Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I must admit, even though I’m a “food blogger” and a self-proclaimed foodie, I don’t think I really have a signature go-to dish. I feel like every blogger, mom, homemaker, Pinterest-obsessed lady, or even BBQ-loving man out there has a signature thing that they make well.

Unless throwing a bunch of veggies in a saute pan with various spices and serving it over rice/quinoa counts as a “signature dish”….I am a little bit all over the place, and I prefer to try my hand at as many different kind of dishes as possible rather than specialize in just one.

However, there is one flavor profile that I may have a borderline obsession with…

Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins (one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog, probably because I put the word “skinny” in front of them)… Basil-Lemon Breakfast HashBraided Lemon BreadLemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies…. Seeing a trend here?

DSC_0928

Which brings me to this cookie. I have made these cookies (in Lemon Shortbread Square form) every year for the past 4 years. I thought, nay, KNEW they could not be improved upon…and then I made them into cookies.

GAME CHANGER!

DSC_0929
Not only do you get more cookies out of a batch than you would if you put the dough into a square pan and cut out squares (bonus: it makes them fewer calories!!)… The cookies are just straight up BETTER. Slightly browned and crumbly on the edges, covered in the same heavenly lemon glaze (it’s really what seals the deal here), you need these on your cookie tray!

DSC_0931

Seriously. Nothing is better than lemon juice and powdered sugar. Even people who aren’t huge fans of lemon have told me they liked these cookies. Plus, I tend to prefer a cookie dough that doesn’t have raw egg in it. No danger in eating it off the spatula as you bake 😉

DSC_0930

If you’ve found yourself behind on your Christmas baking, or if you’re like me and you have eaten too many of the cookies you baked that were supposed to be gifts…look no further for your next cookie recipe!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
makes 24 cookies

For Cookies:
2 sticks softened butter
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 small lemon)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Lemon Icing:
2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
juice & zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 300˚. Beat together butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Whisk the flour and salt separately, then add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until well combined. The dough will be scraggly; this is okay!

Lay down a piece of plastic wrap and turn over dough onto plastic wrap. Form the dough into a log with a diameter about the same size you want your cookies to be (about 1.5 inches). It will be pretty long, about 12 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Remove shortbread from fridge and slice into cookies that are about 1/2 inch thick. Score the shortbread with a fork, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.

While shortbread is baking, combine sugar and lemon juice/zest. I usually start with the juice of half a lemon and add powdered sugar as needed. You’ll want it to be semi thick because it’ll get thinner when it touches the hot cookies.

Remove cookies from oven and immediately drizzle with as much icing as desired (ALL OF IT). Let cookies cool and icing harden before storing.

Advertisements

Meatless Monday: Lemon-Basil Breakfast Hash

Told you guys I had a Meatless Monday post waiting for ya!

DSC_0543

And it involves mini peppers and mini potatoes…because mini is always cuter, right?

Despite the fact that I just called this dish cute, it’s actually a pretty hearty meal. Potatoes are pretty filling, but since they’re so starchy and carby, they’re not the kind of filling that will sustain you for many hours. That’s where the other components come in to save the day!

DSC_0544

I got really into beets this spring since my dad was growing them and they always looked so pretty at the Farmer’s Market. They stain everything, but I love their earthy taste and they are so pretty! Sweet mini bell peppers and onions add crunch, and pinto beans give this hash some bulk.

DSC_0547

Finish it all off with some fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon and you have yourself a perfectly light and refreshing, yet filling, summer breakfast! Or if you’re like me, you don’t really wake up until 10 or 11 on the weekend and there becomes a thin line between breakfast and lunch 🙂

I am proud to report that the basil plant I bought at the grocery store about a month ago is still alive and kickin’! However, we are currently on Day 3 of an 8 day streak of triple digit heat. 104, 107, and 106 degrees on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…and it’s only getting hotter. So who knows if the plant will last much longer.

