Mom’s Lemon Bars

Posted: May 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dessert, Vegetarian | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Lemon Bars

My mom has been making these for as long as I can remember. They’re a cinch to make, delicious, and a great way to use up excess lemons (I just picked up several pounds from a friend’s tree to make marmalade… recipe for that coming soon!). These lemon bars are great to bring to tea or potlucks. They’re decadent without being too heavy, sweet without being overly sweet. In a word: perfect.

Lemon Bars


2 ¼ cups flour, divided
½ cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1 cup butter
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon baking powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Sift together 2 cups flour and ½ cup powdered sugar. Cut in cold butter using a pastry cutter until dough starts to clump together. Don’t overmix!
  3. Pat dough into a 9″x13″ pan and prick the top with a fork. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Beat together granulated sugar, eggs, lemon juice. Sift together ¼ cup flour and baking powder and add it to the egg/lemon/sugar mixture. Mix well.
  5. Pour egg mixture over the top of the baked crust. Bake again at 350°F for 25 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely in pan. Sift powdered sugar over the top and cut into squares.

Linda’s Brown Sugar Brownies

Posted: May 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dessert, Vegetarian | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Brown Sugar Brownies

This is a recipe from an old family friend. Linda was kind of like a second mom to me growing up, since my family lived only a couple of blocks away and I was close friends with her daughter from a very young age. Every year, she makes these amazing brown sugar brownies for their family’s Christmas Eve party, and I finally thought to get the recipe (which originates with her Aunt Mary) from her a couple of weeks ago. This weekend I made a bunch of them and brought them to a few Memorial Day BBQs, much to everyone’s delight. I just need to be careful to not eat too many and get sick! Oh yeah, and they’re incredibly easy to make.

Linda’s Brown Sugar Brownies


1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temperature. Yes, a POUND of butter.
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1¼ cups pecans, finely chopped
a little granulated sugar

Brown Sugar Brownies.


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar.
  3. Add flour, salt, and vanilla, mix thoroughly.
  4. Spread evenly in a 9½”x15″ glass or aluminum pan.
  5. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and granulated sugar. Use a glass to roll over the nuts and sugar so they’re pressed into the dough.
  6. Bake at 400°F until slightly risen and lightly brown around edges (around 15-19 minutes).
  7. Let cool (dough will not stay risen). When cool, cut into squares and remove from pan with a thin spatula.

Strawberry Jam

Posted: May 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Preserves, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: | 7 Comments »


One of my fondest cooking memories growing up was canning with my mom and Grandma Lucy. When I was a kid, every summer around Grandma’s and my birthday (July 4th and 11th respectively), Grandma would go to one of the local farms and pick up several flats of Blenheim apricots. Those are the best kind, you know, and they’re at their brief peak right around that time. Grandma would bring them over to my parents’ house and, along with my mom, we’d spend a very long, sticky day canning them and making them into jam. For the year after, we’d enjoy delicious home-canned apricots on our cottage cheese, and jam on our English muffins. Sadly, Grandma passed away when I was 12, and in her absence we didn’t really carry on with the tradition (when you’re a teenager, these things stop being cool, right?). After about a year, our canned apricot supply dwindled and then, alas, was finally gone. I haven’t tasted real apricot jam ever since.

Then last fall, I read an article in Bon Appétit about how to make jam and can it at home. It included a couple of delicious-looking recipes and, Christmas gifts in mind, I decided to re-kindle my relationship with home preserving. Ever since then, I’ve been a canning maniac. I’ve made drunken fig jam, caramel pear butter (both recipes from the Bon Appétit article), pluot jam, meyer lemon marmalade (the best!), meyer lemon jelly, tangerine marmalade, kiwi jam, and prickly pear jelly. I missed the berry season and most of the stone fruit season last year, so I’ve been waiting with bated breath ever since. I’ll finally have real apricot jam again! Not to mention cherry, ollalieberry, nectarine, etc. etc. etc…

Canning really puts you in tune with what’s in season when. You start watching out for what fruits are cheap, and when you see them for a dollar a pound you can’t help but snatch up a flat of them, take them home, and turn them into delectable, sticky goo! So when I saw that huge red, ripe strawberries had started showing up in the supermarket with an unexpectedly low price tag, I started buying them up and jamming away.

