Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fashionably Late? -- Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Okay. OKAY. I know what you're going to say. Ashley*, It's not rhubarb season anymore. I am weeks late, yet again, on posting a seasonally-appropriate produce blog post. I know! I KNOW! For shame! I really am quite sorry. A localvore I am not.

I really, honestly believe in locally grown produce and buying what's in season, I promise. And I craft these posts with the best intentions of making them timely. But here's my excuse, and it's a reasonable one: I like to keep myself busy. Oftentimes, there is little time to bake or cook--especially when I'm knees-deep in a performance schedule for my community theater groups. So, instead of going on a million tiny hiatuses or clogging up the works with a bunch of "lookit the food I'm eating but not cooking!" posts where you'll all cringe at how much Shake n' Bake I consume in one week or just how often I end up opting for supermarket sushi in a pinch, I tend to go on baking/cooking binges and make a series of backup posts to keep on hand. This way, when I am too busy to cook, I can still find time to blog! It's a genius method, really, and other busy bloggers should try it if they haven't already.

Somehow, these muffins ended up in my backlog.

And really, truly, they should never have been there. These are delicious, moist little muffins with all the pazazz of their cupcake cousins but a bit more suitable for breakfast. Don't let my sub-par pictures fool you (I was working with weird lighting)--these were fantastic. I gave the leftovers to a friend whose baby adored them, as did her husband. Did I mention I'd never had rhubarb before in my life? These muffins convinced me that I should have jumped on the rhubarb train a long long time ago. I won't forget to stalk up, next year... you see what I did there?

In my defense of timeliness--it's still kind of strawberry season, right? You could totally ignore the rhubarb and make these lovely little struesel muffins with extra berries or any sort of fruit your little heart desires. Really, I promise.

Strawberry Rhubarb Strusel Muffins
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1.5 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed
  • 1.5 cups chopped fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition. Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.

Fill muffin cups three-fourths full. For topping, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Top with a strawberry slice if you're feeling fancy (I was).

Bake at 350° for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.

*Ashley? Who is Ashley? Uhhh... right, Ashley is me. I'm phasing out "Bee" because, honestly, nobody calls me Bee. As I get more into blogging and hoping to attend a conference or two, the thought of introducing myself as a name no one has ever called me in person is weird. The pseudonym was for internet privacy issues due to some cyber bullying I experienced a year ago. Now that that's hopefully done with, I don't mind being Ashley again. So, hey, I'm Ashley. Nice to meet you!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Love NYC, Especially the Meatball Shop -- Spicy Pork Meatballs

New York City... ever since I was little this place has fascinated me. It's somewhere I've always seen myself living. Maybe not yet, but someday. I've lived in its little sister, Boston, and feel that next time I venture from my little corner of the Western Mass Countryside, it will be for a big city. LA still tops the list, but if it's meant to be NYC next, that would be just fine.

Chinatown, where I may or may not have bought a purse
of questionable origin

Plus, there are far more publishing opportunities in NYC than LA. Who knows... maybe that's where I'll end up. Working in food publishing in particular would be a dream come true!

Me and my friends in a really random patch of grass outside Meatball Shop
in Brooklyn

The first weekend was to visit my friend Tori, the next weekend I returned with my mom for a bus trip through her work. It was definitely an experience, to see NYC from a local's point of view (something that happens when I visit my friends these days) and then immediately after returning again to do the tourist things. 

Me and Tori, picture taken  by a wicked cute bartender

Goat cheese Bruchetta at a Tapas place with a terribly
gross bathroom

Next time, I will sample jackfruit. It's too bizarre to not try.

My mom and I love getting the street-food noodles.
I am aware of how gross they actually are.

At the Tapas bar, I got a beer. Because reasons.

Caprese salad at the Tapas bar

Cute bartender suggested this lovely, fruity beer.
I seriously wish I'd been cool enough to leave my number on a napkin...

Whiskey milkshake from Meatball Shop!

Fries we got at the cute bartender bar while waiting for a table at
Meatball Shop

Sliders from a random pub we found. The name is escaping me
at the moment.

