Tag Archives: Chocolate Cream Pie

It’s Springtime!

25 Mar

P1000824I’ve always loved springtime… daffodils popping up in the yard, asparagus and strawberries appearing at the market, the chill of winter fading, and a sense of new beginnings circling.  Last year at this time I was traveling to Florida because my Dad had a stroke.  During that time I barely noticed the world around me because I was busy learning medical jargon and trying to make sense of things.

This year, life still is presenting challenges, my Dad’s health being one of them.   As always, for me the hardest part about this journey is that I am not able to “make him well” and that is hard to take.  I want to know that my efforts have some effect, but the truth is that sometimes they don’t.

When things are out of my control (and aren’t they always?) I gravitate towards areas where I feel like I am making a difference.  One of those places where I have found myself doing that has been at my neighbor’s house.  Anny and her new baby boy, Sebastian, are living there.  Sometimes I can help Anny by holding Sebastian while singing and rocking.  If I am lucky and he falls asleep in my arms I almost feel as if I have been awarded the Nobel Prize. In other words, my skills have been validated.

Yesterday I baked an Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Chicken Apple Sausage Quiche for Anny.  I know that taking care of a new baby (and nursing him) is very demanding… and I wanted to give her a special treat for doing such a great job as a new Mom!

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I also baked several batches of Pecan Shortbread cookies this week.  I LOVE those things.. and really, what’s not to love? These cookies are a simple combination of sugar, butter, flour and pecans… and they’re delicious!

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Some of those cookies made it into the hands of the men who delivered my new Kitchenaid oven yesterday (oh my goodness… it is so lovely!) and some of them were given to a homeless man who held a sign saying “Anything helps.”  I’ll admit, I ate two of them and could easily have polished them all off!

Finally, yesterday I made a Chocolate Cream Pie for some friends at a local radio station, Kool 103.  Once again, I was the lucky winner of a prize… and to thank them I dropped off the pie.  Making goodies for them has long been my tradition… and I think that there’s a slight chance that they might even look forward to me winning!

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Tonight I send good wishes to you all for a Happy Spring… and if you are in the mood, try out this recipe.  You’ll be glad you did!

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix butter and sugar together until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour until just combined and then add the chopped nuts.  Take tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough and roll into balls.  Roll the balls of dough in sugar and place on cookie sheet; gently flatten each dough ball.  Place pan with cookies into oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are beginning to brown around the edge.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and let cookies cool.  Enjoy!

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”  Julia Child

Sharing our Gifts

18 Feb

When I am alone at home I often sing along with songs on the radio.  When I was younger, I sang with the school chorus and also in the church choir.  I guess you could say that I am a singer… but it’s not a gift that I share with the world.   Oh, I’ve been known to sing babies to sleep and after a glass of wine, I sing along with my friend Mark as he plays guitar (he calls this Karenokie).   Somewhere along the line I decided to hide that part of me… or maybe I just protect it from scrutiny.

singer

Another thing I like to do is play with paint.  I’ve painted cards for friends and painted rooms in my home, but it’s not what others would call art.  It’s just fun for me, and again, it’s not a gift that I openly share.

And of course you all know that I love to bake.  Long ago I learned this skill and found something in it that spoke to me and also discovered that it was a way for me to connect with others.   When I was a kid, and a new neighbor moved in, I would tell my Mom that we needed to bring them a cake for I’d learned that from TV shows like Donna Reed’s.

Fortunately, my Mom didn’t try to stop me and baking became a way for me to get to know many neighbors and friends over the years. Baking is something I do almost every day whether I need to or not.  I love everything about baking and have found that for me it is a way to share that love with those around me.

In the last week I made three pies.  The first one was a quiche and was gifted to a friend who is facing a transition.   I hope that this asparagus, roasted peppers, and cheddar cheese pie makes evident our love and support to her and her family.

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Then on Valentine’s Day, our exchange student, Lucka, moved to her next host family.   Since we’ve been so blessed to have had a great time with her, I wanted to send her off to her new family with a gift and a Chocolate Cream Pie just seemed perfect for the occasion.

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It’s been great having Lucka live with us for these past two months and I hope that her new family has as much fun getting to know her as we have.  One of our favorite things about this time together has been  listening to Lucka laugh at silly videos such as this one.  Her boisterous laugh is priceless!

