Category Archives: Lemon

Trying New Things

Recently, I’ve been trying new things to try to pull the dinner wagon out of some well-worn ruts. Check out the following reviews about Meyer lemons, white asparagus, celery root, and parsnips.  Got a different opinion or other ideas? Leave a comment and let me know.

MEYER LEMONS showed up at King Soopers a few weeks ago on-sale, so I used them for Blueberry Cream Cheese Stollen, over salmon, on the white asparagus mentioned below, and to dress a salad—it is no wonder they are called the lemon of choice for chefs.  A cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, they have a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common lemons.  These gems offer all the punch without the pucker.  In season December—April, they are now my lemon of choice too.

WHITE ASPARAGUS is considered a delicacy because of its delicate, mild flavor and striking color. Grown under cover of soil to prevent the plant from producing chlorophyll like its green variety, it is like starting with a blank canvas.  This asparagus has a mild flavor, which may be more appealing to children trying asparagus for the first time. It is recommended to peel the spears so it is less fibrous otherwise the preparation methods are much the same.  Although I did like the vivid contrast of texture and color with black sesame seeds and Meyer lemons when served, I still prefer the distinct flavor and ease of preparation of green asparagus.

CELERY ROOT and PARSNIPS are a great addition to soups that ordinarily call for potatoes. This is not an original idea, as root vegetables have been interchangeable in soups and stews for centuries—it is just new for me as I try to incorporate a greater variety of vegetables in our diet. When making Seafood Chowder last week celery root (celeriac) and parsnips replaced half of the red potatoes, reducing carbohydrates while increasing the fiber. Cut into the same size and shape as the potatoes (as shown in the photo), these root vegetables boost flavor and blend in beautifully.

Also posted on The Nourishing Gourmet Penny Wise Platter Thursday.

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Stollen

For as long as I can remember, my mom made what she called Stollen every year at Christmas. Traditionalists would not recognize our family’s rendition of Stollen, which is similar to fruitcake. Ours would be described best as a tender sweet roll pastry cradling fresh or canned fruit, with nuts and a sweet glaze topping.

I can still remember the aroma of the yeast bread as a child and the large roasting pan we used to mix the dough in by hand. Cherry, blueberry, almond, apple, peach, and apricot flavors would make it hard to choose just one, so we would fill our plates with slivers of them all.  Of course, each of us had a different favorite and Mom faithfully indulged us. She learned to make this delightful pastry from her sister, Louise, who was a tremendous cook.

My sister Debbie and her daughter Angie

My sister, Debbie, and I have carried on the tradition with our own families, teaching our children to make it as well.  It is part of our family’s Christmas breakfast every year and we often give it as a gift to friends.

Although we use the same dough recipe and similar fillings, Debbie shapes her dough in the unique way our mother did—similar to a boat holding the fruit center with a lattice top. 

Making this Stollen recipe as gifts, she has made dozens of them at a time (usually by request), so this method made it easier to create more varieties with custom sizes.

Years ago, mine deviated in shape to resemble a Swedish Tea Ring or what some call a Christmas wreath. I liked the presentation and I can divide the dough to make smaller rings for gifts, about the size of a dinner plate.  Our family and friends settled on just a few favorite flavors—Blueberry, Cherry, and Blueberry-Cream Cheese (recipe below)—so this method has worked well for us. I have also experimented with different flour mixes to incorporate whole wheat here and there, or layered butter into the dough like a croissant to give it a richer texture from time to time.

Mom, who started it all!

It is heartwarming to know my mom, extended family, and close friends are enjoying this delicious Christmas breakfast just as we are.  Although separated by distance, we relish each bite of this family tradition, as though for just a moment, we are together again.

