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.



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!”