Lemon Ricotta Cake Recipe and Where You’ll Find the Best Lemons in the World

Fast and easy Lemon Ricotta Cake recipe.

Lemon Ricotta Cake is a Perfect Finish to the Summer BBQ Dinner!

Here’s the perfect way to use up leftover Ricotta cheese. This Lemon Ricotta Cake recipe is the ideal finish to the summer BBQ dinner. The “secret sauce” is the lemon rind which means that you need real lemons. Please don’t use bottled lemon juice! Keep scrolling to read where you’ll find the best lemons in the world. 👇🏼

A Little History

Woman holding freshly made Ricotta cheese.

It was impossible for me to find the Lemon Ricotta Cake’s true origin despite the many versions that are available on the internet. I am going to guess Sicily, because that area of Italy claims to be the founder of ricotta cheese. (Since my readership is largely based in Italy, feel free to comment at the end of the blog should you know differently. 👇🏼)

I love how in traditional Italian Cuisine, you can find innovative and tasty examples of how nothing went to waste. Ricotta (it’s really a curd rather than cheese) came about when someone wanted to find a way to use the whey leftover from other cheeses. In fact, Ricotta translates to “re-cooked.” One of the earliest references to ricotta was made by a Sicilian history professor.

Curious about how Ricotta is made? I suggest that you watch this video.

World’s Most Famous Lemons

Probably the biggest and best lemons in the world come from the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. Have you been there? If so, tag #LiveinItalyMag @LiveinItalyMag in your photos for re-gram consideration.

Now despite Sorrento’s claim to lemon fame, it’s believed that this citrus fruit’s roots go back to Northern India, China and Malaysia. It was the Medici’s of Florence that brought lemons to Italy and started cultivating lemons in the 16th Century. Read more here.

Freshly baked Lemon Ricotta Cake on a cooling tray.

Let’s Bake!

This cake is called Migliaccio (pudding) in Naples. The name is indicative of the Lemon Ricotta Cake’s texture. In this version, semolina is used rather than flour. Here again, is a great example of making something delicious of ingredients readily on hand.

Note: I found the original recipe on Cooking Classy

  • 1 1/3 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (356g) whole milk ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together sugar, butter and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.

Mix in eggs one at a time (mixture will appear lumpy), blend in vanilla.

Add in half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined, add ricotta and mix just until combined.

Add in last half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Gently fold batter to ensure ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared springform pan and spread into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven until cake is set (a toothpick can come out moist but no batter), about 45 – 50 minutes.

Let cake cool 10 minutes then run a knife around edge to loosen any edges that may have stuck slightly, remove springform ring and continue to let cool.

Once cool, dust the Lemon Ricotta Cake with powdered sugar and serve it with fresh fruit and whipped cream, if desired.

Lemon Ricotta Cake dusted with powdered sugar.

A Ricotta Life Lesson

I’m enjoying this journey to discover the history of some of the ingredients that go into Italian dishes and desserts that I love. I hope you will enjoy joining me on this food journey too.

Quality ingredients are key. However, being mindful and not letting anything go to waste strengthens our appreciation of what we make.

Cu’ non mancia ccu’ so’ cucchiaru lassa tutto ‘o zammataru. (Those who don’t eat with a spoon will leave all their ricotta behind.) ~ Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily.

If you like lemon desserts, check out this easy, No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake recipe.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Tarta de queso con limón sin hornear

when life gives you lemons, make an easy no-bake lemon cheesecake

Ingredientes

  • 1 ½ tazas de migas de galletas Graham (375 g)
  • 3 cucharadas de azúcar (37.8)
  • 7 cucharadas de mantequilla derretida (100 g)
  • 1 paquete de gelatina de limón 3 onzas (84 g)
  • 16 onzas de queso crema ablandado (250 g)
  • 1 taza de azúcar en polvo (125 g)
  • 1 cucharadita de extracto de vainilla (3.3 g)
  • 2 cucharadas de crema agria (30 g)
  • 1 ½ tazas de crema batida (360 ml)
  • 1 cucharada cascara de limón (17.07 g)

Instrucciones

  • Combine las migas de galletas Graham y los azúcares en un tazón mediano. Agregue mantequilla derretida y use un tenedor para combinar bien los ingredientes.
  • Vierta la mezcla en un molde de resorte de 9 “o 10”. Use el fondo (¡limpio!) De una taza de medir para empacar firmemente las migajas en el fondo de la sartén y presione suavemente hacia los lados. Usa tus dedos para empacar las migajas firmemente en los lados de la sartén.
  • Coloque en el refrigerador o congelador mientras prepara el relleno de tarta de queso.
  • Vierta la mezcla de gelatina de gelatina de limón en 1 taza de agua muy caliente y revuelva bien. Ponga a un lado para enfriar.
  • Mientras tanto, revuelva el queso crema y el azúcar en polvo hasta que quede suave y bien combinado.
  • Agregue la crema agria y revuelva bien.
  • Mezclar en extracto de vainilla.
  • Solo una vez que la mezcla de gelatina ya no esté caliente al tacto, vierta gradualmente en la mezcla de queso crema. Revuelva lentamente al principio (para evitar salpicaduras) y luego aumente la velocidad hasta que la mezcla esté completamente combinada (haga una pausa para raspar los lados del tazón periódicamente). Revuelva muy bien.
  • En un tazón separado, vierta su crema espesa y use una batidora eléctrica con un batidor para batir a picos rígidos.
  • Doble la crema batida en la mezcla de pastel de queso hasta que esté bien combinada.
  • Doblar en la ralladura de limón, si se usa.
  • Vierte sobre la corteza de galletas Graham y transfiérelas al refrigerador por al menos 6 horas o toda la noche para que se enfríen.
  • Si lo desea, cubra con crema batida antes de cortar y servir.

Regrese al blog aquí.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake

when life gives you lemons, make an easy no-bake lemon cheesecake

Feeding Five Under 25$

There’s nothing pleasant about living in South Florida these days. This year, the stifling heat and humidity are minor burdens compared to the reality of living in Florida, the COVID-19 epicenter. We’re just sitting and watching our impending, pandemic doom. Read it to believe it here. So, when life gives you lemons, make an easy no-bake lemon cheesecake.

