I am one of those people who feels compelled to have a bowl of lemons in the kitchen — and then fails to use them all before they go bad.  Today, I decided to zest and juice them all and then make something yummy.  This pound cake is a basic recipe, with a few twists.

First, after throwing out all my baking and cooking sprays (one of my remaining bad habits in the kitchen), I decided to throw caution to the wind and use coconut oil (solid) to grease the pan.  Coconuts go with lemon, right?

Second, I recently read something somewhere (I have no recollection where) about the sweet crunch a cake will get if you sugar the pan instead of flouring it. So I sugared the coconut oiled bundt cake pan instead of flouring it.

Third, I didn’t have plain yogurt or enough sour cream for the recipe.  What I did have was 4 ounces of sour cream and a container of Noosa Raspberry Yogurt.  (I am addicted to Noosa yogurt — even the pumpkin flavor is good!)  Raspberries go with lemon, right?

Ingredients

2 tbs organic coconut oil
2 sticks of unsalted organic butter, softened
3 cups of sugar (I use Zulka Morena, a minimally processed sugar)
3 tbs lemon zest (this was about 4-5 medium sized lemons)
3 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
juice from one medium lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 eggs (preferably not straight from the fridge)
4 ounces sour cream
8 ounces Noosa raspberry yogurt (or other Greek or Australian yogurt)

How I Made It

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a bundt pan with coconut oil and sprinkle sugar evenly in the pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Sift together with a fork.

In a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well-combined. Turn the speed down to medium and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each into the mixture before adding another. Once the eggs are all combined, add the lemon juice.

Turn the mixer down to low. Add one third of the flour mixture, then the sour cream. Add another third of the flour and half the yogurt.  Add the last of the flour and the last of the yogurt. Turn up the speed for just about 30 seconds to be sure it’s all combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give the batter a few good stirs. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. You might have extra, which you can bake as cupcakes (just halve the baking time).

Bake for 60-65 minutes, until a cake tester comes away clean. Let the cake cool in the pan. Loosen the sides with a slim knife, and turn it out onto a cake plate.

How It Turned Out

Lemon Pound Cake (2)

The sugar trick worked on the sides but not the top (maybe that’s because of the pan?).  Otherwise, it’s an oh so summery cake to share.

P.S. What did I do with the juice from all those lemons I zested? I juiced them straight into an ice tray. When it’s done freezing, I’ll have little cubes of fresh lemon juice for whenever I need a couple of tablespoons for a recipe.

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These brownies are a delightful concoction that benefited from a lack of planning.

A friend asked for something super chocolaty to inspire us at our annual independent living center board retreat, so of course I agreed to whip something up. Assuming I had all the necessaries, I woke up early to bake before our meeting — only to discover a serious lack of white sugar and no brown sugar.  What is a girl to do in such dire straits?  Improvise!!  And so were born these Dark Chocolate Maple Cinnamon Brownies.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
6 cage free organic eggs
18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a large 9×12 glass baking dish with baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, sifting together with a fork until thoroughly combined.  Put the chocolate chips in a very large mixing bowl. In a glass bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.

Pour the melted butter over the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  (You may need to microwave the chocolate a bit to get all the way to smooth.)  When the chocolate and butter are smoothly combined, add the sugar and then the maple syrup. Stir until combined before adding the eggs in two batches, stirring to mix everything well between the two. Add the vanilla and give it one more stir.

Mix the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture in three batches, combining thoroughly in between each batch. You will have a thick batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes away with a little chocolate crumb. Let the brownies cool a bit before serving.

How They Turned Out:

Dense, very chocolaty, not too sweet — the perfect base for a fudge sundae or a pile of homemade whipped cream.

Brownies

We’re having a blizzard tonight, so it’s a night for comfort food. This chicken pot pie is my first attempt at the dish, so it’s a true concoction with lots of short cuts.  And since I don’t like biscuits (I know — what Southern girl doesn’t like biscuits!), I used crescent rolls on top.

Ingredients:

2 boneless chicken breasts
4 boneless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons of honey mustard
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 jar of Heinz chicken gravy
12 ounces of chicken stock
2 tablespoons lowfat sour cream
2 packages of Bird’s Eye Steamfresh mixed vegetables
6 ounces (1 jar) of sliced mushrooms
1 package of crescent rolls

How I Made It:

Place the chicken in a foil lined baking dish, covering the pieces with the honey mustard. Sprinkle with the crushed red pepper, cover, and bake for 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  When it’s done, let it cool and then set it aside until you’re ready to make the pot pie.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a large baking dish with non-stick spray. Cube the roasted chicken and set it aside.

Microwave the frozen vegetables according to the instructions on the package. In a large saucepan, heat the gravy over medium-high heat.  Pour 8 ounces of the chicken stock into the gravy jar, put the lid on, and shake to capture any gravy that was left in the jar.  Top off with the rest of the stock (equal parts gravy and stock) and then add it to the saucepan.

Whisk in the sour cream until blended.  Stir in the mushrooms and the vegetables.  Then remove the mixture from the heat.

Layer the chicken in the bottom of the large baking dish.  With a slotted spoon, spoon the vegetables evenly over the chicken.  Pour the remaining sauce over the chicken and vegetables.

