Comfort Dreams & Lemon Meringue Pie

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I am inspired to write this today after my FB cooking buddy, Lois, posted about dreaming of her dad. Lois took great care of her father and prior to his passing spoke with him on the phone on a daily basis. She had been struggling with her grief until her dad came to her in a dream. They were talking on the phone. Dreaming of a shared experience affirming his life brought her peace.

Lois with her dad, Jerry, and two sons

I had a comfort dream of my own. One year after William’s death, I realized I needed out of my old life…that I would never heal if I did not move on, move away and simply just take care of myself. It was my first brave decision…but one filled with incredible conflict, as I would be leaving our home in Connecticut that was filled with 30 years of delicious memories and the place my son adored.

Imagine me packing up his room. The scent of his cologne still on his pillow. His dirty hand-print on the wall. Touching his things I was transported back to the places we had been, the fun we had had and the plans we had made…. the memories flooded over me.  Preserving these memories would allow me to move forward, but how? On our very first night in the new house now in PA I had the most vivid dream. I got up from my bed and looked out the window and in the driveway was my son looking up at me. It was then I knew he goes where I go. I carry him in my heart.

a bittersweet moment as the peak of my pie hit the oven grate and pulled away

Comfort dreams are moments of light and hope. They are stories of support and faith and what is most precious. To tell the story is a way of moving our grief along, but also is a gift to those we share it with. We all heal in the telling of our stories. It’s an uncomfortable blessing to express our pain, but in doing so there is a release and relief. Thank you, Lois for having the courage to mourn out loud. I’d like to think that your dad was telling you in that dream that he is always with you and that everything is going to be all right.

In honor of Lois’ dad I am sharing a recipe for lemon meringue pie. It was one of Jerry’s favorites and a recipe I have been tinkering with recently. The mile high cloud of meringue featured in the first photo above is an Italian meringue made with roasted sugar. It is light and fluffy with less sticky sweetness than the meringue featured in my lattice recipe design. As much as I love the lattice design the real reason behind it was to use less of the meringue I did not want to eat. Delicious citrus fruit is abundant this time of year, but if you can’t find meyer lemons go ahead and use regular lemons which will yield just a slight more pucker power.

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust*

1 ½ cups (6 oz) all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar plus additional for pie edge

½ teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (4 oz) vegetable shortening, cold

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold water

1 egg white

Meyer Lemon Filling

2 eggs

7 egg yolks

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1 tablespoon meyer lemon zest

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Lattice Topping**

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

For the crust combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl; cut in shortening. Add water and mix until just combined. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill 15 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie dish. Decorate edge with pastry cut-outs. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil and weigh down with dry beans or pie weights. Place pie dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Lightly brush edge of crust with egg white; sprinkle with sugar. Return crust to oven and bake 10 minutes more or until a light golden brown.  Reduce oven temperature to 325F.  Meanwhile, prepare filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Add butter and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and reaches 170F. on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in heavy cream. Pour filling into warm pie shell.  For lattice topping, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and vanilla beating to stiff peaks. Pipe meringue over pie in a lattice pattern. Bake 20 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Cool and chill pie before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

*ready made pie crust can be substituted for home made crust

** I suggest taking your meringue to the next level with this mile high light Italian Meringue made with roasted sugar. To roast the sugar: spread 1/2 cup of sugar on a piece of foil and place it in a pie plate at 350F for 30 minutes. Then continue with this recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible

1/2 cup sugar (that you just roasted)

2 tablespoons water

4 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

In small heavy saucepan, (I use one that has a pouring spout edge), stir the sugar and water until sugar is moistened. Heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring and turn heat to lowest setting or remove from heat as you attend to the egg whites. In stand mixer with whip attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat to stiff peaks. Increase the heat of the sugar syrup and boil until thermometer registers 236F. With mixer on high, immediately drizzle syrup into the egg whites avoiding the beaters. Beat for 2 minutes or until the mixer bowl no longer feels too hot to touch. Starting from the edges of the pie and covering the inside edge of the crust with meringue spread the meringue on top of the filling making swirls and peaks with a spatula. Bake the pie for 5 minutes at 350F to set the meringue and then place pie under broiler for 20 to 30 seconds for a deeper browning. You could also torch it.

Maple Blueberry French Toast Muffins

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It seems this is the third time I am experimenting with a version of one of my favorite recipes. It happens when “I spy” a new product in the grocery store. I am not sure how long Pepperidge Farm has been making thick sliced blueberry swirl bread, but upon seeing it on the shelf I was immediately inspired to create this new version of a French toast muffin. We love stuffed blueberry French toast, so why not a jazzed up muffin?

