I’m pretty much a creature of habit, and even though he won’t admit it, so is the guy I sleep next to. We already get up with the birds, and with the changing of the clock we’ll rise even earlier. Once up, I brush my pearly whites, pop in my blind eyes and analyze what mother nature stole through the night. The routine is wishfully as follows: Pilates, treadmill, shower, makeup, hair. It all takes far far far too long! The older I get, the longer it takes to look radiant and beautiful. (laughing out loud here people)
While I’m working on my fine, limp, straight and less than luxurious hair . . . I’m usually listening to Good Morning America in the background. Almost daily, there is a new diet that has popped up in the atmosphere. I swear with all the diets and advice bombarding us, we should all be size perfect!
I really don’t feel that we’re on a fair playing field anymore. Lips are stung like bees, boobs are plumped & perky and butts are sucked & tucked. Oh and let’s not forget permanent makeup, luxurious lashes and tattooed brows. Gosh, I have a cosmetology license . . . those hair extensions would only cost me $200.00 to $300.00 to buy vs $500.00 to$600.00 for someone without a license. So . . . Why don’t I get them? It’s just one more thing to worry about. I already pay a premium price every 5 weeks to foil the flour out of my hair! It seems that we simply can’t keep up . . . do enough . . . or live up to the hype of it all.
I’m asking you . . . What is perfect?
Some of you probably think I’m hefty. Some of you already know that I’m not. I’ve received many emails and comments on this issue. Some of the emails have just been nice inquiring minds wanting to know. I’ve decided that this post will address it. mmmmm
I’ve always been conscience of what and how much I eat. I’m quite aware that many of the desserts, main dishes and tasty treats that I bake, are not considered healthy. I’m also aware that if you eat any of these foods in excess, your hips are going to expand.
I grew up with a Mom who taught us good eating habits, and everything in moderation. My Mom and I both enjoyed baking, but we learned to enjoy small portions. When you adopt this way of eating, along with fruits, vegetables and of course exercise . . . nothing is off limits. I also enjoy giving away much of what I bake. It’s just a hobby that I enjoy. I also live with a very active and fit guy, without any excess body fat. That helps curb ones appetite! He loves fruit, therefore I’ve learned to also love fruit. We raise an enormous garden and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. We rarely eat out or eat fast food. We don’t drink pop and very rarely drink juice. Our chosen drink is water. The only food we ever eat while watching t.v. is popcorn and oranges. I never eat while sitting at the computer. I learned several years ago, that this hobby of mine is a mind and body trap.
I’m often asked what I eat throughout each week. It’s obvious that I’m not going to make myself full meals, for myself. I don’t have time to eat!
If you must know . . . raw nuts, hard boiled eggs, jerky, reduced fat wheat thins & triscuits, low fat string cheese, frozen dark chocolate chips, fruit leather that I made this summer, lots of popcorn, oranges, bananas until they get speckles, green or pink lady apples, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, my favorite salad: spinach salad with carrots, sunflower seeds a hard boiled egg, red kidney beans and a hint of poppy seed dressing, mixed grain toast, frozen Raspberries, dried fruit such as plums, peaches, cherries. If I do indulge on something sinful during the day, it’s usually chocolate coated raisins that I keep in the fridge, or tootsie rolls, a cold hershey’s kiss or a taste of one of the desserts that I plan to share with a neighbor. It’s always a good thing to taste something before you share it. It might not be shareable.
One chocolate coated raisin + one raw almond = magic. also The key to not eating very many sweets is to bake a lot of sweets.
That gives you an idea of what I graze on during the day. It might not work for some, but it fuels me. So far, I’ve stayed pretty true to my size all my life. If I gain 2 or 3 lbs, I know that I have to stand while blogging!!
This pretty much sums up my husbands eating habits throughout the day as well. We always have a nice sit down dinner in the evening, since it’s the only time my better half is home. In a perfect world, we would eat this nice dinner at lunch time. It’s not a perfect world though, and the skinny guy I live with needs to eat one nice meal. We would probably both be stick thin if we didn’t eat at night. He would be!
The dessert above you is a mini Lemon Meringue Tart with graham cracker crust and a Raspberry Cream Twist. It’s quite tart, sweet and delicious. A couple bites, and your good to go. Most Lemon Meringue Pies have your typical pastry like crust. That’s usually what I make, but some some odd reason I took the path less traveled. My husband ate his little mini pie, but commented afterwards: “I don’t really like graham cracker crust!”
Why does he wait 35 years to tell me that?
The Lemon curd is really smooth and quite tart, but I feel that it’s needed to offset the sweetness of the crust and the cream filling and golden meringue. If you decide you don’t like graham cracker crust either, a good pastry crust will also be fantastic or possibly even better. The fastest route isn’t always the best route according to my husband. uggg.
We joke a lot with each other. We always have. If you were a by stander looking in and didn’t know us, you might shake your head and look all confused. We have fun with each other . . . it’s not all seriousness. I think that’s the key to a good marriage. We still have fun with each other. He gives me crap and I give it right back. I tell him daily that in a few more years, I’ll be able to kick his b_ _ t. He’s 9 years my senior, but so far I haven’t seen any signs of him slowing. It must be all that fruit he eats!
First step: Crack 3 large eggs and separate them. You want 3 egg whites at room temperature for the last step which will be the Meringue.