But by and far the best place I got to eat was The Meatball Shop. As my friend Eric described it: "it's kind of a foodie place. And I guess that's what you do now, foodie stuff. So I think you'll like it." He couldn't have been more right. I LOVED it. For one, the drinks are fan-freaking-tastic--WHISKEY MILKSHAKE, need I say more?? I am happy I chose to get a few meatball sliders, it was the best way to get a few different samples of meatball and sauce in on one trip. I got three sliders: beef with marinara sauce, chicken with parmesan sauce, and spicy pork with mushroom sauce. The chicken was a tad dry but the flavorful sauce made up for it. The beef and marinara was juicy and amped up the traditional meatball just a bit. And the spicy pork with mushroom sauce...

Om nom nom...

Holy (meat)balls was it good.

I was thrilled that on my way out I was handed a card with the recipe for the spicy pork meatballs. They are fantastically easy and equally delicious and I feel like they will be a new favorite in my house. I almost halved the recipe in order to just make 12, but after tasting them I knew I made the right decision making a full batch--next time I'll make double! I even was able to google a solid mushroom gravy recipe to re-create my delicious little slider.

You can be sure I'll be frequenting The Meatball Shop when I finally do make the move to the city. Whenever that may be. Not to mention I'm going to swipe up the first copy of The Meatball Shop Cookbook I see!

 Recipe for Spicy Pork Meatballs 

(From a card I got at The Meatball Shop, and The Meatball Shop Cookbook)

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 pounds pork shoulder, ground
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 jarred hot cherry peppers, minced
  • ¼ cup hot cherry pepper pickling liquid
  • 4 slices fresh white bread, minced
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Combine the ground pork, salt, cherry peppers, pickling liquid, bread, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll the mixture into round, golf-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 degrees F.
Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Note: I served these with the Mushroom Gravy but I'm sure any number of sauces would be great!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Homemade Burger Buns

My play opens TONIGHT. I am equal parts nervous and excited :) Anyone in the Western Mass area who is interested in attending Ja'Duke's The Foreigner email me for details! I'm playing the part of Catherine, and though it's a comedy she's a pretty complex character. I'm having a lot of fun with her, she's probably one of my favorite roles I've ever played. I'm going to be very sad when the play is over. It's always a little sad, because you'll never be in the same exact play with the same exact people playing the same exact parts ever again. I hope we all stay in touch, and that I see some of them the next time there's a show!
In rehearsals, I will have better pictures in full costume soon!

Thankfully, I have a few posts saved so that I don't have to go on another mini-hiatus due to lack of time to cook. Theater is fun, but time-consuming, so often my blog posts suffer when I'm in a performance. But this time I planned ahead! 

These buns were made for these burgers:

Remember them? Yeah, they were fantastic, and made the fantastic burger that much more special. I love making things from scratch that you'd generally buy processed and wrapped in plastic--don't you? We didn't have sesame seeds so we topped them with poppy seeds instead. I don't think it added much flavor, but it made them look kind of cool!

40 Minute Hamburger Buns
(From Taste of Home, adapted only slightly)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • seeds--sesame, poppy, any you'd like to top your burger with

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough (we did this part in a food processor).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Whisk egg and brush lightly on buns, top with a sprinkle of seeds. Bake at 425° for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Today is a day to find your father--whether it be calling him up, driving to his house, or just walking downstairs and standing in the way of whatever sport game he may be watching today--and give him a big, BIG hug and tell him how much you love him. Or maybe it's time to reconcile old ghosts, or end an argument, or start a new path, if your history so requires it. Whatever your relationship with your dad is, today is his day. And you should make sure he knows his son or daughter appreciates him, loves him, or even just merely thanks him for his part in giving you life.

Or, if you're like me, all you can do today is remember.

This is now my fifth Father's Day without my dad. Without my wonderful, huge teddy bear of a father who cried at Disney movies and cooked terrible terrible food that was seasoned with all of the love in his heart. Who lived near Boston and would make the two hour trip every weekend to pick up my brother and me and take him to his house for the weekend. As I got older and got a job and a social life, these visits for me became every other week, and then every month, and then just on holidays. For the first year of college we'd get lunch or dinner every month, and these last memories are ones I cherish.

