Let me remind you of…Lemon Chicken

But first…I shall recount my day.

It is Saturday.  At 9:30 AM my 17-year-old son comes into my room, sits next to me on the bed where I am still sleeping, and–while cuddling the cat–informs me that he has  been up since 7:30 AM, has showered and washed his hair, and is ready to “do something.”  Dressed in the new long sleeve American Eagle shirt that I got him (at 40% off on the back to school say, mind you), he is looking sharp.  And awake.   So, I head down stairs to make a cup of coffee and find that he has already unpacked my Starbucks VIA (I gave up on coffee makers long ago) and put the little packets in the stainless steel creamer pitcher from my grandmother, just like I do.  Clearly, he has already had his cup.

While sipping on my coffee, I make a few calls to family member on the other coast and catch my mother first.

“It is a beautiful day and Drew and I are going to go do something,” I tell her.

“Isn’t it a blessing to be able to say that and with confidence?” she asks.

It is, I agree.  A beautiful day.  Feeling better.  Mother and son time.

Soon after, we head downtown to the Farmer’s Market where we have an early Ethiopian lunch.  The most tender chicken, golden potatoes, and red sauce with nutmeg and cardamom to soak up in the spongy flatbread or injera. 

A delicious Ethiopian lunch at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market.

Tummies full, we stroll through the market, stopping to smell Red Barn’s heavenly lavender soap slices (made by a now retired math teacher) and admiring the heirloom tomatoes at Tiny’s Organic.  It is a beautiful,  warm early fall day and so we head on to our next destination: Stimpson’s Nature Reserve.

Once onto the trail, we pass the beaver pond and hike up a steady incline for a three-mile loop that will take us deep into the forests so typical of the Pacific Northwest.  Tall cedars and hemlocks line a trail that has become dusty after a dry summer…okay, that parts not so typical.   Sunlight streams through the dense forest.

Waiting for Mom to catch up.

Next on our agenda?  My famous Cowboy Cookies, per his request.  (Bonus recipe below, although no lemon is involved).  🙂  Once home, he settles onto his computer, I find a move on HBO (Sommersby) and the baking begins.

A couple of hours and garage cleaning spree later, it is nearing time for dinner.  We contemplate going to the store for some salmon, but he suggests we just “make something we have here.”  Smart boy.

I check the freezer.  “Mini-tacos, tilapia with Cajun seasoning, or chicken?” I offer.

“Chicken,” he replies.  Very smart boy.

I take two skinless/boneless chicken breasts out to thaw and know just what I will make–after we return from walking the dogs, that is.

Two tired and happy dogs later, I wash my hands in warm, sudsy water and am ready to get cookin’.   I scrub and quarter the Yukon Gold Potatoes and rinse and slice the narrow leafed Lacinato Kale from my bi-weekly Acme Farms and Kitchen local and organic Produce Box.  Both go into pots of boiling salted water.

“It’s going to get loud,” I warn before pounding and tenderizing the chicken breasts till they double in size.  I set half a stick of butter in a large skillet to melt while juicing a Meyer lemon. Some of the juice gets poured over the pulverized side of the chicken so that it soaks into the nooks and crannies and the rest gets added the butter in the skillet.  After flouring the chicken breasts on both sides, I place them in the pan to brown.   I sprinkle a little garlic salt on one side and when ready to turn, a little kosher salt on the other.  When the chicken breasts are nearly done, I add a few fresh rosemary leaves from my herb garden to the chicken breasts.

Meanwhile, more butter, kosher salt, and rosemary leaves are added to the potatoes.  The kale is plated with a dab of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We eat.  He is hungry and quiet.  Soon, however, he comments, “The chicken is good!”

“It’s easy,” I tell him.  “Lemon Chicken.”

“But what’s that flavor?” he asks.

“The rosemary?” I suggest.

“No, that flavor on the chicken?” he probes, indicating that something more must be making the chicken so tasty.

I take another bite and can taste what he means.

“Fresh squeezed lemon juice,” I tell him.  “It’s amazing how well pure lemon juice goes with chicken,” I say and he nods in agreement.

I promise to show him how to make it next time.  So easy.  So good.

