“Almost Spring” Lemon Kale Soup

While other parts of the country have lovely breezes and tree blossoms, springtime in Bozeman varies from 65 and gorgeous to torrential rain and 20-mph winds. As the wettest and most temperamental time of year, April and May can see the entire weather spectrum in the span of just a few hours. This means while my morning ride might be delightful, my commute home is just as likely to be a drenching headwind. Such is life.

Because of this, however, my food desires can also change at a moment’s notice, which makes it challenging to do my normal weekly lunch and dinner prepping. If I make soup on Sunday, by Wednesday it could be 75 degrees (which is what happened this week); if I plan out some tasty salads, Tuesday will be met will a blizzard. Clearly this isn’t a huge crisis but as someone who likes to eat with the weather it does pose some difficulty.

In light of that, this soup spans the spectrum of weather, equally warming on a chilly day as it is fresh and spring on a warmer ones. A light broth (either vegetable or chicken) surrounds a light but filling mix of white beans, vegetables, and a touch of lemon. I have used both vegetable and chicken stock and they are excellent, so don’t feel you’ll be missing out by going the vegan route here.

Any white beans you have around will work nicely here, so I used a mixture of cannellini and butter beans for interest. Great northern beans would also be great, or whatever your favorite one might be. It takes 3 cans so mix and match to your heart’s content. For interest I added some grated zucchini and yellow squash, which won’t overpower the flavor but gives it some texture and an always-welcome veggie boost. Celery would also work nicely, although personally I rarely buy it.

I’m of the opinion that it’s highly challenging, if not impossible, to have too many leafy greens in a soup, so I don’t honestly measure. Just keep adding handfuls until it looks like enough. I probably added around six cups here, but there’s no rules with kale (or spinach, or chard, or whatever you want) so add as much as or as little as you like. The way I look at it is the more you add the more you’re basically eating soup and salad in one go, which seems like a win in my book.

The added lemon juice brightens the flavor without really tasting very lemony, but start with half the amount if you’re unsure about it. It gives a freshness and a springtime note to what could just as easily be a winter soup. As an added bonus, this soup comes together in just over 30 minutes, so if on those days you’re home late and starving because you completely underestimated how long you’d be out with your coworkers, you can still make a warm and healthy meal in a pretty reasonable amount of time.

Complainy carnivores in the house? This soup would be excellent with some cooked and shredded chicken and it’s easy to add that to individual bowls if you have a mixed crowd to please. It’s also extra delightful with bread, so pick up your favorite focaccia or crusty baguette (great for dipping) to have on the side.

“Almost Spring” Lemon Kale Soup

Adapted from Fork Knife Swoon
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
juice of 1 lemon
3 (15 oz) cans white beans1, drained
1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, grated (about 1-2 cups)
salt and pepper, to taste

3-6 cups baby kale2, to taste (I like a lot of greens, so I used closer to 6 cups)

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a large pot, and heat over medium until warmed.
  2. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is softened and translucent.
  3. Stir in herbs and continue to sauté until onion is just starting to brown.
  4. Stir in stock, half the lemon juice, beans, and zucchini, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper if desired. Taste, and add more lemon or spices as desired.
  5. Carefully stir in kale and continue to simmer until softened, 5-10 minutes3. Serve hot with a tasty bread for dipping.

Notes

I’ve used two cans cannellini beans and then one can of either butter beans or great northern beans. Feel free to mix and match and substitute your favorite white beans.

If you’re not a fan of kale, substitute any dark, leafy green of choice. If you’re using something more delicate, like spinach, add it just before serving as it does not keep its shape as well as a heartier leaf like kale.

Although kale holds its shape nicely it does darken into a muddier green over time, so for the bright green color it’s best to serve fairly promptly.

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Meyer Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad

I feel a little silly even posting this as a recipe, and I don’t normally post recipes that require possibly hard-to-find ingredients, but I love this so much I just have to share it.

Last week I took a cooking class at Olivelle, a local store in Bozeman that sells olive oils, vinegars, salts, and spices. I’d never actually been in the store before I took the class on making crepes, and I’m guessing that was a solid financial decision as it’s very easy to spend a lot of money there.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

One of the recipes in the class used a Meyer lemon balsamic vinegar, and it is possibly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tried. Sweet and tangy, I knew it would be delicious all on its own as a salad dressing. Although I managed not to buy the crepe pan (yet), I did walk out with this Meyer lemon vinegar and a caramelized garlic olive oil.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

I always buy giant bags of spinach for my breakfast smoothies, and I recently discovered Costco carries pretty reasonably priced sliced almonds as well, which are perfect for salad toppings. All that wonderful flavor and crunch without the giant pieces or the tedious chopping.

