Coconut Cream Pie

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Coconut probably is one of my favorite ingredients.  When I found out that South Indian cuisine had a lot of coconut in it, I went on a quest to find someone from South India who could give me some recipes.  I was successful in finding two.  Unfortunately, one of them doesn’t cook with coconut much, and the other one was vegetarian.  But never fear, my quest continues.  I’m hearing batman music right now, that’s probably just in my head.

But until then, there’s always pie.   Ummm….pie.  Pie should be its own food group.  And since I’m not likely to be leaping any tall buildings any time soon, bring on the pie!

Just so as you know though, this is a pretty healthy pie as far as pie goes.  This is an old school recipe, back before pudding was used as a base for cream pies, so you cut back on preservatives by making the pudding base yourself.  Also, it has only a small amount of butter, and less than a cup of sugar.  If you’ve got a sweet tooth and trying to cut back on the sugar, or if you’re not really a fan of suggery sweets this is the pie for you.

If you want an even healthier pie, or a lighter pie, you can separate out your eggs and use only egg whites, it will make your pie whiter, where this one has a decided yellow tinge, and it might also make it a little firmer, but it won’t affect the taste much.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 pie crust

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ -2 cups coconut

1 tablespoon butter

2 eggs

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Preheat oven to 350O F

Take the pie crust and carefully unroll it into a pie tin that is dry.  Do not butter or oil or flour the pie tin.  If you let the pie crust sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, this is easier, but it’s not essential if you’re careful.

Press the pie crust firmly down into the pie tin, and then pinch the upper crust between the forefingers of both hands in order to create the ‘wrinkle’.  Do this all the way around the pie, this will both make the pie have the traditional look, and help prevent it from sinking or burning.

Again, make sure the pie crust is pressed down well and is not lower on one area of the pie tin than another.

Take a fork and pierce the bottom and sides of the pie crust making sure there are no open space of more than 1 inch.  This will let air out of your pie crust while you bake it and prevent it from puffing up.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pie crust is golden brown.

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You might want to check it occasionally, and if it starts to puff up anyplace, you might be able to save it by pulling it out of the oven early.

While the pie is baking heat the milk in a saucepan under medium to low heat.  Add first the flour, cornstarch, and finally the salt a small amount at a time stirring well after each addition.   Make sure you completely blend in each of the dry ingredients into the milk and don’t leave any lumps.  Should take around 5-10 minutes, the smaller the measurement of the dry ingredients you try to add at each time the easier it will be to blend.

Add the sugar ¼ cups at a time and stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken.  Takes about 5 minutes.

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Turn the heat down to low and stir continuously to incorporate ½ cups coconut and butter until the butter has melted.  Takes less than 5 minutes

Add the eggs, one egg at a time, stirring continuously until the eggs are well blended.  Pour into the prepared pie crust.

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Top with the remaining coconut.  Chill overnight.

Congratulations, that was it, you’re done!

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Takes about 20-40 minutes cook time and needs to chill overnight to set up.  Since it hasn’t been baked at all, it will only be semi-solid even when it has set overnight, so try not to leave it out of the refrigerator for long.

Enjoy!

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Wickled Cuban Sandwich

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As a poor graduate student, I don’t get eat out much, so one of the traditions my mom and I have is that once a week we go out to eat.  One of our favorite restaurants is actually Panera.  The first time I ever went to Panera, it was still the St Louis Bread Company, and my mom and I had made a trip to St Louis to see the Nutcracker.  No judging, I was young.

It was one of our favorite places to eat every time we went to St Louis for years, usually for breakfast, and I was thrilled when a Panera opened in our city.  We went there once a week for breakfast for several weeks before I got tired of it.  It was quite a while before we went to Panera for anything other than breakfast, but eventually, we did try some of their entrees.  My favorite, hands down, is the Cuban Sandwich.

I could almost have an affair with this sandwich, if one could have an affair with food.  While I know it’s no gourmet food, and I’m probably getting snickers from the audience in larger cities, I really do love this sandwich.   It’s one of the few things I can honestly say I could eat for more than three days in a row.  And believe me, that’s saying quite a bit.

Today the Wickles steal the show from the Cuban though.  This sandwich is all about the Wickles.  I’m not one to preferentially use one brand over another, but I have not as of yet found another brand of pickles that can quite replicate these for flavor.  They are like the Girl Scout cookies of pickles, one of a kind, but thankfully available all year round.  Substitute the Wickless at your own risk.

