lemon bars, jana laurene

it has been a while since i have posted a recipe, and ever since my mom visited in december i have been craving her lemon bars.

lucky for you guys, my mom doesn’t believe in secret family recipes – so enjoy!


1 c. butter
½ c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour

cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. add flour. press into a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. [do not overcook].

3 eggs
2 c. sugar
8 T. lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon
4 T. flour
1 t. baking powder

beat eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and zest completely, making sure not to over beat.  gradually add in flour and baking powder. pour filling over crust. bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until edges are golden brown. cooking time will vary depending on your oven, altitude, etc. let sit for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle powdered sugar [using a sifter] on top. cut once cool.


pork tenderloin

i should just tell you up front, this isn’t really a recipe.
the other day, i was watching the food network and saw a recipe for stuffed pork chops. yum. so i went to the store to buy a few ingredients and somehow returned with a pork tenderloin instead. so now i had to improvise. i did my best to remember what might have been in a dish i had at a restaurant years ago. i looked through a few recipes on the foodnetwork.com. i consulted the joy of cooking and my friend, justin. and i picked up some goat cheese because my boyfriend has been begging me to try it in a recipe. eventually, this is what we came up with.
i don’t know why i didn’t pay more attention to what i was doing. i suppose i wasn’t sure just how it was going to turn out, so making notes of my recipe to share with the multitude didn’t really occur to me. i should have known it would turn out delicious – i mean, how can you go wrong with stuffing a meat full of delicious things?
so if you are feeling a little adventurous, here is approximately what i did [to the best of my memory].
the filling:
2 cloves garlic
10 oz. spinach
4. oz sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz. goat cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
with a little olive oil, sautee garlic and chopped spinach until nearly cooked through. add sun-dried tomatoes. remove from stove when the spinach is cooked to your liking. in a separate bowl, mix goat cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream together until smooth. add the spinach + sun-dried tomatoes to your creamy mixture.
then you will need a pork tenderloin – i think ours was close to 3 pounds? i really can’t remember. but it was big. so if you are cooking something smaller, you will probably only need about half of the filling.
cut your tenderloin open so it lies flat, rather than as a roll. (i should have taken a picture of how we did it – it’s a little hard to explain. but you guys are smart, so i’m sure you can figure it out). pat the pork dry with a paper towel, then place on a baking sheet. spread the filling across the pork, then roll the tenderloin up like a jelly roll, keeping the mixture enclosed. secure the pork with toothpicks or cotton strings (that is what we used).
brush the top of the pork with olive oil, and lightly sprinkle salt and pepper atop.
bake at 400 degrees, until the internal heat of the pork is 155 degrees (you will need a meat thermometer). i think we baked ours for about an hour. like i said, i should have paid better attention. if you overcook your pork, it will end up being dry and not as delicious. so at about 40 minutes, check your pork with your meat thermometer and keep an eye on it. cooking time will also depend on how much meat is being cooked, so it may vary.
so what do you think? doesn’t it look fabulous!
i love trying new things in the kitchen.
i love it even more when they turn out.
but just remember, no matter what you’re cooking, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t turn out quite like you expected. it is a learning experience. for example, i thought it would be a really good idea to put chopped garlic on top of the pork while it baked. but since we were baking it at such a high temperature, it only took 10 minutes for the garlic to start burning and smoking. so i had to pull it out of the oven, which set off the fire alarm, and scrape off all of the garlic into the sink.
like i said, don’t get discouraged. we’re all learning. [exhibit a].
so go ahead. try something new. be a little daring. maybe even set off the smoke alarm.
and as always, happy cooking!
for more of my favorite recipes, click here.

stuffed pork tenderloin


"food photography"

here’s the thing about meatloaf.

up until about a month ago, i had never had it before. and to be honest, i didn’t think i was missing out. i even remember one day, when i was in junior high, asking my mom why she had never made us meatloaf. she told me that my dad didn’t really like it, so she just never made it. and i thought this made me lucky. because i always felt like kids complained about 2 things: leftovers and meatloaf. and while i didn’t understand the deal with leftovers – those were a luxury at my house – i was grateful that i never had to worry about eating meatloaf.

but ever since i started dating the boy, he has been telling me that i needed to make bobby flay’s meatloaf recipe. (he actually told me this the day after we met). he was actually incredulous when i told him that i had never had meatloaf ever. apparently it is one of his favorite meals.

so 8 months later, i searched bobby flay’s meatloaf on the food network’s website, we bought the ingredients, and i cooked it up. it wasn’t bad for my first meatloaf. but the boy wasn’t completely satisfied. you see, his friend’s mom has made him “bobby flay’s meatloaf” on a few occasions, but he said our meatloaf was only about 70% there. so he e-mailed her and asked her what she did differently. attempt #2 consisted of 1/3 bobby’s recipe, 1/3 her changes, and about 1/3 of what we decided to throw in.

and since i just could not keep this recipe to myself any longer, here it is.

i have to warn you though. you will become obsessed. i think we’ve been making meatloaf about once a week around here. so if you’re not a huge meatloaf fan, try this recipe. it will blow your mind. and if you’re already a meatloaf-lover, try it anyway. it will blow your mind.

