Wednesday, April 20, 2011

(only for the pucker loving) Lemon Squares

I can't take credit for this recipe, at all. I've tried dozens of lemon square recipes over the years and never loved any of them. The crust was either too soggy, or rock hard, and so often the lemon filling would be bland and get a crust over the top, neither of which is appealing. Then, I picked up the America's Test Kitchen Spring Entertaining magazine and there it was, the perfect lemon square recipe. At least for me.

Be warned, this baby is sour, but only the filling. The crust is light and sweet and just crispy enough, and that counters the tart lemon curd beautifuly.

These aren't Oliver approved though, even though I made them specifically for him. This is a child whose favorite snack at a restaurant is the raw lemon slices. Like, he eats them clean. I'm not sure what the deal is: were they too tart for him?  too sweet? Or was it just too close to bed time and he was already fussy? Yeah, I'm leaning toward that last one too.

Enough jabbering!

Creamy Lemon Squares

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes + 15 minutes
Makes: 9 generous squares

For the crust:
1¼ c all purpose flour
½ c icing sugar
12 tbsp cold butter, cut into 12 pieces
pinch of salt

For the lemon curd:
4 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 c white sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
⅔ c lemon juice (about 4 large lemons squeezed)
2 tbsp butter, cut into 2 pieces
2 tbsp heavy cream
icing sugar for dusting


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Line a 9" square baking pan with 2 strips of foil so that you have an overhang of a couple of inches on all four sides.

2. Start with the crust. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt a couple of times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 one second pulses). You want it to look powdery but hold it's shape when pressed together between your fingers. If it isn't, add 1 more tbsp of butter and pulse a few more times.

3. Press the crust mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until light golden brown (check it at 15 minutes to be safe).

4. While the crust is baking, start making the curd. Zest and juice your lemons. In a medium saucepan whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt. Add the zest and juice, then cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. This takes about 8 to 10 minutes. You want the curd thick enough that when you put a spoon in it and draw a line through the curd stuck to the back of the spoon, nothing bleeds into that line. THICK!

5. Pour the curd through a strainer into a medium bowl to get out the zest and any cooked bits of egg. Don't skip this step! Once you strain it you'll see why (and all kinds of junky stuff you couldn't see in the curd in the pan). Stir in the butter and heavy cream, then pour the strained curd over the hot crust and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until set.

6. Let the pan cool for at least an hour on a cooling rack before removing the squares (via foil sling). Dust the top with icing sugar, and enjoy!

NOTE: These will last for up to 3 days in an air tight container in the fridge. That is, if no one know they're there, because for lemon lovers, they'll be gone in seconds!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Home Made Flakey's

I really wasn't sure what this was last night, and it took me looking at the pictures this morning again to figure out what exactly I'd concocted. What it was was a flakey, and a delicious one at that! Don't be scared off by the strange line drawings, it was easier to draw it out then explain it, and this really is one of the easiest treats to make!

Home Made Flakey's

Prep Time: 10 minutes (unless you make your own curd)
Bake Time: 20 minutes + 5 minutes
Makes: 4 servings


1 sheet of pre-made puff pastry dough (in the freezer asle)
1 egg, beaten
large decorating sugar
½ c lemon curd, berry curd, or jam of your choice
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
¼ c of sugar


1. Pre-heat your oven according to the directions on the box of puff pastry (usually 350°F), and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Unroll the sheet of pastry, and following the diagrams below, cut into four rectangles and extra edging pieces. Brush the edges of all pieces with the beaten egg, then place the edging pieces onto the main squares. You're basically framing the squares of puff pastry to make a little "boat" once it cooks.

3. Brush the edges again with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with the large decorating sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden and puffed.

4. While the pastry is baking, make the meringue. Beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until starting to foam. Gradually add the sugar, then continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

5. When the pastry is cooked, push down the inside of the "boats" with the back of a spoon. Split the curd or jam between the four "boats", spreading in an even layer. Top with meringue, then return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, until the peaks are just turning golden.


 Puff Pastry Cutting Diagrams:
Start out with a whole sheet of pastry

Cut into quarters.

Here are the quarters.

Cut the edges of each of the quarters like this.

Discard the filled in squares, you don't need them.

After brushing the edges with the beaten eggs, lay the cut edges on top of the main square as shows above. Then, brush these edges with egg again and sprinkle with the sugar.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gone in a Blink Nacho Dip

This is a favourite amungst both my side of the family, and Bo's. My mom's got her version, my Nana has her's, and Jenny's got her's too. Now, I've finally got my own!

