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, 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 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.)
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.
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.”
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.
Because of my mother, I suffer from an extreme case of the travel bug. Long before the internet, my mom learned how to travel on a budget. She’d check out Fodors Travel Guides from the local library and before committing to a reservation, spent plenty of time on the phone or telex with potential hotels, airlines and tour operators. “Telex,” you ask? You’ll need to consult an encyclopedia for the answer!
I was six years old when my fearless, single mother took my brother and I on our first trip to Europe. My fondest memories include a boat ride down the Rhine, exploring the Swiss Alps by cable car, and riding a tricycle around the Eiffel Tower. (The latter was probably a reward for making us climb the stairs up the Eiffel Tower. At each level, she’d give us a candy because I am guessing we complained all of the way up!)
We had many travel adventures together until I could afford to take my own and because of her, I learned to travel on a budget and discover what fun you can have too when venturing off the beaten path.
I’m now into Week 6 of the voluntary, stay-at-home order (although some people started later than me.) Never mind that I miss taking a plane–I’d give anything to go more than 10 miles in a car! Whether in the recent past or the very soon future, we will always rely on the internet to continue travelling and do so both easily and affordably.
Why I Went To Spain
There’s a few reasons why I went to Spain last year: 1) the Alhambra was on my Bucket List because I fell in love with its history after taking a Spanish Art and Architecture course at the University of Toronto; 2) a non-stop British Airways flight deal was an offer too good to pass up; and 3) Spain Revealed – James Blick.
When it comes to travel, I do like and find TripAdvisor very useful. However, when I’m tired of reading, there’s no better place to investigate places to go than YouTube. There’s a lot of people who make travel videos and we have that one “no names mentioned,” older guy who’s been making travel video for years. However, if you are a food lover wanting to visit Spain, I suggest that you subscribe to James’ channel. Besides the knowledge that you’ll gain, it’s great fun!
I can credit his videos for discovering places to eat in Madrid and clues to live like a local, plus tips to understanding Spanish culture. Living like a local is key for me and the first thing I typically do when arriving in a new city is visit a local market.
James is the co-founder of Devour Tours that began offering food and wine-focused walking tours in 2012. Their mission (found on the Devour Tours website) is to connect curious travelers with local food and communities in a way that helps culture thrive. What began in just Madrid has expanded to include other cities in Spain, Paris, Rome and London.
James’ wife Yoly runs Flamenco Guide for anyone interested in the best place to experience flamenco.
Because I subscribe to Spain Revealed, I received a notification that James had posted a new video. Since returning from Spain, I had not watched any recent videos. However, this one caught my eye because there wasn’t a thumbnail, but just a still shot of unshaven James waving from, what I later learned, is their apartment’s patio.
I was so moved by his uncut announcement. “An Update from Madrid” was posted when we, in South Florida, were at the, “how bad can it really get” stage. Fear would quickly intensify as life as we knew it, changed by the minute.
Just watch the video. From both a business and personal level, James’ plea was telling and for all of us very relatable.
A New Message
As a communications and marketing professional, I’ve been fortunately swamped with work. Many businesses have had to change their marketing plan and, for example, switch in-person events to virtual ones and foot traffic to online sales and delivery.
It’s as if the sand is running faster through the hourglass as our livelihood is at stake. Since James posted the video on March 14th, I’ve kept up with his Instagram and have been so impressed how quickly they have provided a new experience for their audience. Although probably not enough, they have found a way to raise some money to help out the business and employees.
By now a lot of us might be tired of Zoom after spending a work or school day online. Devour Tours now offers some entertaining alternatives: cooking classes live demos; cool merch to add some fun to the stay-at-home wardrobe; and my favorite one, a downloadable cooking book, “Recipes from the Devour Tours Kitchen.”
I’ve already made a couple of the dishes and although my past blog posts have included recipes, I’m encouraging you to buy the cookbook to help support a Devour Tours experience that you may have taken in the past or one that you’ll take in the future.
A Different Kind of Back-to-Business
This week, Spain has begun easing some of its restrictions and many non-essential workers can return to work. However, it will take quite a bit of time before tourism returns to where it had been.