Dad's Famous Baked Beans

On September 20, 2007, while I was studying in a castle in the tiny village of Well in Limburg, The Netherlands, my father died. He woke up with abdominal pains and was rushed to the hospital. Tests were done, and he was sent home, where he promptly stopped breathing and died in the ambulance BACK to the hospital. I was awoken at 3am Netherlands time, when I was trying to get to sleep to rest up for my trip to Scotland the next day. Within 24 hours I was on a plane home to endure the worst week of my life. This day, when I think about it, makes no sense. And in the background of every frame is the word WHY: WHY didn't he stay at the hospital? WHY did they tell him nothing was wrong? WHY was he having abdominal pains when the final cause of death was a heart attack? WHY do people survive heart attacks every day, and WHY did my dad not?

I suppose this is a normal thing to happen. When you lose someone so close, there are so many questions. It feels so unfair.

1996 or 1997, Probably minutes before he found his treasure.

Today, though, is not to remember this. It is to remember the good times, and the 19 wonderful years that I had my father in my life. All of the times I rolled my eyes when I would turn to him at the end of the movie to see tears streaming down his cheeks, all of the hikes we took through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, digging for Herkimer diamonds, his really bizarre and random-seeming Christmas gifts (I got toothpaste one year), camping on the island in Delaware with all of the wild horses, the "secret recipe" dishes my brother and I had to wince through... these are the things to remember today.

Oh, and these baked beans. These were something he COULD make... kind of. He'd take about four cans of baked beans and add maple syrup, bacon, and brown sugar to them and they were a picnic staple every summer. I decided to try my hand at making baked beans from scratch, inspired by his additions. My cousins called them "Uncle Erik's Special Baked Beans"

The picture in this photo is from one of my favorite memories of my father: The day he pulled the biggest Herkimer diamond out of the ground. Herkimer diamonds are quartz crystals that come out of the ground looking like cut diamonds. My family would camp here every summer. On this particular day, the three crystals pictured were found. The smallest by my mom, the middle one by me (I found it in a river while playing with tiny boats I made), the biggest by my Dad. It was his treasure, and one of the many things I took from his apartment after he died to remember him by.

Uncle Erik's Special Baked Beans, or, My Dad's Special Baked Beans
(Base recipe from here, additions by Dad)


  • 1.5 lbs (3 cups) dried small white beans, or navy beans
  • 1/4 pound bacon
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (REAL, please)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sautĂ©ed chopped onion

Soak beans overnight. Make sure there is plenty of water, they will soak up more than you think. Drain beans and rinse off. Put beans into Crock Pot or slow cooker.

Add all ingredients and stir together well. Cover Crock Pot and cook 6-7 hours on high, or 10-12 hours on low (check after these times--my beans took nearly double this). Cook until the beans are soft and the sauce is rich. Add water to the Crock Pot, if needed.

Erik S. Blom, 6/11/1960-9/20/2007. Never forget how much you are loved.
Also, I would like to point out that today is not all sad--I do have a fantastic stepfather who came into my life about seven years ago. My Dad thought he was a great guy, and I think he'd be happy to know his family is being well taken care of. Brian is my friend and very much like a dad to me. It's hard to not have my real father take up most of my emotions for the day, considering he was taken from me so suddenly, but I wanted to make sure I also took the time to mention my amazing stepfather as well. In stark contrast to my Dad, Brian is actually a fantastic cook, and I hope to get one or two of his recipes and do a similar blog about our relationship in the future. Like my Dad though, Brian is also a big teddy bear (despite coming off with a bit more of the demeanor of a grizzly) with an even bigger heart. I am very lucky to have him in my life as well.

Again, Happy Father's Day to all. Go hug your Dads today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Vampire Bite Cocktail -- True Blood Season 5 Premieres!

Last weekend I escaped to Boston, and this weekend I escaped to NYC. Two of my three favorite cities in two weeks? The summer is surely off to a fabulous start.

