Remembering Elle

caprese ravioli salad

And so it is that another person who owned a space in my heart has passed away. She was part of the humor section, the daily chuckles, the space that created camaraderie through wit and wonder. As I was getting to know Elle (Lee Ann Ritchotte) of Elle’s New England Kitchen, her wise cracking sense of humor made me open up that reserved space to her. In one of our first conversations she made me snort coffee out though my nose -which, as most of us know, is the height of all comic aspiration. 😉

So a few of us who loved knowing her are cooking up a tribute recipe from her blog and posting it this weekend in memory of her at #ElleAPalooza.

I chose to make her Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli as an appetizer for the birthday lunch I held for my two sisters this afternoon. I chose to use a Dungeness Crab Ravioli instead of the Buitoni Chicken Marsala. It was wonderful, inspired dress up of a standard- Caprese-so good! I wish I had the chance to let her know. I wish I could let her know the impact she had on the world and what a wrench it is to lose her too soon.


insalata caprese with fried ravioli

This last year has been one riddled with loss. I know it happens and I know that it is part of living but it sucks, it really just SUCKS!!! The philosophical part of my brain tries to talk myself out of the depression created by these senseless and unexpected losses (and of course even the ones I saw coming and thought I had prepared for) but the heart of me cries foul and its howling, raging, blubbering, stinging, searing hurt will not be salved by logic or balance. The only thing that helps is to hold the good memories closer than the pain. Sharing with others in the same space helps too – so thanks to the other Friends of Elle on Facebook. In the coming weeks there will be an auction for the benefit of Elle’s family, put together by Heather of He Cooks She Cooks. Thank you so much Heather!
Rick was kind and supportive enough to make two auction lots of a Hand Turned Flame Maple Rolling Pin and a hand made Flame Maple Spatula together in each lot for us to donate. Each piece is signed by him and branded with ELLE as well. He is teaching me to wood turn- but I am not the artist he is- so thanks to him for contributing many hours on this donation. Just makes me love him all the more. <3 Please support the auction if you are able. 🙂 There is also a fund set up at Paypal for the benefit of the Ritchotte family- if you’d like to donate it is here.

I am sorry that most of my posts here in the past year or so have been about loss. That is not balanced and not what my overall life is about. Elle makes me think of so many good things: friendship, laughter, passion for life. She made beautiful jewelry- I am lucky enough to have one of her bracelets. She was obviously a wonderful wife and mother leaving behind a family who I am sure will never stop missing her. I know that I will not- there will be funny things and my reflex will be to think of her and wish I could share- wish I could still read her squeal about a pig on a leash and Patriot passion and Corgis and Kitties and Kids. Thank you Elle for the laughter and the inspiration- it was a gift to know you.

Other Blogs Participating in #ElleAPalooza


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Tribute to The Queen of all Daring Bakers, Lis

baked pretzel


Occasionally, if you are lucky in life, as I am, you meet someone whose unique qualities create a whole new color in the crayon box of your life. Lisa Cifelli was that sort of a person for me. Her humor, kindness and humanity were amazing. She could also swear you into a whole new dictionary- which, I think, made me love her even more. 🙂

Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice co-founded the Daring Bakers (which eventually expanded and morphed into Daring Kitchen) in November of 2006 more on that here. They challenged each other to make a Hot Buttered Pretzel recipe and then post about it, and the rest, as they say, is history folks . After that they invited a small circle of bloggers to join them and soon all the rest of us were begging to be let into the group. I became a member of Daring Bakers in September of 2007 with the Cinnamon/Sticky Bun challenge.  I came for the baking and walked away with a whole new group of friends. Some of the people I still love and admire most are those I met through DB. My most reposted picture is my Mikado light opera cake from the opera cake challenge. So yes, Lisa and Ivonne and all the other DBs changed my life. Eventually the group got too big for me and I moved on, but I will always have wonderful memories of those days.


Now I’m not saying I was one of Lis’s best friends – I was way out on the edge of her orbit, but she was a blogging friend and she also got me started in Farmville on Facebook. She was always sending me virtual gifts… fruit trees, cows, barns, countries. I finally had to just stop or I would have been required to participate in farm subsidies. 🙂 Ok I might exaggerate a bit. BUT she always showed up with a bit of love and support when I needed it- always ending her messages with numerous xxxoooxxxoooxxs. I will always love that about her!

Here is a message she left on the cheesecake challenge for me- one I will always cherish: (I made what I called Bee-Bop Cheesecake Pops.)


  • Lisa says: 2008/04/27 at 11:31

    You did not just make wee bubblebees out of the cheesecake!  YOU DID!!  I heart them so very muchly!!!

    Okay so far.. you win most creative use of cheesecake, chocolate coating and lemon drops. :D



 Lisa says:
2008/04/27 at 11:32
or some (normal) people call them BUMBLEbees.. not BUBBLEbees.. *sigh*

Earlier this week, as I read the note from my friend Kelly at Sass and Veracity telling us that Lis had passed away unexpectedly that morning, the tears came rushing out in a torment. I could not make any sense of it all. I cry all over again every time I think of it. How could someone as vital and wonderful as Lis be gone?! Hadn’t she just had a birthday? Hadn’t she just sent me kind words of love and support when my mother-in-law passed away on  November 1st? Why was I not a better friend to her? How do you lose a color out of your crayon box and still paint the world the same way? Truth is you can’t. I will never see life the same way both because I was lucky enough to know Lis in this crazy new world of internet friendships and because we suffered her loss together redrawing us all back into the community we once were. Daring Bakers forever.

And so today in tribute, I baked the pretzels that started it all. (recipe here) and I listened to her beloved Cher and to AC/DC and I mourned the missing color of Lisa’s brilliance.

mise en place


pretzel dough

dough divided    wash and saltprebake

baked pretzel
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Twisted Sweet Rolls



These are so deliciously easy and fast to make that they can be downright dangerous. Just fair warning to you all. 🙂

Twisted Sweet Rolls

For Dough:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast, proofed in 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 3/4 cup warm milk (I use whole milk, you can substitute 2% if wanted)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup Vanilla sugar or plain granulated
  • 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4-1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

For Filling:

  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

For Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugartwist roll

twisted roll sheet

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, milk and vanilla extract together and add the sugar, salt and orange zest, mix to combine. Beat the eggs and add them along with the proofed yeast to the mixture in the bowl. Add the flour by 1/2 cupsful until a stiff dough forms. You may need a bit more or less of flour depending on your environment and the moisture content of your flour.  Beat it well with the dough hook or by hand. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Prepare the filling by creaming the butter and then mixing the ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Roll the dough out to a 24″ by 12″ rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread the filling evenly along half of the long side of the rectangle. Fold the dough over the filling and cut the resulting 24″ x 6″ rectangle into 1″ strips with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  Twist each strip several times and then wrap it around itself into a spiral, tuck the ends under. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving room  between to rise.  Rise until light and doubled, about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 375F and bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown. Make the glaze, brush the tops and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes. Cool on a rack or serve warm. Be careful of hot caramel-nut filling. Enjoy!











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