Remember that the travel industry needs our help. While you might not be ready to travel, continue to engage and support the restaurants, stores and businesses that you’ve come to know while on holiday. A like, share and review can go a long way.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this article, here are some of my favorite Spanish spots to eat and drink or buy wine. It is these memories and new connections why I miss Spain less.
Miami, FL…April 10, 2020…The Miami Home Design and Remodeling Show launched its, “Stay at Home with the Home Show” social media live series on Monday, with TV’s Alena Capra. The series will continue each Monday (or other dates as announced @FLHomeShows) while everyone in South Florida heeds to the stay-at-home order.
In a few short years, @FLHomeShows has grown to over 30,000 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter combined and has thousands of email subscribers. Through digital efforts, homeowners and design professionals can learn more about products available to order online.
The demos are designed to help give new life to the living space using what is on hand or on a budget. The DIY “recipes” will then be posted on the Home Show blog www.homeshows.net/blog.
Monday, April 13th, 7:00 pm on Facebook and 7:30 p.m. on Instagram (approximate commencement time.)
DIY Design with Martin Amado: Rustic Candleholders
Martin Amado, celebrity designer, TV host/design expert on ION Television, and author of “One-Day Room Makeovers,” will present a cute idea for indoor or outdoor spaces that can also be used in multiple ways to display plants, frames and other things. Learn step-by-step how to create your own rustic candleholder.
The Home Show will also do a “One-Day Room Makeovers” book giveaway along with a family-pack of Home Show tickets for a future show.
Monday, April 20th (same times as above)
Dress Up to Dine In: How to create an epic atmosphere around the dinner table.
South Florida Interior Designer, Ann Ueno will show you how to style your dining room table. She’ll also share tips on hosting, how to prep and some of her go-to wines and recipes.
Future “Stay Home with the Home Show” demos will include: Sara Bendrick of TV’s “I Hate My Yard” and “Lawn & Order”; Julia Alzate, Hispanic TV and lifestyle influencer; and Sandra Diaz-Velasco, Principal Architect of EOLO A&I Design.
To learn more about the Home Design and Remodeling Show, or to attend or showcase a business at future Home Shows in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, visit www.homeshows.net. Follow @FLHomeShows on Instagram and Twitter and FloridaHomeShow on Facebook.
In celebration of World Health Day (April 7th), today’s blog post is dedicated to artist, Registered Nurse, wife and mother, Meg Wallace. A couple of weeks ago I asked on LinkedIn and Facebook, for local artists to share a work and statement of hope to include on my blog.
A Little History on #MyArtEscape
I began #MyArtEscape Instagram posts on June 10, 2014 after a visit to the Bass Museum to see the El Anatsui’s solo exhibition, “Gravity and Grace.” It was at that moment when I started documenting my visits to art museums, galleries, or art in public spaces as a means for me to escape from reality.
Art is that special place where I can leave behind deadlines, stress, arguments or sadness. The work of art must take my breath away and transport me somewhere else. I then research about the artist and his/her work and then watch how my visceral response transforms into a moment of intellectual truth.
More than 1,000 posts later, #MyArtEscape has evolved and I now focus my writing on travel, food, wine, nature, art and art fairs not just on social media, but for art and travel publications.
Hand in Hand by Meg Wallace
“It was a beautiful moment I captured with my daughter and hubby not too long ago,” explains Meg. “It was lightly raining at the time and it looked like they were walking on water. To me, it gives me a great sense of calm. It also brings to my mind the biblical story of when Peter got out of the boat to walk on water. When Peter began to sink in fear, Jesus reached down and lifted him by his hand. In moments of crisis, we can vacillate between being courageous and being struck down by fear. It is important to know we are not alone. We can get through this together, hand in hand.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I am so encouraged to see most of the world coming together in this crisis and helping each other through these difficult times.”
When Meg had sent this photograph and statement, her sister had been hospitalized and was not allowed visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although filled with worry, Meg’s faith helped her cope.
I met Meg at the Home Design and Remodeling Show where she was an At Home with Art showcase featured artist. (At the time, I was the managing curator of this show activation and also did the PR and social media. I have since become the Marketing and Communications Director.)
