When Life Gives You Lemons …..

When Life Gives You Lemons …..

lemon slice

Tucson, Arizona is an incredible place to be during the winter months for a number of reasons.  Most know the warm temperatures bring in snowbirds* by the droves.

*Snowbird – [snoh-burd] noun Informal. A person who vacations in or moves to a warmer climate during cold weather.

Swimming pool and beach ball
Snowbirds LOVE this stuff …                           (Photo courtesy of Raphael Biscaldi at Unsplash)

The low humidity and lack of insects is certainly the draw for a good number of folks.  And Tucson is not really that crowded, with a short rush hour and minimal traffic due to several interstate and highway options to navigate around the area.

Your shopping needs are covered with any retail outlet you might require – two malls and all of the large chain establishments, as well as unique mom and pop shops.  And I would be completely remiss if I failed to mention the Mexican food that draws so many to the area.

Nachos
Aye Chihuahua

But after spending three months living in the desert sun, I would have to say that right up there at the top of my list of Tucson favorites are the … LEMONS!

lemon tree
Love this lemon tree …

Holy Pucker Power, Batman!  The lemon trees at our RV Park (Tucson Lazy Days/KOA) are, let’s just say, bountiful and abundant!  They grow big and juicy and remind me of liquid sunshine!  You just have to make SOMETHING with them!

lemon tree
Whole lotta lemons …

Upon our arrival in Tucson, Mr. Jones was the one to first whip up a pitcher of lemonade.  He developed this recipe and it proves to be the perfect ratio of “sweet to sour” for our taste buds.  You can certainly add more sugar if you prefer it a bit sweeter.  We love this so much that I have taken to freezing lemon juice in ice cube trays and packing them in Ziploc bags in perfect portions that equal a pitcher.  Once we leave Tucson it will be easy to enjoy this refreshing beverage for months to come.

Mr. Joneses' Lemonade


Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Lemon Juice freshly squeezed
  • 6 Cups Water

Instructions

  1. Place two cups sugar and two cups water in saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, to make a simple syrup.

  2. Once the mixture is clear and all sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and pour in pitcher.

  3. Add the two cups of lemon juice and remaining six cups of water and mix well.

  4. This preparation is to our taste.  Add more sugar as desired.

  5. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a strawberry.  ENJOY!

glass of lemonade
Refreshing!

My mother used to make excellent lemon bars using a lemon cake mix as the base.  The filling was rich with cream cheese and the bars were luscious and gooey.  That had always been my “go-to” lemon bar recipe but with fresh lemons right outside my window, I felt the need to find a recipe to take advantage of them.  I found this one at Leigh Anne Wilkes – Your Homebased Mom.  I think it is terrific!

Lemon Bars

I have added convection oven cooking temperature in case you are like ME and use a convection oven!

Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 16 bars

Ingredients

Base

  • 1/2 Cup butter cold
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/4 Cup powdered sugar

Filling

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 grated lemon zest

Glaze

  • 3/4 Cup powdered sugar
  • lemon juice

Instructions

Base

  1. Cut together butter, flour and powdered sugar and press into 8 x 8 pan.


  2. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees (325 for convection oven).

Filling

  1. Mix together sugar, flour and baking powder.

  2. Add in eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest.

  3. Pour this mixture over baked crust and bake 20 - 25 minutes at 350 degrees (325 for convection oven) or until edges are golden brown and mixture is set.

Glaze

  1. Mix together powdered sugar with enough lemon juice to make a glaze soft enough to drizzle over lemon bars while they are still warm.

  2. Cool and ENJOY!

Lemon Bars
Gooey goodness!

And the King Kong of lemon recipes has to be Lemon Meringue Pie.  This is a great place to let you know that I am NOT an intuitive, much less an outstanding cook.  I can follow a recipe and things turn out well.  Mr. Jones and our kids really enjoy my cooking but I don’t have that natural ability (or desire – which I think is the REAL qualifier) to whip things up with what I find in the pantry.  I have made homemade lemon meringue pie a few times in my life and always feel as if things would go a LOT better if I had six or seven arms.  But this is a delicious recipe and with the intricacies of the recipe, I always strut a little once I’m done.  Give it a try – you will be happy you did.

The pie filling is one that I like from the Pioneer Woman’s recipes on the Food Network.  The meringue is the recipe that my mother always used and I used a premade crust to make things a bit easier – but I know it would be much better with a homemade crust.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Use a glass or metal bowl for the meringue!

Servings 1 pie

Ingredients

  • 1 9" pie crust prebaked

Pie Filling

  • 1 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks reserve 3 of the whites for meringue
  • 1/3 Cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Meringue

  • 3 egg whites room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 6 Tbsp sugar

Instructions

Pie Filling

  1. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a heavy saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Stir in the lemon juice.

  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/2 Cup water and set aside.

  3. Cook the lemon mixture over medium heat, whisking consistently until just beginning to thicken.  


  4. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and cook until it thickens.

  5. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.


  6. Fill the pie crust with the filling, spreading it out evenly.

Meringue

  1. Have egg whites at room temperature.  

  2. Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar, adding sugar while continuing to mix, until soft peaks form and all of sugar is dissolved.

  3. Spread meringue over the hot filling, sealing to the edge of the pastry.

  4. Bake at 350 degrees (325 for convection oven) until the meringue is golden about 12-15 minutes.  Cool thoroughly. ENJOY!

Easy peasy, right?  Maybe not so much – LOL – I think this poor pie fell victim to the arid climate of Arizona – and maybe an elevation problem.  Anyway, I believe that’s the story I’ll go with.  The meringue never formed the peaks that it should have, so I went ahead and poured it on the filling and baked it.  You know what?  It might not look pretty but it actually tasted terrific!   And Mr. Jones thought it was WONDERFUL!

Lemon Meringue Pie FAIL!!

Next year the plan is to spend the winter months in Florida so I’ll work on some recipes with freshly-squeezed oranges between now and then.  And consider yourself LUCKY when you get a recipe and any  actual COOKING out of me … because recipes and people who cook? Well, that’s a whole other blog!

DO you have favorite recipes using lemons – fresh or otherwise?  Let us know about YOUR favorites in the comments below!

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