Be on the lookout for two upcoming "What I've Been Eating" reviews: one for Western Mass and one for the excellent food I had over the weekend in NYC. My friends took my newfound foodie-ness into consideration and picked a fantastic restaurant to lunch at. I cannot wait to tell you guys about it! They even gave me a recipe for a signature dish on my way out, so I'm hoping I can accompany the review with the recipe :) I'll probably save the NYC post for next week though, since my mom and I are going back next Saturday on a bus trip and hopefully I'll get in another meal or two to talk about. Now that I know the city is SO accessible by a combo of car and train--I've only ever taken a bus there and it takes FOREVER--I plan on returning as much as I can.

Random square of grass in the middle of the street in Brooklyn...

In other news, I have a sizable summer reading agenda. First, some pleasure reading:

Strange Coincidence: Bought that Ray Bradbury book the day before
he died...

And then, some "business reading"--aka, books I bought to help me improve my blog, scan for recipes, and teach myself food photography. I'm hoping once the play I'm in is over (anyone in Western Mass? Check it out!) I can really buckle down and study these books. My friend Sarah over at A Dash and a Pinch is making excellent progress with her photography already. We've been acquiring equipment and study materials at the same rate and discussing the process with each other. It's cool to have another fledgling blogger to share ideas with. Also, the Sunday Brunch is a book I'm going to review in the near future, so long as I can find a friend's house to make brunch at. Thanks again, Lisa!

So. About this drink.

If you asked me why I like True Blood, I couldn't tell you. I'm not usually a fan of supernatural-based stories, I have never read the books, I hate Twilight with a burning passion, some of the episodes are so incredibly cheesy I literally laugh out loud, and while most of my friends gush over Erik and Bill it wasn't until last season that I found a character I thought was even remotely attractive (Ohhh Alcide...). But every summer Sunday I find myself rushing to the tv to watch it with my stepdad. It's a guilty pleasure for sure.

I came up with the idea for this drink MONTHS ago. I wanted to do something with blood oranges, specifically a drink I could sip on during the premiere of True Blood--because what other beverage is more apt than one with BLOOD in the title? Sadly, blood oranges are rather hard to come by, and the only place I could find that even carries them only does so in season and the season was over in April. So I hung my head and decided a True Blood themed post was not in the cards.

Luckily, today while shopping for a potluck dish I came across Trop 50's Red Orange Juice--close enough! My brain started reeling and I rushed around the store, brainstorming and picking up and putting down various ingredients. I think Vampire "Bite" is a most apt name--the jalapeno simple syrup gives a spicy kick to the otherwise sweet citrus cocktail.

BTW. I am seriously pumped for this season. I don't wanna give away any spoilers for people who haven't seen it yet, so that's all I'll say ;)

 Vampire Bite Cocktail
(Makes 1 serving. Entirely conceived by me!)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 oz vodka (I used raspberry)
  • 1 tsp (or more) jalapeno simple syrup--see recipe below
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz blood orange juice (fresh squeezed will get you an awesome bloody color, but if it's way past blood orange season look for Trop 50's Red Orange juice or a similar substitute in flavor and a bit more of an orange color)
  • 2 oz sparkling soda (I found blood orange sparkling juice, win)
  • Lime slices and jalapeno slices, for garnish

-Place 2 slices of jalapeno in bottom of glass. Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and pour into glass. Or, if you do not have a shaker (I don't) then mix well and pour over ice. Garnish with lime slice and jalapeno slice.

Jalapeno Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced

-Microwave jalapeno slices until juicy--about 20 seconds. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Let simmer until jalapenos are soft. Strain and keep refrigerated until use. Use within 3 days.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Everything Happens for a Reason -- S'Mores Cupcakes

"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should..."

So, it's been a crazy whirlwind of things happening and not happening in my life. I am constantly super busy and lots of interesting things are on the horizon. I feel like I've been experiencing my "quarter life crisis" on a nearly daily basis--huge moments of "WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE" "WHERE DO I WANT TO BE IN FIVE YEARS" "HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO TACKLE MY CRAZY STUDENT DEBT"?? OH AND WHY THE HECK DON'T I HAVE A BOYFRIEND???

