Friday, April 29, 2011

Pie, Pie, Me Oh My

Once again I have been neglecting my writing, but, as always, I have very good excuses. Spring has just been busy this year and so have I.
On April 9, for the first time I entered our community's annual pie contest. For the last twenty years, the local Historical Society has sponsored a fundraising Pie Social and Contest. People bake and donate pies for sale by the slice at the social and they can also have their pies judged in one of the following categories: apple, fruit, cream/chocolate or nut. Over 200 pies were donated and 38 were judged in the four categories.
The day is a small town delight. You pay $1 for a slice of pie (cheap enough for you to try several,) listen to music while sitting outside under the trees and wait to see what happens. This year they also had an apron-decorating contest for kids and adults which yielded some great creations. But, of course, the stars of the show are the pies.
I have always wanted to enter a pie but never took the time to make it happen. This year I put my foot down, determined to enter. And I did. And I won second place in the chocolate/cream division for my Coconut, Coconut, Coconut Pie. If you love coconut, this is your pie; the crust, filling and topping all contain coconut.
Here it is:

 Here is the ribbon:
 And here is the recipe:
Annette's Second Place (but First in Our Hearts) Coconut, Coconut, Coconut Pie
For the crust:
2-1/2 cups shredded coconut, lightly toasted
  (use 2 cups for crust and reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1 stick butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
Combine above ingredients and press into a deep, 9" pie pan. Bake crust in 375º oven until lightly toasted, about 12-15 minutes.
For the filling:
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten (reserve whites for meringue)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (in the Asian section of the market; I find there are not quite 2-1/2 cups in the can, so use half & half or milk to bring the liquid to a full 2-1/2 cups)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt; slowly whisk or stir in the coconut milk and begin to heat the mixture over medium heat. When warm to the touch, remove about 1 cup and whisk into the beaten eggs to temper them, then add the entire mixture back into the saucepan. Stir and cook until the custard is thick. Remove from heat and stir in butter, one tablespoon at a time; add vanilla and beat the custard a little until it is fluffy. Pour into prebaked coconut crust. 
For the meringue:
6 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
I like a lot of meringue, so I added 2 more egg whites to the 4 already reserved, for a total of 6 egg whites, but you could certainly just use 4 (reduce sugar to 2 tablespoons.)
Beat the egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue to beat while the eggs stiffen. Slowly, one at a time, add the tablespoons of sugar, beating well after each addition. When the egg whites are stiff, beat in the vanilla. 
Spread the meringue on top of the custard and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup reserved toasted coconut. Bake at 375º until evenly browned (rotate during baking if your oven bakes unevenly) about 10 minutes.
Remove, place on cooling rack and fight with your husband to leave it alone until it cools to room temperature. Then dig in and sigh.

Monday, April 11, 2011

This, That and The Nemesis

I have learned an important lesson on my writing journey: it is much easier to find time to write when it is cold outside and all you want to do is stay in the house. When Spring Fever hits and you long to be outside, thoughts of writing fly out of your head.

That is where I find myself. We have been working out in our yard almost nonstop for the last few weeks. The winter brought us substantial freeze damage this year so we spent a lot of time cutting away dead foliage from sego palms and yuccas. Everyone says they will come back, but I'm not too sure. These were giant plants, in the ground for years. They have weathered every winter we've been in this house without a blink. Now this year they not merely dead, I fear they are most sincerely dead. But we shall see.

Our large tropical plants that were in pots did well in the greenhouse because we installed a heater this year. (Previously a light bulb had provided all the heat we needed.) But the small plants at the back of the greenhouse didn't fare as well; most of them were lost. The good thing about that is we got to replace them, so that meant shopping at the area nurseries for beautiful new plants, one of my favorite things. 

Here is a sample of some of the plants and trees that are in bloom in the back yard right now:


Lollipop variety of Gerbera Daisy

Yellow Gerbera Daisy
Italian Dogwood Bush

Teacup Rose


Climbing Yellow Rose

There are many more, but these examples are enough to show you why I just want to be outside with them all the time. My book lies as neglected as this blog, but I am resolved to do better. We have already had a 95° day and I am sure as soon as those are common, I will be back in the house, devoted to writing and air conditioning.

On another note, my beautiful friend Judy just celebrated two milestones. On February 2, she marked the one year anniversary of her bone marrow transplant for leukemia. Those of you who know anything about this procedure know that it is a grueling process and survivors are very lucky. Not only did Judy survive, she just celebrated her 70th birthday and is thriving. 

Judy and me at her 70th birthday party

Finally, The Nemesis has finally emerged. All winter long, Ruffles and Lucy were on "Squirrel Watch," waiting for the new babies to make their appearance. Last week they did:

Mama (or Daddy) watching over baby

Baby's first closeup

Squirrel Watch continues, waiting for the babies to come all the way out to play on the tree. This is when they sometimes fall off and the dogs can bark furiously and try to catch them. Fortunately, they never have caught one; I don't know what I'd do if they did. Hope you all are enjoying the Spring as much as I am. Thanks for stopping by.