Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon meringue pie is pretty much the perfect dessert. Well, providing you like lemons of course! It is sweet, but not too sweet, tart, and light. I especially love the play on textures - the crisp, flaky crust to the whipped and airy meringue to the smooth lemon curd. All of those things combine to create a beautiful treat perfect for sharing.

Though I didn't make the pie perfectly (I managed to slightly burn the edges, plus my crust shrunk a lot), I knew I had to share the recipe anyways. It may look daunting, with a lot of steps, but it is quite simple to prepare and the results are divine. I am attempting this pie again on the weekend (lemon meringue is A's favourite, and he's coming home for the first time since the beginning of August!) and will update after with my results - hopefully they're improved!

For the dough:
1 cup + 2 tbsp. cake and pastry flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tbsp. water
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar
1 egg white, lightly whisked

For the lemon curd filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

For the meringue:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. icing sugar, sifted

Sift the flour, sugar, and salt to combine in bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cut in the butter by hand with a pastry attachment or on low speed just until small pieces of butter remain and the mixture as a whole begins to take on a pale yellow colour.

Stir the water and lemon juice together and add it to the flour/butter mixture all at once, mixing until the dough just begins to come together. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap and chill for at least two hours before rolling.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is in a circle that is just 1/4" thick. Lightly dust a 9" pie plate with flour. Press the dough into the pie plate and trim away the excess, pinch the edges to create a fluted pattern (I just used a fork), and chill for thirty minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the chilled pie shell with tin foil (making sure to cover the edges to avoid burning) and fill the foil with dried beans, raw rice, or pie weights. Bake the shell for twenty minutes, and then carefully remove the foil and bake the crust for eight to ten minutes more, until slightly golden. Immediately after removing the crust from the oven, brush with a little of the whisked egg white. This will create a barrier to keep the crust crispy when filled. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.

Lemon Curd Filling:

For the filling, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepot, then whisk in the cold water. Have the other ingredients measured and nearby. Bring the sugar mixture up to a full simmer over medium-high heat, whisking as it cooks, until the mixture is thick and glossy.

Pour about a cup of this thickened filling into the egg yolks while whisking, then return this to the pot and whisk just one minute more. Whisk in the lemon juice and cook until the filling just returns to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter then immediately pour the hot filling into the cooled pie shell (the filling will seem very fluid, but it will set up once chilled). Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to keep it hot. Immediately prepare the meringue topping.

Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed to high and gradually pour in the granulated sugar and icing sugar and continue whipping just until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.

Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling, then dollop half of the meringue directly onto the filling (the filling will still be very soft, so work gently). Be sure to spread the meringue so that it completely covers the lemon filling and connects with the outside crust, then use a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl the meringue just a touch (this will secure it to the lemon curd). Dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and creates spikes. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes at 325 F, until the meringue is nicely browned. Cool the meringue completely to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.

Tips for Lemon Meringue Pie Success: adding the lemon juice at the end of cooking the curd filling ensures that it retains its fresh flavour, and also reduces the contact with the cooking cornstarch (its thickening power is reduced in the presence of an acid) - it is critical that the filling is hot when spread the meringue over. If it cools, the meringue will sweat, creating a liquid layer in between the filling and itself. - be sure to spread the meringue so that it joins with the crust. This will also help prevent a moisture layer from forming, and will prevent the meringue from shrinking as it cools. - a meringue that sweats or “beads” on top is a sign that the whites have been over whipped, overbaked or merely a sign of a humid day. When whipping, the whites should hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted and should still appear glossy. Once baked, the meringue should be a light brown, with still a few white patches visible.

Source: Anna Olson

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Banana Chocolate-Chip Muffins

My mom has been baking these banana chocolate-chip muffins since I was a young, and they have remained a favourite of mine ever since. Honestly, I'm even having trouble putting into words how much I love them. Sure, they aren't the healthiest muffin because of the addition of shortening, but the shortening helps them stay tender for a long time (when stored in an air-tight bag or container). 

If you're looking for a way to use up those banana's I know you have kicking around in your freezer, try this recipe. I promise it won't disappoint you! 

For the muffins:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup Golden Crisco, melted
3-4 bananas, mashed
1 cup chocolate chips, optional (but not really!)

Combine flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. I like to dump my chocolate chips into this mixture too, so that the flour can coat them so that they won't drift to the bottom of your muffin.

Beat together the egg, granulated sugar, Crisco, and bananas until combined. 

Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring just to combine. 

Fill lined muffin cups 3/4 full (I use a large cookie scoop from Pampered Chef and it's the perfect amount) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F. 

Allow to cool completely before eating, they don't taste as good when warm!

Source: Unknown. My mom and I think it came from a magazine many, many years ago... we're not sure, though!

