Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter At Ijams Nature Center

The sun was shining and the temps were in the low 70's.  I packed a picnic and Stone and I spent Easter at Ijams Nature Center.  Who knew there was so much outdoor activity so close to home!  Ijams Nature Center, located on 300 acres of urban green space, has a climbing location, not that we would do this, but its great for those who are interested.  There is a Beer Garden, Historic Home Site, birding trails, Tennessee River Boardwalk, Jo's Grove, the mysterious Keyhole at the Ross Marble Quarry, and the Historic Mead's Quarry, which is now listed on the National Register for Historic Places.  You can bike, canoe or paddle board which you can rent from River Sports Outfitters at Mead's Quarry. 
There is also a breakfast eatery, Peg's Kitchen, that is open on Saturday mornings only.  Hmmm, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  One Saturday morning when Stone doesn't have golf, we will have to visit Peg's Kitchen.

Meads Quarry

 The Key Hole At Historic Ross Marble

 Spring Beauty

 Abandoned railroad tracks.

 River Boardwalk

 Along The River Boardwalk

 Maude Moore's Cave Along The River Boardwalk

 Celandine Poppy

 Virginia Bluebells

 Yellow Trillium

 Muscari

 Ijams Nature Center

 Where did all the people go???

Redbud Tree

The best part of a picnic is the dessert.  The meringue, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, filled with tart lemon custard.  That just says spring.

Lemon Meringue Nest
Meringue Nest Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
Meringue Nest Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven 200'.
2. In an electric mixer (make sure your bowl is greased free),  A stainless steel bowl is best, plastic can harbor grease and this can prevent egg whites to form stiff peaks.  beat egg whites and cream of tarter until the eggs start to form soft peaks.
3. Slowly add the sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time while beating at high-speed.
4.  Beat until the egg whites are shiny and the peaks are firm.
5. On a cookie sheet lined parchment paper, draw with a pencil, circles on the paper the size you want the nest to be.  I did 4 1/2" circles, filling the circles with 1 cup of meringue mixture.  It made 5.  They do swell as they bake, so they become even bigger.  You can do any size you want, smaller or one big one.
6.  Fill in the circles with the meringue using a spoon, filling the whole circle making a wide indent with your spoon to make a well to create the nest.
7.  Bake for about 2 hours.  Turn off oven.  Let cool completely in the oven with the door shut.
8.  These can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Do not do these on a rainy or really humid day.
Lemon Custard Filling:
1 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cup water
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoon lemon zest, (1/4 ounce, 2 large lemons)
1/2 cup lemon juice
Lemon Custard Instructions:
1.  On a double boiler put the following: sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water.  Boil until the mixture becomes thick.  Continue stirring while it cooks.
2.  Add beaten egg yolks and continue stirring with a whisk.  If you don't the egg yolks will begin to cook.  No one wants scrambled eggs in their custard!
3.  Add butter, lemon zest and lemon juice, and stir.
4.  Remove from heat.  Let cool.
5.  Cover with plastic wrap right on top of the custard, lay it directly on the custard.  This prevents it from getting a skin.
6.  Put it in the refrigerated until ready to use.
Trick: take the custard and pass it through a sieve to remove lumps ( this will make your custard silky and smooth).  Recipe adapted from: http://mysweetremedy.com/tag/easter-dessert/
Assembly:
Fill the meringue nest with the lemon custard.
For Easter you could add a few easter egg candies and sprinkle with a little toasted coconut, or top with raspberries like I did.