Berry-Lemon Syrup

lemon berry pancakes top

I hope everyone had a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend!  I finished up our last showcase on Saturday, which went perfectly smoothly, and now has me calm and collected for the six weeks of prep work and school classes remaining before summer camp.  Sunday was nice an simple, with the mum and the mom (and the brother and friends) coming over for a barbecue.  I marinated some Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken and then passed it over to M to grill with some quick-rubbed ribs and asparagus while I baked a vegetable gratin and beautiful little pots de cremes that surprised even me with their simplicity.  Both will soon be appearing on the blog sooooon!  I did not take pictures on Mother’s Day, but that just mean I will have to make both recipes again!  Such a shame! (Once again, I am longing for a sarcasm font).

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Spring has been fickle here.  Since we didn’t get any snow until March, I can’t say that I’m surprise that we’ve been switching from torrential downpours, to gusty gray chills, to sticky, hot humidity over the past two weeks.  The only reliable feat of weather was that, when we had to load or unload props and set pieces, the rain would begin.  Usually in earnest.  Ugh.

But the past two days have been sweltering, in spite of the storm warnings.   I think that now, in May, spring may finally have arrived, just in time to shift to summer (I’m knocking on the table right now).  And I have finally let go of the warming soups and squash dishes of winter.  I’m embracing zucchini, craving berries, peaches, and bright green salads.  Though M and I are pretty firmly into a bacon-and-eggs breakfast rut (I’m now out of fruit and yogurt  and can’t bring myself to make oatmeal on warm mornings), when I had the extra time to spare I threw together some doctored-up GF Bisquick pancakes.  But only after the batter was mixed, did I remember that we had no syrup in the house.  We still don’t…it’s one of the those strange pantry essentials that always get missed when making the grocery list.

lemon berry syrup jar 2

But we did have berries and lemons, and I figured I could whip up something without much trouble.  I happen to love pancakes, especially GF Bisquick’s (I’m withholding my raving for the moment), plain, but I know that I may be in the minority there.  Plus, when I have a morning to make pancakes, I’m practically going all out.  This berry-lemon syrup really is just fruit steeped in a simple syrup.  Crushing the fruit releases some juices, but the boiling and simmering really infuses the flavors.  I set my batch simmering and was able to cook my pancake batter in the 15-20 minute simmer time.  A quick strain and a stir was all that was left separating this fruity syrup from soft, warm pancakes.  Try this for breakfast, it’ll definitely give your day a good start!

lemon berry pancake bite 2

Berry-Lemon Syrup

  • 2 c. mixed berries*
  • Juice + zest of 1 large lemon (2-4 tbsp juice, up to 1 Tbsp of zest)
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 3/4 c. sugar (agave/honey would be fine, just needs more reducing time)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

*I used a mix of blueberries and strawberries, but any combo, or even just 2 cups of one kind of berry, should work just fine.

Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the berries in a medium sauce pan.  Add water, stir well and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil for five minutes.  Add in sugar, stir until dissolved.  Stir in lemon zest.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low to simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Strain fruit from syrup.  If a thicker consistency is desired, return syrup to pot and continue to reduce until desired consistency is reached.  Remove syrup from heat, stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract into syrup.  Serve warm.

This syrup will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Try it on pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream–anything you can think of!  I also reserved my strained fruit pulp to add to smoothies, but you can discard the pulp, if you wish.

 


(Grain-less) Gluten-free Zucchini Lasagna

lasagna pan 1

This has been a crazy couple of weeks, to say the least.  I knew it would be, but even I couldn’t prepare myself for the little wave of panic when I looked at my calendar and saw three tech-to-performance weeks in a row.  There is a reason that the theater industry calls these “hell weeks”…nah, I’m (mostly) joking.  Thankfully, all of these performances are with my children’s company which means: (A) I know those involved, (B) Most of our team has down this before, and (C) We are all awesome enough to make these week run smoothly and simply!  This post has been sitting in my drafts, half-written, for almost a week-and-a-half, and this recipe has been waiting even longer!

lasagnabowl

This lasagna was one of the actual “recreation” dinners I made after going gluten-free, and it was also the first time I’d ever tried making lasagna at home.  I was intrigued by the grain-free recipe (one less ingredient to worry about converting to gluten-free–score!) and the extra veggies with zucchini substituting for noodles.  I added more vegetables in the form of onions and peppers, but this recipes is incredibly flexible.  Sub more vegetables in for some or all of the meat, or any more to the onion-pepper mixture.  When I first made this recipe, I sliced the zucchini lengthwise, into long strips like noodles.  These had a tendency to slip out when trying to cut a bite’s-worth, so I recommend cutting into circle crosswise, or peeling the zucchini before slicing it.

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I wish I had had time to make this Lasagna this week (the recipe and photos are from about a month back).  This makes the best leftovers, and we have plenty when I’m only serving dinner to three people.  This comforting dish is the perfect bridge between winter and spring (we’ve just had three days of torrential rain–yuck) and would be the best lunch on my hectic performance days.  I’ve got one more performance weekend, one more week of wrap-up, and then we’ll be off on our relaxing cruise!  I’ll certainly keep you posted before then, and plan to come back with a full review of Royal Caribbean’s gluten-free offerings!

As noted in the recipe below, there is plenty of room to play in this recipe. If you make this vegetarian or vegan, or sub in an awesome ingredient, let me know how it turns out! 🙂

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Zucchini Lasagna (Pasta-less Lasagna)

Serves: 8 | Prep time: 30 minutes

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 large bell pepper (any color), finely diced
  • 4 cups fresh spinach or kale leaves (kale stems removed), roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese*
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese*
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese*
  • 1 lb italian sausage (can replace with equal amounts of another ground meat or finely diced tofu or mushrooms or veggie mix)
  • 2 c. tomato sauce (storebought or homemade), divided

*I’m guessing that you could possibly use cashew ‘cheese’ if you wanted to make this vegan.  I’ve never tried it myself, please let me know how it turns out if you give it a try!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the zucchini into thin slices crosswise (making circles, not long strips). (Optional–peel zucchini before slicing).  Lay slices out on papertowels and salt generously.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes–zuchinni will release some of their liquid.  Crumble sausage/meat/tofu/veggies into a large sauté pan.  Cook completely, then set aside.  Drain grease. Cook chopped onions and peppers in a large sauté pan with minimal oil for about 5-7 minutes, until softened.  Set aside.  Rinse all zucchini well.  Cook zuchinni in sauté pan for about 5 minutes, until slices begin to wilt.  Spread on papertowels and allow to cool.  Cooked spinach/kale in a covered sauté pan until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Mix together wilted greens, basil, garlic, parmesan, 1/4 c. mozzarella, and ricotta cheese in medium bowl.  In separate bowl, mix together onions, peppers, and meat/veggies with 1/2 c. of tomato sauce.  Firmly pat zucchini slices dry

Lightly grease a 9×9″ pan.  Spread  1/2 c. of tomato sauce into the bottom of the pan, coating evenly.  Layer zucchini in even layer, top with cheese mixture then meat/veggie mixture, spreading evenly for each layer.  Top meat/veggie mixture with 1/2 c. of tomato sauce.  Continue this pattern (zucchini, cheese, meat, sauce) until ingredients run out–I got three layers.  Be sure to end with sauce on topmost layer.  Cover with remaining 3/4 c. mozzarella cheese.

Cover pan with aluminum foil.  Bake at 375 degree F for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until cheese is browned and bubbling.  Allow lasagna to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Can be refrigerated in sealed container for up to 4 days.