Unroll the crescent rolls.  Use half of them, in sheet form, to top the chicken and vegetables. (You can bake the other half of the rolls as normal.)

Bake the pot pie for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

How It Turned Out:

Pot Pie

Not bad, but not great. The chicken is tasty, and the veggies aren’t mushy. I was hoping for a creamier sauce. Maybe reducing the chicken stock to half the amount of the gravy would help. Or, even better, putting in the time to make a sauce from scratch. Nevertheless, for a cold and snowy Thursday, it’s a pretty tasty dinner.

Summertime is Strawberry Time.  I remember going as a little girl to a local patch with my Nanny and picking strawberries (popping them into my mouth instead of the little bucket she gave me), and relishing in winter the super-sweet strawberry jam she made the summers before.  Maybe this is why I love them so much.

Tonight, when I found myself with 3 quarts of strawberries fixing to round the bend, I decided to make a feast of them.  Two strawberry sauces and one lovely fresh salad later, we had a supper perfect for a summer evening.

Strawberry Salad

Toss organic baby spinach and spring greens with almonds, feta, and sliced strawberries. Dress with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Voila!

Strawberry Salad

Salmon in Strawberry White Wine Sauce

This is a basic packet salmon in parchment recipe (25 minutes in a 400 degree oven). The innovation is a sauce made of white wine (chardonnay is what I had on hand), sliced strawberries, a pinch of ginger, and 1 tbs of honey.  Combine these ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, stirring periodically until it begins to simmer and the sauce turns a lovely strawberry pink. Spoon the sauce over the salmon in the parchment (or foil) packet, seal, and cook until done though.

Strawberry Salmon

My supper companions said that the fish was moist without being mushy, and flavorful without being too sweet.  Seconds were had, so I’m thinking this concoction was a winner.

Strawberry Pinot Sauce

I also made a red wine sauce with 1 cup of Irony Pinot Noir and 1 cup pureed strawberries, brought to a boil in a saucepan and then slowly reduced. I used this one to finish a pan-cooked boneless sirloin steak.  Also yummy, but not as pretty as the salmon with sauce (hence, no picture).

This lemon-herb concoction is easy to whip up in a food processor and is great on fish or chicken.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 lbs fresh wild Alaska halibut, cut into 8 fillets
the peel of one lemon
6 sprigs of fresh organic thyme
1 handful of Italian parsley
1 tbs Land o’ Lakes light butter with canola oil, melted

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking dish with aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray.  Arrange the halibut in the dish.

Because you’re going to use the food processor, you can just peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler.  Combine the lemon peel, thyme, and parsley in the food processor and pulse until it starts to come together in a paste.  Slowly add the melted butter as you continue to process the lemon and herbs.  When you have a lovely fragrant paste, you’re done.

With a silicon pastry brush, cover the halibut with the lemon-herb concoction.  Bake the halibut covered for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes or until the halibut is cooked through.

How It Turned Out:

The fish was firm and flavorful, and paired well with a spring vegetable pasta.

Halibut

At the mercy of a crazy craving for chips and dip, I stopped at the store and got some salt and pepper chips and sour cream, certain I had Lipton Onion Cup o’ Soup in the cabinet.  When I got home — my cupboard was bare!!!  AACCK!!

What to do?  Eat naked chips?  Never!!

So, I got creative and added 2 teaspoons of onion powder and 2 pinches of curry powder to 1 cup of sour cream and VOILA!!

Awesome creamy dip with a tiny kick to go with my favorite chips.

Idea

One of my favorite single gal concoctions is to mix leftover General Tso’s Chicken and macaroni and cheese. So tonight, in collusion with a fellow culinary adventurer, I made this casserole featuring homemade mac and cheese, General’s Chicken, and broccoli.

Ingredients:General's Mac 2

1/4 cup butter
2 tbs flour
2 cups of 1% milk plus a little
1 tsp ground mustard
4 oz shredded 2% cheddar cheese
4 oz shredded colby jack cheese
16 oz bowtie pasta
8 oz bag of frozen broccoli florets
1 lb of chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1 package Simply Asia General Tso’s Sauce
1 tbs olive oil

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large casserole dish with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to the directions, adding the frozen broccoli for the last 4 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, brown the chicken lightly in olive oil. When it’s cooked through, add the General Tso’s Sauce and stir to be sure the chicken is coated in sauce.  Cook over low heat while you prepare the cheese sauce.

In the pasta pot (now empty of the pasta and broccoli), melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until thoroughly blended.  Slowly add 2 cups of milk, whisking continuously for about 5 minutes or until it has thickened. Whisk in the mustard, then the cheese in batches until you have a smooth sauce.  It might be too thick, in which case add a little more milk (1/4 cup or less).

Add the pasta and broccoli back to the pot and stir to coat it all thoroughly with cheese sauce.  Transfer half the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.  Layer the General’s Chicken on top, and then add the remaining macaroni and cheese.  Sprinkle a little cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

How It Turned Out:

Yummy, but not quite as good as the inspiration.  I imagine that my attempts to lighten the casserole — not breading the chicken, using low fat cheese, adding broccoli — all diminshed the guilty pleasure aspect of the late night single gal version.  But it was good, and I’ll probably make it again.