When Life Hands you Lemons…Make Lemon Bars!

I love lemons.

This factoid is no secret to close friends, relatives and acquaintances.

Lemons make me smile. How can they not? They scream summer, which is my favorite season.

So naturally, I had to make lemons bars.

I’ve made them before, but these lemons bars might be the best I’ve made yet.

The tangier the better, and the lemon filling (or curd) was rich, sweet and tangy.

I can’t receive all the credit.

No, no, no….

That should go to Ina Garten from Food Network’s “The Barefoot Contessa.”

I think I’m in love with this woman.

She has a beautiful house in the Hamptons, a KitchenAid, a husband who only comes home on the weekends, and a pantry full of “good bread,”  “good olive oil” and “good chocolate” among other “good things.”

In other words, I want to be like her when I grow up.

But until then, I’ll just settle for her lemon bars.

Lemon Bars

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Makes about 15 squares

Shortbread Crust

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup  sugar

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon  salt

Filling

6 large eggs at room temperature

3 cups  sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until incorporated with an electric mixer. Next, gradually add in the flour, along with the salt, and mix gently  until the dough forms. The dough will be slightly sticky. With floured hands, place the dough into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and spread out with hands, making sure the pan is covered evenly with the dough, building up to a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Chill for 30 minutes.  Then bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust is lightly browned.

For the filling, whisk together eggs, lemon juice, sugar, and zest. Gently add in the flour, and whisk until incorporated. Pour over the crust, and bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and ENJOY!

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Easter at Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles

I really miss the Easter’s of my youth – dying eggs, Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets.

Wait, what am I saying?

I hid eggs for my brother for the fun of it and received a mini easter basket (okay, it was two packs of gummy bears and a year supply of gum) from my mom.

See, I’m still a kid at heart.

One thing that I really love about Easter though, is Easter brunch. This Easter I went to Gladys Knights Chicken and Waffles in Midtown Atlanta to feast on butter, lard, sugar and salt.

It was delicious!

Gladys Knights Chicken & Waffles is famous for their….wait for it…Chicken and Waffles. What I really love about the restaurant is their macaroni and cheese (yes, better than mine), cornbread that tastes like yellow cake (cornbread purists beware), yams doused in rum, brown sugar and butter, and their peach cobbler.

My oh my oh my.

Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles

Peachtree 529 Peachtree St

 Atlanta, GA 30308

Phone 404-874-9393

Smothered chicken, squash, and mac' and cheese

A Night on the Town at FLIP Burger in Atlanta

My mom decided to be adventurous two weekends ago and try something new.

She decided to take us out to eat in Atlanta.

This was a  big first for her.

Seriously.

Normally she restricts our eating-out establishments to O’Charleys, La Parilla and Olive Garden.

 I do love my chains, but there is only so much unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks I can eat.

Therefore, one weekend when the stars were aligned, I somehow convinced my mom to take us to FLIP burger in Atlanta.

FLIP burger is a self-proclaimed “burger boutique” that specializes in creative burger meats and toppings, and essentially redefines what one thinks of a hamburger. The menu offers shrimp, chorizo, falafel and lamb burgers among the usual turkey and beef patties. FLIP is also known for their unusual milkshake offerings, including their Krispy Kreme and  nutella and burnt marshmallow milkshakes.

I ordered the turkey burger with Monterey cheese, avocado, alfalfa sprouts and pomegranate ketchup. I also ordered  a side of vodka battered onion rings with a serving of beer mustard on the side. Obviously, I was looking for a way to let loose that night with my mom and little brother.

Not.

My mom and brother ordered the traditional cheeseburgers, and added a Krispy Kreme milkshake on the side, thick with glazed donut chunks.

The Do’s: Amazing onion rings. Did I get tipsy off of them? Hah, that would have been an interesting night.  The beef cheeseburgers were also good.

The Don’ts: My turkey burger was just so-so. I ordered it because of the toppings, however I realized that I am a beef girl through and through. Not FLIP burgers fault, I was just expecting a bigger flavor than what I got.

And with my visit to FLIP burger, came my demise as a vegetarian.

Where’s the beef?

***Pictures are really dark, due to me still not knowing how to work my iPhone, and the “sexy” mood lighting of the restaurant.***

Flip Burger

1587 Howell Mill Road

Atlanta, GA

404-352-3547

Strawberry Pancakes and Cream at The Last Resort

I was so adamant this Sunday on trying something savory for brunch.

I was determined not to have my sweet tooth get the best of me, and to order something my 11-year old brother would probably not enjoy.

I’m 20-something years old, and I should be able to eat grown-up food like eggs Benedict and roasted vegetable frittatas with fontina and goat cheeses.

Alas, I failed this mission.

But who can resist pancakes with a strawberry and lemon compote – the special of the day?

