Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lemon Meringue Pie with homemade crust

Ever since I was a teenager, I've had this obsession with making lemon meringue pie, and making flaky pie crust. My "other mother", affectionately known as "Momma 2", was instrumental in my obsession. I think a lot of teenagers have "other mothers"... you know, the kind you can go talk to when you feel like your own mom is speaking a foreign language. "Momma 2", also known as Cheryl (Serago) Barclay, interpreted that language for me, and helped me to understand why routine, responsibility, and continued education were so important. She was also my introduction to the wonderful world of Greek cuisine.

Cheryl would pay me to clean her home, as well as to babysit her 3 kids now and then. What I loved most though is her letting me use her kitchen to experiment in. She'd pull out all her cookie recipes at Christmas time and let me make them all for her- I was in heaven! My favorites were the Birds Nest cookies with the red or green cream cheese filling...

But during a summer back about 1981, she asked me to make her a lemon meringue pie. I was excited to make a pie, but I I had never made a lemon one before. So I poured over recipe books... back then of course there was no such thing as the internet to quickly pop up a recipe. After all the searching, I paired 2 recipes together, in part because of available ingredients in the cupboard, and my love for a lot of lemon.

I still keep in touch with my "Momma 2", Cheryl, to this day. She was a guiding force that always encouraged me to "think down the road" before I made any rash decisions in my life. I haven't seen her in awhile, but when I do, I think I'll have to make her this pie. I think everyone needs a Momma 2 to make a pie for...

In my opinion, a flaky pie crust is key to an amazing pie. I haven't found one as simple, and as flavorful, as Pate Brisee. You can try all sorts of tricks and a million ingredients to get a flaky crust, but for me nothing does it better than good ol' unsalted pure butter. Although the recipe shown below uses a food processor, I love to make it by hand. I use a an old fashioned pastry blender, sturdy bowl, and my hands. I absolutely love the feel of pie dough!

Another thing that I prefer, is to add a small amount of HOT simple syrup to my meringue. While I will not guarantee that it will pasteurize your egg whites, it does give me a little comfort knowing that between that and the oven browning of the meringue, more of it is cooked than not.

Pie Crust
(as found on

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add cubed butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

Using 1/2 of the dough, roll out on floured surface and place in pie pan, fluting edges as you desire. Dock dough (prick with fork on bottom portion) Place a sheet of foil in pan over dough, and place pie weights or smaller pan on top. Place in 375 degree oven and blind bake for about 25 minutes, until crust is light golden brown and cooked thoroughly. Let cool.

Lemon Filling

1/3 c cornstarch
1-1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 c cold water
4 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
1/2 c lemon juice (approx 3-4 lemons)
Zest of all juiced lemons
3 Tbs unsalted butter

In small saucepan combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, and cold water. Over medium heat, while stirring constantly, bring to a slight boil. Turn down heat to low and cook until mixture is slightly clear and thick. Add lemon juice, cooking for another minute. Remove from heat.

Remove one cup of the cooked mixture, and add to egg yolks while whisking quickly, to temper the eggs so they do not 'cook'. Return yolk mixture to the saucepan, and continue cooking on low for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and butter. Set aside and let cool.


4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 c HOT simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves)
3 tablespoons sugar

Beat the egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add the cream of tartar and sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until firm peaks form but are not dry. Then gradually add the hot simple syrup until peaks stand on own and do not fall.

To assemble: Pour lemon filling in cooked crust. Take 1/3 of meringue and completely cover lemon filling, completely covering, sealing filling to edges of crust. With remaining meringue, using a pastry bag (or spoon) make decorative peaks over entire surface of pie.

Place in 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, watching carefully, until meringue is nicely and evenly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Pie is best served when cold.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Homemade pasta- nothing better!

Ever since I saw Pastor Ryan's "recipe" for homemade pasta over on The Pioneer Woman's site, I have been looking for any opportunity to make it. Well, opportunity presented itself at a farewell dinner for my oldest daughter, when she felt that a change of scenery was in order, and decided that the windy city of Chicago was in her future- 1700 miles away. As I write this, she is still on the road. Gone less than 24 hours, I truly do miss her already...

{Insert joyful smile here}

I can't believe how easy this pasta is to make! Any other time I have made pasta, it had numerous ingredients, and the end result never seemed to justify the effort. But this only requires 2 ingredients- 1 cup of flour and 2 eggs- and I always have those on hand, don't you? All you do is mix the two together, let the dough rest about 20 minutes (rest is critical to the end result), roll with a floured rolling pin super thin, and then cut with a pizza cutter into your desired shape (or use your pasta roller, however, I love the rustic look of hand cut), and boil for 2-3 minutes. It couldn't be any simpler. Just remember that the thinner the dough, the nicer the end result, and if you have a wood surface to roll your dough out on, that performs much better than a smooth surface.