As my raspberry bushes are finally producing in abundance this year, I can’t just eat them all straight off the bush before they get overripe. Although I will probably freeze some, mostly I enjoy them fresh as a topping on salad, yogurt, ice cream, and probably soon, waffles. They add a wonderful burst of color and flavor to a salad, and change it up from my normal mandarin oranges or strawberries.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

This salad is bright and tangy, and would go great as a side dish for almost any summer meal. I wrote out measurements for one, as that’s what I am usually making, but you can obviously increase it to feed several people at once. Make sure your spinach and your raspberries are reasonably dry and you are good to go for whatever quantities you like.

If you’re looking to make this into an entree, I think some chopped chicken or fish would be an excellent addition. I’ve eaten it as a side dish most days since I bought it, but if I ever bought chicken I’d certainly give the entree a try. If you do, let me know what you think!

And if you’re a local Bozemanite, get thee to Olivelle, pronto.

Lemon Raspberry Spinach salad
Serves 1

Ingredients

2 cups spinach, rinsed and dry
2-3 tsp Meyer Lemon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed and dry
1 Tbsp sliced almonds

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine spinach and vinegar, and use a rubber spatula to gently stir until spinach is well coated.
  2. Gently fold in raspberries and almonds (or add them after it’s plated if you want to make sure they are visible.)
  3. Enjoy immediately.

Lemon Pie Spoons

Summer!

Just kidding, until last weekend it has mostly been pouring rain and howling winds here. I will admit it’s made for some pretty challenging runs during my marathon training. Turns out 20 miles in drenching rain and/or 20-mph headwinds is not super awesome. I know, shocker. Regardless, around March I started thinking about lemons again, partially because my grandmother loved lemon meringue pie and her birthday was in March, and partially because Costco starts carrying giant bags of the wonderful yellow fruit around April. With the closing of ski resorts and the flowering trees, lemon just seems like the right flavor for the season.

Lemon Pie Spoons {{Baking Bytes}}

After making a large batch of granola, I was left with several egg yolks chilling in my fridge. My usual go-to for egg yolks is just to throw an extra one in scrambled eggs, but I didn’t think I’d get through them all that way very quickly. Secondary method is always pudding, but pudding sounded a bit heavier than the dessert I was really looking for. Enter: mousse!

Lemon Pie Spoons {{Baking Bytes}}

Substantially lighter in texture without compromising the ka-pow of flavor, mousse always feels like the summery version of pudding. Obviously lemon was the way to go. I cut Mandy’s recipe in half, very slightly adjusted it, and was on my way to a tasty treat. Her recipe called for a graham cracker crust that I’m sure is delightful, but I wanted to test an idea I’d been pondering.

Lemon Pie Spoons {{Baking Bytes}}

Last fall I’d seen some great ideas (on Pinterest, of course) using cookie spoons, which I thought were super cute. However, I am not a huge fan of sugar cookies and even more importantly, I don’t enjoy making them. I was curious whether the same idea would work with pie crust, and that seemed like the perfect delivery mechanism for lemon mousse.

After texting my mom and asking whether she thought my spoons are oven safe (which I’m sure made her raise an eyebrow), I made some pie crust, made a mini spoon template with parchment paper, and begin cutting away. They baked up super cute and although they are a bit fragile, they work great for a dollop of mousse or for dipping. Although it didn’t take terribly long to cut by hand, for round two I bought a cookie cutter on Amazon, which was not only faster, but allowed me to be more efficient with the dough. Plus now I have a reason to make more spoon desserts.

Lemon Pie Spoons {{Baking Bytes}}

These lemon pie spoons are small, light, and require no cutting and slicing and plating, which makes them great for potlucks. Big lemon flavor and flaky pie crust come together in a delicious bite-sized treat. It’s important to use a pie crust recipe you like the flavor of, as it’s rather prominent given the somewhat higher crust:filling ratio. I’ve linked mine below, but feel free to use your own.

Lemon Pie Spoons {{Baking Bytes}}

This would be a fun confection for a summer barbecue where you don’t want to worry about fridge space. You can make the spoons and the mousse a day or two ahead of time (store the spoons on the counter, and the mousse in the fridge), then assemble shortly before you head to the party. They’ll be fine on the counter (inside, if it’s hot) for several hours, leaving you free to enjoy the party. Although they might droop a bit, they are definitely safe to eat.

