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!

Roomie Lasagna Night

After completing my cookie swap, I wanted another way for my roommates and I to get together one last time before the semester ended.  With one of us graduating in December, it was important for all four of us to actually sit down with one another and have conversation.

Food was always part of the plan.

My mother makes an AMAZING lasagna, and while I’m always quick to make fun of her lackluster culinary skills (I am my mother’s daughter), this is one dish that she makes extremely well.

Therefore, for our roommate “Italian Feast” night, I thought I’d use her recipe. Originally I was going to use a Giada DeLaurentiis’s  recipe for lasagna,  but  once I was at the grocery store and started to tally up how much the ingredients were,the costs outweighed the benefits (take that freshman-year macroeconomics)!

Below is the recipe for my mom’s lasagna. While she may have forced fed me fish sticks and canned green beans in my youth, she knows how to make a great lasagna.

Thanks Ma.

Before

After

Slap Your Mama Lasagna

1/2 pound of ground Italian sausage

1/2 pound of lean ground beef

2 pound (yes, 2 pound) jar of marinara sauce ( I like Prego)

2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

15 ounces of ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/2 package of lasagna noodles out of  12 ounces (Choose the “Oven-Baked” variety)

1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or just oregano)

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

In a large skillet on medium heat, combine the ground beef and sausage  and cook until all pink subsides. Once meat is done, pour a generous amount of sauce into the skillet and combine. This is to your discretion on how much sauce you want in your lasagna. I like it “saucy.”

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, one egg, and the garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper together. Mix and set aside.

 In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, pour a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish to prevent the noodles from sticking. Place five or so uncooked noodles on top of the marinara sauce. Cover the lasagna layer with all of the ricotta mixture, spreading  to evenly coat all of the noodles.

After the ricotta mixture is spread on, pour half of the meat sauce mixture on top. Cover this with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Place 5 more lasagna noodles on top of the mozzarella cheese. Cover the noodles with the remaining meat sauce, and then top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees.

Serves about 6 people.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

This is the first recipe I have made using my Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, which is kind of sad being that this blog is the show’s namesake.

This recipe, which kudos to me, turned out AMAZING, combined my two favorite foods/ingredients – lemon and yogurt. Any one who knows me, knows I love lemon – lemon bars, lemonade, lemon heads, lemon chicken- if it has lemon in it, I’m all in. My obsession with lemon started in high school when I made a lemon bar recipe. I devoured those in a matter of days.  It was love at first bite.

Although this cake is made in a loaf tin, don’t mistake this for bread.  This cake is incredibly moist, decadent, sweet and tart. The vanilla extract in the batter pairs perfectly with the lemon, with the yogurt providing the cake with an extra bit of tang.

But it was the lemon sugar syrup that put this cake on a whole different level. I combined equal parts of sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and heated the mixture until the sugar dissolved. Once the cake was out of the oven, I poked holes in it with a toothpick and poured the syrup over.

Holy deliciousness.

Excuse me while I wipe off the drool on my chin.

The baking process almost went off without a hitch, almost. C’mon, what did you expect?

My only issue came from grating the lemon. Note to self: buy a microplane (Google it), it will save you time and pain in trying to grate a tiny lemon on a huge grater. More lemon remained on the grater than in the batter. In order to make up for my lost lemon zest, I added a teaspoon of  lemon juice to the batter.  Crisis adverted.

I think the Barefoot Contessa would be proud.

Next mission? Master her chocolate cake recipe.

Things might just get messy.

Lemon sugar syrup

 

Lemon-Yogurt Cake

From the book, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Makes one loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used two 6oz cups of low-fat vanilla yogurt)

3 eggs

2 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons) – The death of me!

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (Don’t even think of using imitation)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (Used only 1/4 cup- The Barefoot Contessa will kill you.)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper (Puh-leeze, just oil the thing and dust with flour).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Broccoli and Cheese Frittata

After my blueberry muffin debacle  a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a dish that would redeem myself in the kitchen.

I introduce to you the frittata.

What’s that you may ask? In simplest terms, it is an omelette that is open-faced. A frittata starts out as an omelette, but instead of it being flipped at the end, the frittata is put in the oven and “baked” and  cut into wedges.

In other words, it’s an omelette with a fancier name. Ooo la la.

I’m on health kick these days (blame being surrounded by size 0 girls at school) and found this recipe by Ellie Krieger, nutritionist and host of the Food Network show Healthy Appetite.  What makes this frittata healthful is the  combination of both whole eggs and egg whites and veggies.  The recipe only called for broccoli and onion but I decided to add a couple of slices of Roma tomatoes I had left over from the salad I had made earlier in the week.

I’ve turned into a salad girl. Lord help me.

But wait,did I really make this dish without a hitch?

Um, no. Hello, have we met?

After I poured the eggs and veggies into the skillet and let it cook for about 8 minutes for the eggs to set around the edges(but still jiggly in the center),I was instructed to then put it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes so that the center could set and the cheese would melt.

Okay…so far so good.

But as soon as I took the frittata out from the broiler and cut into it, it started oozing egg.

This time I had actually followed the recipe’s directions and had remembered all of the ingredients. A first.  Obviously, the cooking gods were against me. Luckily, I came to my senses and put the frittata back in the oven for 5 minutes under 350 degree heat.

Whew, crisis averted.

And after five minutes I had a delicious and healthful frittata.

All that stress for nothin’.

Broccoli and Cheese Frittata

Adapted by Elie Krieger, Foodnetwork.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 large eggs

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small red onion, sliced (about one cup)

2 cups chopped cooked broccoli

1/4 tsp. salt and pepper ( I used shakes of  seasoning salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and a pinch of red pepper flakes)

1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Separate 4 of the eggs, putting the whites into a medium-sized bowl and discarding the yolks. Add the 4 whole eggs and 2 tablespoons of water to the whites and whisk well.

In a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and a few turns of pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet covering them evenly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let cook until the egg mixture has set around the edges but is somewhat liquid in the middle, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler about 2 inches from the heat until the surface is set and golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the egg mixture will become tough.

Cut the frittata into 8 wedges and serve.

 *Tailor this recipe to your own liking, and include the veggies/cheese’s/meat/spices that you like!

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