Half Baked

No, we didn’t make any funny brownies while we were in Colorado. And I’m not referring to the contact high we may have experienced at Riot Fest. Today we’re talking dessert and not just any dessert, a birthday dessert!

Riot Fest

I remember as a kid, birthdays were all about the parties and the presents. We always had a kid party, a birthday dinner and an extended family party. We had sleepovers, pizza parties, scavenger hunts and lots of homemade cakes (including those special Cinnamon Swirl cakes). Sometimes it turned into a month-long celebration depending on when the parties were scheduled.


I’ve tried to carry that tradition on with Mr. N and Miss A because childhood birthdays are moments to be treasured. As a kid, it’s pure bliss. So around here, the kids get to pick their favorite meal (you can find several of these on the blog with a quick search of “birthdays”) and of course the birthday desserts. We have a party with their friends and another with extended family. We’ve had spy parties, rock diva parties, bouncy parties and laser tag parties. The celebrations are seemingly endless for June and July!

1st birthday

As for the grown-ups, well, it’s not quite the same, especially if your birthday falls on a holiday. Poor Mike has to compete with New Year’s Eve. But holiday or not, grown up birthdays are no less special in this house. The kids and I dote on Mike all day long. It’s his day right up until the late night hours, when we briefly shift focus to celebrate the New Year, before having more birthday festivities on New Year’s Day.


Drawing out the celebrations isn’t just about parties either. It’s about shining the spotlight on the birthday king, queen, prince or princess for that extra bit of love and attention. One of my favorite ways to do this, which seems silly and simple, but is very effective, is to wish them happy birthday for days, “Happy day after your birthday!” Or, “Happy day after the day after your birthday!” Sometimes for fun, I’ll even look up how many days it’s been since their birthday months later and bust out a “Happy 146 days after your birthday!” It makes their faces glow – even my middle schooler’s.

2nd birthday

As for my birthday, well, they aren’t all about the parties or presents anymore. While I do still enjoy a good night out with friends to toast another year, it’s really about spending time with my family and being grateful for everything I’ve experienced and learned up to this new beautiful age. In fact this year, I didn’t even age! For the past year, I’ve been thinking I was 38. Then this year, I realized I was in fact turning 38. Somehow I missed 37 altogether! It’s like that feeling you get when you pull out the winter coats and find money in the pocket from last year. It’s a bonus!

2015 birthday

Now while my birthdays are mellower than they used to be, they are still one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a time I let myself indulge in whatever food and dessert my heart desires – calories be damned! This year my attention was solely focused on dessert and it all began when I read about these beautiful no bake lemon slices on Hotly Spiced.

lemon square

For anyone that doesn’t know Charlie Louie at Hotly Spiced, she too knows how to do birthdays right! Take a browse around her blog and you’ll see she’s not only an expert at birthday parties, but she has a gift when it comes to birthday cakes. From stilettos to roses, she’s a master. She even has her own category for birthday cakes! As someone that has neither the skill nor the patience for making cakes, she leaves me in awe every time.

shortbread with lemon frosting

Now if you’ve been following us for a while, you also know that I have an obsession with all things lemon – especially lemon bars. So when I saw these no bake beauties, I had to have them ASAP. And am I happy I did. They were perfectly sweet and full of that fresh lemon flavor I crave (truly crave in a scary animalistic way – translation: don’t touch my lemon squares!).

lemon bars

I’ve made this recipe several times already and I knew they had to be on my birthday plate this year. After some consideration (there are always these no bakes, this cobbler and this cake to contend with on my birthday), I decided to put a spin on Charlie’s recipe. Instead of a no bake bar, I wanted to try a half-baked bar! I have a go-to shortbread recipe that I love for its flavor, texture and simplicity (it also reminds me of Maine and that’s never a bad thing), and I had a feeling it would go well with Charlie’s lemony icing.

lemon dessert

And it did! The buttery shortbread is a delicious complement to the tangy, sugary topping and the recipe is nearly as easy. Instead of baking the shortbread in a smaller baking dish, I used a 9-inch-by-13-inch dish to make them a bit thinner (and more plentiful). The icing, which I added a little more lemon to because I’m a lemon junkie, spread evenly over a cooled shortbread, but admittedly it’s a delicate process. It does require patience and a good rubber spatula otherwise the shortbread will break into the icing.

half baked lemon square

These are best served cold, so refrigeration after spreading the icing is recommended. They are also easier to slice once cold. Honestly, though, they’re delicious served room temp or cold. Obviously they are a 4 spooner for me, the kids too. Mike also voted 4 spoons, making this an all-around winner! To keep myself from eating them all, I brought some to my mom and dad’s for my birthday dinner. My dad also loved them and devoured several. Mom is gluten free so couldn’t partake, but instead she made me a special Cinnamon Swirl cake, in honor of my Auntie Karen, which she could eat too.

Print this recipe: Half Baked Lemon Squares

38th birthday

Although we weren’t part of each others’ lives for the last decade, and despite her passing, Auntie Karen was smiling down this year. I received this note on my birthday (my uncle didn’t realize the timing):


Enclosed was a card I had made for my Godmother years ago.


It made my day. Even as a grown-up surprises and gifts are still as special, if not more so, than when I was a kid.

unexpected gifts

And whether I’m eight, 18, 38 or 88, I’m planning to celebrate every wonderful year. Later this week we’ll share my birthday adventure to Chicago Gourmet and because presents are still fun – have a giveaway for you too!