Enjoy

Ingredients

Focaccia Bread

2 chicken breasts

8 ham slices

WICKLES

8 slices Swiss cheese

½ cup Sun dried tomatoes

½ cup Southwest Spicy Mustard

¼ cup miracle whip

¼ cup sour cream

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon ground chipotle

Oil for frying

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(You can substitute Red Chili Powder if you don’t have ground chipotle but you will sacrifice flavor for heat.  You can also grind your own chipotle chilies, but be careful since the smoke can make your throat and eyes sting.)

As you can see from the picture, I didn’t use focaccia bread.  Really you can use any crusty bread for this dish, but it will change the taste of the final sandwich, and try not to use anything that is too puffy.

Trim off any fat that is on the chicken breast, and then cut it open, so it’s half as thick which will make it cook faster.  Lightly salt and pepper each side of the 4 pieces of chicken.

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Heat enough oil in a medium sized skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat.  Place the chicken breast pieces in the skillet so that they don’t touch.  Cook, turning occasionally, until both sides are golden brown and can be easily pierced with a fork at its thickest part.  This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, drain the sun dried tomatoes and combine with the mustard s in a blender and puree.  You can substitute other mustards for the southwest, but you’ll probably need to add more mustard than tomatoes in order to balance the flavor.

In a bowl mix together the miracle whip, sour cream, oregano, and chipotle in a bowl.  If you don’t have powdered chipotle, you can substitute red pepper, but it will have a hotter taste without being as flavorful.

After the chicken is done, turn off the skillet and reserve the chicken to a plate and let it cool slightly.

To build the sandwich, cut your bread in half.  On one half spread liberally with the miracle whip mixture, and on the other half spread lightly with the mustard mixture.  Be carefully, the mustard mixture will pack a punch.

Pick one half of the bread, and build on that one, don’t try to build on both.  Stack:  Chicken (cutting to fit the bread), two slices of ham, Wickless to cover, and two slices of Swiss cheese, cover with other half of bread.Image

Heat a sandwich press and press the stacked sandwich between the two plates until the cheese melts.

If you do not have a sandwich press, you can improvise by re heating the skillet you cooked the chicken in and placing the stacked sandwich in the medium of the skillet with a weight on it, such as a bacon press or another skillet, to hold it down.  When you notice the cheese starting to melt, remove the weight, flip the sandwich, and replace the press.  Cook for an additional minute or two to brown both sides of bread and you’re done.

Recipe makes 4 sandwiches, though you’ll probably have a little of both the miracle whip and mustard mixture left over, and takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Enjoy

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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I know I just made a post about how I generally avoid recipes that have a page worth of ingredients, but it doesn’t count if half the ingredients are things I keep in my house.  Right?  Yah, that sounds like an excuse to me too.

Anywho, I really like Asian food, I mean what’s not to like.  It’s hot, spicy (not always the same thing), it’s always served with either rice or noodles, and generally not the worst thing you could eat health wise.   But notice I do say generally.  This is because a lot of times really good Chinese food is fried.  I do so love my fried foods.

It’s a shame I don’t have the metabolism of a high schooler any more and can’t just eat fried foods all day.  Plus they tell me it’s bad for me, something about clogged arteries and heart attacks.  To bad.

I’ve wanted to try to make homemade Chinese takeout for awhile, but the way of getting crispy chicken without deep frying it was eluding me.  It all comes down to how you coat or bread the chicken.  I got this idea for coating the chicken from here http://stuffcynloves.com/2013/05/03/best-general-tao-chicken-recipe/.   It works really well as a pho-fried food breading.

Enjoy

Ingredients

1 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1 cup panko

Chicken thighs or breasts

4 Tablespoons peanut butter

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1 Green pepper (sorry forgot to include in the picture)

1 package mushrooms, about ½ pound

2 sticks celery

4 green onions

2 heads brocoli

1 can crushed pineapple

6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Oil for frying

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If you’re working with chicken thighs, deskin and debone, and try to cut off any large chunks of fat.  For either chicken thighs or breasts, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces.

Set up a line of three bowls.  In the first bowl, pour 1 cup of cornstarch.   In the next bowl mix together the 2 eggs, salt, baking powder, and flour which will make a thick goo. In the last bowl pour the 1 cup of panko.  You can use breadcrumbs instead of panko, but the chicken won’t be quite as cruncy.

Dip each piece of chicken into first the cornstarch, then the egg mix, and finally the panko.  Try to shake off any extra cornstarch before coating your pieces with the egg mixture.

Put just enough oil in a deep skillet to cover the bottom and heat under medium to high heat.  After the oil is hot, put in the chicken pieces, evenly spaced and so they don’t quite touch.

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Cook until panko starts to brown and then turn and cook on the other side.  Make sure the chicken is cooked through and remove it from the pan, takes about 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking finely chop all your veggies and put in a big bowl, it’s a lot of veggies.

In a small mixing bowl add the peanut butter and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce.  Mix a little, until the peanut butter is not a blob in a sea of soy sauce but it’s not going to make a smooth mixture.  Pour the mixture onto the veggies and mix well.

Pour the veggie mix into the skillet and cook on medium to high heat stirring often until the veggies soften.  Takes about 10 minutes.

While cooking the veggies mix in a suacpan the pineapple, sugar, apple cider vinegar, remaining soy cauce, cornstarch, and garlic powder.  Mix in each ingredient one at a time beginning with the pineapple and mix well after every addition.  Cook under low heat until everything is well incorporated, you’re difficult ingredient here will be the cornstarch.  This really only takes 5 minutes or so.

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After the veggies are soft turn heat down to low and add back in the chicken.  Stir once or twice until the chicken is evenly mixed.  Add the pineapple sauce to the skillet and mix well.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so and you’re done.

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Serve with either rice or butter noodles.   If you’re a fan of broth with your rice, double the sauce mixture.

Really this is a pretty easy recipe, but it does take some time.  Around 45 minutes to an hour start to finish.

Enjoy.

Cheesy Salad Sandwich

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I’m personally a big fan of salad.  I feel that a lot of times salads get a bad name as being smothered in dressing, or having everything in them but the kitchen sink.  But they can’t be all bad.

My mom actually makes that second kind of salad and it’s amazing.  She makes the dressing from scratch and everything, but when I finally got her to give me the recipe for it, it seemed to be a mile long.  While I know that it would not be complicated to make, I generally balk at the idea of making something that has more than 20 ingredients.

I’m also not a huge fan of lettuce.  Since lettuce is the principle ingredient in most salads, and it has no taste, I suppose those other 19 ingredients are necessary to make the lettuce taste like something other than crisp green water.  And depending on how long your salad has been out of the refrigerator, you even loose the crisp.

So I’m going to say this is not so much of a recipe, as an idea, inspired by something similar I found in a cookbook.  Why not take the lettuce out of the salad?  And while I was at it I figured I could add some bread too.  Bread improves every meal, and I’m an even bigger fan of sandwiches than I am of salads.

Enjoy

Ingredients

1 tomato

½ cucumber

1 red or orange bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

2 sticks celery

2 green onions

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ cup Italian Salad Dressing

Shredded Swiss cheese

Bread

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Finely chop all the vegetables.   Mix well with the black pepper and Italian Salad Dressing.  I feel you could almost use any veggies you wanted in this, my only caution would be to try to keep it from getting too wet, as that will dilute the Italian Salad Dressing which is providing most of the seasoning.

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Just as you can use almost any veggies, you can use almost any bread.  If necessary, cut the bread in half.  On each half, or slice, sprinkle enough of the Swiss cheese to just cover the bread.  Cover the bread with a paper towel and microwave for 1 minute.  This will melt the cheese without drying it out or burning it.

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Spread about 1-2 tablespoons of the veggie mixture onto one half of the sandwich and place the other half on top.  Makes 4-8 sandwiches depending on the size of the sandwich.

Enjoy.

Not My Grandma’s Kurta

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That look on my face you can classify as dumbfounded sadness.  It was brought on by something my photographer and boyfriend said.  That looks like a grandma dress.

Now, under certain circumstances I would actually take that as a compliment.  I’m a huge fan of the song Thrift Shop, which like many other patrons of Goodwill, I feel is my theme song.  And I also love vintage clothing.  While most of my clothing is not actually vintage, which around here is code for overpriced and faded, I make a lot of vintage inspired clothing and I am very happy to get my grandmother and even my mother’s hand me downs.

But, alas, he did not mean it in the Macklemore way.  He meant it in the, that’s a dress old women wear after they have many children and gain lots of weight way.  I’m not over exaggerating this, that’s pretty much what he said.

Now, while I know the dress is many times too large, and I wasn’t putting it on intending to wear it out on the town, but that is never something you want your boyfriend to say.  As my lab manager would put it, sometimes boys just ain’t smart.

So all I was left to do was to fix the dress so that it was no longer a grandma dress, either in a bad way or a good way.  Now that’s a girl being smart.

So the first thing I did was to try to figure exactly how big it was at the sides by just pulling the fabric so that it was tight to my body while I wore it, at that width I put in a pin.  I used that pin as a guide to make another seam.

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I’m calling it another seam, instead of darts, because at the widest point I was cutting out about 2 inches of fabric.  If I tried to just take that much out at the sides, it would make the bodice gappy so I needed to extend the ‘dart’ around under the armhole and take a little out of the sleeve as well.

When you sew in these seams, you’re always going to want to work from the widest point to the smallest, that’s how you get a very sharp seam that doesn’t wrinkle.  Generally this means starting at the bottom and sewing up, but in this case, that means starting at the armhole and working down.

So that worked pretty well, but it still was a little too big.  I had expected this though since I always try to be conservative with how much fabric I take out, I can always take out more but it’s hard to add fabric back after you’ve cut it away.

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This time I actually made a kind of dart, since it fit well across my bust.  What I’ve done here is take it in even father at the waist, but as a kind of half circle that meets back with my previous stitching.  If you think about this dart in the terms of a circle, the goal is to make it as long as possible while getting the necessary width.  Maximizing that length for width is what keeps you from having the corseted waist look, unless you were going for that.

Now that I’ve got all the stitches in, I’ve got a lot of unnecessary fabric on the inside of this garment, which actually bunches up rather uncomfortably under my arms.  But never fear, scissors are here.

Unless you feel you’re going to be gaining a lot of weight soon, and who really wants to bank on that, I would suggest cutting away most of that extra fabric to make it lay better.

After about an hour or two of pinning, sewing, trying on, and occasionally ripping out seams when I had accidentally made it too small, I finally had my new and improved, no longer grandma dress.

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Eat that grandma dress.

Fried Milk

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April 20th was the biggest event all year for the student association I’m involved with, Taste of Asia.  It went really well, lots of good food and some good entertainment from the Malaysian Martial Arts group.  But it was a lot of work.

My day started really early since I was there at 11 to start setting up for the event at 2, and it’s a really good thing because we just got done in time.  At 2 o’clock everything was ready; the servers were lined up and ready, as well as there being a considerable amount of people in line, including me.  But the line wasn’t moving.  About ten minutes of rather impatient waiting later, I was hungry; I finally walked over to the president and asked what we were waiting for.  The answer was easy, we needed someone to announce for the event to begin, emphasis on me.

Well, I’m not going to say I didn’t want to be MC and I’m not afraid of the stage, so I took a deep breath and said, in not quite my loudest voice, ‘Welcome To The 9th Annual Taste of Asia Celebration!’ and a lot of other stuff, ending with, ‘let’s serve the food!’  Lots of cheers to that one, I wasn’t the only one who was hungry.

At this point I figured I could sneak back in line and get some of food, but alas, instead I was handed a microphone.   I realized, though, that being MC had its advantages.   While I went around interviewing the chefs, asking what country they were from, what they had cooked today, etc., they kept giving me samples of their food.  Try this, try this.  I got to have all the food I could have wanted, without having to wait in line.

One of the foods I got to try was Fried Milk, and I’m a little ashamed to say I had 3 pieces of it.  It went really quick, partially because of my loud speaker endorsement of it.  One of my favorite dishes that day, I was able to get a hold of the chef after the event and get the recipe from her.  Thank you Singing Yvonne Li, for sharing this recipe with me and allowing me to post it here.  All credit for the recipe goes to her.

Enjoy.

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Ingredients

Filling:

2 cups milk

½ cup sugar

¾ cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon butter

Batter

½ cup milk

1 egg

2/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Oil for frying

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In a saucepan over medium heat mix all the ingredients of the filling:  milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and butter.  Stir continuously until the mixture solidifies.  Should take somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes.  When mixture solidifies it’ll be a little gluey and very thick.

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Spread mixture evenly into a square or rectangular container, a little like rice crispy treats.  The container does not have to be buttered or oiled.  The filling will try to pull away from the sides and stick to itself, so press it down firmly with your hands or a spoon.

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It’ll be really hard to get it to be smooth on the top, don’t worry, you don’t have to.

Cover and cool in the refrigerator overnight, or a minimum of 4 hours.

After the filling has cooled completely, I left it in my refrigerator overnight, take it out and cut it into approximately 1 inch squares.

To make the batter, in one bowl mix the milk and egg white.  In a second bowl mix the flour, salt, and egg yolk.

In my opinion the simplest way to separate the yolk from the egg white is to carefully crack the egg and pull it apart vertically so that the egg remains in one piece of the shell.  Now pass the egg yolk from one shell half to the other, letting any of the yellowish ooze, which is the egg white, drip down into your bowl.  Pass the egg yolk three or four times from one shell half to the other until all you’re left with is the yellow center.  If a little of the yellowish ooze remains attached to the center, the yolk, that’s okay.

