There are days that are an absolute grind. Social media doesn’t normally show those; or, I don’t normally show those on my social media. It’s not that I’m trying to deceive you but rather that social media is not supposed to be a 24/7 reality show. Social media, at its core, is curated content, often carefully so. But, what is ‘behind the scenes’?
For most of us, it’s a more messy version of life. For every nice food ‘capture’, there’s a failed attempt (or three), piles of dishes, small children trying to pull dishes off the table while you try to snap a picture, rushed meals of leftovers, splattered walls, screaming…
For our family of six, it has been haggard days of limited sleep, frantic trips to the emergency room that result in surgery, first days of school, messy houses and back yards, anxiety, and…
For me, I’ve also been trying to figure out life and my future. It’s no easy task. It’s been eight months since I officially left academia and my PhD behind, after devoting nearly seven years of my life to it. It’s not been easy to be patient, to allow myself time and space to process that experience, to heal, and to think honestly about what next steps are best for me and my family. It’s hard, and I’m learning that this is important to admit. Those beautiful moments don’t just ‘happen’, behind the scenes is a lot of mess and hard work. I’m currently somewhere in that mess, grinding, trying to create those beautiful moments for my family and I.
And part of that grind has been coming to terms with new economies of value for myself. I have had to learn how to value the effort it takes to care for children, to care for myself, and to care for others. To value the process rather than just the end result, even if that process is sometimes messy and painful and hard. To reconnect to creative endeavors that might seem frivolous or small in the ‘big picture’, but that allow me to express myself, to create items that I can share with others, that can sustain my family, that can bring pleasure.
Which is why I baked these squares and why these squares filled me with happiness. They are for me, they’re a riff off of one of my favorite desserts, though I am also sharing them here with you. They’re two of my favorite flavors: ginger and lime. They’re pretty, but there was a process behind them. I took the time to research and create them, to make a mess, to set them up just right, to create something. And, then, I enjoyed them. And I shared them with others. And now I’m sharing them here. That’s what this is about. That’s enough for now.
Key Lime & Ginger Bars with Almond Crust
You've had lemon bars before (they're one of my absolute favorite desserts...). You've had key lime pie before. Maybe you've even had key lime bars. But the addition of ginger in these bars takes the beautiful pairing of sweet and sour into new heights, especially when garnished with chunks of candied ginger. The almond crust is deliciously crunchy without crumbling in your hand and the soft, warm nuttiness of the almonds provides the perfect backdrop for the citrus and ginger to shine. It's both familiar and comforting, but also spicy and exciting - to make your heart and your tongue do the happy dance at the same time!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup almonds, chopped
- 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup key lime juice (approximately 12-15 key limes, squeezed)
- 1 teaspoon key lime zest
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- candied ginger, diced for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine flour and next 5 ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix until finely ground. You can do this by hand too, but it will give you a more inconsistent texture in your crust.
Press mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Take out and let cool.
While crust bakes, beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and foamy.
Add sugar, flour, key lime juice, zest, baking powder, and salt. Mix until well combined.
Pour key lime mixture over crust.
At 350F, bake 22-25 minutes until edges are lightly golden and center is set.
Once you take the squares out, let them cool in the baking dish. Then chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Before serving, dust with powdered sugar (this is done most easily with a small sieve that you shake over the squares) and garnish. For these, I garnished with quarter slices of candied ginger and key limes.
These can be made ahead of time and stored for up to a couple days in the fridge, just add the powdered sugar and garnishes before serving rather than after baking.