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Lemon Meringue Pie

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I don’t know about you but once spring arrives (even if the weather doesn’t quite agree), I’m in the mood for lemon!  Lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon cookies…just bring on the lemon.

I thought the week of Easter would be a great time to share a recipe for lemon meringue pie, which I just started making a few months ago.  My SIL, Joan, loves lemon meringue pie and I made her one for Christmas (everyone got a home made pie for Christmas last year since we were too po for many store-bought ones).  It was my first ever lemon meringue pie, and as firsts sometimes go, it was bad.  I didn’t read the instructions close enough and the filling never set up.  It was lemon soup pie.  Thankfully, I had enough time to make a second, which turned out well.

My beautiful sister-in-law with her pie.

To my surprise, after licking the spoon which I used to scrape the filling into the crust, I found I really liked lemon meringue pie, or at least the filling.  You’d think a person who enjoys lemon desserts would assume that lemon meringue pie was the bomb-diggity, but no, I never had tasted a single bite because I was somehow sure it wasn’t worth eating.  I know, right?  I suddenly found myself dying to have a slice of lemon meringue pie, to taste it in its full glory, so I made it to bring to a dinner party in January.  That single small slice was so good, I needed more, and made a whole pie just for Dennis and I.  And together, we managed to eat the entire thing in a shamefully small period of time.

Personally, I would prefer this pie with a whipped cream topping.  However, using the egg whites works so perfectly since you have them leftover after using the yolks in the filling.  If you don’t mind using your egg whites for another purpose, feel free to use whipped cream here.  I think that would be the magics.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

4 egg yolks, room temperature (reserve whites for meringue)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon lemon zest (1-2 lemons)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 prebaked pie shell in a 9″ plate (deep dish if using a frozen crust)

Meringue
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Stir the egg yolks together in a heatproof bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the water and turn on the heat to medium. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring, boiling until it is quite thick, at least one minute. Remove from heat.

Add a spoonful of the hot mixture to the egg yolks at a time, stirring in between additions, until 1/3-1/2 of the hot mixture has been added. Scrape the egg yolk mixture into the pan and whisk it all together. Return to the heat and cook for another minute while stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, stirring until combined. Scrape into the baked pie crust; set aside.

For the meringue, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a stainless steel or glass bowl that is completely grease free and beat with completely grease-free beaters on medium speed for about a minute, or until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and beat in sugar gradually until glossy stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread over hot filling all the way to the edge, making sure the meringue touches the pie crust all the way around, to prevent shrinkage.

Bake in preheated oven 12-15 minutes or until meringue is light golden brown. Cool completely before slicing, about 4 hours.

Recipe source: adapted from the recipe on the back of a Pillsbury Pet-Ritz frozen pie crust package.

If you’re in a lemon mood, check the other lemon sweets on my blog:

Blueberry-Lemon Upside Down Cake

Blueberry-Lemon Pound Cake

Blueberry-Lemon Trifle

Easy Lemon Cookies

Lemon-Basil Peach Dumplings

Lemon Blossoms

Lemon Curd

Lemony Orange Cake

Lemon Squares

Strawberry Lemonade Layer Cake

Sunshine Bars

Triple Lemon Cake

Zesty Lemon Pound Cakes

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Randomishness

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Check it out, man. It’s a picture of a laptop…with a picture of a laptop on it.  That’s groooovy, man.

2012 seems to be the year of change for us.  With our tax refund, we had our house levelled (as in set level on the foundation,  not torn down), got guttering, and I got a laptop because my computer went on the fritz. (These were all things we’ve been needing/wanting to do for years.)  It was happy timing for my old computer to die because we got our refund the next week!  So now I can blog on the road…if I ever travel.  And I do have plans for a girl trip with my sisters this summer, so maybe my computer will get to take a ride.  I already traveled with it to Abilene over last Sunday to share pictures on it with Den’s family.  That was so cool.  Especially the part where I carried it in a paper bag with a handle.  Who needs a laptop bag?  Not this redneck chick!

Painting trim before the guttering.

We also painted our trim for the first time since we’ve lived here (nine years!) but now the house itself is looking ready for painting again too so that will be on our “to do list” this summer.  A friend of ours, the same one that helped us with our broken pipe in the basement (Joe rocks our socks!) is going to help us re-plane our yard with a back hoe because right now, all the water collects in a pool in the middle, which doesn’t  help with our basement leakage problem.  They’re going to make it so the water drains off instead of pooling and running toward our house.  So happy about that!  Right now I only have before pictures but will share both before and after when we are done with both projects.