Originally, I had intended on making a Bolognese sauce that Pastor Ryan had also made to partner with this recipe. But it seems that no one else in my family was feelin' it... they wanted something a bit lighter. So, I sliced up about 3 cloves of garlic, and added them to about a 1/2 c of olive oil, and warmed the oil on low heat for about twenty minutes, so as not to burn and turn bitter. I turned off the heat and set it aside. It smelled amazing...

Then, I remembered that Patsy over at Family, Friends, and Food, had made some amazing roasted tomatoes, and thought how wonderful they'd be with fresh pasta. So I roasted a pint of cherry tomatoes I had on hand...

I grabbed a large handful of fresh basil and sliced into a chiffonade...

And then combined the garlic oil, basil, and roasted tomatoes (with all the roasted juices) in a bowl with some kosher salt and pepper to taste...

Then enjoyed an absolutely delicious dish...

I love finding a recipe here and a recipe there, and combining them to make a simple, yet fabulous dish. This was an easy, yet fun recipe to make... a great one to involve your children in! I absolutely loved the chewiness of the pasta, and the fresh flavors of the garlic, basil, and tomatoes.

You know, making this pasta was so easy, it will definitely be a staple in my kitchen from now on. Seriously- 2 ingredients for the pasta..? Sweet...

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dark Chocolate Texas sheet cake: sin on a plate...

This has been yet another crazy week, filled with graduations, parties, illnesses, and a proliferating laundry pile. I attacked it today, wrestled it to the ground, and tried to beat it into submission. A whole lotta good that'll do, though- it only laughs in my face and starts multiplying again. It's pure evil in a basket...

Why laundry makes me crave chocolate though, I'll never know. But crave it did, and that's when the ingredients started flying on the counter. It had to be quick and easy. A rich chocolate Texas sheet cake. The recipe I based it off of was given to me by a gal I had worked with years ago, and even though it was a very good one, I wanted an even richer, more moist, cake. So over time I have adapted this recipe to cure my cravings, and send me into a blissful chocolate coma... be very careful though. One slice can lead to another, and you could end up with thighs like my great aunt...

Dark Chocolate Texas Sheet cake

2 c sugar
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 heaping c sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c water
4 Tbs Dark cocoa powder

Dark chocolate glaze

1 stick unsalted butter
5 Tbs heavy cream
4 Tbs Dark cocoa powder
4 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 tsp Bourbon Vanilla (tastes best but regular ok)
1 lb box powdered sugar, sifted

In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl combine the sour cream, eggs, and baking soda. Set aside. In a 2 qt saucepan add 2 sticks unsalted butter, water, and 4 Tbs dark cocoa powder. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add to flour mixture, blending well, then add the sour cream mixture, making sure all is combined. Spray a large jelly roll or large rimmed baking sheet pan with non-stick spray, and pour all batter into pan. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and keep cake in pan.

While cooling, add remaining stick of butter, heavy cream, and dark cocoa powder into a 2 qt saucepan. Bring to a slight boil and remove from heat. Add in cream cheese, whisking well until melted, then add bourbon vanilla, and lastly, powdered sugar in small increments until well blended and smooth. Pour all on top of cake (if cake is still warm that's ok) , spread and smooth with an offset spatula. Let cake cool until glaze is set.

Cake should serve many... but depending on your mood, could be a large serving for one :-)

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Ice Cream topped with Raspberry Mango Salsa in Cinnamon Sugar Bowls

Sometimes I think the naming part of recipes is the hardest part of all. I mean, what else can you possibly call this..? Compote, maybe, except that it wasn't cooked... whatever. This is yummy stuff so who cares about the name?

So for the the ending of our Get Fit Challenge BBQ bash tomorrow, I signed up to bring a dessert. And while the old me really wanted to bring a chocolate something in it's most sinful form, I thought it best to exercise some restraint, and bring something that only tasted sinful.

A few years ago I went to a Pampered Chef party, and a recipe, similar to this, was made to demonstrate how to use the catalog products. I've seen different variations of this all over the place, each one claiming it as their own. I really don't know who or where it originated from. All I can tell you is that it is delicious... refreshing... and not too unhealthy!

While I added my favorite fruits, I'm sure you could adapt it to whatever is available in your area. What I have done differently (from what I remember at the demonstration) is to add my homemade bourbon vanilla to the fruit, as well as some brown sugar, and to create flowered cinnamon sugar bowls rather than chips for the fruit. To make a little healthier, I also coated my tortilla's in PAM Baking Spray rather than butter, prior to dredging in cinnamon and sugar.

This is a really simple recipe that can be adapted to what is available, and casual or elegant, it's perfect for any summer occasion.

Ice Cream topped with Raspberry Mango Salsa in Cinnamon Sugar Bowls

1 small container raspberries
2 mango's, peeled and diced
2 kiwi's, peeled and diced
2 peaches, peeled and diced (canned ok if fresh not available)
Juice of 2 limes
2 tsp Bourbon Vanilla (regular ok)
2 Tbs packed brown sugar
1 dozen flour tortilla's
1 cup cinnamon sugar mixture to taste
PAM Baking spray
Vanilla ice cream

Fruit Salsa
In small bowl, mix together fruits, lime juice, vanilla, and brown sugar. Stir and set aside.

