Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Will Cure What Ails You

Seems like my oldest (who is thirteen) is revisiting toddlerhood, in behavior certainly, and also with illnesses. Every other week, he is down with a fever or cough or runny nose. And this time, he shared it with the entire family (save my husband, who has had the great pleasure of spending the long holiday weekend digging holes in the garden and nursing four family members back to health).

I unfortunately became ill with a fever and hacking cough as well. And there was nothing that I wanted more than a bowl of steaming hot pho. Pronounced fuh, it is essentially Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served for breakfast, though we typicaly eat it for lunch. It's fabulous flavor comes from a few important ingredients--roasted onions and ginger, star anise and fish sauce. Rice noodles and your meat of choice are added to that rich and fragrant broth (I always have chicken breast because I'm kind of a sissy), but the more adventurous types can try various types of beef, fish balls, or tripe.

The kids love it plain but I love it spicy (it clears the sinuses, you know). Additional flavor comes from the garnishes which include basil (preferably Thai), sliced shallots, cilantro, lime juice, sliced jalapenos, bean sprouts, Sambal Oelek (chili paste), and Hoisin sauce which are served up on a large platter so you can add as much or as little as you like.

One bowl of this had me breathing again, and it wasn't so difficult that I couldn't manage to make it myself, even being under the weather. We moms never get a sick day anyway, right? The best part is that there are leftovers so I can enjoy this another day--perhaps tomorrow when my almost-better kids have gone back to school and I can enjoy some much needed peace and quiet.

Pho Ga
Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

This amazingly fragrant broth will warm you from the inside out. Make a large platter of the condiments, so everyone can choose how they want to garnish their soup.

Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: serves 4


2 yellow onions, quartered (not necessary to peel)
3 half-inch thick slices of fresh ginger root, smashed
64 ounces chicken stock
4 whole star anise
1 teaspoon sugar
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (usually found in the Asian section of your supermarket)

For garnish:
Bean sprouts
Thai (or regular) basil
Sliced jalapeno peppers
Lime wedges
Sliced shallots or scallions
Sambal Oelek (hot chili paste)
Hoisin sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the quartered onions and ginger on a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.

2. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour boiling water over the rice noodles and let them soak for 20 minutes or until soft and pliable--they will taste al dente. Drain.

3. Heat chicken stock in a large pot. Add roasted onions, ginger, sugar and star anise and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts and reduce heat, simmering for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and shred with two forks. Continue simmering broth for an additional 15 minutes.

4. Carefully pour soup through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Return the stock to the pot and discard the onions, ginger and spices. Return broth to a simmer and add the fish sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

5. If desired, boil the rice noodles for 3 minutes more in a pot of water to further cook them. Drain. (I usually skip this step because I like my noodles al dente.)

To serve: place some noodles and shredded chicken in the bottom of each (large) bowl. Top with simmering broth. Place all condiments on a platter and serve with chili paste and hoisin sauce, allowing each person to add what they like to their soup.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Eggcellent Egg Salad

Do you know how to boil an egg? I mean perfectly boil an egg, so that the yolk is cooked through but still creamy yellow--and most definitely not covered with that nasty gray film?

I loved boiled eggs. Deviled, turned into egg-salad, sliced and added to spinach salad or just eaten on its own, dipped in a little salt and pepper, boiled eggs are a nutritious and easy snack. But I cannot stand them when the yolks are gray. Ick. Ick. Ick.

So please, please cook them this way and I promise you your days of yucky yolks are gone forever!

Place as many eggs as you want to cook in a pot and cover with cold water.

Place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and turn the heat off. Yes off. Trust me. Set your timer for exactly 10 minutes and walk away...but not too far. And don't lift the lid to peek.

After 10 minutes, lift eggs from the pan.

And immediately submerge into an ice bath. Leave the eggs there until they are cool enough to handle.

Admittedly I suck at peeling eggs. I've read that older eggs peel easier, but no matter what I can't get them perfectly peeled. But I've found if you slip a spoon under the shell, it helps them come out a little better. Also peeling them under water helps some.

Here comes the best part....slice them in half and remove the yolks. Just look at them! Golden and beautiful...

Silky and shiny...and not gray at all. Now that's what I'm talking about!

Today I used my boiled eggs to make egg salad. Most recipes call for equal parts yolks and whites, but I prefer to use about half as many yolks as whites, just to lighten it up a little. To the chopped eggs, I also add some minced celery, Dijon mustard, light mayo, salt and pepper. And I like to top it off with some paprika and chopped parsley for color.

You can serve this salad on toasted sourdough bread (my favorite), or over a bed of lettuce. It also tastes great spooned onto saltine crackers. That's how my kids like it. Oh, I almost forgot to mention this--always make sure your eggs are free-range and organic. Better yet, find a local farmer who sells eggs or buy them at your farmers' market.

