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So, it’s been a while!  We have been busy with work, vacation (well, poor Dr. Matthews had to stay back and work, but I traveled to Gulf Shores, AL with my extended family and had a great time enjoying their company and, of course, the beautiful Gulf ocean!), home renovations (cabinet painting- I thought regular painting was bad but this is much, much worse), making new friends aaaaaand welcoming our newest addition, Juan-Pierre (who just goes by Pierre, or P-Kitty, or JP):

It's hard to tell, but there's a bow-tie on his collar

It’s hard to tell, but there’s a bow-tie on his collar.  He fancy.

He is a sweet manx kitten my mom’s cousin, his wife and their son in Georgia took in to foster until they could find him a home.  My great aunt and cousin drove him halfway to us to Greenville, SC, where Dr. Matthews’s cousin took possession and drove him the rest of the way.  We are so grateful that everyone was willing to do all that transporting so that we could adopt this sweet, cuddly little guy!  He has been attached to us since he arrived and is currently sitting next to me on the couch as I type.  Our other cat, an 8-year-old beautiful ball of fur named Madeline Josephina (who just goes by Madeline, or Maddy, or Maddy Moo, or Mooboo) is not super stoked about his arrival thus far, but we are hoping they will become buddies and keep one another company while we’re out of town or (eventually) preoccupied with child-rearing.

She got a new flower collar for the occasion of meeting Pierre

OK, on to the recipes!  I’ve confessed before that I’m not a big fan of chocolate, something I think I share with about 2% of the population. And in general I prefer savory foods to sweet, hence more cooking than baking goes down in my kitchen. However, there are several desserts I do enjoy quite a bit, and lemon blueberry bars is one of them. In fact, I appreciate most things citrus-related and today we are going to make the most of the ongoing summer season and focus on lemons.

Italian is my favorite food group, with pasta being my favorite sub-group. The following recipe turned out a-mazing, with just a few important adjustments.  As usual, my additions/adjustments are in italics:

Lemon Chicken Pasta with Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 grilled chicken breasts, sliced (see notes below on cooking the chicken)
  • 1 pound cooked penne
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1-2 whole lemons
  • 3/4 cups whipping cream (I substituted half & half)
  • 1/4 cup Half & Half (I substituted 2% milk)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (I halved this recipe to suit the two of us, but kept the amount of basil the same, thus would recommend doubling it!)
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • Lemon zest

Not pictured: lemon pepper seasoning (I decided to add it later in the process)

Not pictured: lemon pepper seasoning (I decided to add it later in the process)

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta as directed on box. Reserve one cup water, set pasta aside.
  2. In same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Squeeze in juice of 3 lemons and whisk together. (You can also sub some bottled lemon juice, if you don’t feel like squeezing forever.  Here is where I also added the lemon zest.  You can use however much you’d like, to taste.)
  3. Pour half & half and cream (or milk and half & half) together and whisk until hot. Dump in cheese and whisk until melted. Add salt pepper to taste. (I ended up using more milk to make a creamier consistency without too much watering down.)
  4. Check consistency and add hot pasta water until you reach your desired thickness. Stir in half of your basil.
  5. Pour pasta and sauce into a large bowl. Add chicken, sprinkle remaining basil on top.

I did not feel like grilling the chicken and instead opted to pan saute.  First, I seasoned generously with salt and lemon pepper seasoning.  Then I added some butter (just over a tablespoon) and olive oil to a large pan and heated the chicken over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes total, turning frequently (the chicken breasts were large and I did not pound them out beforehand, so they took longer than usual).

 

The seasoning will take on a nice blackened effect by the time you’re done:

 

Slice up your chicken and serve over the pasta, sprinkling basil and freshly grated parmesan on top, along with a few grinds of fresh black pepper:

Lemon Basil Chicken Pasta

 

Now, on to the lemon blueberry bars:

Ingredients

For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
For the filling:
  • 2 large egg yolks (Check out this video for an insanely easy and fun way to separate egg yolks!)
  • 1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I got about 1/4 cup out of 2 lemons, then used the jarred stuff for the rest)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (I didn’t measure but probably used more than this)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and lemon zest. Stir until graham cracker crumbs are moist. Press crumbs firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of prepared pan. Bake the graham cracker crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. To make the filling, combine the egg yolks and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir until mixture is smooth and begins to slightly thicken. Gently fold in the 3/4 of the blueberries, reserving some for the top.
  4. Pour the lemon blueberry filling evenly over the graham cracker crust then top with the remaining blueberries. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just set.
  5. Cool for 10 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled. Cut into bars and serve.

 

Lemon Blueberry Bars

 

These are a great combo of sweet and tangy, and definitely a favorite of those who prefer fruity deserts.  Chocolate lovers, however, (such as Dr. Matthews) may prefer something more… chocolatey.

And finally, I leave you with a refreshing drink mix I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this summer: grapefruit La Croix and lemonade (1:1 mix), which I will call Grapenade Spritzer:

Grapenade spritzer

 

The La Croix adds refreshing carbonation and cuts the sweetness of the lemonade.  Plus, you can feel good about fewer calories!  And, if you’re looking for something new at cocktail hour, you can add tequila or vodka.  Probably gin would be great, too!

I hope you’re all enjoying the tail end of summer.  I know we are looking forward to actually having an autumn this year (whereas in Charleston, no such thing exists) and I’m sure there will be lots of yummy fall goodies to post about 🙂

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