Not this girl!

The pancakes, which were good on their own, came with a large serving of whole strawberries and syrup.  Although a little on the tart side, the dish balanced out with the addition of maple syrup and whipped cream.

Oh Gawd, I love real whipped cream.

Don’t even get me started on Cool Whip.

Friends had the Ranchero Omlette with black beans, texas caviar (pico de gallo), Monterey jack cheese, salsa fresca and cilantro crema,served with a jalapeno scone, and the Atlanticville Pasta made with salmon, shrimp, and greens in a Dijon cream sauce.

Maybe next time I’ll order the eggs.

Nahhh….

 

The Last Resort Grill

184 West Clayton St.

Athens, GA

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna Roll-ups

I’ve “unofficially” become a vegetarian.

And I don’t like it.

Honestly though, I’m too lazy to defrost a chicken breast.

Actually, I just forget.

I’ll just blame it on my Comm Law class.

Yeah, that’s it.

I love lasagna, see “Roomie Night Lasagna” and this time, I just didn’t feel like spending $4.00 on ground beef ( I know, terrible) and defrosting it the night before. Therefore, I decided to make a quicker lasagna using only spinach, ricotta cheese, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.

I didn’t even miss the meat. Spinach has iron right?

PETA you love me.

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna Roll-ups

8 pre-cooked lasagna noodles

A container of ricotta cheese (get the smaller tub)

2 1/2 cups of an Italian Cheese blend (mozzarella and parmesan)

1 jar of marinara sauce or a tomato sauce of your choice

One 14 ounce bag of frozen spinach

Garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Mix all of the ricotta cheese and 1 cup of the Italian cheese blend in a small bowl. Season liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder to suit your taste.

Boil or microwave the spinach according to package directions. After cooking, drain the spinach, making sure all liquid is taken out. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Pour  1 cup of marinara sauce in a baking dish so the noodles won’t stick. Taking one noodle, spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on it, covering all of the noodle. Next, place about the same amount of spinach on top of the ricotta cheese. Gently roll the noodle and place into the baking dish. After all noodles have been filled and rolled, pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the noodles, and top with 1 cup of the cheese blend.

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy!

Egg and Bacon Pasta: Penne a la Carbonara

Since spring semester of school has begun, I have faithfully done two things when I get back home from class:

1) Eat a snack (some things never change)

2) Turn on Food Network.

My two shows of choice are The Barefoot Contessa and Giada at Home.

Oh, how I do love these two lovely ladies.

Sometime in November, I bought Giada’s first cookbook, Everyday Italian,and I cannot put it down. It has every Italian recipe you could think of, including a scrumptious Penne Carbonara.

What is that you may ask?

A rich, heart-clogging, stuff-your-face pasta dish made with bacon, eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese.

I almost had a stroke writing that.

So one cold evening I decided to try it, because winter gives me free excuse to eat this way.

Salad? What salad?

Penne a la Carbonara

From “Everyday Italian” by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 4

1 pound pancetta, diced into 1-inch cubes (substitute bacon, if you cannot find pancetta)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (You can use pre-grated Parmesan)

1 pound dried penne

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (Dried herbs and garlic powder work fine as well. Be liberal)

Heat a large saute pan, until hot. Add pancetta and saute until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper and remove pan from heat.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan, reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish.

In a large pot, boil 6 quarts of salted boiling water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse with water; you want to retain the pasta’s natural starches so that the sauce will stick. While the pasta is still hot, return it back to the pot. Add the browned pancetta and mix well. Add the cream mixture and coat the pasta completely. It’s important to work quickly while the pasta is still warm so that the cream mixture will cook, but not curdle. Add remaining Parmesan and chopped parsley.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

– A.A Milne,
Winnie-the-Pooh

I think we can all learn a thing or two from Pooh and the gang.

Overnight Baked French Toast

When I was a kid on Christmas morning, I can remember waking up, going straight to the gifts and then settling down in the kitchen for the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that were always waiting for me.

I haven’t seen those cinnamon rolls in a minute, however I decided to keep a Christmas morning tradition alive this year and make something new from scratch.

Overnight baked french toast.

If that word doesn’t hit the spot, then I don’t know what will.

Sadly, when the dish came out of the oven drizzled with syrup and into my mouth, the results were somewhat disappointing.

A misadventure indeed.

The main issue was that it was too eggy and a bit soggy. In fact, instead of the bread soaking up all of the egg custard, the eggs cooked in a layer of their own. For every layer of bread, there was a layer of cooked eggs accompanying it.

I’m guessing the author wanted to give us more bang for our buck.

College student I may be, but I can afford the extra egg if I wanted to make scrambled eggs.

If I were going to try this recipe again, I would have baked it for twice as long.