26 thoughts on “Half Baked

  1. Sawsan@ Chef in disguise says:

    Happy month after your birthday Kristy
    I am so sorry for the delay but things were rough this summer and it took me some time to find my balance again
    As always I love reading your posts, we share so much when it comes to our view on life. 🙂
    I love celebrating my kids’ and friends’ birthday. Even if you love them and take care of them all year long, there is just something extra special about birthdays.
    Wishing you a lifetime full of magic my friend

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ChgoJohn says:

    Belated happy birthday, Kristy! We, too, had our pick of birthday dinners and cakes when young. I still treat myself to something special that day. You’re right about Charlie’s cakes. She’s amazing! Remember her Titanic? Incredible. Your lemon bars have everything I love. A lemon bar sandwiched between shortbread and lemon icing? Perfect!


  3. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    Haha, I lose track of my years too! (although, I think it might be more deliberate in my case 😉 ). How special that the note from your uncle made it to you on your birthday…I do love that card you made for your aunt Karen; she kept it all those years. The lemon squares look divine and I couldn’t agree more, birthdays should be all about enjoying and feeling the love — (the more days the better). Happy to hear you’re living it to the fullest in your home and in your hearts Kristy. Happy 38th my friend ~ I’m so glad you were born ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dawn says:

    Happy Birthday Kristy!! Sounds like you definitely enjoyed it. So nice to see so many posts from you lately! I hope you are doing well, and looking forward to your adventure ahead!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eva Taylor says:

    Happy belated birthday my dear friend, I hope it was all you had imagined . Thank you for sharing your lovely birthday memories, traditions and particularly that note. What a coincidence, we (read me) like to drag out each birthday as long as we can; it is usually I who sings “happy day after your birthday to you…” and “happy two-days after your birthday to you…” to JT and he just rolls his eyes. Yes, I said sing. My Mom started the singing the birthday song tradition, she would call early in the morning, before we left for work and sing the birthday song; no hello, just start singing. And the last “you” would be stretched out so long with an up pitch at the very end! I started doing it to everyone and now I have a dear friend who does is back to me, every year (this year it was a gmail which I’ve saved!) it’s these little traditions that make our lives so very special.
    My lovely friend Kim (xboss) is also a New Years baby! She’ll be having a benchmark bday this year, so there’s talk about a HUGE party!
    The lemon bars look fantastic and you know how much of a lemon fan I am as well. Have to tried the lemon squares on my blog, or even the lemon tarts? So, so lemony and easy!
    And I’ll sign off with…must be read in a singing voice: Happy day-after-your-birthday-to-you; happy day-after-your-birthday-to-you; happy, day-after-your-birthday, day-after-your-birthday, Happy day-after-your-birthday-to-you-oooooooooooo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      I will have to try your lemon tarts to Eva! I can’t resist anything with lemony flavor. 🙂 Thank you for the birthday song. My grandpa used to do that every year on my birthday as well!! I love that you have a friend that’s picked up on your tradition because you’re right – it’s definitely these types of little things that make them so special. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. thecompletebook says:

    What a wonderful post Kristy and like you say, what a bonus not to have turned a year older. What a treasure your uncle sent you from your aunt. Lovely! Charlie is absolutely brilliant with her cakes – I would never be brave enough for something like that and I must say your lemon slices look heavenly!
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      Thank you Mandy! I can’t tell you how much that note touched me that week – the timing was amazing. 🙂 And I agree, I doubt I could even begin to attempt one of Charlie’s beautiful cakes. She is amazing!


  7. Debra says:

    Happy belated birthday, Kristy, but I think you’ve got the right idea to make the celebration last as long as possible. I adored the photos! My daughter’s birthday is Christmas Eve, and because a friend of mine with the same birth date told me how much she hated always being asked to celebrate on another day, I was encouraged to always make the 24th as special as possible and not let the inconvenience of the timing detract from the possibilities. Of course I never once gave a birthday party like Charlie! I just love reading about her grand events. I’m awed each time. So this is twice these lemon bars have tempted me, and I must give them a try! October is a big birthday month in our family so I have a few more occasions when I might just give these a try! Riot Fest must have been fun, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      I hope you and your family enjoy them Debra! September is our big birthday month. Isn’t it funny how so many family birthdays seem to wind up in the same month! Does make for fun celebrations. And yes, Riot Fest was a total blast! 🙂


  8. sallybr says:

    Absolutely perfect post! Phil once made this mistake of thinking he was one year older for most of the year – boy, was he happy when he realized he “gained” one year…

    oh, well – you are sure enjoying your life and making each day special, including Birthdays… as I mentioned before, I don’t understand people who say they don’t care about Bdays – what’s wrong with them? It is a celebration of being alive… it’s all good!

    loved all the photos…. and the card…. everything…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Sally. 🙂 It is definitely fun to gain a year. Glad I’m not the only one that forgets my age! And I agree it’s definitely worth celebrating – especially with good food.


  9. hotlyspiced says:

    Hi Kristy, thank you so much for your kind words; so lovely of you. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed making this lemon slice and I like your twist on the original recipe. Definitely shortbread would go very well with the lemon icing. You are so clever to be the same age for 24 months – I’m going to try that. But I do feel sorry for Mike having to share his b’day with NYE – bummer! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      These are some of my favorite little bars now Charlie! I just adore them. They are so much easier than regular lemon bars, and just as tasty. Being the same age for the last year has been great! It really was a fun surprise to realize I wasn’t getting older. 😉


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