Also in the works is Dennis losing his current job and gaining a new one.  This is his last week with Convergys since United Healthcare is pulling out to open their own customer service department, and it is bittersweet because he loved his job there and loved his team (so did I! They always gave me honest feedback on my baked goods.), but he’s also looking forward to something new.  He went to the job information session for the 911 emergency call-taker job I mentioned, then they had him come to a 4-hour observation where he could see the call-takers and dispatchers in action.  He made a good impression because he asked lots of good questions, and they scheduled an interview for tomorrow morning.  He’s getting closer and closer!  Just a lot of hoops to jump through before he gets the job.  If he passes the interview, there’s still a three hour psychological evaluation.  This job is stressful and can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, so they want to make sure you can handle it.  But Den’s got this.  The man was made for this job.

We had a grand old time with Dennis’ family on Easter, basically just ate and chatted but of course did our Easter basket hunt as well.  Here are some photos, and a video of Lance and Carson (our nephews) pulling up after taking a ride around the property in Lance’s work car so they could cover more ground faster in search of their baskets.  Gave us all a good laugh! :)

As you can see, they have a large property, so perhaps you can sympathize with our nephews for taking drastic action to cover more ground:

Cracks me up!

Joan, my sister-in-law, found her basket first!

The yard goes on and on!

The Easter bunny had to hop really high to leave Richard’s basket in a tree!

Joan’s husband, my brother-in-law.  AKA Richard.

Here’s a short video of my mother-in-law, Phyllis, finding her basket since I didn’t get a picture of it:

The nephews, Lance (sitting) and Carson, going through their baskets.

My luck was not as good.  Dennis had to give me “hot and cold” signals to point the way.

I spy with my little eye, something pastel!

Score!

Check out what I found in my basket! Some bunny loves me and knows me too well!

Dog lover’s pasta in the shape of paws and bones! Could I love this any more? I don’t think so!  I’m so going to make this into pasta salad for Jessie’s 8th birthday party in June.

Before Lance took off, we admired his new hard-core Harley.

I’m not sure how widespread this tradition is, but apparently the bikers ’round these parts have a custom that someone has to buy you a bell for your motorcycle to “ward off evil road spirits” (it can’t be bought by the biker or it won’t work).  Joan picked the praying hands for him because she said that’s what she’s going to be doing a lot of!

And for the grand finale, I give you Lance’s studly exit by motorcycle:

For those of you who are still reeling over how messy my desk is in the first photo (I’m not going to lie, it’s this messy 90% of the time), just remember…

Carrot Cracker Treats

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Note: Thankful Thursdays is a no-go this week as I joined the Holiday Recipe Club and the posting date for Easter is today.  I’ll be back with more thanksgivings next week!

I ran across this adorable idea for a non-sugary Easter-basket treat on Pinterest and went nuts:

Source: saraspartyperfect.com via Veronica on Pinterest

Cheetos in cone shaped bags with green curly ribbon to look like carrots!  Come on, now. Is that not adorable? While this certainly isn’t a healthy treat, I thought it would be a nice balance to all the sugar that usually fills an Easter basket, and I knew I was going to make these for our family get-together this year.

Then I signed up for a new club on Eliot’s recommendation: the Holiday Recipe Club. For Easter, the recipe ingredients Erin gave us to choose from (we have to use at least one in our recipe) were spinach, eggs, and carrots. I considered making a recipe with just one of the ingredients, but ultimately, the idea of using all three won me over.

Remembering those “carrot” treats I saw on Pinterest, I decided to incorporate a homemade recipe into it and made Cheddar-Carrot crackers to make up the “carrot,” topped with some Parmesan-Spinach Crackers to make the “stem,” and made sure my recipes included eggs.

OK, confession time.  Honestly, my recipes are not absolutely perfect.  They look and taste great.  The Cheddar-Carrot crackers are really close to Cheez-Its in flavor, with just a subtle spiciness, and I was able to get a really nice orange color  for them using only natural ingredients.  The Parmesan-Spinach ones taste a lot like the Cheddar Bay biscuits you get at Red Lobster, which is totally weird because those biscuits do not contain spinach or Parmesan, but what can I tell you?  They just do!  Something about them really makes me want to dunk them in crab dip, too.  You will have some leftover since you use less of them in the treat bags, and I think that’s what I’m going to do with mine.

Anyway, I was trying to tell you these aren’t perfect and got caught up in proclaiming all their good qualities.   Despite the flavor and appearance,  I couldn’t achieve the level of crispiness I wanted.  The ones that are more brown are almost perfect, but even those aren’t quite as crisp as I’d like.  I was afraid of browning them too much since the color was pretty important to the look of the treat bags, but I think the recipe must be flawed if I’d have to over-brown them to get them crispy-crunchy.  Perhaps it was the fault of the vegetable additions (excess moisture and not enough flour to compensate).  In any case, the crackers are delicious, but if you want them to have a crispy texture, you’re going to have to get them fairly brown.  I just wanted to warn you in case you make these, and if you tinker with the recipes and do get a perfectly crispy cracker, let me know what you did so I can try it!

