My Foray Into Food Storage

A regular gal learning about Food Storage, Home Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and more!


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8 Tips To Make a Good Lemon Bar GREAT!!

I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me what makes some things I bake taste better than theirs when we used the same recipe. Over the years, I’ve learned a few very small things which a very big difference in improving the overall taste. 

Today, I’m going to share how to take a basic lemon bar recipe and make some of the best lemon bars you’ve ever tasted.  I made lime bars, because that’s what I had in my kitchen, but the same principles apply to any citrus bars.  You can use the recipe below for any citrus bar (lime, orange, grapefruit).  

  

First, start with a good recipe. I really like this one. It makes a very yummy lemon bar, and it contains very simple ingredients. My only complaint is that it is not lemony enough for me. I want my lemon bars to scream “LEMON” when I take a bite. 

Second, use high quality, fresh ingredients. If the recipe calls for real butter, use real butter.  If it calls for lemon juice, use freshly squeezed lemon juice rather than bottled.  This is particularly important in recipes with just a few ingredients. 

Third, zest your lemons and add it to your lemon juice. The zest adds that super lemony tartness lemon bars need to make them great. Wash your citrus fruit in your favorite fruit/vegetable wash, or soak it in some water with white vinegar before you zest it. Then rinse and dry it. Next, use a micro plane grater like this one for easy zesting. You can use a zester, but I really like my micro plane grater. I use it for many things in my kitchen (grating Parmesan, grating ginger, etc.), so it’s not a single use tool.  You can find these at many retailers. Amazon sells one here
  

Fourth, since you’re using freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or other citrus juices, make sure that you have enough juice. Some lemons have more juice, and some have less. The average lemon has about 3 Tablespoons of juice. Measure your juice after you squeeze it. If you don’t have enough juice, squeeze another lemon or supplement with bottled juice to ensure you have at least 6 tablespoons of juice (for this recipe). I know I said freshly squeezed juice is betterm and it is, but it is better to use some bottled juice and have enough than to have too little juice from fresh lemons. 

I use my favorite pampered check lemon juicer, but you can find these at Walmart, Target, and many other retailers. Even Amazon has one you can view here.  
   
   

Fifth, make sure that you pre-bake your crust long enough. It should be getting brown on the edges. This will give a nice flavor to your crust. 
  

Sixth, do not use a hand mixer to mix the custard for your lemon bars.   Using a hand mixer will make your custard a bit frothy which changes the texture into something a little less decadent. Use a whisk to combine the juice, eggs, sugar, and flour. 
  

Seventh, let your lemon bars sit for at least 12 hours before you cut and serve them. Sure, it’s difficult to wait, because your lemon bars will smell so delicious, but, if you let them sit, the flavors of the crust and custard will combine so nicely.  Of course, in my house, we don’t wait. We always eat some as soon as they’re cool enough for us to eat them without burning ourselves. However, when I eat one the following day, I wish I’d waited, because they’re so much better. 
Finally, dust them lightly with powdered sugar, but do not go overboard!  The sweetness of the powdered sugar is a nice counterpoint to the tartness of the citrus, and too much sugar will mask too much of the lemony goodness of the bars. 
  

(You may notice that my lime bars are really green. My son wanted me to add a little food coloring so that no one would mistake them for lemon bars, so I added with three drops of green food coloring and one drop of blue.  Be careful with your food coloring or you may end up with this on your skin.)
  

And there you have it!  My tips for the most delicious lemon (lime, orange, or grapefruit) bars you’ll ever eat. 
Do you have any baking or cooking tips which take a good recipe and make it great?  I’d love for you to share!

*** Please note that there are affiliate links in this post. ***

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Tried Something New – Ezekiel Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love a good chocolate chip cookie?  Not me.  I love ’em!  What’s the problem?  There are very few redeeming qualities in chocolate chip cookies (other than that they’re delicious).  They’re not exactly health food, are they?  With the holiday weekend upon us, I decided to make some cookies, since everyone is home.  But I didn’t want to make the same, plain old chocolate chip cookies.  I decided to experiment with my Ezekiel mix and three different kinds of chocolate chips. (Not sure what Ezekiel Mix is? Read about it here and here.)  This is what I came up with.

 

Ezekiel Mix Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ezekiel Mix Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Ezekiel Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from a recipe by Ghirardelli

 

1 cup salted butter, softened

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon molasses (you can substitute 3/4 cup of the sugar and the molasses for brown sugar. See how to make your own brown sugar here.)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (real is better!)

