I must admit, the last few months have been difficult. When Life gives you Lemons, well- you just try to make the best of it…right? But when a Southern kitchen has lemons, there’s no doubt you will get some of the best dishes in the region! With our close proximity to Florida’s citrus crops- oranges, key limes and lemons! And let’s not leave out Texas! We love to get those Texas Ruby Grapefruits! Lemon is a key ingredient in elevating our abundant seafood, lemon juice is prominent my favorite seafood cocktail and barbeque sauces,. Lemon perks up poultry too! My grandmother made a chicken stew that she called Lemon Butter Chicken- which relied on very few ingredients, in fact if you change just one ingredient- it changes the whole thing! She often used a whole hen or plump chicken salted and peppered, then surrounded it with peeled and quartered potatoes, squeezed the juice of at least four lemons, poured about a quart of water in the pot and added chunks of a whole stick of butter and ran it in a 350ºoven until the chicken was ‘falling off the bone tender’! Mimi claimed it would cure anything! After years of making this chicken- I can attest that it does make us all feel better! And in the last few months, it surely made me feel better! My only substitution is bone in, skin on chicken breasts. The ultimate comfort food.
And my, my, my! who can imagine Life without Lemon desserts! Meringue Pie, Lemon Ice Box Pie, Lemon Curd filled Shortbread, Lemon glazed Pound Cakes are wonderful and of course we always add a bit of lemon juice to Key Lime Pie when we substitute Persian Limes for Key Limes! My great aunt Mary Sue made a cake that we all knew as Lemon Cheese Cake, you might find this cake in very old cookbooks but it will be a rare find- this is a moist white layer cake, filled and coated with Lemon Curd. It is truly delicious. Then, I must add- Lemon Squares- literally from the cradle to the grave- at almost every important occasion you will find these moist, sweet, tangy bites at afternoon teas, wedding and baby showers, birthday parties, on dessert buffets and of course, funeral food- we love our Lemon Squares. Best of all they are truly easy to make with no special equipment or ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350º *Lemon Squares have two steps of baking.
- For the crust-
- 1/2 cup of softened Butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup of Sugar
Combine crust ingredients- do not overwork but do mix well and mash into an 8×8 square glass baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes, checking after 12 minutes- do not overbake! This is a half baked crust.
While crust is baking- make Lemon Filling_
- 2 eggs
- Zest of 2 medium lemons
- 3/4 cup of Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons of Flour
- 1/4 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
- 3-4 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice (must be fresh squeezed!)
Mix Filling ingredients well. Pour into half baked crust. Bake at 350º-18 to 20 minutes until settled-(may take longer) Bake until no fingerprint remains when lightly pressed but be careful not to overbake. Cool. *Some sprinkle with powdered sugar while it hot, some wait until it is cooled, but I find it is better to do both! Sprinkle powdered sugar while it is hot. Let cool completely. Then dust with another round of powdered sugar. Cut into squares- for parties or teas cut into small squares- think tiny! Or if for family- cut Lemon Squares any size you like! Enjoy!
Do you remember that part about – when Life gives you Lemons? Well, we try to make the best of it- right? No one wants to be around ‘whinin’ and cry-nin’ all the time! However, since the citrus color is certainly right and since I did ‘graduate’ last week, I wanted to share a little news with y’all. In mid January, a tumor was found on my carotid artery. The size of the tumor and the location made surgery risky for a person of a certain age… a-hem, like me. I was relieved by two things,
- First I do not have a cancer, this is a Carotid Body Paraganglioma, a tumor on my carotid artery, you can google it darlin’…and
- Second- I was a candidate for radiosurgery, which I finished last week!
One of the reasons I am sharing this with you, is that I want you to know that my writing might not have been up to par every time, however, writing for Camellia’s Cottage- has been a wonderful diversion. It has kept up my spirits to think about fun, funny and lovely things to share with you! And…I am so very thankful for my husband and family who were so supportive and for so many who prayed for me without fail for the last four months. I wrote a prayer or two and shared them with you during this lemon-y life experience, which included the loss of two very dear friends, illness and hardship for some who are so dear and my own precious mother is in a difficult recovery from a stroke and fractured hip.
And still, I wanted to write, in this sweet territory, Camellia’s Cottage. For the Radiosurgery, I was fitted with a special mask for these treatments. When I laid on the table for a treatment, the mask was snapped securely to the table. Since I am claustrophobic, I was worried about how I would endure- I repeated a special Bible verse from 2 Thessalonians 3:18 ‘Now the Lord of Peace Himself shall give you peace always by all means…’ And very often, I would think of y’all, what I would write next or better yet what you would comment back to me! I am in the waiting period now- in six weeks, I will be tested to see how successful the radiation has been. I have every reason to believe it will be! I am very thankful for the doctors, technicians and staff of UAB Medical Center, Kirkland Clinic and the Hazelrig- Salter Radiology Center. Right here in Alabama we have a first class Medical Center and University! I agreed to be photographed for teaching purposes, since this type of vascular tumor is seen only about 5-6 times per year at UAB and less than 50 in the entire Southeast. It gave me a sense of purpose that perhaps my tumor would help in future treatments. I came away from this rich life experience with a new appreciation for the quiet courage of the patients and families who are going through their own radiation treatments. Last Friday, the staff presented me with a graduation certificate, the mask is mine to keep.
They snapped my photograph and I left the center to the applause and congratulations of the staff ! I felt like a star! I wanted to celebrate with one of my favorite desserts, the Lemon Squares! Today seemed like the day to share my news with you, maybe you need to make a pot of Lemon Butter Chicken or a batch of Lemon Bars to celebrate the lemons in your life. Oh me, what can I say except…. * All photographs are obviously mine, please excuse my typos, you have my permission to gasp, giggle or even laugh outright at my Neon Citrus Mask! And, I have every reason to believe I will be writing for years to come! Always remember …
I Love y’all, Camellia