It’s been three months since I have posted a blog. During that time, traffic to my website has taken a deep dive and Pinterest went from 40,000 to 3,000 monthly viewers. However, analytics haven’t stopped me from cooking and baking. Each experience has been deliciously satisfying and that to me, has been more important than worrying about insights or an Instagram post. Today, I’m sharing a recipe for a Pumpkin Cake Roll, a perfect Thanksgiving dessert.
This year has been challenging and the time that I have neglected my blog has been dedicated to new projects. As this year closes, today’s Thanksgiving dessert brings to mind a few things that I’m grateful for.
Flour: Sounds silly, but flour is now easily found.
Work: I am thankful for new and different opportunities where I’m not subjected to so many deadlines.
Time: With less work, I have more time to pursue projects that I thought that I wouldn’t get to until retirement.
Friends: I have more time for people now and that’s nice. Can’t wait until I can see more of them in person.
Recognition: I am thankful for being interviewed by Shoutout Miami. Please read it to get to know me a little better.
Connections and Community: One of my new projects, Live in Italy Magazine has allowed me to meet new people and learn new traditions. (Something that has been lost during these times that we can’t travel.)
Pumpkin Cake Roll Recipe
This Pumpkin Cake Roll is delicious and easy. There are a few different versions, but the one that I used can be found here. Per request, I’ve also translated it into Italian. Click here.
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional confectioners’ sugar, optional
Line a 15x10x1-in. baking pan with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and pumpkin, beating on high until sugar is almost dissolved.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread into prepared pan.
Bake at 375° until cake springs back when lightly touched, 12-15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper.
Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth.
Unroll cake; spread filling evenly to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again, without towel. Cover and freeze until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before cutting. If desired, dust with confectioners’ sugar.
I’m currently re-reading The Alchemist, so it seems appropriate to end with a quote from Paulo Coelho’s book.
And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.
I’m not sure when I’ll have time to blog again, but in the meantime, please subscribe to one of my newest projects: Live in Italy Magazine.
Be sure to let me know what you’re thankful for and what’s your favorite Thanksgiving dessert in a comment below. 👇🏼
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.
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.
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.
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…
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! 😊
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
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.
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.)
If you are grieving loss or have lost a loved one during the COVID-19 Pandemic, here are a few helpful articles.
Here we go! Week 7 of the stay-at-home order and I’m thinking about death. How can we not think about it when we read the numbers each day in the news? Keeping the statistics in mind, there’s a high probability that someone close to us may die of COVID-19 related complications. We dart through grocery stores like the living dead, avoid eye contact, and grunt through masks only when we must speak.
I have thought about leaving the ones I love behind and spending my last moments alone. I worry for elderly family members and the people I don’t know personally, but put their lives at risk each day—grocery store workers, healthcare professionals, bus drivers, etc.
I had a high school English teacher who loved New Orleans and jazz. He once told us that if there was a nuclear war, he’d accept his doom provided that he had a steak dinner, a glass of red wine and Louis Armstrong playing.
His philosophy stuck with me and I’ve decided that if I must face my fate, my last meal will include a steak and a glass of wine, but also some form of Death by Chocolate. You’ll find a recipe for this chocolatey namesake below, but first a little…
Death by Chocolate History
The first death by chocolate took place in Mexico in the 1600’s when some rich parishioners couldn’t stop eating chocolate during Mass. This prompted a ban by the Bishop who then met his fate after drinking a poisonous chocolate concoction. Read the full story here.
Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in 1 cup semisweet chips and dark chocolate chips.
Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until centers are set, about 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then place on cooling rack to cool completely.
Make ganache: Place remaining 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a bowl. In small saucepan, heat heavy cream over low and bring to a gentle boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips and let sit 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.
Dip cookies halfway into ganache and sprinkle dipped side with flaky salt. Let harden before serving.
Notes: I used milk and white chocolate because that was what was available at the grocery store. However, next time I’ll look for better quality chocolate and use semi sweet and dark as called for in the original recipe.
The light sprinkle of sea salt is key! I waited until the ganache set a bit before adding it so that it could not only be sensed (you really don’t taste salt—it accentuates the flavors,) but also be seen.
The Wine: 2015 Oremus Mandolás – Tempos Vega Sicilia (100% Furmint, Hungary)
This dry Tokaji immediately triggered a memory of a late night snack at Bar Casa Julio located next to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I ate fried calamari and drank fino sherry. Now, it would be totally incorrect of Wine Newbie me to say that Oremus Mandolás is like fino sherry. It has a dry sherry feel and I can imagine having it with lightly salted, fried seafood.
