Tag Archives: lemon

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars

This is a hard story to write — hard enough that it’s taken me almost two months to even attempt it. I still feel raw about it, and I still don’t know how to address the situation head-on. So I’ll just muddle through it the best way I can.

On November 28, Mike and I broke up. It was a cold day, and I dropped him off at the train station so he could head back to Raleigh. Watching him close the door and walk into the station was like watching a movie, except that it wasn’t fiction. I knew we were about to travel a rocky road, but there was no way to switch off the television, no credits to roll — just the aftermath to clean up as best we could.

4,237 days (or 11 years, 7 months, and 5 days) earlier, I had just turned 15 years old. I was sitting in my room, looking out the window, and talking to Mike on the phone. He had something to ask me, but was obviously nervous: “If I were to ask you . . . something . . . what would you say?”

I helped him get to the point. Yes, I want to be your girlfriend. I couldn’t have imagined at that moment where the next 12 years would take us. Who knows when they’re 15 that they’re embarking on something monumental?

Over the years, our relationship brought us trials, for sure.

It also brought me through high school. Sometimes I’d leave school and drive straight to his apartment to watch Star Trek and eat Hamburger Helper (my early attempts at “cooking for him”).

It took me to college, coming home to see him every weekend. It took me off to the coast to study marine zoogeography for a semester — I remember the strain of distance, calling every night on my newly acquired cell phone, and his visit out to Atlantic Beach to see me.

Our relationship saw me through my first teaching job, a tumultuous experience for me. In the first hopeful, idealistic days before I began, he came and painted every single one of my lab tables a deep green to cover the graffiti. Later in the year, when my administration decided to switch my classroom and everything went wrong, my clean tables were mixed in with others and his hard work was lost. He was still there, though, helping me pack up boxes and carry them down the hallway to my new room.

The relationship also saw me through my year as a research technician and, finally, to my position at Woodlawn, the wonderful school where I now teach.

It saw Mike through college at UNCC. He rocketed through in 3 years with nearly perfect grades. It also saw him move his life three hours north to a new city this past fall to begin graduate school at NC State. It saw us through celebrations, new beginnings, and difficult endings. I wouldn’t trade a single day.

These Berry Crumble Bars were actually made at the very tail end of summer and are one of the only dishes I ever photographed at Mike’s apartment in Raleigh. I brought them up to share with him and my little brother, who is an undergraduate at NC State. The bars are buttery, crumbly, slightly lemony, and bright — almost cobbleresque, and perfect with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The original recipe used only blueberries, but throwing in other berries or even combining berries is an easy way to create multiple varieties of crumble bars; I settled on blueberry and raspberry. Mike and I probably ate a billion of them over the course of my visit. I had a way of encouraging him to have dessert after every meal. I’m sure you’re not surprised.

So what do you say at the end of a story about a breakup? I think in this case, thank you. Thank you, Mike, for being who you are, and for 12 wonderful years. Thank you, God, for the promise that all things are working together for good for me (Romans 8:28). Thank you, friends and family and lovely readers, for your support during a rough time. Here’s to weathering loss and embracing the future — and to dessert!

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars



Recipe by: Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Yields: 9 raspberry bars and 9 blueberry bars

Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate, small bowl, beat together the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the butter and egg mixture into the flour to form a crumbly dough. Press half of dough evenly into prepared pan.

In two additional bowls, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch. Gently mix blueberries into one bowl and raspberries into the other. Sprinkle berries evenly over pressed dough — I did half the pan with blueberries and half with raspberries, but you could alternate or even mix the berries if you’d rather. Crumble the rest of the dough over top of the berries. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool completely (and even chilling a little helps to ensure they’ll hold together) before cutting into squares. These bars are fun because you can have two different flavors (blueberry and raspberry) or cut your bars such that you have a combination of both berries.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

122 Comments

Filed under other

Secret Garden Recipe: Two Exquisite Tea Sandwiches

When I was little, I didn’t lust after coins or stamps or postcards or anything particularly, ah, collectible. Instead, I coveted tiny things. When my mother would head to torturous craft stores to pick up sewing supplies, the dollhouse aisle was a haven. Package after package boasted teensy soda bottles, itty bitty magazines (with readable headlines!), miniature lamps, pint-sized armoires, and on and on. I always tried to pick a particularly adorable item to ask Mom for, but then I’d realize with a measure of disgust that I didn’t really know what I’d do with a set of tiny kitchen utensils. At any rate, miniatures have always had my heart.

Maybe I am secretly a gnome.

One sort of miniature that did frequently end up coming home with me was tea sets. I sought them out everywhere I went — toy stores, souvenir shops, craft stores, department stores, gas stations. You’d be surprised where you can find tea sets. I had medium sets, tiny sets, super-ultra-tiny sets. There were teapots with elegant designs, cutesy designs, holiday designs, and even one where every dish was shaped like a flower.

Despite my plethora of tea sets, I never once sat down and had tea. I displayed them, fiddled with them, and every now and then acted out a sad little version of a teddy bear tea party, but I don’t think a drop of tea or a crumb of a crumpet ever touched a single dish. What a shame, because there are very few food events more classy and sweet than a tea party.

For my sister’s Secret Garden Party, I remedied the situation. It was a tea party to the extreme, complete with a colorful tablecloth, Mom’s best china, some sweet decor, and the most important part: an elaborate spread of indulgent finger foods. These savory, delicate finger sandwiches were one of the biggest hits on the table.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches



Recipe by: Great Party Recipes
Yields: about 40 finger sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly
3/4 cup butter, room temperature so it’s soft and spreadable
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
20 pieces thin-sliced bread with crusts removed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Pepper to taste

Directions:
Place the cucumber slices in a colander, lightly salt them, and let them drain for 1-2 hours to remove some of the moisture.

Combine the soft butter and garlic in a bowl and spread onto one side of each slice of bread. In a separate bowl, stir together lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Place the cucumber slices into this mixture and toss to coat them well. On each of 10 slices of bread, arrange overlapping cucumber slices. Top with remaining 10 slices and quarter. Serve immediately.

Classic Cucumber Tea Sandwiches were cool, buttery, and satisfyingly crisp. Providing the perfect complement was the salty, bold flavor of Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches with a kick of paprika. Both sandwiches were devoured (daintily, of course) in between scones, croissants, and lemonade.

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches



Recipe by: Great Party Recipes
Yields: about 40 finger sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature so it’s soft and spreadable
20 slices bread, thin-sliced with crusts removed
1/2 cup capers
12 ounces thin-sliced smoked salmon
lemon juice
Pepper to taste
mayonnaise (optional)
paprika (optional)

Directions:
Spread cream cheese on each slice of bread (one side only) and dot with capers (I liked quite a few capers). Arrange the smoked salmon on 10 bread slices, with a squeeze of lemon juice on each. Pepper generously (to taste), top with remaining 10 bread slices, and quarter (using a serrated knife). Brush long side of each tea sandwich with mayonnaise very lightly and dip into paprika to coat. Tap to remove excess paprika. Serve immediately.

Don’t repeat my childhood mistake of overlooking the tea party. Whether it’s for a gardenful of guests, a roomful of family, or a handful of (conveniently disinterested) stuffed animals, whip up some of these simple tea sandwiches. With minimal kitchen time and a short ingredient list, they provide a ton of pinky-pointing deliciousness. How about you? What’s your favorite tea party friendly dish? Scones, croissants, muffins, pastries, petit fours? Or are you a savory tea sandwich person yourself?

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

38 Comments

Filed under other

Ina Garten’s Lemon Loaf Cake and Raffaldini Vineyards

So what have you been up to this summer? As you know, up until this past weekend, I had not fulfilled my summer quota of fun sunshiney activities — no beach, no pool, no picnic. With school looming ahead of me (teacher meetings start tomorrow), something had to be done. Quickly.

My friend Vada saved the day (er, the season?). We Jazzercise together and she invited me to join her and a group of her fun friends for a road trip. It was her friend Lori’s birthday and they were headed to Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda, NC.

When she first suggested it, I wasn’t sure. I don’t drink, so what would I do at a vineyard? Would I end up counting grapes in the corner as everyone else played wine pong (that’s what they do at vineyards, right)? As it turns out, though, Vada doesn’t drink either, and she was certain it would still be fun. I’m up for fun! I told her to count me in.


Vada and Luca

I’m so glad I went, because it was fun. Turns out, vineyards are beautiful — or at least Raffaldini Vineyards certainly were! We drove about an hour out of Charlotte and suddenly it felt like we were in Italy. Vada’s friend Luca, our resident Italian, agreed that it reminded him of home — a nice stamp of authenticity. As promised, fun ensued.

First, we ate a lovely picnic on an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards and mountains in the distance. The vineyards offered a whole menu of food you could purchase on-site, but I brought a little packed lunch to save money. I also brought this bright, summery Lemon Loaf Cake, which was moist and traveled so well. Vada, who is an absolutely extraordinary cake decorator, brought cupcakes along. We had quite a feast!

After our picnic, we took a brief tour of the vineyard, learning about the soil, growing practices, and types of grapes grown. While others enjoyed a wine tasting, Vada and I took a walk around the grounds and had a photo shoot. Finally, we took a tour of the winery and learned how the wines were made. It was so informative — not being a drinker, I tend to think of grapes as the basis of jelly and “tannin” as something you do at the beach. I learned a lot! The best part? The entire day only cost me $8 — and that included buying a bottled water on-site.


Vada’s gorgeous cupcakes and the quick Lemon Loaf Cake packed for traveling!

This one little day trip kind of made my summer! It was filled with sweet people, good food, beautiful surroundings. How about you? Does one event or activity this summer stand out as your favorite?

You can relive part of my end of summer fun by making this quick, simple loaf cake for yourself. It has a tangy, drenched lemon flavor that will help you kiss the summer days farewell.

Lemon Loaf Cake



Recipe by: Adapted from Ina Garten, using ideas from Two Peas and Their Pod
Yields: one 8-inch loaf

Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt or sour cream
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest or 2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan (I use Wilton’s Cake Release). Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour the entire pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup of the sugar, eggs, lemon zest or extract, and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet, whisking to combine (I did this in 2-3 additions). Use a rubber spatula to fold the vegetable oil into the batter until it’s fully incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, combine the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it and placing it on a baking rack over a sheet pan. Use a cake tester, wooden skewer, or toothpick to carefully pierce holes throughout the cake (I used a toothpick so the holes wouldn’t be too obvious, but a skewer might have made deeper holes in the cake, allowing more syrup to get through). While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, whisking to form a smooth glaze. Pour over the cake. Slice and serve with fresh berries, whipped cream, or ice cream.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

56 Comments

Filed under cakes