Sunshine in a Box: Lemon Bars Review


To create tangy, sweet-lemon sunshine from a box, it’s absolutely necessary to begin with something that doesn’t even remotely resemble an actual lemon: a bag of sand-like stuff. Just snip the top off with a pair of scissors and mix in three eggs and 1/3 cup of water. Whisk, whisk, whisk and watch the entire thing transform into a thick, brilliant lemon-square filling. (It’s almost like watching Sea Monkeys grow. Almost.)

When I first opened the box of Krusteaz lemon square baking mix, I thought, “Shouldn’t there at least be a tin can of lemons?” But where’s the fun in that? The smart food chemists at the Krusteaz headquarters, must have gotten together and said,

“Well, we all know what happens when we put actual lemons into a cardboard box and ship it all over the place, so we won’t do that, but we can’t have the lemon filling already made. What would be the point? People who buy these mixes want to see something happen—they need confetti and streamers—fireworks—the equivalent of champagne corks popping or a stampede of unicorns and flying Sea Monkeys.”

And I tell you, when I mixed the “sand” in with the eggs and water, I got my unicorn stampede fix right away.

My exact words were, “Nate! Alex! Come here, quick! It’s happening! Look at the magic! The magic!”

Alex’s reaction: Whoa!

Nate’s: You okay?

The crust part is just as easy to make. Simply mix the crust “sand” in with two tablespoons of melted butter, press the mixture into an 8×8 baking pan, and bake at 350 for about 13 minutes. Then, whisk the lemon stuff one more time and pour it directly onto the hot crust and bake again for about 25 minutes.

Here’s the hard part: The lemon squares come out screaming hot, so you have to wait. And wait. And wait to be able to eat them, but they are worth it. That sweet-tart lemon filling transitions smoothly into the buttery cookie-like crust, and when I close my eyes, the unicorns have sprouted wings, and they’re sprinkling yellow pixie sand all over the place. Sparkling Sea Monkeys, singing cheerful songs about how aquarium pets celebrate spring, scoop up the sand and turn it into never-ending roads of lemon bars, which I proceed to eat, Ms. Pac-Man style.

Alex’s reaction: Whoa!

Nate’s: You okay?

In Other News: I have a couple of new stories out:

The first story is from Speculate This magazine. The theme was “love,” so I wrote a story about an author who falls in love with a mysterious forensics accountant—so this one is for all of those sexy forensics accountants out there—and those who might dabble in forensics accounting (Nate) who uncover unethical behavior in patterns of numbers. My story is on pages 16-17 here: “Blue Lines.”

The other story published this week is in Wretched Creations. It’s called “Séance at the Wax Museum.”

Your turn: Do you ever like to use boxed mixes every once in a while to create baked goods? What has been your experience?

21 thoughts on “Sunshine in a Box: Lemon Bars Review

    1. I stayed with a family in Spain when I was studying Spanish and I was surprised to find out that no one in the family baked–but then they didn’t have to–they were surrounded by incredible bakeries nearby for bread and everything else. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Glad I read your séance during the day. Yeesh, first it’s Vincent Price and now you giving me the heebie-jeebies, I bet Madame Tussaud will start haunting you, for scaring away customers.
    I don’t do a lot of baking, boxed or otherwise, the only thing that comes close, is a couple times a year, is flan in a box. Instead of Jell-O, I look for Dr. Oetker’s, I mean, who wouldn’t trust a German scientist when making a fake desert. You just boil it and it usually coagulates ok in the fridge.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! I’ve always wanted to try the flan in the box. When I went to Spain, my host mother would buy flan in the dairy section of a large supermarket that was around the corner from her apartment. It came in yogurt cups with the caramel sauce on the bottom, so you had to mix it in. It was weird, but I grew to like it. I sometimes miss it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats on your new publications, Cecelia! I use boxed mixes once in a while (gluten-free, these days) for things like muffins or cornbread. They’re sometimes overly dry, and I think the bake times listed are often too long (or maybe it’s just my oven?).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Sometimes those boxed mixes do create dry products–often, I think, because they warn me not to over mix, so in my effort to follow the steps, maybe I’m taking the instructions a little too literally at times? Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t remember the last time I made a boxed dessert, although I used to years ago. I loved the lemon bars and the date bars. Yum! Congratulations on your latest publications! I particuarly liked the metafictional “Blue Lines.”

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  4. ok this made me laugh… and crave lemon bars. While I typically like to make things from scratch (hence my Lori-ize it! blog)
    It is very true that you take this dried sand mixture and add a bit of this and that and food magic happens! crazy train! Krusteaz is a great box mix brand. They have a coffee cake mix that if tweaked in the right way makes a fantastic berry cobbler.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This lemon bar mix from Krusteaz is really good. It was late at night and we were looking for something super easy and fun to do, so we tore into the box we bought a few weeks ago. I’m sure your homemade lemon squares from scratch are super tasty:)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mmmm I love lemon squares. The last agency I worked at had a delightful bakery next door that made delicious lemon squares with white chocolate drizzle. The only problem was they were ginormous — felt like I was eating 2000 calories of lemon bar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those bakery lemon bars sound terrific! It’s so funny–the baking mix says that it makes 18 servings. I have no idea how that 8×8 pan makes 18 squares. I see, at most, 9, but probably 4 or 6. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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