Spring is Really Here Lemon Bars

 lemon sliceEvery spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment!
~Ellis Peters

The snow is melting so quickly it’s a challenge to remember that only two weeks ago I couldn’t imagine it ever retreating.

The geese are back. The crows are nesting. Hibernating nocturnal predators are awake and the ducks are edgy.

Spring.

It’s still weeks before the garden will be even remotely diggable. And if it is lemon season somewhere, that somewhere is nowhere anywhere close to here.

But lemons are yellow and sunshiny and that just seems right.

Spring.

Lemon Bars
 
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This recipes makes two 8x8" pans, but you can halve it if you want a smaller batch. The bars freeze well, so you can keep one batch and save the other for later.
Author:
Serves: Makes 40-50 squares
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup coconut, light toasted (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease two 8x8" baking pans.
  3. In medium bowl, stir together the 2-1/2 cups of flour, and the icing sugar.
  4. Mix in softened butter and oil until mixture forms is crumbly. It will be quite moist.
  5. Divide mixture and press evenly into the prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake it, as it will continue baking when you have added the lemon topping.
  7. In large bowl, beat eggs thoroughly.
  8. Add the remaining ingredients except coconut and blend until completely mixed. (You can stir the flour into the sugar before mixing to prevent any lumps.)
  9. Pour the topping mixture evenly over the baked crust.
  10. Sprinkle coconut over (if using) and bake for 20-25 minutes. The topping should be firm, but do not overbake.
  11. Remove from oven and cool pans on cooling racks. Cut each pan into 20-25 squares.

Photo by dmscs.

Red Lentil Dahl

red lentilsThe philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king, you would not have to live on lentils.’

Said Diogenes, ‘Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.’
~ Anthony de Mello

Today is April 1st, and – no joke – we are having our fourth snow day in less than a week. Two double snow days in less than 7 days. Even my kids are tired of missing school.

My cupboards are a bit bare, as I’d been planning on shopping Sunday but the roads were too bad to head to town.

Red lentils to the rescue.

They are cheap, nutritious (an excellent source of protein, iron and fiber and folate) and fast-cooking compared to other lentils and beans.

Dahl is a popular dish around the world, and there are many variations on it. This is mine.

Serve with rice and steamed veggies.

Red Lentil Dahl
 
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Dhal is quick and easy to prepare. Roll leftovers in a wrap for a quick lunch next day. This recipes doubles easily, so you can prepare extra for the freezer.
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • I cup red lentils
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric (this gives it a nice color)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper (I usually double this for a bit of extra warmth)
  • 4 cups water
Instructions
  1. Heat medium saucepan over medium heat and add oil or butter.
  2. Add onions. Cook a few minutes until soft. Keep temperature low enough that onions do not brown. Add minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
  3. Add all spices and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add lentils and coat with the spice mixture.
  5. Add the water and bring to a simmmer.
  6. Turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.
  7. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes longer. Let sit five minutes, then serve with rice.
Notes
I like to add my own combination of spices, but if you prefer, you can use a prepared curry powder for making dahl. Each blend is different, but 1-1/2 tablespoons should probably be enough. You will need to adjust according to your taste.

Shared on Simple Supper Tuesday #57 @Hun What’s for Dinner.

Photo of red lentils by omdur

Seville Orange Marmalade

jars of seville orange marmaladeThe truth is that life is delicious, horrible, charming, frightful, sweet, bitter, and that is everything.
~Anatole France

Seville oranges are horrible things. Bumpy and bitter, full of pith and seeds.

How did anyone imagine that such nasty citrus could make the best marmalade that there is?

I am grateful to that oddly imaginative individual.

This marmalade was my first attempt at canning over 20 years ago. It is still my favorite and most satisfying thing to put in jars.

The recipe below  is from Canadian Living magazine.

If you are new to canning, you can download this very helpful free guide from Bernardin. It will walk you through the canning process step by step and provide clear explanations for each one.

Seville oranges are only available in grocery stores for a brief time during the late winter. If you aren’t keeping your eye out for them, you might miss them.

This year, I managed to get mine for free as the price came up incorrectly when they were being rung through by the cashier. I wish I’d planned to make a double batch.

(And – I hate taking photos, but I took this one of the batch on the shelves. Sunshine in a reusable jar.)