This isn't to say that everyone else's wasn't good enough for me. The issue was that no one could ever remember exactly what portions they used of the ingredients, which meant that 50% of the time it was great, and 50% of the time it was either too runny, or too hard.

So, I made it a couple of times, and actually remembered to measure what I was throwing in, and I've finally got it down. Yes!

Worlds Best (and easiest) Nacho Dip

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6 - 8


1 pkg cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
½ tbsp taco seasoning (optional)
1 jar salsa
1 ½ c shredded cheese (I like a mix of cheddar and mozzarella)


1. Shred the cheese that you want to use.

2. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the sour cream and taco seasoning and mix until well combined.

3. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Top with the salsa, then with the shredded cheese. Chill until the cheese firms back up a bit, about 30 minutes. If you're in a rush, it's find to eat right away.


NOTE: There are all kinds of other things you can add in here, like freshly chopping jalapeños, onions or peppers. I prefer to leave it as is, and just bump up the flavor by using home made salsa when I have an extra jar lying around.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Best (indoor) Burgers

Griddle Burgers

These burgers are my absolute favorite to make year round. I'm not big on the super thick home-made style burger full of onions and spices. I like my burger meat thinish and tasting like meat. 

Then I cover it with mustard, ketchup, relish, mayo, tomato and sometimes dill pickel. Maybe I'm not such a purist after all.

Bo was nervous the first time I said I was making these, but he was a quick convert. Sure, we still BBQ in the warm weather for a change sometimes, but it snows here a lot, and who wants to go 6 months without a decent burger! Did I mention that this will taste just like the burger from that little mom and pop dinner that's been in business for 80 years? It will. The key is to steaming it for the last couple of minutes, and getting a few crispy pieces on the edges from cooking on top of it's own fat. Ignore how gross that sounds and remember: crispy edge bits!

If you want to be really adventurous you could sauté some onions on the griddle first, then cook the burger on top of that. I haven't done this yet because I like having one meal that I can do from start to finish in less then 15 minutes. On day though :)

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutse
Serves: 4


1lb lean ground beef
4 cheddar cheese slices
4 Burger buns, buttered and lightly broiled to toast


1. Pre-heat your griddle (or frying pan) to medium-high heat. Roughly split the ground beef into four equal portions.

2 portions shown.

2. Roll each portion out between plastic wrap until about ½" thick. Generously salt each side with salt and pepper.

3. Put the burger on the griddle and cook for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip. Cook for 1 minute on the second side, then top with cheddar cheese and cover for another 1 to 2 minutes.

3 minutes on first side.

Flip, then cook for 1 minute.

Add cheese slices.

Cover to steam and cook for 2 minutes.


2 Tomato Salads

Here are two of our favorite summer salads. Nothing beats bright, fresh, ripe tomatoes, and once you start pairing those with the tang of viniger and the crunch of cucumber. It's over!

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad with Balsamic Glaze

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6


1 or 2 large beefsteak tomato
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil (about 5 leaves)
Balsamic reduction glaze
Sea salt


1. Cut the beefsteak tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese into six ½" thick slices. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

2. Place the tomato slices around a plate, and top each one with a slice of cheese then toss on the cherry tomatoes. Tear the fresh basil into small, bite size pieces, and sprinkle over the tomatoes and cheese. Drizzle on the blasamic glaze and sprinkle lightly with fresh ground sea salt.


NOTE: I'm lucky here in Canada because our grocery gain (Loblaws) carries a store brand PC balsamic glaze that's fantastic. If you're not so lucky to find one to keep on hand in the fridge, don't fret because it's a BREEZE to make yourself. Here's how:

Balsamic Glaze Recipe

Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes, give or take
Makes: ¼ - ½ cup of glaze


1 cup balsamic viniger
1 tbsp honey (or white sugar, or brown sugar)


1. In a sauce pan over medium heat combine viniger and sweetener. Boil over medium heat until reduced by 50 to 75%.

This is delicious over meat, salads, and even ice cream.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6


1 large beefsteak tomato
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber
White vintager


1. Cut the large tomato and cucumber into bit size pieces, cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

2. Put all pieces in a glass bowl (never metal, it will end up tasting tinny). Add white vinegar (about ½ a cup) and salt (about 1½ tbsp). Toss together and taste, adjusting your flavoring as needed.