Monday, 23 September 2013

M&M Cookies

If I'm being completely honest with you all, I am not actually a huge cookie fan. I prefer cupcakes, or squares, or well... almost anything besides a cookie.

But, if there is one cookie that I can never say no to, it's an M&M cookie. I don't know why I love them so much, but I think it has a lot to do with the pretty colours poking through the yummy base. I'm a sucker for pretty colours!

I had never made an M&M cookie from scratch though, until I found this recipe. I've recently come to realize that vanilla instant pudding is *the* key ingredient for a chocolate chip (or M&M) cookie, if you like a softer cookie (which I do!). This recipe truly is perfect and so simple to whip up; in the time it takes for your oven to preheat, you can have the dough stirred together and divided onto a baking sheet.

Mini M&M's are hard to find in Canada, but I know for sure that you can get them at the Bulk Barn. I was able to stock up with a few bags on my most recent trip to the states.

For the cookies:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or 1/2 cup regular chocolate chips
1 - 1 1/2 cups mini M&M's

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your butter and sugars until well combined. Add egg and vanilla, mixing to combine. Add flour, pudding mix, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. Stir in chocolate chips and M&M's.

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared pan 1" apart. Bake until the bottoms are slightly golden and the cookie is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for ten minutes, before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A thank you.

If I'm being totally honest, the post I wrote about infertility and posted on Friday was purely for myself. It was a way for me to become more aware of the feelings I've been having throughout this journey and after becoming more aware, accepting what I had written. That post wasn't pretty, it was raw and truthful. It was exactly what I needed.

When I decided to actually publish the thing, I didn't know what to expect. Pity maybe? I'm not sure, but all I knew was that in order to truly accept the things I had written, other people had to read my words too.

The response that I received after people had read the post was overwhelming. I posted the link to my Facebook, and cried while reading the comments both here and there. The support I received, the admiration even, was unbelievable. People were thankful that I had opened a dialog, they were compassionate, and finally all of these people who are apart of my life finally know what my life is really about right now.

So, all of this to say - THANK YOU. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your kind words, your compassion, your thoughts. I am honoured to have brought this conversation to the forefront of some of your minds. I hope this with encourage others to speak out and fight the stigma that normally surrounds the thoughts of infertility.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Lets talk about it.

Note: To our families, this may be a difficult post to read. I'm warning you now!

Note: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, but was trying to find the courage to post it. I also want you all to know that I have A's consent to share these personal details with you.

Infertility, that is.

A couple weeks ago, I posted this to my Facebook page:

Jimmy Fallon had just done an interview with Today, after welcoming a baby girl via surrogate. In the interview, he discussed how difficult it was for him and his wife to conceive and how hard it is to wade through the ocean called infertility. That hashtag, #thanksjimmyfallon, floated around Facebook and Twitter for the next couple of days with messages like mine. A thanks for speaking up about something that people are still so afraid of talking about.

I was puttering around on Facebook today, went to my profile page, and just started scrolling. This status update caught my eye and made me realize that if I am grateful for people who speak up about infertility, why couldn't I be one of them?

So here I am, about to open up about something that I've been terrified to talk about. I'm doing it now because if those of us affected continue to be afraid, then infertility wins. It beats us, and I'm not ready to stop fighting just yet.

The background story: A and I have been trying to conceive for almost nineteen months. In January, I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS) and put on Metformin (a drug typically used for those with insulin resistance, a symptom of PCOS) in hopes that it would help me ovulate (as I don't on my own). It didn't work, so I was referred to an OB and given a prescription for Clomid, my first fertility treatment. We got pregnant our first cycle on Clomid, but in April it ended as an ectopic pregnancy (I required emergency surgery and lost my left tube). We are on cycle five post loss, and our fourth on Clomid. No additional successes so far.

In February, after going to my first OB appointment, I struggled internally with how I viewed myself and our journey towards having a child. I would ask myself, "Am I infertile?" on a daily basis. For whatever reason, I needed some kind of label but as soon as infertility would cross my mind I'd do a mental head shake and move on.

Infertility was a scary word to me, and sometimes I worry that it's made me a scary person. A lot of the time, I feel like I'm tricking the people around me into thinking I'm happy-go-lucky, positive, optimistic, etc. If only they knew (and I guess they will now) how I'm actually feeling most of the time. 

Most of the time, I'm sad. Sad because I can't have what I desperately want, sad because I can't give A what he desperately wants, sad because I had the chance to be a mother and my body failed me. 

