Archive | May, 2014

Baking Up Some Sunshine (IPA Lemon Bars)

7 May

It’s been slowly turning into spring around these parts. It’s been raining and cloudy constantly, and the thermometer is barely hovering above 50-60 most days. That, plus wind and no sun means it is not warm.

We even tried to have a cook out and froze our butts off waiting for the food to cook and hurried inside to eat in warmth.

Ahh, Midwest seasons.

I’ve cooled off on baking super often, because Lord knows I don’t need a high volume of desserts in my house. But, I really felt like I needed some sunshine in my life, so I whipped up these bright, sweet and tangy lemon bars.

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I used a recipe that involves beer. I love using alcohol in recipes. Beer is in abundance in our fridge, and I chose to use the only IPA we had lying around. It was probably hoppier than I would have liked. If you are an IPA drinker, choose a beer that is citrusy and balanced and not super aggressively hopped. If you’re not, adding in a balanced, not super flavorful beer will probably still work just fine. Steer clear of anything dark or flavored, though, as this will probably alter the flavor of the classic lemon bar we have going on here. DSC04153

Don’t let this scare you away. I promise it’s not beer-y and really just lends another layer of flavor to the tasty lemon filling.

Speaking of the filling. This recipe has the perfect ratio of crust to filling. I think sometimes lemon bars are all crust or equally crust and filling. This one, my friends, is just the right amount crust. The crust is just a vehicle for the real star of the show.

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Both Brent and my brother declared them the best lemon bars they’ve ever had. Brent said he didn’t even really like lemon bars but loved these. Yay! They really are good.

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I actually own the cookbook the author of this recipe wrote. I have yet to make anything from it, but after making these I’m definitely diving into that sucker this weekend to see what other magic I can make.

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These are really pretty, too. Look at them! So bright and sunny.

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RECIPE: IPA Lemon Bars (16 servings)
Adapted slightly from this recipe.
Crust:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (cut into chunks)
  • pinch of salt

Method: Either blend all ingredients in a food processor until butter is cut into very small pieces and mixed throughout, or stir dry ingredients together and cut in butter with a pastry cutter, fork, or rubbing it in with your fingers. (I started out using a food processor but it wasn’t working for me for some reason, so ended up blending it all up with my fingers.) Mixture will be dry and crumbly. Press into 8×8 pan and chill 15 min.

Preheat oven to 350

Bake crust for 20-25 min. let cool (at least 15 min – you don’t want a hot crust when you pour in filling)

While crust is cooling, make filling.

Filling: 

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • extra powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Wisk eggs and sugar together until smooth. Wisk in flour and corn starch until combined. Stir in beer and lemon juice until well combined.
Pour filling over cooled crust and bake 20-25 minutes or more until center is set. (I had to bake mine for 30 min). Let cool slightly before putting into fridge. Refrigerate 2-3 hours before cutting.

Enjoy!

For more tips on using beer in cooking or tons more beer and food recipes, check out The Beeroness!

 

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My Week in Cooking

5 May

Wow, I just realized I didn’t post a single blog in April. That’s pathetic. I think it’s because I think I never have anything interesting to post. But now, I’m going to post whatever I feel like. So here’s my promise in digital ink: I’m going to post much more often. About whatever.

Today’s topic: cooking!

You know how people list hobbies or interests and it always sounds really cool and interesting? I always wish I was these people, with their novel writing or guitar playing. But Brent just pointed out to me recently that cooking and baking are my hobbies. I cook every day, so I didn’t really consider this a “hobby,” but it totally is. Because I love it.

When I tell people I cook every day, I usually get a side-eyed glance and a polite response, but I’m sure these people think I’m crazy. I admit, I’m lucky with my job and schedule because it leaves me a lot of time to cook, since I don’t commute and my hours are flexible.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but ever since I graduated college and got married, it really has become part of my life.

In college, I’d whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies or make some tacos, but cooking wasn’t my priority (obviously). I’d boil some pasta and cook up some chicken and call it a home cooked meal. Which, it is, but isn’t exactly gourmet.

As I got more time, I started to cook a lot more for people. My roommates and I would collaborate on a meal every so often, sometimes slaving away over a miniature stove (seriously, who puts in a half-sized oven in an apartment!?) with all the windows open and fans blasting in our 1930s, non-air-conditioned apartment building.

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Hey, it’s me in my college apartment kitchen! Notice the total lack of counter space and that stupid tiny stove in the background. I don’t miss that.

But once I had someone to cook for every day, I really got into it. Sharing the food I make is the best part about making food. I love scouring my magazines and cookbooks for interesting ideas, and my my food pinterest boards are totally full of recipes. I love hearing Brent’s approval as he scarfs down my latest creation. It’s one of th best parts of my day, too.

My meal prep actually begins on Sunday. I sit down with my cookbooks and pinterest and comb through recipes for the week. I ask Brent what he’s craving (which is almost always fish or “meat”) and start making a list.
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(Check out my funky new vegetarian cookbook! I picked it up at a garage sale this weekend, and it’s pretty great.)

I plan out what I want to make each day of the week (except for the weekends), and make my grocery list accordingly. This allows me to have everything I need on hand throughout the week, helping me avoid the last minute grocery store run. Admittedly, though, I still end up going back for something.

This approach to cooking also helps us eat healthy all week. Because I plan for it, we rarely play the “what are we having for dinner” game and cave into pizza or Chinese food delivery.
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The menu this week! I’m particularly excited for the broccoli casserole, which I found in a vintage 1960s copy of a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. There’s cream cheese and bleu cheese involved…yum!

More to come soon! Happy Monday, all.