This quick 1-skillet dish would be great for a hot day like today (108 degrees!), but I’ve chosen instead to do the 3 Day Peel’d Juice Cleanse. I learned about it from my friend Sarah who did their traditional 5-day cleanse last month (Hi Sarah!). Consuming only juice for 3 days isn’t exactly my cup o’ tea…However, in addition to the allotted 2 juices and 1 smoothie per day, Peel’d allows you to eat as many fruits and veggies as you want: “This process isn’t about depriving yourself, but feeding yourself large amounts of foods that will nourish, support and heal you.” Olives, avocados, and nuts are also listed as ideal “snacks”…win!

I will definitely be writing a recap later in the week, but until then, I’ll just leave this here…and dream about potatoes:

DSC_0549

Lemon-Basil Breakfast Hash
serves 1

2 mini potatoes
1/2 small onion (about 1/2 cup)
2 mini red or orange bell peppers
1/2 medium-sized beet, cooked (I roast mine in a foil packet in the oven at 400F for about 45 minutes)
1/4-1/2 cup pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
juice of one lemon
salt & pepper
oil, as needed for cooking

Cut everything into similarly-sized pieces. Heat your choice of oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add onions, stirring to coat. Let them sweat for about a minute before adding the potatoes. Again, stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper, and let cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in bell peppers and beets and cook for another 5 minutes. Add desired amount of pinto beans and lemon juice, and cook until heated through. Remove from heat, mix in basil leaves, garnish with lemon wedge (add more lemon if you’d like) and enjoy!

Lemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies

Seems like every season, I make some kind of rice pilaf (or quinoa, couscous, etc) with the season’s veggies. It started in the SUMMER which included zucchini, bell pepper and tomatoes.. then continued into an AUTUMN version which featured an amazing mix of walnuts, dried cranberries, caramelized onions, and rosemary. Ohhh man both were so good.

I think, however, I may have topped it.

DSC_0501title

I am lemon-obsessed, as you all know. Braided Lemon Bread, Skinny Lemon Poppyseed Muffins…it is definitely lemon season around here. Plussssss, spring produce is finally here! Color me excited. I went to my first seasonal Farmers Market last week and zeroed in on two things: peas and asparagus. It’s green central up in my fridge, folks.

So what better vehicle is there to transport those fresh, green veggies into my mouth than my favorite brown rice?

DSC_0488

Of course if I were really to be following tradition here, I’d be using Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend. I really wanted to make this into a quinoa salad, but thought I didn’t have any… Of course right after I finished cooking this dish, I found a box of quinoa that I bought on Saturday and completely forgot about in a mostly-empty grocery bag in my living room. D’oh. Regardless, I really do like TJ’s Brown Jasmine Rice. I buy a 3 pound bag every six months or so and make it all the time.

The other players:

DSC_0489

Farmer’s Market asparagus is really funny lookin’. Duly noted.

DSC_0490

DSC_0492

Green!

This dish gets its lemony kick from a vinaigrette I added at the end. A little bit of honey balances out the zingy lemon, and it’s so easy to make; all you need to do is add ingredients to a jar and give it a shake!

DSC_0493

This is my one snobbish foodie thing – I don’t use any store-bought dressings or marinades. If you have oil, vinegar, and mustard/honey in your kitchen, you will always have the makings of a delicious and cheap homemade dressing.

Mix mix mix.

DSC_0495
DSC_0496
DSC_0498LEMON!

I split this batch into two tupperwares for lunch. It is about 300 calories, lots of fiber, and nearly 10 grams of protein thanks to the peas (that apparently have lots of it!).

DSC_0503I didn’t get a chance to food prep this weekend (being that I was too busy drinking tequila and playing kickball and whatnot), but luckily (unluckily?) I was feeling ill Monday and Tuesday and didn’t have an appetite for much beyond avocado toast or almond butter + toast. I made this on Tuesday night hoping I’d regain my appetite in time to eat it for lunch on Wednesday and Thursday……wish granted!

Except that my stomachache promptly got worse after eating it, so I went to the doctor and the reason my stomach was acting up was because of acid indigestion-related issues. So yesterday morning I got a strict “no caffeine-alcohol-dairy-spicy-or-acidic-foods” order from the doc. Which means one of these is still sitting in my fridge at work, waiting to be eaten.