Part of her submission was a commitment statement. Here is what Meg wrote:
“Born and raised in South Florida, I have been infused with flavors unique to South Florida. With various cultures, comes various beliefs and artistic forms of expression. I believe art can transform and influence others in powerful ways. For over 17 years, I have volunteered with youth, abused and neglected children and women in our community. I have had the privilege of proposing and assisting with The Human Rights/ Human Wrongs campaign and Exhibition in 2012 and offering art therapy to sex trafficking child survivors at Kristi House. Art can bring hope into hopeless situations as well as instigate conversations amongst people. If I was given the chance to be an ambassador to the South Florida Art Community, I would use this platform to find a way to bring the Art Community together to help positively influence the South Florida Community.”
Meg wrote this statement in 2017, but her words seem even more meaningful today. Art does have the power to start conversations and transform our lives and community.
Today and always, we are thankful for healthcare professionals for taking care of us and our loved ones. Let’s also remember to thank artists like Meg who through their expressions, continue to give us hope.
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
I live in South Florida and as the numbers of confirmed cases of COVID_19 continue to rise, everyone is running around trying to find the basic food and household necessities fearing that everything except essential businesses will shut down. Wait! Everything has shut down, but things are moving faster than the Florida Everglades wildfires, so I temporarily forgot.
With parents struggling to work at home and also home
school the kids, there are more meals to make. Items like bread, eggs and meat are
hard to come by or not available. Rather
than buy supermarket convenience food, I’ve
put my mother’s World War II “how to feed a family” strategies into place.
Periodically on my blog, you’ll find tips on how I’m, “Feeding
Five Under Twenty-Five” dollars. Keep eating healthy and exercise because that
will help you manage the stress.
Here’s my first “Feeding Five Under Twenty-Five” recipe:
Cast Iron Cooked
Flatbread Filled with Leftover Meat
1 package of active dry yeast
2 tsp of sugar
1 c of warm water (115°) – use only ½ c of water for the
2 ½ c of all purpose flour
1 tsp of salt
3 tbsp olive oil
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in ½ c of water and reserve
the other half.
Wait at least 5 minutes until the yeast becomes active. The
top will resemble beer foam.
Combine the flour and salt. I use a mixer with bread
hook, but with a spoon is fine. Slowly add the yeast and then the olive oil and
the water (you may not need all of it) and blend until almost combined. I do
the rest by hand and then knead until everything comes together and you can
form a smooth ball. You don’t need to knead it too much, but here’s a ‘how to’ video.
Coat your mixing bowl with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and
place the dough back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a (warm water)
damp tea towel.
Go do something else for an hour. I chose to run outside because it’s a great way to get some Vitamin D and restore my sanity while in quarantine.
should double within the hour. Punch it down and remove the dough onto a
lightly floured surface. Roll it into a tube and cut into six even pieces.
I used semolina flour, but any flour for rolling will do. Sprinkle some flour onto a rolling pin and roll into a thin disk. You can also rotate and stretch the dough like you’d do when making pizza. See this link which BTW is my favorite pizza dough recipe.
Heat a cast iron pan on medium until it is very hot
(think pizza oven hot!) Add one of the rolled out dough pieces and watch it
bubble up quick. Wait about 3 minutes and take a peak. You can flip it when it’s
golden or get the charred look. Cook for another 3 minutes.
Note: A cast-iron pan gets very hot, so lower the temperature slightly if you think the dough will brown too quickly.
To keep the flatbreads warm and moist, wrap them in a tea towel.
I filled the flatbreads with leftover carné con papas (beef stew) from the night before. Shred the meat
and chop the potatoes into small pieces. There wasn’t a lot of meat left so I
added some chorizo too. Top the meat with chopped tomatoes, avocado, shredded
cheese and cilantro. I didn’t have sour cream, but it’s healthier without it.
If you’ve read this far and hopefully making this recipe,
I hope you’re now sharing my joy of creating something wonderful to eat. More
than that, here’s a great time to stop watching the news or checking social
media. You’ll have a yummy distraction for yourself and make your loved ones
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien