I get excited about baking and cooking, like some people get about shopping or vacations. It’s a sickness; and my two brothers, one sister-in-law, several nephews, a niece-in-law, and my kids, share it. Nuclear annihilation could be imminent… and all someone has to say is, “I could go for a little more of that pasta we had for dinner, wasn’t that good?” And the floodgates open:
“Yeah, wow the zucchini and sausage was so good together. How’d you make that Pat?”
“It was really easy, first I sauteed a couple cloves of chopped garlic in a little olive oil and then… ”
And while Patrick is telling how to make his sauce, someone has already jumped up and is heating leftover pasta in the microwave and bringing forks so everyone can sample more and the conversation never gets back on track.
My sister-in-law, Donna, dealt with cancer a few years ago and was in the middle of a dramatic retelling of some aspect of her treatment when someone made the mistake of mentioning food. Eyes lit up, recipes started being swapped and she threw her hands up and said, “I knew it, I knew this would happen! I thought no one would dare interrupt my cancer story, but even that doesn’t stop you guys. I can’t believe it.”
It’s true, we admit it. As soon as food is mentioned, we become almost hypnotized by the culinary possibilities. It’s not our fault, we were raised by hunter gatherers, who gardened and canned and pretty much lived for food. It’s in our DNA; we’re helpless.
Which is why I’m so excited to share this lemon square recipe with you. I’ve been searching for the perfect lemon square recipe for years. I found some that were even called Ultimate Lemon Butter Bars and included lemon curd, but were ridiculously time consuming and, in my opinion, not worth the effort.
Then I found one in a kid’s cookbook and I sort of tweaked it with more lemon juice and more butter, and a little lemon extract and it’s a winner. Tonight I added a cheesecake layer and it really is a fantastic addition. It’s cool too because baking magic (a highly scientific term) happens when you make them. You start out with the cheesecake layer on the bottom and when they’re cooked the cheesecake is on top. You won’t be able to stop eating these. I make them at Christmas and they’re always the first to go.
I came across another lemon cookie recipe this Christmas that my ex-husband’s first ex-wife shared on Facebook (only in California do you hear things like this) and it was great! It was for Italian Ricotta cookies and you can make them with either oranges or lemons. The lemon is killer. I’ll share that one next time, but you have to try these lemon bars first.
I was fortunate tonight. My oven, Satan; which I named last week when it burned 18 innocent cookies, behaved. I learned to turn down the temperature 25 degrees and check any cookies I’m baking five minutes before they’re supposed to be done. I’ll change the name to something kinder if it continues to behave. I wish you were here, I’d make you sit down and have one of these, they’re so good. My daughter loves them.
Here’s what they should look like when they’re done:
I call these: Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares
1 cup + 2 TBSP flour
1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Dash of salt
Combine flour, powdered sugar, butter and salt in bowl until mixed thoroughly. It will be pebbly, like pie crust starts out. Press it into an 8×8 square baking pan. Bake the crust at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes.
1 cup sugar
7 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
In medium bowl, mix eggs, sugar, lemon juice and extract with mixer or a whisk. Set aside and mix cheese cake layer.
8 oz cream cheese softened.
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Mix cheesecake ingredients with mixer until smooth. Pour over crust when crust is done baking. Then whisk lemon topping once more and pour it gently over the cream cheese mixture. (Be sure to reduce oven temperature to 325) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in 325 degree oven.
Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares are proof the universe knows what it’s doing.
Below see the look of bliss that could be on your kid’s faces too.