A real treat straight from the chefs at Nordstrom’s Cafe; a lemon bar on steroids with both coconut and mascarpone cheese. They are quite simply the BEST!
Not that any of you have lost sleep wondering where the heck I’ve been but I realize today as I edit this post that I haven’t posted since before Christmas. What the heck, Barb? Well, I have been busy, maybe just not cooking so much?
I moved into my home five years ago on 12/31. An easy day to remember because it was a ridiculous day to move. I had lived with friends for 8 very long months before this house was ready and those five years seem to have flown by. I have said too often the past couple of weeks, ‘FIVE YEARS!’
Still, it’s true and I’m not even done with things I thought would be complete years ago. Blame it on the garden. I left a beautiful garden, breathtaking even. I had devoted untold hours to it for many years and it was that place that melted away my stress and anxiety and I knew I would miss it but I thought I was over the backbreaking labor. Especially since my move was predicated by a knee injury that made gardening more difficult.
I was nuts; If you are a gardener and need both the beauty of a pretty landscape and the work that goes into it; you can’t just stop. I know that now. I moved into a brand new home with one tree in the front yard and a couple of totally wrong bushes against the house.
I’ve spent five years changing that with several trees and even more bushes and perennials. A deck went on in 2017 and a large flower/vegetable garden went in last year and I honestly might almost be there. Sadly I’ll never completely achieve the same nirvana; houses here are too close and others don’t really care like I do but I’m trying to create my own little oasis here in this southern metro neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.
These photos are from this past summer and I must admit; summer without my garden pots of herbs would not be the same. I don’t plan a huge vegetable garden but herbs and flowers are my friend!
So now that I have the garden almost to the point of only requiring maintenance, I’ve started to delve more into the work I wanted to get done inside. In the past couple of months I have completely changed my office with a new desk, filing cabinet, chair and fun cocktail photo and I’ve worked on the soft furnishings in my bedroom. Next in my bedroom? I’m painting the dark furniture…wish me luck!
It’s not really finished but it’s a nice change from the taupe, lavender and sage soft goods I had been using for probably a dozen years. Anyway, because of all of these projects my time has been stretched VERY thin. Then along came the holidays. Holidays for a food blogger are like retail; our sites get a huge part of their traffic with readers looking for a favorite holiday food or beverage. So in the midst of that period of crazy, I had an opportunity to paint my kitchen.
Now with my home only being five years old, you might think that silly to consider except for one thing. I did not put in cabinets I loved; I put in cabinets I could afford. I always knew I would be painting them; I did not know it would take me five years. I was presented with a great offer and decided to do it. In the month of December. Yep, it was nuts!
Granted I wouldn’t be painting them myself but still; it took me several full days to find the perfect color and hardware and talk about down to the wire? I do an annual Christmas party and this year it was scheduled for the 22nd of December. My cabinets were finished and the hardware installed on December 19th. Whew yes, but SO worth it, I just love the difference they make. New stove is next; I’ve never loved it either!
Once the kitchen cabinets were in I could finally start thinking about what I would make for my Christmas party. My neighbors all bring a dish but I still try to have at least an appetizer and a dessert. My favorite appetizer is this French Quarter Cream Cheese Spread. It is beyond delish but also not hard to make.
Some onion is grated and added to cream cheese along with other savory touches and the whole thing is topped with a brown sugar, butter, and mustard topping. It is literally devoured each year and while I love to mix things up; I know everyone expects to find this appetizer on the table.
While I would normally spend a full day making an outrageous cake, I simply did not have the time this year. Besides that, one of my closest friends is Amy and she tries to avoid gluten. She does not have celiac disease but gluten and her thyroid are not friends and she can tell if she eats it. So I try to make things I can revise to work that everyone can enjoy.
I recently made my favorite old fashioned Lemon Bars using gluten free flour and they were fantastic so I decided to mimic that effort and do the same with another favorite lemon dessert that we love. My daughter Lauren worked at Nordstrom’s in both high school and after college and we met often in their cafe for lunch. One day she was interested in something sweet and spied Lemon Bars on their menu so we ordered two of them.
Lo and behold, they were not the Lemon Bars we expected; I think they are even better! Toasted coconut is included in the crispy base and after the lemon curd filling is baked and cooled, they are topped with a combination of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese and finished with lemon zest and more coconut. These are truly divine little morsels!
Best of all? The chef was happy to share his recipe with me. So I’ve made these for big occasions (I posted about them six years ago too; time for a photo redo) and a holiday party seemed most fitting. This recipe makes a LOT which is why I love having it for parties but if your needs are not as great, just cut the ingredients in half and use a smaller pan too…they’ll be just as good! The little lemon slices on top are not an absolute but I absolutely love them!
PIN ‘Nordstrom’s Cafe Lemon and Coconut Bars’
For the Crust
- 2 cups Flour
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 cups coconut - flaked, toasted, cooled
- 4 oz. butter, cubed and chilled
For the Filling
- 3 cups sugar
- 8 eggs
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
- Zest from two lemons
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
For the Whipped Mascarpone Topping
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
For Topping and Garnish
- 3 cups coconut - not toasted
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/2 moon lemon slice for each bar (optional)
- Make the crust by pulsing all dry ingredients in food processor. Add the butter and pulse until a grainy dough forms. Press into a papered, buttered, floured pan (be sure to use parchment paper or it's difficult to remove from pan). Bake crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until light brown.
To Make the Filling:
- Place filling ingredients in the processor and blend. Pour filling over hot crust and bake at 350 degrees until slightly brown and set, 25-30 minutes.
- Freeze to set firmly and cool before proceeding.
To Make the Whipped Mascarpone Topping:
- Whip cream to stiff peaks. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Fold in mascarpone. Spread over the chilled filling.
- Top with coconut. Freeze, unmold and cut into 2 by 3 inch bars.
- Garnish with lemon zest and put 1/4 lemon slice on each serving (optional)
This makes a lot; we used a large, rimmed cookie sheet and were able to get almost 70 small pieces from it. Cut it in half and use a jelly roll pan if you want considerably less portions.