Well, hello there. I’ve missed you.
After I posted this story about my dad’s dementia, I hightailed it off to Puerto Rico with my husband and kids for a much needed family vacation. When I was twelve, my father spent three months in Puerto Rico, installing stained glass windows in a cathedral in San Juan. I have happy memories of visiting him for a few days that summer, with my little brother and my mom. Mostly, though, I remember that the hotel we stayed in had an outdoor atrium with palm trees and tropical flowers. In that atrium was a pond with a path of stepping stones connecting one side of the pond to the other. Hundreds of flamingos, or maybe just a dozen, lived there amongst the lilypads. My brother – who always ran and never walked – barreled across those stepping stones one morning, lost his footing, and promptly fell right in the middle of the pond, soaking his shoes, shorts, and t-shirt. I loved every minute of it.
There were no pond accidents on our recent trip to Puerto Rico. Instead, there was lots of exploring — the rainforest of El Yunque, the historic Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the streets of Old San Juan, and the massive resort in Fajardo where we spent our nights. I’ll share photos of the trip soon, once I have a spare minute to myself to sort through the hundreds of images. And, you know, get rid of all the bad photos of me.
But today, I have a pie for you, just because you deserve one. You’ve stuck with me here, as I’ve dealt with — and posted about — lots of sad stuff. I’ve received so many wonderful messages of support, especially whenever I write about my father. It’s overwhelming, really. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!)
I always hesitate before writing those posts, or any posts, really, that aren’t happy and bubbly. What I’ve found, though, is that you all get it. You completely get it. You understand that life is hard — because it’s hard for you, too. You each are dealing with crap that sucks. Life is hard, and for each of us, it’s hard in ways that are alike and in ways that are not so alike. But regardless, we all understand what it is like to hurt.
Those moments that get us down bring us together as humans. It’s easy to feel alone, isolated. But we are SO not alone. We have each other.
So have pie with me, won’t you? I think we’ve earned it.
This lemon icebox pie was our Father’s Day dessert this year. My kids were pushing for cake – they love when I make cakes – but I didn’t want something so heavy. I wanted a dessert that was light (in texture, anyway), cold, refreshing. Lemon always fits that bill.
This recipe is adapted from one in an issue of Cook’s Country, those same people behind America’s Test Kitchen. Of all of the food magazines I subscribe to, the America’s Test Kitchen line of periodicals (Cook’s Country, Cook’s Illustrated) is my most reliable source, and their magazines and websites are often the first place I look when I’m searching for a recipe.
Go forth and make pie!
Lemon Icebox Pie
Yield: Serves 8.
This recipe is tweaked, just slightly, from a recipe from Cook's Country, the June/July 2013 issue.
9 whole graham crackers
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 or 6 lemons)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in middle position.
Break up graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Pour crumbs into a medium bowl and whisk in 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Stir in melted butter until all the crumbs are coated evenly. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or small glass, press evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes. Let crust cool completely on a wire rack, about 35 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk sweetened condensed milk together with the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Pour into cooled pie crust and bake until the edges are beginning to set but the center still jiggles when shaken, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 1 hour on a wire rack. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla together. Beat on medium low speed for about 1 minute, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Spread whipped topping evenly on top of the pie. Chill until ready to serve.