Sophie’s Lemon Cookies

My youngest is one of the most outgoing people I know, next to my husband. She definitely got that trait from him. She has friends all over the world, all of which she met online. As a parent, you can bet this made her father and I a little edgy. Maybe more than a little.

So anyway, last summer, my oldest had to spend a month in New York working in an emergency department in Flushing. My oldest traveled all over the place with me before I remarried. From the

time she was twelve, I taught her how to navigate airports because I knew that was a skill she would one day need. We went to New York, L.A., Atlanta, Dallas, Fiji, Mexico, St. Maarten, the Bahamas, Italy, France, Spain, Orlando, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Belize, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. She even studied abroad in Florence for six weeks.

So you would think the child would have some skills when it comes to navigating strange cities. Not so much. I was raised all over the place, since my dad was what they called a “job shopper” (which meant he did short term, independent contractor work). I’m fairly comfortable wherever I am, especially since they invented GPS. Those little guys are soooo much better than trying to find your way around Orlando with a road atlas. I did that once. Do you have any idea how many streets in Orlando are named Buena Vista? I mean, seriously.

My children, on the other hand, were all raised in the South. The oldest was born in Puerto Rico, but I brought her home when she was three, and she’s been here ever since.  Even with all the travelling we did, she never had to find her way around on her own. I handled cabs and subways. Her six weeks in Florence were carefully coordinated by a professor. So, for a slight young woman who’d spent very little time out of the South, the New York City transit system was a complete mystery. Even at twenty-five, the thought of having to navigate the buses at midnight worried her. A lot.

Welcome to culture shock. She asked if I would go with her and spend a couple of days helping her figure out the bus routes. Sure. Why not? That’s what moms are for. I grabbed my youngest daughter and my mom and we made a vacation out of it. We studied up, spent a day riding buses, and I got her all settled. As an aside, I overheard someone on the bus talking about a friend who had a car. “She’s spoiled. She can just go anywhere she wants whenever she feels like it.”

Yeah. Like I said, culture shock.

So anyway, this is where Sophie comes in. Considering how completely unexposed my children are to life in a city bigger than Birmingham, I would never, never let my youngest, then sixteen, loose in New York City by herself. However, as soon as we got settled into our room in Queens, she asked if she could go into the city to meet a friend she’d been chatting with online.

Ha! You’ve got to be kidding me. Not only was I not going to let her roam New York City unsupervised, I wasn’t about to let her meet up with some random person she had met on the internet. Naturally, that made me insanely overprotective. Sixteen-year-olds know everything, and apparently, I had missed the memo. But, being the reasonable person I am, I agreed that her friend could go with us to the museum.

We met Sophie at her subway stop, and she turned out to be a nice, normal teenager. Her mom let her roam New York City with strangers. I guess I am a little overprotective. Or maybe Sophie is just better equipped to handle the jungle than my daughter would be. Either way, we liked Sophie. So we decided to let her come to Alabama for a visit this summer.

If anyone ever tells you that New Yorkers can handle anything, they lie.

I don’t think Sophie had ever been out of New York, but if she had, she sure as shootin’ had never come to the South. Turns out, culture shock works both ways. My daughter took her to the Gulf. Sophie had never been to a beach before, and she got so excited that she ran right in, clothes and all. And, oh yeah, she had her cell phone in her pocket. The phone was toast. Oops.

She had a great time, though.  As a thank you, she made a batch of these cookies. And I ate one. Or two. (Take that, doc). I don’t like lemon cookies/cakes/candy as a rule. But, Holy mother of pearl, these were amazing. They have a tart flavor that’s perfect for summer. So give these a shot when it's hot outside and you want something sweet and refreshing. Add a glass of sweet tea, and you'll be in heaven.

Sophie's Lemon Cookies

Sophie's Lemon Cookies

2 1/2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3 tbsp. lemon zest

1 egg

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. butter (softened)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the glaze:

Confectioners sugar

Lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. In mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt, and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine zest and sugar and rub together until fragrant. Add butter to sugar/zest and blend on lowest speed until combined. Add egg and vanilla, blend, then slowly add flour mixture, blending as you add. After all flour is added, knead until completely blended and dough forms a smooth ball.