Fair warning: they are addicting! Make a batch to share, assuming you don’t eat them all yourself.

Lemon Pie Spoons

Adapted from Mandy’s Recipe Box
Makes about 5 dozen mini spoons

Ingredients

Pastry for single-crust pie (unbaked)

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
zest of 1 lemon (optional)

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

  1. For the spoons: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a large baking sheet, arrange as many oven-safe spoons as you can fit. (A silicon mat will help them slide around less, if you have one.) Set aside.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out your pie crust to about 1/8″ thick. Use a cookie cutter (or a paper template and a sharp knife) to cut out as many spoons as possible. Pile all trimmings together, then gently roll out again and cut more spoons.
  3. Carefully transfer each pie crust spoon to a real spoon on the prepared baking sheet, pressing the dough into the real spoon’s indent.
  4. Bake 10-15 minutes, until crust is golden and slightly puffy. You may want to rotate the pan halfway through if your spoons are of different heights.
  5. Let cool a few minutes on the spoons, then gently and carefully (the metal spoons are hot!) remove them to a wire rack to cool completely, and repeat until all pie crust is used. Store on the counter until ready to use, up to 3 days.
  6. For the mousse: In a small saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest (if using.)
  7. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until mixture thickens and turns cloudy. Continue cooking until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (although it’ll look clear).
  8. Use a mesh sieve and strain the lemon curd into a small bowl. Refrigerate at least one hour, stirring a couple of times if possible, or until ready to use. Mixture should be cool to the touch. Also place a large mixing bowl and your beaters (or KitchenAid whisk attachment) in the fridge at this time.
  9. When curd is sufficiently chilled, remove large bowl and beaters from the fridge. Beat heavy cream on medium/high until stiff peaks form.
  10. Gently fold in the curd to the whipped cream until it’s not streaky.
  11. Return mousse to fridge until ready to serve, up to 3 days.
  12. For assembly: Arrange pie crust spoons on a tray or serving platter as desired.
  13. Transfer mousse to a frosting bag with a star tip (or a Ziploc), cut off the tip, and carefully pipe onto the spoons. (You may have extra mousse.) Serve as soon as possible!
  14. Alternate assembly: Place mousse into 4-oz serving dishes and add a pie crust spoon. Serve with extra spoons for dipping!

Blueberry Boy Bait (two ways)

Spring has definitely sprung over here with a high of 72 yesterday (followed by a couple inches of snow this morning), and the warm weather has gotten me thinking about the berry pies and lemony goodness that become more popular in the coming season. I decided something blueberry was definitely in order and perused my bookmarks and Pinterest boards in hopes of seeing something that piqued my interest.

Blueberry Boy Bait {{Baking Bytes}}

It didn’t work (ha) but I did ultimately remember a fabulous blueberry dish I made at home several years ago called Blueberry Boy Bait. The name has always made me giggle and the dish is amazing. A quick Google search brought me right to the lovely post from Smitten Kitchen I so fondly recalled.

Before we get much further, please bear in mind there is absolutely nothing healthy about this. It’s cake. I know there’s no frosting, but it’s like 90% butter (slight exaggeration) and 100% delicious and you should definitely make some. Just know that this is not a health food, and if you’re looking for one of those you should bake some Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins instead.

Blueberry Boy Bait {{Baking Bytes}}

Still here? Excellent. Rich and buttery, fluffy and moist, brimming with blueberries, and topped with a cinnamon & sugar coating I always adore, it’s hard to have just one piece. After making it again, I’m honestly not sure why I waited so long and it will definitely be put in a more regular baking rotation. It pairs equally well with a cup of coffee for breakfast or snack, and a glass of milk for dessert. Or a handful straight from the cooling rack to your mouth because you “accidentally” didn’t grease the pan well enough and had to hide the evidence.

Blueberry Boy Bait {{Baking Bytes}}

The blueberries do always sink to the bottom for me, but I consider this a feature rather than a problem, as it results in a perfectly proportioned cake-to-blueberry ratio with every bite. The cake is somewhat fragile, so be careful removing it from the pan. If you’re concerned about presentation, you could bake them in a muffin tin with paper liners instead, but I have not personally tried this.

Blueberry Boy Bait - Lemon {{Baking Bytes}}

Since spring was in the air, I tried a lemony version as well. I definitely prefer the original, but this is a nice alternative if you’re in the mood for it.

