Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For The Love of Lemon

When did my love affair with lemons begin? I really can't recall because it seems like they have always had a constant presence in our kitchen. I love the tart, bright, fresh flavor the sunny lemon offers. As a kid I loved eating lemon cookies and drinking my grandmother's lemonade. And because of that particular memory I find myself squeezing a fresh glass of lemonade quite often.
As I became older and could bake on my own I found myself making lemon curd and lemon bars to satisfy my craving. I continued my quest for the love of lemon making cakes with luscious lemon butter cream frosting, candied lemon peel, and thick sour lemon sauces that I spooned generously over gingerbread.

I have a lot of great lemon recipes. The Lemon Cake from Ina Garten's book Barefoot Contessa Parties is one of my favorites. I seem to make it once I feel the warmth of Spring appear, there is something about her warmth, her freshness and vibrant colors that tempt me to make my favorite Lemon Cake.
Lemon Cake
Barefoot Contessa Parties
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, add the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Make a lemon syrup combining 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; pierce the cakes with a dowel or toothpick; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides. Let cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes and allow glaze to harden.

Lemons on Foodista

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

Gifts are sometimes a funny gesture, whether meant to be or not. For instance, my valentine present from my mom was the infamous Snuggie. She had only bought it because I had made so much fun of the commercial and it was a nice giggle as we (my dad) paraded around the house roll playing in it (choir member, monk etc.)

Many years ago she bought me the Magic Bullet. When I ripped into the present and saw the Magic Bullet in front of me, I honestly did not know what to think. Three moves and four yard sales later this little device still has a spot on the kitchen shelf. I've used it to make cream of porcini soup, puree roasted vegetables to thicken my pot roast gravy and for the most part make smoothies. The following is my favorite smoothie. The strawberry-banana smoothie is simple, quick, sweet and frothy. And such a refresher.

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

2 servings
  • 2 c. strawberries, quartered
  • 1 banana
  • 1 c. milk (I used 2%, but usually use Very Vanilla Soy Milk)
  • 2 T. honey
  • 6 cubes ice
Put all ingredients in a blender (or in my case The Magic Bullet). Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter Eggs And Easter Baskets

I always looked forward with excitement and pleasure to Easter time. As a family we would attend our small Methodist Church in Beaumont, looking back as a child I thought it was quite spacious. All religious celebrations were considered special, but Easter was preceded by other days of observance.

The Sunday before Easter our church would honor Palm Sunday by passing along palm branches to the children and faithful adult volunteers and walk down the church aisle waving the branches high. I remember one Palm Sunday a member of the church dressed as Jesus and lead the choir to their loft. The children were directed to wave our branches as they passed by. I was personally directed by a woman to exclaim "Look Mom! It's Jesus"-however I did no such thing, I remember being uncomfortable saying that to a woman who was not my mom.

In later years, we would celebrate Maundy Thursday to commemorate The Last Supper. It was usually a Pot Luck held at the church. On Good Friday, as a child, I was thankful to not be in school. As I got older, I had a greater appreciation for this observance.

Saturday night we decorated, dyed, and embellished our eggs in as many ways as we could invent. We would write on them in white crayon and then dye them, tie rubberbands on them to create random stripes, marbleize them, cover them in stickers and Dad always made his very own egg creation. I remember Rebekah (maybe two at the time) sitting in her highchair crying as we dyed the eggs, she didn't like it that much. All the sisters have an egg creature we made when we were younger, they still sit on the mantel after all these years, each seeing their better Easter days.

Shannon and I had our very own, very fancy handmade Easter basket given to us by our Godmother. One was red and one was purple and they seemed huge. Mom had several other pastel Easter baskets carefully placed as decoration.

Easter morning we woke up early for our private Easter egg hunt. Poor Shannon never had a chance. From the moment I stepped foot into the hallway, my eyes were darting and scanning in every direction. Even as we were looking at the goodies the Easter Bunny left us, I was focused on the hidden eggs. Shannon, I think focused on the candy that laid before her. Rebekah, fourteen years my junior, would have been major competition during my prime.

After Sunday School we would walk down the covered walkway that led to the Sanctuary, luckily for me, it was next to the play yard where the Easter eggs were awaiting to be found. Eventhough I was told not to look, once again I was scanning the playscape and field in every direction. Little did I know and soon to forget until next year-there was an egg "cap," ten eggs per basket.

After all this you would think we were done, but Easter Lunch, enjoyed by our family, relatives, friends, still had to be served. Our rituals would continue year after year, altered slightly by the passing of time, and by our growing up and leaving home. But I still look forward every spring to the coloring of eggs and the filling of baskets.Stuffed Tomatoes
Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis


  • 1 cup short grained brown rice
  • 6 ripe but firm large tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Cook the rice in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain. Rinse the rice under cold running water. Set the rice aside.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  3. Cut a 1/2-inch thick slice off the top of each tomato; reserve the tops. Cut and scoop the seeds, pulp, and juice from each tomato into a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the tomato juice and pulp.

  4. Coat the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the prepared dish.

  5. Toss the rice with the reserved tomato juice and pulp. Add garlic, basil, parsley, Parmesan, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste. Combine well.
  6. Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Sprinkle leftover stuffing on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle entire dish with olive oil. Place the reserved tomato slices atop the tomatoes. Bake until the rice is heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.