Loaded with healthy wild blueberries and the very best Vermont maple syrup I guarantee a batch of these warm muffins will get you through the coldest of winter days.

Maple Blueberry French Toast Muffins

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
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¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons Vermont maple syrup plus additional for serving

3 eggs

4 slices (thick sliced) blueberry swirl bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 cups all-purpose flour plus a teaspoon

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen 

Heat oven 400F. Grease 14 standard size muffin cups with no-stick baking spray or line with paper cups. In medium bowl, whisk milk, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1 egg until blended. Add bread; gently stir to coat all the bread pieces (this is the French toast topping). In medium bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined. In another bowl, whisk remaining 2 eggs for 30 seconds. Add buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and melted butter; whisk well.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry; blend just until the dry ingredients are moistened (do not over mix). Toss blueberries with remaining teaspoon of flour. Gently fold blueberries into batter. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon the French toast topping evenly over the batter; pressing down slightly. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert the muffins onto a wire rack, turn them upright; cool 5 minutes. Drizzle additional maple syrup over top of warm muffins just before serving. Makes 14 muffins.

And if you would like to see my previous versions of this recipe check them out here Pepperidge Farm also makes other flavors of this bread including Maple Brown Sugar and Apple Swirl, so the sky is the limit for muffin flavor combinations. Have fun with it and let me know what you come up with. BTW, this is not a sponsored post. I just love these products.

Good Grief Geese

As a bird watcher and lover of nature in general I could not help but think of the natural instincts of geese as I sat through 3 beautiful weddings this month. Early in my own marriage my husband had given me a lovely gold pin created by a Maine jeweler titled “Geese Mate for Life”. Did you know that geese mate for life? It is just one of the reasons why I love this bird. Not to mention that young William would walk around the house imitating their call “ga-LEEK ga-LEEK” in a high-pitched voice. 

When it comes to grief humans should be more like geese. Their devotion to not only their partner, but their entire flock is incredibly inspiring. They illustrate perfectly the notion of “many hands make light work”. Grief work is the hardest you will ever do. If there is ever a time for a need of loving and supportive companionship it’s when someone we love dies.

Geese have a few other instincts that we can all learn from. Look up. It’s this time of year with winter in their cry that geese are flying in “V” formation. Their journey is a long one. They do it together for a reason. The flapping of their individual wings allows the bird behind them to have a bit of an uplift making the flight less of a burden. The difficult journey is made more bearable. No one need or should travel a grief journey alone. Accept support. 

Once in awhile a goose falls out of formation. (Oh, those angry years.) It immediately will feel the drag and difficulty of flying alone. What does the flock do? A pair will drop from the “V” and follow the wayward goose to support and protect it until it is able to continue on its own. It’s a through thick and thin kind of friendship. It’s the bond of love and compassion at its best. Just hold your friends up when they can’t hold themselves.  

Now one thing is for sure. A griever can be super high maintenance. The journey is long. No one person can care for and protect you. When the goose at the point, the one leading the journey, gets tired he/she falls back and let’s another take over. He/she is exhausted and needs comfort. It is wise to understand that no one person can bear the burden of your grief. Take a cue from the geese and expand your flock.

There are times in life when we must rely on each other. Times when we need to be connected and encouraged. We need to honk like the geese to show our mutual support and love otherwise we end up traveling alone. Make room for your partner in life and a few trusted family and friends. 

To everyone: Be the Goose

As a side note, one of William’s favorite movies was “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise as the character Maverick. His wing man was aptly named “Goose”. 

With the holidays on the horizon you might be expecting a recipe for goose, but that ain’t happening here. I love geese, but not on my dinner plate. So, I looked back in my arsenal of recipes and thought I’d share one from a family cookbook that my cousins and I put together many years ago. My extended family are totally a flock of geese. They have been there for me on so many occasions, but it was aunt Faye who rescued me in times of trouble during elementary school. Back then we walked to school and mid-day took a break for lunch. Aunt Faye lived only a few doors from the school and rather than me walking the long route home in the rain and snow she’d invite me in for a warm bowl of her pastina. How lucky was I to have the love and support of Aunt Faye. Here is her recipe as written in our family cookbook. 

Aunt Faye’s Famous Pastina

1 pound pastina

2 eggs

Butter

Parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

Boil pastina till tender. Drain and add 2 eggs, butter and parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste.

Okay…for all you cooks who like clear-cut quantities just go with your instincts. Be Italian for 5 minutes and add a spoonful of this or a pinch of that. Be the Goose!