Egg Salad
Printable Recipe

Egg salad is a quintessential diner lunch menu item, and for good reason--it's delicious and simple to make. This recipe uses half as many yolks as whites, as well as light mayonnaise to help lower the fat and calorie count a bit. But feel free to use equal parts yolks as whites and/or full-fat mayonnaise if you want. Serve on toasted sourdough, over a bed of lettuce or on a cracker.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Yield: serves 3-4


6 eggs
1 stalk of celery, minced
1/4 cup light mayo
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper
pinch of paprika
1 teaspoon of chopped parsley


1. Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let eggs sit for 10 minutes, remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Peel eggs when they are room temperature.

2. Remove yolks and dice the egg whites. Place in a small mixing bowl. Dice 3 yolks and add to the bowl with the whites.

3. Add mayo, mustard, and salt and pepper and fold carefully to combine. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Broken Hearted on Valentine's Day

Sigh. We had a little incident last night. My daughter made brownies, dipped them in chocolate and lovingly dusted them heart shaped sprinkles. We wrapped them up, tied them with a red ribbon and topped them with hand-cut hearts. She declared that this would be the best Valentine's Day ever....and that her friends would just love her for giving them the best Valentine's Day treats ever.

And then she started vomiting. All. Night. Long.

And so she will spend the best Valentine's Day ever on the couch, pink cheeked and dozing in her favorite cozy blanket. I will spend the best Valentine's Day ever doing laundry and bleaching the house from top to bottom. And the best Valentine's Day treats ever are going in the trash.

I hope your day is much better than hers.....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winner, Winner!

Random.org has selected comment #15 as the winner of my give away! Congratulations to Celeste who said,

"We inherited a lemon tree when we moved into this house and i use lemons for my water, iced tea and to freshen up the garbage disposal. I even will use lemon and baking soda to make a paste to scrub stubborn stains!"

Please contact me via email (link is in my profile) with your mailing address. I hope you love the bath and shower gel as much as I do!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Cocktail O' Clock!

Happy Friday everyone! What a fun filled week this has been...and I'm looking forward to a wonderful weekend too. Guess what? It's cocktail o'clock! Because I've been featuring lemons all week, I've decided to create a cocktail using them too. Reminiscent of a lemon drop martini, I've fancied it up a little by infusing a lemon simple syrup with rosemary.

Simple syrup really is simple to make. Usually it's equal parts water and sugar, boiled until the sugar dissolves. But in this case, the syrup is made from freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar and is infused with a touch of rosemary, which lends a wonderful herbal note and cuts the sweetness of the sugar.

The recipe, adapted from Epicurious, is a spritzer of sorts--syrup and vodka over ice topped with a splash of club soda or seltzer. If you'd like to make a martini, just shake one part lemon syrup with 1 1/2-2 parts vodka, depending on how strong you like it. Strain it into a sugar rimmed martini glass and toast to this life. As my Danish grandfather would say, Skol!

Lemon Rosemary Fizz
Printable Recipe

This cocktail is like a sophisticated and fancy version of lemonade. The herbal notes of rosemary are the perfect counterpoint to the sweet syrup made with sugar and lemon juice, and the club soda adds just the right amount of bubbly goodness. Of course, this drink would make a wonderful mocktail too if you omit the vodka. Adapted from Epicurious.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: makes 8 beverages


1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 rosemary sprigs
8 ounces vodka
Chilled club soda or seltzer water


1. Place sugar, lemon juice and rosemary sprigs in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, until sugar is dissolved.

2. Chill syrup for one hour in the refrigerator. Remove rosemary sprigs.

3. Pour one ounce of syrup and one ounce of vodka in eight ice filled (8 ounce) glasses. Top with club soda and garnish with a sprig of rosemary if desired. Stir and serve immediately.

**Turn this into a martini by shaking 2 ounces of lemon syrup with 2 ounces of vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into 4 martini glasses that have been rimmed with sugar. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lemon Roasted Chicken

There is something fundamentally unsexy about raw chicken--it's cold and pink and flabby. But thankfully, it's not hard to make something so unappealing absolutely delicious...especially when you've got lemons hanging around. A simple dish, fragrant with garlic, rosemary and yes, lemon, I was able to throw it together in the morning so the chicken could soak in all the lovely flavors before being roasted.

I put it in the oven before I left to take the kids to the ranch for their riding lessons, set the delay start button and headed out the door. (As an aside, the chicken sat at room temperature--in the cold oven for just under an hour. While I don't recommend that practice, desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm happy to report that we are all fine the day after...) When we returned from the ranch, not only was dinner done, but the home was filled with the scrumptious aroma of garlic and rosemary and roast chicken--which is right up there on my list of top 10 smells.....just behind horse. So yesterday, I got the best of both worlds.

