Many weeks ago, at dinner, I asked the kids’ what kind of pie they would like for Thanksgiving dessert. My teenager began with I don’t know… then was quickly interrupted by his younger brother, Michael who chuckled, then blurted out, I want pumpkin pie (for those of you new here, Michael, 12, has a twin, Ely, they both have the neurological disorder autism with moderate expressive language.). We all looked at each other, shocked. Then Ely chimed in, with perfect eye contact, to say I want apple pie cake. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I know it doesn’t sound like anything much, but for us, these moments are a big deal. You see, Michael and Ely don’t usually take part in group conversation, so to help with this we prompt speech or sound out the first letter of the word in conversation. It was another glimmer of hope that we are getting through, we are breaking through, more so every day (we, as in my husband and me. I could never manage it all without him.).
This year was also the first they actively participated in setting the table and picking flowers from the front yard to decorate the table (with a watchful eye from their oldest brother). These are the simple actions I took for granted with my older two (neurotypical sons’). It was easy to take for granted what is expected, I guess —speech, development, independent skills — all that good stuff that kids’ do as they grow. We had an intense year. Not necessarily a bad one, but one of those years where strength and faith have been tested, repeatedly. You know what I mean? One of those.
My heart is full but I am horrible at sharing these things without getting emotional about it. I will just say, autism is hard to deal with. Balance is hard to deal with. Raising four is hard to deal with. All the treatments, supplements, therapies to keep track of, is hard to deal with. One day I will release those words in greater detail, until then, how about some pie?
Yes, I say, for the love of pie, for the smiles, the messy faces, and the joy it brings — God knows we already have enough restrictions, right? So (!) as much as health and wellness will always be on my mind, and sweets should be limited, I also believe a sweet dessert (albeit a clean one) is a necessary part of life. Hope you all agree.
Pumpkin pie (per Michael’s request!) and apple pie (Ely’s favorite) was dessert for our Thanksgiving meal (including as well-planned left-overs, both sweet and savory). It was just the six of us, exactly what we needed – quiet time to catch up over good food and cider (teenage son made this a tradition, from scratch, two years in a row, can you believe it?). A quick, no-bake version, this year, was an added bonus to keep things easygoing. It seems that I’m getting more lax in my pie making, which I am perfectly okay with, and am beginning to realize that ample hands-on time for good pie may be an old wives tale, at least this year it was. I prepped and froze most of the foods days prior (per usual) and everyone got into the kitchen to pull things together for our very late lunch. It was one of the loveliest Thanksgivings’ we’ve had.
The ginger cookies (for the crust) are delicious in their own right but, oh, do they compliment the pumpkin filling so well. And no need to melt the coconut oil, simply add, with cookies, into the food processor for a quick crumble. You may want to make a double batch – making them large will yield a dozen, you will need eight for this pie. Ginger spice lovers: take that as fair warning.
I went with dates as a thickener, and for the deeper, almost-molasses-like-flavor it has, along with coconut oil for creamy texture (you know that smooth silky mouthfeel that makes you go Mmmmm? Sidenote: unrefined virgin coconut oil doesn’t impart ANY coconut flavor, the sweet dates masks it right up.). Sweetened condensed milk is a new product for me, one that I find thickens and flavors the filling well, and lastly, good old-fashioned canned pumpkin puree (hopefully organic BPA-free lining!). But if condensed milk is not readily available near you, you could either double the dates and play around with pumpkin puree amount, or make it from scratch, here’s a good recipe to try … http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/thrive/recipes/dairy-free-sweetened-condensed-milk/ Oh, and a pinch of crushed black pepper – it has a funny way of highlighting the pumpkin flavor. I realized this when making my homemade pumpkin butter – a little goes a long way. Speaking of which: If you happen to know of an avid pumpkin lover, a jar of homemade pumpkin butter, dressed in a luxurious dish towel, wrapped in shiny ribbon, may be the perfect holiday gift to give.
I figure some of you may want to cut out sugar, by possibly eliminating the sweet condensed coconut milk, with something like canned coconut milk to thicken the filling, although I haven’t tried it, I’m going to bet that it will likely taste more like coconut than pumpkin pie — sorry guys, I went all out on sweet deliciousness for this awesome pumpkin pie. The best (no-bake) pumpkin pie if you ask me.
- For the crust:
- 8 large ginger cookies (link is above, in the post)
- ½ cup coconut oil
- For the filling:
- 3 (15 oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- heaping 1 cup pitted dates (about 28 average sized dates)
- scant ½ cup coconut oil
- 1 can (11.25 oz) evaporated coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tablespoon GF pure vanilla paste (or extract)
- ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- Store bought non-dairy whipped topping (we like So Delicious CocoWhip)
- For the crust:
- Place ginger cookies into the food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Add coconut oil then turn on and crush to a fine crumb. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the crumb mixture for garnish. Transfer remaining crumbs to your 9-inch pie plate. Spread out evenly, using a dry measure cup, while simultaneously compacting it. It should surround the perimeter of the dish, up to the edge. When done, refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to a day, until ready to use.
- For the filling:
- Add all the ingredients into a large (11-cup) food processor or split ingredients to make two batches in a small food processor, mix until smooth. Pour into the chilled ginger cookie crust, evenly spread out filling within the perimeter of the crust, then place the pie back into the refrigerator to chill at least 4 hours, ideally overnight, to set.
- When chilled, add dollops of non-dairy whipped topping and garnish with remaining ginger spice cookie crumbs. Serve chilled. Will remain fresh refrigerated for up to 5 days, without the non-dairy whipped topping. Quick tip: The cookie crust will be very firm and compact for slicing with a pie server, so I recommend to first cut into the pie with a sharp knife, then use a pie serving utensil to lift and serve slices. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Note: This pie also freezes well, well sealed and wrapped, for up to two weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
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Irene Newton says