The small pleasures of life are found in the little things, in the landscape by the window, in the sky in spectacular colors, in the great sea that sends waves towards us, in a quiet strip of endless beach.
In people who make us smile, in people who understand us even without words, in dishes that go into the oven and create the most incredible smell throughout the house, in rolls of stuffed pasta that are slowly baked in the oven.
The little pleasures in life lie in the little things we almost always take for granted, just assuming they will always be there. Over the last number of years, it has come very clear to me there are so many ‘little’ things to appreciate and be grateful for daily. My sister, Loretta once said to me, ‘nothing ever stays the same’. At the time I was much younger and didn’t give much though to those words. As the years have passed, I understand what she meant.
Today, July 25th is Loretta’s birthday. I am very grateful to have her in my life. Although we don’t live in close proximity, our connection is always there.
I find this quote from Steven Aitchison so fitting, ‘If I could give you one special ability in life it would be the gift of seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you …. then you would realize just how amazing you truly are’.
Today, I am making a blueberry themed dessert in honor of Loretta’s birthday because she is a huge blueberry fan.
BIRTHDAY WISHES LORETTA WITH LOVE!
Lime Berry Tart
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
In your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt & butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. This should only take about 30 seconds. Press the crumbly mixture into a 4 X 14-inch tart pan (making the sides slightly higher than the center. Do this by pressing the mixture up towards the edge of the pan).
Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden brown. Make sure to watch it carefully to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. Once the crust has finished baking, remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool completely.
In a medium heatproof bowl, place eggs, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and heavy cream, if using, & whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie). Cook on moderate heat, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes thick (mine was ready in 10 minutes, but it can take up to 20). It should coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a clear pass if you run your finger through it. The filling will thicken more once cooled.
Remove from heat & immediately strain mixture through a sieve. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, and whisk until completely melted and incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Take your time with it—the whisking makes for an airy and light texture. Allow to cool to room temperature before filling the tart.
Fill the tart shell with the lime filling, smooth it as best you can & decorate to your liking. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled.
CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. This day is our time to reflect and show gratitude to the women and mother’s who have been mentors and caregivers; ultimately those who have helped to shape us into who we are today.
This blog is especially to honor: the special memories of my mother for her endless giving of selfless love – my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her kind ways and raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with – to my sisters, who have given so much of themselves to be such great moms.
Spring is here and although the pandemic keeps us close to home, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Mother’s Day as well as one of the most ‘fruitful’ seasons of the year by baking something special.
The focus on food shifts to lighter recipes with fresh flavors and colors. Simple ingredient additions or substitutions can make spring and summer desserts stand out. Lime gives sweet dishes more complexity, adding a tart note. Substituting refined sugar with honey or maple syrup changes the texture and sweetness. If you have a recipe in mind and want to give it a spring touch, replacing the main ingredient with a seasonal fruit can be quite effective.
I love fruit curds as they differ from jam by having less sugar. Curd is a sort of cream or custard. The most famous is the lemon curd, although it can be made of orange, grapefruit, tangerine, passion fruit and of course lime. Curd is neither too runny nor thick; it is pourable when hot and soft once cooled. It can be used as a filling for tarts, as a spread for scones or toast or inside cakes or muffins.
I think blackberry lime cupcakes are the epitome of fresh flavor not to mention the beautiful visual presentation. Although lime curd can be purchased readily, preparing your own homemade version is not hard but does take a bit of time.
Blackberry & Lime Curd Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper baking cups.
In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, yogurt, honey, milk, butter & lime zest; mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes then stir in egg whites until blended.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; mix well. Add to oat mixture all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. (do not overmix).
Place a spoonful of the batter in each cup. Top with a small dollop each of blackberry preserve & lime curd. Divide remaining batter between the 8 cups.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool cupcakes in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan & cool completely.
Lime Whip Topping
Prepare as directed on pkg envelope, being sure to measure your lime juice in with the milk (omit the vanilla).