He cleans his plate.

“There is more of everything,” I tell him.

“I think I’ll just have a little dessert now,” he says.

That means Mom’s homemade Cowboy Cookies and Grandma’s Cake Batter Ice Cream.

What else is a growing boy to do?

Cowboy Cookies
1 c. sweet cream butter with salt (microwaved for 15-seconds)
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
1 c. rice crispies
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut (optional but chewy good)
1 c. Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream brown sugar, sugar, and butter.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and beat till well-blended.  Add flour one cup at a time with soda and salt.  Stir in oatmeal, rice crispies, coconut, and chocolate chips.  Drop by 1 1/2″ cookie scoops onto baking stone or greased cookie sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes.  When you smell ’em they’re done!  Makes three dozen yummy cookies.

Chewy cowboy Cookies. Chocolate, coconut, rice crispies and oats.

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Be Mine Valentine: Lavender Lemon Cookies

Okay, y’all!  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

I’m not trying to channel Paula Dean, but these beauties are buttery!  Yum!  This recipe, adapted from Wine Imbiber, will be updated with pictures of my own later.  Just thought you should have it in time for weekend Valentine’s Day baking.  They freeze well and are even better made ahead, allowing the lemon zest to permeate the cookie base.   I eliminated the 2 Tbs. of lavender blossoms from the cookie base as called for in the original recipe.  The lavender buds in the icing will carry plenty of flavor and fragrance.  Looking forward to using the light violet sanding sugar in my cupboard as well!

Bonus recipe: If your cupid loves cupcakes, try this Lemonade Cupcake with Fresh Raspberry Frosting.  Another frosting option for cookies, too!

Lavender Lemon Valentines

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or lemon emulsion*
1–1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (about 2 large lemons, preferably Meyer)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 to 2–1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Optional: Colored sugar for decorating

Cream together the butter and confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Mix in the lemon extract and zest. Set aside. Sift together the salt, cornstarch and flour. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until the flour coats the butter but isn’t completely worked in.   Using your hands, lightly rub the ingredients together until the mixture is no longer dry. You will know it is done when it forms easily into a dough ball. Try not to overwork the mixture or you will end up with tough cookies. Flatten the dough out into a disc and place in a plastic re–sealable bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to three days).

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Take the fully–chilled dough and place it on top of a piece of parchment or a Silpat.  Using a rolling-pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. This dough barely spreads, so don’t worry about leaving a lot of space between each cookie. Remove the scraps from between each cookie and re–form into a flat disc. (If dough has become too soft or warm, re–refrigerate it for a few minutes before attempting to roll it out.)  Note: If you prefer to decorate the cookies with colored sugar alone, sprinkle it on before baking.  Lift up parchment paper or Silpat and place on top of cookie sheet.  Transfer sheet to upper third of oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just start turning golden on the edges.  Allow to cool before icing.  Tip: to get a perfect cut on the first roll, use Wilson’s Hearts Combo Cutter.  No scraps left behind!  I purchased mine, along with the lemon emulsion, at my local mall from The Kitchen Collection.

*Professional bakers almost always use emulsions over extracts. Unlike extracts, emulsions have a more potent, robust flavor that won’t bake out as they are alcohol free.  Available at Kitchen Collection.

Lemon Lavender Icing

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon, preferably Meyer)
1–2 tablespoons lemon juice

Whisk together first three ingredients. Start mixing in lemon juice by using one tablespoon at first, then continue adding in only enough to produce a smooth, fluid icing. You can add glaze over already sugared cookies for an extra special touch.  It is easiest to ice the cookies by dipping the tops into the icing and turning them over onto a wire rack with a paper towel underneath to catch drips.  

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 c. powdered sugar
A drop of two of yellow food coloring, for a soft, pale yellow

Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and the butter. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice, mixing to combine. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Frost cookies then run knife under warm water and smooth over frosting for a nice finish.  Decorate by adding a few lavender blossoms beneath the heart dimple or sprinkle with colored sugar. 

Wine recommendation from wine imbiber: A Champagne or sparkling wine pairs best with these cookies. We enjoyed them with a bottle of Bailly Lapierre’s Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Réserve sparkling wine.