6.26.2011

mango/key lime pie!

I finally found my inspiration this weekend to make something new (that was worth posting about)! So, last fall when I was on vacation in Florida, we had like 3 key lime pies (there were 7 of us) and they were delicious. If you don't know this about me, key lime pie is my favorite dessert. Ever. So, when my brother was there again last month, he emailed me and said he had some mango key lime pie. Say what? Say: Yum!

Since then, we've talked about trying it sometime, but haven't gotten around to it until today. Oddly enough, this is my first time making key lime-anything... and being that it's my favorite, I'm a little surprised myself. Maybe I thought it was one of those things that I want to keep as a special eat out food. Who knows.

What I did is probably enough for two pies, but with reason. I got these cute little pre-made graham cracker crusts (6 in a pack, about 3 inches in diameter) and then used the rest with a homemade graham cracker crust to make some bars. It worked out swimmingly. I basically used this recipe from Food.com for guidance, but made it a bit different. Here's what I ended up with:


Mango/Key Lime Pie
1/2 c. mango puree
1/2 c. key lime juice
2 - 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks (no whites)


[[Yep, that's it. Just four ingredients]]

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender, puree mango (I used about one mango - leaving a little for me to snack on - it equaled 1/2 c.) Add lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks and blend to mix well. Pour into your pie crust.

Bake. I used 15 minutes for the small ones, and 20 minutes for the bars. If you do a regular pie, I would do 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes before putting into the refrigerator to cool. Then, put in the refrigerator and chill until just before you are ready to serve.

This was the type of key lime juice I used:


My notes:
  • The original recipe said to put diced mangos into the mixture, too - but I didn't want the chunks in it. I bet it's good though!
  • Those little pies are super handy and a good size to share - but you can't really stack them, so they may be hard to travel with for a party - the bars would be better for that, or a regular-sized pie.
  • The bars I made were just graham cracker crust on the bottom and this mixture on top. Simple.
  • You can put whipped cream on top... but I didn't. I like it straight-up. :)  
  • I did, however, garnish them with lime wedges - I sliced a lime and cut the pieces into quarters. I dipped them white sugar (well) on both sides and put them in the freezer until I was ready to serve soon - and then stuck them on top of the little pies (see photo above). The sugared limes were tasty!
  • I made my homemade crust using the recipe from Food.com that is in the original pie recipe. It made more than I needed, so I asked the peeps on the Allrecipes.com message board, and they said I could refrigerate the leftover and it keeps well... and to use it as crumble with pudding, yogurt, or ice cream. Great ideas! So I did - and I sprinkled a little bit on top of the bars I made.
It was really good. Keith said the one he had in Florida was a little more "lime-y" but that this was really good. I thought it was really yummy, and will definitely make it again.

I linked this to Sweets for a Saturday.


6.24.2011

unhealthy fears

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, it seems... and I think it's because some days I feel like I've done enough thinking between 8a-6p, and because I've been enjoying my Nook a little more lately and spending more time reading. And mostly, I haven't really had anything to say or cooked anything new to share. I've spent a little time with friends, and had a family weekend that was pretty cool last weekend (the guys hit up 2 twins games! I just went to one.) But as I sit here, decompressing from the week a bit, the inspiration hit me. We're watching some show called Dual Survivor where these two guys are put out in the elements and they use their survival skills to live.

Part of me says: There's obviously a camera crew there filming you, so I'm sure if it came down to it, someone would save you.

Another part of me wonders:  Does the camera guy slip them twinkies and sandwiches off-camera? All I see is them eating sting-ray and bugs... but what happens behind the scenes?

Anyway, that's all besides the point. Right now, they are tracking a snake in some rainforest or something because they saw the tracks. Why they are actively looking for it, I do not know. And no, they are not trying to watch for it to avoid it.

((ewwww he just grabbed the snake - some kind of python))

((omg. they are going to eat it.  hey, camera guy? got a twinkie? I'll live off of that.))

