Sunday, July 26, 2015

Meyer Lemon Bars

I-spy with my big eyes... lemons in my neighbor's backyard. Lotsa of them. I asked Brek to ask Ms. Leta for a few. At that time, none of the lemons were ripen. One day, Ms. Leta came over with too many lemons. They were huge. I assumed they must be meyer lemons.

I wanted some to make lemon cookies. Because they were naturally grown, I could use the lemon zest. And I did. I made so many sweets from Ms. Leta's meyer lemons: lemon cookies, lemon macarons, lemon curd cupcakes, and lemon custard cake. I mean, there were just too many lemons.

Remember that meyer lemons are huge. I decided to flip through cookbooks and see if I could come up with a recipe using lemons. William Sonoma's lemon curd squares looked easy to bake. The based of the bars was pie dough. Thinking about making the lemon bars even tastier, I decided to test the recipe with my lemon cookie dough.

The meyer lemon bars turned out better than I expected. Not too sweet and definitely lemony flavor. The crunch of the lemon cookie dough was a good balance to the soft, velvety curd. I was super happy with the lemon bars that I asked Brek to deliver some to Ms. Leta and Mr. Joe (her son and Brek's swim teacher). Even after we shared the lemon bars with our great neighbors, we still had plenty. And guess what, my kids and I ate them all up for afternoon snack, nighttime snack... even for breakfast. Hey, why not!!!

Feel free to substitute meyer lemons with regular lemons. Better yes, use lime juice with pulp to make lime bars.

Meyer Lemon Bars
adapted from William Sonoma's lemon curd squares
makes 9 - 16 bars

1 lemony cookie dough recipe
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (5.2 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz.) meyer lemon juice with pulp
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) coconut cream
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Line the 8-inch square pan with parchment paper then spray the inside with a cooking oil. Set aside.
  2. Make the lemony cookie dough as directed.
  3. Press the cookie dough into the prepared pan, making sure the dough goes up to all the sides.
  4. Prick the cookie dough with a fork. NOTE: This method is to prevent the dough from puffing up during baking.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven until the edges are slightly golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  6. When done, take it out of the oven to let cool, about 15 minutes.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 325F degree.
  8. Make the filling by whisking together all of the ingredients.
  9. Pour the filling batter on to the cooled cookie.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven until the filling is set, about 25 minutes.
  11. Turn off the heat and open the oven door, leaving the meyer lemon bars sitting in the oven for another 15 minutes.
  12. Take the pan out of the oven and set it on a wiring rack to cool completely.
  13. Cut into 9 or 16 bars. Enjoy!!!
STORING: These meyer lemon bars taste best the day they are baked because the cookie crust is crunchy. But they can be kept in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: These meyer lemon bars are free from or can be make without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Home Fries and Crispy Potato Skins

Cooking with potatoes is pretty easy. But let's face it, it can be boring if I don't cook it right. I mean, cooking crunchy potatoes is pretty tricky. I personally don't like to make French fries in the oven or deep-fryer. It's a challenge to make then crunchy. They also have to be eating right away, or they would get soaky.

My solution? Home fries. The potatoes are cubed. Cooking them is super easy. Just like my hash brown recipe, don't add any salt while cooking the home fries. They'd brown faster. Adding the salt or any other spices at the end of the cooking is best.

Since I read that potatoes are one of the dirty dozen, I've started using organic potatoes in all of my recipes. We don't eat that many potatoes here. So I'd buy maybe 3-4 potatoes per week. I like to make them as breakfast's side dish.
I usually peel the potatoes before cooking them. After reading that potato skins have to most fibers, I decided to wash and dry the skins and pan fry them. Whoa!!! Addictive. Plus, my kids luv them.

Home Fries and Crispy Potato Skins
serving 2-3

1-2 large potatoes, washed and peeled
safflower oil
salt to taste
  1. Set the wiring rack on a baking pan. Place a clean towel or napkin on a plate. Set them aside.
  2. Wash and dry the potatoes.
  3. Peel them and set the potato skins aside.
  4. Cut the potatoes into cubes, making sure they are the same size.
  5. Heat the frying pan at a medium-low heat.
  6. Add the oil just enough to cover the pan.
  7. When the oil is hot, add all of the potato skins.
  8. Pan fry them until crispy, one minute per side.
  9. Take them out to the prepared wiring rack and sprinkle with salt to taste.
  10. In the same pan, add the cubed potatoes.
  11. Cook the potatoes for 3-4 minutes. Flip over and cook 3-4 minutes more.
  12. Drain the home fries on the prepared plate and sprinkle with salt to taste. Enjoy them as a side dish.
STORING: If there is any left over home fries, store them in a container in a fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the heated frying pan until they are warm and crispy again.

Allergy Info: These home fries and crispy potato skins are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Soft Serve Ice Cream

It's summer. It's hot. It's time for something sweet and cold. How about soft serve ice cream.

