Monday, July 15, 2019

The Dessert You Didn't Know You Needed - Lemon Brownies

My love of lemon is well documented on this blog (take a look here, here, and here) so it was only natural that in my quest for the perfect dessert fix, I stumbled on yet another lemon sweet to add to my repertoire. If you're like most people, you might find the idea of a Lemon Brownie quite out of the box. Nevertheless, these didn't seem all that odd to me, because years ago I had discovered and enjoyed a similar recipe - Paula Deen's unexpectedly delicious recipe for orange brownies. And by discovered I mean I shamelessly ate far more than my fair share when a coworker brought them to the office. While my opinion of Paula has seen better days, her brownies (they are tangy, chewy, and orangey-just like a brownie but without the chocolate), made me a believer. 

Lemon Brownies, Photo: Neurotic Kitchen 
So what makes today's recipe more Lemon Brownie than the ubiquitous lemon bar? It's all about the texture - these will not be cake-like. What emerges from your oven will be chewy and fudgey, which is, in fact, just the way I like my chocolate brownies. The result is a bitesized confection that is tart but sweet, and overall, a hugely satisfying little sunny bite. For me, the lemon brownie is the epitome of an easy and elegant handheld dessert. Rest assured, the kids will like them too! 

We'll get to the recipe soon, but first, some tips:

Bring butter fully to room temperature.
Do not overmix batter.
Do not overbake batter. It's done when you see just the slightest golden color at the very corners of the pan. Not more than 25 minutes in most ovens - you'll want to keep an eye on it. 

Lemon Brownies
Recipe very lightly adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen


1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine Sea Salt 
2/3 Cup Salted Butter (equal to 11 Tablespoons) + a bit extra for greasing the pan
2 Large Eggs + 1 Large Egg White
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest 
2 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice

Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Sifted Confectioner's Sugar
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
2.5 teaspoons Lemon Zest
+ one drop of yellow food color (completely optional)
+ flakey Sea Salt (also optional)

Parchment Paper
Glass or metal pan (9x9)

Place rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. 
Grease the baking pan with butter and place parchment into the pan, leaving an overhang so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan once they've cooled. 

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a whisk in a large bowl and mixing by hand), stir together flour, sugar, and salt until well incorporated. Add butter and mix until well combined. Do NOT beat at high speed or over mix. In a small bowl whisk the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice together. Scrape edges of the bowl and pour the contents into the flour batter bowl, stirring with a whisk (or electric mixer) until the batter well blended and smooth. Once again, do not over-beat (note: this is precisely why I like to make this recipe by hand, just be sure ingredients are well-incorporated). 

With a rubber spatula, scrape batter into the baking pan and smooth the top. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Do not overbake. You will see slightly golden edges beginning to appear. The middle will be semi-firm but not hard. 

Let the brownies fully cool and then gently lift them out of the pan by the parchment overhand, supporting the bottom as well. 

Make the glaze by combining the confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest and whisk vigorously until smooth and glossy. You have two options with the glaze - you can either pour it onto the uncut brownies and cut them once it has hardened, or you can cut the brownies into small bitesized bars and separate them on a plate. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze onto each until almost totally covered. This is my preference. In either scenario you can optionally sprinkle the tiniest bit of flakey sea salt on to of the icing as it hardens. If your lemon zest is not bright yellow, you can add a drop of yellow food color to the glaze before adding it.

These brownies can be stored up to five days in fridge if you place them in an airtight container. They also freeze nicely! 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Mardi Gras in Minutes - Cajun Shrimp & Grits with Chard

Sorry it's taken so long for me to do a new post. Life's gotten extra busy -- I'm sure you can relate. Though I'm committed to adding more content here on my very first love, Neurotic Kitchen, you can always find frequent updates on our everyday meals and exploits over on instagram. Today's dish, an easy Mardi Gras meal that comes together in just 20 minutes (if you get pre-cleaned shrimp), originated over on instagram! I so enjoyed making and eating it, I knew it had to be recorded here for my archives. 

Check out the details below and I promise it won't be so long until I post again! 

Cajun Shrimp & Grits with Chard, Photo: NK

Cajun Shrimp & Grits with Chard
Serves 3-4
Timing: can be made in 20 minutes with pre-cleaned shrimp

1 Cup Quick Grits
1 Lb medium sized wild Shrimp, peeled, pre-cleaned, tails on or off 
Cajun Spice Blend (double recipe below)
1 Bunch Rainbow or Red Swiss Chard
2 Pats Butter
Canola or Grapeseed Oil for cooking Shrimp
Cheddar Cheese, for grating, optional
Hot Sauce of your choice

Mix Cajun Spice Blend (do ahead if possible). Recipe follows below. 
Wash and dry Chard, cut the leaves into 2 inch ribbons and the stems into half-inch lengths (do ahead if possible)
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Season on both sides with Cajun Spice Blend.

Start your Quick Grits according to the package instructions (boil water and add the grits) and while you are doing so, add 2 tablespoons of oil in a separate skillet and cook your shrimp, a few minutes per side, until fully pink and golden from the spices - the inside should be opaque but not dry. When shrimp are done set aside. In the same skillet, add a few tablespoons of water and toss in the chard over medium high heat. Let it wilt in the pan, stirring a few times (3-4 minutes). Add some butter to the Grits and loosen with water if needed.

To serve, spoon some Grits into each bowl, add grated cheddar if you like. Top with shrimp and chard, plus hot sauce of your liking. Enjoy!   

Cajun Spice Blend
Yield: Enough for 8 servings of shrimp

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
Optional crushed red pepper (will be quite hot with it)  

Mix! Can be made ahead.