 I'm actually watching this as I write, and as you have probably gathered by now, I have an unhealthy fear of snakes. I've made progress, although this show is starting to make me feel ill, and I'm more listening than watching at this point. But believe it or not, it's progress.

I didn't used to be able to watch anything with snakes in it, and I didn't even like the stuffed fuzzy ones at the toy store. A friend of mine once told me that, based on something she learned in a psychology class she took in college, that I should do something to face my fears. Her bright idea was that I should be put in a room where there was snakes, and eventually I would realize that they aren't all bad.

I thanked her for her concern, but respectfully declined.

This same friend offered to pay me to go to the movie, Anaconda. I, again, respectfully declined. At this point, she pretty much just likes messing with me.

When I was in college, I went to a friend's house who had a snake. I didn't leave the kitchen for a long time (the snake was in the living room). Eventually, I ventured into the living room. I even went by the tank it lived in and looked at it. Progress. And then they took it out, and I returned to the kitchen.

So, now, I can watch them for brief periods of time on tv - but really prefer not to. And I still don't liked the stuffed ones, but it's a little better. It's probably a little irrational, but it's my unhealthy fear and it's probably never going to go away.

What are  your unhealthy fears? I know I'm not the only one irrational about something. :)

6.09.2011

ND/SD vacation! - part three

This brings us to Part 3 (of 3) of my ND/SD vacation - whew! Almost there. If you are just joining in, you may want to check out Part 1 first, and then Part 2.

I left off last time in Sioux Falls, SD - pretty much on the SD/MN border and on our way home. Unlike in Rapid City, I didn't make any new buddies at the hotel and I didn't sleep as well because the air conditioner was blowing soooo much cold air. I finally got up, used my cell phone as a flashlight (it's not a very good flashlight) and turned it off completely. I thought for a moment about just turning it down so it wouldn't get stuffy, but it was the middle of the night and I didn't know how to work the thing and, again, I was using my phone for my flashlight. So, in the morning we got up and stopped for breakfast at a place called Camille's. I think it's a chain, but I'd never been to one - but if you see one while you're road tripping sometime, stop in. It's tasty! Kind of like Panera, but with wraps instead of sandwiches. Mmm... it was a good way to start the day.


I've had a couple of people ask since my last post if we saw the pretty falls in Sioux Falls. ... No. ... In fact, it didn't even occur to us that there are actually falls there that we should search out. Oops. In my defense, we had driven so much by this point that I wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, anymore.

Anyway, we got on the road and were quickly in Minnesota (woot! another milestone!). As we drove, we saw a sign for Pipestone National Monument and it seemed like a good time to stop and stretch our legs. And stretch, we did! To get to the falls (see, I did see some) we had to do a short hike - it was warm and summery and wonderful. Here's some photos from there. If you're ever in the Pipestone area, stop in and check it out!

video

After Pipestone, we got back in the car (this was the trend all weekend) and headed toward friend's trip highlight: Walnut Grove, MN - the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder on the banks of Plum Creek! It was pretty cool - the town had several building replicas, including the church, school, dugout, and a house. This is also the place Laura lived that the TV series is based off of, so they had a bunch of memorabilia from that, as well as a museum of general Ingalls info and a gift shop. AND, outside of town about a mile was the actual location of the dugout and the actual plum creek. The dugout isn't there anymore, but there is a landmark sign. There's also a lot of gnats there on a humid day, apparently. It was cool, though, and recommend it if you're a Laura Ingalls fan. Here's some pictures:

video

The Laura Ingalls sites.
A couple of years ago, we went to the Laura Ingalls site in Pepin, WI. I've also been to the one in Burr Oak, IA. For this trip, we initially planned to go to DeSmet, SD, too, but that go cut with the Mt. Rushmore business. That's going to have to be another trip, I guess. ... I wonder if I can fly to DeSmet? ... But I digress. Here's a map of where the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites are - there are still a few to go.

