Our first Xenes Kouppes! We wouldn’t dream about starting this segment of our blog featuring anyone but dear Isabel. Isabel, who sadly passed away in 2016, was Helen’s mother-in-law; in fact, she may not have realized it, but I considered Isabel to be somewhat of a mother-in-law too. Isabel was so kind, so much fun, so full of life that everyone who met her wanted to claim her as their own, in some way.
Of English and Scottish descent, Isabel was a great lady who along with her husband Frank, raised 4 children. Family was everything, and some of her greatest moments were spent surrounded by her sons, daughter and their families. Blessed with 10 grandchildren, and the ultimate joy of her life, her great-grandson Lincoln, Isabel was the epitome of love.
And she had enough love and kindness to share. For instance, whenever a baby was born, even if not in her own immediate family, she would set to knitting. Our children were all wrapped and cuddled in the most beautiful hand-made sweaters, blankets and hats; each unique, each created with joy. Isabel was a talented knitter, and it was a craft that she took great pride in. In fact, when she was younger, she belonged to a knitting club and each week the ladies of this club would take turns hosting in their home. These lemon bars were Isabel’s usual contribution.
Isabel also adored swimming. She was happiest when she was with her family, and when her family was by the water. Whether it was the Florida beaches where many summer’s were spent, or by the pool at her children’s homes, Isabel was a water-lover; a fish as our dad would call her. She would spend many happy hours soaking, floating and swimming; the water was her ultimate relaxation.
It’s no surprise that the recipe which reminds us most of Isabel is a dessert; she loved, really loved, desserts. We bet she would forego a meal if it meant that she could have more cake…unless that meal was Greek food. Because she did not cook this way herself, she took great pleasure in eating the typical Greek dishes which were often made for our gatherings. She especially loved our parents’ roasted lamb, lemon potatoes, absolutely anything with eggplant … and of course our Greek desserts.
Although we have had this recipe for a while, passed on to us by Isabel herself in her own graceful handwriting, the truth is we have used it quite infrequently. There was no need; anytime there was a family get together, these lemon bars were her contribution. Sure, she would often also bring along some amazing fudge or a dish of scalloped potatoes, but it was these lemon bars which we all anticipated. Making them ourselves just seemed wrong, and unnecessary – they were Isabel’s trademark. Now that she is gone however, we are so grateful to have this recipe which is so reminiscent of her; simple, sweet, and just lovely.
You can purchase graham wafer crumbs, or create your own by placing graham crackers in a blender or food processor and grinding them up. Either is fine, and won’t change the quality of your lemon bars at all.
These lemon bars will keep well, for several days (they won’t last that long) in the refrigerator. Isabel would keep them in a tin or plastic container, with each layer separated from the next with some parchment or wax paper. You can enjoy them at room temperature, or even cold, right out of the fridge.
Mia Kouppa: Lemon bars
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) graham wafer crumbs
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) brown sugar (packed)
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) melted unsalted butter
- 15oz can Eagle Brand Sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) grated lemon rind
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix the graham wafer crumbs, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and melted butter in a bowl until well combined.
- Grease an 8 inch baking pan with a little butter or margarine.
- Spread 2/3 of the wafer mixture in the pan, pressing down firmly so that you have a packed bottom layer. You do not need to have any of the wafer mixture coming up the sides of the pan.
- In another bowl, combine the condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon rind. Mix well.
- Pour this mixture over the graham layer in the pan and spread it out evenly.
- Sprinkle the remaining graham crumb mix over the top of the lemon mixture.
- Bake the lemon bars in the middle rack of your oven until the top is golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Cooking time will depend on your oven.
- Let your dessert cool completely before cutting it into 1 inch squares.
- Keep refrigerated. Enjoy!