2 large eggs

3 cups chocolate chips (I used an even mix of white chocolate, semi-sweet, and 60% cacao chips)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Ezekiel flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugars, and molasses.  Stir on medium until creamy.  Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and mix on low until combined.  Add salt, baking soda, and flours.  Stir on low until flour is incorporated.  Then add chocolate chips and mix until the chips are evenly distributed in the dough.  Put cookie dough into refrigerator while preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  When oven is ready, remove cookie dough from oven, form cookies, and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes or until to desired doneness.  Allow to sit on cookie sheet for a few minutes after removing from the oven, then transfer to a cooling rack.

 

Here’s my photo step-by-step.

 

All ingredients assembled, except for the real vanilla extract.  Don't forget it!  It makes these cookies extra delicious!

All ingredients assembled, except for the real vanilla extract. Don’t forget it! It makes these cookies extra delicious!

 

Mix together butter, sugar, and molasses.  If you prefer, or if you don't have molasses, substitute 3/4 cup of the sugar and molasses for brown sugar.  Basically, I'm making my own molasses, but I'm letting the mixer do the work.  Want to learn how to make it yourself?  Check out my tutorial here.

Mix together butter, sugar, and molasses. If you prefer, or if you don’t have molasses, substitute 3/4 cup of the sugar and molasses for brown sugar. Basically, I’m making my own molasses, but I’m letting the mixer do the work. Want to learn how to make it yourself? Check out my tutorial here.

 

Next. I added the eggs and vanilla extract.

Next. I added the eggs and vanilla extract, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

 

When the eggs and vanilla were incorporated, I added the salt, baking soda, all-purpose flour, and Ezekiel flour.  You can see it on the right.  It's a tad bit darker than the all-purpose flour.

When the eggs and vanilla were incorporated, I added the salt, baking soda, all-purpose flour, and Ezekiel flour. You can see it on the right. It’s a tad bit darker than the all-purpose flour.

 

Finally, I added the chocolate chips.  I added about 1 cup of each kind of chocolate chips: white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, and 60% cacao chips.

Finally, I added the chocolate chips. I added about 1 cup of each kind of chocolate chips: white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips, and 60% cacao chips.

 

When the chips were well combined with the dough, I removed the bowl from my mixer and popped it into the fridge while I preheated my oven.  Could I have preheated my oven before I started making the cookies?  Certainly!  But I've found that refrigerating the dough just a bit before baking the cookies helps the cookies hold their shape better when baking them.

When the chips were well combined with the dough, I removed the bowl from my mixer and popped it into the fridge while I preheated my oven. Could I have preheated my oven before I started making the cookies? Certainly! But I’ve found that refrigerating the dough just a bit before baking the cookies helps the cookies hold their shape better when baking them.

 

When the oven was hot and ready, I used a 2 tablespoon scoop to form my cookies and placed them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Then I put them in the oven for about 9 minutes until they were done.

When the oven was hot and ready, I used a 2 tablespoon scoop to form my cookies and placed them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Then I put them in the oven for about 9 minutes until they were done.

 

I rotated the pan once during cooking to ensure the cookies baked evenly, and removed it when the cookies looked just a tad bit underdone.  I left them on the cookie sheet to finish baking.

I rotated the pan once during cooking to ensure the cookies baked evenly, and removed it when the cookies looked just a tad bit underdone. I left them on the cookie sheet to finish baking.

 

This finished baking the cookies so they are just as I like them: chewy centers with crisp edges!

This finished baking the cookies so they are just as I like them: chewy centers with crisp edges!

 

These were a bit hit!  My kids (who are notoriously picky when it comes to asking them to eat "healthier" food) loved them.  They said they couldn't taste the Ezekiel flour.  I could, and I liked it.  It added a little more depth to the flavor.  Next time, I may back off the sugar just a bit, because I think the beans in the Ezekiel mix add a certain sweetness making some of the sugar unnecessary.

These were a bit hit! My kids (who are notoriously picky when it comes to asking them to eat “healthier” food) loved them. They said they couldn’t taste the Ezekiel flour. I could, and I liked it. It added a little more depth to the flavor. Next time, I may back off the sugar just a bit, because I think the beans in the Ezekiel mix add a certain sweetness making some of the sugar unnecessary.

 

So I made my cookies a tad bit healthier with some Ezekiel flour, and my kids loved them.  Win-win for me and my family!

 

How do you make unhealthy treats a little (or a lot) healthier?

 


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Well, I Made It – Ezekiel Bread – And Even Michael Liked It!

If you’ve been reading my blog the past couple of days, you’ve “heard” me mention Ezekiel Mix and Ezekiel Bread.  I repacked it for long term storage here and ground it into flour here. Some of my readers have asked what it is, because they had never heard of it before.  Ezekiel Mix (which is used to make Ezekiel Bread) is made from a recipe found in Ezekiel 4:9 in the Old Testament in The Bible.  It is made from a mixture of grains and legumes that form a complete protein.  The scripture giving the recipe reads: “Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles [lentils], and millet, and fitches [spelt], and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof.”

