Archive | June, 2013

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.


Giving Thanks with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

5 Jun


Last week I was in West Palm Beach, Florida trying to help my Dad figure out what he is going to do once he leaves the rehab facility.  In a way, I know he would be happy staying there because he knows  the routine and has learned to negotiate the situation, but unfortunately that is not an option.

Next steps  was a difficult topic for us both to discuss.   I know that my Dad would prefer to stay in Florida, but he can’t live alone right now and he has no one to live with there.   Knowing that there weren’t many options, I offered him a place in our home for a while.   I am hoping that this will at least give us some time to explore the possibilities.

While in Florida, I made a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for my Dad’s surgeon, Dr. Miguel Lopez-Viego.  He was the doctor who performed Dad’s carotid surgery a few weeks ago.  When I met Dr. Lopez-Viego in March, I had given him my card so that his office could get in touch with me in an emergency.  He noticed the sketch of a woman holding a pie and asked if I made Strawberry Rhubarb pies.  Then he told me that he had once had a Strawberry Rhubarb pie and loved it, but because rhubarb doesn’t grow in Florida, he hasn’t had one since.

Knowing that story, and feeling tremendously grateful that my Dad’s surgery had gone well, I brought some fresh rhubarb from Oregon on the plane with me when I flew out to see my Dad.  As soon as I had the chance (remember I was spending many hours a day with my Dad at the facility) I put together a pie for Dr. Lopez-Viego.  As it was cooling I realized I had no idea if I would be able to deliver it to him… would he be in the office?  in surgery?  on vacation?

strawberry rhubarb pie

When I called his office, I heard the familiar recording and when I was prompted, left a very long (and dare I say unusual?) message for Nurse Annie that went something like this: “Hi Annie, this is Karen Amarotico, my Dad is a patient.  This will sound strange, but I made a pie for the doctor and want to deliver it today, but don’t know where to bring it to…”  Then I left my number and hung up and wondered how long it would be before I heard from Annie.

A short time later, my cell phone rang and it was Annie – the doctor was in his office and I could deliver the pie there.  Less than thirty minutes (and a torrential rainstorm) later, I delivered the pie to the receptionist with this request, “I made this to thank Dr. Lopez-Viego for taking care of my Dad.  Please give him a hug for me” and with that, I left.  About ten minutes later, the doctor called my cell to thank me for the pie and said it was delicious.   It felt good to know that I could do something special for him, since he had worked so hard to help my Dad.  And though Dr. Lopez-Viego is paid to do just that, I know that a gift from the heart is never bad idea.

You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet