Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recipe: Key Lime Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream

My husband David recently celebrated his birthday and it’s no surprise that I was stumped on what to give him. He isn’t keen on gifts– in fact, he’s impossible to buy for, because he always insists that he doesn’t need nor want anything.  Over the years, I have occasionally surprised him with something he didn’t think he wanted or needed but loved (like the CDs of NPR’s “Car Talk” radio show that make him laugh out loud) but more often then not, I end up cooking or baking something for him instead. I wouldn’t dare let his birthday go by without making him his favorite breakfast dish:  homemade crepes stuffed with crisp bacon pieces, syrup, and cinnamon (this recipe can be found on my website).  This year, I wanted to treat him to something in addition to the crepes, and after careful consideration, I decided to make him a key lime pie.  He liked it so much that it just might become a tradition as well! 

Key Lime Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream


§         1 (one) graham cracker pie shell (or make your own using graham crumbs, melted butter and sugar)
§         ½ (one-half cup) cup key lime juice (you’ll need a one pound bag of key limes to yield ½ cup juice)
§         2 (two) tablespoons lemon juice or additional key lime juice
§         1 (one), 300 mL can of sweetened, condensed milk
§         4 (four) egg yolks
§         1 (one) cup 35% whipping cream
§         icing sugar, to taste
§         ½ (one-half) teaspoon coconut extract
§         additional key limes to garnish pie


1.      Preheat oven to 350 F.  Bake graham crust for 8-10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool (leave oven on).
2.      Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and condensed milk together in a large bowl and set aside.
3.      Juice the limes and add to the egg yolk-milk mixture.  Whisk to blend.  Add the additional two tablespoons of lemon or lime juice (you can omit this if you don’t want the pie as tart).
4.      Pour mixture into crust and bake in centre of oven for about 17-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Put in fridge to chill for at least 5 hours.
5.      Just before serving, whip the cream and add some icing sugar to taste.  Add the coconut extract.  Top pie with whipped cream and decorate with slices of key limes, if desired.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe: Zingerman's Mac & Cheese

I recently took my team on an overnight staff appreciation trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan – easily one of my favourite “foodie” towns in the USA.  From K/W, the trip takes about 4 hours door-to-door, but it’s well worth the drive if you’re into food the way we are!

Ann Arbor has a great vibe – it is home to the University of Michigan and its school spirit can be felt all across the city.  The city hosts numerous art fairs throughout the year, has great shopping, nightlife and is very walk able.  There’s a plethora of incredible restaurants and food shops to choose from – my favourites being Trader Joe’s (a specialty food/grocery store), Shalimar (amazing Indian food), Eve (upscale French) and Zingerman’s.

Zingerman's Delicatessen opened more than 25 years ago and over the years, they have expanded their business from the single deli to include a mail-order business, restaurant, bakery, creamery, coffee company, school, catering company, and food tour company.

The food is amazing – not inexpensive but I always leave full and with the feeling that I received good value for my money.  I was excited for my team to experience the “magic” of their food and their fantastic customer service while we visited four of their businesses:  the deli, roadhouse, creamery and bakery.

Dinner at the Roadhouse was the highlight – and one of the favourite things we shared was their incredible pasta with smoked chicken, sweet corn, green chilis and Monterey jack cheese.  They’re known for their full-flavoured, from scratch macaroni – they offer a minimum of 6 varieties on the menu.

Here’s their basic mac & cheese recipe, from the book: “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating”, published in 2003 by Ari Weinzweig.  Keep it simple or dress it up Zingerman’s style!

Zingerman’s Mac & Cheese


§         coarse sea salt
§         1 (one) pound macaroni, preferably the Martelli brand (you can find this at Vincenzo’s)
§         2 (two) tablespoons butter
§         1 (one) medium onion, coarsely chopped (about one cup)
§         1 (one) garlic clove, peeled and bruised with the side of a knife
§         1 (one) sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary
§         ¼ (one-quarter) cup dry white wine
§         2 (two) tablespoons flour
§         3 ½ (three-and-one-half) cups whole milk
§         2 (two) tablespoons Dijon mustard
§         freshly ground black pepper to taste
§         12 (twelve) ounces extra old cheddar cheese (about 4 ½ cups)


1.       Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and stir well.  Cook for about 10 minutes (if using Martelli) or until the pasta is 2 to 3 minutes from being al dente.  You’ll want it underdone so that it doesn’t get mushy in the oven.  Drain and set aside.
2.       Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and reduce the mixture until it thickens, 3 to 4 minutes.
3.       Remove the garlic, thyme and rosemary from the pot.  Add the flour, stirring constantly.  Cook for a minute or so more while you continue to stir.
4.       Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid lumping.  When the flour and milk have been completely combined, stir in the mustard and some salt and pepper.  Keep the mixture at a gentle simmer (not at a high boil) until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Working a handful at a time, stir in 3 cups of the cheese.  When the cheese has melted into the sauce, remove the pan from the heat.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
5.       Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce.  Pour it into a 9” by 13” baking dish and top with the remaining 1½ cups of grated cheese.  Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden. Serve hot.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Recipe: Key Lime Cookies

The snowy weather inspired me to host a tropical theme party for our good friends Linda and Martin and their ten year old daughter Adrianna.  Truth be told, the party was as much for the adults as it was for the kids. Who isn’t done with winter at this point in the year?

The snow was piled high outside but that didn’t stop me from decorating the inside “island-style”.  We turned up the thermostat and when our guests arrived, they were greeted at the front door with flip flops.  I draped beach towels over the living room chairs and couches and lit a few coconut-scented candles.  

I bought some banana leaves and used them as the runner and placemats for my table (I found them for $1 at the New City Asian Supermarket in downtown Kitchener).  I scattered graham cracker crumbs as faux sand on top, then finished with key limes, whole coconuts, baby bananas and sprigs of fresh flowers.

After a bit of chit chat we headed for the kitchen and got to work.  First, we made mango banana daiquiris for the adults and virgin strawberry daiquiris for the kids (complete with mini umbrellas, of course).  We made a tropical pineapple, red pepper and cucumber salad to go with dinner, which was Hawaiian pizza.

Adrianna loves to bake and decorate cookies so I special ordered some tropical and beach themed cookie cutters from Golda’s Kitchen ( for these delicious key lime cookies. 

Key Lime Cookies
makes about 2 dozen medium sized cookies

ingredients for cookies

¾ (three-quarters) cup sugar
2 (two) tablespoons freshly grated lime zest (use a microplane or a box grater)
1 (one) cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (one) egg
1 (one) teaspoon almond extract
2½ (two-and-one-half) cups all purpose flour
½ (one-half) teaspoon salt

ingredients for lime icing

¼ (one-quarter) cup unsalted butter, melted
3 (three) cups icing sugar
¼ (one-quarter) cup key lime juice (or use juice from regular limes)

method for cookies

1.      In the bowl of a food processor, pulse sugar and lime zest together for about 20 seconds.
2.      Beat butter and reserved lime sugar mixture together in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer) until well incorporated and butter is fluffy, about 2 minutes.
3.      Add in egg and almond extract, scrape down sides of bowl with spatula.  On low speed, add in flour and salt until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
4.      Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm. Preheat oven to 350º F.  Roll dough out on a lightly floured counter to ¼ (one-quarter) inch thickness and cut with your favorite cookie cutters, then transfer cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheets.
5.      Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until very lightly browned around the edges.  Let cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Decorate with lime icing and additional lime zest and/or toasted coconut, if desired.

method for icing

1.      Combine melted butter, lime juice and icing sugar together until smooth.

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