The holidays! Whatever your relationship may be, love or dread them, they seem to take over more and more of our time every year. This period, for many high stress, is now beginning as early as august if you follow the lead of the retailers. By the time we welcome the new year I think my head will burst if made to hear one more Jingle Bells. Not to sound like Scrooge, but I do think it is overkill. With that in mind, I try to simplify and wrap my head around the true meaning. That can be different things for different people, but for me, it is all about love. This year I was off the hook for Christmas dinner so I suggested to my eleven year old grandson and budding chef, Henry, that we take charge of desserts since his parents were cooking . Delighted, he arrived on Christmas eve day, fully equipped with his tools, to make Tres Leches Cake and my mother’s family recipe for Lemon Sponge Pie. The cake is something I have wanted to try to make and when I learned Henry and his family had never eaten it before, it was a new adventure for us all. If it didn’t turn out, I figured there is always store-bought. The pie was something my mother always made for Christmas when I was young so I decided to throw that in as well. They were both well received, especially when Henry topped them with a mountain of whipped cream. What’s not to love, right?
After spending a wonderful day together creating these culinary delights, we were proud to serve them up for the family. I didn’t have a recipe for the cake in my arsenal so we chose one from The Food Network (link above) and were pleased with the outcome, especially since it was a virgin run. The pie, however, has been in my family for generations and I have made it many times.
Here is how it goes down.
MOTHER’S LEMON SPONGE PIE Makes 1 (9-inch pie)
5 T flour
1 c sugar
2 egg yolks
2 T melted butter
Grated rind and juice of one lemon
Beat above ingredients at medium speed for 3 minutes.
Add 1 cup milk
Fold in beaten egg whites (previously beaten in small bowl).
Bake in raw crust 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Pie is done when top is light golden brown.
Top with whipped cream and berries, if desired.
If you are a lover of lemon, you will love this pie. What makes it unique is its texture. Yes, it is a pie, but the filling more resembles a sponge cake.When I described it to Henry he said, “Sounds good. Confusing, but good.” It proved to be Henry’s favorite of the two. I also added a twist to it this year. Mother always made hers in a regular pie crust but I decided to try making a ginger snap crust. I made it with crushed ginger snap cookies and melted butter just like a graham cracker crust. I pre-baked it for 5 minutes and let it cool. This is a very simple preparation but it packs a giant lemony flavor which I felt balanced nicely with the ginger. Be careful when folding in the egg whites so as not to deflate. It is the air in them that makes it light and fluffy.
Having had so much fun, we decided to make another kitchen date the following week. This time our goal was to make something savory. Thinking again about family recipes, I decided on Chicken Cacciatore using a recipe I developed over the years. This stewed chicken was something my grandmother made and served over polenta, so passing it along allowed me to also share stories of my childhood and experiences growing up. Talk about spreading the love. My heart was bursting with all the past memories and those I know we were making as we shared lessons and time in the kitchen. I might also mention Henry’s pride as he provided dinner for his entire family. He is quite a guy!
We are one week into 2017 and facing a year that may prove difficult for many. I am working hard to focus on what is closest to me that brings joy into my life. Kids in the kitchen is a perfect way for me to do this and I am so fortunate to have grandchildren who also enjoy the experience. Thank you, Henry, for your time and interest. I believe I experienced the true meaning of the holiday season and received the best gift of all. Wishing all of you a wonderful new year. Whether sweet or savory, please keep spreading the love, one dish at a time. I thank you for your readership and comments and send you my love and hope that we all have good things in our lives to be grateful for. Jeanne