Lemon Bars

Happy holiday season! It is my favorite time of year and not because of presents (we stopped the gift exchange thing a while back and it has made the holidays so much better, in my opinion). This is the one time of year that I get to bake my little heart out and no one says anything. It’s all about the baking! 

 Val hosted Thanksgiving this year, but I got to make desserts. Well, that and bring the cheese since Val knows I have an actual cheesemonger (who is incredible) but I got to bake. This year we went with almond brittle, the infamous chocolate pie, candied pecans and lemon bars.

I’ve tried a few lemon bar recipes and have never been perfectly happy with them. So this year I decided to browse a few recipes then wing it. Apparently this worked because I got high compliments on the lemon bars. Unfortunately I didn’t write down what I did, so here is the recipe as best I can remember it.


Shortbread crust

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. On a low speed (or dough if your food processor has it) add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Pour into a 13×9 prepared pan (line with foil and grease however you like – butter, spray, etc) and press to form a solid dough. The dough will be very crumbly – that’s fine. If you don’t have a food processor, combine everything into a large bowl and crumble the butter into the flour with your hands. Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes – just until the dough begins to brown.

Lemon Filling

  • 3 large eggs, plus one egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
  • Zest of all the lemons used to make the juice

Mix the eggs, sugar, salt and flour until smooth. Add lemon juice and zest, mix to combine.  Pour over the cooked shortbread crust and bake 20-25 minutes and bake at 350 just until the filling sets. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Dust with confectioners sugar and cut into squares. 


    Vegetable Pot Pie

    Every now and then I get a taste in my mouth that I can’t get rid of. I start to crave a food and that craving won’t go away until I eat that particular food. Sometimes it’s as easy as a piece of cheese, or a brownie, but other times its complicated. Other times I want something difficult to make or hard to acquire. In the last few weels I’ve wanted a savory pie. Specifically I’ve wanted the Chicken, Ham and Leek pie from England but there are a dozen reasons why that isn’t happening. I’m not in the UK and I haven’t been cooking meat lately so that sort of put the pie out of reach.

    So what is a girl to do? Improvise. I decided to go for a savory pie, but a meatless version. I scoured recipes  (most of which contain mushroom and I’m just not there yet) and decided to try my hand at my own version of a vegetable pie.


    I decided to go with fall/winter flavors. Butternut squash, parsnips and potato made the base. I chose leeks for the onion  like portion of the filling and rounded everything out with carrots and frozen peas. I do need to adjust the ratios for next time, but there will definitely be a next time.


    Recipe:(the altered version )

    • 1 1/2 cup butternut squash
    • 1 leek, white and light green part, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup parsnip
    • 1 cup carrots
    • 2 small, white sweet potatoes
    • 2 cups vegetable stock
    • 2 teaspoons flour
    • 1 sheet puffed pastry
    • Olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Chopped the butternut squash and potato into 1/2 inch dice. Cut the parsnips and carrots on a diagonal. Mince the garlic and cut the leeks as you would an onion.

    Coat the butternut squash and potato in a little olive oil and season with salt. Roast in a 400 degree oven about 15-20 minutes until the squash can be mashed with a fork and the potatoes are just about tender.

    Heat a little olive oil in a pan and cookeep the leek and garlic for a few minutes. Add the carrott, parsnip and aboutique 1/4 cup of stock. Season with salt. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low and coom until the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake pan. Add the squash and potatoes and mix everything together.

    In the same pan, add 1 teaspoon oil and heat.  Add the four and stit until it begins to toast. Add the remaining vegetable stock and whisk until the flour is incorporated. Bring to a boil and coom until the stock begins to thicken.

    Pour the stock over the vegetable mix in the pan. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry just enough to cover the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from  the oven and let rest for five minutes.



    Almost Thanksgiving

    For years I’ve said teacher look forward to the holiday breaks more than the kids. This year is proving no different. While I’m not as anxious to have a short break as I have been in the past, the thought of a few days of baking, eating and actually being home to do stuff is a delightful thought. 

    I’ve wanted to cook lately, but the schedule gods have conspired against me. But over the last few weeks I did manage to make some pretty great cheddar chive biscuits and a nice pasta. 

    The biscuits were purely an indulgence. We still had cheddar from my Mac and cheese experiment and I had some chives in the fridge, so what better way to start a Sunday morning than with biscuits. 

    The pasta was to be fancier and with more vegetables, but I didn’t make it to the grocery store after work one day, so I improvised. Carrots make a great addition to pasta, and a made a version of a beurre blanc sauce (shallot, thyme, vinegar, wine and lots of butter). It worked. It worked a little too well and I didn’t have leftovers for lunch the next day. 

    On the pet front, Gracie is her usual self, as are Leia and Tigger. Leia has been more assertive lately, which is fun to watch when she decides she wants Tigger’s spot. Jessie is having a few more “old lady days” (she is 13 so she’s allowed) and while I’m generally not worried, I am keeping an eye on her. Food is the big issue right now – she isn’t eating as much as I think she should – but in general she’s in good shape. Our walks are shorter some days, but at least she still wants to go out. 


