mini meyer lemon tea cakes

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Sigh.

I haven't been this depressed by a winter…well, ever. Which is fair, since the last winter this miserable and snowy and cold in Chicago? Happened before I was born. So "worst winter ever" is actually, at least personally, true.

I've been eyeing my ice cream maker longingly, and every time I walk past the dresses in my closet, I sigh dramatically. My general malaise extends to the kitchen. I have pounds of beets and carrots cluttering my refrigerator, and no desire to use them. I'm tired of stews and roasted meat and root vegetables and apples; I want asparagus and berries and grilled everything and ice cold sangria on the beach.

Alas, while I'll be escaping to California for a little while soon, at this rate Chicago won't see warm weather and spring vegetables until late May. In the meantime, there's lemons. Meyer lemons, to be exact, in tea cake form. What better to counter winter blues than sunny yellow, fragrant meyer lemons?

mini meyer lemon tea loaves

And boy does this cake use a lot of meyer lemons. At least 6, but probably more like 8. The resulting cake (or in my case, cakes) with its lemon syrup glaze, tastes and smells strongly of meyer lemons. It's enough lemon that the cake has a nice tartness, even though meyer lemons are sweeter and milder than their more traditional relatives. I chose to make mini-loaves because a) adorable, b) they are ready faster, and c) I found those pans first. What, you thought I put some planning into this?

meyer lemon tea cakes
adapted from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith

If you can't find meyer lemons, follow the book's substitution tip. Use regular lemons, but replace 3 tablespoons of the juice for the syrup and 1 tablespoon of the juice for the bread with orange juice.

You can use one loaf pan if that's what you have. I include baking times for both, but keep an eye on your small loaves after about 30 minutes.

for the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest

for the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean extract
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice

To make the syrup, combine sugar, juice and zest. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes total.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan or 4 miniature loaf pans by greasing and flouring; set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl), rub the 3 tablespoons of lemon zest into the granulated sugar until fragrant and evenly combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, and using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat on medium speed until blended, about a minute. Reduce speed to low, add a third of flour mixture and beat until just. Add the milk and mix again until just blended, then another third of the flour and mix again until blended. Repeat again with the butter, then the flour. Add the lemon juice and mix a few seconds until blended. Increase the speed to medium high and beat for 2 1/2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 55-65 minutes if using one loaf pan; 35-45 if using small pans. The top will be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Transfer the pans to a wire rack. Using a long, thin wooden skewer (or a fork), poke lots of holes into the cakes. Pour syrup evenly over the cakes. Let cool completely in the pans. Removing will be a bit tricky, so unless you need it for presentation purposes, just serve out of the pans!

moroccan-style lamb and chickpeas

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Oh how I wish I had the budget to enjoy lamb on a more regular basis. Alas, humanely raised lamb (eating poorly treated baby animals feels just plain wrong) costs a lot more than humanely raised chicken, leading to a tragic absence of lamb chops in my life. However, ground lamb is pretty affordable, and lends itself to many delicious applications, like this Moroccan-inspired lamb and chickpea stew. I dare not call this a tagine, because authenticity is not really what we are after here, although the cinnamon, cumin, and golden raisins are all elements of Moroccan cuisine.

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spaghetti squash and black bean tacos

spaghetti squash and black bean tacos

I love spaghetti squash. Sure, it tastes great, but my inner five-year-old also really enjoys the way the cooked squash turns into shreds when you scrape it with a fork. So weird. So cool.

Squash in tacos might sound a little weird, but variations on the theme are pretty common, as most squash takes very well to spicy Mexican flavors. This recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is the first I've seen to use spaghetti squash, but while unexpected, it works really well. Spaghetti squash retains a little bit of crunch, adding nice texture to the tacos. Beans, queso fresco, and onions round things out, but the spiced squash is the star here.

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road trip photo recap

So I did this thing, where I flew out to Seattle, met my friend Jen, and then we drove (well, Jen drove, I can't drive a manual) all the way down to Los Angeles, stopping in Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, Monterey along the way. We enjoyed the elevation of I-5 and the ridiculous coastal beauty of Highway 1. Then, I came home and tried to write a blog post about, and hadn't even gotten to Monterey three days later, and realized this was impossible. I've already made two things I want to blog about!

So I present a sample of the hundreds of photos I took on my trip, with brief explanations. You'll probably enjoy this more anyhow. And look, not that many pictures of food!

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red, white and blue no-bake cheesecake tart

red, white and blue no-bake cheesecake tart

Happy Independence Day!

I love the Fourth of July. Honestly, it's a ridiculous celebration but just so American. Celebrating the birth of our nation with explosions and absurd amounts of food cooked over fire while hanging out outside? I love it. Someone go get me some sparklers.

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little whole wheat strawberry cakes

little whole wheat strawberry cakes

I do hate to post back-to-back strawberry recipes. Wait, no I don't. Here in the Midwest, this week is probably last call for strawberries, and the end of the season berries are hard to beat for sweetness. Plus, these cakes received rave reviews from all who sampled them, myself included, so I figured it was my duty to share them as soon as possible.

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snapshot fridays – on the lake

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Taken yesterday, up along the Chicago lakefront. It was hazy and hot but the breeze and the shade made it seem beautiful. I picked out a picnic spot and looked up to see this rainbow kite tangled in the tree. 

roasted strawberry buttermilk sherbet

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It can be easy to forget in the dark days of January, when the only strawberries in Chicago are more sour than sweet and hard as rocks, just what fresh strawberries really taste like. Then, when they are the first fruit to make an appearance at local farmers' markets, I go crazy, bringing home more baskets of fruit than I can possibly eat. But that's fine, because since April I've been stashing recipes like this one for roasted strawberry buttermilk sherbet.

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snapshot fridays: fish tacos for dinner

Not every dinner I cook for myself is an elaborate affair, but they're not necessarily worth blogging about either. Today's snapshot (look, another new feature) is of tonight's dinner: tilapia tacos with guacamole and a mesclun and cilantro salad with lime dressing. The guac is from a local grocery store and the salad greens from my CSA. It just happened to be a much more photogenic meal than my usual quick dinners!

a new home and a new face

I am super excited to introduce to you the new (and improved, obviously) cake and bourbon, cakeandbourbon.com!

It's been a goal of mine for awhile to move the site to its own domain and to redesign to something a bit more crisp and modern. There are still kinks for me to work out – blogger redirects are giving me fits, and not all the posts have been reformatted – but I was impatient to share! I would love to hear your thoughts on the redesign, so leave them in that handy comment box.

I have new no recipes to share right now, although I made cookies during finals week:

Chocolate chips coming soon to a blog near you

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These were a Joy the Baker Cookbook recipe which she coincidentally posted herself just a week after I made them. You can find the recipe here.

Hopefully there will be something new out of my kitchen soon; I'm thinking homemade ice cream, perhaps with strawberries? Some of you know I've been weathering some rough times, and the shape and flow of my life is bound to continue to change, and the content of my posts with it. Don't worry, food and recipes will be a constant. I have an entirely unrealistic list of "must-make" recipes, the weather is warm and the grill is calling my name,  and the farmers markets are filling up with fruits and vegetables, like these beauties I devoured on Saturday:

strawberry close-up

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I'll be around.