Last Friday, I invited my oldest friend Sasha over for the first round of strawberry jammin’. We’ve been cooking together since we were three years old! At first, we attempted to be creative and make a strawberry-lime marmalade. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped. The limes were just too overwhelmingly bitter and their rinds became hard, chewy chunks that really didn’t work with the texture of the jam. I had some ideas for how to fix these problems, but the allure of straight-up strawberry jam was too strong. We abandoned the strawberry-lime recipe and made a batch of some damned amazing strawberry jam. Never had a strawberry jam like it in my whole life.

Since then, I’ve made it two more times, once with my friend Kai and once by myself, and each time I’ve perfected the recipe a little more. Now I’d like to share it with you. Don’t know how to can? That’s okay, I’ll run you through the process from start to finish. I even made a little video for you.

High Acid Water Bath Canning

NOTE: Do not use this canning technique for any low-acid foods (vegetables, meats, etc.). Only use it for high-acid foods such as fruit. Here is a good canning tutorial that goes more in depth about the process.

ANOTHER NOTE: Don’t eat any food that shows any sign of spoilage (if the lid is bulging, or if it spurts out when you open it, or if liquids are cloudy or frothy, or if food is slimy or moldy or smells bad). Don’t even taste it. Botulism is no fun at all.

These are the tools you’ll need:

Water bath canner with rack
Water bath canner with rack
This is basically a huge pot with a rack and a lid. You can pick them up for about $25 at most mom & pop hardware stores. I recommend Cole Hardware if you live in San Francisco. also has everything you could ever possibly want that has to do with home preserving.

Ladle, long-handled tongs, wide-mouth canning funnel, jar lifter
Ladle, tongs, funnel, jar lifter
You probably already have the ladle and tongs. The funnel and jar lifter are canning-specific and, again, you should be able to get them at the hardware store or

Magnetic lid lifter
Magnetic lid lifter
You can fish your lids out of boiling water with tongs, but this simple device does a much better job. You can buy one cheap, but the ever-resourceful Kai assembled a free version with a magnet she found on a fridge tied to a piece of string. I made one for myself using fishing line and one of our absurdly strong rare earth magnets. Overkill? Probably. Whatever.

Half-pint canning jars, with lids and rings
Canning jars
A flat of these should run you about $10. Most supermarkets carry them but they like to charge you up to $15 a pop — don’t do it. Cole Hardware and Berkeley Bowl have them much cheaper, as does

A word of caution: Don’t use the lids for canning more than once. You can use them as regular lids, but don’t re-process them. The rubber seal breaks down and you could find yourself with un-sealed jars of botulism! Yay. In my kitchen, as a rule, once a lid has been processed, it goes in the garbage because I can’t be bothered to keep track of which are okay to use and which aren’t. You can re-use the jars and rings as many times as you like, though.

The canning process:

  1. First, you want to sterilize the jars. To do this, put your water bath canner on the stove and fill it with with hot water. Put the rack in place. Turn the heat on to high. Once the water is boiling (it will probably take quite a while), toss the rings in and use the jar lifter to place your clean jars on the rack, making sure the water level is above the top of all of the jars. The jars must boil for at least 10 minutes to be sterilized. Don’t put the lids in just yet.

    Boiling jars

  2. Make your jam per the recipe. When the jam is ready to be canned, use the jar lifter to grab the jars out of the canner and place them on a wooden cutting board or dishtowel. Be sure to not place them directly onto the cold countertop, as the difference in temperature will cause the glass to shatter. Using the magnetic lid lifter and/or tongs, pull the rings out and put them in a bowl (so they don’t fall all over the place). Try not to touch the jars or rings: a) they are very hot and b) you’ll contaminate them with your grimy meathooks.
  3. At this point, put the lids in the canner to be sterilized. You don’t want them in there for more than 5 minutes, lest the rubber seal get compromised.
  4. Using the funnel and ladle, spoon hot jam into sterile jars, being careful to not get jam on the rims of the jars. It’ll happen anyway, but the less it does, the easier your life will be. In each jar, leave 1/4″ to 1/2″ headspace at the top. That is, fill it to 1/4″ to 1/2″ under the top of the rim. If you end up having a jar that isn’t completely full, don’t bother processing it. Just put a lid on it, put it in the fridge, and eat it within 2 weeks. I’m sure you’ll manage.
  5. When you’re done transferring jam into jars, dampen a paper towel and clean any errant jam off the rims and threads of the jars. Jam on the rims will cause a bad seal, and a bad seal will cause botulism. Nobody wants botulism.
  6. Use your magnetic lid lifter and/or tongs to get the lids out of the boiling water and put them in the bowl with the rings. Be especially careful not to touch the undersides of the lids with your hands.
  7. Carefully place a lid on top of each jar, making sure that the seal lines up with the rim of the jar. Screw the rings on to hold them in place. The rings don’t have to be particularly tight– finger-tight is fine.
  8. Using the jar lifter, transfer jars back into the boiling water. You should see air bubbles escaping from each jar. Make sure the water covers every jar. Boil jars for 15 minutes. Remove and let them cool on the cutting board for 12 hours. Within the first few minutes you should hear the lids “popping” — that means you processed the jars correctly and they’re properly sealed. You can also check to make sure they’re sealed by pressing the top with your finger. If it doesn’t move, it’s sealed; if it clicks in, it’s not sealed and you should refrigerate the jam and eat it within 2 weeks. Properly sealed jars can be stored unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