Finally, yesterday I made a quiche for a woman that I’ve never met.  Another friend found out about my pie story and asked if I would gift her friend a pie. Seems the woman is battling cancer but right now has an appetite and needs to gain weight.   Well, a bacon, pepper, and jack cheese quiche should help with that, and I hope that the love that went into it’s making will strengthen her as well.

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We all have gifts and many times, for one reason or another, we choose not to share them.  My hope is that at least one person reading this will share his/her gift with someone they care about.   It would be a shame to die with your gifts still inside.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you.  What you do with it is your gift back to God.”  Leo Buscaglia

Chocolate Cream Pie… and gilding the lily

23 Jun

Tuesday evening I left my home in Oregon to take a red-eye flight across the county to “release” my Dad from the rehab facility where he’s been for the last couple of months.  The folks there say that he has reached the goals that they had set for him and that he is ready to find another place to live.  Trouble is, my Dad can’t really live alone right now and the “assisted living” place that we visited left much to be desired.   So, in a few days Dad will come and stay with me for a while.   I’ll share more about that at another time… suffice it to say that this will be a tremendous challenge for both of us.

In the time before I left, I really needed to spend some time making a pie.  It’s my way of finding my “center.”   One of my favorite types of pies is Chocolate Cream Pie and, in fact, the last two pies I have made were of this type. One pie was given to honor a new baby named “Chloe” (Congratulations to Carla and Brandon and big sister Sophia!) and the other was given to a family that I had learned was leaving the area after having been here for too short a time.   They were moving back to the mid-west to be nearer to family and as I listened to their story, I heard a touch of sadness at the prospect of leaving and knew that a pie would help ease the transition.   I mean, really, how could it not?

untopped chocolate cream pieb

When I make chocolate cream pie, I follow a recipe much like this one (but mine uses a bit of half and half in addition to the milk).   Once the filling is placed in the cookie crust (I use crushed Oreo’s or these by Newman’s Own), you must let it cool completely.  To finish the pie,  I begin by making sweetened whipped cream.  Occasionally I  will add a splash of Kahlua to the whipped cream instead of vanilla for a more scrumptious taste… but a spoonful of vanilla works just fine too.

Once the cream is whipped, I spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and then I pipe it onto the cooled pie.  Now, here is where some folks differ in what should happen next.   I think the pie looks fine as it is… but somehow I can never leave well enough alone.  Instead, I prefer to top it with a pile of chocolate shavings or a drizzle of melted chocolate or even by topping it with chocolate covered espresso beans. Someone close to me refers to this habit of mine as “gilding the lily“.    I’d love to know what you think!

chocolate cream pie before adding chocolate shavings

 

chocolate cream pie with chocolate shavings

 

chocolate cream pie with drizzlePhotos from Karen's camera 406

 

The superfluous, a very necessary thing.
Voltaire

 

Chocolate Cream Pie, Travel Woes, and Virtual Pies for a few Angels

21 Apr

Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie

As you know, I have spent the last three weeks in Florida with my Dad after he suffered a “major” stroke.  At first it seemed that my Dad would have surgery almost immediately to clear his carotid artery, but the doctors have decided that they would like to give my Dad more time to heal and so his surgery has been postponed until mid-May.  And since my Dad’s condition appears to be improving each day, and because I had committed to a few catering events, and because I missed my husband, I decided to come back home for a while.

In the days before I left, I tried to wrap up all the loose ends for my Dad that I could: arranging for the payment of bills, handling of laundry and mail, and most importantly, his health concerns and future care.   One thing that I considered tremendously important was to convey to the nurses and aides that I want (more likely need) them to watch over my Dad when I am not there to do so.   How could I do that?  Well, being me, I thought a pie might do the trick.

My nephew Wayne and I shopped for the ingredients after we had put my Dad to bed one night and two days before I left Florida I brought a chocolate cream pie to the nurses in my Dad’s wing.   They smiled and thanked me but I felt that something was wrong.  And after thinking about it, the best explanation I have is that those nurses don’t know me at all; they certainly don’t know, or care, about my pie blog and they just might not trust food from a stranger.  And though I truly hope this isn’t true, I don’t believe that the nurses ate one bite of that pie.