Any takers?

Lemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies
serves 2, or 3-4 as a side dish

1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 cup chicken broth, veggie broth, or water (for cooking rice)
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
~10 asparagus spears (this was about 1/2 my bunch)
1/2 medium zucchini, about 1 cup when sliced
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp oil, or as needed for sauteing

FOR DRESSING
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp oil (I used sunflower oil)
pinch of dried basil
pinch of dried thyme

Prepare brown rice according to package instructions using your choice of broth or water.

While rice is cooking, prepare veggies. Dice the onions and mince the garlic. Snap or cut off the woody ends of the asparagus then cut each spear into 3-4 bite sized pieces, shuck the peas (if using fresh ones still in the pod), and slice the zucchini into bite-sized slices.

Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Next, add asparagus, stirring to coat. Let asparagus cook for about 4 minutes. Once the asparagus starts to get tender, add zucchini slices and garlic, stirring again to combine. Cook for another couple of minutes. Add cooked rice and peas all at once, mixing everything thoroughly.

While waiting for the veggies to cook, combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

After peas and rice are added, let cook until everything is heated through and then add dressing, stirring well. Turn heat down to low and let everything simmer until ready to serve, being sure to not let the veggies overcook.

Would be great served with fresh crusty bread, or with chicken!

.

What is your favorite season for produce?

.

Skinny Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

Yup, I went there.

Two lemon recipes in one week.

DSC_0412

I actually made these muffins a couple of weeks ago, when I was on this muffin + yogurt for breakfast kick. But I really don’t have a huge appetite for breakfast, and I was feeling like a 140 calorie yogurt and a high fat 200+ calorie muffin was a bit much for breakfast.

So I set out to make the lowest possible calorie muffin I could. And guess what? These puppies are not only virtually fat free, and only 112 calories a pop…but they’re also delicious. Whaaaaaat?

That’s right. You didn’t think I could possibly post two lemon recipes in one week without mentioning my favorite Lemon, did I? Much love, LL.

Anyway, back to these muffins.

DSC_0395

I think it was last spring or summer that I bought these poppyseeds – I was seeing so many lemon poppyseed recipes and I needed to make something of my own RIGHTTHISMINUTE. And then they sat in my cupboard for half a year.

I used the same white whole wheat flour that I used in the braided lemon bread, except this time I used it exclusively – no all purpose. (Healthier source of carbs/fiber? Check!) Instead of oil or butter, I used plain nonfat Greek yogurt. (Replacing fat with healthy protein? Check!) Add in some lemon zest & juice, poppy seeds, blueberries, and vanilla, and you’ve got your flavor factor.

I was super scared when I put these in the oven. I was looking at 2-3 different “skinny” muffin recipes to guide me, all of which included bananas or apple sauce, which I didn’t plan on adding. So I was really winging it.

DSC_0401

me when I took these muffins out of the oven

Apparently I did something right! The texture was as close as you can get to a traditional full-fat muffin. These puppies are light and fluffy, lemony and fresh, and they’re perfectly moist inside! They’ve got about 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein per muffin. Not too shabby.

DSC_0410

DSC_0407

Not too shabby at all!

Skinny Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour {or combination of all purpose and regular whole wheat flour}
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp poppyseeds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup nonfat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
juice and zest of one lemon {about 3 tbsp of juice and 1 tbsp of zest}
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/3 cup milk {start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed}
1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen-then-thawed

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. I don’t recommend using paper liners, as these muffins have very little fat and will stick to the paper.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, and poppyseeds). Set aside. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients (brown sugar through milk) and mix with a fork, whisk, or handmixer until thoroughly combined. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing only until combined – do not over mix. Fold in blueberries. If the mixture seems too thick/dry, add a tablespoon or 2 of milk as needed. It will be rather thick though, so don’t add more than 2 tablespoons.

Scoop spoonfuls of batter into the muffin tins and place in the oven to bake for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out mostly clean.

Let muffins cool in tins for about 5-7 minutes, then remove and place on cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Mine kept best when refrigerated (then reheated for a few second in the microwave).