Here’s the recipe below and some history about this famous saying at the end 👇🏼 – just keep scrolling if you’re not making this dessert. However, I suggest that you do because it’s a great finish to a BBQ dinner.

easy no-bake lemon cheesecake

No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake (Original recipe from Spend with Pennies)

La receta en español


La Ricetta in Italiano

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 package lemon Jell-O 3 ounces
  • 16 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream*
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest freshly grated

Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugars in a medium-sized bowl. Add melted butter and use a fork to combine ingredients well.

Pour mixture into a 9″ or 10″ springform pan. Use the (clean!) bottom of a measuring cup to firmly pack crumbs into the bottom of the pan and gently press up the sides. Use your fingers to pack crumbs tightly into the sides of the pan.

Place in refrigerator or freezer while you prepare cheesecake filling.

Pour Lemon Jello gelatin mix into 1 cup very hot water and stir well. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, stir cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth and well-combined.

Add sour cream and stir well.

Mix in vanilla extract.

Only once Jello mixture is no longer hot to the touch, gradually pour into cream cheese mixture. Stir slowly at first (to avoid splashing) and then increase speed until mixture is completely combined (pause to scrape down sides of the bowl periodically). Stir very well.

In a separate bowl, pour your heavy cream and use an electric mixer with whisk attachment to beat to stiff peaks.

Fold whipped cream into cheesecake mixture until well-combined.

Fold in lemon zest, if using.

Pour over graham cracker crust and transfer to refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight to chill.

If desired, top with whipped cream before cutting and serving.

fourth of july no-bake cheesecake

Notes:

I made two versions. For the second one, I used strawberry Jello because I needed a July 4th dessert. It came out pink, so I added a strawberry to the center and outlined the no-bake cheesecake with blueberries and whipped cream. Hooray for the red, but really pink, white and blue! 😊

The lemon version is a much tastier and more sophisticated dessert, because it doesn’t taste at all like Jello. Next year, I’ll just add some red food color to the original, no-bake lemon cheesecake recipe.

lemons for lemonade

When Life Gives You Lemons

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a memorable proverbial phrase that many of us like to pull out of our pocket and slap on like a Band-Aid, when something goes wrong. The phrase originates from a obituary titled, “The King of Jesters” penned by Elbert Hubbard who was inspired by the life of a disabled, but highly successful, dwarf actor.

In stressful times such as now, we turn to these words of wisdom and hopefully, find positive ways to escape. For me, it would be a visit to a museum, walk on the beach, or lunch with a friend. However, these simple solutions are now like unattainable luxuries as Floridians struggle to stay healthy and economically stable.

I’ll continue to temporarily forget by escaping to my kitchen and “make lemonade (or lemon cheesecake) from lemons.” However, it’s getting harder…

If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back? ~ Steven Wright

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

You can find other dessert recipes that I’ve made at the following links:

P.S. I am very thankful for all you who have shared this recipe. I was asked to post it in Spanish and Italian, so there are links at the top of the recipe. I am not fluent in Spanish or in Italian, so I used Google Translator. So, excuse any typos! 😊

Falling in Love with Franciacorta DOCG

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta DOCG Wines

Ricci Curbastro Guided Wine Tasting Seminar: History, Area, and Wines

If you haven’t had an opportunity to try Franciacorta, know that there are many reasons to do so. Once you’ve had just a few sips, I can almost guarantee that you’ll fall in love and possibly make this style of wine you’re preferred choice of bubbly. Today’s blog post is solely dedicated to the wine presented at the Ricci Curbastro guided wine tasting seminar.

Yes, I’ll mention the suggested pairings at the end and possibly in a future post. However, today I’ll recap the one hour, World Wine Web Masterclass seminar led by wine expert, Lyn Farmer and featuring Riccardo and Gualberto Ricci Curbastro of Ricci Curbastro Farm Estate Winery. A group of about twenty-five guests including lucky me, had a chance to learn about the history, vineyards and wines.

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta DOCG

What is Franciacorta?

Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Lombardy, Italy and is also a style of high-quality sparkling wine made using the Traditional Method or when speaking about Champagne, Méthode Champenoise. Now is not the time to compare ‘apples and oranges,’ because Franciacorta has its own unique identity, so let’s first dive into some history.

Riccardo Ricci Curbastro and Gualberto Ricci Curbastro Sr.

Franciacorta History

The cultivation of vines in Franciacorta goes back very far. Think about evidence of prehistoric grape seeds and mentions in the writings of Pliny the Elder. You can read more here.

The agricultural tradition of the Ricci Curbastro family dates back to the thirteenth century.  Eighteen generations later, Riccardo leads the business alongside his eldest son Gualberto who bears his grandfather’s name.

Franciacorta received its DOCG status* in 1995 and was the first Italian sparkling wine to achieve this designation. The region consists of about 120 producers. Gualberto explained at that time, the term Traditional or Classical Method was no longer used and replaced with Franciacorta as the only word to describe the wine style.

*Read about Italian Wine Classifications here.

1908 Map Ricci Curbastro Soil

There’s Something About Soil

A few years ago when Riccardo was sorting through papers, he discovered a map that dated back to 1908. It documented the research that his grandfather and great grandfather made to decide what was the best combination in terms of grafting American roots and European varieties after the phylloxera epidemic.

“Franciacorta is the stratification of great patience and a lot of research in getting always better and better quality,” remarked Riccardo with a tone of admiration and appreciation for his forefathers.  “And, we started a long time ago.”

He explains that Franciacorta has over sixty soil profiles. For this reason it is very important that Ricci Curbastro has vineyards in three different villages because of the variations in soil. Plus, the microclimates are different between the three. I suggest you watch the full video on the World Wine Web’s Masterclass Facebook page to understand more.

“There is something pretty unique in terms of characteristics: soil and climate,” says Riccardo when explaining the area, located at the foot of the Alps and north by the shores of Lake Iseo. The area has an unusual mix of climates, including Mediterranean.

Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta Brut NV
Franciacorta Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir) © Author

The Wines

One of the ingredients of our wine is time. ~ Riccardo Ricci Curbastro

We tasted three wines: Franciacorta Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir); Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014 (100% Chardonnay); and Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.) You can read the wine specs here.

What engages me the most about wine seminars is to hear from people who create the wines. The insights and anecdotes are a trajectory from what’s in my glass to the vineyard and history.

Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014
Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014 (100% Chardonnay) © Author

For example, I learned that the word Satèn (silk) is a name that is typically only from Franciacorta and infers Franciacorta’s past when they were producing a lot of silk, as well as wine. Silk is a perfect metaphor for Franciacorta Satèn: “When you touch a scarf you have the sensation of something that is smooth but, at the same time, it is a very strong cloth,” explains Riccardo noting that the first parachutes were made of silk. “The wine’s strength is like roundness and very good structure.”

Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay)
Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay) © Author

Not Just for Toasting

Lyn, Riccardo and Gualberto emphasized that the Ricci Curbastro wines go well with food and are not just for toasting at special occasions. Gualberto who grew up with Franciacorta at the table said when speaking of the Rosé Brut: “We’ve tried the best and worst with Franciacorta, but barbeque is always a good combination.”

Riccardo refers to the Rosé Brut as a “light red” and explained that the dryness, acidity and elegance of the wine balances with the richness of grilled meat.

We were drooling, when Lyn presented his 11:00 am “perfect pairing” – Smoked Salmon and Bacon-Wrapped Scallops. Yum and I need to hurry back into the kitchen lab!

Poolside with Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta DOCG wines.

Falling In Love

While I won’t write about it today, I suggest you watch the video and learn more about the Sustainable Winery 3E logo that is on the back label of Ricci Curbastro wines. You can also read more here.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I suffer from an extreme case of the travel bug. As I navigate through a perpetual state of pandemic-related immobility, virtual wine travel is now my preferred, #MyArtEscape.

Lyn commented on one of my Instagram posts that “Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta is the ultimate postcard in a glass.” I couldn’t agree more!

Once you’ve watched the seminar, read the Ricci Curbastro website to learn more, and drink the wines, I suggest that you watch this film: “F is for Franciacorta.” If you’re anything like me, you too will be ‘falling in love’ with Franciacorta.

Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense. ~ Helen Rowland

F is for Franciacorta produced by the Franciacorta DOCG Consortium that celebrated its 30th year this past March.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

A Very Special Thanks for the Invitation to this Virtual Event 💕

Recent mentions of Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta in the Food Wine Travel Magazine.

A Reason for Riesling

Ingredients needed to make roast pork loin with apricots/

Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce Recipe Paired with 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett by Weingut Gunderloch

Roast pork loin with apricot sauce recipe.
This Roasted Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce pairs perfectly with the Gunderloch Riesling. © Author

Today’s recipe and pairing wine is taking me out of my comfort zone. This Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce recipe nicely complements the 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett by Weingut Gunderloch and is a perfect Sunday meal that will give you more time to relax than spent in the kitchen.

How Do You Like Your Wine?

Typically, I like white wines that are bone dry and red wines with some ‘oomph.’ When it comes to food, I prefer dishes that are savory and avoid anything sweet that goes alongside them like turkey with cranberry sauce.

Studying the Riesling wine classifications while preparing for the WSET 2 exam. Read more below. 👇🏼 © Author

Just like last week, I still have my nose in a glass and in a pile of books. If you’re not making these recipes, scroll down for some Weingut Gunderloch history and some introductory German wine vocabulary too. 👇🏼

Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce (The Spruce Eats)

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 3 small cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1.5 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 boneless pork loin roast (about 4 1/2 pounds)

For the Apricot Sauce:

  • 10 to 12 ounces apricot preserves (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth (or dry sherry)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large food storage bag or glass bowl, combine 1/2 cup chicken broth, the soy sauce, minced garlic, dry mustard, thyme, and ginger.

Add pork roast, turning to coat well.

Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove pork roast and discard the marinade.

Heat the oven to 325 F.

Place pork roast, fat side up, on a rack in a foil-lined roasting pan.

Bake in the preheated oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until a meat thermometer or instant-read food thermometer registers at least 145 F when inserted into the center of the roast.

Remove the roast from the oven, tent loosely with a sheet of foil, and let it stand for 15 minutes before slicing.

Apricot Sauce

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the preserves, 2 tablespoons of chicken broth or sherry, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

Bring the sauce to a boil and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 1 minute.

Slice the pork loin thinly and serve it with the apricot sauce.

Ingredients needed to make pork with apricot sauce recipe.
Just a few simple ingredients needed to make a delicious and easy Sunday meal. © Author

The Wine: 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett by Weingut Gunderloch

The Weingut Gunderloch vineyards are in an area called Roter Hang which means ‘red slope’ and located in Germany’s Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest wine region.  This area had been known for producing average wines, but this reputation is being redefined by wineries such as Weingut Gunderloch. You can find out more about this area here, but to put it into a better perspective, I suggest that you watch this video.

I found this wine at Wine by the Bay in Miami and a great write-up with descriptor here. I’ll dive briefly into Riesling and sweetness below, but here are Tim Lemke’s notes:

“The nose is powerfully floral and lemony. It smells absolutely wonderful. The palate offers crisp lemon, apple and peach flavors with good balance, perfect acidity and a pleasant mouthfeel. It has plenty of fruit, and is more tart than sweet. The finish is plenty long, and features lingering peach flavors. This is a pretty tasty Riesling.”

Cous \cous is an ideal side dish to accompany a roast pork loin with apricot sauce.
Couscous is an ideal side dish to accompany the sweet pork and wine. Cook as directed on the package with chicken stock and garnish with parsley. © Author

Just How Sweet is Sweet?

As Tim Lemke describes, the 2015 Jean- Baptiste Riesling Kabinett is somewhere between dry and sweet. That hint of sweetness means that it pairs very well with the Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce. Although designated as “Kabinett,” I feel that this wine is much more complex than the definition of Kabinett implies. Possibly, the aging in this case made the difference and Wine Newbie me feels like it drinks more like a Spätlese. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment at the end. 👇🏼

Speaking of sweet, if you’re practicing for the WSET 2 exam and struggling with the Riesling classifications, here is a short breakdown of some of the things we must know: “Sprechen Sie Deutch?”

