oil too.

  • Vegetable oil for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

I don’t have a food processor (yet) so I mixed the ingredients with my immersion blender. Mix together the butter, flour, sugars, and salt until the dough forms. Press the dough into the pan to shape your crust. Back for about 25 minutes until golden, it will smell amazing.

Then you want to make the filling.

  • 4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks 
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice, about 8 lemon’s worth

Whisk together the eggs and yolks with the sugar and flour. Add in lemon zest and juice.

Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Pour the filling into the crust and back for about 35 minutes until set. Let the pan cool and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lift the bars out of the pan by the foil and slice into bars. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, add candied lemon slices, and pucker up!

*Vegetarian

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Herb Ice Cubes

If you’re like me, there is usually a big difference between how much of an herb a recipe calls for and how much you have in your garden or batch from the market.

What do you do with the rest? One new trick I’ve learned is to make the herbs into ice cubes.

Chop your herbs and add to an ice cube tray. Cover with olive oil and freeze. Once frozen,  pop the cubes out of the tray and add to a labeled freezer bag.

Just add one or two for your next recipe.

I’ve heard this works best for hardy herbs like oregano but so far I’ve only done it with parsley.

Sausage and Sweet Pepper Pizza

The Jeopardy decision jingle plays in my head whenever I’m trying to figure out what to make for lunch during the week. In my opinion, leftovers make the best lunches.

I saw this recipe on Joy the Baker and knew it would satisfy my lunch time hunger for the week. My version also makes two pizzas but I took a few short cuts – like store bought pizza crust.

  • 2 pizza crusts – store bought or you can make your own
  • 3 Italian sausages (sweet or spicy, I used sweet)
  • Tomato sauce (small can)
  • Clove of garlic
  • Oregano
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 bell peppers (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 medium red onion (thinly sliced)
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked black pepper

First, take your sausage out of the casing. Brown the sausage in a pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

While the sausage is browning, mix the garlic and oregano into the tomato sauce and spread over the pizza crusts. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.

When sausage is completely browned, add to the pizza. In the same pan, cook down the red onions and bell peppers for a few minutes. Then add them to the top of the pizza.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and cracked blacked pepper.

Put both pizzas in the oven for about 20 minutes (may be different directions on your store bought pizza crust). I switched the pizzas on the racks about half way through the cook time since things on the bottom rack tend to not get as crispy.

Cut into slices and enjoy! The pizza freezes pretty well too and made a great lunch at work.

I broke all the healthy rules on this one so no diet designations today. It does has vegetables though, right?

Lucky Lentil Soup

The first time I had lentil soup was New Year’s Day 2010. My partner turned me on to this comfort food that is said to bring good luck for the new year. Now its more of a comfort food to me than mashed potatoes. Plus its healthy.

If you want a totally vegetarian and vegan dish, just leave out the sausage and use vegetable broth. The pictures here are from a veggie version. If you want a chunkier soup, just add more vegetables.

I usually make a large batch (twice this one here) and freeze the leftovers.

  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 4-5 stalks celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Small can of tomato sauce (~8 oz)
  • 2 cups of brown lentils
  • 1 carton of broth
  • 2-3 Italian sausages (hot or sweet)
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Wash your lentils and set aside to strain.

Chop up the soup trifecta – carrots, celery, and onion. Add to a large pot and add enough olive oil so that all the vegetables shimmer. Sauté until the onions and celery look translucent and then add the garlic for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomato sauce and mix in a good dash of oregano, salt, and pepper.

Add the lentils and broth. Bring the mix to a boil and add your sausage. We like to use the sweet but if you like more of a kick use the hot or a mix of both. Turn down the heat and simmer for three hours. The soup will thicken up a lot from start to finish. Take out the sausage toward the end, cut into smaller pieces, and return to the pot.

Final step – open up and warm your soul.

*Gluten Free, Dairy Free, can be Vegetarian and Vegan without sausage and by using vegetable broth

Stuffed Peppers

These stuffed peppers are a favorite around the house. They bring bright colors and savory smells to the kitchen. They also freeze well and make great leftovers. We usually use about six large peppers and that makes enough for about three meals for two.

You can use the same mix for stuffed zucchini. They may need to cook a little longer until the squash is soft.

  • Bell peppers
  • Ground beef or turkey
  • 1 cup rice, cooked
  • 1 egg
  • Italian style breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Cubed or shredded cheese – mozzarella, cheddar, anything you have on hand
  • Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut bell peppers in half and clean out. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, cooked rice, egg, breadcrumbs, and cheese. Mix together with a spoon (the rice is hot!) or let cool and mix with your hands. Scoop mixture into peppers and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a crunchy crust. Top with olive oil. Cook for 1 hour.

You can plant the bell pepper seeds too, they sprout up quick.