Lemons for Lindsey

Coconut Cream Cheese Filling

 My good friend Lindsey's birthday was last weekend and I know my practical gifts of love made in my kitchen are always a sure hit with people, especially Lindsey who never hesitates to sing my culinary praises.  In fact, if I'm feeling a bit blue, I can ask Lindsey what she liked about my latest creation & by the end—I'm encouraged.  Ya know, sometimes it doesn't take much.

When I asked Lindsey what her favorite type of flavors or desserts were she said, "Lemon, not pie or cake--not so much!"  Well, I understood what she was talking about.  Because I really like lemon desserts, but lemon meringue & a lemon cake (or should I say lemon filling) doesn't sit well with me.  I do like lemon curd though & lemon tart; however, the meringue atop a lemon pie is so sad most of the time.  And the lemon filling in cakes is typically poorly done.  I knew what she needed was lemon sandwich cookies, but all the recipes you would come across for lemon sandwiches are the rolled out kind and this tired mama wasn't feelin' it after putting my girls down for bed & cleaning up the chaotic remains.

So after perusing my cookbooks I came across this Vanilla Sugar Cookie and knew it could easily be adapted to suit that lemon hankering I was seeking.  I thought I would make two different kinds of frosting to spice things up a bit.  And since I wasn't about to go and buy more cream cheese than what my fridge was holding, I did what any inventive baker would do--split it in half & say a blessing to see if the frosting would multiply like the loaves & fish.  Some had lemon & some had coconut filling.  And I would say both hit a great spot with just the right amount of lemon in the cookie.  Ben even said, "These are pretty good for a lemon cookie, because I don't like lemon cookies."  And he ate more than one.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

Lemon Sandwich Cookies with Coconut & Lemon Filling (printable recipe)

I was inspired by the Vanilla Sugar Cookie in The Good Cookie Cookbook.  I wanted to make a lemon cookie and used two different fillings.  One is a lemon filling, while the other is coconut filling.  You choose what you like best..or do both!

Cookie Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
zest from one lemon (about 2 Tb)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ tsp lemon essence
squeezed juice of one half lemon
Coarse sugar (turbinado) for sprinkling

Coconut Filling Ingredients & Lemon Filling Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
1 cup sweetened coconut
½ to 1 tsp lemon essence

Directions for cookies:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silipat.

Put the granulated sugar into a bowl and add the lemon zest to the sugar.  Using your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar, in order to get as much of the oil out of the zest as possible.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, & salt and set aside.

In a mixer bowl, add the butter and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add powdered sugar & the lemon zest sugar to the butter, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, till the mixture is light & fluffy.  Turn off the mixer and add one egg at a time, briefly beating at low speed just until the egg is combined.  Add lemon essence & lemon juice and mix for about 10 seconds.  With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients until it's all combined.

Put about ½ cup of coarse sugar in a bowl, then take the other half of the lemon and do one light squeeze onto the sugar.  It will get the sugar a bit wet, but not drenching it.  Have your hands lightly wet, put one tablespoon of dough in your hand and roll it to make a ball.  Continue doing this placing the rolled dough 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheet.  Either roll the balls around in the lemon turbinado sugar or sprinkle the lemon turbinado sugar on top.  Lightly press down on each ball, so you're making them into a circle (not too much & not too little either).  Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Put on a cooling rack and let them cool for about 5 minutes.  Remove and put on aluminum paper.  Meanwhile, make the frosting.

Directions for Frosting:

Beat the butter in your stand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.  It should be light & fluffy.  Now add the cream cheese in halved pieces and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, still on medium speed.  Turn mixer down to low and slowly add powdered sugar.  Once the powdered sugar has been fully incorporated, then turn up the speed to medium and beat for an additional 30 seconds.

Get out a medium bowl and scoop out 1/3 of the frosting.  Add ½ tsp of lemon essence to the bowl and mix thoroughly.  Set aside and there is your lemon frosting.

Add the 1 cup sweetened coconut & 1 tsp coconut extract, mix thoroughly and there is your coconut frosting.

You might have assorted sizes, so match up the ones most similar and begin frosting by putting about 1 tablespoon of frosting on each cookie smoothing it out and put another cookie on top.  Then eat one or two to sample, so you can attest to their goodness to your family & friends.

