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Posted on Dec 30, 2013 in Inspiration, Menus and Recipes

The Past is Past

Beautiful day at the park

Beautiful day at the park

Last week, I visited the Florida Keys for a few days.  On the way there, I stopped at a race track to learn something about dog racing.  I really don’t know much about dog racing, but I have adopted a wonderful greyhound who is retired from racing.  If you have ever met me or read my blog, you now that I love my dog. And talk about him a lot.

A few days after he came to live with me, the adoption group sent me his racing records.  I never really looked carefully at them, but I remember he raced in Florida.  Dog racing is very controversial, but it is still pretty popular there.  I thought if I went to his former home, I might learn something about what shaped him and made him such a lovely creature.  I went to the track, now a casino too, and looked around.  They were not racing that afternoon, and there were no dogs there.  No one seemed to know where the dogs were kept, or who was in charge of them.  Everyone was inside, betting in the casino or on televised dog races at other tracks.

Aside from a few shouts when someone won a bet, the place could have been a library with all of the studying going on.  We had a nice lunch, and went on with the vacation.

When I returned home, I was a little sad that I did not learn more about my beautiful dog’s history, but this is what I found:

IMG_0073He isn’t interested in that track anymore.  This is his life now.  He races up the stairs and chases me when we play.

IMG_0078

Happy New Year!

 

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Posted on Dec 29, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Key Lime Pie

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Spending Christmas in the Florida Keys was not all fun and games.  I did some serious research.  I visited the track where my dog raced, and I tested key lime pie all along the 120-or-so miles of that coral reef.  I had to make some sacrifices, not just sit back and enjoy my visit, right?

You’re welcome.

I was surprised by what I found-I have been making this pie all wrong for decades.  My key lime pie is sort of like lemon meringue pie without the meringue and with key lime juice instead of lemon.  I cover it in whipped cream.

Wrong.

The first pie I tasted was more like a cheesecake than a pie.  It was about 2 inches high, and the texture was very dense.  The lime flavor was very mild.  I didn’t believe this was authentic pie.  I thought if I tried “real” key lime pie, I would find my pie was closer to the pie I found there.  But they were all similar in texture and flavor.

What I found was that most of the pies were very thin, and all were on a graham cracker crust.

Most had no topping.

Often, there was a small amount of whipped cream, either on the side or near the crust.  One had raspberry sauce drizzled over it.

The filling in all of them was solid, more like baked cheesecake than lemon pie filling.  It had no cheese, and no cream.  Most had a very mild lime flavor, but the best ones had enough juice to have great lime flavor AND a little tartness.

It turns out that key lime pie comes closer to a lemon tart filling that takes advantage of the property of condensed milk that thickens it when mixed with an acidic liquid like lime juice.  Egg yolks are added to increase the richness of the pie.  This pie could not be easier to make!

Here is an adaptation of a recipe that comes close to what we had:

Key Lime Pie

Crust

  • 16 square graham crackers, crushed
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/2 c butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the ingredients together and press them into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake in oven in middle rack for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven, and cool on rack.

Filling

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 c key lime juice
  • 2 t lime zest

Beat the egg yolks on medium speed until they are thick and turn yellow. Add the sweetened condensed milk, and  mix on low speed. Drizzle half of the lime juice, once the lime juice is incorporated, add the other half of the juice and the zest, and mix until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for approximately 2 hours to set.

So, what is more important?  Your favorite recipe, or authenticity?

Photo credit:  CGehlen
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Posted on Dec 27, 2013 in My Journey

Tropical Christmas Gift

After dinner beach visit

After dinner beach visit

This year, instead of giving gifts, I gave a trip to Key West.  And I went with it, too.

Aside from some travel delays, a cold and case of the flu, things went pretty smoothly.

It was a little strange to set aside all of the family traditions and spend Christmas Day at the beach, or have Christmas dinner in a tiki hut.  There were plenty of people with us in both places!

The hardest part?  Deciding on what to do each day.  The best part?  When the firemen decorated their trucks and drove around out small island serenading us with Holiday music.

And, when I got home today, I did not have a suitcase of things to find a place to store.

Quite a bit of sand in there, though.