    Cheese Enchiladas With Spinach

    This has been a leftover special weekend. I have food I have to use up so I figure out something to make with it. Yesterday was the kale salad, today, enchiladas. 

    Every now and again Bob and I find ourselves with leftover cheese from our cheese club box. (Yes, we are still doing those because we love them and we love supporting our local cheese shop. Louise is always so helpful and honest – if a cheese is ok, but not great, she tells you. If a cheese is on the edge, she tells you – and if it is too ripe, she will replace it.) Normally we eat all if the cheese in a few weeks, but sometimes we just don’t get to it. So … I make something with it.

    Today I decided on cheese enchiladas with spinach. I though about plain cheese enchiladas but I did want some vegetable in there and spinach is easy. 

    I started with a modified version of Emeril’s enchilada sauce. My version uses butter in place of oil, vegetable broth instead of chicken, and less chili powder and tomato paste. I do start with a roux, add the spices, add in the broth then the tomato paste. It works and is my basic red sauce for Mexican dishes. 

    I decided to blanch the spinach, press it and chop it. I wanted the spinach in the enchiladas, but I wanted the cheese to be the star of the show. I also use flour tortillas because I like them way more than the corn ones. Yes, I know corn is healthier for you, but if I’m not going to eat it, what’s the point? 

    These came out particularly good. The cheese was a mix of two cow cheeses on the inside and a little cheddar on top. Little cheese, little spinach, little sauce, and we have lunch. Bob liked the “cheese to other stuff” ratio and was glad the cheese was the main flavor. Best part about these – lunch tomorrow!



    • 2 cups vegetable broth
    • ~1/8 cup chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 2.5 oz double concentrated tomato paste
    • Pinch of salt

    Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, add the flour and stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the roux is bubbly and a caramel color. Add the chili and cumin and mix well. Add the vegetable broth and stir to combine, removing any lumps. Add the tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and let boil for one minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. 


    • 2 cups shredded cheese (whatever you have in hand and will melt)
    • 6 Flour tortillas
    • 10-12 oz spinach
    • Enchilada sauce (see above)
    • Shredded cheese for topping

    Blanch the spinach. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl with ice in it and a slotted spoon ready. Add the spinach in large handfuls (about 3 ounces each) to the water and blanch for about twenty to thirty seconds. Remove from water, place over the ice to stop the cooking and repeat with remaining spinach. Once all of the spinach has been blanched, squeeze out any water and chop.

    Preheat oven to 350. Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with sauce to prevent sticking. 

    To assemble: coat each tortilla, both sides, with sauce. Place a good amount of cheese, about two to three tablespoons, along the center of the tortilla. Add 1/6 of the spinach on top of the cheese, then roll the tortilla up and place fold side down in the prepared pan. Repeat until all tortillas are used. 

    Spoon sauce over the enchiladas then top with more grated cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 20 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the enchiladas hot through. 

    Serve immediately.


    Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

    It’s rare that I have leftover ingredients in my fridge. I don’t keep a stocked pantry or buy groceries without knowing exactly what I am making with them. This leaves people confused at times but I’ve found that it works for me. I buy less, but more frequently and have far less food waste than I did when I bought what was on sale and then figured out what to make. (I also have everything to make a dish so no last minute grocery runs or major changes to what is for dinner.) It’s not necessarily convenient, but it’s been working for a few years now and I like it. 


    Last week I went to the farmer’s market and picked up veggies for the week. While I made my dishes with the food I bought, I actually had leftover ingredients that I needed to figure out what to do with. Specifically I had a half a bunch of kale (yes, I actually like kale), Brussels sprouts, and half a butternut squash. I thought about making pasta and throwing everything in, or a risotto, but none of that sounded appealing. I decided to scour the Internet and see if I could come up with something tempting, and I definitely did.

    I have a few “go to” blogs and websites that I use for recipes or inspiration, but I came across a new one Two Peas and Their Pod. There I found a recipe for a salad that used all of my leftover ingredients. Kale, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cheese that I have in the fridge and a homemade dressing that is quick and easy. I’m not a huge fan of pomegranate so I left that out and substituted apple since I had one on hand. I also substituted sherry vinegar for the apple cider vinegar, but otherwise kept the ingredients the same. 

    One other change I made was in prepping the kale. Rather than massage the kale with extra salt, I poured a little bit of the dressing into the kale and mixed to coat the leaves. I let this sit for about 15 minutes while the butternut squash and pecans cooked. This let the vinegar work on softening the leaves and took out the extra salt. I added the remaining ingredients right before serving, added most of the dressing and tossed again. It worked perfectly. 

    I am definitely adding Two Peas and Their Pod to my recipe searches. This salad was incredibly good and while my pictures aren’t nearly as pretty, the taste and texture was fantastic. I also followed the candied pecan recipe for the nuts in the salad and they may be Bob’s new favorite snack.