Lemon & Lavender Shortbread

lemon and lavender cookies with nasturtium and lavender blossoms

I’ve been looking forward to posting this recipe for quite a while. We have quite a few lavender bushes around our yard and I’m always trying to think of ways to put all that lavender to use. Last Holiday season, I embedded some into resin to make coasters and trivets and I plan to make candles (ssh…they’ll probably wind up as Christmas presents for some folks) and maybe try soap though messing with lye kind of scares me so maybe not.

Anyway back to the lavender. A few weeks back I went through and picked blossoms off the lavender plants and I’ve been letting them air dry. I realize that not everyone grows their own lavender, several of the popular online spice retailers have dried lavender available and of course good ‘ol Amazon does.  Just with Amazon, make sure that its food grade or for culinary use.

Shortbread is pretty easy to make there’s no leavener, its just sugar, softened room temperature butter, a pinch of salt, flour and whatever flavoring you’d like to add, like vanilla extract or in this case lavender and lemon. They’re also nice because you don’t need any special cutters. You can roll the dough out to about a ½” thickness and then cut the dough into bars with a knife or pizza cutter. The dough is also very forgiving. I frequently re-roll the scraps though typically I will chill the dough back down in the fridge for a little while before I do that.

I suppose you can also make shortbread vegan by replacing the butter, though I’ve yet to find a shortening or similar that actually tastes good enough that I’d want to give up the butter. Shortbread dough is versatile. I use shortbread for my cut-out style Holiday Cookies and shortbread is a nice crust to use with custard style pies. Just dock the crust and blind bake before filling.

I’m using my regular shortbread recipe which you’ll find here. With a few important differences, first the cooking temperature and time which in this case is 275F for 60-75 minutes and I’ll be adding lemon zest and lavender blossoms as well as lemon extract. Baking the cookies low and slow will give them a really nice snap (perfect dunking texture). Here are the ingredients and instructions and there’s also a video below to walk you through the process.


  • 3 ½ standard sticks of room temperature softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 Tablespoon lavender blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of powdered sugar for dusting rolling pin and work surface
  • white sanding sugar, 1 TBS more of lemon zest and lavender for decorating (optional)

Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bow or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the your flavorings and slowly incorporate the salt and flour. Blend until dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and a ball starts to form. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Roll out and cut into desired shape and dock cookies several times with a fork or toothpick. Optional step: sprinkle with the sanding sugar, zest, lavender blend and use the rolling pin to slightly press the decorations into the dough.  Bake at 275F for 60-75 minutes. Larger thicker cookies require more baking time. You want the cookies to be golden brown on the bottom and set. Let cool on a wire rack

The almost Butternut Squash Loaf

As the title above sort of teases, the recipe this week is for a Butternut Squash Loaf. Or rather it was going to be. Even as a seasoned cook I experience kitchen mishaps. And I’m choosing to write this post about the ability to fail and acceptance of failure because I think that its important for all cooks especially newer cooks to realize that sometimes stuff just doesn’t work out and that’s ok. Especially with recipes that you find online or videos which make it seem that everything comes out perfect all the time. It doesn’t, most of us either are publishing recipes that we’ve cooked dozens if not hundreds of times and have been thoroughly/sort of tested. And even when I’m not creating recipes to post here, sometimes stuff in my everyday cooking doesn’t work out. I hosted a dinner party once with the intent of making falafel only to have the little balls of wonderful chickpea goodness disintegrate in the fryer. We all just laughed about it and noshed on salads and olives and commiserated. Sure I was dying a little on the inside mostly from embarrassment but there wasn’t really anything I could do to change the outcome so I just made the best of it.

Anyway the first part of the recipe goes perfectly fine. I got a couple of smallish maybe 1lb each butternut squash from the store. Sliced them in half and seeded them. Then I made a paste with brown sugar and butter and pumpkin pie spice and roasted them in the oven and then made a puree. Check out the video below to see the walk through.

I did that part a few days ago so I could use the homemade butternut puree in my bread. I got up excited to play around in the kitchen and started to measure out all the ingredients and doing all my prep. Everything is going perfectly fine, I get everything filmed and I get the loaves in the oven. But then I smell something burning so I check on the loaves. They’ve over-flowed out of the pan and one of them has even made it over the sides of the baking sheet (note to self clean the oven).

butternut squash loaf fail

Time for the recipe post-mortem. First it looks like I over-filled the pans. No worries, I still have some batter left over so I can fill another pan and try again. Well this time it doesn’t over flow but it won’t come out of the pan and it tastes off. Like too much baking soda off. In my laziness/haste earlier in the day I couldn’t be bothered to find the Tablespoon measuring spoon so I just poured baking soda into the batter willy nilly. Well of course that’ll turn out fine. What could possibly go wrong?

Lessons we’ve learned today. Don’t over  fill your loaf pans. Use metal or glass loaf pans and don’t be lazy with measuring while baking.

such promise…

Dinner in 30 minutes or less…..

Mahi-Mahi Piccata with Bucatini

If your family is anything like mine with everyone on crazy schedules and such sometimes getting a meal on the table in a timely fashion is a struggle. In fact when this blog originally started way back in 2013 the focus was on quick and easy meals for a busy family. Though we’ve deviated away from that concept over the years, the struggle to get a meal on the table before 9PM is still very real in my house. That’s where this mahi-mahi piccata recipe comes in. So long as the fish or chicken is defrosted (or fresh) before cooking you can have all the prep done and dinner plated and served in 30 minutes. In the case of mahi-mahi, all the prep and cooking and the cooking of the fish is done while the pasta cooks.