Before I return to the earth (6 feet under that is,) you’ll find me sipping this dry Tokaji while soaking up the sun. Read more here. (BTW I enjoyed Oremus Mandolás on its own and would not recommend having it with either steak or Death by Chocolate cookies.)
It’s now Week 3 of the South Florida shelter in place order and I’m craving bad carbs, saturated fats, salt and sugar.
I’m crumbling and probably you are too. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a hurricane that will blow into the Atlantic in a few days. This is our modern day Hiroshima — a silent and invisible cloud looming over the entire earth. We can’t just change the channel and tune it out because it’s someone else’s war. It’s a world war and we’re in it together.
That being said, I think we deserve some chocolate. If you’re home schooling the kids, the smell of yumminess baking and the reward of cookies after lunch will most certainly get them through the morning classes with ease and give you some well-deserved comfort.
I did not adapt this recipe and it’s the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found on New York Times Cooking. Although there’s nothing original about a Chocolate Chip Cookie, with this recipe you are biting into some history (pass that DYK on to the kids!)
The History Lesson
In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, ran the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in eastern Massachusetts, with her husband. Using an ice pick, Wakefield broke a semisweet chocolate bar into little bits, mixed them into brown-sugar dough, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. In 1939, she sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (reportedly for only $1) and was hired to write recipes for the company, which supposedly supplied her with free chocolate for life. This recipe is very close to Mrs. Wakefield’s original (hers called for a teaspoon of hot water and ½-teaspoon-sized cookies), and the one you’ll still find on the back of every yellow bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
I’m not sure who came up with the saying, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “C’est la vie.” Whoever did though, probably didn’t live through a pandemic.
It’s impossible to shrug this off and small doses of comfort food or comforting are needed each day. Rather than mask your feelings, I suggest that you confront them. Here’s an article titled, “Grieving the Losses of Coronavirus” that has helped me put this into perspective and if you really need help, reach out to a friend or for professional help, but just remember…
“Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” ― Catherine Aitken
If you need professional help, here are some resources:
It’s a sunny and warm day in South Florida and the
streets are empty. I ran 4.11 miles and I saw about six people and a few cars.
(Please cars, watch out for pedestrians and runners – red light still means
Many people are struggling to live with the new norm, “working
from home.” Plus, homeschooling the kids too?
Although I’ve worked remotely for years, it’s still
strange to think that I won’t be driving south to Miami for meetings any time
soon. I’m starting to regret all of the times that I complained about traffic. Seriously, who misses traffic? I do.
Everyone needs a fast breakfast even when working from home, because no one wants to start the day with a full inbox and a sink full of dirty dishes. Because we’re experiencing a shortage of certain food items, I’ve created a Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five $blog series designed to give ideas on how to make food on a budget and with what is (hopefully) available in both your pantry and the grocery store.
Today’s recipe is Oatmeal Breakfast Bars. One bar along with fresh fruit and yogurt make a complete and nutritious breakfast. It’s also vegan-friendly. I adapted a chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe as follows:
Preheat oven to 350°
1 c Crisco
½ c brown sugar
½ c cane sugar
2 tbsp of egg substitute dissolved in 3 tbsp of water
1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
1 ¼ c all-purpose flour; ¼ c whole wheat flour
2 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3 c of old fashioned rolled oats
¼ c of Chia seeds
1 ¼ cup of raisins or dried fruit or combo (I used just raisins the first time and then raisins and chopped dates the second time. Craisins would be good too.)
With a mixer, combine the Crisco and sugars.
Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
Combine the oats and Chia seeds.
Dissolve the egg substitute in the water and
whisk until smooth.
Combine the sugar/Crisco mix with the egg mix
Once combined, slowly add the dry ingredients
into the Crisco/sugar/egg/vanilla mix.
Stop the mixer and stir in the oats and dried
fruit until combined.
Lightly grease a 9×13 non-stick pan or line a
pan with parchment paper.
Press the mix into the pan so even on all sides.
Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until
Someone asked me on Twitter if this recipe is gluten
free. Since flour is used more like a binder, I think any gluten free flour
would do. I’ll give it a try sometime.
Oatmeal breakfast bar(s) with fresh fruit and a tumeric shot mixed with seltzer.
If your bars crumble, save the crumbs to add to yogurt
as a topping or eat them on the spot!
From someone who works from home, I know that finding free time is just as hard as when you work from an office. I put in more hours per day than I should and take the laptop from room to room thinking that I’ll just use it to read or watch videos at night. However, I end up answering emails. If you’re like me, try to leave the laptop “at the office” and spend time reading an actual book, rather than the tablet.
Find time for this recipe knowing that you’ll have a
quick and nutritious breakfast for at least the next few days. Good luck and
“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.” ~ Ian Fleming