Next step: Make your graham cracker crust. To be honest with you, when I opted to take the easy way out and make a graham cracker crust, I wasn’t sure of my plan. I wanted to use something small, individual and tart like. As you can see in the picture above, I was very confused as to which would work the best. I love the little black cast iron pots. Even when they are empty, they still look majestic. The silver tart pans are nice because you simply push up from the bottom and the whole tart magically appears from it’s shell. The little springform pans are also my favorites. I simply could not decide, so I filled each of them with crumbs, baked them until golden brown and placed the pans on a wire rack to cool.
Once cool, you can simply push up, or un-snap. Just let them sit a while and watch you bake. Next step: Make the Lemon Curd and let cool.
This Lemon curd is tangy and quite easy to make. This recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen. All their recipes seem to be fantastic. You can make the Lemon curd ahead of time. It will keep refrigerated for up to a week. It’s good in cupcakes as well. Lemon curd is different from Lemon filling that you typically see in Lemon Meringue Pie. It’s usually thicker and it a bit more tart. It doesn’t tend to break down as fast.
Note: You can also just buy it already prepared. I recommend The Prepared Pantry. It’s excellent and the price is a bargain.
Three to four tablespoons seems to be plenty. Remember it’s tart! You can whip up your meringue now, or take the side road and add another step.
In a glass bowl, I poured 1 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream. I also added 1 tablespoon of instant vanilla pudding powder. This helps the cream keep it shape a bit longer. With an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form and then slowly start adding in 1/4 cup granulated white sugar. Beat until the cream is fully whipped and the peaks stand firm. (Don’t churn butter though) Taste it . . . you can add a touch more sugar if you need to. Keep in mind though that the crust is sweet and so is the meringue topping. I tossed in about 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries and folded them in gently. Wait until your meringue is made before you top the tarts with the raspberry cream. Place your bowl of cream and berries in the refrigerator while you prepare the meringue. (Berries of any kind would be good. Un-frozen would be best. I used frozen because we have a ample supply in the freezer from the garden.)
The yummy Raspberry Whipped Cream goes over the top of the Lemon Curd. I used another 3 to 4 tablespoons on each pie. I’ve whipped the meringue and we’re ready to rumble.
Let me tell you what’s difficult. It’s trying to keep the cream, the lemon curd and the meringue looking glamorous, while trying to adjust camera settings to ever changing light in my kitchen. Everything deflates in the process. Now for the final crown . . . the Meringue. My mind is going back and forth, back and forth. Spoon or piping bag. Spoon or piping bag.
The spoon won. I wanted these little tarts to be a bit rustic. If you pipe the meringue, may I suggest using a large pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. That also looks really pretty. When you use a spoon simply put dollops of the meringue on top of the tarts and with the tip of the spoon- push in and pull up to create peaks.
Note: When piping make sure that the meringue touches the edge of the pastry or the crust. That way it won’t shrink away.
Now for the fun part. I just head out to my sweet half’s very cluttered garage and find the blow torch. I promise you, it works better than any of those fancy schmancy kitchen types you’ll spend big bucks on. You can add sweet little touches of golden sunshine all over that meringue.
So . . . What’s your idea of perfect?
Please Weigh in if you dare & leave a comment below.
*To save time, Lemon Curd is best made the day before.
- Graham Cracker Crust: (enough for 2 9-inch pies)
- 2 packages or 16 whole graham crackers, broken into 1 inch pieces
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Lemon Curd: (makes about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons)
- 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, but into 1/2″ cubes and frozen
- Whipped Cream with Raspberries:
- *read notes below
- 1 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon INSTANT vanilla pudding powder
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Graham Cracker Crust:
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Process the graham cracker pieces in a food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the butter and sugar over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate.
- Sprinkle the mixture into 2 – 9 inch pie plates or 6 tart sized pans. Press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and sides of the pie plate or tart pans. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to press an even layer more easily.
- Bake until the crust is just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Place pans on wire rack to cool completely before filling.
- Lemon Curd:
- Cook the lemon juice, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot (do not boil), about 1 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and eggs together until combined, then slowly whisk in the hot lemon mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick and a spatula scraped along the bottom of the pan leaves a trail (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes.
- Off the heat, stir in the frozen butter until melted and incorporated. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate the curd until it is Firm and spreadable, about 1 1/2 hours. (This is why the curd is best made the day before)
- Whipped Cream with Raspberries or other berries:
- Pour 1 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream into a medium glass bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of instant vanilla pudding powder or mix.
- Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form.
- Slowly add the sugar and whip until very firm peaks stand. Be careful not to churn butter!
- Gently fold in about 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen berries. Place in the refrigerator while making the meringue.
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium high heat and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened and syrupy (about 235 degrees on a candy thermometer), 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- In a large bowl, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt together with an electric mixer on medium low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium high and whip the whites until shiny and soft peaks form, for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add the hot syrup, avoiding the whisk and the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla, increase the mixer speed to medium high, and continue to whip the mixture until is has cooled slightly and is very thick and shiny, 3 to 6 minutes.
- To assemble:
- Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon curd on top of graham cracker crust, and spread evenly.
- Top lemon curd with 3 to 4 tablespoons of Whipped Raspberry cream.
- Dollop meringue or pipe meringue over filling, making sure it adheres to the crust. Use the tip and the back of a spoon to create swirls and peaks in the meringue.
- Light a torch and brown the meringue until golden brown.
- Alternate browning method: (if using this method, it’s best to only use lemon curd)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and adjust the rack to the middle position.
- Bake until the meringue is golden brown, about 6 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool then serve.