Side Note: Did you know that brown sugar doesn’t melt in the oven? That if you crumble it over bread and dot the top with butter, the end result will look like bits of crumbled beef (or so my brother says) than the gooey syrup I had envisioned in my head.

Don’t be like me.

But those top slices of bread were the best slices of cinnamon-sugar toast  I have ever tasted.

To make up for this debacle, here is a recipe that I know is fool-proof from the great Ina Garten from the show, “The Barefoot Contessa.”

Enjoy.

French Toast Bread Pudding

(From “The Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?” )

Serves 8

1 challah loaf (you can also use Italian or French bread), sliced 3/4 thick

8 extra-large eggs

5 cups half-and-half or milk

3 tablespoons of honey

1 tablespoon of grated orange zest

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread in two layers in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish, cutting the bread to fit the dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, honey, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and press the bread down. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes.

Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and add enough very hot water to the roasting pan to come an inch up the side of the baking dish. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting it so the foil doesn’t touch the pudding. Make two slashes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for another 45-50 minutes, until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Serve with powdered sugar or maple syrup.

I Consider Myself a “Classy” Foodie: Cracker Barrel and All

As soon as I tell people I have a food blog, they either ask me one of two things:

1) Can you cook? (See title of blog)

OR

2) What are your favorite restaurants?

This one is a little bit trickier and after a couple of milliseconds batting my eyes and having a glazed look come over them, I manage to stutter out The National in Athens.  I like The National and I would kill to go back there and have their banana bread french toast just one more time (let’s not go there), but is it my absolute favorite restaurant?

No.

My favorite restaurant is actually a pizza place called Monicles Pizza in Peoria, Illinois; the town I grew up in. To non-Peorians, Monicles would be nothing special. Pepsi, not Coke (we’re north of the Mason-Dixon line ya’ll) is served in pitchers, the salad consists of shredded iceberg, American cheese, and bits of tomato chunks which you drown in their  French Dressing which God himself must make, and then you have the pizza, which is as thin as cardboard.

But oh my goodness is it all so, so good.

My point is, when you claim yourself a “foodie” people expect you to name a five-star restaurant manned by a  James Beard award- winning chef as your favorite place, not restaurants that have had a health-code violation within the past year (and I’m not talking about Monicles or Cracker Barrel here).

So yes, I still claim myself a foodie because I love food. I will try anything once, and so far my most adventurous eats have been octopus, curried goat, escargot, and my mother’s casseroles. Make no mistake, I am no Anthony Bourdain.  I think restaurants that serve Pan-Asian-Dutch-Brazilian-Samoan fusion cusine can be wonderful, but so far, none have rocked my boat…yet.

I’m still trying to figure out my own likes and dislikes when it comes to food. What I do know, is that right now my palette is craving Hot Cheetos.

Fancy food at its finest.

P.S. I go to Cracker Barrel for three things and three things only: Pancakes, biscuits and corn muffins.

Sue me.

Banana Bread

I have been craving banana bread ever since I had the banana bread french toast at The National, back when they were still serving brunch. See post.

R.I.P 

Banana Bread French Toast

? – Spring 2011

I decided to make my own version of the bread and test out a banana bread recipe I found on the back of my whole-wheat pancake mix.

Well, that was my first mistake. Actually, my first two mistakes.

Whole-Wheat and  Pancake Mix.

I must have made this bread on one of my health-kick weeks, which typically only last for 48 hours. Or I just ran out of flour.

It was probably both, since most of the flour ends up on my shirt anyway.

However, the recipe on the back looked delicious. Who wouldn’t want to eat whole-wheat banana bread made with whole grains?

Silence.

I must be the only one.

I also replaced the oil with applesauce. Which I would do again since it replaces most of the fat and gives dishes added flavor to boot.

However the real problem of the bread wasn’t the whole-wheat, but the lack of sugar the recipe called for. Now granted, if the recipe uses whole-wheat anything, you can expect for every other ‘goodness’ ingredient to be drastically cut.

But c’mon Aunt Jemima!  You only give me a 1/2 cup?  What am I supposed to do with that?!

I’m the girl who puts 10 Splendas in her iced tea!

Which probably explains why my taste receptors are all messed up.

Go figure.

Whole Wheat Blend Banana Nut Bread

Yields 16 (skinny) slices

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Aunt Jemima Whole Wheat Blend Pancake & Waffle Mix

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup sugar (I’d use 1 cup of brown sugar)

1/3 cup vegetable oil (Or substitute the same measurement of applesauce)

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 cup mashed ripe (read: brown) bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease the bottom of a loaf pan. Combine flour, pancake mix, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda and sugar in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil (applesauce), eggs and milk. Stir in bananas; add to dry ingredients. Stir gently just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into loaf pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

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