Well, that last one is only minutely important, and pretty much not important at all. So let's discuss the prior questions.

On New Years I made a resolution: within the year I'd move across the country. I've spent 24 years in Massachusetts and though I love it, I felt ready for a change. I began to save my pennies and send out my resumes and make arrangements for where I would live. LA was the goal--sun (NO WINTER!), beaches, the city, food, and friends all in one place so very different from home. Then my gallbladder threw a wrench in my plans and though my health insurance is 90-10, that 10% I had to pay out of pocket was BRUTAL. My Escape Massachusetts fund was more than half gone.

It would be easy to be distressed over this. It would be acceptable to hole myself up and cry and feel miserable because life really doesn't seem fair sometimes. And sometimes, I do. Sometimes I read my Facebook newsfeed and envy my friends who somehow made it out of college with the same degree as me but 75% less debt, who are now living in any number of fabulous cities while I'm in the same corner of Mass, living at home, and wondering why things happen the way they do and hoping I'll randomly come into some money since that seems to be about the only way to make my dreams come true.

But then I think--what if I had made the trip across the country? What if my gallbladder had needed to be removed while I was thousands of miles away, still looking for a job in LA, living off the little savings I had scraped together before the move? I would be alone, far from home, and utterly broke because I'd be paying at least $800/month for rent in addition to my $500 a month in student loans. Having my surgery in this part of the country sadly depleted my savings, but at least I HAD a savings to take money from.

Hospital food. My first meal post-surgery

And, if this hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't have been seeking more opportunities in Mass. I wouldn't have connected with people in the publishing industry, or re-connected with my former internship. I wouldn't be seeking freelance writing work to bulk up my resume (and, admittedly, my income), and maybe I wouldn't be focusing so hard teaching myself food photography and food writing for this blog, which makes me feel happier and more accomplished than I ever thought it could. I do want to get back into the publishing world someday, and I am taking steps to make that happen here. Things are happening for me in Mass, I'm taking a more active role in my career goals, and maybe none of that would have happened if I hadn't been so frustrated and lost feeling.

Artsy photo from a photoshoot I was in

I still don't know what I'm doing with my life, where I'll be in five years, or how I'll get over this crazy amount of debt I'm in. But it'll be okay. I can't be the only one this has ever happened to, and I can't be the last either, or even the only one it's happening to right now.

And, as I discovered the last time I had a near-breakdown because of things like this, S'mores help. A lot. S'mores bring back happy memories of family camping trips, or overnights with the Girl Scouts telling spooky stories around the campfire--my scary stories were the most terrifying, if I do say so myself--or sleepover parties where we'd use shish ka-bob sticks and roast marshmallows over a gas stove. Times when none of these fears were even a grain of sand in my mind. The biggest thing I had to worry about was my favorite Spice Girl leaving the group (oh Geri, you were missed) and me having to pick a different one to dress up like for Halloween. These cupcakes are perfect for a s'mores craving when a campfire is not feasible. Graham cracker cupcakes, filled with chocolate ganache, topped with marshmallow frosting, and drizzled with some chocolate sauce.

S'mores Cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mix flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Beat in butter gradually.  Beat in sugar and mix thoroughly. Beat in eggs, then vanilla and milk until just mixed.  Pour into lined cupcake tins.  Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out almost clean.

Ganache Filling:
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cream

Bring one cup cream to a gentle boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour over a bowl of chocolate chips (I used milk, but usually it calls for semisweet) and mix until chips are melted.

Marshmallow Frosting
(adapted only slightly from Kraft Recipes)

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 jar Marshmallow Creme
  • 1tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pkg. (16 oz.) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs milk, divided

Beat marshmallow creme, vanilla, and butter on medium speed until well blended. Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition until well blended. Blend in 1 milk. Add more milk if needed until desired consistency is reached.

PS. I'm slowly phasing out "Bee" as my name and going by "Ashley"--my real name.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Little Late -- Meyer Lemon Tart

"So, you're really into this whole, trendy foods thing, huh?" My friend John asked me, looking skeptically at the 2 pounds of Meyer lemons I'd dumped out onto his kitchen table.