Landwein: Table wine and generally low quality. Like the category, “Protected Geographical Indication” it means that there are regulations in place.

Qualitätswein: Like the category, “Protected Designation of Origin.” Read more here.

Prädikatswein: Same as, “Protected Designation of Origin, but” this category is divided into subdivisions by levels of ripeness (sweetness.) I found it hard to memorize at first, but generally with repeated practice, it began to register:

Kabinett: Usually light wines made of fully ripe grapes.

Spätlese: Literally means “late harvest” and are more intense in flavor and concentration than the latter categories.

Auslese: Select picking of very ripe bunches.

Eiswein: Ice Wine – Wines of at least BA intensity are harvested while frozen

Beerenauslese (BA): Berries Select Picking – Individually selected, overripe berries.

Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): Dry Berries Select Picking – Individually selected, overripe berries that are dried up on the vine, almost to raisins.

Refer to this link for more details.

Neither the wine or this recipe would have been at the top of my “kitchen lab” list, but I needed to try Riesling as part of my wine education journey. I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone. And, once again the wine inspired the dish. There are many “Reasons for Riesling” and future wine pairings too!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Tapas, Tempranillo and Tests

Vina Olabarri Spanish Tempranillo wine pairs perfectly with Tapas.

How to Bring Travel to the Table

I’m so antsy, aren’t you? South Florida summers aren’t pleasant, so since I won’t be hopping on a plane any time soon, I need to find ways to bring travel to the table.

Try making these homemade tapas recipes and pair them with a Rioja wine.
Try making these homemade tapas recipes and pair them with a Rioja wine. © Author

Two Spanish Tapas Recipes and Rioja Wine

Take me back to Spain! It’s time relive vacation memories by making two classic Spanish recipes: Huevos Rotas (Potatoes with Broken Eggs,)  Espinacas con Garbanzos (Chickpeas with Spinach,) and drink a Rioja Gran Reserva (Tempranillo.)

I’ll get to the WSET 2 studying part near the bottom of this blog 👇🏼. It’s important too, so keep reading…

Huevos Rotas is a tapas dish made of potatoes and topped with eggs, that's easy to make.
Huevos Rotas (Broken Eggs) rest nicely on top of these deliciously seasoned potatoes. © Author

Huevos Rotas (NY Times Cooking)

Traditionally, this is a Tapas dish and not a side or breakfast!

  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds new potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces if necessary
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  •  Lemon wedges, for serving
  •  Flaky sea salt, for serving

In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil, paprika, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, a generous grind of pepper and 1 cup water. Put the potatoes in a large skillet and pour the olive oil mixture over them. Then, bring the potatoes to a boil, then cover and cook on high until the potatoes are fork-tender, 6 to 9 minutes.

Uncover and turn the heat to low. If the potatoes are sticking or dry, add more olive oil. Next, arrange the potatoes in an even layer, cut side down if halved, then add the onion and garlic surrounding the potatoes. Finally, cover and cook until the potatoes are golden-brown and the onions are softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

Stir the potatoes (if they’re sticking, add more oil). Make 4 nests in the potatoes and crack an egg into each. Season with salt and pepper and then, cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, 4 to 6 minutes.

To serve, break the yolks gently with a serving spoon, then scoop some potatoes and an egg onto plates or into shallow bowls. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and flaky salt.

Chickpea salad or Garbanzos Espinacas con Garbanzos in Spanish is easy to make and delicious.
Chickpea salad or Garbanzos Espinacas con Garbanzos in Spanish is easy to make and delicious. © Author

Spanish Chickpea Salad (Adapted from NY Times Cooking)

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1-pound cans chickpeas, drained (liquid reserved)
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup prosciutto cut into strips (optional) – I skipped this part and substituted baby spinach
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, simmer the onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft but not browned. Add the chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, parsley, oregano, cumin and prosciutto, if using, and simmer for 30 minutes more.

Taste the mixture and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. If it does not seem moist enough, add a little of the reserved chickpea liquid or some olive oil, or both. Serve lukewarm with a green salad and good bread and butter or garlic oil.

Note: Since I was serving Serrano ham and Manchego cheese on the side, I skipped that part and substituted baby spinach instead. Simply stir in about 2-3 cups into the chickpea mix until the spinach wilts, but still keeps a bright green color.

Enjoy some Spanish Tapas with this Rioja wine by Viña Olabarri. © Author

The Pairing Wine: 2004 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva

80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 8% Mazuelo

I love Spanish wines, but the majority that I’ve tried are quite powerful. They work well with Spanish and Latin food that’s not spicy, but seldom would I think to drink one without food. However, the 2004 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva is definitely a Rioja wine that I’d sip while reading a good book. I’ve never had a Gran Reserva wine before, so it was a treat to experience a wine that had been aged for 36 months in French and American oak barrels, plus cellar aged for another 36 months!

Here are the tasting notes provided by Viña Olabarri:

Color: Deep ruby red color with subtle brick red hues on the rim from the ageing process.

Bouquet: Intense aromas of black fruit and spices, with a mineral hint.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, integrating beautifully the rich ripe fruit with the sweet spices provided by the oak.

A pleasant, clean aftertaste of remarkable harmony.

A Little History

Viña Olabarri was founded by Pablo Olabarri Bikandi, who since 1958 spent long periods of time in Haro; due to his love of Rioja wines, in 1985 he decided to buy an old 19th century winery in Calle las Bodegas, in Anguciana.

As a result, the need for bigger, more modern facilities to make the wines took him to build a new winery in the outskirts of Haro in 1989, with capacity to hold 4,000 barrels and up to 800,000 bottles.

His son, Luis Olabarri is currently in charge of the winery.

Wine study time at desk to prepare for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust exam.
I’m preparing for the WSET 2 exam with some delicious “homework!” © Author

It’s Test Time!

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’ve had my nose in a glass and a pile of wine books for some time. I started the Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) course, but was finding it difficult. Although I can master self-study, I really needed to begin my wine journey with some guidance.

