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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunshine in every bite!

 27, No, it can’t be!

My son, pictured at left, recently turned 27.  When did I get to be so old? Wait, I am only …. and that’s not all that old.  He is visiting us in China so we were able to spend his birthday with him. We have tradition in our family of requesting your birthday dinner.  For his dinner, he requested Lasagna and for his “cake” he requested Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lasagna and Lemon Meringue Pie, are they even possible to make here in China? Well, it’s more difficult but they are possible.  We were able to purchase some hamburger, 500 g for 96 rmb. Metro, a local store here (think small Walmart Superstore) carries Lasagna noodles, tomato paste, cottage cheese and canned tomatoes. The noodles and tomatoes could have been made if absolutely necessary but fortunately it wasn’t.  My recipe for Lasagna, has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My mom made wonderful Lasagna, so it’s not surprising that her grandson would request it for his birthday. The recipe is simple:

12 Lasagna noodles cooked
1/4 # sharp cheddar
1# Mozzarella

Meat Sauce:
1 1/2 to 2 # ground beef
1 T basil
2 1/2 c cooked or canned tomatoes
1 clove or garlic, minced
1 T parsley
1 1/2 t salt
12 ounces of tomato paste.

Cottage Cheese Mixture:
6 c cottage cheese
2 large eggs beaten
1/2 t pepper
1/2 c parmesan cheese
2 t salt

2 T Parsley Flakes

I was all set to begin making dinner.  Not only do you have to gather all the ingredients but then you have to make it. Turns out I don’t have a pan large enough to boil pasta in. The noodles glued together and became one with each other, there was no separating them.  I ended up having to boil each of the 12 noodles individually. It worked, just took a long time.  While waiting for the noodles to cook, I made the meat sauce, and combined the cheese mixture.  One mistake I think many people make in creating lasagna is not enough cheese. I love lots of cheese in my lasagna. The bite of the sharp cheddar combined with mozzarella is a wonderful combination.  So, I hand grated the mozzarella, the parmesan and sharp cheddar. All was ready to assemble into a yummy dish for the coming birthday party.  Now for the lemon pie!

We don't have a lot of prepared foods here in China, so I sent my son to purchase 4 lemons for me.  There is something about fresh squeezed lemon juice and grated lemon rind that remind me of sunshine.  My kitchen smelled delightful. The pie was amazing.  Usually, when I make the pie I use Real Lemon, lemon juice and let me just say, there is a big difference, convenience just isn't worth it.  From now on I will always use fresh squeezed juice, unless lemons just aren't available.

Another difference cooking here are the eggs.  The yolks are so yellow, a deep yellow orange. They provided a wonderful color to the lemon pudding.  Nothing artificial added.  And the little oven did a great job of browning the meringue for me.

The best part was everyone's reactions as they ate the pie. It was tart and sweet, a wonderful combination.  Sunshine in every bite!

Lemon Meringue Pie:
1 1/2 c of sugar
1/3 c of cornstarch
1 1/2 c water

Place the sugar and the cornstarch in a saucepan and slowly add the water so that the mixture is smooth. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and boils.  Boil one minute. Remove from heat. 

Separate 3 eggs and save the egg whites for making the meringue. ( I prepare this before I even begin cooking)  Using a folk, mix up the yolks. I begin to add some of the hot sugar mixture a quarter cup at a time, meanwhile beating with a folk constantly, (so the egg doesn’t cook solid), when I have a good sized cereal bowl full, I stir it into the rest of the hot mixture. I boil for an additional minute then blend in 3 T butter. 4 T lemon juice and 1 1/2 T grated lemon rind.

I pour it into a baked pie shell cover with the meringue, make sure to seal the meringue to the crust so it doesn’t shrink away from the sides of the pie. bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes until the meringue is a nice golden color.

3 egg whites (saved from the 3 eggs you separated earlier)
1/4 t cream of tartar
6 T of sugar
1/2 t vanilla
Beat the eggs and the cream of tartar until frothy (foamy), gradually add sugar about a tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff and glossy. 
( I always beat until the tracks of the beaters stay in the meringue)

As you can see even in China, it's possible to make a lovely pie.

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