Seville Orange Marmalade
 
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This is the classic orange marmalade, with just the right balance of bitter-sweet that marmalade lovers go for.
Author:
Serves: Makes 8 (1 cup / 250 ml) jars
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Seville oranges (907 g)
  • 1 lemon
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 cups water
Instructions
  1. Scrub oranges and lemon; cut off stem and blossom ends and any blemishes.
  2. Cut in half crosswise; squeeze out juices, reserving pulp and seeds. Strain through sieve into Dutch oven.
  3. Pull out membranes from peels; place along with reserved pulp and seeds on 15-inch (38 cm) square of double-thickness fine cheesecloth. Bring up sides and tie with string; add to pan.
  4. Halve orange and lemon peels; cut crosswise into paper-thin strips. Add to pan.
  5. Add 8 cups (2 L) water; bring to simmer over medium heat. Simmer, stirring often and pressing bag to release pectin, until peel turns to mush when pressed between fingers, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
  6. Remove bag and let cool; squeeze juice into pan. Mixture should measure 7 cups (1.75 L); if not, add water or boil until reduced.
  7. In clean Dutch oven, bring sugar and fruit mixture to full rolling boil, stirring. Boil vigorously, stirring constantly, until free of foam, thickened and at gel stage, 12 to 15 minutes.
  8. Using funnel, fill hot 1-cup (250 mL) canning jars, leaving ¼-inch (5 mm) headspace. Cover with prepared lids. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight.
  9. Boil in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

 

Uncle Vinnie’s Date Squares

Uncle Vinnie's Date SquaresIt’s a thing to see when a boy comes home.
~ John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

This is not actually my Uncle Vinnie’s recipe. I don’t know if he ever even made date squares.

It’s not my Grandma Gillespie’s recipe, either, but I can’t make these date squares without thinking about her, Vincent and my father. Date squares are one of Dad’s favorite treats, and Grandma G made good ones.

Dad was born in 1927, the fifth of seven boys. Vinnie was second in line, and one of three oldest who served in WWII. All three made it through the war.

My grandmother fed her seven sons through the Depression and war rationing, which I know could not have been easy.

Once during the War, with Uncle Vinnie due home on leave, Grandma saved up rations for baking to celebrate her son’s return. Date squares were baked and stored in the cupboard under the stairs for the occasion.

My father, a skinny teenager at the time, was drawn to that cupboard and just couldn’t help himself. He took one. And one more. And another.

When Vinnie arrived home and Grandma went to bring out the squares, there were none left. Dad had eaten the whole tray.

I can only imagine now how my grandmother might have reacted. The relief at seeing her son safe at home – however briefly – and the disappointment and frustration she must have felt when opening the cupboard to that empty tray.

My father now is 86 years old. Grandma and Uncle Vinnie passed away years ago.

My father is the last of those seven boys who lived through a time in which the world changed forever and this country became a nation.

This is not my Uncle Vinnie’s recipe, but when I make these date squares I think about him, my father and grandmother. About those stories told and those now lost.

Uncle Vinnie's Date Squares
 
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The use of coffee and orange juice and zest in the date filling adds extra flavor to these squares. The coffee flavor enhances the dates, so you will taste the dates, not the coffee. These are great for the freezer.
Author:
Serves: Makes 25 squares
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup cold coffee
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup butter. melted
  • ⅓ olive oil
  • 1-1/4 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease an 9x9-inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. For the filling, combine dates, coffee, 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until dates are soft and can be mashed with a spoon (about 10 minutes). The mixture should be soft and spreadable, but still a bit runny. Don't overcook it, as the mixture will thicken when squares are baking.
  4. Remove from the heat and add lemon juice, orange juice and orange zest.
  5. Let mixture cool.
  6. For the base and crumb topping: Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda salt and ½ cup brown sugar.
  7. Stir in melted butter and olive oil. Mix until all of the flour is moistened.
  8. Stir in rolled oats and mix until crumbly.
  9. Press half of the mixture into prepared pan. Pat it down firmly in pan.
  10. Spread cooled date mixture evenly over bottom layer.
  11. Cover the dates with the remaining crumb mixture and press down lightly.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

This was adapted from a recipe in Anne Lindsay’s Smart Cooking.