Mrs. Carrillo's Spanish Rice

I've spoken of my adopted family the Carrillo before & again.  My love for genuine Mexican food is not something I can keep hidden.  In fact, just the other night I was having dinner at a friend's house and someone asked where I grew up.  My answer going back to Yuma, Az, which inevitably leads to my love of Mexican food.  I was asked what type of Mexican food stood out as the best back in my hometown.  And it always, always goes back to the Carrillo's home.

Mrs. Carrillo would make fresh flour tortillas on the comal.  Mr. Carrillo would eat jalapenos straight from the jar while watching soccer, while I would stare in amazement.  I learned by eating a jalapeno straight from the jar that you need to drink milk or pour some salt on your tongue to get that burning feeling away (I wanted to show everyone I too could be strong enough, but I only got so far as let it touch my tongue while running to the kitchen--while Mr. Carrillo would simply sweat from the heat).  I learned that not all Mexicans like menudo and Mrs. Carrillo would make a pre-cow tongue batch for Veronica.  Nopales con carne became my all time favorite dish (cactus with meat).  And that the only way you would get a recipe from Mrs. Carrillo was to watch her at her art.

She didn't have these recipes on paper filed neatly away.  They instinctively ran through her person.  Still to this day, the only recipe Veronica has from her mom is her flour tortillas (which I don't--umm, I really need that if you're reading Mrs. Carrillo).  However, I did get the nopales con carne recipe, simply by watching her in the kitchen--her talking half in English and the other half in Spanish (Mrs. Carrillo a firm believer that I could really understand a lot more Spanish than I let on--but she didn't let it get in the way).  I would even ask Veronica if she had any of her mom's recipes, to which she would say, "I always ask her and she always gets sidetracked."

So, I decided one day back in my college days that I needed a genuine Spanish rice recipe to make for dinner.  I called up Mrs. Carrillo & got it from her.  No sidetracking that I saw.  I think it still makes Veronica jealous (in that good sort of way) that I have one up'd her in the recipe department.  And now I pass it on to you.  Very simple, very good, and pure comfort.

Mrs. Carrillo's Spanish Rice (printable recipe)

I changed this up a bit, but not much.  I will put her recipe as is and in parenthesis put my changes.


2 cups white rice (I used long grain)

1 big clove of garlic, or 2 smaller ones, crushed

2-4 Tb oil (I used canola, I wouldn't use olive oil)

1-14 oz can tomato sauce

2 chicken bouillon cubes (I used 4 cups homemade chicken broth, unsalted)

4 cups water

1/2 of a small white onion, cut into four small pieces.


Put rice in a bowl and add enough water to cover it.  Stir it around with your fingers to clean & rinse the rise.  Drain the water and set aside.

In a heavy bottom pot (8 qt) over medium heat, add about 2 Tb oil and add the crushed garlic.  Stirring constantly to avoid browning it.  Add more oil if the pot is getting dry.  Cook garlic for about one minute.  Add the rinsed rice to the pot.  Stirring constantly, adding more oil if need be.  You want to toast the rice, cooking it till it's a nice golden to medium brown color (not all of it will get toasted, it's more of an overall appearance).  This will take around 8-12 minutes.

Slowly add in the tomato sauce, being very careful, because the liquid will splatter.  Add either the chicken bouillon cubes & 4 cups water, or 4 cups chicken broth.  Stir completely to get all the rice covered.  Add the 4 halves of onion.  Allow the mixture to reach a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat to low & cover.  Cook for an additional 20-30 minutes.  You want to check on it to see how much of the liquid it has absorbed.  You'll know it's done when there's still a little liquid resonating on the sides of the pot, but when you stir it around it disappears.

Remove from the heat, season with salt to taste if you used unsalted chicken broth (no need with chicken bouillon).

Bursting with Delight Cookies

Not only are these cookies bursting with delight, but this notion as I await what the Christian world calls "Holy Week" or "Passion Week" is as well.  As my girls took their nap today, I was folding laundry listening to the song, 'O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.'  One of the lines says, "How he loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore...how for them he intercedeth."  I was struck by how great his love is for me.  When I was a little girl I would stand up on mall benches and sing "Jesus Loves Me."  When people would ask me why I believed in Jesus, I would respond with, "why wouldn't I (this at a very young age)."

