Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Blueberry Lychee Pie Goodness!

I'm intuitively a better cook than a baker. Cooking welcomes creativity and flexibility. Baking requires scientific precision. My mother drastically alters baking ingredients without thoroughly recognizing how it impacts the overall recipe chemistry. I inherited this trait, yet luckily my baking adventures result in delicious success sometimes.

Like my blueberry-lychee pie experiment. 

Inspiration #1: I love lychees.

My go-to way to enjoy lychees is to blend them in a simple smoothie = one can of peaches including juices + one can of lychees including juices. [Did you get that bonus recipe?] Once I requested a lychee-peach blend at the best bubble tea place in Vancouver. I laughed when the woman obliged, but only after a stern disclaimer, "We don't guarantee it will taste good." I bet the regular Asian clientele doesn't usually order off the proven menu.

The accidental discovery of the fabulous marriage of lychees and blueberries: During one spontaneous visit, I offered my guest a smoothie. I had a can of lychees, but no peaches. What about trying the frozen blueberries? What a delicious surprise!

Lychees are fragrant, but subtle enough to complement other foods, even savoury ones. One Thai restaurant cooks lychees in their tasty ostrich curry!

Inspiration #2: Beyond Savoury, to Sweet Dumplings
Once my neighbour celebrated her birthday with Chinese dumpling wrapping (and gorging) party. We wrapped, pan fried, and ate Chinese savoury dumplings to our hearts' content.

For dessert, at the lead of a non-Asian guest, we filled the leftover dumpling wraps with a sweet filling of fruit. Apparently it's a European dessert. We pan fried them and they were delish!

This year for Chinese New Year, we received a last minute invitation to another neighbour's dumpling party. Desiring to bring food, but too lazy to go shopping, I searched my kitchen. Lychees and blueberries! We wrapped blueberry-lychee dumplings for dessert. We steamed them, but they didn't quite taste right. Pan fried worked better!

So with the leftover blueberry-lychee filling, and knowing deliciousness comes with fried, greasy goodness, I experimented with it as a pie filling.

Guidelines for Blueberry Lychee pie (Use as a starting point, not a precise recipe. I can't part from my fluid artsy ways ;)
Pie crust recipe is found here (thanks to Dilys for pointing me there!)
Filling Ingredients (with possible substitutions)
  • 2 cans of lychees, drained and loosely cut into pieces, to your desired chunkiness
  • 2 cups of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3 cup of liquid (any kind of juice, left from the lychee can; the remaining juices from the can make a refreshing cocktail with a punch of lychee liquer!)
  • 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch (or corn starch, any thickening agent)
Sweeten to taste with sugar (or alternative sweeter, like Stevia or agave). I didn't add any sweetener, because the canned lychees contain enough sugar. You could use fresh lychees if you're trying to go sugar free.
If you're gluten free, try a crumble topping, with quinoa or millet flour instead of a wheat pie crust.

The substitutions are endless! Try other fruits, like peaches to go with the lychees. As long as you have about 4 cups of fruit you could change up the ratios and put more lychees, if you want to experiment with stronger lychee flavour.
The Method:
  1. Heat the fruit filling ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Slowly stir in corn starch until thickened.
  2. Fill pie crust with filling. Cover the pie with a top crust, being careful to seal the edges. Poke the top crust with a few holes using a fork.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Cool to let set. Then Enjoy!

See how un-precise I am? I can't even give you a time to bake, based on your pie format. This recipe made me 10-12 little pie crusts, the size of individual muffins, which I baked for 20 minutes in my convection oven (I pressed the pie dough into silicon muffin liners). But the pie crust recipe is enough for a 9 inch pie. Bake longer for one large pie. That's why I stick with the "golden brown" rule.
Have fun and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Let There Be Light (and Life) Again

It's been quite the ride finding my way again -- some things are so long gone and behind me, and other things are coming back to me that I wasn't sure would ever come back.

There is one thing that came back that I am so grateful for -- the return of my creativity. Seriously, in many of my moments of deadness and lack of creative energy in the last couple of years of wasteland, I wondered if I would ever see it again; I wondered if it wasn't to be a part of my new landscape.

As often how Jesus speaks and whispers to me, it came to me in the normal course of life. (Often I think he'll only speak to me in lightning bolt revelations when I pull away for a weekend retreat, which he still can do, but so often I see how God appears to people in the course of daily life with major words and directions.) All in one week, three design projects came to me. My friend asked me to design a Christmas flyer for her. I designed a wedding programme for a dear friend. And the kicker -- a sweet little old lady from Orilla, Ontario contacted me through my website and asked to order some of my ooooold Christmas card designs from 2005 (I mean, only one person has contacted me from that site ever, and I'm not marketing it at all. It's got to be page 100 or something if you googled it!). I felt the creative part of my soul coming alive again.

If these had happened as isolated opportunities, I probably wouldn't have noticed. Because I really am that dense.

Slowly, but surely since then, I've been getting my creative mojo back. It helps to that my sister comes into my room for impromptu brainstorming sessions on what we can do with our respective creative skills and interests.

In January I went a little overboard actually. In the course of one weekend, I finished several major projects. Some were new projects for the year, but most of them were projects that had been waylayed 3.5 years ago when the burnout truck hit me. I seriously didn't know if I would ever finish some of them.
With the new light, there is new life, and new fruitfulness.

Bear for my friend's baby in Japan: I started this one 3.5 years ago and didn't think it would ever be complete. But thanks to my friend's Facebook "home made pay it forward challenge" I had new motivation. This bear was quite the work in process -- it's the same one that my friends winced at because the incomplete look of his face appeared scary to them. He turned out alright in the end I think!

Home Hankerchiefs: In an effort to reduce my carbon footprint, save money (you would be amazed how much it cost to pay someone else for a simple square piece of cloth), and re-learn/revive my sewing skills, I embarked on the quest to sew my own hankerchiefs. The empty envelope box from my Christmas mailing was the perfect object-of-otherwise-waste to be reclaimed and reused as my "kleenex box". I may decide to make it prettier one day, but for now it's good enough for my at-home-only-use.

Cushion covers: to update and tie my new couches and cotton throws together. Man were these a breeze and treat to sew after the grueling hankerchief project!

Whew! I admit it was a little excessive. I am acutely aware of my old tendencies of productivity-addiction peeking through here. I want to be careful to not get hooked again on getting things done just for the sake of getting them done, even if they are fun and creative.

But for now, it's just good to feel the creative juices running again.