Final step: eat one of these muffins fresh out of the oven and you’ll feel like this:

LEMON OUT!

Braided Lemon Bread

Springtime. Seems like most people associate Easter with Spring, and the fact that Easter came early this year means…so did Spring? Aside from an epic thunderstorm on Saturday night/Sunday morning, I’d say it’s been pretty springlike here in Northern California!

You know what else I associate with Spring? LEMON!

I love lemon everything. Lemony marinades and vinaigrettes in savory dishes…lemon poppyseed desserts…ANY kind of lemon dessert…you name it, I’m all about it.

So when my lovely boyfriend brought me half a dozen lemons fresh from his coworker’s tree last week, I knew I had to make something carby and lemony for Easter Brunch. All I knew was that I didn’t want it to be too desserty for 11 in the morning…and then I saw Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s Braided Lemon Bread.

DSC_0448

Bingo!

Besides pizza dough, I have only made a couple of breads from scratch before. One was Bacon & Cheese Bread last year on Easter, which I made the mistake of making with whole wheat flour and it ended up tough and dry. This year, I had a secret trick in my arsenal:

DSC_0393

White Whole Wheat Flour has the same taste and texture as all purpose white flour, but nearly all the nutritional value of regular whole wheat flour. Score.

In addition to whole wheat flour, I also used 1/3 less fat cream cheese in the filling, and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Not huge alterations that would change the integrity of the pastry, but it made it feel just a little less guilt-inducing.

Baking your own bread isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. Just takes a bit of patience to wait for the yeast to activate, and the bread to rise. Not to mention a bit of elbow grease if you don’t have a stand mixer to knead the dough 😉

DSC_0415

All you need is your two hands. (complete with a reminder scrawled on one of them to pay your rent)

Try it yourself! And reap the benefits. This was so delicious.

DSC_0421

{note: if you don’t have a rolling pin, a wine bottle will do juuuust fine}

DSC_0423

DSC_0426

DSC_0436

DSC_0437

I was freaking out the entire time I was braiding this puppy. It is such a beautiful pastry; I can’t wait to try other fillings!

DSC_0439

DSC_0441

One side was totally more flour-y than the other. Easily fixed by dusting it off with a pastry brush! {seriously, who has a pastry brush and not a rolling pin?!}

DSC_0443

DSC_0446

DSC_0449

Here’s how our entire Easter Brunch spread ended up:

The baked and stuffed bread joined a fruit salad (with a simple lime juice/honey/fresh mint dressing) and my dad’s famous Chile Egg Puff

DSC_0442

DSC_0452

{also, adorable Peeps Sushi that my parents brought home from church!}

DSC_0451

Perfect balance of savory and sweet!

Braided Lemon Bread
adapted from smitten kitchen’s Braided Lemon Bread

Sponge
6 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast {I actually added an entire packet of instant yeast, which worked fine}
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Dough
Sponge (above)
6 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt {or sour cream}
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, + 1 egg white to brush bread with
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Sugar, for sprinkling

Lemon cream cheese filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened {feel free to use 1/3 less fat cream cheese}
2 tablespoons (5/8 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) homemade or prepared lemon curd

To begin, make your sponge:

Combine all 4 ingredients (make sure water is not too hot) together in a small bowl, mixing well to combine. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until yeast has proofed and the mixture looks frothy and smells, well, yeasty.

To make the dough by hand: {see Deb’s original recipe for how to make in a stand mixer}

Mix together wet ingredients (yogurt, softened butter, egg, sugar and vanilla) in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the sponge. Next, add both kinds of flour and do your best to combine it all with a wooden spoon. It won’t come together super easily, so your hands will probably work best here. Once most of it has formed into a shaggy ball, turn the dough and any other scraps out onto a well-floured space. Knead for 5-10 minutes until all the pieces are incorporated and the dough has become smooth. Add flour or water to your hands if necessary. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and place in a somewhat warm spot to rise for 60-90 minutes, until it is puffy and nearly doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, make the filling (see instructions below).