Last year, I saw a blog post raving about Yonanas, the banana ice cream maker. But for that much money, I just couldn't bring myself to buy one. A few months ago, I came across a recipe for soft serve ice cream which was made with one ingredient: banana.

Basically, process the frozen banana until soft serve ice cream texture is achieved. That's it. Cool, huh?

So I tested it out one day when it was getting warm early in Texas. The frozen banana turned out to be kinda grainy. By adding a little bit of coconut cream, the frozen banana was smooth, just like soft serve ice cream. I didn't even add any sweetener because the banana was already fruity sweet.

Play with the flavors too. I added chunks of homemade cookie dough (from my cookie recipe but minus the egg). One time I just added chocolate chips. I'm pretty sure the choices of the adds-in are endless. I'm planning to make mocha almond fudge ice cream some days. I luv the combination of coffee, almond, and hot chocolate sauce.

I have made a banana ice cream in advance. They won't be a soft serve because they need to sit in the freezer to firm up. But the blending of fresh banana is smooth and no coconut milk or any liquid is needed. I also add various adds-in before freezing it up. Microwave the ice cream for a few seconds to soften the texture.

One more thing. I've noticed frozen banana turned dark brown and didn't look very appetizing. It's better to make and serve this ice cream right away or keep it up to a week.

Soft Serve Ice Cream
make as much as you like

frozen banana, cut into small cubes
coconut cream (optional)
maple syrup or honey to taste (optional)
  1. Place the frozen banana in a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, adding coconut cream 1/2 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Serve the ice cream in a cone or cup. Enjoy!!!
STORING: It's best to make and serve this soft serve ice cream right away. But it can be kept in a freezable container in a freezer for up to 1 week. Bring it to a room temperature for about 5 minutes if the ice cream is too hard to scoop.

Allergy Info: This soft serve ice cream is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish. I heard that some bananas are gassed to make them ripen after they are picked. People with corn allergy mentioned that this process was making them very sick. So be aware of this when you buy bananas. Try getting organic and call companies for more info. Add the flavors according to your allergy free diet.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Indoor Grilled Steak

I hardly ever make meals using any type of beef. For one thing, it's really difficult for me to cook the beef tender enough for my kids to enjoy. 

When Camden said he wanted beef for dinner, I was browsing for a beef cut at a local grocery store that very day. I asked the staff regarding the cut and he suggested Kobe beef. But that was $14 per pound. Yikes!!! So he recommended the second best, top sirloin steak, which was about $7 per pound. Ok, that was reasonable. I bought a slice, took it home, and really didn't know what to do with it. I decided to just grill it indoor. The beef came out juicy and tender. We were all able to enjoy it.

The second time I grilled it, it came out too raw. Must be a thicker cut. So I cooked it longer. Then it was too well done and was too dry. I asked my husband, the grill-master in his own right, about the cooking time. He told me not to over cook it. So I began my adventure of perfecting an indoor grill steak.

A few things to remember. Before starting the indoor grilling, I make sure all the bedroom doors are closed. If the outside temperature is nice, get those windows open to get the smoke and the grilled smell out of the house. I've noticed that the smell won't linger.

Now let's get back to that steak. Be sure to set the steak at a room temperature. This way the middle of the steak won't be too cold when grill. I usually buy the steak and grill it that very day, so I never had to go through this step. Another thing is to make sure the grill pan is super hot. I want to sear the outside but warm and cook the inside.

Flavor the beef with only salt. I learned this technique from Tyler Florence. Because ground black pepper can burn in a hot grill pan, sprinkle it after the steak is cooked.

Timing is another factor. Depending on the thickness of the cut, I grill 4-5 minutes on the one side. After flipping it, I cook it for another 3-4 minutes. If I notice that the steak is too raw, I'd slice it thinly then zap it in microwave for 30 seconds.

Last but not least, let the steak rests. The steak will continue to cook and will come out perfectly juicy and tender. My kids and I prefer thin slice steak.

Now what are you going to do with the perfectly grilled steak???

Indoor Grilled Steak
serving 4-6 (for us, this makes about 3 meals)

1 pound USDA or grass-fed top sirloin steak
sea salt
cooking oil spray
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the grill pan on medium to high heat about 5 minutes.
  2. Deliberately salt the steak on both side.
  3. Spray the grill pan with cooking oil.
  4. Turn the oven vent on HIGH.
  5. Place the steak on the preheated grill pan.
  6. Grill it for 4-5 minutes.
  7. Flip and grill the other side for another 3-4 minutes.
  8. Place the grilled steak on a plate.
  9. Sprinkle ground black pepper on one side of the steak.
  10. Cover steak with a large bowl and let it rest.
  11. Slice the steak thinly and serve with your favorite sides. TIP: We eat them with tortilla, steamed or sticky rice, rice pilaf, and other veggies and fruits.
STORING: Keep the grilled steak in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: This grilled beef is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, wheat), and fish. Keep in mind that not all sea salt is corn free. Research and use the corn free brand. Also get a grass-fed cuts as they are most likely corn free and not that much more expensive than USDA cuts.