Heat approximately 2-3 inches of oil in a deep saucepan to high heat, around 400OF.  Make sure you have everything ready before you heat the oil, because it will heat very quickly.  Also, make sure you wait until your oil is hot enough before you start frying the pieces.

Dip each piece of filling into first the milk mixture, and then into the flour mixture.   Carefully drop the filling into the oil and fry until golden brown.  These are very heavy so they will not float the surface but stay at the bottom, which is why you don’t want as much oil.

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Pieces fry in about 5 minutes.  You’re going to want to have some kind of spoon to turn the pieces around every now and then since it’s hard to see when they get done.  Also, the oil is going to get really cloudy since a percentage of the flour on each piece is going to flake off.

Drain off any excess oil and serve hot or cold.  Also very good with chocolate sauce, but that may just be because I love chocolate.  Makes about 30 pieces.

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Enjoy

Chai Cheescake

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The first time I made this was actually for a going away party for one of my coworkers.  I had a reputation in the department as being a good baker, and I asked her what she would like me to make.   She asked if I could make a cheesecake out of tea.

Well, I have to say, that was one of the strangest things I had ever heard, and I definitely hadn’t expected her to say that.  It had never occurred to me to try to bake tea into a cake, let alone a cheesecake.  She was a pretty good friend of mine, so since she had asked, I set out to apply.  So I did what any 90s kid would do.  I googgled it.

And…there are a lot of recipes for green tea cheesecake.  They all use the same basic ingredient list, tea, cream cheese, sugar, and eggs.  That’s not very hard.  Since she was Indian, and not Japanese, I figured she would prefer Chai tea to green; and that was when the recipe building began.  Several pies, and one very happy but sugar high family later; I had made my very first recipe.

It also started a persistent need to improve upon every recipe I’ve cooked since.   I’ve ended up with some really good recipes, some really awful recipes, and sometimes a very angry Megan.  But meh.  You win some, you lose some.

Anyway, Enjoy!

Ingredients

6 Chai tea bags

I used the Bigelow Spice Chai, which has a lot more flavor to it; I’ve also used the Bigelow Vanilla Chai which yields a much milder cheesecake which tastes a little more like regular cheesecake.

1 cup water

2 8-ounce containers of cream cheese

½ cup sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 9 inch graham cracker pie crust

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Sorry I forgot to include the lime juice in the photo, I just use the Kroger brand.

First thing, get the cream cheese out of the refrigerator.  I really hate to wait for things to come to room temperature, and I’m usually the one who gets impatient and just uses the butter cold, but unfortunately with this recipe it actually has to be room temp.  Unfortunate.   Cut the cream cheese into cubes, and it will defrost faster.

Heat water to boiling and measure out 1 cup of boiling water and put in all six tea bags.  Cover the 1 cup of water with a plate or anything else non-paper that will completely cover the container’s mouth in order to steep the tea.  I actually used the pie crust tin.

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Preheat oven to 350OF.

After the cream cheese has come to room temperature, about 20 minutes when it’s cut up, add the sugar and blend well.   If you’re using a hand mixer this will only take a few seconds.

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Add the egg, the steeped tea, and the lime juice and blend well again.  This will be pretty messy as it makes a really liquidy mixture so make sure you’ve used a bowl with high sides.

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This should make a completely viscous mixture.  If your mixture looks like the above picture, skip the next paragraph.

If your mixture has lots of little white chunks in it, that’s the cream cheese, because it was not at room temperature yet when you started.  You can blend all you want, it won’t get well incorporated.  Don’t worry though, you can still bake it.  It will just not have as even a consistency, as those little chunks of cream cheese will bake differently than the rest of the mixture.

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Pour the mixture into the graham cracker pie crust; do not over fill the pie crust so you will probably have a little filling left over.  Very carefully place the pie crust in the oven; it will be very easy to spill so watch your step.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is starting to turn brown.

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Pie should still be a little jiggly, like jello, if touched, but should appear solid and a little puffed up.  Turn the oven off and leave the pie in for an additional 1-2 hours, until it is no longer jiggly.  Try to open the oven as little as possible, since this lets out your heat.

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When the pie is done, it will have deflated and will pull away from the tin slightly.  It will still be a little semi-solid if you serve it immediately, for it to properly set up it has to be refrigerated for 3-6 hours.

Sever warm, or refrigerate for 6 hours to cool completely.  Enjoy