One good thing that’s come from the COVID-19 pandemic, is that there has been a plethora of new opportunities to learn online. I’ve wanted to take a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) course for some time, but found it difficult to find the time. Also, since Florida Wine Academy is located in Downtown Miami, getting there once I finished my workday would have been a challenge. Shortly after participating in a couple Florida Wine Academy’s free Zoom webinars, they announced that the WSET 2 would be offered online. I immediately registered!

Registrants have the option to purchase the wine packs through them, but I found the required wines either near my home or at Wine by the Bay in Miami.

The course is six weeks and I’ve completed that part and now am studying for the exam. It’s been an exciting journey so far and the most important thing I’ve discovered, is that I’m still a Wine Newbie and loving it. This trip will take a lifetime and just when I’ve mastered one part, I realized that there’s so much more to discover.

This education is brain stimulation and tasty and I look forward to many more food and wine pairing weekends!

Wine Newbie Resources

Here are some additional resources that I found useful to enhance the WSET text and workbooks:

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”

― Benjamin Franklin

If you have a useful wine education resource to share, feel free to post it in a comment below. Plus, if you have your own Spanish tapas recipes or a Rioja wine to share, tag me in your photos on Instagram! Or, let me know how you bring travel to your table.

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Past Blog Posts Related to Spain

Home Show’s Virtual Showcase Connects Homeowners with Florida Businesses

home design online through a virtual home expo showcase in florida

Find Home Design Online

Miami, FL…June 8, 2020…The Home Design and Remodeling Show now offers a variety of virtual experiences to respond to the surge of online shoppers since the start of the stay-at-home order mandated by the State of Florida.

The “At Home with the Home Show” (#AtHomewiththeHomeShow) online showcase is designed to help South Florida homeowners connect with home remodeling and improvement businesses, while giving reputable companies a platform to speak about product offerings and services by educating the consumer. The online amenities will continue to expand and serve as an additional resource to in-person Home Shows.

Although many businesses are back open, consumers have become reliant on, plus feel safer initiating their purchase decisions through online shopping. With so many choices, the search can be daunting and making the best selection also depends on selecting trusted and recommended sources.

The Home Design and Remodeling Show has been featuring businesses that would typically exhibit at either the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Home Shows. Select companies will be showcased by way of video interviews with their owners; blog posts, social media and Instagram lives. The video interviews take place each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on the Home Show’s Facebook page.

A resource guide is available via the Home Show’s YouTube channel covering topics such as:

  • All About Impact Windows
  • How Much Will Solar Power Cost?
  • The Many Benefits of Living Walls
  • Types of Hinges for Modern Interior Doors
  • How Consumer Habits Have Changed Since Coronavirus
  • Add Luxury Style to Your Home by Replacing Boring Doors
  • Top Ways to Create a Stylish Patio
  • Best Ways to Upgrade Popcorn and Ugly Ceilings

This month, the Home Show will focus on hurricane preparedness and how to protect the home.

The Home Design and Remodeling Show’s digital platform has grown to over 30,000 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter combined and has thousands of email subscribers; plus includes a multimedia advertising campaign, sponsors and cross-promotional partnerships. For more information, visit www.homeshows.net.

About the Home Design and Remodeling Show

For the SIXTH consecutive year, BizBash named the Home Design and Remodeling Show as one of Miami/South Florida’s Top 100 Events and placed fourth in the Trade Shows, Expos & Conventions category. The Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach Home Design and Remodeling Shows have been South Florida’s largest and premier home improvement expos for over forty years. Homeowners can find a diverse range of products and solutions tailored specifically to the Florida housing market. Plus, encounter some of South Florida’s most prominent home designers and home remodeling companies. Because the Home Show features superior vendors, tens of thousands of excited homeowners attend the Home Show every year.

The Virtual Home Design and Remodeling Show

Initiated in 2020, Home Show Management has expanded to include an online showcase of some of the best home design products and services in South Florida and beyond. Home Show’s multimedia platform is your first step in home improvement. Connect with trusted sources by watching, “At Home with the Home Show” interviews and business spotlights on YouTube and Instagram Live.

Follow @FLHomeShows on Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter; and FloridaHomeShow on Facebook.

Subscribe to us on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/flhomeshows

Visit our Blog: www.homeshows.net/blog

Home Show Images by Request

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MEDIA CONTACT: lisa@allegorypr.com

When the Wine Inspires the Dish

Domaine Arnauld Baillot Pinot Noir

Thinking in Reverse

Today, I’m going to talk about how a delicious French Pinot Noir inspired me to make Broiled Salmon with Beurre Blanc. Be forewarned that if you’re counting calories, this classic French dish is rich in butter and cream and will take a bit of time to prepare. Overall, it’s an easy weekend meal that’s sure to please.

I’ve reversed the order of my previous posts leaving my personal reflection about this past week out of quarantine, until last. I think it’s important, so I hope you make it there. 👇🏼

Most of the time when I prepare a meal, I turn to Google or my favorite Wine Guru for advice to find the perfect pairing. Now that I have a little bit more knowledge about wine than I did six weeks ago (I’ll get to that next week), I’m doing the opposite. Needing to practice the WSET Systematic Approaching to Tasting (SAT) each weekend, I find a quiet moment to sit and analyze the wine: it’s color, aroma, taste, and do a bit of background research on the winemaker’s website or read some reviewer’s tasting notes. Then, I figure out what dish will work.

The Domaine Arnaud Baillot Bourgogne “Haut Tartre” 2018 pairs perfectly with broiled salmon with a Beurre Blanc sauce. © Author

The Wine: Arnaud Baillot – Bourgogne “Haut Tartre” 2018

100% Pinot Noir

It’s extremely difficult to find information about Domaine Arnaud Baillot. They don’t have a website, but you can follow them on Instagram. You also won’t find reviews, but that could easily impede your visceral reaction. Despite how much you may know about wine, a simple like or don’t like is a great start. Then, you can research this area of Bourgogne (Burgundy) to further understand how expressions of Pinot Noir from here differ from other areas of the world.

I found this wine to be rich, yet refreshing. It brought back childhood memories of eating juicy summer cherries after a morning of picking at Niagara-on-the-Lake – lip smacking delicious! There were hints of strawberry, cherry candies, and dark chocolate. The wine had a lovely finish. I’d happily drink it on its own, simply paired with the summer sunset!