Other times, I feel guilty. It's because of my body that we can't get pregnant. It's because of my body that we lost our baby. "Why can't my body do the one thing a woman's body is suppose to know how to do?" I've asked myself that almost every day since February, after we had been trying for a year. Guilt is probably the hardest emotion for people who haven't been to "this place" to understand. It sounds so silly that I would blame these things on myself, but that is an unfortunate side affect of our journey. Guilt and blame are constants in my mind now.

Sometimes, when I'm in a really dark place, the bitterness and anger appears. I resent those who get pregnant easily while trying, and even more-so, the people who have "oopsie" pregnancies. I question why one person gets to have a child, but I don't. I cringe when hearing pregnancy or birth announcements, because I want one of my own. When I'm in that frame of mind, nothing helps and everything makes it worse. 

The hardest thing about infertility are the words of advice or "support" that people hand out. There are some days that it is extremely difficult for me to remember that people are coming from a place of compassion when they say these things, because normally after I hear them I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. Below I've listed a few different things that you should avoid saying to someone dealing with infertility and/or loss.

  • "You're still so young, you have lots of time!"
  • "You need to relax. Stressing out isn't helping anything."
  • "It could be worse."
    • As an aside, I hate this sentence under any circumstance. Just because you, general you, think it could be worse doesn't mean that this isn't the absolute worst scenario for me, general me.
  • "If it's meant to be, it will happen."
  • "At least you know you can get pregnant." 
    • Related to miscarriage and loss. This was something that I heard from a lot of people after our loss, including the operating doctor at the hospital! This is not reassuring. It is not comforting. Knowing I can get pregnant doesn't erase the hurt of knowing that I couldn't keep the baby. Please, if you know of a woman (couple) who has miscarried avoid this cliched line at all costs.

At this point, a lot of people would probably say that infertility doesn't define them. But, I think it does define me (in a small way)... and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is apart of who I am. There are aspects of myself and of my marriage that I don't think I would have discovered had it not been for this journey. Because of infertility, I am a much stronger person. I have proved to myself that I can make it through anything. Sure, there may be some tears and emotional breakdowns along the way, but I will get through it. Mine and A's marriage has also gained strength through infertility. We communicate now more then we ever did, and we are confident that the other person is going to support us 100% - no matter what. If nothing else, those are two extremely important things to come out of our journey so far. 

Infertility may not have been our first choice, or even our last, but it is the path we're on and there's no stopping us now!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Multigrain Bread

A and I go through stages at home with everything, bread included. Some weeks we'll go through a couple loaves, stuffing ourselves with sandwiches and toast. Other times, we'll go months without having a loaf in the house.

When we do get a craving for bread, I almost always turn to this recipe. Baking your own bread is so simple and almost always turns out perfectly. Plus, there isn't much that beats the smell of bread baking away in your oven!

For the bread:
2 cups warm water 
1 1/2 tbsp. quick rise yeast
1/3 cup sugar, divided (honey or agave would work as well)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup oil
5-6 cups multigrain bread flour (white or whole-wheat can be substituted, as can all-purpose flour)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve one teaspoon of sugar into the water and sprinkle on the yeast. Let stand for five minutes.

Using a dough hook, mix in the remaining sugar as well as the salt and oil. Add in the flour, one cup at a time, until no longer sticky to the touch (I usually use about five and a half cups) and knead for three minutes, or until smooth. Place dough in a large greased bowl and place somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size, about one hour. 

After it has risen, punch down the dough and knead a couple of times by hand. Divide into two, shape into loaves, and place into two 9x5 loaf pans. Let rise another thirty minutes, or until the dough is one inch above the edge of the pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Adapted from: The Kosher Foodies

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Just after I completed my 26X26 list, my favourite blogger, Annie from Annie's Eats, posted a recipe for quick dill pickles. Assuming this was fate working it's crazy way with me, I quickly pinned the recipe and vowed that I would make these at the earliest possible moment.

Fast forward a few weeks and all of a sudden the garden my mom had planted is overrun with dill. Perfect timing for these little gems!

The recipe is so quick and simple, and the results are great. I find them to be quite salty, so would definitely reduce it by at least a few teaspoons next time. 

For the pickles:
1 bunch fresh dill
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Mini cucumbers, 4-5 per 500 mL jar
3 cups water
6 tbsp. white vinegar
2-3 tbsp. kosher salt, to taste

Add one minced or pressed garlic clove to the bottom of each jar, as well as a few sprigs of dill. 

Cut the cucumbers into your desired shape and add enough to each jar so that they are full (stop when you begin to force the cucumbers into the jar). 

Mix together the water, vinegar, and salt in a large liquid measuring cup, and stir until the salt is dissolved. Pour over top of the cucumbers until they are covered. Add a couple more sprigs of dill on top. Screw on the lids and place in the refrigerator for two days.

Source: Annie's Eats

26 x 26 : 6 / 26