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Cooking with Myra: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade or some other recipe

Nov. 29, 2011 at 5:29 a.m.

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

Lemon Filling:

5 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, about 2-3 lemons

2 large eggs

1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest

Topping:

1 cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp. sugar

Butter or spray a tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Use a 8- to 9-inch tart pan. In the food processor, place sugar, flour, salt and butter and pulse until the pastry starts to come together and stick into clumps. Place the pastry into the tart pan. Using your fingertips, press the pastry on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the pastry, so the crust will not puff up while baking. Put the tart pan in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. This will allow the crust to harden and not shrink during baking.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. When pastry is chilled, place tart pan on a large baking sheet and bake until golden, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the filling, place the cream cheese in a food processor, and process until smooth or beat with an electric mixer. Add sugar, and continue to process until smooth. Add eggs, lemon juice and zest, and process until well blended. Pour filling into pre-baked, cooled shell, and bake for 25 minutes until filling is set. Transfer to wire rack and cool. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

For the topping, beat whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. You can pipe the cream onto the tarts or simply spread the whipping cream over the tart. Refrigerate until serving time.

By Myra Starkey

Last week, I was going out my front door to pick up the newspaper. My two poodles darted from my side and began to run in circles beneath our oak tree. From where I was standing, I could not tell what all the barking was about, so I crossed over into the grass and peered up into the tall tree. Since it was early morning, the golden sun rays were penetrating horizontally into the branches and wholly illuminating the tree.

There were at least three squirrels playing chase - jumping from branch to branch - which was really aggravating the dogs. Higher in the mass of interwoven branches were two birds squawking, also apparently irritated at the disturbance, that was the rowdiness of the squirrels and the protests of the poodles. Had I not stopped to look up, I would have never seen all this humorous activity taking place.

Sometimes, I don't take the time to slow down and observe the glories that exist in even much of what passes as routine. I move quickly throughout the day, running from one task to another, trying desperately to get everything done. In the meantime, I am probably missing a lot of what is taking place around me. Even worse, if things are not going my way I become irritated, instead of stopping to gather my thoughts and change my perspective.

The day before Thanksgiving, I was at work, so I had asked my son, Spencer, to run some of the last-minute errands I had not had time to do. Thankfully, he did not grumble, but asked for the list and set about his task. He had to return to the grocery store for a couple of forgotten Thanksgiving dinner items, and I cautioned him to be patient because I knew the lines would be long.

Next on his list was to pick up an ice cream cake that I had ordered for my niece, Leah's, birthday. Her favorite flavor is chocolate, so I asked for a triple chocolate ice cream cake.

I was preparing a birthday dinner for her that evening, which featured barbecued ribs. Spencer returned home with all the groceries, and the crowd of relatives at the house assisted him in putting up everything . well, almost everything.

I arrived home around 4:30 p.m. in time to get started on the dinner and began to get all the ingredients ready to cook.

I thought I noticed a box on the counter, but I was moving so quickly, I soon forgot about it as I busied myself in the kitchen. When Spencer surfaced again, I asked him about the ice cream cake, and he turned to my two sisters who were helping in the kitchen. He asked them if they had put it in the freezer.

About this time, my brain recognized the box, and I gasped. The cake, which had been about 6-inches tall an hour or so before, had shortened into a two-inch-tall soft pie. All eyes were on me as I smiled and simply picked it up, and said I was going to put it in the freezer in the garage. I returned to my task of cooking and said we could cut it like an ice cream pie after a couple of hours.

I could have begun to rant and rave and cast blame on any of the adults, including Spencer, who had failed to see the ice cream cone emblem located on the side of the box. But what would have that accomplished? We were all there to visit and enjoy each other on the Thanksgiving holiday, and Leah's birthday was on the day before the feast. I chose to look at the situation with a new perspective (we'll have pie instead of cake) and a bit of grace.

There are plenty of times in my life that I haven't risen to the occasion and chosen the high road, but I am working on being more patient and taking time to stare into the trees, or the eyes of others and understand more of the big picture. And when life gives you lemons, you can always make lemonade . or some other recipe.

One of my favorite things about December is that it is when lemons ripen. I have several friends who graciously drop off lemons from their trees this time of the year. Janet picked a few off her tree last week, and left them on my kitchen counter. I promptly squeezed them and turned the juice into miniature lemon tarts topped with whipped cream. The tart has a buttery, shortbread crust and a creamy tart filling, topped with soft peaks of whipping cream.

Don't forget the benefits of lemons. Because of the high vitamin C content, it is thought to prevent and treat many infections, hasten wound healing and treat urinary tract infections.

Although my doctor husband is an unbeliever in the healing powers of lemons, he cannot dispute much of this when he has a mouthful of lemon tart.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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