In retrospect, I understand; why should they trust me? Perhaps I should have just bought another pizza, but the “pie lady” in me wanted to show my gratitude with a pie that I had made.   And it was an experience making a pie without my usual accoutrements (cuisinart, pastry bag and tips, etc) but I figured it out and was proud of the final product… and even if the pie wasn’t eaten, it was given in the spirit of gratitude, and that’s all that matters.

On the day that I left, I arrived at the airport and was told that my flight was cancelled.   Thus began a 33 hour odyssey to get back to southern Oregon.  I’ll spare you the details here, but will mention that I spent time in six different cities before I arrived home (including catching a late night nap in a major west coast city).  What I do want to share is that I met three lovely people (angels?) on my journey… each of whom had a parent who had suffered a stroke.

The first was a man that I met in Fort Lauderdale who had just lost his Mom. His name was Steve and we spent an hour or so (our flight was delayed) talking about our kids, our parents, and this crazy system we call “health care.”

The next angel I met, was a lady named Connie.  She was my seat mate for a few hours and as we talked (and prayed during the most turbulent parts of the flight) she told me about losing both of her parents.  She knew the path I was traveling and was willing to listen to me as I rambled on;  she was a great comfort simply by being there.

The last angel I met was a man named Matt.  He was born in London but now lives in northern California.  We struck up a conversation as we watched our flight time change over and over.  His Dad suffered a stroke 18 years ago and has survived; unfortunately, their relationship has not.  What was most amazing about Matt was that when we realized that I was not going to make my last connecting flight, he offered to take me home and introduce me to his wife and child so I would not have to spend the night in the airport.

Tonight, I am deeply grateful that my Dad survived his stroke… and also very grateful to those people who I met along my journey home.  I wish that I could give each of them a pie… but because I cannot, I hope that my sincerest thanks will do.  Each of them has reinforced my faith in humanity… and that is an amazing gift.

It  is by suffering that human beings become angels.
Victor  Hugo

Gluten-Free and Me

28 Jan

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For a person like me, who has been baking most of her life, learning to bake gluten-free has been an interesting adventure.  As far as I know, I am not affected by gluten, but it seems every week I am finding that more and more of my friends/clients are either gluten-intolerant or have been diagnosed with celiac disease.  Initially, that presented a dilemma for me, because I still wanted to create lovely food for my friends and clients.  And I can… but I just needed to learn how to do that without using my old “mainstay”, namely wheat.

The hardest part of this process was discovering that wheat is hidden in so many different foods.  This meant that I had to read ingredient labels very carefully.  Some of the ingredients that likely contain wheat are obvious – bread crumbs, pasta, couscous, tabouli, hydrolyzed wheat protein.  Then there are the foods that you might not suspect contain wheat – malt vinegar, soy sauce, beer, brewer’s yeast, and even Red Vines licorice!    Who knew?   Well, most gluten-free consumers do… because they have learned to read labels and to look up the ingredients that might not be easily identifiable such as Dinkle, Chilton, edible starch, kamut, and Farro.  

My neighbor, Deb, has been gluten-free for a while now and she has been a great source of information for me.  She has also been happy to taste the gluten-free dishes that I come up with and will offer suggestions of other dishes that I might want to try.   Sometimes she is at an event that I have catered, and she is the one “selling” my goods because she knows which ones are “safe” to eat.  It seems that many times the guests who have issues with gluten are surprised that someone made an effort to provide food for them.   I just know that if some of my guests can’t eat any of my offerings, then I haven’t really “catered” to them.

Yesterday I helped a friend with an event and made about 10 dozen gluten-free peanut butter cookies for the dessert table.  As we were arranging the platters of sweets two guests thanked me for making something that was gluten-free.   It was such a simple thing to do… and I was glad to be able to provide something that everyone could eat.

Recently my friend’s son was diagnosed with celiac disease and in an effort to show him support, my friend has decided to eliminate gluten from his diet as well.  How sweet is that?  It reminds me of the story from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.  Shauna, the gluten-free girl, has celiac.  Shauna met and then married Danny, a chef.  Soon after, Danny decided to make his restaurant gluten-free so that he could create a place where his wife could eat anything on the menu.  Isn’t that amazing?