"Get zesting," was my reply. I spread out the pages of a recipe I'd printed from a Google search of "What to do with Meyer Lemons" and tried to smooth out the creases they'd acquired after being shoved in my purse. I bought the lemons on a whim at the local Whole Foods earlier in the day and had sent John a text saying "I just spent over $10 on lemons. We're baking something with them. Tonight." I'd missed Blood Orange season, I wasn't going to be left behind when it came to Meyer Lemons. These little things were all over the blogosphere and I wanted my piece of the craze to be documented on this blog.

"Why don't you just use regular lemons, like a normal person. They're probably not much different..." I paused for a moment, then pulled out a knife from the drawer and carefully cut him off a slice, using the kitchen island as a cutting board and hoping his mother wasn't looking. "Oh," he said, "these are very different." John then proceeded to make bagels, as he knew to keep his distance when I was on a mission such as this.

When baking pizza at a 20-something male's apartment, as John is doing here,
beer bottles take up most of the counterspace. So it is necessary to
roll out pizza dough wherever there is room--even the floor.

This was back in April, when Meyer lemons were all the rage on the blogs, mere days before my emergency gallbladder surgery would make me forget about these pictures entirely. These little beauties (which taste like the secret love child of lemons and oranges) are in season from about November to April, and bloggers across the internet rush to create creamy, tangy, tarts, cookies, pastas, and tall pitchers of lemonade before the season ends. Apparently the all-powerful Martha Stewart was the one to give them their jumpstart to fame. I was at the very end of the season, but I, too, wanted to make my mark.

John's cat, Ruth, is generally our sous chef during these gatherings.

Then I totally forgot to write about it. Oops. Damn you, gallbladder.

You guys--you have no idea how proud I was of this tart. It was beautiful. As per usual, I had failed at rolling the dough flat enough and had ended up just piecing the crust together like play dough but, honestly, I am no pastry chef, and it tasted just as delicious with a few lumps than it would have if it looked perfect. The honey-graham crust with the sweet and tart custard, topped with creamy whipped cream and fresh raspberries--ohhh yes. I was even able to make a second pie to give to John's mom, to thank her for letting us use her kitchen for the millionth time to do our cooking experiments. Thank goodness I got to sample a few slices of tart before my gallbladder restricted me to a liquid diet for two weeks. Small miracles, eh?

John's family has the most beautiful kitchen and dining room.

Meyer Lemon Tart with Graham Cracker Crust
(I found the recipe listed here, recipe adapted from here)

Graham Cracker Tart Shells
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream the butter  until smooth.  Add the sugars and continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and light colored. Add the honey and beat until combined.

Combine the flours, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl, and add to the butter mixture in two batches. Mix until the dough is well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and form into a disk – the flatter the better. Chill until firm, at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll out the dough to be 1/8 inch thick. Press into your desired tart pan. Prick dough with a fork all over.

Bake tart shell until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Lemon Cream
(makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
zest from 2 lemons
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 ounces butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, softened but not melting

Create a water bath by placing a saucepan of water over heat to simmer and placing a metal bowl unto the pan so its bottom does not touch the water. Combine the sugar and lemon zest together and add to the metal bowl. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice.

Cook the mixture over the simmering water, whisking constantly, until the cream thickens. Keep whisking while the mixture is heating up to prevent the eggs from cooking.

Once the cream is thickened – you should be able to make tracks in the mixture with your whisk – take the cream off the heat and strain it into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Let the cream rest for a bit until it cools.

Add in the butter pieces a few at the time and combine on high speed. Once all of the butter has been added, let the mixture combine for a few minutes longer to ensure the mixture is perfectly smooth.Once the cream is finished pour it into a container and let it chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour before assembly.

To assemble the tart: Pour cream into cooled shell and chill. Top with fresh whipped cream and fresh raspberries and keep cold until ready to serve.

Note: This recipe made two whole tarts by just increasing the cream by about 1/3. I made a full batch and then a half batch.