Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Crowd-pleasing Key Lime Pie

I started making key lime pie when my husband and I moved to Phoenix. The condo we rented had a huge, lush lime tree that was just begging to be picked. Sure, the limes weren't "key" limes, but they did the job for this pie just fine.

I've been making this pie for years, but this Memorial Day weekend was the first time I made it without my own, homegrown limes. I still opted for regular-sized limes at the store — have you seen how tiny key limes are? There was no way that I was going to juice 16 limes for this pie...

Anyway. The pie was still a huge success at our Memorial Day BBQ, with many people going back for seconds and claiming it was the best key lime pie they'd ever had.

Here's the recipe. Health fanatics, brace yourself, because healthy this pie is not. But trust me. Some things just are meant to be this way, and are better for it.

Step one: make the graham cracker crust. Yes, you heard me right. Homemaking it is extremely easy and makes all the difference in the world.

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs (I crush up a pack of Honey Maid's Honey graham crackers)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons of butter, melted

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and butter together. Press into a greased 8" pie dish (9" would work, too). Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 minutes. Take it out of the oven to cool while you prepare the pie filling. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F.

Now it's time to make the key lime pie filling.

3/4 cups fresh lime juice (about 4 regular sized limes), plus additional to taste
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
3 cups sweetened condensed milk (I use Eagle Brand, 3 of the 14 oz cans)
1/2 cup sour cream

Combine the lime juice, lime zest, sweetened condensed milk, and sour cream in a bowl. Mix well. If needed, add extra juice and zest in slowly until you get the flavor you desire. Pour the mix into the cooled graham cracker crust (let the crust cool for about 25 minutes before adding filling). Bake in the oven for 7 minutes, until tiny bubbles start to burst on the surface. Do not let the pie brown. Remove from the oven and chill completely before serving.

(Note: I usually have a little bit of extra filling. I store it in a mason jar and spread over graham crackers for a quick and easy small dessert!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Serendipity and The Bronze Horseman

My sleepy eyes took a moment to adjust to the foggy text that scrolled across my iPhone. It was early in the morning, and I had only just looked at my phone to silence the alarm.

Who is talking to me this early? I thought, rubbing my eyes.

The text then came into focus. It was my dear friend Amelia, who was traveling throughout Southeast Asia.

"Did you tell me to read The Bronze Horseman?" she asked.

"Yes!" I chatted back.

 "I can't put it down!!" she replied.

And just like that, two old friends half a world away from each other were connected by a shared love for a wonderful book.

Amelia and I grew up together; struggled through our awkward phases together, started to come into our own together. Life and college and marriage and travel has separated us, but when we connect, it's like we never skipped a beat.

A small way that we've maintained contact is through sharing book recommendations with one another every once in a while, though I'd say most of the time the books are just added to our lists and saved for later.

Which is what Amelia did when I told her about The Bronze Horseman; she made a mental note of it. I am led to believe that Amelia, as a world traveler, 1) does not have frequent or easy access to bookstores and 2) packs too lightly to carry every book ever recommended to her. I definitely understood her mental shelving of The Bronze Horseman.

I first read The Bronze Horseman my senior year of college, and instantly plummeted into the depths of its rich, powerful story of love and war. The story engulfed me. It was the kind of book that made me want to abandon all contact with the outside world -- classes, friends, family, boyfriend -- so I could curl up in bed and read.

Because Amelia might be the only person more obsessed with love and romance than I am (she once cried ten minutes into seeing The Notebook in the theater), I just knew she had to read it. I told her so. That was four years ago.

I tend to re-read my favorite books every couple of years, so when I delved into The Bronze Horseman last summer, I reminded Amelia again.

It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago, though, that she finally heeded my advice.

"I remember you telling me to read it a long time ago and I found it in a book swap in one of my hostels! I started it today and am on page 219 - I don't want it to end!" I could practically hear her excited voice jumping through her message. Equally excited, I knew that her coming upon The Bronze Horseman in a Cambodian hostel, miles and miles and oceans away, was completely, thoroughly, one hundred percent supposed to be.

Even though I haven't seen Amelia in over two years, I never felt closer to my childhood friend in our adult lives than in that moment.

So cheers to serendipity; to old friendships, beloved books, and passages of time.

(And oh...cheers to the author, Paullina Simmons, for bringing such a good book (and series!) into the world--one wonderful enough to connect two friends on two different continents. If you haven't read this book, DO!)