Tomorrow is my friend’s birthday, and so tonight I made him a chocolate cream pie that is safe for his son to eat.  The crust is made with those same peanut butter cookies – crushed in the Cuisinart, mixed with a tiny bit of butter, pressed into a pie tin and baked for 10 minutes.  This recipe for chocolate pie filling usually calls for flour, but I simply substituted cornstarch and that’s all that I had to do to make his pie gluten-free.  It was the least I could do for a friend.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”

~ Cesar Chavez

For a list of foods containing gluten, go to this website,  www.celiac.com , and search for the forbidden food list.  It was created by a man named Scott Adams who was diagnosed with celiac nearly twenty years ago.  He created this list so that others wouldn’t suffer needlessly.

Imagine…

20 Nov

 

Two weeks ago, I attended a Jennifer Knapp concert at Southern Oregon University.  Ms. Knapp is a singer/songwriter who as a young woman made a name for herself in the Christian music scene, and my church (along with a few other churches and the Queer Resource Center) helped bring her to Ashland.  And while her music is riveting, it was not the only reason for her visit.  You see, Jennifer Knapp was adored as a Christian “rock star” until she came out as gay.  Then things changed.   The “Christians” that had loved her music before, now turned their backs on her.  She was no longer considered one of them.

Ms. Knapp shared her spiritual journey with the audience.  She explained how she tried to leave Christianity behind, but felt that the teachings aligned with her core beliefs… and came to the conclusion that even though she was “gay”, she was also a Christian.

After the concert, Jennifer took questions/comments from the audience.  The one that moved me to tears went as follows.  A woman in her forties shared that she had recently come out to her family, and that since that time her son has had nothing to do with her.  She asked what she could do to and Jennifer said, “Love him.  Whenever you see him, love him.  You can’t change him… but you can love him.”

Jennifer sounds like a Christian to me, by golly.   But wait, she’s gay?  So the fact that she is loving, accepting, and forgiving doesn’t count then, right?  Right.

A few days ago I saw on Facebook that it was the one year anniversary of this post, I am Christian, unless you’re gay.  It’s a great article, and if you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to do so.  The author, Dan Pearce tells us about his friend “Jacob” who is gay… and he goes on to say that his article is not about homosexuality, instead – It’s about love. It’s about kindness. It’s about friendship.  

Jacob had asked Dan to share with his audience (Dan writes the blog, single dad laughing) how it feels to be gay in a conservative Christian community.   Here is a quote from that article, “You don’t know what it’s like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want this. And I’m so tired of people hating me for it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”  

After reading the article, my heart ached for Jacob and the fact that he is virtually being shunned by the community in which he lives for being who he is - the person God made him to be.  My head raced with questions: Who are we to tell another person how to live their life?  What gives us the right to judge them?  What part of that kind of this behavior is “being Christian?”

From all the stories that I have heard about Jesus, I just can’t imagine him turning his back on anyone.  One story that many are familiar with (and one of my favorites) is the about the woman who is to be stoned to death for being an adulterer (according to ancient law).  Jesus does not question the law, but instead says “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

It seems that we are still acting like those ancient people – wanting to find fault with others (and throw stones) because they are not like us – or they’re not acting like we think they should act.   And when we are focused on others, we remain blissfully blind to our own shortcomings.   But try to imagine what the world might be like if we tried to be more like the man from whom we have the word “Christian”?   I think it’d be pretty amazing… don’t you?

Yesterday I brought a Chocolate Cream Pie to the Queer Resource Center at SOU to thank the people who helped to bring Jennifer Knapp to our area… and to recognize them for all they do to make the university a welcoming place to all students.

You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one.   I hope someday you’ll join us,  And the world will live as one.   John Lennon

 

Day 333: Coming Together

4 Mar

A few days ago I heard that a friend’s son was involved in an accident and that he was in the hospital.  The good news is that he is expected to fully recover; the “rest of the” news is that it will take some time to do so.

A friend of mine called the other day to ask if I would be interested in being “on call” for dinners as the family will have a lot to do when their son comes home, and of course, I said “yes.”  Today, when that same friend called to give me an update on the family, I asked if she thought a Chocolate Cream Pie would be appreciated.  We had a brief discussion, and decided, how could it not be?

I am always moved when, in moments like these, friends and community come together to help the person who is facing a difficult situation. In moments of crisis, we all want to help in some way or another, and usually preparing food is one area where we can actually “do something.”  Bringing food to someone in trouble is very common in many cultures; it is one need we can fill.