I feel like the rest of the trip was a little anticlimactic and a whole lot of blur. We were exhausted and went over 1500 miles in 3.5 days - and by the time we got home, I wanted nothing more in the whole wide world (no, universe) but to be home and to sleep.

I realized as I was writing this series of posts that my friend is pretty lucky that we live in the world of GPS and Google Maps directions on our phones. Let's put it this way:

Day 1: Minneapolis to Fargo to Gardner

Day 2: Gardner to Rapid City

Don't forget about the Lawrence Welk stop here,
as well as the 40+ mile detour.

Do you see how far that is? Serious.


Day 3: Rapid City to Mt. Rushmore
to Wall Drug to Mitchell to Sioux Falls


This one doesn't look SO bad. It was still long.

Day 4: Sioux Falls to Pipestone to Walnut Grove to Minneapolis.

And now that we've gone day by day, this was the entire trip:

The whole Sha-Bang:
Minneapolis
Fargo
Gardner
[insert Lawrence Welk Homestead]
[insert 40+ mile detour]
Rapid City
Mt. Rushmore
Wall Drug
Mitchell
Sioux Falls
Pipestone
Walnut Grove
Minneapolis (thank god.)

Holy crap, huh?  Had I seen that in this format along the way, I would have felt less whimsical about it.  ... So G - next time we're going to fly. And looking at the maps, you owe me two beaches. 

That being said, it was fun. And even though I was blurry and fuzzy-minded and perhaps (just perhaps) a little crabby by the time we got home, it was a lot of fun with a great friend. I wouldn't trade that for the world.

Have you ever done a huge road trip? Tell me about it. I can now sympathize with you. :)

6.08.2011

ND/SD vacation! - part two

Yesterday I posted Part One of my ND/SD vacation over memorial day weekend; if you haven't read that one yet, you may want to check that one out first before reading this one.

... So, in my last post I left off at the border, entering SD. Finally. Because we hadn't originally planned to drive all the way to Rapid City to see Mount Rushmore, when we reached the border, I was soooo happy and felt like we had hit a milestone - we felt re-energized and kept on a-truckin'. ... until we hit a road construction detour that took us - no joke - no less than an extra 40 miles of driving. Lady didn't really like us going off the path, very much. We finally hit Pierre, the capitol of SD. According to Lady, we only had about 1.5 hours left. That's not so bad, I thought. We can do this. [insert small amount of renewed energy]

And then my cell phone had a notice asking if it was OK to switch to Mountain time. And my trail of thought went something like this:
What is wrong with this thing? We're not in Mountain time.

Wait. Is western South Dakota in Mountain time?

Hmm... interesting. Cool, two time zones on vacations. :)  [in lala land for about 5 minutes]

Wait. [looks at
Lady] UUUGGGHHHH. 

It turns out that Lady is one smart e-chica because she had already accounted for the time change long ago. I hadn't. It never even occurring to me. This means that we had one more hour of driving left than I thought we did. There may or may not have been a couple of words that aren't really appropriate to post here at this point. [insert defeat here]

About 2.5 hours later, we landed in Rapid City. The ray of light here was that a friend had booked a hotel for us using some of his hotel points that were going to expire before he could use them -- so we got a free stay at the Radisson-Rapid City. Woot! (Thanks, friend - you rock!)

After a good night's sleep, I got up early and let friend sleep in. I went downstairs with my Nook and sat outside for a while while the tour group buses prepped to leave for their next destination. I met a nice lady from Canada who was doing the bus trip on her own from Rapid City, through Wyoming, and eventually ending up in Salt Lake City. I met another lady who was doing the same route, different group, from Long Island - she told me how nice people in the Midwest are. It was a productive morning - did some reading and made a couple of friends.

Because it was raining on and off, we weren't in too much of a hurry, so we took our time and went to breakfast at one of only 7 restaurants in South Dakota that have been featured on the Food Network (all from Rachael Ray's $40 a Day.

