Lemon loaf using a recipe by Jo-Anna Rooney, creator of A Pretty Life in the Suburbs. (photo from aprettylifeinthesuburbs.com)
So, a husband walks into Costco … with no shopping list. And what happens? He comes out with $200 worth of steak, a 10-pound bag of lemons (which, by my calculations, will make about 300 whiskey sours), 12 jars of capers, eight boxes of latex gloves, a snow blower, two big boxes of chocolate truffles and 98 rolls of toilet paper.
I am left wondering: what the hell am I supposed to do with a snow blower? We live in an apartment in Vancouver. And we’re not the caretakers. I ask my husband, “What’s up with the snow vehicle?” He just shrugs. Like, maybe he plans on relocating us to Winnipeg? “It was on sale,” he says.
I continue my interrogation. “So, are you planning to resell it on Facebook Marketplace, since you have it on good authority that there’s going to be a monstrous snowstorm coming to Vancouver? Or did you buy it as a gift for our cousins in Michigan?”
Just when I think he’s going to take up the challenge of my inquest, he demurs. I guess it’s not the snow hill he wants to die on.
My very next thought is: what the heck am I supposed to do with 10 pounds of lemons? Don’t say “make lemonade,” because, well, that’s seasonal. I consult with my BFF, Google, and she tells me that the best thing I can do with lemons is make lemon loaf. By now, she’s figured out that I love old school recipes. Being the compliant (and lazy) baker that I am, I gather my ingredients and have at it. Despite that it’s a classic 1960s/1970s dessert, I’ve never made it before. But, since everyone tell me a chimpanzee could make it (like that’s supposed to make me feel better about myself), I can hardly sidestep the challenge.
Long story marginally shorter, my husband and I demolished the whole lemon loaf in less than 24 hours. OK, make that 12 hours. I’m pleading the fifth. Wow, look what I just did with the math there. Anyhow, I baked, I fought, I ate. The fighting came into play when the last piece of lemon loaf was left.
(a recipe by Jo-Anna Rooney)
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
zest of 1 medium lemon (but not the juice)
juice of 1 medium lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F and then prepare an eight-inch-by-four-inch loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper. Set it aside.
With a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs, one at a time.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Then add half of the milk. Add the remaining flour mixture. Mix in the remaining milk and lemon zest. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, combine the juice from one lemon with 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
When the cake is baked, take it out of the oven and pierce holes in it with a thick bamboo skewer or a sharp knife – make sure to pierce to the bottom of the loaf so the lemon juice mixture can get right down into the cake. Pour the lemon juice/sugar mixture over the warm cake. Let it sit. This cake is even better the next day, and there is no need to refrigerate it.
Tip: I used parchment paper, like the recipe called for, but, next time, I’d just grease the loaf pan and bake it that way. The parchment paper allows for easier removal from the pan so that you can present it prettily on a plate, but who are we kidding, it won’t last a day, so just eat it straight out of the loaf pan. You’re welcome.
After I made the lemon loaf, I realized it was almost time for dinner. Not feeling particularly inspired, I browsed through my mother’s old National Council of Jewish Women Cookbook from the 1960s, hoping for a quick fix. Honestly, I have no idea how housewives raising families in the ’50s and ’60s managed to come up with a different dinner day in and day out for decades. Donna Reed, with her poodle skirt and kitten heels. How did she do it? I can only surmise that she wasn’t serving Michelin Star meals every night. It was probably more like shepherd’s pie, liver and onions, fish sticks or TV dinners (if the kids were lucky). Then I saw it: tuna noodle casserole! Thankfully, it wasn’t my mom’s version, which tragically included chow mein noodles and canned mandarin oranges on top. I want to gag just thinking about it. My version was neat but not gaudy, and it practically made itself. Once again, you’re welcome.
TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE
2 cans of tuna fish
1 can of mushroom soup
approx. 1 cup frozen carrots and peas
approx. 1 cup grated cheese (any kind)
pasta of your choice (enough for a few people)
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Boil pasta as per the package and grate the cheese.
Once the pasta is ready, drain the water and add the mushroom soup, tuna, peas and carrots, and salt and pepper. Mix it all together. Pour it into a large casserole dish and top it with the grated cheese and Panko crumbs. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and gets slightly brown.
Sure, you could fancy this up using Gruyere cheese and organic, gluten-free pasta, with chopped up fiddlehead greens instead of carrots and peas, but, seriously, why would you want to? Stick to the KISS principle – keep it simple, silly. The proof is in the pudding: my husband and I both loved it. Judging by how he hoovered it down, he probably wouldn’t mind if I made it at least once a week. Hmm … maybe that’s why he just bought 36 cans of tuna at Costco.
I’m fully aware of how unsophisticated this recipe is but, hey, I never claimed to be a connoisseur of food. I did, however, claim the title of accidental balabusta. And it fits, right? Bon appetit!
Shelley Civkin, aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.