Glazed Lemon Bars

Original Recipe HERE

I love the refreshing taste of a good lemon bar, but often they're too sour or too sweet and don't strike the right balance between the two.  This recipe is being saved to make again, so it's the closest I've found.  I'd have liked the lemon flavor to be a little more pronounced, but that can be remedied by adding more grated lemon zest or a little lemon extract.

* Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
* Filling
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, strained of pulp and seeds [2-3 lemons]
1 teaspoon lemon zest [optional]
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
* Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

(1) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
(2) Whisk together flour and powdered sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly.
(3) Lightly press mixture into pan and bake 15-20 minutes or until light golden around the edges. Remove from oven.
(4) Mix eggs, lemon juice, flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed for 3 minutes. The mixture should be frothy and very pale yellow.
(5) Pour mixture over warm crust.  Return pan to oven for another 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top (begin checking at 15 mintues).
(6) Remove pan from oven and allow to cool completely on drying rack.
(7) When bars are cool, whisk together glaze ingredients until smooth.  Gently spread over bars. Refrigerate at least 2 hours (preferably more).  Cut into squares before serving. Makes about 36 bars.

Notes: (1) I couldn't get the crust dough to stop sticking to my fingers, so it was tough to make it an even thickness.  Maybe letting the dough sit in the refrigerator, then rolling it out into large pieces and "patching" them together in the pan would work.  (2) While I let the glaze sit on the bars for the two hours it recommends, it was still pretty runny when I cut the bars.  I assume this would be fixed by letting them sit in the refrigerator longer (probably overnight).  However, the glaze would crack and the appearance might not be as nice.  An option is to cut the bars before applying the glaze, then drizzle the glaze over each individual bar and letting it run down the sides. (3) Directions say to bake the lemon topping for 20-25 minutes, but I checked at 17 and it was already pretty browned.  Next time I'll check earlier.

Kid Participation:
* Whisk dry ingredients
* Add wet ingredients to bowl
* Operate mixer
* Pour glaze over bars


Buffy's Chicken Marinade

This recipe was given to me at my bridal shower by one of my mom's best friends...hence its name.  I get compliments every time I serve this, though the flavor is hard to describe since it's sort of a mish-mash of flavorsa little asian, a little citrus, and a little herb-y.  I was skeptical when I first read the recipe, but I was a convert after my first bite.  It's extremely easy, and even when Husband manages to blacken the outside of the chicken on the grill, it makes the juiciest grilled chicken I've ever had.  So that's a testament to how well it infuses the meat with flavor and a barrier against temperatures hotter than any food product should probably be exposed to.  It also holds up well on the Foreman or broiled (or baked) in the oven, and it's good when turned into chicken salad the next day or shredded over a green salad.

1/4 cup mayonnaise [I usually use lite]
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons water

(1) Thoroughly whisk all ingredients together.
(2) Marinate chicken at least two hours and up to all day.
(3) Grill 5-7 minutes on each side or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer indicates meat is done.

Notes: None.

Kid Participation: None.


Mango Quinoa Salad

Original Recipe HERE

Not much to say about this other than it was easy and refreshing, and it tasted even better the next day.  A good meal for a hot day, and it can be served as a side dish or as the only thing you're eating for dinner.  I didn't have the quinoa, so I used Trader Joe's Harvest Blend.  I imagine Israeli couscous would work as well.  This made enough for all of us to eat some at dinner, as well as enough leftovers for me to have a hearty lunch

2 cups cooked quinoa (or any similar blend), room temperature or chilled
1 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons lime juice
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

(1) Place cooked quinoa in a large bowl. Add mango, red pepper, green onion, and black beans.
(2) In a small bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, and lime juice. Whisk until smooth and pour on top of salad. (3) Toss to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill at least one hour before serving.

Notes: A greater variety of diced vegetables could be added, as could some frozen corn or maybe canned pineapple tidbits.

Kid Participation: Nothing besides mixing everything together, since that's about all you do with this recipe anyway.


Cinnamon Bubble Buns

Original Recipe HERE: I can't find a direct link to the article (which included helpful step-by-step photos), but it's from Flo Baker and was featured in the April 2011 "Family Fun" magazine.  I googled and found plenty of blog posts by people who were inspired by the same one, and some of them took photos as they made the recipe.

"Buttery cinnamon and sugar make these pull-apart treats irresistible."  With an introduction like that, how could one resist trying this recipe?  But the three magazine pages it took up made me put this off until I had a weekend afternoon to devote to the multi-step process. It's not difficult or really all that time-consuming, even though the total "hands on time" is (generously) given as 1 hour and the total time needed is 2 hours 20 minutes.  You can do other stuff during the two rising intervals and the baking period.  And anyway, they were worth the extra time and effort over the store-bougth "pop the container and disassemble the log of pre-cut cinnamon rolls" kind.  They were delicious, and I could see them becoming a traditional "______ [insert holiday or celebration or event of choice] breakfast."  Likely with making them the day before, because if I served them as breakfast, I'd have to start making them at 5am.  Not my idea of how to start off a holiday.  This makes 12 large buns.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sour cream [I used light]
3 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Cinnamon-sugar coating:
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
Vanilla glaze:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp milk, preferably whole
1 tsp vanilla extract

(1) In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; let it stand until bubbly (5-10 minutes).
(2) Stir in butter, sour cream, sugar, egg, and vanilla.
(3) Beat in 2 cups of flour, salt, and baking soda until incorporated.  Add remaining flour; continue mixing until a smooth, soft dough forms.
(4) Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and reserve the mixing bowl.  Knead until smooth (about 3 minutes).  Add more flour if dough is sticky but do not exceed 2 tablespoons.
(5) Place dough back in mixing bowl; cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
(6) When dough is ready, lightly coat 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or butter.  Flour the cups; tap out excess.
(7) In a small bowl, blend sugar and cinnamon for coating.
(8) Melt butter for coating in microwave in a small, shallow dish.
(9) Gently punch down dough to deflate it.  Form it into a long cylinder & divide into 12 equal portions.
(10) Using kitchen shears or a dough scraper, divide each portion into 6 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball.
(11) Coat 6 balls with melted butter.  Roll each in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
(12) Arrange 5 balls in the bottom of a muffin cup.  With fingertips, make a small "well" and press sixth ball into center.  Repeat with remaining dough until 12 buns are ready.
(13) Loosely cover buns with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until puffy and doubled in size (about 40 minutes).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
(14) Bake buns on center rack until golden, 20-22 minutes [mine were done by 20].  Transfer pan to a wire rack; cool 5 to 8 minutes.
(15) Tilt pan and gently tap on countertop to release buns [use a knife to carefully remove them from pan if needed].  Place buns on wire rack.  Slide a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil underneath the rack.
(16) In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients; stir until it's smooth.  If needed, thin glaze by adding water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
(17) Brush or drizzle each bun with glaze.  Serve immediately or at room temperature [we ate some the next day and they were just as good].

Notes: I need to watch the baking time more closely because a few buns had slightly crispy edges - set the timer for 18 minutes and then be vigilant.  A note included with the recipe said "To make the dough in advance, follow directions through kneading.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Chilled dough should sit at room temperature for 1 hour before handling."  I don't know how long it can be in the refrigerator, but it may not save much time anyway because it still has to sit out for a long time before proceeding to the next step.

Kid Participation:
* Adding ingredients to mixing bowl
* Combining cinnamon and sugar
* Punching dough
* Rolling dough into balls (if possible)
* Rolling balls in butter and coating (if you don't mind a giant mess)
* Applying glaze (because it doesn't really matter what it looks like; it all "melts" together on the buns' surface anyway)