Deflate the dough by pushing it down a bit, and roll it into a 10″ by 15″ rectangle. **Make sure the dough is on some sort of portable surface, such as parchment paper or aluminum foil, or you’ll regret it later!** Use your hands to press lines into the dough that equally divide it into three columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the middle column, leaving ~2 inches free toward the top (see photos above). Next, spread lemon curd over the cream cheese filling.

To make the braids, cut 1-inch strips on each side of the middle column. Make sure each strip has an equal-sized corresponding strip on the opposite side. Cut off the “corners” that will be leftover – the space between the 2 inch flaps you left above and below the filling, and the strips. To begin braiding, flip the flaps (lol) over the filling. Next, fold first strip on the left side diagonally over the filling. Repeat with the corresponding strip on the right. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you’ve gone all the way down the braid. Set aside for dough to rise for another 45-50 minutes, until it’s puffy.

Pre-heat oven to 375F. After it’s done with its second rise, brush the dough with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 25-30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a bit before serving.

To make the filling:

Combine all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. Set both the cream cheese filling and the lemon curd aside until ready to fill the braids.

Notes: As Deb points out in her recipe, you can make this ahead of time and put the bread in the fridge overnight if needed. Just make sure you leave enough time to bring it back up to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps. I put mine in the fridge once the braids were done, then I brought it out on Easter morning and left it in a warm place to come to room temperature and do its second rise. Also, click the link in the recipe to see how to make homemade lemon curd- it is actually quite easy!

Have you ever baked bread?

What’s the coolest/most impressive thing you’ve ever made from scratch?

Easter Weekend in Photos + My First 5K!

Quick post! Crazy day at work! Awesome weekend.

20130401-101258.jpg

Friday night was costume planning night.

20130401-101216.jpg

And Saturday was the Veggie Run 5K! Would you believe Nicki and I were the only ones (besides those official Veggie Chase veggies) who dressed up? Let’s just say we (and especially Nicki) were super popular. We even made it on Good Day Sacramento (click to see video! We come in at about 1:16):

gooddaysacramento

easter1

Right after finishing! We came in at 28:54, which is a 9:15/mile pace – well below my 30 min goal! I actually ran much faster than I normally do…Nicki usually runs faster, but she had a little bit of wind resistance 😉

easter2

We finished 70th and 71st out of 251 women…And I was 7th in my age division (19-24)! Not too shabby for a first race!

20130401-101229.jpg

That night, T-Man and I walked (through pollen) to LowBrau, a new restaurant/beer hall here in Sacramento for a fundraiser to raise money to find out who killed Josiah Humphreys. He was beaten to death on St Patrick’s Day just blocks from where I live.  We bought a raffle ticket, tried their duck fat fries and a couple of new-to-us beers. I can’t wait to go back…really cool spot! At midnight, we sat outside and watched a thunderstorm roll through. T-Man loves him some thunder and lightning!

20130401-101223.jpg

I can’t WAIT to show you all the recipe I made for Easter brunch. So proud of myself. You’ve been warned: lots of lemon recipes comin’ at ya this week!

20130401-101237.jpg

After brunch with my parents here, we hurriedly drove to Napa (hence me tying T-Man’s tie for him) for dinner with his dad’s side of the family. It was gloomy and rainy…but the food was great! Afterward, we stopped by his mom’s and she gifted him a quilt she’d been working on for months! So lovely!

It was an awesome weekend, and I was sad to see it go. Here’s my amazing to do list just for today…

easter3

Two more items have been added since I made the list. FML.

Do you have any Easter traditions?

What did you eat for Easter brunch/lunch/dinner?

Holiday Baking: Butter, Sugar & Love

After about a week of baking (and a passing reference to my work in the previous Christmas themed blog), I’ve decided to dedicate an entire entry to this year’s beloved creations.  All of my recipes came from the Food Network Christmas Cookie website, but I did end up tweaking them a bit.  Read on for photos and recipes of Peppermint Graham Bark, Mexican Hot Chocolate Spiced Cookies, and my absolute favorite Lemon Shortbread Squares!

Continue reading