I think it's because I was drawn to Jesus' incredible love.  I knew he was good. But not just good as in the superhero fighting the villain good...it was much deeper than that. 

And as my oldest is three understanding more concepts, listening to all the stories we tell her, taking initiative in conversations & thoughtfulness, I'm seeing how at such a young age--Jesus makes sense.  I was reading to her some Bible stories, very simplistic in nature, and it came to the part where Jesus was being crucified (like I said, it was simplistic, not the Passion in full swing) where she had a sadness in her eye.  I could identify with that sadness and conjure it up from when I was her age. 

Because I, like her, could see why it was so sad.  It was sad & lonely, because this person who was so incredibly good & just was being robbed of life.

But the part in which I burst forth, as did she, was when we soon realized that wasn't the end of the story. Jesus overcame death, bursting forth from the tomb--leaving it empty.  

I could see the shadow of sadness quickly being replaced with joy & hope in my three year old's eyes.  And as I saw in this child illustrated Bible, feet on a cross, my eyes got misty connecting with the same mourning my daughter was feeling.  But, unlike watching a fake romance movie Hollywood has portrayed with hope deferred & hope renewed--this is such a better love story. 

This is a love story even a three year old understands to be true & wholeheartedly genuine.

And even though we rarely think about feasting upon cookies during this season of Lent (most people giving them up), I do offer you a burst of delight upon your senses.  I made these cookies for my mom getaway a couple weeks back and I find they have a wonderful marriage with sour, freshness of the lime, the creamy depth of the cream cheese, the buttery, saltiness of the caramel and the crunch & melding of it all with the macadamia nuts.  I like how the flavors blend, some pack more of a punch, while others leave a nice undertone on in your mouth.

I find these cookies awaken the senses.  So as you might read the Passion story for the first time or the 70th time, notice how much of the story deals with smell, touch, taste, sight, & sound.  How Jesus reached us with our senses.  How the Lenten season is typically about denying the senses; yet, as Jesus burst forth from the tomb on Easter morning--we burst forth in celebration with him to feast in a hope no longer deferred.


Macadamia Nut & Lime Shortbread Cookies with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (printable recipe)

I used my Orange Cardamom Cookies as the base for these Lime-Cream Cheese-Macadamia Nut-Caramel Cookies.


 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons lime zest

1/4 cup macadamia nuts, measure out 1/4 cup and finely chop it up

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 lime for juice

Cream Cheese-Caramel Icing

1/3 - 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

1/4 cup homemade caramel sauce (or store bought)

splash of lime oil essence (or extract)

2 teaspoons lime zest

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, zest, 3 Tb. finely ground macadamia nuts, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Put the dough on parchment paper.

Mound the dough together and roll into a log. Once you get a basic log shape, position the dough in the middle of the parchment. Then, take the parchment that’s north of the dough and cover it over the dough. Take a bench scraper and push the edge of it at the base of the parchment covered dough, trying to make a concentric log. Roll the log so the parchment covers the whole thing and twist the edges. Refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight (if you want to speed the process, then place in freezer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour).

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Remove firm dough. Unroll the parchment so the dough is still sitting on top of the paper. Place on a cutting board. Cut the dough into 1/8 inch. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 12-15 minutes. While the cookies are still warm, slice the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice over the cookies.  The cookies will absorb the juice and give the cookies that great lime kick.  Cool on baking sheet and arrange with below directions.

Make Icing:

Put the whipped cream cheese in a small bowl and add 1 Tb of caramel sauce at a time.  Mixing to get a balance of caramel & cream cheese.  Then add some lime essence, just a splash.  You want to have a balance of the flavors.  Not too much of the lime, but enough to have it stand out.

Putting them together:

With a spoon, put about 1/2 teaspoon icing on each cookie & swirl around.  Drizzle caramel over the cookies with a fork or spoon.  Sprinkle with remaining chopped macadamia nut & lime zest.