Word to the lazy wise: fill your cone-shaped bags with Cheetos, Goldfish, or Cheez-Its, and forget making your own crackers!!  This was such a huge pain in the tookus!  But here’s the recipe, if you insist.

Carrot Cracker Treats

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cheddar-Carrot Crackers
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded (3 cups)
1 medium-large carrot, peeled and finely shredded
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
¾ teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

Parmesan-Spinach Crackers
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

Make the cheddar-carrot crackers: In a food processor, pulse together butter, cheese, carrot, egg, mustard, salt, , paprika, turmeric, and red-pepper flakes if using, until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add flour and pulse until combined. Shape dough into two discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes-1 hour.

While cheddar-carrot dough is chilling, wash out the food processor & blade (you don’t want the orange color interfering with your green color), and prepare the parmesan-spinach dough: place the spinach in the food processor and pulse until finely minced, about 5-10 times. Add the butter, Parmesan, egg, garlic powder, and salt. Pulse to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Shape dough into two discs and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Once the first batch of dough is chilled, divide each disc in two and place each quarter, one at a time, on a floured surface and roll out until thin, about 1/8” thick or less. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut dough into ½” squares, and arrange squares on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool completely on racks.

Prepare the Parmesan-Spinach crackers the same way and cool completely.

To make the “carrots,” Fill cone-shaped cellophane bags half full with cheddar-carrot crackers, then top with an inch of Parmesan-spinach crackers. Tie bags with green curling ribbon and curl with scissors.

Makes 8-10 carrot treat bags, with leftover spinach crackers for crab dip-dipping. :)

Recipe source: Cracker recipes adapted from Everyday Food’s “Cheese Crackers,” November 2011

*Note: I bought my cone-shaped cello bags on eBay (this seller is super-fast–I got them within two days of ordering!), but you should also be able to find them at cake/candy supply stores and hobby stores.

Be sure to click Mr. Linky below to see the other Easter recipes!



Bird’s Nest Cookies

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Most of my readers probably know by now that I’m a Christian.  What might surprise you is that I don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays.  We do the secular stuff with our families, exchanging gifts, hunting for baskets, but we do not recognize any affiliation of those holiday traditions with our faith.  We recognize Christ as our savior, remember his birth, life, death, and resurrection, but we do not do it just because it’s Easter or just because it’s Christmas–holidays that ultimately have pagan roots and nothing to do with Christ, despite the emphasis put on Him during this time by many. Not that I despise that emphasis, it’s actually refreshing, but we choose to keep these holidays secular while keeping our focus on Christ year-round.  Make sense?

*crickets chirping*

Hello?  Is anyone left?  Hopefully I didn’t lose everyone by starting out on such a serious note.  I have lots of thoughts on this subject…and maybe I should share them some day.  I was thinking about starting a “my faith” page on my blog where I can file my thoughts on spiritual matters in more detail.  Let me know if you’d be interested.

Anyway, whether you celebrate Easter or not, these moist chocolate macaroons shaped into nests with white chocolate truffle “eggs” are a perfect spring-time treat!  I made these a couple years ago and nearly forgot about them until I ran across the photos I took.  Perfect timing!  I hope you enjoy them, I know our family did!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 (14 oz) bag sweetened shredded coconut
16 to 18 white chocolate Lindt Lindor balls (2 bags), or other egg-shaped candies

Move the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 275 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Melt baking chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave on high 30 seconds at a time. Stir after each stop until melted; set aside.  With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the egg whites on high until stiff and glossy. Add the salt, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate. Beat until mixed. Stir in the coconut and hazelnuts. Scoop into mounds with a small (size 24) ice-cream scoop or a 1/4th cup dry measuring cup. Place on cookie sheets and make an indent in the middle with your thumb.

Place both cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Switch the cookies to the opposite shelf halfway through baking. This will prevent over-browning. Meanwhile, unwrap the candy.

Move cookies to a cooling rack and allow to sit for five minutes, or until they are barely warm to the touch. If you place the truffles on top while they are more than barely warm, they will melt into goo. If you are using candies with a shell, wait until the cookies are cool to place them on top, or the shells will crack. For the truffles, working quickly, set the Lindt balls on top of the cookies. Let cool completely. The Lindt balls may drip a little so you may want to place a sheet of parchment underneath the cookies.

*To toast the hazelnuts, place them in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave another 30 seconds. Immediately rub together in a paper towel to remove a little of the excess skin. Leave most of the skin on. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Makes 16 to 18 large cookies.

