Lemon Bars

 
lemon bars
It’s the tail end of winter and the lemons are everywhere. I live in an adorable neighborhood where people fill their yards with fruit trees, flowers, and crazy-looking succulents. One house a block and a half down from me has a lemon tree out front, brimming with fruit every year in late winter. Right now there are a hundred, maybe two hundred, fruits on their tree. Every time I walk by, I consider knocking on their door and asking if I can buy a bucketful. To turn into lemon bars, lemon tarts, lemon meringue pies, lemonades. 
 
I haven’t worked up that much neighborly courage yet. The lemons in today’s recipe aren’t from my neighbor’s tree, but even the ones from the market are amazing this time of year.
 
lemons
 
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Friday Things

friday things.

Whoa… Is it October already? The last few weeks have flown by for me. Things got so stressful and crazy so quickly! I do have a banana bread recipe that I want to share, but it isn’t quite ready yet. 

In the meanwhile, here are some of the fun links that have been serving as necessary distractions for me over the last few days! Most of them are food related, a couple of them aren’t. 

I made Joy the Baker’s One-Pot French Onion Pasta last night and it was serious comfort food. A perfect match for Thursday night homework anxiety. 

Speaking of which… Joy’s Baking Bootcamp is back! One year, four recipes, each one showcasing new techniques and ingredients from King Arthur Flour. I followed along last year and every. single. thing. was delicious– these pepperjack + green olive rolls were my favorite.  This time we begin with chocolate hazelnut rolls with quick puff pastry! 

Always charmed by Fanny’s blog, full of pretty photographs and illustrations and animated gifs. This is her ultimate kanelbullar (cinnamon roll) recipe, and I cannot wait to make it. 

Loving these 4 Cozy Recipes for October. Especially the radicchio salad. 

Navaratri Golu is coming up! It’s a Hindu holiday that marks the beginning of fall. I usually don’t celebrate it unless I’m at my parents’ place, but I loved this little explanation + guide to the festivities, and knew I had to share it. 

Considering participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015. Give cookies, get cookies, support a good cause. Have you done it? How did it go?

(Re) Obsessed with knitting. It’s so calming, and great stress relief. Currently finishing up that scarf I started approximately five years ago. Once I’m done, I’ll move on to simple hats and this perfect blanket

This month I’m kicking off an 8+ week long project for my social media class… I’m trying to figure out what strategies work best for growing an Instagram following. Follow me on Instagram and look out for notes and insights on my personal blog (nothing on there now, but content hopefully coming soon).  

Have a lovely weekend!

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Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Harissa Tomato Sauce)

shakshuka

I rushed home from work on Wednesday evening to make this dish. I got to my apartment by 6 PM, and thought I’d have plenty of time to make it and photograph it in natural light. But with the strange cloudy weather and incoming fog, there was barely any light left by the time I started cooking. 

I raced to get this dish on the table. Luckily for me, it took under 15 minutes, start to finish.

shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish, with particularly popular twists found in Turkey, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Traditionally, shakshuka is made of a base of onions, fresh peppers, and tomatoes, stewed and simmered into a sauce. Poached eggs are nestled on top. 

This version is a little simpler to make, and it’s my own take on a much-loved dish. I like the spicy peppery kick of harissa, and the extra depth of flavor from the tomato paste. Green onions replace regular ones for flavor and simplicity– they’re milder, but they also function as both base and garnish. 

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Mushroom & Greens Potstickers

Mushroom & Greens Potstickers | Kitchen in the HillsIt’s hard to believe that I haven’t written anything on this blog in a month…Especially when I went through phases when I’d write twice a week, then at least once a week. Lately I’ve been busy with school and travel and teaching and work, and I haven’t had as much time to cook up new things in the kitchen.

Luckily these potstickers are just the ticket during busy times. They’re customizable. They take a while to mix, fill, and fold. But once the hard work is done, they’re quick to cook… And you can cook them from frozen. 

Mushroom & Greens Potstickers | Kitchen in the Hills

The mushroom & greens filling is savory, a little spicy, but very light. Potstickers cook up with crisp bottoms and delicately soft tops. The filling cooks down in volume, and the mushrooms and cabbage release their liquid to make a sort-of broth. 

I like making these potstickers with kale instead of napa cabbage for flavor. (Cabbage just happened to be what was in my fridge.) If you’re going for something more substantial, I’d recommend filling these with sautéed mushrooms and onions. I’ve even made a cooked minced mushroom and nut filling that worked exceptionally well, and made these a lot heartier. 

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Mini Blueberry Cream Scones

These mini blueberry cream scones are simple, easy, and an instant hit.

Hello August.

Hello birthday. Hello to the last lazy afternoons and plane rides. Hello golden afternoons and ever-so-slightly-earlier sunsets. 

To be perfectly honest, this new month snuck up on me. 

Here I was thinking that summer was just beginning– I had finally learned to take advantage of my weekends and enjoy the season. I learned that I could make it to the pool for an hour after work, or hike in the hills in the afternoon sun. Take a picnic to the local park and enjoy the sunshine and warmth. Have lunch on the lawn. Count on it being light outside until nearly 9 PM. Eat tomatoes and corn and berries for an afternoon snack, because all of the produce is perfectly ripe and sweet this time of year.

