Sunny days may be dwindling, but Elizabeth Nati holds the recipe for a slice of summertime.
Nati’s Luscious Lemon Squares recipe, which earned her a $50 gift card from Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore, keeps the sunny, sweet feelings coming all year long.
The South Abington Twp. resident is an accomplished baker and makes all kinds of goodies for herself and her family, including her husband, Joe, and son, Brandon, 5. The lemon squares recipe was her late mom’s and holds a special place in Nati’s heart.
“Mom had this recipe for a long time,” Nati said. “She always enjoyed baking.”
While Nati has lived in the area for the past 16 years, her roots involved lots of Pennsylvania Dutch recipes growing up, which helped her hone her baking skills. Nati’s been making her mom’s lemon squares for about five years now and got the official seal of approval from her dad, who confirmed it tasted just like his wife’s.
“My younger sister is a good baker, too,” she said. “My dad is lucky to have the both of us.”
Nati advised that bakers must allow the crust to cool completely before topping it with the cream cheese mixture so that second layer stays firm and doesn’t become watery. She also uses either walnuts or pecans for the crust and urged bakers to grind them up in a food processor to ensure they’re finely chopped.
Nati’s dessert lived up to its name and was as creamy and lush as it was fresh and lemony. The crust held the ideal amount of buttery and nutty flavor, the filling tasted incredibly light, and the whipped cream topped it all off. It truly tasted like a summer day, even if it was closer to fall. For those who want to take this dessert into the cooler weather, Nati also makes a variation with pumpkin pudding for a creamy, spicy and sweet Thanksgiving treat.
A teacher at the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children who is deaf herself, Nati loves her job but relishes her time off to get creative in the kitchen. She’s a skilled cook, but baking is her passion, and Nati bakes something different each day in the summertime, usually with Brandon’s help.
“He’s such a good helper,” she said, adding he’s assisted her in the kitchen since he was 2. “He even has his own apron.”
During the summer, Nati and her son make pies, cookies and cakes, sometimes from the fresh strawberries they pick at Pallman’s Farm. Throughout the school year, Nati still finds time to bake all kinds of goodies for her family. She makes sure to bake at least once a month as a special treat.
“I absolutely love to do it, especially baking for my family,” she said.
Elizabeth Nati’s Luscious Lemon Squares
1 cup flour
1 stick butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 packages instant lemon pudding
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Cool Whip
2 1/2 cups milk
For the crust, mix together flour, chopped nuts and butter. Spread in a 7-inch-by-12-inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F. Cool.
For second layer, mix powdered sugar, cream cheese and Cool Whip. Spread on the first layer.
For the third layer, mix pudding mix, milk and lemon juice, beating well. Spread lemon mixture over second layer. Then, spread remaining Cool Whip on top. Garnish with chopped nuts.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT