Tag Archives: Chocolate Cream Pie

Gluten-Free and Me

28 Jan


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.


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


Day 278: Dietary Dave

9 Jan

Chocolate Cream Pie

Several years ago my husband and I were asked by Ashland Community Hospital (ACH)   to help them change the way that they delivered  food to their patients.  It was part of the administration’s goal to move to more patient-centered care, one aspect of which is giving patients choices in what and when they eat.   We worked with the staff to create a menu that offered healthy meal choices and was also  practical.

During that time, we had the opportunity to work closely with Dave – who is known as Dietary Dave around the halls of ACH.  Dave has worked in the kitchen at the hospital for a long time, holding various titles.  Currently, he manages the catering for all of the meetings at the hospital in addition to filling in wherever he is needed in the kitchen.

Dave brings more  to the hospital than his cooking skills, and that is his ability to work well with people.  Dave always has a ready smile and is quick to make a joke.  In an environment as charged as a hospital can be at times, Dave provides comic relief.  That is a very valuable gift.

Since I have spent time working with Dave I knew he would love a Chocolate Cream Pie… and the chocolate covered coffee beans on top were just a bonus.  It is my way of thanking Dave for his support when we worked together, and for the positive attitude that he brings to work each and every day.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.  ~Winston Churchill

Day 235: Parenting

27 Nov

Being a parent is a job that comes with many challenges. How we handle those challenges is up to us. One would think that with a job this important, there would be a manual that would be given out before you left the hospital with your new baby. But that is not the case. Instead we hear words of advice from our parents and friends, read articles in magazines, ask our doctors countless questions, and pray like crazy. And most of the time we do the right thing.

Right now, a friend of mine is going through a difficult time, and I called to lend an ear if she needs someone to talk to (or yell at) and offer any other kind of support should she need it. I also brought her a gluten-free chocolate cream pie as a treat to help her through these trying times.

I started with the recipe for gluten free peanut butter cookies from Carol Kicinski’s blog “Simply Gluten Free“:

Then I crushed the cookies, added a bit of butter and pressed the mixture into a pie tin and baked it for ten minutes. Then I added the chocolate pie filling to the cooled pie shell and topped it with whipped cream and shaved chocolate so it looked as it does at the top of the page.

Tonight I thought I would  also leave her with some sage advice  (and a poem) from folks far wiser than me:

Children aren’t happy without something to ignore, And that’s what parents were created for. Ogden Nash

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it. Harry S. Truman

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. ~Robert Fulghum

When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out. ~Erma Bombeck


When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking
– Unknown

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.

Parents with little childWhen you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I LOOKED… and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

Day 200: Reed

23 Oct

Reed is a twenty something young man living in Ashland. Though I have known his mother, Martha, for years, for some reason or another, I have never met Reed. Martha recently saw an article about my pie project and sent me an email in which she told me that Reed and I have pie baking in common.

It seems that when Reed was in the 5th grade he participated in the after school ski program and became enthralled with skiing. Martha knew that this hobby would cost money and she talked to Reed about how he might earn that money.

Since Reed liked baking, it seemed natural to create the “Ski Pass Pie Company.” Prior to the ski season, beginning in October, Reed would pre-sell pies to his friends and neighbors and then deliver them hot from the oven to their doorsteps. In this way, he raised the money for his ski pass and the occasional piece of ski equipment.

Reed ran his pie company for five years and then passed it on to his sister. Through that business experience they both learned lifelong skills. Among them: how to work with people, food preparation and cleanup, and sales techniques. And they had fun and learned to ski as well! Martha said that she told the kids that if they can bake a pie, they can probably do anything. Perhaps that’s true.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned a few things about pies. The first is that pie baking is not easy for everyone. It wasn’t always easy for me either, but after hundreds of pies, I got better at it.

The second thing I’ve learned, is that when people get a pie, they (often) become happier. They know that someone has spent some time and effort on their behalf. And unfortunately, we are all so busy that this practice is not as common as it might be.

This afternoon, I brought a Chocolate Cream Pie to Reed’s house, but he was not at home. His younger sister accepted it for him and said that she knew that Reed would be glad to receive it – seems that she knows that giving a pie is a way of showing a person that you care. And that’s what this mission is all about.

Day 129: Stephan

13 Aug

Today the Medford Food Coop had its Grand Opening. Many people have been waiting for this event for a long time. And I know that the co-op staff has been working like crazy to make this happen.

My son (Coco), and my Rotary exchange student (Stephan) and I volunteered to help with the opening. Stephan and Coco directed parking, while I sat at a desk with Kay (another co-op spouse) helping folks get their co-op member cards. It was a lot of fun – and the time flew by!

It was about 2PM when we finally left the store to go home. We all were really tired but felt that the day had gone well. So many people had come to see the co-op and we received so many compliments about the fact that it was finally a reality.

When we were heading home I glanced in the back seat and saw that Stephan had dozed off. He had gotten up early and had worked about 5 hours in the hot parking lot. I knew that I wanted to give him a pie while he was here visiting – and what better way to say thanks for his help today than with a Chocolate Cream Pie?

We hosted Stephan in our home in the Spring of 2006. He is from Germany and was able to speak four languages. He was always trying to understand the nuances of (my) english. One day he asked if he could eat something that was in the fridge. I answered, “Sure, that’s fine.” And I was stopped cold in my tracks when Stephan asked, “Is it fine as in – Sure, fine go ahead and eat it (all the while sounding angry) or do you mean, “Okay, sure, it is fine” (and really being okay with it). It was so remarkable to me that Stephan had picked up on this subtle difference in the language (oh, and by the way, he did get to eat what he’d asked about).

The Rotary Exchange program has been a huge factor in our lives. Both of our children have gone on exchange (our daughter to Denmark, and our son to the Czech Republic) and we have learned through them that the world is really quite small; that we are all connected.

Last year we planned to visit Coco when he was in the Czech Republic and I contacted Stephan to let him know that we would be in Europe and hoped that we could see him as well. And as I had been hoping to visit Paris (since I was 19 or so) I sort of mentioned that I would like the chance to fit a short trip to France in our itinerary.

And as miracles sometimes do happen, Stephan (and his wonderful family) helped arrange for our family to visit Paris. We stayed in an apartment near his Grandma and shared Easter breakfast with his family. It was absolutely amazing!

We are so very happy to have had the chance to get to know Stephan – and his family – through the Rotary exchange program. Our lives are richer because of this experience – and we are all incredibly grateful.