Still Life, With Cats

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Unnecessary effort

Last night after I got home from rehearsal, I cut up three lemons, juiced them (saving the juice for later), and stuck them in a pan with 2 cups of water, which I brought to a low boil. Then I turned off the heat, stuck a lid on the pan and let it sit for a day, so that it would be ready for this evening’s dinner – Lemon Water Pasta.

The general idea for this pasta is that instead of boiling the noodles in a big vat of water, you instead cook it more like risotto – in a big pan, adding the lemon-infused (and strained) water a little bit at a time until the noodles are done. I ended up having to add another cup of water during the cooking process because the two cups (500 ml) of water just wasn’t enough to cook 8 ounces of spaghetti, despite what the recipe claimed, but eventually it got there. Then at the end, once the pasta’s finally cooked, you stir in a bunch of cheese, to make sort of a sauce.

While I took care of the pasta, Richard set up Roasted Lemon Chili Broccoli (because we needed to use up at least *some* of the lemon juice from those three lemons).


So how were they? Well first, it’s a good thing the pasta was fairly bland, since the broccoli recipe includes three *tablespoons* of chili paste, which is…a lot of chili for the amount of veggies. The pasta itself had a very faint lemon flavor (more of a scent than a flavor) but was otherwise unremarkable. Luckily the two things together mostly cancelled each other out, so it was an acceptable meal (plus, despite what the pasta recipe claims, that was four servings, not two, so there’s leftovers for another day).

The broccoli might be worth trying again, with half the amount of chili paste, but the pasta recipe – eh, probably not. It was an intriguing concept to try but honestly, I think you’d get the same effect by boiling the lemons in the pot with the pasta, then just using some of the pasta water to make a sauce later. Not sure it was worth all the fuss, and I won’t be making it again.

Lemons used: 3
Total lemons this month: 20

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

The crack on top

Happy Friday! In honor of it being the end of the week, I decided to make Lemon Lava Cakes. However, upon further inspection, it turns out we didn’t have the necessary ingredients, so instead I made Lemon Creme Brulee.

Creme Brulee is one of those fancy desserts that looks super difficult, but really isn’t. There are a couple places you could go horribly wrong, but if you just follow the recipe you’ll be fine. Basically you heat up some cream (and lemon zest) and then whisk that into some egg yolks (and in this case lemon juice), and then pour the mixture into some little ramekins. Then those go into the oven in a water bath, which helps ensure that they bake at an even temperature. After they’ve baked, you put them in the fridge to cool for a couple hours, and shortly before serving, you sprinkle some sugar on top and hit that with a kitchen torch. Voila! Creme Brulee.

If you did it all right, you should have a tiny little bowl of velvety custard topped with a thin layer of caramel, which should crack when you tap it with your spoon.

These turned out quite yummy, with just a hint of lemon flavor. If I were to make them again, the only thing I would change is to strain the lemon zest out of the cream before adding it to the yolk mixture. Creme Brulee is supposed to be silky smooth, so I wasn’t a huge fan of the little bits of zest.

Lemons used: 4 (they were very tiny!)

Lemons so far this month: 14

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

Fresh air

I had something else planned for today but I was tired and not in the mood to bake. So I consulted my list of lemon possibilities and decided to make these.

You take some lemons and some whole cloves.

And then you proceed to stab the cloves into the lemon until you have either run out of cloves, or else created a pattern.

Ta da! Lemon clove air fresheners.

I made the one on the left, and Richard made the one on the right. When it starts to get gross we can turn it around so the other side shows.

Lemons used: 2

Lemons used this month: 10

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

Comfort food

Tonight was another busy night, so I made this Creamy Lemon Pasta with Peas and Ham.

Basically, you cook up some pasta, and toss some frozen peas into the pot near the end (after first removing a cup of the pasta water for the sauce). Meanwhile you toast minced garlic and red pepper flakes in oil, then add in the zest and juice of one lemon, along with the pasta water, and a little bit of cream, and let that reduce. If you want to add ham (which we thought was an excellent addition), you mince that up and toss it in a separate pan to brown, and then at the end, you stir everything together with some parmesan and serve.

The recipe calls for orecchiette pasta, but I used mini elbows because that’s what was in the cupboard. Plus I inadvertently toasted the garlic a little too far, so I ended up straining the sauce prior to thickening it, to remove the charred bits (oops). But despite that little mishap, it turned out quite tasty. This is one we’ll definitely make again, although next time I will significantly decrease the amount of olive oil used, since it was a little on the greasy side.

Lemons used: 1

Total lemons this month: 6

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

Little jar of sunshine

Today has been a very busy day. I got up and set up dough for sandwich rolls, and then while that was sitting, I made a peanut butter coffeecake from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (which included as a rather perky note (this version was published in the 80’s) that this would delight my coworkers when served to them at break time. Um, since I now work 100% from home, sorry, cats, you don’t get to be delighted, but it was pretty delicious). I also made dinner rolls to go with the soup we have planned for later this week, and finished off a piece for the next Lacy Knitters Guild newsletter, and paid some bills and did some cleaning, and laundry, and got to hang out with a friend who came for some kitten therapy. Oh, and also I made lemon curd, because there are still a bazillion lemons in the fridge.

It is inevitable, when you are looking at how to use up lemons, that lemon curd will happen. I have made it many, many times in the past and will make it many more times in the future. All it takes is butter, sugar, and the juice and zest of a couple lemons, plus twenty minutes of your time. I have seen recipes that indicate that you can get away with just stirring occasionally, and sure, that will work just fine if you don’t mind little bits of cooked egg in your curd, but I would rather just stand there and whisk it the entire time, because it’s worth it.

Most of this is earmarked for recipes later this month, but we couldn’t help having just a little tonight. After all, we still have extra crepes that need using up, and a dollop of fresh lemon curd is a delightful way to do so.

