Lemon Ricotta Bites

“You must really love your job,” said a friend to me recently.  “I do!” I exclaimed, only to find that she was actually being sarcastic.  This happens all the time because not many people in my life want to be me.  A fundraiser.  My jobs have landed me in two of the top three categories that people don’t talk about – sex and money.  The third, politics, is NEVER going to be in my future.  Two of the three taboo subjects are just fine.

People have fundraising all wrong.  What can be better than a career focused on philanthropy and inspiring generosity to make change in this world?  Think about it.  We all give to something.  Wouldn’t it be great to have someone on the inside looking out for you?  Someone with an intimate understanding of that organization’s mission who can safeguard your donation and make sure that it makes the impact you intended?  That’s me.  I take the dreams of the people on the inside and help turn them into a reality by becoming a storyteller on their behalf.  I match these stories with generous people looking to make an impact in the areas I work in.  I talk about dreaming all the time on this blog and it turns out that I connect dreams for a living.

That’s the fun in fundraising.  You take an organization, big or small, and help them articulate their overall dream for change.  You then take an individual and learn about their dreams of participating in that change.  Together, the two truly work towards the impact they are setting out to make.

This weekend, I received an email that said ‘FDA approval!!!”  When I started in my hospital fundraising job three years ago, a young surgeon on our liver transplant team was setting out to try to change the way liver transplants are done.  For the past 40 years, livers have been put on ice in a cooler when they are procured for a recipient.  This damages the liver.  Additionally, many livers have to be discarded because of their condition.  This doctor knew that there was a better way to do this and was trying to create a machine that would essentially keep the liver alive until it was ready to be transplanted.

For three years, I have fundraised with my team for this project.  It started out with pig livers in a bowl donning a crazy Macgyver hook up.  Little by little, we watched the research progress.  First, it was small celebrations like when the liver stayed alive and healthy for 8 hours.  Then it was a big celebration when a damaged liver started to produce bile (a super duper good sign of a healthy liver).  Slowly, he found the right solution to perfuse the liver with, they were staying alive well over 24 hours now, he worked to engineer a portable machine, and before long he was doing live transplants in pigs with positive results.  And as research tends to go, he found new ideas along the way.  The liver can be rehabilitated on the machine to be sure that it’s healthy and avoid any surprises during the transplant.  It was time to take it to humans and ask the FDA for approval to use the machine in a clinical trial.  The letter arrived and they said YES. This research was funded by the money we raised.  This research has the potential to change how liver transplants are done for the first time in four decades.  Most importantly, this research will make more livers available because now that they can rehabilitate them, the organs that were once discarded can now save lives.  So yes, I really do love my job.

Lemon Ricotta Bites

IMG_4368 Oh spring, how you taunt me with sunshine but no fruit in season yet!  I wanted to make something in the pie family but was stumped as to what.  No more heavy cream pies of winter – light and bright is in the air!  Except I live in Ohio and nothing is in season yet.

Enter my husband’s Aunt Rosanne’s Easter ricotta pie.  Not being Italian, I didn’t know about this pie until I saw her post this beautiful pie on Facebook.  I have a serious love of ricotta (lemon ricotta pancakes are my crack), and decided to get the recipe to see what this was all about.  I haven’t yet had time to make the full pie, but I used her recipe as inspiration to make some lemon ricotta bites and they turned out to be such a perfect dessert for these early spring months!  EASY is the key here and they were a hit with big and little people alike.

Lemon Ricotta Bites

  • Servings: 45
  • Print


  • 1 pound of whole milk ricotta (try to buy good ricotta)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites (in a separate bowl)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 3 packages of mini phyllo shells (about 12-15 per package depending on brand)

Directions Preheat oven to 350. Place mini shells on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or in a mini muffin tin. IMG_0286 In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until smooth and light in color.  Add ricotta, lemon zest, and lemon juice, mixing well.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until stiff and fold into the ricotta mixture.  Spoon the mixture into the shells, filling almost to the top.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they are set and a toothpick comes out clean. IMG_7266 Remove from oven and top each one with a blueberry and let cool.  Store in refrigerator.  Will keep for up to 2 days.  Enjoy! IMG_8834

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