Lip-Puckering Lemon Bars


Happy Holidays from Alina! I’m home in west Michigan for Thanksgiving — on a short break from residency interviews, which means some free time = time for baking experimentation! My mom baked us a pumpkin pie last night, so today I thought I would gravitate away from the traditional fall pumpkin spice/sweet potato goodies and try my hand at one of my favorite desserts: the lemon bar. Smooth, delightfully tart custard with a buttery shortbread base… I start drooling just thinking about them. Local plug: one of my favorite lemon bars EVER is from Detroit’s Avalon International Breads — they add fresh raspberries on top.

Lemon bar from Avalon

Since this was my first time baking these and berries are a bit out of season here in Michigan, I stuck to a traditional, nothing-but-lemon version. I like my lemon bars super tart–hence the title of this blog post :)–so here we go:

– 1 cup salted butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, be sure to add a little bit of salt to your dough!)
– 1/2 cup white sugar
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp lemon zest

– 6 eggs
– 1 1/3 cup white sugar
– 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
– 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6-7 small lemons)
– 1 tsp lemon zest
– powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


IMG_2164 (1)

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, blend the softened butter, 2 cups flour, and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle with 1 tsp lemon zest.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until firm. Allow to cool in refrigerator or freezer for 10-15 minutes.


4. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, 6 tbsp flour, and 1 tsp (or more if you like!) of lemon zest. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the cooled crust.



5. Bake for an additional 30-32 minutes. Sift some powdered sugar over the top while warm (so it sticks!), and then allow to cool in the fridge for a couple hours before slicing.


Let the mouth-watering commence.



Lemon-y, tart, slightly sweet; pucker those lips!



Chewy Marshmallow Caramel Crisps

_DSC0390Bonfire night at Marika’s last night called for these delectable treats! Graham cracker bars topped with gooey caramel, marshmallow, almonds, and coconut. Yum! Alina’s mom found the recipe in an old cookbook years ago, and we modified it a little bit (i.e. added chocolate, obviously). From start to finish, these buttery bites will take you no longer than 30 minutes to whip up! It’s also such a versatile recipe that you could customize with all sorts of other nuts and toppings.

– 12 honey graham crackers
– 2 cups mini marshmallows
– 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
– 3/4 cup butter
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an ungreased 15x10in baking sheet or dish with the graham crackers and sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the crackers. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract over medium-low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.

2. Pour evenly over the crackers and marshmallows, and top with the almonds and coconut. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Cool completely and cut into bars.



Hellooooo Summer!

What a whirlwind the past few months have been! We studied for one of the most important exams of our medical career (USMLE Step 1 board), traveled to a tropical paradise in Kauai for a week to unwind, and have since started our 3rd year clinical rotations. Needless to say, that hasn’t left much time for cooking lately. But we were craving our nightly Hawaiian meals, which usually centered around poke. Since sushi-grade tuna is way out of our budget here in Michigan, this summer shrimp salad is a pocket-friendly alternative. 🙂

View from the Napali Coast in Kauai
View from the Napali Coast in Kauai
The whole crew enjoying a night out on the island
The whole crew enjoying a night out on the island

Ok, now for the good stuff: Asian-Style Summer Shrimp Salad


Ingredients (serves 4):
– 2 lb raw, peeled, deveined shrimp
– 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– crushed red pepper flake, to taste
– black pepper, to taste
– 3 small avocados, cubed
– 1 cucumber, sliced lengthwise
– 3 bunches green onion, chopped
– 2-3 tbsp lime juice
– 2 tbsp soy sauce
– 3/4 tsp sesame oil
– toasted sesame seeds
– seaweed salad (optional)
– coconut oil


1. In a large skillet, sauté the shrimp and garlic in some coconut oil. Season with pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and ginger. It should only take 3-5 minutes until the shrimp are fully cooked – don’t overcook! Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


2. Meanwhile, chop the veggies and toast the sesame seeds.


3. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the seaweed salad and mix well. Serve immediately or chill for later (it’s best the same day!). Garnish with seaweed salad and additional sesame seeds.



Healthy Breakfast Hash


Who doesn’t love brunch? We decided to do a healthy spin on the breakfast hash that’s just as hearty and satisfying as our favorite brunch spot version. Cozy up with a bowl of this simple and quick dish on your next lazy Sunday.


Ingredients (modified from Cooking Light; makes 4 servings):
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 medium red onion, vertically sliced
– a palmful of dried thyme
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
– 2 medium zucchini, cubed
– 1/4 cup water
– 4 oz kale, stemmed and chopped
– 3 cups fresh spinach
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 4 eggs
– your favorite hot sauce (optional)


1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add the thyme and garlic, and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the sweet potatoes, zucchini, and water; cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.


2. Stir in the kale and spinach, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes until the greens wilt.

3. Meanwhile, make the eggs to your preference. We went with over-easy–can’t go wrong with the runny yolk!

4. Top each serving with an egg and some hot sauce, if you’re feelin’ spicy. We also mixed in some sliced avocado on the fly.


Super Bowl Sunday!


We didn’t want to be cliche and make the standard buffalo hot wings for the super bowl, so we decided to go with honey Sriracha wings! These sticky, zesty wings are baked to crispy perfection and finger lickin’ good! If you’re a fan of spicy, we promise you will go crazy over this glaze. Recipe is adapted from Damn Delicious.

Ingredients (serves 4):
– 2 lbs chicken wings
– 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– salt and pepper, to taste
– chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)
– toasted sesame seeds (optional garnish)

– 5 tbsp coconut oil* This ended up being too much… try 3 tbsp!
– 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1/4 cup Sriracha (we also mixed in some Vietnamese chili garlic sauce)
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– juice of 1 lime
– 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.


2. To make the glaze, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour until lightly browned, which takes about a minute or two. Stir in honey, Sriracha, soy sauce, lime juice, and rice vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened. Ours seemed too oily at the top, so we had to skim some off so that the glaze would stick better to the wings.


3. In a large bowl, combine the wings, melted coconut oil, garlic powder, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.



4. Place onto a baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Next, drizzle the glaze over the wings, and broil for 3-4 minutes, until crispy.


5. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or chopped cilantro, if desired.


Polenta Lasagna


Apologies for the long hiatus! Sadly, life sometimes gets in the way of food. Our school schedule got super hectic towards the end of the year, but we hope to get in a few more good entries before we head off to study for our Step 1 board exam in March. Eek!

Busted out the aprons today! #nosplatterzone
Busted out the aprons today! #nosplatterzone

Anyway, on to the food. With the frigid winter we’ve been been having thanks to the polar vortex, we wanted to making something hearty and comforting. 🙂 This lasagna recipe, which substitutes sliced polenta for lasagna noodles, is an easy one-dish dinner sure to satisfy any comfort food cravings. Recipe is modified from Cooking Light.

– 1 lb ground lean turkey
– 2 16-oz tubes of polenta, cut into quarter inch slices
– 1.5 jars of marinara sauce (25 oz jars)
– 2 zucchini
– 1 small eggplant
– 1 medium onion
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 cups chopped mushrooms
– 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– dried basil
– dried oregano
– dried thyme
– garlic powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, brown the ground turkey in olive oil with half the minced garlic. Season with salt, pepper, a palmful of the dried herbs, and 1 tsp of garlic powder. Once cooked, set aside.


2. Chop up the eggplant, zucchini, onion. Saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the zucchini and eggplant. Season with salt, pepper, and another palmful of herbs. Stir every few minutes, until the zucchini and eggplant are tender. Meanwhile, add 1/2 a cup of marinara sauce to the bottom of a large baking dish, and line polenta slices on top.


3. Add the turkey back to the pot. Mix in the rest of the marinara sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.



4. Spoon a layer of the sauce mixture on top of the polenta slices, and then follow with the mozzarella (be generous with it!). Add more polenta slices, and repeat. Sprinkle some herbs on top of the final layer of mozzarella if you’d like.

5. Bake, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.



Healthier Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread


Fall is here, which means we’re finally allowed to indulge on delicious pumpkin goodies! And what better way to spend a rainy Sunday than baking up a fresh batch of pumpkin bread? This recipe makes a slightly healthier bread compared to traditional recipes, since it skips the butter and oil and uses whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt. Recipe credit to rachelcooks.


Ingredients (makes 2 loaves):
– one 15-oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
– 3 eggs, beaten
– 2 cups sugar (We used white sugar, but brown sugar would be just as good!)
– one 6-oz container honey Greek yogurt
– 3/4 cup water
– 2 tbsp vanilla extract
– 2 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (which is just a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves)
– a few handfuls semisweet chocolate chips

mixed batter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two loaf pans. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, yogurt, water, and vanilla extract.


2. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined. It’s important not to over-mix, or the bread will be too tough!


3. Split the batter between the two pans. We only had one loaf pan, so we used a baking dish for the other loaf — made for a funny-shaped bread, but just as tasty! Bake for about 1 hour (and get ready for your house to smell AMAZING). A knife inserted in the middle should come out clean when the bread is ready.


4. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pans, and then remove the loaves to finish cooling/serve. Pair with a warm cup of coffee or tea for a cozy fall snack! This bread is perfectly moist and decadent, you won’t even be able to tell that it’s “healthy!”