If you’re an expert reading my wine newbie descriptor, feel free to write a more in-depth review in the comment box below. Remember, that I’m just practicing. 😊

Domaine Arnaud Baillot is located in Beaune, the heart of the Côte d’Or. Owner and winemaker, Arnaud is passionate about the diversity of wines the Burgundy region has to offer. He and his wife Laure (grandaughter of Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat in Chambolle-Musigny) produce a spectacular range of villages and crus Burgundy wines.

You can find some of Arnaud Baillot’s wines at Wine by the Bay in Miami. (The owner, Stefano BTW is the above-mentioned “Wine Guru” and my wine mentor.)

Read how to make Salmon with Beurre Blanc Sauce.
Broiled Salmon with Beurre Blanc Sauce, Fennel Salad and Roast Potatoes. © Author

Salmon with Beurre Blanc (inspired by the Morton’s Steakhouse recipe posted on Delish.)

  • 1 teaspoon clarified butter or olive oil
  • ¾ heavy cream
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the clarified butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it softens without coloring.

Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the wine reduces and the liquid coats the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Reduce the heat to low and begin adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Do not allow the cream to boil once the butter is added.

For the salmon, I brushed each side with olive oil, sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and broiled each side for about 7 minutes.

Place the Beurre Blanc sauce on the dish, top with the salmon and garnish with lemon slices.

The George Floyd protests have shown as that we need to pause.

Thinking in Reverse

Today, I’m thinking about “thinking in reverse.” My pairing menu was planned and the blog written in reverse order. Thinking in reverse may initially feel like walking backwards: it makes us uncomfortable. However, it leads to greater creativity and maybe better and long-lasting solutions. Read more here.

It’s now Week 2 of the return to the “new norm.”  

It’s also now just past one week of international protests, which is a term that I would rather say than “civil unrest.” Writing about food and wine seemed trivial last week – kind of self-indulgent, so I paused and spent the week listening and thinking.

COVID-19 reminds us that there are forces beyond our control and millions of people worldwide stopped daily life to protect each other from accelerating the pandemic’s impact. With respect to the protests, it’s time to pause and listen. We can’t reverse history, but it’s time to think in reverse.

Let’s determine what we value most and re-examine our values.

“Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.”

― Terence McKenna

Follow me on Instagram @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Where’s the Beef? It’s Time to Make Choices.

Homemade Hamburger Buns and Bernaise Sauce Recipes

Two Favorite Beef Dish Recipes, Syrah Wine Pairing and a Rant About Choices

It’s now Week 1 of the, “we don’t have to stay-at-home anymore” order and my Week 11 at home. If it wasn’t for continuous rainy days, I think there’d be a lot more people outside enjoying all that South Florida has to offer. Before I get to the homemade hamburger buns and Béarnaise Sauce recipes, plus the Northern Rhône Syrah wine pairing, I thought I’d talk about making choices that we can or will make during the COVID_19 pandemic.

Where’s the Beef?

DYK the history of this slogan? It was part of a 1984 advertising campaign for Wendy’s. Ironically, this fast food chain recently announced that it was short of or had run out of beef at some of its restaurants. If you’re a marketing geek like me, you’ll find this story interesting and see how this catchy campaign set Wendy’s apart from its competitors.

Seems like everyone has something to say lately and our voices are amplified through social media because the reality is, no one can really hear you through a mask and we can’t get together like we used to. People reluctant to head to the beach or restaurants are called cowards (or much worse) by some, and the ones out frolicking around like immortals are named pillars of mass death by others. Yes, that is the extreme POV, but I’m not making it up – just check out the conversations on Facebook.

Filet Mignon with Roast Potatoes and Spring Mix with Pecans, Camembert Cheese & Apricots. © Author

Beef Choices

True to my Canadian nature, I’m more on the reserved side: quietly working and entertaining myself at home thinking that my stay-at-home actions are for the greater good. My biggest indulgences these days are a good meal and bottle of wine.

I love filet mignon, but at $13-$20 per pound, it’s a splurge meal. Rather than thinking that the cost of eating a prime cut is at least double the expense of at least one family meal, I put that rationale aside. I’m lucky to have this liberty, but If you prefer to stick to ‘Feeding Five Under 25 $,’ choose recipe one because there’s nothing better than a juicy hamburger to satisfy our craving for beef.

If you’re not interested in the recipes, be sure to scroll down and read about the ‘Que Syrah Syrah’ wine pairing and my conclusion about making choices.


Fast and Easy Hamburger Buns. © Author

Homemade Hamburger Buns (Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.)

The recipe as stated worked best for sliders. If you want full size hamburger buns, double up the ingredients. Either make your own hamburger patties or buy prepared ones. I served the hamburgers with homemade guacamole and potato chips that I sliced whole potatoes with a mandolin.

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Preheat oven to 425°.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Filet Mignon with a Béarnaise Sauce and Smashed Potatoes (Both Recipes found on Food Wishes.)

Notes: While hamburgers don’t take long, both the Smash Potatoes and Béarnaise Sauce take quite a bit of time, so make this on a day with lots of free time. It’s a great opportunity to listen to a podcast since you shouldn’t take your eyes off of the Bernaise Sauce!


Béarnaise Sauce means lots of butter! © Author

Béarnaise Sauce

Compound Butter

  • 1/4 cup chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Use a mortar and pestle to combine the ingredients. Wrap the compound butter in plastic wrap and refrigeration while you make the Tarragon Reduction.

Tarragon Reduction

  • 1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 rounded teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup water

Simmer the tarragon leaves and peppercorns (or ground pepper) in the liquids until you have about 3 tablespoons of reserved liquid. Gently squeeze all of the liquid through a strainer so you have a clear broth.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar reduction
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon caper tarragon compound butter
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, optional

Add 2 egg yolks and tarragon reduction to a stainless steel bowl or pot and whisk until combined. Add all of the cold butter cubes and whisk together on medium heat. Keep whisking until the color lightens and it thickens.  Add the compound butter cut into cubes and keep whisking until combined. Remove from heat and add salt if desired.

