Casual Daily Lemons (and Lemon-Lime Cupcakes)

Last Christmas, Bryce got a beautiful antique glass bowl at a gift exchange. It was filled with oranges — an “Orange Bowl.” We live in the south. Football’s a big thing.

And I mean big as in you are expected to know the outcome of half a dozen games, college and professional, on any given week, and you’re supposed to know the different conferences and all sorts of things like player names and which positions play on defense versus offense.

We frequently have these conversations at church with well-meaning southerners who assume it’s an obvious conversation topic. Bryce keeps tabs on scores, but I never know what’s going on, so I smile and nod politely like, “Oh, yes, the game. Quite. Did you see Tim’s play? No? Oh, well, Tim’s great. A gifted athlete. Huzzah!” And then I run off to get coffee while Bryce talks yards per carry and point conversions and whatnot. Needless to say, I’m glad it’s not football season.

Anyway, the bowl. After the oranges ran out, it became an all purpose fruit bowl. And for the past month or so, it’s pretty much been a lemon and lime bowl. It’s a recent obsession, but I can’t seem to go on a grocery run without coming home with a dozen (or more) lemons and limes.

It makes me think of this kid I knew in elementary school who loved lemons. And I mean loved. He brought a lemon in his lunch box every day, and he’d just eat it. He’d sip a bottle of lemon juice. And as it goes with kids, soon we all were bringing lemons in our lunches… but he was the only one who actually ate them. The rest of us just goofed out and freaked out about how sour the juice was.

I wonder about him–like whether or not he still has enamel on his teeth–every single time I replenish our fruit bowl with a fresh batch of lemons and limes. Maybe this is how it starts, and soon I’ll be the woman who always has a lemon or lime on hand for casual daily consumption.

We’ve been using a lot of them for what we call “citrus drink,” which is basically just lemonade mixed with limeade and steeped with mint leaves. But a few weeks ago at church we had an Earth Day service focusing on creation care, followed by a “green” potluck.

I made these lemon-lime mini cupcakes and topped them with a cream cheese frosting (with some lime juice whisked in for extra flavor). The cake is an adapted pound cake recipe with a nice citrus finish, and the sweetness and tang of the frosting balances it out. Bringing a taste of summer in early!

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It’s a little extra effort, but I encourage you to use fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice instead of the bottled juice you get in the store. There’s just no comparison in taste. If your lemons and limes are a bit hard or cold, you can warm them in the microwave for about 10 seconds before juicing them.

If you prefer, you can use all lemon or all lime juice. I just like the combination!

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Lemon Lime Cupcakes

1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash salt
1/4 cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons, juiced)
1/4 cup lime juice (2-3 limes, juiced)
green food coloring (optional)
cream cheese frosting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Juice lemons and limes and pour juice through a strainer to catch pulp and seeds.

Note: if you don’t have buttermilk, here’s a substitute: combine milk and lemon juice (1 cup milk to 1 tablespoon lemon juice) and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Mix in eggs one at a time. Mix in juices. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk until all are used. If desired, add green food coloring.

Spoon batter into greased or lined muffin tins. For mini cupcakes, use a mini muffin pan and bake 12-14 minutes. For regular sized cupcakes, bake 20-24 minutes. When baked fully, an inserted toothpick should come out clean.

If desired, whisk together lime juice and cream cheese frosting to taste. Let cupcakes cool and frost them. Garnish with lime and/or lemon zest.

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