Meyer Lemon Bars

I LOVE LEMONS!

Meyer Lemon Bars

If you read my last post (I know you did), then you might have seen a picture of a delicious Lemon Curd that we had at the Taste Studio. I watched Chef Brust whip together a curd in like 15 minutes. It was really quite impressive especially since he was standing in front of an audience whipping feverishly to make sure that the curd actually set. His hard work paid off because it literally was the most delicious thing ever. It was an excellent spring dessert and I could probably eat it for breakfast too. The sorrel he added was an awesome addition since sorrel has a sour note. The sweet/sour combo was heaven.

Chef Brust Lemon Curd

Meyer lemons are awesome. They are a sweeter lemon, believed to be a hybrid of lemon and mandarin orange. You will see them in the grocery store about this time of year but they will not be there forever. If you want to cook/bake with them you should do so now. For those of you in warm climates (Cali, Texas, Florida) you probably have these growing in your backyard right? The rest of us are not so fortunate. Sidebar: I just heard the news say something about snowflakes and I almost died…ugh, can we not?!?! Anyhow, if you cannot locate a Meyer Lemon you can use lemon and orange

Meyer Lemons

I was lucky to find the bags of Meyer Lemons in my produce section. They must have known I was coming! I grabbed two bags and headed back to the kitchen to make these A-MAZE-ING bars.

Whenever I go to an event and they have lemon bars on the table I am all over it. Does anyone else feel this way? For some reason I never think to make lemon bars because something always makes me think they are very time consuming. I am a silly person, these are not at all hard to make! These would be great at brunch, lunch, dessert, snack time, midnight, tea time…all the times

Lemon Bars #2

If you want to try another lemon treat you can try the Lemon Cloud Pie that I posted last year or this Lemon Blueberry Poundcake.

Meyer Lemon Bars
Adapted from the Biltmore Cookbook

Ingredients:
2 Cups Flour + 2 Tbsp. for Filling
1/4 Cup Sugar + 2 Cups for Filling
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Butter
2 Tsp. Meyer Lemon Zest
6 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon Juice
6 Eggs Beaten
Powdered Sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside. To prepare the crust, combine 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and a butter in a bowl. Mix everything together until crumbly, should look like sand. Pour crust in to baking dish, press down and make sure it is level. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and remove from the oven.

Prepare the filling by combining 2 cups sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and eggs in a medium bowl. Mix until well blended. Pour filling over crust and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set. Let the bars cool before cutting and sprinkling with powdered sugar and serving. Try not to eat them all at once!

Williamsburg, VA: An American Food Destination

I was thinking you might be in need of a vacation so I went ahead and picked one out!

Copper Pots in Colonial Kitchen

Copper Pots in the Governor’s Palace Kitchen

Mom and I spent the last weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia, partaking in a food lover’s journey through Colonial America and modern-day Virginia. My dad had planned the trip as a gift and worked very closely with Colonial Williamsburg (CW) to make sure everything was perfect. Williamsburg is not just an 8th grade class trip destination or the place your parents take you so that you learn about history. After our trip I am convinced that Williamsburg is truly an American Food Destination and arguably the place where it all began!

Mom and I in CW

Mom and I with the Governor’s Palace

CW is a place that holds a good deal of significance to my family. My grandparents loved going there and it was evident in the way they decorated Hollymead and even some of the recipes that my grandmother served her guests. One of the most obvious connections is the peanut soup she had on her menu. Williamsburg (or Virginia in general) is famous for their peanuts and peanut soup along with the salty Virginia ham. When I think about it, my ties to the state of Virginia run very deep. My grandparents settled in Charlottesville because of their love for Williamsburg (it’s about 2 hours away) and the irony of it all is that my father’s ancestors started in Virginia before making their way to Pennsylvania and finally settling in Illinois. I attended The University of Virginia which was fathered by Thomas Jefferson; an alum of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. It is starting to feel like there is no denying the importance Virginia plays in my life and my own history.