Note: I seared the filet mignon (coated lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper) with a tbsp of butter and one of olive oil and then finished the meat in the oven set to 425 ° until medium. You can grill them too.

You can watch Chef John’s video for help.  I made the Compound Butter before the Tarragon Reduction. I suggest using room temperature eggs.


Smash Potatoes can be made ahead. © Author

Smashed Potatoes (All Recipes)

  • 3 ½ pounds medium yellow potatoes, washed
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Infused Butter
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, or to taste
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or to taste

Place potatoes into a 5-quart stockpot and cover with 3 quarts of cold water. Add kosher salt and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Let potatoes cool just until they’re safe to handle.

Transfer potatoes onto a sheet pan and continue cooling to room temperature. Make 4 or 5 shallow cuts down the sides of each potato, about every inch or so, to ensure the skin splits evenly when smashed. Refrigerate until completely chilled and ready to smash; 8 hours to overnight is best.

Combine butter, sliced garlic, rosemary, and thyme in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and begins to bubble, and garlic softens and starts to turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (232 degrees C). Line 2 metal baking sheets with silicone baking mats (such as Silpat®) and generously brush on some of the infused melted butter.

Remove potatoes from the fridge and gently smash each between two pieces of plastic using a flat, heavy object until 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides, being careful not to break potatoes up into small pieces. Transfer onto a sheet pan, being careful not to overlap potatoes. Very generously drizzle and brush most of the melted butter on top.

Bake potatoes in the preheated oven until well browned and crunchy around the edges, 35 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the pan with the remaining garlic and herb butter back over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic starts to turn a very light golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Carefully transfer potatoes onto a serving platter and scatter over the golden brown slices of garlic. Crumble the toasted herbs on top if desired. Serve immediately.


Que Syrah Syrah: Crozes-Hermitage Selection Silène 2017, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave | 100% Syrah

Every day I learn something new about wine. However, each day I also realize that I still know very little. If you’re a wine newbie like me,  I think that one of the first things you question is the high cost of certain wines and how to justify the expense. It’s a safe assumption that if you have an opportunity to pay more for a wine made by a top producer, you should. However, if you can’t, I am learning (thanks to Wine by the Bay) that some winemakers offer affordable choices that allow you to experience for example, a winemaker’s expression of a vineyard or grape variety; or a winemaking style. These offerings also don’t compromise quality for the sake of affordability.

You could say that today’s wine is like the hamburger substitute for filet mignon – multiplied exponentially! Domaine Jean-Louis Chave wines fetch anywhere from $20.00 to more than $8,000.00 per bottle! Needing to taste a Crozes-Hermitage for the WSET 2 class, I luckily found myself at the lower end of the price spectrum. However, this wine is fantastic and since I’m nowhere near being one who can judge, I suggest you rely on these recommendations by two reputable wine critics: Erik Asimov and Josh Raynolds.

Crozes-Hermitage Selection Silène 2017, Domaine Jean-Louis Chave | 100% Syrah © Author

Bright violet. Mineral-accented cherry, boysenberry and smoky bacon aromas are complicated by suggestions of olive and candied flowers. Energetic and focused for the vintage, offering concentrated bitter cherry, cassis and violet pastille flavors braced by a spine of juicy acidity. Closes sappy, smooth and quite long, with sneaky tannins and a lingering suggestion of juicy black and blue fruits. Drink date: 2022-2030. Score – 92. ~ Josh Raynolds


The Whatever Will Be, Will Be Philosophy Isn’t That Comforting

Freedom of choice, too many choices, making choices, and no choice. It’s just too easy and I think irresponsible to say, “Que Sera, Sera?” Whatever choice you make today may greatly affect what happens tomorrow.

Freedom of choice is also freedom to decide when you do not want to choose. ~ Simona Botti.

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Nanaimo Bars, Butter Tarts, and Why I Blog

Two Canadian Dessert Recipes and More

Today’s blog pays tribute to my mother and includes two cherished Canadian desserts: Nanaimo Bars and Butter Tarts. My Mom wasn’t a very good cook, but she loved to have people over for dinner and no one ever turned down an invitation. The problem with my mother’s cooking was that she was too limiting, for example: lesser quality ingredients to save money; less salt because sodium isn’t good for you; and she was British. Let’s face it, when it comes to food England isn’t France or Italy. Growing up, I suffered through a fair share of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Bubble and Squeak, Bangers and Mash, Trifle and Plum Pudding while silently wishing that I was born Italian.

Learn how to make Nanaimo Bars and Butter Tarts.
Nanaimo Bars and Butter Tarts © Lisa Morales

On the other hand, my frugal Mom could bake and she never skimped on butter, sugar, chocolate, or whatever ingredient was needed to make dessert. The best part about mediocre suppers (as a Brit says) was that on special occasions, we could eat at least two kinds of desserts and Christmas was a sugar smorgasbord! It’s these memories that inspire today’s dessert menu — just keep reading a little more…

Crozes Hermitage Pinot Noir is a perfect pairing for these Canadian desserts.
The kitchen is where we deal with the elements of the universe. It is where we come to understand our past and ourselves. ~ Laura Esquivel | © Lisa Morales

It’s now Week 10 of the now relaxed, stay-at-home order. Since I’ve always worked remotely and anyone who I deal with is also doing the same, there’s nowhere yet to really go. I’m not so sure either if I’ll be heading out soon for a socially distant lunch, shopping spree, or nail appointment. Will you be?

In May I Mourn

Today, marks nine years since my Mom passed away. As soon as May arrives, it’s like a dark cloud sits over me. No matter how fast I run from this cloud, it follows me. Like so many people in these current circumstances, who are saying their last goodbyes from a distance, I can relate. My Mom lost her battle with cancer one week after Mother’s Day. I sat in my backyard while she was at a hospice center in Canada, when we cried through one of our last conversations – a Happy Mother’s Day wish. It wasn’t happy, but what could I say?

