Archive | August, 2012

Pies, pies, and more pies

28 Aug

It seems that I can always find a reason to make a pie for someone.   For example, two weeks ago I was catering a rehearsal dinner for a young man and his bride-to-be.  As I spoke to his Mom I found out that her son’s favorite pie is Lemon Meringue… and so of course I just “had” to make this pie for him.  It was my way of wishing him well as he steps into the next phase of his life.

Lemon Meringue Pie

And as you may recall, my husband and I are currently hosting two Japanese exchange students, Saya and Hitomi, through a program at Southern Oregon University.  What has been most interesting is that we have found ourselves trying to see the Rogue Valley through their eyes and are acting like tourists in our own town.

Last week, we took Saya and Hitomi to the Josephine County Fair – and they were treated to the sights and sounds of Monster trucks.  This is not something that we would have ordinarily sought out, but the girls really seemed to enjoy it – and that made it all the more fun.

Hitomi and Saya at the fair

We also spent two days up at Lake of the Woods and that was really quite fun.  We visited our friend Dean (who is also hosting two students – Yuta and Hiroaki) at his family’s cabin and he took all of the kids “tubing.”  They had a blast and we were so grateful for the chance to experience the beauty and majesty of the lake.  As part of our contribution to the weekend’s festivities, I made a Blueberry Peach Cobbler for us all to share.

Prepping the Blueberry Peach Cobbler

Which brings us to this last weekend – which was our last weekend with Saya and Hitomi.  I really wanted to take them to the beach because to me one of the best parts of Oregon is the coast.  Fortunately, our friends Mark and Connie live in Gold Beach and they were more than happy to have us come for a visit.   And to thank them for their generosity we brought along the makings of a lovely dinner, some good wine, and, you guessed it, a pie:  Blueberry Peach!  Who knew that last Friday was Peach Pie Day?

Saya, Connie, Mark, and Hitomi

Not only were we blessed with gorgeous weather and good company – but we were lucky to have a chance to shop at one of the biggest “rummage sales” I’ve ever seen (which benefitted Coastal Home Health Hospice of Curry County). There was more than 15,000 square feet of merchandise to choose from and the sale was held at the Hospice Market Place on Wedderburn Loop on the north bank of the Rogue River.   What a great weekend!

Before signing off, I would like to mention that I made one additional pie this past week.  It was made for a young person I’ve never met who late one night thought that they didn’t have any options.  Fortunately, someone came to their rescue and this young person has been given a second chance at life.  Upon hearing this story, I was very grateful for second chances… and had to send a gift to let that person know that there is someone out there who doesn’t even know them… but truly cares about them.  And I believe that we all deserve second chances… and that we all are loved.  It’s that simple… and that amazing.

Life’s gifts are where you find them

16 Aug

How can it be that I bake almost every day and have not taken the time to write a post in weeks?  I can’t explain it except to say that I can think up many reasons to bake something – but by day’s end, it’s hard to find the energy to write a single word!  Yet I can’t begin to imagine going for weeks without baking.

Chocolate Cream Pie topped with chunks of Cary’s Toffee

It seems I am always finding a reason to bake.  Recently, I baked a chocolate cream pie for my friend Judi who was leaving her job after 28 years.  She is looking forward to what the future holds for her – and to spending more time with her seven grandchildren (who I hoped would be able to help her with all of that chocolate!)

And then last weekend was the first anniversary for the Medford Food Co-op and I was asked to make some cakes for the celebration.  I made three cakes – two of which were chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sour cream frosting.  The third cake was also chocolate and had a chocolate frosting but with raspberry filling –  and this one was gluten-free and dairy free as well!  That made a lot of people happy… and I was tickled to provide a cake that worked within those dietary restrictions.

Lest you think I have forgotten, there was a “pie recipient” in the mix.  I’d been listening  to Jefferson Public Radio on Saturday night not long ago, and the program that was on is one of our favorites.  It is called American Rhythm.  The host of this program is a man named Craig Faulkner and this is what is said about Craig’s program on the JPR website: Craig Faulkner uses his extensive archive of classic R&B, Swing, Jazz, Blues, and the popular music of a time gone by to honor and celebrate the Golden Era of American Music.

As I was preparing dinner and listening to his show that night I thought, I should make this man a pie!  You see, we’ve listened to his show for many years and I realized, he doesn’t know how much we enjoy this music.  I wanted to bake him a pie to say “Thank you for bringing us this lovely gift each week!”  However, this was a little bit of a challenge because I didn’t know Craig Faulkner at the time.  But after a few emails and a few phone calls, we became acquainted… and I was able to meet him and give him a berry pie (his wife had said he’d like that).

Fresh Blackberry and Raspberry Pie

You see, I think it is important to take the time to let people know when they’ve made a positive impact on our lives.   Even if all we offer is a simple “Thank you” to the person who has changed our lives for the better, we will have acknowledged their efforts – and that is the least we can do.

Oh –  I forgot to mention that we are hosting two lovely Japanese students for a few weeks.  Their names are Hitomi and Saya and they are here to participate in an intensive English program at Southern Oregon University.  Each day we talk, ask questions, and laugh at the differences in our languages… and each day their English gets a little bit better.  It’s been quite an amazing process to witness!

Saya and Hitomi

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 
―    Marcel Proust

A Cake, A Cobbler, and Baby Marley

2 Aug

Chocolate Raspberry Whipped Cream Cake

Today is the first Thursday of the month… and that means that the Ashland Rotary Club celebrates the birthdays of the members born in this month.  This day is important to me because for the last dozen or so years I have been the creator of the monthly birthday cake.   It is one of the ways that I serve the club and I enjoy it because it gives me the chance to connect with everyone in the club at least once a year.

At today’s meeting,  the program was given by one of our club members, Tim Simonsen, who talked about Mercy Ships.  Tim’s daughter, Alyssa, is a nurse and last year she volunteered for eight months aboard the Mercy Ship and for two weeks, Tim and his wife, Kathy, worked there as well. The entire crew is made up of volunteers who not only work for free, but  also pay room and board to work on this ship!

Mercy Ships currently operates the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world.

Though I’d heard about the Mercy hospital ship before, today was the first time I saw what it was that they do and I was deeply moved by the stories that Tim shared with us.   The mission of Mercy Ship is “Bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor” and the world is a much better place because of the efforts of all of their many volunteers.  If you’d like to learn more about Mercy Ships, you can see a short video about their mission here.

After the meeting ended,  I went back home with the goal of making a Raspberry Peach cobbler.  My friend Jamey’s son, Ryan, and his wife, Savannah, have recently had a little girl, and I wanted to bring a pie to congratulate them.  And just in case they wanted to share it with Jamey (who is gluten-intolerant), I knew I had to make it without flour!

Preparing the cobbler.

First I peeled the peaches and sliced them into a bowl.  Then I tossed the peaches with a bit of sugar and some cornstarch (not flour). Once this was combined, I added some fresh raspberries and placed it in a glass pie dish.  For the cobbler topping, I combined two cups of gluten-free flour (I use Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix when I don’t make my own) with 4 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of baking powder.  Mix this together until crumbly and then stir in 1/2 cup of half and half until it just comes together, and then gently plop it on top of the prepared fruit.  Bake for about 35 minutes at 375 and you will find a delicious dish waiting in the oven when you’re through!

This is what I brought to welcome Baby Marley… and to congratulate her parents, Ryan and Savannah.  I wish them all things good and a lifetime of happiness.

A sleeping baby Marley!

PS More good news!  The cake that I sent to my son, Coco, for his birthday TWO WEEKS AGO! has finally arrived… and is still edible.   And for that my heart is happy!