 

One very interesting fact about Ezekiel bread (and mix) is that the ingredients form a complete protein.  As any vegetarian and vegan knows, you must be careful in your food choices to ensure you not only get enough protein, but that you get complete proteins.  Ezekiel mix is not the only way to do it, but it is an easy way.  You can use it in a variety of dishes, but the most common is bread or as a flour in baked goods.

 

Last night, I attempted Ezekiel bread for the first time.  Before I started, I found two different types of recipes: quick breads and traditional bread that needs to rise.  I opted to make a quick bread for my first foray into Ezekiel bread. 

 

Ezekiel Quick Bread - Yummy!

Ezekiel Quick Bread – Yummy!

 

Ezekiel Quick Bread

Adapted from a recipe from Rainy Day Foods

 

4 cups warm water

1 cup honey (or molasses)

1 stick butter, salted

2 tablespoons yeast

5 cups Ezekiel Mix Flour

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons dough enhancer

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

(You may replace the dough enhancer and vital wheat gluten with another 1/4 cup Ezekiel flour.)

1-2 tablespoons melted butter

 

Preheat oven to the lowest possible temperature (170 degrees Fahrenheit).  In a large bowl, mix together warm water, honey, and yeast.  Let sit for 5 minutes until it begins to bubble and appears “frothy.”  Add remaining ingredients (flour, enhancer, vital wheat gluten, and salt) and stir until well combined and the dough is stretchy and elastic.  As this is a quick bread, it will not form a ball, but will remain a wet batter.

 

Pour batter into three greased bread pans, evenly distributing it between the pans.  Place into the preheated oven (170 degrees) and let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is about 1/2 inch from the top of the pan.  Do not let it rise any higher, or you will have a BIG mess in your oven.  Once the batter has risen, turn the oven up to 350 degrees WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR!  If you open the oven door, your bread will fall.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is nicely browned.  Remove from oven and frush the top of the loaves with melted butter (1-2 tablespoons).  Let cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool the rest of the way before cutting the bread.

 

Here’s my photo step-by-step.

 

Ingredients assembled...

Ingredients assembled…

 

First, I put 4 cups of warm water in my mixing bowl, then I added 1 cup of raw honey and 2 tablespoons of active dry yeast.  After 5 minutes, it was bubbly and ready to go.

First, I put 4 cups of warm water in my mixing bowl, then I added 1 cup of raw honey and 2 tablespoons of active dry yeast. After 5 minutes, it was bubbly and ready to go.

 

I added the remaining ingredients (vital wheat gluten, dough enhancer, salt, and Ezekiel flour).

I added the remaining ingredients (vital wheat gluten, dough enhancer, salt, and Ezekiel flour).

 

I let the mixer go for several minutes until it was well combined.  In retrospect, I think I should have used my paddle attachment rather than my dough hook.

I let the mixer go for several minutes until it was well combined. In retrospect, I think I should have used my paddle attachment rather than my dough hook.

 

I distributed the batter evenly between my three greased bread pans and popped it in a 170 degree oven.  After 20 minutes, the dough was about 1/2 inch from the top of the pan, so, without opening the oven door, I turned the oven temperature up to 350 degrees.  Then I let it bake for 30 minutes.

I distributed the batter evenly between my three greased bread pans and popped it in a 170 degree oven. After 20 minutes, the dough was about 1/2 inch from the top of the pan, so, without opening the oven door, I turned the oven temperature up to 350 degrees. Then I let it bake for 30 minutes.

 

At the 30 minute point, the bread was not super brown on the top, although the edges were browning.  So, I checked it with a toothpick, it came out clean, and I removed it from the oven.

At the 30 minute point, the bread was not super brown on the top, although the edges were browning.  I checked it with a toothpick, it came out clean, so I removed it from the oven and immediately brushed the top of the loaves with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter.

 

The bread did not rise quite the way I thought it would, so I was a bit worried the bread would be dense.

The bread did not rise quite the way I thought it would.  I was worried the bread would be dense, so I cut a loaf while still hot…

 

Not a good idea if you want pretty slices.  It tasted wonderful, but the slices weren't that attractive.

Not a good idea if you want pretty slices. It tasted wonderful, but the slices weren’t that attractive.

 

It cut much easier after letting the loaves cool completely.

It cut much easier after letting the loaves cool completely.

 

Now, this bread must be good, because my son, Michael, who is a very particular eater, loved it!  He generally hates all whole grain everything, so this is a miracle, indeed.  I am going to make the traditional rise bread recipe next week, and I think I’ll play around with cookies, replacing some of the regular flour with Ezekiel flour.  This has opened a whole new world of possibilities to me!

 

What do you think about this? 

And do you have any “healthy” recipes that your family doesn’t gawk at?