Why I Blog? © Lisa Morales

The Reasons Why I Blog

Yes, I won’t deny it – I do blog for SEO. What writer or business owner doesn’t? However, my “call to write” is because of the following:

  • I write because I can express myself so much better than in spoken words.
  • I want to be heard because sometimes the people closest to me aren’t listening. I also want to be heard by others and I do appreciate the feedback received on social media.
  • Expanding on the latter point, I hope that someone else identifies with my subject and is inspired to cook, bake, drink wine, learn more about art, etc.
  • Finally, I write to leave something behind. When you lose a loved one, you hold tight to memories and material things such as photos, birthday cards, letters, Fine China – anything to keep that person close long after they’re gone. This blog is for my own children. Currently, they are slightly annoyed that they can’t eat before I get the perfect photo. However, maybe one day they’ll treasure these recipes and ramblings.

Nanaimo Bars

Unless you’re from Quebec, it’s really hard to define Canadian food. However, I’m delighted to share a couple of my favorite desserts that are apparently indigenous to Canada (not England.) There’s an interesting history to Nanaimo Bars (named after a city in British Colombia) and I suggest you read it here. If you visit B.C., you can follow the Nanaimo Bar Trail! Although there are many versions of this recipe, I’ve adapted the one created by the winner of the 1986 Best Nanaimo Bar Recipe contest held by the then, Mayor of Nanaimo. You can find Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe here.

Bottom Layer

  • ½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter (preferably European-style cultured butter)
  • 5 Tbsp (75 mL) cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ¾ cups (425 mL) graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut
  • ½ cup (125 mL) almonds, finely chopped (Note: I didn’t use nuts. See Blog Bloopers below.)

1. Pour 2 cups (500 mL) water into bottom of double boiler. Place on stove over medium heat and bring water to simmer.

2. In top of double boiler; combine butter, cocoa and sugar; place over simmering water. Heat, stirring, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth.

3. Add beaten egg; stir until thick. Remove top of double boiler from heat. Stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and almonds.

4. Scrape into parchment paper-lined 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish. Press firmly to create even bottom layer.

5. Tip: If you don’t have a double boiler, half-fill a saucepan with water and heat over medium heat until water begins to simmer. Then, place a metal or glass bowl over the simmering water and proceed as directed.

Middle Layer

  • ½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40 mL) whipping or heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar

With a mixer, cream together butter, cream and custard powder. Gradually add icing sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Scrape over bottom layer, smoothing top with spatula or palette knife.

Topping

  • 4 oz (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter

In clean double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. When cool, but still liquid, pour over custard layer.

Cover and refrigerate until cold. (About six hours.)

Butter Tarts are a favorite Canadian dessert. Here's the recipe.
Butter Tarts © Lisa Morales

Butter Tarts

Unless I’ve forgotten, my mother never made her own Butter Tarts. It was a dessert staple and a cheap sweet treat. There are versions of this recipe that include raisins, but I never liked them included then so certainly will not add them now.

Pastry

  • 2 ¼ cups flour, pastry flour is best to use but all-purpose will do
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, Very cold and cut in cubes
  • 1/2 cup butter, Very cold and cut in cubes
  • 6 tbsp ice water, approximately, enough to bring the dough together

1. Pulse the cold butter and shortening into the flour sugar and salt using a food processor until the shortening or butter is reduced to pea sized pieces.

2. Sprinkle the water over the surface and toss with a fork until the water is just incorporated into the dough. Do not over work the dough; handle it only enough so that the dough stays together.

3. Form the dough into two rounds about an inch thick.

4. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about a half hour.

5. Roll out on lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds with 4 inch cutter. Fit into muffin cups. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the filling. Cold pastry heading into a hot oven will always be flakier.

Filling

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • (Optional: ½ cup raisins, substituting, pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips.)

1. Combine all filling ingredients except raisins.

2. Mix well.

3. Sprinkle raisins in a single layer in the bottom of the pastry lined muffin cups.

4. Fill 2/3 full with syrup mixture.

5. Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.

6. Cool completely on a wire rack and remove tarts from from pans.

Blog Bloopers

Baking is an exact science and if you want to improvise, stick to cooking. A few things went wrong:

(1) For the Nanaimo Bars, I only had a rectangle baking pan and an 8-inch round, springform pan. Because of a nut allergy, I added more graham cracker crumbs to make up the difference. With too much crust crumbs on my hands, I had to decide between discarding some of this mix to fit in the round pan or fill a rectangular pan. I did the latter and what a mistake! There wasn’t enough custard filling and spreading it thinly was a disaster (see below for the lesson learned.) I then made more ganache to cover up the mistake and avoid a sweet tragedy!

(2) For the Butter Tarts, I did not make my own crust, but plan to do so in the future so I left that part in. As you know, some items are hard to come by, so I substituted store-bought pie dough for pastry flour to make a dough from scratch. I then cut the full size pre-cut pie dough into small circles by using a glass. Note: anticipating a gooey baked mess, I also used foil cupcake liners that I later removed once the tarts had cooled.

Wine of the Week: Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2017 from Wine by the Bay.

(3) When conceiving a blog post, I usually plan the wine and prepare the meal before I take the photo. Because I had already opened this bottle the night before for dinner, I had just presumed that a Syrah would work with a chocolate dessert. While this pairing wasn’t bad, it wasn’t perfect. The Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2017 is a gentle beauty and a nice expression of this style. It paired well with my French-inspired dinner and I’ll write about it next week!

Can Actions Speak Louder than Words?

My mother never told me that she loved me. It’s strange to grow up never hearing those three words and although I struggle to say it myself, I make sure that the ones I love hear it maybe not every day, but enough. I honestly can’t understand why it was so hard, but as I failed to evenly spread the middle layer of Nanaimo Bars, I thought of my mother’s perfect centers: yellow and creamy and not a crumb from the first layer mixed in. (I guess it may have taken her a few times to get it right.)

It’s at that moment when I realized that maybe what she couldn’t express in words, she was able to say in her dessert making. A way for her to communicate, like writing is to me.

The kitchen is where we deal with the elements of the universe. It is where we come to understand our past and ourselves. ~ Laura Esquivel (Author of Like Water for Chocolate.)

@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape

Resources:

If you are grieving loss  or have lost a loved one during the COVID-19 Pandemic, here are a few helpful articles.

Check out this Death by Chocolate recipes too!