And suddenly, it’s August. Back-to-school season, and nearly Fall semester. 

I’m going spend another month or two pretending that summer will never end. 

One thing you should definitely do this month, before berry season is over?

Make these scones. Make these scones, a blackberry pie or two, strawberry shortcakes, and peach-berry-basil cobblers. But begin with these scones.

These mini blueberry cream scones will be an instant hit at brunch!

These tiny cream scones are incredibly easy to make. You just whisk together your dry ingredients, stir in your cream, and add the best blueberries you can find. There’s not much more to it.

And, especially for being one of the simplest things to come out of your oven, these little scones are delightful. Light, tender, just dense enough. Bite-sized. Bursting with berry flavor, the baked and concentrated juice sometimes running down the sides, sticky and sweet. Golden brown on top and just a little crisp around the edges.

Eat these straight out of the oven or on the same day as you bake them for the best texture. If you need to store these overnight, an airtight container at room temperature will do. But if you can? Always go for fresh scones. 

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Restaurant-Style Thin Crust Pizza

Thin Crust Pizza

Just about anyone will tell you that you can make perfectly good pizza at home. Go to the store, pick up some pizza dough, roll it out into a big circle, throw on some toppings. Then stick it in the oven for, Oh, I don’t know, 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees?

But those of us who really know pizza? Who love it? We know that just isn’t true. You might be able to make a pizza-like object by following those instructions. But real pizza, it is not. 

Thin Crust Margherita Pizza

Good pizza takes time, dedication, and a tremendous amount of skill. We’re talking New York- or Neapolitan-style pies with maybe little riffs to turn them into something special. Pies that never stray too far from tradition. And pies that most definitely, always have perfectly crisp, slightly blackened crusts. Topped, but not too heavily. Tomato sauce that is bright-tart but also smooth and rich. Melty cheese, slightly bubbly and browned in places. 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

This recipe feels strange and out-of-place on my blog in the middle of summer. This recipe does not feel summery at all. It feels like something you bake up in October, when the air turns crisp. Or in December, for an office holiday party. Or maybe in late February, with the first snow melts.  

But there have been summer cold snaps in the East Bay, and I feel like they perfectly justify this banana chocolate crumb cake in the middle of July. The longest day of the year has come and gone, and I feel like this city still hasn’t made up its mind about the weather.

I spent the summer solstice wandering city sidewalks, blocks of shops and houses in full afternoon sun. It was Father’s Day, so I painted a mug at the ceramics studio for my dad. I ran a few errands. I went to the market for fresh produce. Filled my bag with corn, peppers, shallots, lemons, apricots, apples, mangoes, and plums. 

I had dinner at a West Berkeley comida under string lights and a crescent moon. 

It was so hot outside, and the warm weather continued for a week and a half.

Less than a week later, the weather turned cold and foggy. I found myself in the kitchen with a mug of hot chocolate and craving this banana chocolate crumb cake. Sweltering hot days turned into a streak of chilly nights. 

The weather is back to normal over here, blazing hot and constantly sunny… But I’m still eating slices of this cake out of the freezer. 

Here’s how we make it. 

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Sweet Plum Lemonade

Fourth of July weekend seems like the perfect time to share this lemonade recipe. It’s an easy recipe, and the perfect thirst quencher on a hot afternoon. 

This lemonade is made with sweet-tart plums, sugar, water, and lemon. It’s a stunning bright red, and flavorful despite the simple preparation. 

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Apricot Cashew Yogurt Bowl

As promised, a yogurt bowl recipe. Truly effortless. Extremely simple.

A perfect way to use homemade yogurt. A healthy snack, and portable if you make it in a jar. 

If you saw my blood orange yogurt bowl recipe, you’ll see that this bowl works the same way– yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and nuts. It’s a fail-proof formula, and one that barely requires a recipe.

This particular bowl– with homemade yogurt, apricots, and cashews– is my go-to late spring, early summer bowl. (I know it’s mid-summer now, but there are still apricots in the markets, so I’m going to say this recipe is still fair game.)

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How to Make Yogurt

How to Make Yogurt | Kitchen in the Hills

Last week, I was seriously stuck on inspiration for a blog post. I wanted to make something, and I wanted to blog about it. But I was running low on a lot of ingredients and didn’t have the time (or energy!) to make a run to the store. I looked into my fridge, and there I found my answer– a too-full carton of milk and a nearly-empty container of Greek yogurt. 

Could I culture yogurt myself? Could I do it in a way that was simple and stress free? And could I teach other people to do it, too? 

(The answers to the first two questions turned out to be “Yes!” The answer to the last one is for you to determine.)

How to Make Yogurt | Kitchen in the Hills

I know it seems like a lot could go wrong with yogurt– failed cultures, bad bacteria, sour milk. I’ve had a couple of yogurt fails myself, when I tried to culture yogurt in coconut milk, and then again when I tried it with nut milk. Did not work. 

But there’s a very simple method for yogurt-making that, when followed, yields beautiful and consistent results.

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