Meyer Lemon Bars with Pistachio Ginger Crust

Meyer lemon season is coming to an end soon, so let’s take advantage and squeeze out every bit of fragrant lemony-ness we can.  Pistachios and ginger pair extremely well with lemon, and are the prominent flavors in the buttery crust of these bars.  The filling uses both the juice and zest to get the most Meyer lemon flavor.  A simple glaze of confectioners’ sugar and more Meyer lemon juice tops it all off, along with a dusting of chopped pistachios to give it a salty crunchy balance.  And don’t worry.  We’ve got gluten free and whole wheat variations covered.  So go ahead, raise a glass (or lemon bar) to another citrus season.

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Bread Crumbs & Easy Mac & Cheese

 

If you are like me, you end up having a few slices of bread or a few rolls left when it comes time to make fresh bread.  I HATE throwing food away so I’ve found an easy way to use up those leftover pieces of bread.  Bread crumbs are probably one of the simplest things ever but they turn out best if you have a bit of time to dedicate to the process.  If the last remnants of loaves or rolls are too stale to enjoy, follow these simple steps to make your own bread crumbs.  The other reason I prefer to make my own, beside the fact that the bread I make for my family is made of 100% freshly milled whole wheat flour, store bought bread crumbs typically contain cheese and my daughter is allergic to milk.  I also like making my own because I can make just plain ones or add seasonings or herbs to make them whatever flavor I want.

My bread crumbs go through two toasting cycles.  This creates super crispy bread crumbs.  I start by toasting my bread slices or dinner rolls that have been cut in half.  You can do this in a regular toaster or on a sheet pan in the oven, just make sure they don’t burn.

L: Toasted Rolls C: My favorite herb blend R: Blend together in the Ankarsrum Blender Attachment

Be sure to let them cool completely before blending them.  This will ensure they do not become gummy in the blender.  Once blended, add your favorite spices or herbs and blend again just till mixed.  It really is to taste but I typically use 1 1/2 tsp. of herb blend per cup of bread crumbs. My favorite blend is a Bread Dipping mix by S.A.L.T. Sisters.  These seasoning and salt blends are the best on the market.

Once blended, spread out bread crumbs on a baking sheet.  Bake at 250° for 10 minutes, stir, spread back out and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Once finished, pour out onto a sheet of wax paper to speed up the cooling process.  Pour into an airtight container for storage. These keep for several months.

I didn’t feel like an entire post on bread crumbs was quite good enough so I wanted to share our family’s favorite Easy Mac & Cheese recipe that is topped with these delicious, crispy bread crumbs.  The base for this recipe is super yummy as is but you can easily add extras to it to make it even better.  The day I made this particular dish, I was able to use some leftover buffalo chicken, the last few strips of bacon, and shredded all the leftover blocks of cheese to create a creamy three cheese sauce.

L: Buffalo Chicken and Bacon C: 3 Cheese Blend R: Simple Cheese Sauce

I had a small block of mozzarella, cheddar and smoked Gouda which is my favorite blend of cheese.  I added these cheeses to an 8 oz. block of cream cheese and 2 cups heavy whipping cream.  Stir together over medium heat until smooth and creamy.  I then added in my sauteed chicken and bacon.

Toss in the cooked pasta and pour into a medium baking dish.  Top with bread crumbs and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and bread crumbs are a rich golden brown.

Hope this helps you save those last few pieces of bread. Enjoy!

 

Easy Mac & Cheese

 

8 oz. pasta noodles, cook as directed and drain

8 oz. cream cheese

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 cups shredded cheese (whichever kinds you prefer)

Optional Ingredients:

2 cup cooked chicken, chopped

4 strips bacon, chopped and cooked till crispy

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup prepared bread crumbs

 

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt together cream cheese, whipping cream and shredded cheese.  Whisk until smooth and creamy.  Add in optional ingredients and cooked noodles.  Stir until fully combined.  Pour into a medium baking dish, top with bread crumbs and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and bread crumbs are a rich golden brown.

Roasted Tomato Basil Sauce

We all know that store-bought tomatoes taste terrible in the winter, actually they often taste pretty watery and bland most of the year unless your grocery store carries heirlooms or locally grown ones.  Even then, they’re usually a far cry from ones picked right out of the garden.  But there is an exception to this rule: grape tomatoes.  They somehow taste good no matter what time of year it is.  And in the dead of winter when your plate needs a little splash of freshness to get through the gloomy days, grape tomatoes are an excellent substitute for canned tomato products when making sauce.

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