Andrea Chaffin: How to become a grown-up: Cook with lemon

Andrea Chaffin: How to become a grown-up: Cook with lemon

Sweet or savory, citrus makes an elegant impression

By Andrea Chaffin

There’s no more denying it. I knew I was officially a grown-up when I discovered I liked lemon.

Growing up, lemon was an artificial flavor that came in the form of yellow Warheads candy, instant iced tea, Savannah Smiles (my least-favorite type of Girl Scout’s cookie), holiday Jell-O molds and disappointment.

Discovering a cupcake was lemon and not a yellow, butter cake was similar to learning the chocolate chip cookie in your hands was actually oatmeal raisin.

Oh, what sorrow. Say it isn’t so!

I did my best to avoid consuming lemon. I picked around the yellow candies and gobbled up the red ones, spit out sips of oddly citrus beverages in exchange for Capri-Sun and Pepsi (don’t get me started on “Pepsi Twist”), opted for crispy, chocolate Thin Mints, and reached for blue Jell-O cups instead.

The only lemon exception made was pink lemonade, made from the powder. And notice, it was pink.

So, what happens as adults that we suddenly begin eating “gross” things such as broccoli, sauerkraut, salmon, olives and lemon? Especially lemon-flavored water? (My inner 8 year old is shuddering.)

I don’t know the answer for most of those other foods — other than it’s how we cope with being forced to do “adulting” — grotesque tasks such as going to work and paying bills.

But, I think the key to liking lemon is using real lemons.

Certainly, any kid won’t turn down a glass of freshly-made lemonade, right? Or a slice of decadent triple lemon cake made with fresh juice and zest? (Turns out that may not be the best example, as a 6 year old spit out her first bite of this recipe. Luckily, a couple adults were nearby to volunteer to eat the rest of her slice).

Lemons are great for many other grown-up things, such as dish soap, wood furniture polish, deodorizing a kitchen sink, soothing a sore throat and mixing with vodka.

So, maybe lemon is just for us adults, although, I still wouldn’t turn away a juice box, bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese or a corn dog.


This cake is not for the lemon faint of heart. A decadent dessert, it features distinct layers and makes a picture-perfect slice that will impress guests. All this lemon and not a drop of lemon extract. I used a total of seven lemons making it.



2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2/3 cup canola oil

2/3 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup sour cream

Lemon Curd

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)

2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated

1/3 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

3 tablespoons butter (I used unsalted)

Lemon Buttercream

1 1/2 cups butter

1 1/2 cups shortening

9 cups powdered sugar

3 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

6 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 teaspoons vanilla



Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Add eggs, oil and lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Add sour cream and beat until smooth.

Divide batter into two 8-inch pans.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until done.

Lemon Curd

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler, or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water (like I did).

Heat while stirring constantly with a whisk.

It is done when it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Refrigerate until cool and thick.

Lemon Buttercream

Beat butter and shortening together until smooth. Add half the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating to combine.

Add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and combine.

Add the remaining powdered sugar and beat to combine.

To assemble the cake:

1. Divide the cake into 4 layers by slicing each cake in half. Do this with a serrated knife.

2. Fill 2 layers with lemon buttercream and the other 2 with lemon curd.

3. Frost the outside of the cake.

(Recipe adapted from



This classic cocktail has been a staple for generations. Never had one? Think about the Lemon Shake-Up at the county fair, and add booze. Rumor is it was created in the 1970s in a San Francisco bar with a goal to popularize “girly” drinks. Like with any martini that has so few ingredients and showcases the spirit, don’t use cheap vodka.


2 ounces Ketel One Citreon vodka

2 teaspoons superfine sugar

3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice


Create a sugar-rimmed glass by taking a lemon wedge and rubbing the drinking surface of the glass so it is barely moist. Dip the edge of the glass into sugar.

Mix the vodka, sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well to make sure sugar is blended. Pour strained liquor into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with a lemon wedge or twisted peel of lemon.

Superfine sugar is instantly dissolving sugar that is typically used in drinks. If you want to avoid the shaking, make a simple syrup to use in place of the sugar.



Piccata is a method of preparing food where meat is sliced, coated, sauteed and served in a sauce. This dish is simple to make, but looks complicated and elegant. Extra “adult” points for the fancy-looking capers.


2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise

Salt and pepper to taste

All-purpose flour, for dredging

4 tablespoons butter, unsalted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup chicken stock or dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1/3 cup brined capers

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the olive oil, over medium to high heat.

Add chicken pieces to the skillet and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until browned. When chicken is cooked, remove chicken from skillet.

Remove skillet from heat. Add lemon juice, chicken stock or wine, capers and scrape up the brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Return skillet to heat and bring to a boil. Taste the sauce and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Add chicken back to skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a platter, add remaining butter, and whisk for about a minute. Sauce will thicken a bit.

You can return chicken to skillet and garnish with parsley. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with parsley.

Serve over buttered angel hair pasta.

(Recipe inspired from


Andrea is the food editor of Salt magazine and the editor of The Madison Press. She can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.


• For a sore throat or bad breath, gargle with some lemon juice.

• Toss used lemons into your garbage disposal to help keep it clean and smelling fresh.

• Use one part lemon juice and two parts salt to scour chinaware to its original luster.

• A few drops of lemon juice in outdoor house-paint will keep insects away while you are painting and until the paint dries.

• To make furniture polish, mix one part lemon juice and two parts olive oil.

• To clean the surface of white marble or ivory (such as piano keys), rub with half a lemon, or make a lemon juice and salt paste. Wipe with a clean, wet cloth.

• To remove dried paint from glass, apply hot lemon juice with a soft cloth. Leave until nearly dry, and then wipe off.

• Rub kitchen and bathroom faucets with lemon peel. Wash and dry with a soft cloth to shine and remove spots.

• Create your own air freshener: Slice some lemons, cover with water, and let simmer in a pot for about an hour. (This will also clean your aluminum pots.)

• Fish or onion odor on your hands can be removed by rubbing them with fresh lemons.

• To get odors out of wooden rolling pins, bowls, or cutting boards, rub with a piece of lemon. Don’t rinse: The wood will absorb the lemon juice.

• After a shampoo, rinse your hair with lemon juice to make it shine. Mix the strained juice of a lemon in an eight-ounce glass of warm water.

• Mix one tablespoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of salt to make a rust-removing scrub.

• Before you start to vacuum, put a few drops of lemon juice in the dust bag. It will make the house smell fresh.

• Suck on a lemon to settle an upset stomach.

Salt Magazine

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