August 24, 2012

A Challenge and a Pie

I love writing. But does anybody agree that writing itself is pretty fickle? There are times that are gut-wrenching and times that are ecstatic, times that are slow and times in which there aren't enough waking hours in the day to fit your thoughts on a page. Annie Dillard records her accounts of the writing life and the ideas that flow in and out of each other over the creation of a piece of literature. I think about Dillard a lot and her metaphors of nature that she uses to reconcile the mind with oft-fleeting ideas.

I have especially thought about Dillard while constantly making excuses of not writing as much this summer as I normally do. I don't take enough pictures; I don't have enough ideas; sometimes I just want to cook and enjoy it for myself rather than try to connect cooking with personal narratives. Sure - simple enjoyment, especially in a family setting, has its place. But I wanted to take the next several weeks to really challenge myself to produce; whether that production will be compelling or utterly useless remains to be seen, but there's nothing like trying.

So beginning on September 1, I am beginning a Fall Challenge on Magnolia Cooks. The Fall Challenge requires posts at least three times a week throughout the months of September and October. Not every post will have to feature photos or recipes, but every post will deal with food and ways of expressing food philosophy. The Fall Challenge will not only encourage lots of writing and enhanced food narratives but will also - I hope - invite my dear readers to respond with comments and content discussions.

I have another special reason for starting the Fall Challenge, and that is to make my dear readers aware of an outstanding charity event going on in my town. The GetHeeled 5K race on October 13, 2012 is THE charity event of the season. One hundred percent (that's 100%!) of fundraising efforts goes directly to the UNC Lineberger Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Clinic for Family Supportive Care. This center provides compassionate cancer care for children going through harsh and invasive treatments, as well as much-needed support for the patients' parents and siblings. A few weeks ago, I tagged along to a clinic party at the center, playing guitar, singing, and coloring with the families. What I discovered was a special need for recreational and emotional support for these most vulnerable of patients, support that the hospitals themselves often cannot offer. Think art and music therapy, reading sessions, movement classes, lunches - simple things that keep these kids feeling a sense of normalcy. I hope to spread the message of this need both within and outside of my community.

In the spirit of connecting food with life and community, I'll be talking a lot about the GetHeeled 5K throughout the Fall Challenge. These kinds of food narratives, when used within the context of social need, can be really powerful! So please do check out the GetHeeled 5K page and consider donating!

Without ignoring the very SPIRIT of Magnolia Cooks, I leave you this Friday with a heavenly key lime pie. Key lime pie (like writing) can be a fickle business. But this one - this one! - is so perfectly sweet and tart you'll never need another recipe. So many of my recipes come from Cook's Illustrated but I own that and honor it. This key lime pie is proof that sometimes these simple recipes are the best. Whip it up before a weekend summer trip and carry it off in a polka-dot pie carrier. It is the very essence of summer!

Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
5 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine ingredients until well mixed and press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes and let cool completely. 

4 teaspoons grated lime zest 
1/2 cup juice from zested limes
4 egg yolks
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free and it was super light and beautiful)

In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk zest and yolks together vigorously for about 2 minutes. Add condensed milk, then add juice. When fully combined, let filling sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Mixture should become thick like pudding.

Lower oven heat to 325 F. When crust is cool, pour in filling and bake about 15-16 minutes, until sides are set and center jiggles slightly. Cool completely at room temperature, or place in refrigerator for about 2 hours before serving.

Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream, beat into soft peaks and spread over the top of your pie. Get decorative with a pastry bag if you want, or leave it creamy and rustic. 


  1. So pretty! Looks delicious!!! Thank you so much for your help in sharing information about the Get Heeled 5K too. We are so thrilled to have you part of the team :)

  2. This is one of my favorite recipes, too. I LOVE key lime pie and haven't found a lighter and zippier recipe than this. I'm on the verge of getting a juicer because of my annoyance at juicing limes for this specific recipe.

  3. Carrie, so glad to do it! If you have any little marketing ideas or food connections (I'm thinking of baking!!) please feel free to share! Kathy, I have a very simple handheld juicer that makes this pie that much simpler and dreamier. I use it for lemonade and all kinds of recipes that call for lemon juice too! (