Monday, July 4, 2011

Lemon Chess Bars

So I've had this crazy idea that I would publish 100 recipes in this blog before Matt & my third anniversary trip. Well, it's crunch time because July 12th is right around the corner!

In a crunch, my grandmother would make this dessert. She took it to church group functions (Chicken Foot games, ESL classes), luncheons with her fellow retired teachers, and--if we were lucky--would whip it up because one of her grandkids begged her. I thank God for her daily, and this was one of those recipes she taught me to make in her kitchen, me standing on a stepstool to see over the counter. When my dearest girlfriends hosted a bridal shower before Matt & my nuptuals, they has the sweetest idea of enclosing recipe cards in the invitations, to be filled out by all of the guests and given to me at the shower. Guess which one my grandmother wrote out? This one! And now I'll share the love with you.

It's actually a combination of two of her recipes, chess cake and lemon bars, creamy tart lemon encased in a buttery yellow cake. I've modified this to cut out a bit of the fat, but the flavors are still there. If you like lemon, sweet and perfect Southern picnic food, this one's for you.
Lemon Chess Bars
*makes 18 medium bars*
Yellow cake mix
5 TB margarine, softened
1 egg + 2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 cups powdered sugar + more for dusting
8 oz low fat cream cheese, softened

step one: Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, margarine and one egg. Using hands, form into a soft dough. Spray a 9X13 inch pan with nonstick spray. Pat the dough flatly into the bottom of the pan, covering pan evenly. Sprinkle coconut evenly on top of dough, for added flavor.

step two: Rinse out and dry the bowl for reuse. Combine 2 eggs, lemon juice and zest, powdered sugar, and cream cheese. Using a large spoon or whisk, stir until mixture is smooth with very few bumps (a few are okay). Pour mixture on top of the dough in the pan.

step three: Bake for 30 minutes, or until center of lemon bars are firm (not jiggly). Edges will be slightly brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Eat and treat!

These bars can be left out overnight, but they're best when put in the fridge. The lemon taste intensifies as they get colder!

So there you have it, a fun summer treat. And I think I have 15 more recipes to show this week, before we leave on Sunday. Wish me luck!

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