Christmas tree in a tiki hut

Christmas tree in a tiki hut

Key West holiday decor
Key West holiday decor

 

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Posted on Dec 18, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

You Can’t Lose

 

Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

In December, we start to think about the past year, and what we have accomplished.  Rather than think about what I have not achieved this year and line up the resolutions for the New Year, I thought I would think about what I am grateful for.  I am posting some thoughts about what has worked this year, and the positive changes that resulted.

Good news: You can’t lose.

1. You can’t lose unless you give up.

One of the biggest changes I made this past year, was a simple one: just a small change in perspective.  Maybe it’s getting older that did this, but I realized that as long as you are moving toward a goal, you can’t really fail.  If you are not happy with the situation, you can make a change. As long as you don’t give up, you can keep working toward your goal.

2. You can change your goals.

Of course you can.  Who’s going to stop you?  The goal police?  Go ahead, change your mind.

3. You can have many goals.

One way to be sure to see progress in your life is to have goals in different areas at the same time.  If you are working towards health, work, creative and financial goals, you will have less chance of having everything looking bleak.  For some, you will be just starting out, and for others, you will have made measurable progress. Make sure to focus on the progress at least as much as how much you have left to do!

4. You can have too many goals.

Too many things going at once can make life seem like a lot of work, and is a sure route to frustration and overwhelm.  Stick with your most important values, and you will know when things are in balance.  I have modeled my dog’s plan to focus on squeaky toys (fun), rest, socializing (his involves more sniffing), food, exercise and work (he’s retired, but still volunteers).  This is working pretty well.

5. The end is the same for all of us, so enjoy the ride.

If you make sure you have some fun along the way, nothing is completely bad.  I learned this the hard way.  If you work all the time and expect happiness to flow from your job, you are at risk for some big ups and downs.

What did this perspective replace?

It’s hard to understand from where I stand today, but I once thought that if I worked hard, I would reach a state of success and happiness, and that I would then relax and coast through in this happy state for the rest of my life.  It would be beautiful, like a graduation day or an award for hard work.  I’m pretty sure this is what I was taught as a child.  It was a direct path to stress and disappointment.

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Posted on Dec 16, 2013 in How to simplify, My Journey

Trying on Success

Photo credit: The Farber Center

Photo credit: The Farber Center

In December, we start to think about the past year, and what we have accomplished.  Rather than think about what I have not achieved this year and line up the resolutions for the New Year, I thought I would think about what I am grateful for.  I am posting some thoughts about what has worked this year, and the positive changes that resulted.

Trying things on for size

This one I have used before.  A very smart uncle of mine gave me this advice a few years ago when I was thinking about buying a house, and was worried about the financial burden of committing to a mortgage payment.  He suggested that I decide on what I thought I could afford for a mortgage payment, and save that amount every month.  This way, I could spend some time living with the commitment without risking my financial future.  I did this for almost two years to see what this would be like, even with unexpected expenses.

What happened was like magic.  I managed to save that money, and ended up with a pretty big part of a down payment.  My uncle just smiled when I told him, but this was a huge lesson for me. I could live the way I dreamed.  The fact that I was just trying it on made the switch easier to make, but the outcome was the same.

Last year after the holidays, I decided to try on a simpler life, and writing about my experiences in a blog.  I bought three large storage bins (they are really inexpensive in January) and filled them with items from my house.  I decided to keep them full for 6 months in the garage before I donated them.  Putting some items in those bins was painful, but I knew I could take them out, so in they went.  A funny thing happened.  Not only did I not miss any of the items, it only took a few weeks before I could not even remember what was in the bins.  At the end of summer, I did a huge de-cluttering project that had the same result.

I started writing in January as well.  I took a small notebook that was in a swag bag from a scientific symposium (yes!  we get pens, notebooks and USB drives in our bags) and started writing my thoughts, simplifying experiments and strategies.  It took several months to take the next step, but in May, I started this blog.  Now, I have over 120 posts, and have had a wonderful time connecting with people through a new community.  Some posts were read by only a few friends, and some by many people.  This has been one of the best “try it on” experiences of my life.

Thank you to all of you who are reading, and thank you for all your support, comments and advice.

One last thing:  If you want to try de-cluttering on for size, check out this post and this one.  And let me know how it works out!

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