Separate dough into 1.5 inch balls. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool for 10  minutes before glazing.

In a separate bowl, start with 1 cup of confectioners sugar and slowly add lemon juice a teaspoon at a time, mixing until the glaze has a thick, frosting like consistency. Add just enough more lemon juice to make the glaze thick but still drizzle-able, then drizzle the glaze liberally over each cookie. Make more glaze, if necessary.

Chicken Apple Sausage

After six months gluten free, I finally had my blood work yesterday. I’d be a lot more excited about it if it weren’t for the fact that nothing changed. Nothing. Antibodies are still exactly where they were before. The doctor’s advice? Do it again.

Seriously? I’m not sure if this falls into the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” category or the “insanity is when you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” category.

Whatever. Either way, I have six more months of quizzing unsuspecting waiters about what gets fried in their oil and whether my food might have sat downwind from something with wheat in it. That’s the nasty thing about gluten intolerance--staying away from wheat and barley isn’t enough. You have to stay away from anything it cozied up to, as well.

Fortunately for me, other than the obvious problems associated with having to play twenty questions with a guy that just wants to get you up from his table so he can collect his tip, clock out and go home, there’s not a lot of suffering involved in a gluten free diet—a lot of inconvenience (and I do mean a lot) but not much suffering. In fact, having a butcher shop at my disposal is the perfect way to plow through a gluten-free diet. If I can’t have bread, I can take the edge off by eating a really good steak. Of course, if you go overboard in the wrong direction, there’s always the possibility that you can swap gluten intolerance for gout. My mother has both. Bless her.

On the other hand, my grandmother will be 93 years old in three weeks, and she swears the secret to long life is baked chicken. First…ew. While I’ll admit that I can find a way to bake chicken that doesn’t taste like flavorless shoe leather, I’ve mentioned in past posts that my mom’s mother isn’t much of a cook. So she can’t. I don’t think I want to live to be 93 if I have to eat baked chicken every day—especially if she cooks it. And, as an aside, if I do live to be 93, you can bet I’ll eat whatever the heck I want, and it won’t be baked chicken. I mean, let’s face it, by the time you reach that age, should you really be worried that a pork chop is going to kill you? The grim reaper is just around the corner no matter what you do. You might as well enjoy your life.

Second, I fall into the category of picky eaters that can’t even eat the same category of food two days in a row. If I eat Mexican food of any variety today, it’ll be three days before I want it again. If it’s Chinese, it’ll be at least a week. If I ate chicken every day of my life, I’d want to throw myself into a swamp after a week.

Having said that, I do eat a lot of chicken. My mother used to raise chickens. I hated those birds. Whoever said they crow at dawn didn’t know that they were talking about. Those spiteful little featherheads used to strut around outside my window at two in the morning, crowing their fool heads off. I was happy to eat them. It felt like revenge.

But, if I’m going to eat a lot of anything, I have to find a way to give it some variety. This is one of those ways. This sausage is amazing. I make a big enough batch to freeze leftovers for later, but my stepson usually doesn’t let it get to the freezer. As you can see, it browns up nicely, just like regular sausage. But it’s a lot better for you, especially if you skip the bacon. Which I don’t, because, well, it’s bacon.

Chicken Apple Sausage

Chicken Apple Sausage

1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast

1/4 pound bacon, cooked

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, grated and squeezed dry

2 teaspoons black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil

Place chicken, in small batches, in a food processor an pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add bacon and butter to processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add to the chicken and combine by hand until blended. Add apples and spices, then stir by hand until well blended.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat, then pinch off a small amount of the meat mixture and heat it in skillet until brown, flip and brown the other side and cook until no longer pink on the inside (don't overcook or it'll be dry). Sample to ensure spice mixture is to taste, then add more spices, if necessary, and blend again.

Once mixture is to your liking, pinch off portions of the meat mixture and pat into patties. Heat the patties in the oil, flipping as needed, until brown on each side and no longer pink in the middle.