Williamsburg Food Goodies

A sample of Williamsburg goodies

Mom and I had so much in our agenda, everything from enjoying traditional Tidewater cuisine to getting a close up look at where some of the culinary magic takes place. There was one experience that really resonated with us. We met up with Melissa Blank from the Historic Foodways team. The Historic Foodways team is responsible for researching and recreating the food of the 18th century. Melissa started out our tour by taking us to see where the meat (ham) was salted and smoked. At first I thought it was just a staging of these things until she unlocked a door, with a giant old key, and immediately the smell of smoke washed over me. Melissa offered the chance to go inside and I was so eager to jump in to the smoking house that I didn’t think about the smell it might leave in my clothing but honestly, it was completely worth it. The Historic Foodways team is not just writing about these dishes and techniques, they are testing them and tasting them.

Smoked Ham

Smoked ham hanging in the smokehouse

The smoked hams looked like something you might stumble on in your modern BBQ joint or smokehouse. The technique has not gone away and it just shows how important it is to look at what our ancestors were doing so we know what to do. We were taken in to the Governor’s Palace kitchen where we got to see some of the other dishes they have recreated from the 18th century. We were standing in a kitchen that would have been used in that time, the same kitchen that the Foodways team uses when they are recreating these meals. The kitchen was large and multi-purposed in a way that I want for my own kitchen. A huge hearth fireplace was designed to be used for all manner of cooking from direct to spit cooking. A brick oven was off to the side and the amount of copper pots and pans was impressive. The reason we can cook like they did in Colonial America is because some things have not changed. Ingredients are still very similar and techniques seem to never change. To understand cooking now is to explore the cooking from then. We all know the influence that Native Americans had on our food as did the African slaves. In Colonial Williamsburg, the food experience explores those histories and traditions; bringing them to life in a way that may even surprise us.

Foodways Dishes

An assortment of 18th Century cooking.

Melissa shared with us the challenges of trying to decipher an 18th century recipe. She mentioned that many recipes don’t provide amounts or cooking times. They might not give clear descriptions on how the dish should be presented or served. As she spoke, I immediately thought about my own challenges in trying to recreate my grandmother’s food. Her recipe cards are always filled with holes or short hand that I can’t understand. I am constantly thinking about what would have influenced her at the time and what chefs were trending as to get an idea of what she was inspired by. Listening to Melissa, I found that a very similar process takes place within the Foodways program. They have to test and taste to finally figure out a dish or recipe. Honestly, this sounds like a dream job! You can even try some of the recipes they have deciphered by visiting their blog.

Confections from Colonial Times

18th Century Dessert

Outside of the historical food stories in Williamsburg there is a modern story that weaves beautifully in to the historic narrative. We were treated to a special tasting dinner at the Williamsburg Lodge. The meal was a tribute to the southern tradition with tasty staples like fried green tomatoes, succotash, and of course the use of peanuts! The food was a true Farm-to-Table or Garden-to-Table experience. The chef could tell us the name of every farmer and purveyor who provided all of the food that we were lucky enough to eat. We got to meet with the chef before our meal and even tour the impressive kitchens. We talked about the importance of fresh food and honest cooking. There was no mention of gimmicks or of serving food that could not be found growing within 100 miles of CW. The pantry was not filled with canned ingredients beyond the expected staples and the freezer was mostly ingredients they received fresh and prepped for freezing. The chef echoed a theme that seemed ever-present in Williamsburg, fresh is best and using the bounty around you is always the right approach.

Carolina Grouper with Succotash

Carolina Grouper with Spring Vegetable Succotash

CW is a real working city with gardens and farmers. You will see sheep in pastures and gardens around every corner. Every time I go I have the urge to buy a farm. I have that urge once a month actually. In addition to smoking meats, they brew beer and make chocolate!

One of the many gardens

One of the many gardens in Colonial Williamsburg

The beer, Old Stitch, is malty and delicious and we ended up leaving with several bottles for the boys. You can only buy this beer in Williamsburg so that might reason enough to make a trip! The American Heritage chocolate is a newer addition to their culinary repertoire. They make chocolate in the historical fashion so it is not going to taste like your normal Hershey bar and nor should it. The chocolate was designed for drinking then and having a full bar of chocolate was like having a bar of gold. I was gifted a large block of spicy chocolate waiting to be used so keep an eye out for some colonial dishes using chocolate!

