Citrus to the Maxx

One of my favorite stores is T.J. Maxx.  And yes, it really is a “new store everyday!”  You have to be a certain kind of shopper to enjoy a store like T.J.’s, or T.K.’s as it is known in Europe.  The Maxx is not for shoppers on a mission or those, like the boyfriend, who like to go in, get it and get out.  On one trip into the Maxx, he lamented, “It’s like you’re just looking for things to buy.”   Exaaaactly!    You don’t really go into T.J.’s to buy, say, a specific item like a navy pair of shoes.  You go in and see what clever footwear just happens to be in your size and for a great price.   You feel so lucky when you find that perfect pair of shoes that you didn’t know you needed just a few minutes before.

On a trip to London, I was surprised to find the Maxx logo with a T.K. prefix. T.J.’s is T.K.’s in Europe so as not to be confused with the existing discount chain, TJ Hughes.

In addition to a veritable shoe buffet, T.J.’s features an abundance of body products such as soaps and lotions,  scrubs and balms, hand washes and perfumes, as well as shower gels and shampoos.  And, there are always lots of wonderful scents to choose from–Banana Vanilla and Cherry Almond, for example.  Citrus scents abound as well: Sumatra, grapefruit, lime, lemon, tangerine, kumquat, and more.

In just a few minutes, I gather up these examples to show how easy it is to find items that stand out on their own or look great bundled together for a gift.  While always a better deal at stores like Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, T.K. or T.J. Maxx, some products, or close similes thereof, are available online.   And, when it comes to facial products, be sure to check expiration dates.

Front row, left to right:

1. Body Shop’s Jolly Orange Bath and Shower Gel: a soap-free shower gel containing real orange seed oil with an aromatic scent of citrus and spice

2. Squeeze Eau de Parfum by Lilly Pulitzer. Fragrance Notes: pink grapefruit, lychee, lotus blossom, sun-drenched woods, water musk red currant, wild rose.

3. Lemongrass appears to be a favorite when is comes to hand soaps and T. J. carries several varieties.  Perhaps that is because the essential oils from the leaves of this grassy herb have an intense citrus aroma.  Lemon grass is also used to treat fungal infections and repel insects.  It’s interesting to note that the culinary influence of lemongrass shows up in how it is paired with other ingredients such as these lemongrass hand soap: Burt’s Bees with green tea, Kiss My Face with Clary sage, and the organic Nature’s Gate with Clary sage as well.  Good enough to eat.

4.  Lather up with this moisturizing Orange Jelly Bean Shower Gel and Bubble Bath from Philosophy.  Perfect for Easter baskets, too! The Maxx has a great selection of Philosophy products year round.
 

5.  Finds like this Bon Chic Seda France Orange Sumatra Flower candle are one of a kind’s from season’s past.  Visit Seda France for new luxury candle fragrances in citrus scents such as Italian Bergamot…or keep a look out for your own last season’s find and score a deal on this luxury brand.

6. I love reed scent diffusers to gently fragrance the home and T.J.’s always has a great variety to choose from, especially around the holidays.  Trinity Candle Factory is a nice online source for diffuser kits and they feature a long list of scents, including kumquat.  Kumquat, Chinese for “golden orange,” is exceptionally sweet and fragrant.  Although primarily sought after for their fruit, kumquat leaves and twigs provide oil prized for perfumery and aromatherapy.   Other citrus scents include Florida Orange and Lemon chiffon.  Handily, they have reed diffuser oil refills for order as well.    Another online source for diffusers is  Archipelago Botanicals  with scents such as Bergamot Tobacco, Mango Tangerine, Grapefruit, Pomegranate Citrus and Verbena Basil. 

 Back Row, left to right:

1 A blend of Tangerine and Lemongrass scents this hand soap.

2.  Oh, I wish I hadn’t left this little box of delectable Lavare lemon poppy seed bath soap squares behind.  Lavare products are always nicely packaged and feature botanical prints.  Great for gifts and stocking stuffers.