I made a video to walk you through the process of making this jam and canning it:

Making Strawberry Jam from Heather Lynch on Vimeo.

This is my first time making a cooking video, so let me know what you think! I had fun making it, though there are definitely some things I’d do differently next time.

OKAY! Now that you know what you’re in for, here’s how to make the jam itself:

Strawberry Jam

Adapted from this recipe on

Makes approximately 8 half-pint jars of jam.


4 lbs. strawberries, cored and sliced
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup water


  1. Start heating the water in your water bath canner. Go ahead and put the jars and rings in now (but not the lids).
  2. Wash, core, and slice the strawberries. Squeeze lemon juice.

    Core the strawberries

    Sliced strawberries

    Lemon juice

  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, mix sliced strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, and water. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Place a plate in the freezer. Don’t ask questions, just do it.
  5. Turn heat up as high as it can go and bring mixture to a rapid boil, stirring often. Jam should continue bubbling even when you stir it — that’s how you know it’s boiling enough. Watch the video above to see how properly boiling jam looks. Keep an eye on it because when it first starts to boil, it’ll bubble up and threaten to overflow. You may need to temporarily turn down the heat to prevent this from happening.

    When it starts to boil
    Jam, almost overflowing.

  6. Stirring frequently and skimming off any foam that develops, boil for 20-30 minutes until the jam is thickened.

    Boiled down a bit
    Boiled down and thickened a bit.

    To test for doneness, pull that plate out of the freezer and drop a teaspoon of jam onto it. Return to it to the freezer for about 1 minute. After the minute is up, run your finger through the jam. If stays separate, it’s ready to go. You can also taste it at this point. I find that boiling it longer–30 minutes or so–gives the jam the best flavor because it caramelizes the sugars a bit. Just be careful not to boil it too long or it can burn.

  7. Can! Follow the procedure outlined above.

    More strawberry jam

Note: This recipe is a reduced-sugar version of one found on Most jam recipes call for an absurd amount of sugar. This one used a cup of sugar per half-pint jar! If you have a sweet tooth, though, feel free to use more sugar; just add it at the beginning. More sugar will also cause the jam to set better and be less runny. It still sets pretty well without it, though.

“Mrs. Fields” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted: April 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cookies, Dessert, Vegetarian | 4 Comments »

Chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven.

Everyone has a chocolate chip cookie recipe. This is mine. I have no idea if it’s actually Mrs. Fields’ recipe or not. The original recipe is scrawled in my 2nd grade penmanship; I brought it home from school one day. Its source has long since been forgotten, though I often wonder which Monte Vista Elementary School mom (or dad?) bestowed it upon me. Since I have been making these cookies basically forever, this recipe plays a crucial role in my culinary education. And, I must say, they are delicious.

Astonishingly, the original recipe makes about 100 cookies. I normally halve it for 50 cookies (plus what I eat from the dough). You could halve it again and it would be just fine. Below is the recipe for 50 cookies.

“Mrs. Fields” Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 12-oz. package chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla with a mixer until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs. Mix well.
  4. Add salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour. Mix well.
  5. Put the 2 1/2 cups oatmeal into the blender and whiz it till it’s ground like flour. Add to the dough and mix well. It should be pretty thick at this point.
  6. Add chocolate chips and mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly incorporated.

    Nothing quite like cookie dough.

    Be sure to sample the dough liberally along the way.

  7. Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet.


    Make them about this big.

  8. Bake one sheet at a time for about 9 minutes, or until the peaks of the cookies are just getting golden brown but the rest of the cookie is still light and looks uncooked (it should still be shiny).
  9. Remove from oven and let cool on the cookie pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling rack. (Cookies will fall apart if you try to transfer them sooner.)
  10. And try not to eat all of them at once like I always do.