Mom with grandkids making Stollen

Blueberry Cream Cheese Stollen

Blueberry-Cream Cheese Christmas Stollen

1/2    Recipe Sweet Roll Dough (see below)
1        can  Wilderness More Fruit Blueberry Pie Filling
1/2    cup  sliced almonds, toasted

GLAZE:
1       cup  powdered sugar
1       tablespoon  milk
1/4   teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

CHEESE FILLING:
1       package cream cheese (8 Oz), softened at room temperature
1/4   cup  sugar
3       tablespoons  all-purpose flour
1       egg yolk
1/2   teaspoon  grated lemon peel
1       tablespoon  lemon juice

BLUEBERRY FILLING:  Put pie filling in a colander with fairly large holes.  Shake colander from side to side to remove as much filling so that mainly the fruit remains.  Lightly chop berries to make a very chunky paste.

CHEESE FILLING: Beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour, egg yolk, lemon peel, and lemon juice.

Roll 1/2 Sweet Roll Dough into rectangle, 15×9 inches, on a lightly floured surface.  Spread cream cheese filling over dough with spatula.  Spread blueberry paste over cream cheese leaving 1 inch clear at edge of dough.  Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side.  Pinch edge of dough to seal well.  Gently stretch roll to make even.

Shape into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down (if not using parchment paper, butter baking sheet).  Pinch ends together to seal ring.  With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals.  Gently separate the sections just a little.  Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 375° (if using sliced almonds, this is a good time to toast them while waiting for pastry to rise). Optional egg wash: Just before baking, whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of cream together (milk or water can also be used). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the stollen with the egg wash to give the finished pastry a shiny, golden appearance.

Bake stollen until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes of baking; if ring browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil while it finishes baking.

Remove from baking sheet onto wire rack to cool.  Once cooled, glaze and sprinkle with sliced toasted almonds while glaze is still wet, if desired.

GLAZE:  Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 almond extract until glaze is smooth.  Place in a Ziploc® bag and press down toward a bottom corner.  Snip the corner when you are ready to glaze and simply squeeze desired amount of glaze onto ring.

Store loosely wrapped in aluminum foil or in a storage container with the lid askew so the pastry remains moist, but not soggy.

Sweet Roll Dough

1          package active dry yeast
1/2      cup  warm water
1/2      cup  lukewarm milk, scalded then cooled
1/3      cup  sugar
1/2      cup  butter, softened but not melted
1           teaspoon  salt
1           whole  egg
3 3/4   cups  all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl.  Stir in milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour.  Mix until smooth*. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up.  Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough.  Shape, let rise and bake as directed.

Do-ahead Tip:  After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days.  Refrigerating the dough will help develop the flavor of the dough, but is not necessary.

Note: Up to 1/2 of the all-purpose flour can be substituted with whole wheat flour for a wheat pastry.

Chicken Piccata

In the midst of compiling recipes for a cookbook, I pay attention when my husband says, “this just made it into the top 10” while eating dinner. It’s not a new recipe, but rather than making do with I had on-hand to pull it together, we made a trip to the store for fresh ingredients. I had to agree—it was the best Chicken Piccata I had ever made.

What was different?  Fresh ingredients proved worth the trip.

No jars of prepared garlic or bottled lemon juice this time; fresh lemon, garlic, capers, and tender chicken create a memorable, classic Italian dish. Everyone knows that fresh is always better, but when it bumps an ole stand-by into the top 10, there is no better confirmation.

Chicken Piccata

2-3    chicken breast cutlets
2        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4    cup dry white wine
2        cloves garlic
1/2    cup  chicken broth
2        tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1        tablespoon capers, drained
2        tablespoons butter, unsalted
fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
fresh parsley

Season cutlets with salt and pepper then dust with flour. Add olive oil to a skillet and heat over med heat.

Sauté cutlets 2-3 minutes on one side.  Flip cutlets over and sauté the other side 1-2 minutes with the pan covered.  Transfer cutlets to a warm plate.

Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic.  Cook until garlic is lightly browned and liquid is nearly gone, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, lemon juice, and capers.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side 1 minute.  Finish with butter.  Once butter melts, serve cutlets with sauce poured over each one. Garnish with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

Spaghetti Squash

Serve with roasted spaghetti squash tossed with tomatoes, garlic, basil, feta and olive oil—top notch combo!