3.  A whimsical label.  Hand soap in sweet orange.

4.  And back to the Body Shop’s Jolly Orange line, this time in a body scrub.

Expand your search to linens and dinnerware as well.  On this outing, T.J.’s also features rustic  lemon themed dinnerware, “Lemon Sketch” by Maxcera. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So go on…take a stroll up and down the aisles until you find a treasure that you didn’t know you needed.  Your home will look and smell all the sweeter for it.

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Get Your Drizzle On!

 

When I added a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake to my lunch tray at the V & A Cafe of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I wasn’t even that hungry.  But, hey, the name of the cake was, well, so darn cute!  Besides, I figured, I have this lemon blog which makes me somewhat obligated to sample such aptly named treats for my, uh-hem,  readers.  For kicks, I googled the cake title when I got back home and was surprised to find that more than being cutely named, Lemon Drizzle Cake is actually a British classic.   I researched and reworked the recipe, working primarily off one from  BBC Good Food, and have included it here both in standard and metric with the help of this great conversion tool.    I have made the recipe several times since and always to rave reviews.   Easy, dependable, and delicious–the hallmarks of a classic. 

American readers will notice two ingredients not often called for in recipes from the states: caster sugar and self-rising flour.  Caster sugar is the name of a very fine sugar in Britain, so named because the grains are small enough to fit though a sugar “caster” or sprinkler.  It is sold as “superfine” or “baker’s” sugar in the United States.  Because of its fineness, it dissolves more quickly than regular white sugar, and so is especially useful in meringues and cold liquids.  To make  your own, grind granulated sugar for a couple of minutes in a food processor, letting the sugar dust settle before opening.

Caster Sugar is sold as Baker’s Sugar in the United States. Self-rising flour keeps measuring simple as it already includes the baking powder and salt.

Self-rising flour (or “self-raising” as it is called in the UK) is simply flour with baking soda evenly distributed throughout.  You can also make this ingredient at home by adding about 1  teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt per cup of flour, blending well.  Personally, I like the ease of having a bag of self-rising flour on hand–no measuring spoons or extra ingredients to be hampered by, which just adds to the ease of this recipe.

Lemon Drizzle Cake  is lovely with tea, coffee, or a tall glass of milk.  Increase the lemon quotient by adding a dollop of lemon curd atop each slice.  For an after dinner dessert to die for, serve with mixed berries, fresh whipped cream and a flute of chilled Lambrusco or champagne.  Lemon Drizzle Cake has easily become my favorite London import.  I hope it will become your “go to” recipe, too.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
1 1/2 c. butter/3 sticks/340 grams
1 1/2 c. caster sugar/340 grams
6 eggs
3 Tbs.finely lemon peel/60 ml
2 1/2 c. self-rising flour/312 grams
The Drizzle
2/3 c. lemon juice/about 5 oz.
2/3 caster sugar/150 grams
1-2 Tbs. finely grated lemon peel/20-40 ml

Method

1.  Pre-heat oven to 160 C/gas 4 or 325°F. 

2.  Zest and juice three to four large lemons.

3.  For the batter, beat together  softened butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy, then add eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing through.  Gradually add in the self-rising flour, then add the finely grated lemon zest and mix until well combined.

4.  Line two large or three small loaf pans with parchment paper (my favorite new tip), then spoon in the mixture and level  top. 

Leave parchment paper handles for easy removal of cakes when done baking.

5.   Bake for 50-55 mins until a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

6.  While the cake is baking, mix together the lemon juice, zest, and caster sugar for the drizzle.  

7.  When cake is golden on top, remove from oven and place pans on cooling racks.   Make three lengthwise slits about 1/2-1 inch deep on top of cake.  Spoon drizzle into slits and then overtop entire cake while still warm.  

8.  When completely cool, pick up by edges of parchment and remove from pans.  Slice and serve. Will keep in an airtight container for three to four days, or freeze for up to one month.

Lemon Drizzle Cake makes a bite-sized appearance, Victorian style, at the Portobello Market in West London’s Notting Hill.

    Portobello Market Sign

Serious crowds throng the market on Saturday afternoons.

    

The Elgin Crescent and Talbot Road section of the Portobello Market is where crowds thin out and colorful characters peddle their produce to locals.