Slap your chicken skin side up in a baking dish. This is a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces. Cutting up your own chicken is a great way to save a few bucks and takes only a few minutes.

Cut enough lemon slices to place on each piece. So, in this case, eight.

Smash garlic cloves with the side of a heavy knife. Then they are really easy to slip out of their skins. Use one garlic clove for each piece of chicken, and toss them on top.

Now add herbs. I always have fresh rosemary growing in my garden, so that's what I used. But this would also be work well with thyme.

I had a lemon on my counter that had been zested earlier in the week, so I squeezed the juice over the chicken for extra flavor.

Finally, drizzle the whole thing with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Probably a few tablespoons or so. And sprinkle everything with a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

See, looks better already!

Cover it up and let it sit in the fridge all day, or even overnight.

Bake it at 425 degrees for about one hour. The garlic becomes tender, the lemons caramelize, and the chicken is juicy and wonderfully flavorful. Easy peasy.

This is your last chance to WIN the giveaway. Simply leave a comment here, telling me what YOU do with lemons by FIVE o'clock Friday. At that very happy hour, I will not only be mixing martinis, but I will be hitting the button to randomly select the winner of a nice bottle of FRESH Sugar Lemon Bath and Shower Gel. Wahoo!

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary
Printable Recipe

Your home will be filled with the amazing aroma of garlic and rosemary when you make this dish. And because the chicken has been marinating all day, it is incredibly tender, juicy and flavorful.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, plus marinating time
Yield: serves 8


1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
8 slices of lemon
8 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary
Juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


1. Place chicken in a baking dish, skin side up. Place one slice of lemon and one clove of garlic on the top of each piece. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt and pepper. Drizzle everything with the lemon juice and olive oil.

2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 50 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. (180 degrees in the thigh meat, and 165 in the breast.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sunshine Cake

If sunshine was cake, it would taste just like this. The bright flavors of lemon marry with butter and sour cream to create an amazingly tender and moist crumb. I wasn't kidding when I said that butter and lemon were made for each other--just like chocolate and peanut butter...Sonny and Cher...cat hair and black pants.

If you aren't in Southern California like me, chances are that you are very cold and it's probably also dark and dreary out, and you are spending your days slogging through constant mud, rain, snow or ice. This cake will cure you. It will remind you that warmth, and light, and the blessed sun do, in fact, exist and are coming...probably not soon enough, but coming. So run, don't walk, to your kitchen and turn on that warm oven and bake yourself some sunshine! You'll be glad you did.

And don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win some Fresh Sugar Lemon Bath and Shower Gel....then you can bathe with sunshine too!

Start with best quality ingredients....like lemons stolen from a neighbors tree.

Put some softened butter and sugar in your stand mixer.

Then beat the heck out of it for about 5 minutes, until it's light and fluffy.

Add your eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. And if your hands look as hideous as mine, go get yourself a manicure...or at least put on some lotion.

Use a microplane to zest your lemon. You do have a microplane, don't you? If not, stop here, run to your nearest kitchen store and get one. You'll thank me.

Add the zest, along with the juice from that lemon to the bowl and mix well.

If you are out of cake flour...or don't have any (and never did) that's okay. Add a some cornstarch (2 tablespoons of it per each cup) to the measuring cup before you measure out your flour. For this recipe you will use 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 1/2 scant cups of flour. Put it in a small bowl.

Along with a pinch of salt.

And some baking soda.

Whisk it around to blend the dry ingredients completely.

Then add half the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.

Dump in some sour cream...I never said that sunshine was diet food, did I? Followed by the rest of the flour.

I forgot to add the lemon extract, so I dumped it in at this point. You don't have to use it, but it makes it taste even lemonier. Lemonyer? More lemonish. Or whatever.

Scrape the bowl clean with a rubber spatula and spread it in your loaf pan. Mine baked for almost one hour.

Test it with a toothpick to see if it's done.

Whip up the glaze....it's made from butter, sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest and powdered sugar. Yum.

Pour over your cooled cake.

Let it pour down the sides.

Want a bite?

Lemon Loaf Cake
Printable Recipe

This cake is moist, sweet and tangy and just bursting with bright lemony flavor. If you are out of cake flour, you can make a substitute by adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch per each cup of flour. So for this recipe, use 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and a scant 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 8-10 servings


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sour cream

Lemon Icing:

2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a standard loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Mix in lemon juice, lemon zest and extract.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Add half to the batter and beat until combined. Then add the sour cream, beating gently, and finally the last portion of the flour mixture. Beat only until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and stir to make sure the batter is evenly mixed.

4. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

5. For icing, beat sour cream and butter together in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Beat in lemon juice and zest and drizzle over the cake. Store cake in the refrigerator.