Recipe source: The Cooking Photographer

Question of the day: if you celebrate Easter, what are your favorite traditions?  Our family (technically Den’s family–mine doesn’t really celebrate) always does a Easter basket hunt, even for the adults. I love hiding them almost as much as finding them! :)

Sunshine Bars {Citrus Gooey Butter Cake}

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Food blogging can be rough on a girl’s diet.  I told you that I didn’t have any Easter-ish recipes and gave you what I could, and yet I still felt the pressure of posting one before the holiday.  And so I got to work in the kitchen and came up with something so delicious that sampling it when it came out of the oven at 1 AM, and having more for breakfast this morning (the breakfast of champions!) has completely depleted all my Weight Watchers Points Plus for the day.  And then some.  Oi.  But a dedicated food blogger owes it to her readers to sacrifice valuable points for the sake of their holiday enjoyment, right?  Yeah, that’s right.  I did it all for you.  Because I so wouldn’t have eaten all that tart-sweet gooey butter cake without my readers as motivation.

What?  You don’t believe me?  OK, fine.  I so totally would have made and eaten this regardless, but I’m rushing to post this recipe before work so you can make it for Easter and that’s all for you.  You’re welcome.  :)

I really love gooey butter cake, and in fact I was already planning to do a few posts on the basic recipe and the chocolate version since I made both almost two years ago and never got around to blogging them.  It reminds me of a different form of cheesecake, sort of like cheesecake bars, but muuuuuch more buttery.  The crust layer is soft, yet firm enough to hold the bars together, somewhere between cookie and cake, while the filling is creamy & gooey.  In this springtime version, I used an orange cake mix for the base (though lemon or even yellow would be great), and used up the rest of my lemon curd in the filling.  I had no idea how it would turn out and was greatly relieved to be rewarded with something I can proudly share with my husband’s family this weekend.  Well.  I mean.  What’s left of it.

Sunshine Bars 

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Crust:
1 (18.25 oz) orange or lemon cake mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg

Filling:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup lemon curd
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 lb (4 cups) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in center of oven. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix, egg, and butter with an electric mixer until well combined. Press the dough into the prepared pan and set aside. Wipe out the bowl and clean off the beaters, then cream together the cream cheese and lemon curd until well combined. Mix in the lemon juice, then the eggs until incorporated. Add the butter and powdered sugar and mix until well combined. Spread over the crust layer and smooth the top with spatula. Bake in preheated oven for 45-47 minutes, or until browned on top but still jiggly in the middle. Cool on wire rack until completely cool, about two hours, before cutting and serving. Can also be served cold, depending on your preference.

Recipe source: adapted from Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake recipe.

Cow Pies Candy

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I got the above Hallmark (because I care enough to send the very best, lol!) card for my Mother-in-Law’s birthday.  Most of my husband’s family lives a couple hours north of us and I usually mail some sort of edible goodies to them on their birthdays.  Since I haven’t figured out how to ship a cake without destroying it, I thought this would be a great card to send  to her along with some cow pies candy.  Cute, if a little gross, right? :)

I’m not sure where this recipe originated but you can find it all over the web.  Mine is a little different from the others, which only call for almonds and raisins with the chocolate.  Because cow pies have grass in them (OK, maybe I’m getting a little too graphic here!), I like to add coconut to mimic that.

Although I went with sliced almonds this time (it was all I had on hand), my favorite way to make these is with roasted, salted peanuts, raisins, and coconut.  If you like Chunky candy bars, you’ll like that version too because it is very similar in taste.  (I also have an award-winning recipe for cookies that are based off the flavor profile of the Chunky Candy bar, if you’re interested in that!)

It’s best to use salted nuts to counteract the super-sweetness of the candy.  If you only have unsalted, just add some salt to the mixture before stirring. Kids love these things (apparently the idea/grossness as much as the taste–KIDS!), and they would be great for Halloween…and maybe even Easter.  We usually think of barn animals (OK, barn animal babies) in correlation to Easter, so I guess cow pies fits, right?  Or maybe I’ve grown a little twisted over the years.  I blame my husband.  He is the King of Strange.  I mean, remember those horrific-looking no bake cookies he made? Yeah.  He totally started it.

Cow Pies Candy

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2/3 cup roughly chopped salted nuts*
1/2 cup packed raisins
1/3 cup packed shredded coconut
*Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the recipe if not using salted nuts.

Gently melt chocolate and shortening together in double boiler or in microwave, stirring frequently until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop spoonfuls onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and let sit until firm, about an hour.

Veronica’s Note: If you want to add more mix-ins, decrease the amounts of the other mix-ins accordingly (for instance, decrease nuts to ½ cup and raisins to ⅓ cup in order to add an additional ⅓ cup mix-ins). Ideas for mix-ins: toffee bits, crushed pretzels, bacon bits, crumbled potato chips, additional types of nuts or dried fruits.

Makes 24 candies. Per serving: 121 calories; 7.6 g fat; 12.7 g carb; 1.1 g fiber; 2.2 g protein

Recipe source: adapted from Taste of Home

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