A Sheep with her lambs

I left Williamsburg energized and contemplating my place in the culinary timeline. I realize that it is immensely important to know our beginnings and pay tribute to the chefs that came before us in order to understand who we are today. Williamsburg is doing wonderful things in terms of reminding us that where we started and where we are today are not very different. The food and stories are similar, the experiences are generally the same and undeniably American. As I learned, to understand my future I may need to spend more time getting to know my past. I suggest you do the same!

Pictures I could not fit but you don’t want to miss!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Short List

Where we stayed:
Williamsburg Lodge

Places we ate:
Peter Chang – Szechuan Cooking
Old Chickahominy House
Williamsburg Lodge – Traditions Restaurant
The Cheese Shop

Things we did:
Williamsburg Farmers Market
Historic Foodways Tour
The Taste Studio

A huge thanks to following individuals who helped to make our trip amazing; Paul Freiling of Colonial Williamsburg, Chef Travis Brust, Chef Anthony Frank, Chef Sean Gonzalez, and Melissa Blank (Historic Foodways Team).

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. The opinions reflected above are my own. If you wish to know more about Colonial Williamsburg you can visit www.history.org. 

Honey Oat Quick Bread

Don’t you just love bread??

Honey Oat Quick Bread

I probably need to just say no to all things in the carb family but…it’s really hard! Ok, enough of the lecturing! Did you know that Easter and Passover are coming? It’s sometimes a challenge to celebrate both of these holidays since one has very clear dietary restrictions. The hubby and I just loaded up a grocery cart with all things Passover (did you know they make Gluten Free Passover food?!?!). Now I am staring at a kitchen full of matzo and all things matzo. At the same time I am trying to figure out what to make for Easter dinner that will adhere to the rules of Passover. I am sure a lot of you are really confused right now.

Pre-baked

Here’s the thing, we are a pretty inclusive family and because of that our holidays are sometimes a little bit crazy. Wonderfully crazy! This year we will probably enjoy a leg of lamb with some matzo and gefilte fish…uh ok, we don’t eat gefilte fish because it’s weird. There may be those reading this right now and saying how wrong I am. To those of you out there, I confess that there may be a place in which gefilte fish is delicious but I have yet to find it.

Bread Slices

Anyway, none of this is about the bread I am bringing to you today. This bread is easy to make and it comes to you from the Hollymead collection. I was drawn to this because it is soooooooooo easy. I didn’t have to wait for anything to rise or knead the dough over and over. Mix and bake, piece of…bread?

Bread #2

Because there is not yeast in this bread you will find that it does not rise and get airy like other breads. It is actually dense but in a way that makes it ideal for spreading delicious things on or piling on this Egg Salad I shared the other day. This bread goes great with butter, jam, honey, peanut butter, cheese….all the things!

Honey Oatmeal Quick Bread

Yields 1 Loaf

Ingredients:
3 Cups All Purpose Flour (wheat works too)
5 Tsps. Baking powder
1 Tsp. Salt
1 1/2 Cups Quick Oats
1 1/4 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Egg

Instructions:
Grease a bread pan with butter and preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. And the oatmeal to the flour and stir to combine, set aside. In a small bowl whisk the milk, egg and honey, set aside.

Add flour to a mixing bowl fitted with a bread (hook) attachment. Turn on the mixer and let run on a low speed as you slowly pour in the milk and egg mixture. Once all of the milk is added turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix 1-2 minutes to ensure everything is combined. Remove dough from bowl and press in to the bread pan. Allow bread to sit 30 minutes before baking. Score the top of the loaf if desired.

Bake bread for 30-40 minutes or until the bread has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and allow the bread to cool on a wire rack until ready to eat.

Egg Salad with Crispy Pancetta

Mother Nature is a tease!

Egg Salad with Pancetta

As I write this I am drinking tea next to pile of kleenex. This weather yo-yo has been too much for me. One day it is gorgeous and spring-like, the next it’s snowing. That’s right. It snowed again!!!!! Gah, I am so over it now. It was cute a month ago and now it is just annoying.