Cinnamon Sugar Bowls

Using a cookie cutter, cut desired shapes out of flour tortillas that are large enough to hold a scoop of ice cream later.

Once all tortillas are cut, spray each cut out shape on both sides with Pam Baking Spray. Pour 1 cup cinnamon sugar onto a dinner plate, and dredge both sides of cut tortilla into mixture.

Once all are coated they can be baked, in batches, on the bottom side of a PAM sprayed cupcake pan. I preferred this method rather than putting inside the cupcake tin, to get the shape that I preferred. Shape is entirely up to you though...

I baked them 7 minutes covered with a small pyrex bowl to shape, and 5 minutes uncovered to crisp, at 375 F degrees.

Once all are baked, cool completely. If not serving till later, bowls can be kept in a covered container or sealed Ziploc bag to keep crispy.

To serve, place one scoop of vanilla ice cream in center of tortilla bowl, add desired amount of fruit salsa on top, and enjoy!

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's that time again!

Yup, 3 months have passed already- it was weigh in time again for my Get Fit Challenge this Saturday! I was actually excited about this, because I knew that the scale was going to go down, rather than up, for a change.

Having the flu bug going through this house the past 2 weeks, though, derailed me just a bit. I actually did not work out for a whole week- that felt SO bizarre. Once you incorporate something into your daily life (that doesn't have a pastry bag attached) and make it part of your life... well, I felt aimless... lost... a wee bit schleppy... I know I had the flu (no, I didn't oink), but I still felt like a bad girl not getting out there and wheezing through a workout.

So once again, I donned my little black tank and sexy black shorts (a new a teeny swimsuit to be my prize once all my goal weight is lost)...

Blew out all the air bubbles I could possibly blow...

thought of all the goodies that brought me here to begin with...

then found more air bubbles in there to blow up to the surface...

So that this chiseled stud, who is perfecting his "I do not notice your scantily clad body" look...

could tell me that I've just lost a total of 21.7 lbs!! And even though I've been sick, and knew that I had lost 22, I was happy to see that I had only gained back about 8 oz while fighting this flu. Not bad!

Next Saturday is the big "Reveal" party ... the winner of our Get Fit Challenge will be announced. So I can't post here what my fat percentage lost is, as that is what truly determines who wins in our group, and we have to keep that part a secret. But it really doesn't matter to me whether I "win" the challenge or not. I feel so good at having accomplished what I have, working out with the most amazing group of gals, I feel like I've won so much already.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spinach, Gorgonzola and Lemon Rice

With my youngest and I both being sick this past week and a half, I haven't been able to get out and about, buying the scores of food magazines that I usually do. That really is a good thing. I've had plenty of time, while not running around, to open up my many cookbooks and give them a good read. What a novel idea... to actually read the cookbooks I have!

One that I found so many delicious sounding recipes in was Red, White, and Blue Ribbon, 2004 by Melissa Craven, published by 3D Press. It has 230 prize winning recipes from recipe contests and cook-offs from the previous year. I love cookbooks like this- people like you and I doing what they love most!

One in particular that appealed to me was the Spinach, Gorgonzola and Lemon Rice, by Kelly Mapes, the runner up in the USA Rice Federation's Rice to the Rescue Recipe Contest. I had such a huge bag of fresh spinach already in the fridge, and was just really tired of spinach salads. The combination of flavors sounded interesting. I wasn't overly convinced, but figured I'd give it a try- not like I was really going anywhere this week, so why not..?

I absolutely loved this! I am crazy for Gorgonzola, but yet never thought to partner it up with lemon, let alone spinach! Each flavor distinctively stood out, yet married well with each other. The rice was creamy, rich in flavor, and with the addition of lemon, a nice bright ending.

Spinach, Gorgonzola and Lemon Rice

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms
1 (4-ounce) package Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups cooked rice
2 cups lightly-packed torn fresh spinach leaves
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in cheese and continue to stir frequently until cheese melts, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in rice and heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Toss in spinach just before serving. Garnish with lemon zest.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Adopt a Blogger #3

I love hanging out over at Dine & Dish. Kristen has some of the tastiest recipes I've seen, always complete with a story or two. Definitely a great morning read for me over a cup of coffee!

In addition to the anticipation of baby #4 (!) due any day now, she is once again hosting Adopt a Blogger. How I wish I had known about this when I first started blogging about food! It gives the opportunity for a more seasoned food blogger to mentor to a new kid on the block. What a great idea!

So I am thrilled to introduce all of you to Sophia from over at Burp and Slurp! Honestly, I think she should be mentoring me... she has wonderful recipes, incredible wit, is well traveled, and seems to have this blogging thing already "down". What I am admiring most about her though, is her honesty in creating her blog in the first place... to conquer her battle with an eating disorder, one bite at a time. She has made me realize that food bloggers inspire in many, many ways. So go over and visit, say hi, let her know what a true family of foodies we are!

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