Lemons used: 3

Total lemons used: 5

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

Smokey salty sour sweet

Today is the Day of the Crepe in France, according to Google (and Google would never lie to me), so naturally there had to be crepes. Here is where I freely admit that in the past I have said that you don’t really need a crepe pan; that a regular skillet will do, but it turns out crepe pans are magical devices that enable one to make vast quantities of crepes with minimal ripping, and also, they will all come out in relatively the same size and shape. So hooray to my awesome husband for getting me one last year for my birthday!

I used the crepe recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, which claims to make only a dozen crepes, but which actually makes lots more. This is not a bad thing, to be clear, because crepes can be filled with all manner of delicious things. This month, however, we are all about the lemon, so I pulled a recipe out of the dusty stacks (no idea where I originally found it), and dinner tonight was crepes stuffed with smoked salmon and topped with a sour cream, lemon, caper, and dill sauce.

I know it doesn’t look like much, but trust me when I say they are amazing. The sauce is nothing more than one cup of sour cream mixed with a dash of dill, two tablespoons of capers (finely chopped), and the zest and juice of one lemon. You get the sweetness of the crepe, the acidity of the lemon, the salty-sour of the capers, and the smoothness of the sour cream, all marrying perfectly with the salmon. Yum.

The entire time we were eating it, we kept saying ‘Why haven’t we made this more often?’ So…yeah…this one is definitely joining the rotation next year when the lemon tree explodes.

Lemons used: 1

Total lemons this month: 2

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

A month of yellow

I know I have mentioned in the past that we have a very prolific Meyer lemon tree. For example, the other day, I harvested this mound of lemons, which looks like a lot (that’s about 5 dozen) until you realize that there were probably two to three times that many more on the tree.

Faced with a mountain of lemons, I decided that this year’s Thingadailies project will be to make something with lemons every single day for the entire month.

To kick things off, tonight I made Fluffy Lemon Puddings. It’s a recipe scaled down to make only two servings, which I figured would be good since there’s only two of us and a whole month of lemony treats yet to go.

The recipe is pretty straightforward. You mix up lemon juice and zest, egg yolk, sugar, butter, and flour, and then fold in whipped egg whites. Then you pour the mixture into two ramekins, and pop it in the oven to bake.

However, note that in this picture there is only one ramekin.

That’s because as I was taking it out of the oven, I dropped the other, which then proceeded to splatter all over the floor.

Foster kitten B-Mo was right on scene to offer his immediate assistance in cleaning it up (don’t worry – he only got a couple licks in before I was able to shoot him away and clean up the rest).

The end result was super tasty. As it bakes, the top and bottom separate, so you get a light cake layer above and a creamy lemon curd type layer below.

We will definitely be making this recipe again (and next time I will be more careful when transferring ramekins).

Lemons used: 1

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

When life gives you…Part 3

I swear this isn’t going to turn into an all-baking-all-the-time blog, although apparently you wouldn’t guess it from this month’s entries. Ah well. Here is our next installment!

When there are still far too many tangelos in the fridge (from the tangelo tree), and you are pondering what to make for a weekend breakfast, you should make Orange Rolls.

They start with a basic sweet yeast dough (I used this one from King Arthur Flour), and as you are mixing it all together, toss in the zest from two tangelos.

Then while the dough is proofing, whip up a quick batch of marmalade. You do this by cutting up one tangelo (remove the seeds!) into chunks, then pulse it in a blender, then dump the ensuing glop into a pan with half a cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of tangelo juice (because you need to use those zested tangelos somehow). Then bring it to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is thick. Set that aside to cool.

When the dough has doubled in size, then you roll it out into a fat rectangle (look at all the lovely zest in that dough)

Then you spread the marmalade all over the dough.

Then you roll it up and slice it into 16 pieces and arrange them in two round pans.

Don’t they look pretty with the marmalade peeking out?

Then those rise for a while, and then get baked until they are just turning golden brown.

And finally, while still warm, you drizzle them with icing made from powdered sugar and tangelo juice, and then devour.

These are delicious. I admit I was skeptical about the marmalade, because I am not a fan – I usually find it too bitter. But it works wonderfully in these. There is a slight bitter note from the marmalade, but it is counteracted quite nicely by the sweetness from the dough and the icing.

Considering how prolific that tangelo tree is getting, I will definitely be making these again. Yum.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

When life gives you…Part 2

Oh look, it’s that time of year again when the lemon shrub has gone completely insane with fruit and I am desperately trying to come up with ways to use them up.

This year, because I need to make lots of cookies for a cookie exchange, I asked Google for help, and lo, did Google provide (all hail our robot overlords).

So today I spent the majority of the day making Meyer lemon cookies.

It is a rather tedious sort of recipe because the dough on its own is fairly soft, so there was a lot or rolling and freezing and cutting and freezing some more, and then after they were cooled, they were topped them with a lemon glaze, which (bonus!) used even more lemon juice and zest, so then there were cookies all over the counter all day, waiting for the glaze to set

But on the plus side, the cookies are absolutely delicious – a lovely light lemon flavor without being too tart.

Also three batches of cookies used up 8 lemons, so there are only about 573 left on the tree to go.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

When life gives you…part 1

When there are a lot of tangelos on the tangelo tree that all come ripe at once, and you also need to make something for a gathering, you should make tarts.

First you make some tiny little tart shells, using a mini muffin pan.

Then you zest and juice some tangelos and whisk that with some butter and sugar and eggs over a pan of simmering water for about 20 minutes, until it becomes tangelo curd.

You let that chill, then dollop it into the tart shells and then you top that with some meringue, which you hit with a kitchen torch because that makes it fancy.

And then you eat them because yum.

Tis the season for Holidailies.