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If the way my boys eat now is any indication of how they will eat in the future, I fear for what my grocery bill will be 10 years from now with three very hungry boys. Getting them to actually sit down and eat a meal in its entirety is challenging, but what I find instead is that they graze all day long.

It’s so easy to fall into the packaged snacks trap. I’m definitely guilty of doling out the squeeze applesauce, Goldfish, and graham crackers out of sheer ease and convenience. I don’t plan on stopping that any time soon, but it’s certainly nice to have some easy, healthy, homemade options too.

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Sometime last year I stumbled across a recipe for muffins with very few and very natural ingredients. They seemed perfect for breakfast, or an afternoon snack, and were very portable. I made them once and enjoyed them a lot. I made them again with a few adjustments and was hooked forever.

These muffins are really tasty. They’re moist and versatile, and we almost always have all the ingredients on hand. They’re also gluten-free, if that’s important to you, and VERY kid-friendly. The boys ask for and devour them regularly.

Oatmeal Banana Muffins
Adapted from Green Lite Bites

  • 3 mashed bananas, the riper the better.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cups old fashion or rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar* (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, etc., etc., etc. The possibilities are endless.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix all ingredients together except the raisins (or whichever addition you choose), and let sit while you prepare the muffin pans. (*In regards to the brown sugar: the original recipe is sugar-free. I have made them both ways and enjoy each, but I find that unless the bananas are SUPER over-ripe, they lack a little sweetness. Go in whichever direction your prefer.)

Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Stir the raisins into the oatmeal batter.

Divide batter into muffin cups. They should be just about filled. Mine have yielded 12 muffins every time, but yours may vary based on the size of your tin.

Bake 20-30 minutes until the edges just start to brown and the muffins are firm to the touch.

The muffins may stick when hot but are removed easily when cooled for a bit.Mine usually come out clean after cooling for 10 minutes. When fully cool, store in an air-tight container or zip-top bag. They never last more than two days in our house!

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I really like cheese. REEEAAALLLY like cheese. In my early post-college years my body developed a major dairy aversion and I suddenly found myself unable to eat cheese without majorly regretting it soon after. It was a sad, sad time. Oddly, when I became pregnant with Owen the lactose sensitivity disappeared. Yay, hormones! Suddenly I was back in the cheese in a big way and I haven’t looked back since.

I’m usually really good about keeping a weekly meal plan, but occasionally I find myself staring at a white board with last week’s menu and no idea what to make that night. Enter the Skillet Lasagna. Quick, easy, yummy….cheesy.

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This dish couldn’t be quicker or more versatile. Below is the recipe for the basic cheese skillet lasagna, but you can customize it in so many ways.

Skillet Lasagna
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

- 6-8 no-bake lasagna noodles, broken to fit the skillet
– 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (or homemade!)
– 1/2 -3/4 cup ricotta cheese
– 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– 1 tbs garlic powder
– 1 tbs dried oregano
– 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste

*Optional ingredients: cooked ground beef, sausage, chicken, etc. and any vegetables you like. Great way to use up leftovers!

Directions:

- Preheat oven to 350*

- In small bowl, combine ricotta cheese and all the spices. Adjust to your taste.

- Spread a small amount of tomato sauce in a deep skillet. (If your skillet has a plastic or rubber handle, wrap it in foil to avoid heat damage.)

- Place your first layer of noodles, breaking into pieces to cover the bottom as best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

- Add another layer of sauce, followed by ricotta mixture, (then optional ingredients, if any), then mozzarella.

- Repeat layering process until you have reached the top of the skillet, ending with the mozzarella.

- Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until brown and bubbly.

 

That’s it! Serve with a side salad and you have a tasty dinner that took no time at all and cooked in one dish. Boom. I should note that I tend to go heavy on the spices, so feel free to start with less and adjust to your taste. I wouldn’t say this is a substitute for a true deep-dish lasagna, but it certainly works in a pinch.

Enjoy!

I long for the day I wake up and find myself one of those women whose house is uncluttered and beautifully organized. I suspect that won’t happen until the kids are grown, or at the very least, when their attention span for toys isn’t that of a gnat.

Home organization I don’t quite have down, but dinner? I’ve figured that one out. I look forward to sitting down each week with my white board, pen and paper and figuring out our meal plan for the week. Not only has it eliminated the end-of-the-day what am I supposed to make for dinner??? panic, it’s streamlined both my shopping trips and food budget.

Below you will find all the meals we ate this past month. There were some repeats of our favorites, and occasionally we get a take-out pizza because…well, I love take-out pizza! I also make a lot of salads because it’s an easy way to get veggies in. You can put almost anything in a salad! I’ve gotten into the habit of snapping quick photos of a lot of our meals, but I will work on getting the recipes written out in the next few weeks and link back to them.

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Week 1

- Calzones, salad
– Cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries, broccoli
– Garlic noodles, salad
– Asian sticky rice bowls
– Leftovers
– Roast chicken, sweet potato crisps
– Take-out pizza

Week 2

- Chicken Enchiladas
– Mini meatloaves, acorn squash, broccoli
– Chicken soup, homemade bread
– Chicken ranch calzones, salad
– Dinner out with friends
– Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad
– Leftovers

Week 3

- Chicken bites, spinach, roasted carrots
– Taco salad
– Homemade pizza, salad
– Baked potato soup, homemade bread
Sweet potato quinoa chili
– Leftover soup, salad,
– Burritos

Week 4

- Chicken and vegetable stir fry, rice
– Slow cooker shredded beef tacos
– Chicken soup, homemade bread
– Quinoa mac n cheese, broccoli
– Leftovers
– Homemade pizza, salad
– Mini turkey meatloaves, mashed sweet potatoes, peas

And here’s what we’re eating this week:

Week 5

- Philly Cheesesteaks with peppers and onions
– Skillet lasagna, broccoli
– Roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, peas
– Taco salad
– Chicken tamale pie, salad
– Leftovers
– Spaghetti, chicken meatballs, salad

I like to make at least one dessert a week, too. But maybe that’s a post for another time…

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Confession: up until recently I had never cooked quinoa. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it. Was it more of a grain? A rice? A pasta? What exactly should I put it in?

I don’t know why I was so apprehensive about it, because as it turns out, quinoa is pretty awesome. If you can make rice, you can make quinoa.

I stumbled across this recipe for a vegan quinoa chili and it looked simple and intriguing. Turns out, it was also delicious.

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Confession number 2: I didn’t make it vegan. I added in spicy sausage. And topped it with cheese. I do not regret these decisions.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili
Adapted from Milk Free Mom

Ingredients:

1/2 pound spicy sausage
one 29 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
one 6 oz can tomato paste (or if you’re out like I was, about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce)
32 oz chicken stock
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 cup dry quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, cilantro, cheese for garnish  (optional)

Directions:

In a medium pan, crumble sausage and cook until browned. Drain grease and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium low heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and they start to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste/sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder  and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beans, stock, sausage and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper.

Raise heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and add the quinoa. Continue cooking for about  30 minutes, stirring frequently, until quinoa and potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. Top with garnishes.

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This chili surpassed my expectations. It was SO good! I’m glad I added the sausage, though, as I think it might not have enough kick without it. If you’re looking to keep it meat-free, I might suggest adding a small can of diced chilies, or a small jalapeno. We put away about five servings and I froze at least two, so it makes plenty!

Happy eating!

Find me on Pinterest here.

Y’all. This pie.

Some friends and I had a girls’ night a few weeks ago where we stuffed our faces with calorie-heavy food and wine. Stretchy pants were mandatory, obviously. My contribution was ham and cheese-stuffed pretzel bites (recipe to come!) and this peanut butter chocolate chip pie.

It was a big hit. Friends raved about its light texture and delicious flavor and I was impressed at how easily it came together. Best of all, it’s a refrigerator pie, so after it was all mixed up all I had to do was toss it in the fridge for a few hours.

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The original recipe calls from a homemade graham cracker crust, which is probably pretty good. I happened to have a pre-made shortbread crust on hand, so I used that instead. Truth be told, I think I probably would like it better that way. Peanut butter and graham cracker makes me think of toddler food.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pie
Adapted from Growing Up Gabel

Ingredients:

  • 1 ready made shortbread pie crust
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. heavy cream
  • ¾ cups mini chocolate chips
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract using a hand held beater. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Add whipped cream to peanut butter mixture, folding in gently until combined.
  4. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Spread peanut butter mixture into crust. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

The pie is rich in flavor, yet light in texture. It’s decadent enough to feed a bunch, too, since we all found one slice was more than enough. It’s equally delicious in the morning (not that I would know or anything…)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pie. Owen tested AND approved.

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Enjoy!

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Despite the fact that it’s 60 degrees here today, it really is winter and winter food means all things hearty and warm. I’m a big fan of lasagna, but I’ve never been big on assembling it. All the components take a while to make and it’s messy to layer and then if we don’t finish it right away, it tends to get soggy in the fridge.

Enter: Lasagna Soup. I’m pretty sure this is one of my earliest pins, and also one of my favorites. It has all the things I love about lasagna, but half the work.

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Tomatoes, meat, noodles, spice, cheese. And then some more cheese. Nom.

Lasagna Soup – Adapted from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

Check out the link for the full recipe, but here are the changes I made:

- I don’t like too much onion flavor, so I used just half of a large yellow onion, not 3 cups. I found it to be plenty.

- Omitted the bay leaves because I never have them on hand.

- I was out of chicken stock so I used water instead. I have made it both ways and to be honest, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in flavor. If you don’t have stock, water will do!

- In my most recent batch I added a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and wilted it down before adding the liquid. It’s a great base to sneak in some extra veggies.

This soup is a winner in our house and is really customizable to your taste. If you would put it in a standard lasagna, put it in your soup! I happen to like the spicy sausage in it, but a ground beef/chicken/pork would work just as well.

 

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Mmmm, look at the goodness right there. Serve with crusty bread because, why not?!

Happy eating, friends!

Find me on Pinterest!

 

As I look through this most recent roudup of Pinterest food finds, I can’t help but notice they’re a little carb-heavy. I think I must subconsciously be tying the cooler weather to our dinners! I promise you, we eat vegetables.

Crock O’ Ribs - by Crockin’ Girls

I actually didn’t pin this one (gasp!) but found it on the Crockin’ Girls website. Do you know it? It’s a wealth of slow cooker meals, which I really appreciate, especially having even less time now in the evening to prepare dinner.

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I omitted the mushrooms because we don’t like them, but otherwise followed the recipe as written. The ribs fell apart like pulled pork and were very tasty. I paired them with cornbread and a quick white bean, tomato and basil salad.

Uno’s Deep Dish Pizza

Confession: I love Uno’s pizza. Yup, it’s a chain restaurant and hardly gourmet, but I love it. I used to frequent one in high school with friends or for dinner with my family and their signature deep dish pizza always felt like a special treat. There isn’t one close to us now, so I probably only go once a year, if that, but whenever I do, I’m a happy camper.

Imagine how excited I was to find out that Uno’s had released the recipe for their pizza! I HAD to try it.

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Well…

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…it did not disappoint. It wasn’t exactly the same in flavor as I remember (this could be because of small changes I made, like vegetable oil instead of corn oil and pamesan instead of romano cheese), but it was super delicious. I used a spring-form cake pan and I think it looks like the real deal!

Cheesy Zucchini Rice –  by Buns In My Oven

I liked the idea of this side dish. Cheese. Zucchini. Rice. I’m on board.

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I decided to make it a full meatless meal, so I added chickpeas and tomatoes. I also upped the spices a bit because I thought it was too bland initially. It was good. Nothing spectacular, but good. It also makes a TON.

Chicken Tamale Pie - by Pinch of Yum

YOU GUYS. This meal. This is the clear Pinterest winner by far.

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I’m a huge fan of Mexican food and just the thought of this made my mouth water. The only changes I made were the omission of cilantro (don’t like it), the egg substitute (used one real egg instead), and the garnish of Cotija cheese. Spicy chicken on top of sweet masa-like cornbread, smothered in cheese. Yum! It was so simple to put together and so, SO good. It received rave reviews from both boys and I ate leftovers for lunch for two days…and didn’t share a bite.

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Serve with a Corona, naturally.

Happy eating…and pinning!

This recipe came about one night when I realized I had nothing planned for dinner and wondered what I could scrounge up from the contents of the fridge. It came out really good and I’ve since made it a few times, most recently for dinner last night and a second batch I’ll be delivering to a friend today who just had her third baby girl.

There’s no fancy food styling going on here. These un-staged pictures are straight from the phone while I was cooking last night, because halfway through I realized, hey, this is a good recipe to share! So, advance apologizes for any bad lighting, appearance of Owen’s bib, a newborn pacifier in the drainboard, etc. Don’t let the photos fool you…this is yummy!

The basis of this pasta salad is a yogurt dressing rather than your standard oil base. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend bringing it to an outdoor event where it would be in the sun or heat for an extended period, unless you put it on top of an ice bath. There’s no “real” recipe for this. I kind of just eyeball amounts of things, but I’ll do my best to give you an estimate of how much I use for various ingredients.

Start by making your dressing. I chopped up an handful of Italian parsley and mixed it with a container and a half of plain yogurt. Add in 1-2 squirts of dijon mustard, a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.

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While this is going on, cook up a pound of bowtie pasta and start your bacon. Line a baking sheet really well with foil, place 5-6 strips on bacon on it and place in oven. Turn it to 400 degrees and give it about 10-15 minutes to get good and crispy. You’ll know when you start to smell that delicious bacon smell. Once you do, check on it periodically and take it out when it’s crispy, but not burnt. Drain on paper towels.

I pretty much make bacon exclusively in the oven; it frees up your burners, cooks evenly, doesn’t really stink up the house and as long as you’ve used enough foil, clean up is as easy as throwing it away.

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Dice up some tomatoes and avocados. Add some corn. You can really use whatever veggies you like here, but these taste yummy together. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.