Blueberry Boy Bait

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 8×8″ dish

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup whole milk (2% worked great)

1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not thaw)
1 Tbsp flour

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not thaw)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8″ baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the paper too.
  2. Add butter and sugars to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for about two minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Add eggs to butter mixture one at a time, mixing until just incorporated and scraping the bowl between each one.
  5. Alternate adding flour (1/3 at a time) and milk, starting and ending with flour.
  6. Toss 1/4 cup blueberries with remaining one tablespoon flour and fold into batter. (It won’t look like enough, but I promise it doesn’t need more.)
  7. Spread into prepared pan and sprinkle additional 1/4 cup blueberries onto the batter. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle about half over the top.
  8. Bake about 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top doesn’t look super wet.
  9. Immediately sprinkle with additional cinnamon & sugar topping (optional but recommended). Cool at least 20 minutes in the pan before serving.
  10. Attempt to not eat the entire pan in one sitting, but fail deliciously.

Blueberry Boy Bait - Lemon {{Baking Bytes}}

Lemon Blueberry Boy Bait

Make as above except substitute 3 tablespoons of milk with lemon juice. Omit cinnamon sugar topping. Whisk 3/4 cup powdered sugar with 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice and use to lightly glaze cooled cake.

Lemon Bundt Cake

Hello my friends,  I’ve been busy attempting to find a lemon cake to share with you guys. As mentioned last post, attempt #1 was rather a fiasco, resulting in an overflowing, collapsed mess that was somehow over-baked and under-baked at the same time. And to top it off, it failed to cleanly come out of the pan.

Failure

Disaster.

The following week I tried again, using a new recipe. This recipe baked beautifully but was not quite as lemony as I prefer. I like lemon desserts to smack you in the face with lemon rather than leaving you wondering if that was really lemon flavored after all.

And so this weekend, attempt #3 was meant to boost the lemon flavor from the previous week, which was successful, finally.

Lemon Bundt Cake {{Baking Bytes}}

I finally present to you a fully lemony bundt cake for your springtime pleasure. If, like me, you’re ignoring the attempts at snow outside and the chilly wind, and looking longingly towards the blue patch of sky, bake this cake. This morning was a rather gray day, with flurries of now, but as I type up this post it’s now sunny and nearing 50 degrees.

Lemon Bundt Cake {{Baking Bytes}}

Obviously the weather gods approve of lemon.

Fairly dense but not sickeningly sweet, the lemon scent permeates the air even before you have a taste. The color of sunshine guarantees a smile even on a cloudy day, and the burst of flavor leaves no questions about its contents. Although I love a strong lemon flavor, I realize it’s not for everyone. If you prefer it a bit more subtle, leave out the syrup step entirely. If you want the experience to have a bit more ka-pow (definitely a technical term), the syrup will give you that. Add as much or as little of it as you like, but make sure you poke deep holes into the cake to allow the syrup to permeate all the way through, or you’ll be left with a soggy bottom/middle that sticks to your wire rack. Don’t be afraid of the holes, they won’t show once the cake is inverted.

Lemon Bundt Cake {{Baking Bytes}}

This is an easy cake, and although a teensy bit time-consuming, it’s very beginner friendly. It would make a delightful addition to any table, sure to please any lemon fan. If you do decide to forego the syrup step, I recommend using a thinner glaze than shown here so you can cover the entire cake. The glaze is a necessary complement to the plainer cake and this will ensure you have some with every bite.

Lemon Bundt Cake {{Baking Bytes}}

Lemon Bundt Cake

Adapted from Baking Bites
Serves 8-12

Ingredients

Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs
2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup buttermilk

Syrup

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Glaze

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 10+ cup bundt pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and cream on medium speed until lightly colored and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined between each one.
  5. Stir in lemon zest.
  6. Add one third of the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
  7. Repeat with lemon juice, one third of flour mixture, buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture (in that order), stirring just until incorporated with each addition.
  8. Scoop into prepared pan, gently smoothing out the top.
  9. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
  10. During the last 10 minutes of baking, heat 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 sugar to boiling, then remove from the heat.
  11. Immediately after removing from the oven, poke deep holes in the bottom of the cake, and slowly pour the lemon syrup evenly over it, letting it soak into the cake.
  12. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  13. After the cake is cooled, vigorously stir together powdered sugar and lemon juice, adding more or less of each to desired consistency, and drizzle over the cake.
  14. Let the glaze set 20-30 minutes, then serve on its own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Notes

  • You’ll need 5-6 lemons for the whole recipe
  • A skewer or a meat thermometer is ideal for poking holes