This is Tally's Silver Spoon in Rapid City - the food was great and it was a cute diner.
I had the buffalo hanger steak and eggs. It was really good!
Oh, and the statue? It's Ronald Reagen. Wearing a cowboy hat.
After we had breakfast, it was time to hit Mount Rushmore! We made our way there - and I was there a long time ago, but didn't remember the drive apparently. You drive up hill for a really long time (up the 'mountain', I guess) and then down a hill for a while, and then up a hill for a little bit. Just before we got to Keystone, which is just down the 'mount' from Mt. Rushmore, we were commenting how beautiful it was driving through the hills. And then we saw Keystone - a little bit of tourist hell in the middle of the beautiful hills. Our reaction went from Ohhhh... Ahhhh... to more of a Whoa... What is that... It's small though, so we were shortly past it and on our way to our desination - Mt. Rushmore.


Remember how earlier I mentioned it was raining on and off? I forgot to mention that it was foggy, also. And this was about the best picture we got of Mt. Rushmore after standing in the misty majesty for about 45 minutes or more. We did get to see it a bit more clear than this, but not much - and certainly not for long. I like to think that if I had a 'fog remover' tool in my photo editor, it would look like this:

And this is how Lawrence Welk ruined my weekend. If we hadn't stopped to checkout the Lawrence Welk place on the way, we probably could have made it to Mt. Rushmore on Saturday night (they don't close until 10 p.m.) On Saturday night it wasn't foggy. On Saturday night, we would have seen it free and clear. OK, so maybe it's not Lawrence's fault... and honestly, it's the ups and downs of trips that make for the best stories - so we took solace in that! :)

We're going to fast forward a little bit because it's really just a lot of driving after this. We left Mt. Rushmore and got back on the highway - this time I-90 headed back toward the SD/MN border and it was relatively uneventful. We did do a couple of things on our way to Sioux Falls, SD (our stay-over for the night).

Wall Drug - we had to see what all of the fuss (and the signs, upon signs, upon signs... on the highway) were all about. It was a good place to stretch our legs, get a homemade doughnut, and a 5 cent cup of coffee. And I got to sit on a giant jack-a-lope, which is pretty sweet.

We also stopped in Mitchell to grab a bite to eat (don't remember the place - not super good). However, our friend Keri told us that if we were in Mitchell we had to stop at Zesto and get the peanut butter shake. Another friend got really excited at the thought that I may go through Mitchell and told me that I just had to stop at the Mitchell Corn Palace. So, we did both. The peanut butter shake was life changing. The corn palace was impressive - but not as impressive as the peanut butter shake.

I'm combining the photos of these two here to save some room (this is getting long, again).Thanks for bearing with me.

video

As you can tell from the pictures, we had a pretty good time. How cool is that corn palace? We made it to Sioux Falls, which is basically on the SD/MN border, and stayed for the night - and got a sweet deal on Priceline's name-your-price at a hotel. Nice!

I'm going to leave off here for Part Two - it seems fitting to stop at the border (Sioux Falls), again. Tune in for Part 3, soon - the long road home...

6.07.2011

ND/SD vacation! - part one

I spent my memorial day weekend in fabulous North Dakota and South Dakota. And I've been meaning to get around to posting this, because it's been about 2 weeks since I've posted, at all. I hate letting this go that long...

So, my friend is from LA, and lives out east now. She is on a quest to visit all 50 states, and asked me if we could go to SD over memorial day weekend so she could cross it off the list. I agreed. Then she asked if it was out of the way to go to ND, too. I agreed, because, depending on the route we take, and given the three-day weekend, it's doable, right? And there started the quest to cross off states 45 & 46 of her list. I think it's worth noting here, too, that about 2 years ago, I helped her cross off Wisconsin, too. So, three new places for her that I've been to. She owes me... we'll get to that. :)

We started our quest on Friday afternoon and shortly after we took off, the GPS led us astray when we were on back roads trying ever so intelligently to go around the bad traffic. And when it did, I said to the female voice in a whiny tone: Laaadddyyyy... argh. This is important because from this point forward our GPS (a Garmin, voice version American English Jill) became known for the remained of the trip (maybe for life, we haven't decided), as "Lady." There is a reason I'm pointing this out. I promise.

So, we drove from the Twin Cities to North Dakota and it was fine once we got out of traffic and I think we only stopped once on the way. It was raining part of the time, and friend's mom was kind enough to keep up posted of the tornado-y watches we were driving toward. I assured friend that it was a watch, so we were good. If it becomes a warning, we'll pull over. :)  After about 4 hours, we entered North Dakota - and friend yells "forty-five!"  This is the best picture we got crossing the border because it was raining:

It says Welcome to North Dakota... I swear.
 We stayed just north of Fargo with the parents of another friend. She had warned us that we'd have to drive on a gravel road and that there was a very friendly dog on her parents farm. For those of you who know me, does that sound familiar? I asked her if she was sure we weren't staying at my parent's farm because it sounded eerily familiar, just different states. Also, their dog is Casey. My parent's dog is Tank. Kris and Tim were awesome, and I'm pretty sure they should start a bed and breakfast - Kris even had little gift baskets with ND stuff in them and chocolates on the pillows! It was sweet. They had a roast dinner when we got there, and eggs and bacon for breakfast. It was nothing short of amazing, not to mention generous. Kris also gave us the tour of Gardner, the high school that her daughter went to - which is a great school that was put out in the middle of nowhere a few miles from their place. She also took us to the Hunter Cafe in Hunter, ND for rhubarb pie & ice cream because it was in a book she showed us called How Fargo of You. It has cute stories about people who are awesome. I bought a copy and am looking forward to reading the rest. Hooray!

Instead of posting all of the pictures in a row (because this is going to get long), here's a short slide show of some Gardner/Hunter, ND pictures. And, Laura, I'm even in one of them! ;)

video


So, we had originally planned to hang out at Kris & Tim's for a night, drive to South Dakota and hopefully see some of my family, and hit up DeSmet, South Dakota (Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff) and, if there was time, Mitchell (umm... corn palace!)  However it turned out that my family was going to my hometown for the weekend and we wouldn't be able to make it there before they left. And somehow, with a little peer pressure from Kris, I agreed to go to Mount Rushmore. I mean, it's not that I don't like Mount Rushmore, but you have to understand that it is 9 hours of driving from our current location. Nine. Hours. I was feeling a little extra whimsical, I guess (Gina, I get W points for that) and off we went.

The ND experience at Kris and Tim's was great. That being said, driving on I-94 across ND is not the most fun drive for what seems to be eons. It was like 5 hours. And what we learned on the first part of our trip was that when you're driving across ND on I-94 for eons, you should stop when you can to get gas, use restrooms, or eat because sometimes it's a while until you have another chance. But, if you have good music and good company, it's not so bad. The highlight of our drive from North Dakota to the South Dakota Border was stopping at the Lawrence Welk Homestead simply because we saw a sign on the side of the road. Yes, you heard me. Lawrence Welk was born in North Dakota. And we went to his house. It was in the country and it was at this point that Lady (see above) had some sort of seizure because she had no idea where she was. "Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating. (etc...)"  We had to turn her off until we got back tot highway and she got her bearings back.

It was wunnerful, wunnerful. There was a cute older couple who ran the place and they gave us the tour - they talked more about the time period he grew up in, what it was like, and showed us the stoves, tools, and furniture they had. Some of it was the Welk's. Some of it was not.

 
And then we kept driving; after about 10 hours (total) of driving under our belts, and Lady had only failed us twice, we had made it safely to the border. And friend yelled "46!!!" Life was good.


This ends Part One of my ND/SD vacation post. Tune in for Part Two - or what I like to call: How Lawrence Welk Ruined My Weekend.

update: Part Two is posted - click here to read