- I had originally though I would top these cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting but thinking they might be too sweet, I went with the lime whip topping instead.
Although we may change the way we celebrate Easter this year, we can still enjoy some great food. One of the special things about any holiday is the brunch that seems to come with it and Easter is no different. The word itself sounds like coziness.
The practice of creating special breads to celebrate holidays, harvests, religious rites and other occasions worldwide, dates back thousands of years. In some cases, breads aren’t symbolic as much as traditional, baked as a reminder of family, togetherness and celebration. They often contain warm spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Some have a touch of liqueur added to them while others are created in special shapes or have little surprises baked in them.
Cardamom may not get the acclaim of cinnamon, nor does it pop up in recipes as often as ginger, but its flavor pairing capabilities are extensive. This is a flavor that you may love or hate, but for me it is very addictive. Warm, subtly spicy, exotically aromatic, a flavor that transforms both sweet and savory recipes into heavenly dishes.
With some simple snipping and shaping, this cardamom sweet dough turns into adorable bunnies for Easter brunch. Edible table décor!
Cardamom Lime Easter 'Bunnies'
In a small bowl, whisk together yeast , 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm milk. Set aside until yeast mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter & egg. Knead until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a greased bowl & cover with a tea towel. Set aside in a draft free place until dough doubles in size, about an 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, lime zest, cardamom & butter. Mix well. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter & lime juice. Add powdered sugar & mix until glaze consistency. Set aside until buns are baked.
Assemble & Bake
Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide in half; roll each half into a rectangle about 12x10-inches. Sprinkle filling evenly over one of the rectangles. Place the second sheet of pastry on top. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pastry & lightly roll with a rolling pin.
With a pizza cutter cut 14 strips. You will use 12 of the strips for 'bunnies' & 2 strips for their tails. To form bunnies, overlap one end of strip over the other to form a loop; bring the end that's underneath up over the top end, letting one end extend on each side to make ears.
Place the shaped 'bunnies' on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2-3-inches between them as they will expand a bit. Cut each of the remaining strips into 6 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball & place it in the loop to form the tail. Loosely cover the 'bunnies' & let them rise for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush bunnies with egg wash & bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack.
While still slightly warm, brush bunnies with glaze. Sprinkle with lime zest & top tails with whites candies.
- If you prefer your bunnies to be a bit more plump, instead of making 12, just make 8 or 10.
In a country where sugar has historically represented both the agricultural and industrial goals, desserts are found everywhere. Generally they are very simple, made mainly with fruit and sugar.
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. It differs from other Latin American cuisines and has almost nothing in common with Mexican cuisine. Cuban recipes tend to share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.
The fact that most Cuban desserts are extremely sweet (usually fruits and sugar are in equal quantities) has inspired the custom of eating them along with salted or cream cheese to help offset the sweetness.
The use of the lime and rum flavor in these cookies makes their taste distinctly Cuban. Brings back memories from a past vacation we spent in Cuba.
Cuban Sugar Cookies w/ Guava & Lime
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon & salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar with a mixer until light. Beat in lime zest & egg followed by lime juice & rum. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, until it comes together.
Divide dough into three portions, wrapping 2 in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator while you are working on the first piece.
Place the first piece on a lightly floured surface & roll out to 1/3-inch thickness. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of the dough. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Cut pieces of guava paste into dime-sized circles or squares ( depending on what shape your guava paste comes in), making each approximately 1/4-inch thick. Lightly press one piece into the top of each cookie.
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are light gold at the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you wish you can dust the cookies with powdered sugar.
- As an alternate idea, assemble them similar to a 'linzer' cookie. Roll half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness; cut with a circular (more decorative) cookie cutter. Repeat with remaining dough but cut small circles in the center of these.
- On top of each plain cookie, place one with a hole in it. Press a guava 'circle' in the hole & sprinkle with a few chopped pistachios if you wish.
- I used this method for the blog picture. Same cookie just a bit fancier.