Dainty Cucumber Sandwiches (for a proper tea time)

Posted: April 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Sandwiches, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: | 2 Comments »

I have a group of friends that loves throwing fancy picnics, and consequently I have found it necessary to learn how to make cucumber sandwiches. Last weekend I brought a batch of them to a lovely ladies-only picnic in Dolores Park. We played croquet, drank beer out of tiny teacups and gorged on strawberries, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, and of course itsy bitsy sandwiches with the crusts cut off (including startlingly delicious combinations like spam and eggs). All in all a wonderful afternoon.

A ladies' picnic
Photo by Rachel Bunkers-Harmes

Croquet in the park
Our fearless leader, Jane Davis, takes a shot. Photo by Rachel Bunkers-Harmes

There are many different variations on cucumber sandwiches, but I opted for a very simple version. I find the simplicity of flavors delightful! I pulled together this recipe for cucumber sandwiches from several sources on the internet, though I have long since lost them (sorry!). The key to cucumber sandwiches is timing. You can’t make them more than a half-hour ahead of time or they’ll get soggy.

Dainty Cucumber Sandwiches

Dainty Cucumber Sandwiches (for a proper tea time)


1 loaf white bread – I like Orowheat Country Potato for its slight buttery flavor (though it’s actually vegan)
1 large cucumber, peeled
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 stick of salted butter, room temperature – you can use Earth Balance if you’re vegan.


  1. An hour and a half before you want to serve the sandwiches, pull the butter out of the fridge so it warms to room temperature. In a non-reactive (ceramic) bowl, mix the vinegar and the salt together. Slice the peeled cucumber very thinly and toss it with the vinegar/salt mix. Let it marinate for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

    Marinating the cucumbers

  2. Drain and rinse the cucumber slices. In a single layer, place them on paper towels to soak up the excess moisture, patting the tops dry.
  3. Butter one side of the bread. Evenly distribute cucumber rounds in a single layer on top. Place a second slice of bread on top of that. Cut off crusts. Cut the remaining rectangle in half, then cut each of the halves diagonally. Each sandwich will produce four perfect triangles.
  4. Arrange artfully on a tray and serve to your most proper friends at tea time. Secretly devour the crusts when they’re not looking.

Dutch Baby

Posted: March 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Dairy-free, Vegetarian | Tags: | 7 Comments »

Look! I made a crazy thing!

Dutch Baby

Look at the lift on this thing!

It’s called a Dutch Baby. It’s not actually Dutch, but German. The theory is that “Dutch” is an Americanized version of the word “Deutsch” (German). The baby part? I have no idea. I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally put babies in the oven.

Last weekend my friend Rick made dutch babies as part of a manly start to a manly day. I was so taken with his photographs that I knew I had to try one of my own. He sent me this recipe, which has a great picture tutorial. I followed it (mostly) and my baby came out great, just like it was supposed to. I was kind of amazed that it actually puffed. Some sort of crazy kitchen alchemy I tell you.

The recipe is basically the same as the Swedish Pancakes recipe I grew up with, except that it has three times as many eggs — hence the puffiness. The dutch baby batter is also completely unsweetened and unsalted, and as a result I felt its taste was slightly lacking. Next time I think I’ll add a pinch of salt and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, per the swedish pancake recipe. Hopefully that won’t mess with the chemistry that leads to the puffiness. I also feel it could’ve done with a lot less butter. Edit: Tried it with the salt, brown sugar, and less butter. Marked improvement! Also, putting the butter in the oven for a few minutes to brown is makes it even awesomer.

Of course you can top a dutch baby with anything you think of. I went with simple maple syrup, but lemon juice/powdered sugar is also recommended, as is fruit, or jam. Yum!

Dutch Babies (aka German Pancakes)

From German Pancakes – Dutch Babies by

Feeds 2-4 people


3 eggs, room temperature (it is important that they’re room temp, not cold)
1/2 cup milk, room temperature (I used soymilk)
1/2 cup sifted bread flour or all purpose flour*
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
generous pinch salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar

* Bread flour gives the dutch baby more lift, but I used all purpose flour and it worked beautifully.