Fixings

When spring does finally get here and it is here for good I’ll be a happy, happy girl! Thankfully, I am able to use food as a way of feeling good when the weather is crappy. I suddenly started craving egg salad. I was out running errands the other day and I knew I was going to have an egg salad sandwich for lunch. I went to a restaurant that I thought served egg salad but once I arrived I was faced with the choice of getting everything but egg salad.

Egg Salad #2

You know how your brain starts telling you that you want something and as a result, you wont stop until you get it? Well, that is exactly what happened to me. All I wanted was egg salad. I ended up buying more eggs than we ever need which must have been my subconscious way of making sure I got my egg salad. The weather has beaten me down but I knew egg salad would bring me back.

Egg Salad #3

If you are not an egg salad fan I have to apologize for this post and more clear obsession with egg salad. If you are a fan then I hope you like my version. It will certainly brighten your day and it might be the best way to use those colorful easter eggs (on second thought…).

I hope this cold/sinus thing goes away quickly because I don’t want the warmth to arrive and I am sitting in bed with my head under the covers. Maybe egg salad has healing powers??

Egg Salad with Crispy Pancetta 

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
4 Eggs
1 Celery Stalk Diced
1/4 Diced Onion
1/3 Cup Diced Pancetta
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
2 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp. White Wine Vinegar
1/2 Tsp. Paprika
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

Boiling eggs: Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Place pot on medium heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. Remove eggs from the hot water and add to an ice bath to cool. This method has worked for me every time Once cooled peel eggs and dice the eggs and place them in a bowl.

Crisp the pancetta in a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Allow the excess grease to drain on paper towel. Combine the pancetta, onions, celery in the bowl with the diced eggs. In a separate bowl combine the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, paprika. Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the sauce to the eggs and gently stir everything together. Place bowl in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Spring is here!!!

Carrot Ginger Soup

I was beginning to feel that this day would never come. There was snow and cold and then more snow and more cold. Apparently that little fur ball in Punxsutawney was on to something. I know there are a few of you out there mourning the loss of that one hour this past weekend. I can’t say I blame you but I am extremely happy to see the sun longer and know that when I come home from work there will still be sunlight. Those of you who are food bloggers know what I am talking about!

IMG_1556

I can’t wait for the warm days to arrive and the green to start popping up. Pittsburgh is beautiful in the spring and given the winter we endured I hope that means we are going to get a gorgeous spring. If you need a place to visit this spring then you should plan on making a trip to the ‘burgh.

Ginger and Onions

Since I was full of excitement for spring I knew I had to make something that was the embodiment of spring. Isn’t it obvious that carrot soup is really spring in a bowl?!?! I distinctly remember having an Easter brunch with the family in Virginia and eating carrot soup. I am not sure I had ever eaten it before that brunch but I knew then and there that I loved it. Carrots are amazing, they can be sweet and savory. This soup plays on both characteristics of the amazing orange vegetable.

Carrots/Onions/Ginger/Spices

This is a great soup for your Easter dinner or really any time. You can try different flavor profiles but I am a huge fan of the ginger and carrot combo. I topped mine off with a yogurt drizzle which is optional but it makes for a great presentation (I was actually really proud of my plating skills on this one). Perhaps I am getting in to the groove now that spring is here and my creative juices are flowing!

Quick side bar: I recently reviewed a great cookbook called ‘Soul Food Love‘, you can find my review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette food section or you can click here.

Now grab a spoon because this is going to make you warm and happy.

IMG_1569-001

Carrot Ginger Soup

Yields 5-6 servings

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 Lbs. Carrots Peeled and Chopped
2 Tbsp. Candied Ginger Sliced
1 Large Onion Sliced
2 Tsp. Ground Clove
1 Tsp. Ground Ginger
6 Cups Chicken Stock (veggie stock or water will work too)
1 Tbsp. Honey

Instructions:
In a medium stock pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion slices and stir until onions begin to soften. Add the chopped carrots, ginger slices, clove and ground ginger and stir to toast spices. Add stock or water to the pot and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cooking until carrots are soft, they should be soft enough to mash with the spoon. Remove the soup from the heat and puree using a stick blender or blender, careful not to burn yourself. Once the soup is smooth return to the pot and add honey. Simmer 10 minutes and taste for seasoning, if needed add more spices or salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish with plain yogurt or olive oil.