1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
5-6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 carrots (finely diced or grated)
2 stalks of celery (finely diced)
1/2 medium white onion (finely diced)
1 zucchini (finely diced or grated)
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 c. parsley (finely chopped)
1 lb. lean hamburger
1 lb. hot jimmy dean sausage
1 c. panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. parmesan cheese (grated)
1/2 c. ketchup
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. worchestshire sauce
2 t. hot sauce (chalula)
2 T. BBQ sauce
2 T. steak sauce (A1)

1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 T. worchestshire sauce
1 T. BBQ sauce
1 T. steak sauce (A1)
1 t. hot sauce (chalula)

* side note, if you don’t have all of these sauces, don’t worry. just remember that the ketchup and balsamic vinegar are the only 2 that you shouldn’t change.


preheat oven to 400 degrees.

heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan. add the garlic, carrots, celery, onion, and zucchini. saute vegetables until almost soft, about 5 minutes. salt and pepper vegetables, to taste. set aside to cool.

whisk together the eggs and parsley in a large bowl. add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, sauces, and cooled vegetables. mix until just combined – it’s usually best to do it by hand. [side note: like i said, if you don’t have all of the sauces, don’t worry. the ketchup and balsamic vinegar are the most important. as for the rest of them, just throw in what you have. those were the sauces that we decided to use, to give it a little extra kick, so feel free to leave some of them out or add some of your own].

mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet. whisk together the ingredients for the glaze, and spread it across the entire meatloaf. cook for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. [use a meat thermometer if you have one].

ps. this recipe makes for delicious leftovers. so to those of you that have ever complained about leftovers or meatloaf as children, your mother just didn’t have the right recipe. no offense to your mother, i’m sure she’s a lovely person.

jana's meatloaf

happy meatloafing!

pss. how is my food photography coming along? i’m pretty proud of myself so be nice. but i have to tell you that cooking this meal took over 3 hours from start to finish – posing vegetables can be very time-consuming.

for more food + photography, check out more of my favorite recipes or visit my homepage.

pumpkin cupcakes.

pumpkin cupcakes, jana laurene photography

[yes. this is my picture. i’m working on my food styling/photography skills – what do you think?]
fall is my favorite season. maybe it’s because i love all things pumpkin.
so the other night, my roommate and i decided to have a little bake-fest [she’s my sous chef/cooking prodigy – i love it].
we googled ‘pumpkin cupcakes’, and martha stewart’s recipe was the first to pop up. let me just tell you, martha does not disappoint.
there wasn’t a frosting recipe, so i took the liberty of using a cream cheese frosting recipe that i now have memorized, thanks to my love affair with this banana cake. excellent choice on my part, if i do say so myself.
[the recipe makes about 20 cupcakes. i had to make another batch so i could take some pictures].
pumpkin cupcakes
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. coarse salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1. preheat oven to 350 degrees. line cupcake pans with paper liners. set aside. in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. set aside. [don’t worry if you don’t have all the right spices. we didn’t have allspice, so i just doubled the amount of nutmeg].
2. separately, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. [i apparently can’t read recipes, and just softened my butter instead of melting it – it still worked great]. whisk in pumpkin puree. [the recipe calls for 15 oz. of pumpkin puree, which is actually half of of the cans of pumpkin you find at most stores].
3. divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway to 3/4 full. bake approximately 20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. [in my oven it was almost exactly 20 minutes].
cream cheese frosting
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 t. vanilla
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. add vanilla. then add powdered sugar. it will be too thick to use regular beaters after you add the powdered sugar, just fyi. hope you have a kitchenaid. or you don’t mind using your muscles. i pipe my frosting out of a re-usable featherweight piping bag i purchased at michael’s. and this recipe makes exactly the right amount needed to frost one batch of these cupcakes.
ps. i weighed less the day after i made these. they’re magic cupcakes.
for more of my favorite recipes, click here.