Category: Company

Z is for Zest

AtoZ Z2015

And so the Blogging A to Z Challenge ends … with the final letter of the alphabet. We Readers and Bloggers ought to celebrate with a little something nice. Maybe an aromatic cup of tea and some pastries?

Here is an easy and quick recipe for Zesty Lemon Filled Choux Puffs.

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon Heavy

I would happily make these delights all day long. They can look rather impressive, but the business of making the choux (pronounced shoe, as in tennis) is easy peasy. And just between us, although it might not be ‘correct’, I sometimes add just a touch of almond, vanilla, lemon, etc. to the choux. If possible, I use the highly concentrated oils rather than the more liquid flavorings, for fear of ruining the consistency.

Not a fan of lemon filling? Not an issue – these are nice with butter, chocolate mousse (another easy recipe, but for another post), or strawberry preserves beaten with whipped cream. They even work well with savories like tuna salad or veggies. Oh my!  I might have to meander into the kitchen …

Well, enough of that! Here we go with the actual recipe and some photos just for fun.

First, make your Choux:

1/2 cup generous Water (I use a touch more than the usual 1/2 cup, but not too much!)

4 Tablespoons Butter (use the very best butter you can find, preferably unsalted)

1/2 cup Flour

2 Eggs (room temperature is best, but if in a rush, at least try to warm them in a warm towel)

Blogging 2015 Zest Choux Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 375* 

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or if you are not wild about parchment like I am, have at the ready unlined and ungreased cookie sheets.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat, then add the flour all at once. Placing the pan over moderate heat, stir like mad until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan, making a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again, letting the dough cool for about five minutes. Then add the fresh eggs, one at a time, assertively stirring each one into the cooled dough until the mixture is smooth.

Using large spoons or iced tea spoons, drop equal sized dollops of dough about 2″ apart onto the cookie sheets – spoon choice will determine the size of each puff.

Blogging 2015 Zest Choux and Pan

Bake one sheet at a time for 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden. Blogging 2015 Zest Choux Baked

Cut open the upper third and … hey! Wait a second! Do try to stop eating them before they are all gone since you still have a lot of filling to use. Oh well, these are simple enough to make again … and again … and again!

The Lemon ZEST Filling

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon One

I am going to share the simplest lemon filling I know with you, but as you are already aware, there are a zillion recipes for lemon curd, lemon butter, lemon everything. Play with this and make your own complicated or straightforward version. Just remember that the idea is to have a good time in the kitchen!

2  8-ounce packages of real cream cheese (the substitutes simply don’t work as nicely)

1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (yup, this is going to be very easy!)

1/2 cup sour cream (I use plain yogurt because we never have sour cream in the house)

1/4 cup lemon juice (I do try to squeeze fresh lemons, but it’s your recipe now, so that’s up to you)

The zest of at least one lemon (the more lemons, the zestier the outcome)

Dash of lemon oil, vanilla, coconut, etc. (not actually necessary, but an option if you’d like to experiment with flavors)

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Place all of the ingredients in a bowl or food processor – or blender, I suppose – and blend until smooth, creamy and wonderful. Spoon into the few remaining Choux Puffs. You will have more than enough filling, so it might be wise to make multiple batches of choux pastry, or use the leftovers as filling for a refrigerated cake.

If you are concerned about the degree of icky sweetness, only pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the can of sweetened condensed milk into the bowl above, then blend and adjust for taste and consistency. You could use heavy cream, plain yogurt, and/or more cream cheese instead of the entire can.

And then it is time to serve these wonders with a dab of filling and a scattering of lemon zest on top – or drizzle them with melted chocolate, or lightly sift confectioner’s sugar on top.

Whatever you’d prefer!

Blogging 2015 Zest Lemon Heavy

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many Readers who made it through the entire alphabet with me, and the talented Bloggers who shared their wonderful posts during this Blogging A to Z Challenge.

I’ve connected with some remarkable writers, cooks, photographers and poets, and I’ve learned a great deal about blogging along the way.

I wish all of you happy discoveries, safe culinary adventures, good lighting and successful blogging – I am looking forward to enjoying more of your work in the weeks and months to come.

Romancing the Wedding Dress

During these still warm days of autumn, plan an Aurora, Indiana day-trip with your favorite groom-to-be, or with a group of happily single girlfriends. Just be sure to include a visit to Hillforest, an 1800s era stately home, impressively positioned atop quite a hill in the midst of this historic river town.

Intriguing portraits and delicate china, as well as period-appropriate furnishings, many having been owned by the Thomas Gaff family, fill the house, making it easy to imagine the comings and goings of this mostly female household.

Hillforest invites visitors to walk through the Italian Renaissance home, whose history is warmly interpreted by friendly guides.

Something special that guests of the home will discover is an exhibit of wedding dresses dating back to 1849. These very personal displays add yet another dimension to the aesthetic delights found inside. Please visit Creatzart,com to watch a slide show featuring some of these lovely dresses on loan from local families and area museums.

Beware the chill of late November, though, since that is when these ethereal wedding dresses return to their tissue-paper lined boxes to quietly dream of orange blossoms and champagne.

The Music of Home

As I write this, I can hear my husband and his buddies talking and laughing. Their muffled conversation travels through the duct-work and fills my office with a familiar comfort.


His friends are here to hang out in the basement – talking cars, strategy and speed. My husband reminds me as the first guest pulls into the driveway that this is not a dinner party and no, there is no need to use pretty napkins or to serve a nice salad with the pizza.

The door opens and the guys thank me for allowing them into our home as they wipe their feet on the mat, smelling faintly of cigarette smoke and aftershave.

By ones and twos they arrive, arms full of toolboxes and snack foods. Hours later, when I deliver a thermos of hot coffee to a cluttered, well used table, someone asks if I’m Italian; another groans that they don’t need any more desserts. Every one raves over the gloppy coconut cupcakes and slabs of chocolate cake.

I love having a house full of people to cook and bake for. I love cleaning and making vats of coffee and sweeping the deck in anticipation of their arrival.

A crowd is so easy to spoil.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to spoil anyone and too long since the house was filled with that happy kind of noise.

I grew up with siblings and friends and friends of siblings. There was disorder and laughter and running through the house before getting into trouble and being sent outside to play.

Ecstatic dogs jumped into the lake with us as we swam to the island to pick hot blueberries that exploded in our mouths. On our slow walk home, we searched out every mud puddle to squish and slurp and schplush through our toes.

But that was years ago and now even my child’s childhood is a quiet collection of photographs and family memories.

Every evening my husband and I talk and read and watch TV. On the weekends we kiss and argue and laugh.

But it’s all so terribly subdued. So oddly still.

That is, until Race Night is upon us.

Then with certain glee, I plan the menu, capture the cobwebs and buy the napkins that I know won’t be used.

And finally, as the pizza is devoured and the coffee is poured,  I listen as I work in my office. I listen for the music of loud talk and robust laughter.

And I am at home.