  1. Pull your eggs and milk out of the fridge and let sit till room temperature. Start the oven preheating to 450F. Place 10-12″ cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe frying pan) in the oven while it’s preheating. Use a pan that has sides that are at most 3″ tall.
  2. While the oven’s preheating, mix the batter. In a large bowl, whisk eggs till light and frothy. Add milk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon (and salt and sugar); whisk 5 more minutes till lumps are gone or mostly gone.
  3. Using a pot holder, pull the skillet out of the oven. Put butter into skillet and swirl it around until it’s melted, being sure to get it up on the sides of the pan. Stick it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so, to get the butter a little browned.
  4. Pour batter in pan all at once and immediately return to the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes till puffed and golden brown. I know it’s tempting, but don’t open the oven midway through to check!
  5. Serve immediately with maple syrup, fruit, jam, or lemon juice and powdered sugar. The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings!

Mushroom Spinach Quiche

Posted: March 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Pies, Vegetarian | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Mushroom Spinach Quiche

Those bacon recipes are a hard act to follow since they were just soooooo decadent, but my friend Dani and I made something delightful tonight, so I just have to share! I know, I know, mushroom spinach quiche — boring, right? No, actually it turned out completely delicious. There’s a reason quiches are so popular. Plus it was really fun cooking with Dani, tasting things along the way and getting slightly starry-eyed together.

To make this quiche, I ended up pulling together two recipes I found on the internet:

  1. Quick Spinach Mushroom Quiche from, by Mindy Spearman
  2. Mushroom Quiche from

In the first recipe, I wasn’t big on the packaged soup seasoning or the crescent rolls, so I trolled the comments for suggestions for substitution. MAVENZ99 recommends 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, a pinch of thyme, and 1/2 tsp. dry mustard. Sounded good to me, so I went with that. I added a bit of nutmeg too, thanks to the second recipe — and shallots instead of green onions.

I used a Mrs. Smith’s frozen pie crust. Not exactly the healthiest thing in the world, but better than Pillsbury — at least with Mrs. Smith’s the hydrogenated oil only showed up in the “less than 2%” section of the ingredients, after baking soda (it was the second or third ingredient in the Pillsbury crusts!). I could have gone for the super healthy organic whole wheat crust but I wanted that light flakiness that you can’t really get with whole wheat flour. And yes, I could have made my own crust, but honestly, I don’t have time for that on a weeknight! Sorry guys.

I liked the method from the second recipe better, so I followed that for the most part. I also made some modifications of my own. I used soymilk instead of half & half in deference to my lactose intolerant boyfriend. In my experience that kind of substitution doesn’t make much of a taste difference, but it sure is healthier! Feel free to use half & half though, if you prefer. I’m sure it’d be awesome. Lastly I used Jarlsberg (a kind of swiss cheese) instead of Monterey Jack or Gruyere, and put a dash of sherry in the pan with the mushrooms to reduce. Mmm.

Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Adapted from Quick Spinach Mushroom Quiche from, by Mindy Spearman, and Mushroom Quiche from


  • 1 frozen 9″ pie crust, or make your own
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter or margarine)
  • 2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms (I used large brown ones)
  • 2 cups torn spinach leaves, packed down a bit
  • 2 medium shallots, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste for seasoning mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch dry thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (or milk or half & half)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Jarlsberg (or cheese of your choice)


  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Pull out pie crust and let thaw for 15 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes till golden brown but not too dark. If you want, you can line it with tinfoil and fill it with dried beans to prevent it from puffing, but we didn’t do this and it worked just fine. I just poked the puffiness down a bit. Let cool completely (it should be done by the time you’re done with everything else).
  2. Chop all your veggies and shred your cheese while the pie crust is baking.
  3. Heat olive oil in skillet (I like cast iron) over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until translucent and slightly brown. Add mushrooms; season with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released some liquid and it has evaporated — about 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high to caramelize them a bit. They should be dark golden brown. Splash a bit of cooking sherry in and stir the mushrooms around in it till the sherry is all evaporated — shouldn’t take long. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until it’s significantly reduced — about 3 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the soymilk and spices and continue whisking till combined.
  5. Spread half the cheese in an even layer over the bottom of the pie crust. Add the spinach/mushroom combination in an even layer over the cheese. Add the rest of the cheese in another layer. Pour the egg mixture over the top.
  6. Put quiche on another pan to catch the drips. Cook in 375F oven for 30-35 minutes until the center is just set (not jiggly). You may need to put tinfoil over the crust partway through to prevent it from burning, but we didn’t run into any problems with that. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting.

What we ended up with was a delightful, faintly sweet but still quite savory pie, rich and filling but not in a way that makes you feel like you might have a heart attack any moment. We enjoyed a few slices with a nice salad and had a lovely, completely satisfying meal together.

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