Recipe (serves 4)

4 4oz mahi-mahi fillets

4 TBS butter

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS chopped parsley

1 box bucatini

3 cloves of garlic crushed

¼ cup white wine

1 TBS capers

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 TBS flour for dusting on the fish

salt and pepper to taste

red chili flakes (optional)

In a large pot with a lid, bring 8 qts of heavily salted water to a boil. The water should taste like salt water.  While the water is coming to the boil, zest and juice the lemon, crush the garlic, chop the parsley and dry the fish fillets with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper and set aside. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions for al dente typically 8-10 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat 2 TBS of butter and the olive oil until foaming. Dust the fish on each side lightly with flour and shake off the excess. Place fish into the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side. This take about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and set aside on paper towel to drain.

Add the capers, garlic, lemon juice, zest and white wine to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Let the sauce will boil and slowly reduce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Adjust the heat to low until the pasta is ready to drain. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and  drain the pasta and set aside.  Add the remaining butter to the sauce and return the fish to the skillet. Add the drained pasta and toss until the fish and pasta is coated with the sauce. If the pasta is a little dry you can add a little of the pasta water. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon slices.



Apple and Pear Tart with Brûléed Top

Apple and Pear Tart with Bruleed top and a scoop of French Vanilla Ice Cream

This weeks recipe is quick and easy and uses store bought puff pastry and fall fruits. In this instance pears and apples since we had quit a few of then delivered with our produce order this week.


  • 3 cups of peeled and sliced apples and pears
  • 1/2 stick of melted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • caster or sanding sugar for bruleeing
  • 2 thawed puff pastry sheets

Preheat oven to 425F. In a medium bowl melt butter and add spices and brown sugar. Peel and slice fruit and add to the butter sugar mixture.

Apples and pears tossed with melted butter, brown sugar and spices

Toss the fruit with the butter and sugar then pour into a glass baking dish.

fruit in baking dish waiting to go into the oven

Bake in a 425F oven for 10-15 minutes until fruit softens and starts to caramelize.

While the fruits baking. spread thawed puff pastry onto a floured surface and cut into squares or circles. Make a shallow incision about 1/2 inch from the edge all the way around the puff pastry. This will score it. Dock the center of the dough several times with a fork, which will prevent the interior portion of the dough from puffing up too much and will allow it to easily form a cup once the dough is baked for 10 minutes.   Place the puff pastry shells onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Remove the apples from the oven and let cool while the puff pastry bakes for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes push the centers of the puff pastry down. This should be easy to do where it was scored. Fill the shells with a layer of fruit and sprinkle with a little salt and return to the over for another 5-7 minutes.

layer of fruit lining puff pastry shells

Remove the shell from the oven and let cool. When ready to serve, add sanding or caster sugar to the top and heat with a kitchen torch to for a burnt sugar crust on top.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Egg noodle flakes, chicken, carrots, celery and an airy matzo ball float in chicken broth

We’ve been struck down by some virulent form of rhinovirus or flu in these parts which is one of the down sides to working with the public. When I’m sick I crave soup though sadly when everyone in the house is also sick that means I either have to motivate myself to get out of bed and make it or order it. There are no Jewish Delis close by (one of the things I miss about living back east) to deliver soup so making the soup it is. We tried some canned matzo balls the other day and while not awful they weren’t good either so they didn’t satisfy the craving.

Veggies water and chicken simmering away for stock

I thought I had posted some time back how to make basic chicken stock, but scrolling through my past posts, I didn’t find one.  I save veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer to use for stock when the bag is full I will then simmer the veggies along with 8 quarts of water for simple veggie stock and simmer for about 4 hours. To make chicken stock I add a whole chicken and let them simmer away for a few hours periodically skimming and discarding the foam. After about 4 hours I taste the stock for seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste (and a couple of teaspoons chicken bouillon granules). I strain and retain the stock and chicken and discard the vegetables. I let the stock cool then place into freezer safe containers and store in the freezer until needed. The chicken I’ll cut up to use in salads or soup

Now for Chicken Noodle Soup with Matzo Ball….

Matzo Balls

¼ cup matzo meal

¼ cup vegetable oil or schmaltz

2 whole eggs

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients until well mixed.

Set aside for approximately 15 minutes to allow the matzo meal to hydrate.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and and add salt.  Put a few drops of vegetable oil on your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Form dough into golf ball sized balls and drop into the boiling water. Once all the dough has been used, cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the matzo balls for about 30 minutes. This will typical yield 8 golf ball sized matzo balls.

Chicken Noodle Soup

herbs, chicken and mirepoix waiting to go into stock pot

2 quarts chicken stock (see above)

2 cups cooked chicken meat cut into cubes

½ cup egg noodles

2 carrots chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

½ large onion chopped

herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano)

salt and pepper to taste

mirepoix and herbs sweating in stock pot

In a large stock pot, sweat carrots, celery, onions and herbs until vegetables are soften.  Add stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add chicken meat and noodles and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the chicken is warmed through and the noodles are cooked.  To serve, drain a matzo ball and place into a soup bowl and ladle the chicken noodle soup over the matzo ball and garnish with fresh thyme or chopped parsley.