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Drain your cooked pasta. If you’re serving this right away you can run it under cold water to cool it down quickly, or if you have time just let it cool on its own. Throw everything in the bowl together and squeeze half a lime over the top. Crumble in your bacon. Mix.

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If you can, let the pasta salad sit for a bit so the flavors can really marinate, but it’s not totally necessary. This makes a fair amount — usually enough for the three of us to eat dinner, then lunch tomorrow.

Below is the best breakdown of ingredients I could do, but really, make it to your taste. Enjoy!

Pasta Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Ingredients:

- 1 pound of bowtie pasta

- about 8-9 oz. plain yogurt (I used 1.5 individual serving cups)

- small handful (about 1/4 cup) Italian parsley, chopped

- 1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard, to taste

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1 teaspoon pepper

- about a tablespoon of garlic powder

- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

- 2 tomatoes, diced

- 2 avocados, diced

- 3/4 cup corn

- 1/2 lime

- 5-6 slices of bacon

Directions:

- Cook and drain pasta. Cook bacon on foil-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towel.

- Mix yogurt, parsley, mustard and spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

- Chop tomatoes and avocados and place in large bowl. Add corn. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta, dressing, lime and crumbled bacon. Mix.

Cheesecake. Yum. Am I right? So simple, yet so good.

I’ve been on a bit of a lemon-blueberry kick lately. The flavors just go so well together and are bright and summery, even if summer isn’t quite here yet. (Close, though! So close!)

We had dinner at my mother-in-law’s on Mother’s Day, and I figured I should bring a dish. She tends to make enough dinner to feed an army, so I wasn’t even going to bother in that department. Dessert, friends. That’s where it’s at. If you’re looking for something delish, simple and impressive without having to try too hard, these bars will do the trick.

 

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These came out really good and were even better after sitting overnight in the fridge. The only thing I did differently than the original recipe was to line the pan with foil rather than parchment paper, because I didn’t have any! Worked just as well. Interestingly, the blueberries took on an odd blue-gray color after being baked, but seemed to revert back to their original splendor later on. I can’t explain that one!

 

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
From Epicurean Mom

Ingredients

For Base:
Butter, for greasing
2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 tablespoon ground cinnamon
9 graham crackers
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions

For the Base:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Grease the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with butter.  Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners.  In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate.  Pour into the lined baking pan and firmly pat down with the bottom of a glass.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until set.

For the filling:
Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to the food processor and pulse until well combined.  It should have a smooth consistency.  Pour onto the cooked graham cracker base and then sprinkle with blueberries.  They will sink slightly but should be half exposed.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the center only slightly jiggles.  Remove from the oven and cool completely before Refrigerating for at least 3 hours.  Once set, remove from pan using the parchment lining and slice into 10 rectangular bars.

 

I’ve unofficially begun a Biweekly Baking tradition during the week. It’s usually cookies, but Owen and I have a playdate today and I think it’s nice to bring a little snack for the moms and/or the kids if someone is hosting you. Cookies didn’t really seem to fit the bill for that.

I recently got around to reorganizing my Pinterest boards a little to make it easier for myself to find recipes. I had almost 300 (!!) compiled in one big food board, and it was getting chaotic. During this process, I stumbled across a recipe for yogurt cake that I had pinned and forgotten about. Seemed like the perfect solution for my playdate offering.

The focus of this recipe is Greek yogurt – it uses two single-serving cups – and I think that’s what gives the cake it’s unique texture. My loaf did not come out bread-like or fluffy, which I was expecting based on the photo that accompanied the original recipe. Instead, it came out weighing a ton and is dense, moist and almost undercooked-looking (although it isn’t). Don’t let this scare you! It’s really delicious.

The original recipe offers add-ins to make the loaf lemon-poppy or with berries. She also made hers in two mini-loaf pans rather than one big one. I can’t say for sure whether or not that would affect the texture or not. I made one big lemon-blueberry. It was the right decision!

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This time I took my own photo. All artsy-fartsy and what not. Ha.

Would I make this loaf again? You bet. I’m really enjoying it. And the perk of it being so dense is you can slice small, thin slices to make it stretch further, or make yourself feel better about eating five slices in a row. Not that I would know anything about that.

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Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Loaf (my comments in bold)
From Fresh From the Oven

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 containers of 5.3oz organic Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1/4 cup of frozen blueberries (more if you are making a big loaf cake) (I used just about 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. (Don’t skip this step. Mine slid right out no problem when cooked.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated.

Add in blueberries and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Mine was still loose in the middle at 50 minutes. I think my total cooking time was about 57 minutes.)

Meanwhile, cook the 1/4 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a foil-lined sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

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Eat, enjoy, share with friends. Although if you’re my playdate friend, you’re only getting a few slices, because I can’t stop eating it. Sorry!

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