July 25, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie

Not the best photo, but we weren't worried about photos at the time!

Sometimes you just have to improvise. I mean, not all rental houses are stocked as fully as we might hope them to be.

But, when you are celebrating a very important person's impending nuptials with a bachelorette party to end all bachelorette parties--in Lake Tahoe no less--there must be chocolate peanut butter pie.

And so I crushed the graham crackers for the crust in a Ziplock bag with a melon (success!), because there was no food processor. And Amber "whipped" the cream for the mousse in the blender (mostly a success!), because there was not an electric beater. Having no tablespoon measuring spoon, we dutifully counted out 3 teaspoons for each one. The fact that there was no also pie pan was also a bit of a set back. Luckily, there was a Kmart down the way, so I bought one. (When is the last time you were in a Kmart? Weird!) Pie pan doesn't fit in the freezer? Refrigerator will have to do. Sometimes you just have to be flexible.

This pie is really rich (you probably got that impression from the name), but it is super easy and very delicious--if you like peanut butter and chocolate. (If you don't like peanut butter and chocolate, you should really, really work on that.) This is a chilled pie, so it's great for summer parties. Make it ahead, then just sit back and enjoy the feather boas---er, festivities.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie
  • Non-stick vegetable oil spray
  • 7 whole graham crackers, coarsely broken
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick), unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)
  • 2/3 plus 1 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 6 ounces (1 cup) peanut butter chips
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (like Skippy, not old-fashioned or freshly ground)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch glass pie pan with non-stick spray. Blend graham crackers, melted butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor until moist clumps form. Press crumb mixture over bottom and up sides of prepared pie dish. Bake crust until lightly browned, around 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine chocolate chips, 2/3 cup whipping cream, corn syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes, checking it frequently. Whisk until melted and smooth. Spread chocolate mixture over the bottom of the crust. Freeze 10 minutes.
  3. Microwave peanut butter chips and 3/4 cup cream in a large microwave-safe bowl on medium heat at 15 second intervals, stirring often, until chips soften. Whisk in peanut butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Set aside and cool to barely lukewarm. In another medium bowl, beat remaining 1 cup cream and and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl until very thick, but not yet holding peaks. Fold in peanut butter mixture in 3 additions. Spoon mousse evenly over chocolate layer. Chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

July 5, 2011


There was a time in my life when I refused to eat pasta with "red sauce." I would only eat pasta with pesto. While I have become much less picky about my pasta sauces as I've, um,... matured, I still think pesto is delicious. I would eat it with a spoon if I could get away with it.

Pesto is usually quite expensive to buy at the grocery store. As you can imagine, I've often entertained the idea of making my own. The problem is that it is also expensive to make. Pine nuts are expensive. Basil can be expensive. Good olive oil is expensive. Good Parmesan is expensive. It can add up. And while not exactly cheap, pesto is less expensive to buy at Costco than to make from scratch. Or so I have told myself.

So, all my good intentions of making my own pesto over the last couple of years have been thwarted. Until now. I have recently found out that you can make pesto with nearly any kind of nut--not just pine nuts. Break through! I usually have pecans and other nuts on hand, so that is no extra cost. I used a pecan and walnut combo in this version, but feel free to substitute whatever kind of nut you have available. I have heard that almond pesto is also very good.

Also, it is prime basil season out there, at least up here in Portland. I was at the farmer's market and I could not get away from the sweet, herb-y smell of fresh basil. One stand was selling three bunches of basil for $5. (The equivalent of at least 5 cups of basil leaves.) I couldn't resist--especially because I just happened to have some Parmesan in the fridge. I was pesto ready and I couldn't deny it any longer.

I first tried to use the Magic Bullet that I had recently received as a gift, but no dice. I whipped out my mini-food processor and turned my basil into pesto in no time. This is an easy and quick recipe that is very flexible. I tried to use as little olive oil as possible, since I find the store-bought kind too greasy. That is the added benefit of making your own--you get to make it precisely the way you like it.

I used a cup of this freshly made pesto to make a pesto potato salad for a Fourth of July barbecue, which I will post shortly. I have a ton of pesto left, too, so I see some pesto pasta in my near future. For the quantity of pesto this makes, it definitely ended up being cheaper than buying it at the grocery store in the end.  Worth it, for sure.

Happy summer!

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 2/3 cup to 1 1/2 cup olive oil, depending on your preference (use olive oil that tastes good on it's own)
  • 1 cup toasted nuts, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts)
  • 5 or more cloves of garlic, or more to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  1. Put basil, olive oil, nuts and garlic and salt in food processor.
  2. Blend until combined
  3. Add Parmesan and blend for a few seconds until incorporated.
Makes at least 2 cups. You can easily half this recipe for a smaller batch.
To store: cover with surface completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a week.