And so tonight I brought a Chocolate Cream Pie to our friends house (and put it in the cooler that was on the front porch) for the friends and family that will be there soon.  We send our love and good wishes for a speedy recovery and heartfelt thanks that the injuries weren’t much worse.

“There are no mistakes, no coincidences.  All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Day 316: An Amazing Gift

16 Feb


Chocolate Cream Pie

A few weeks ago one of my fellow Rotarians approached me and told me that he wanted to recommend someone for one of my pies.  When I asked who it was he wanted me to bring a pie to he said it was the gal who worked as a barista at his favorite Starbucks.  Then I asked, “Why does she deserve a pie?” and he answered because she is expecting a baby.  And the best part? She is a surrogate mom… the baby that she is carrying will go home to live with someone else.

Since that conversation took place, I have been fairly busy – if you can call a vacation to Mexico busy that is – but I never forgot about that barista.  I wanted to acknowledge the gift that she was giving but also wondered how to approach her.  After all, she was pregnant, and I thought she might be reluctant to take food from someone she did not know.  How would I explain this project?  What would you do?

Today I thought I would just call that Starbucks and talk to a manager and tell my story.  When I called this morning and asked to speak to a manager, the person who answered the phone said she was a supervisor and could help me.  I explained my story and asked if she thought that I could give a pie to the most generous barista on the planet.  She told me that she was that barista’s best friend, and she thought her friend would love a pie.  That is why tonight I brought a Chocolate Cream Pie to Starbucks, and though I did not meet the barista, I was assured that she would receive it.  This was my gift to her to acknowledge the tremendous gift that she has given.  The world is a wonderful place because of people like her.

The only gift is a portion of thyself.

 

Day 300: Lucy

31 Jan

Lucy and her Dolphins

Before we left the apartment today I put together a Chocolate Cream Pie using the same basic custard recipe that I followed yesterday except in today’s batch I added about 4 ounces of chocolate.  Later I tried making whipped cream with what I thought was whipping cream but eventually I figured out that it was closer to half and half (which will never hold a soft peak no matter how long you whip it!).  So until I had whipping cream, I just let the pie set up in the fridge.

Then we took a walk along the beach of Barra de Navidad for the first time since we arrived.  We had heard others mention that in the last week or so there had been an underground (under sea?) earthquake that released some toxic levels of gas which caused thousands of fish to die.   This disaster followed the hurricane that occurred last fall in Barra and caused quite a bit of damage to many of the buildings along the shoreline.

It is hard to understand why some regions experience so much devastation and others seem to go unscathed.  And yet we did not see people complaining at all.  Instead the waiters beckoned us to eat and the vendors set up their wares to sell and somehow the people just carry on as best they can.

After our walk we found a grocer who sold whipping cream and once home I whipped it up and spread it atop the pie.  Finally I found a chocolate bar and grated some of it for the garnish and then we were off to deliver the pie to Lucy.

Lucy runs a restaurant in Barra named appropriately, Lucy’s.  We first met her on our last visit to Barra.  We were introduced to her by our friends Marie and Dale and have enjoyed several cold drinks and the occasional hot meal there.

Lucy has a way of drawing people to her.  She has had guests from around the globe and she has displayed flags from those countries on her wall.  In addition, we saw  she had posted hand-lettered welcome signs to returning visitors.   It’s that kind of thing that keeps her guests coming back year after year – a warm welcome and the knowledge that they have been remembered.

To recognize her for her warmth and hospitality, tonight I brought Lucy the Chocolate Cream Pie.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will share it with her many friends.

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.  Nancie J. Carmody

 

Day 279: Second Chances

10 Jan

Today I saw a friend who we have not seen in years.  When she was younger she made some mistakes and was sent to prison.  She has now served her time and is home again.  We are so happy for her and wanted to extend a warm welcome  to her and so we stopped by to see her with flowers and a Chocolate Cream Pie (suggested by her Dad).

This evening she spoke of her time away and told me that she really used her time wisely.   With the help of several sponsors, she has been through a twelve step program and now has become a sponsor for others that are going through the program.   She is more grounded than ever before, has realigned her priorities and is thrilled to be back with her family.

We are very grateful that she is home again and offer our love and support as she adjusts to her new life.

If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you.  What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.     Mary Pickford

 

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