Is it just me, or has this been a really rough week? Scratch that. Rough year. Unemployment is high, riots are breaking out all over the world, children are being snatched from their front yards, tornadoes and floods and other natural disasters have taken many lives, the brave young men and women defending our country are in constant mortal danger… it’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out and just give up.
And then something happens. Something that reminds you how lucky you really are. How fragile life is. How much you have to be grateful for. How many kind hearts are still out there in the world, good people who truly care. And suddenly, your perspective shifts.
Last week, food blogger Jennifer Perillo lost her husband Mike. He suffered a massive heart attack, and in mere moments he was gone. Just like that, Jennifer’s life… her family… her entire journey… was altered. Their two young girls (ages 3 and 8 ) have lost their father. It’s difficult to fathom.
While I’ve never met Jennifer in person, I’ve been a regular reader of her blog for over a year now. I found out about the tragedy on Twitter, when Jennifer tweeted a simple phrase:
“He’s gone. And my heart is shattered in a million pieces.”
I didn’t know what she meant, at first. But quickly the news spread throughout the internet food blogging community– Jennifer had lost her husband. I was shocked. Her family is so young. It didn’t seem possible. It was so incredibly unfair.
And then, the outpouring of sympathy began.
I know many of you regularly read my blog, but I don’t know how many of you read other food blogs. The more you explore the “food blogosphere,” the more you’ll find a tight-knit community of caring, wonderful people who share a passion for food. It’s a pretty incredible group of folks, and this week I found out just how powerful they really are. The expression of love and support for Jennifer was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
On August 8, Jennifer posted a video of Mikey dancing with their young daughter just a few weeks before the tragedy occurred. She titled it “One Last Dance.” As I watched it, my heart ached for Jennifer and her daughters. Like many, I felt helpless. What could I do for her? How could I help her through this difficult time? I felt so powerless… I’ve never Jennifer in person, but her story gripped at my heart and refused to let go. I wanted so badly to do something… anything… to let her family know I cared.
Then, on August 9, Jennifer wrote a short blog about her last date with Mikey. She mentioned that people had asked her what they can do for her to help her healing process. Her suggestion was simple, and from the heart… make Mikey’s favorite pie, a no-bake peanut butter chocolate pie, on Friday August 12. She asked us all to share it with someone we love, and to hug them close like there’s no tomorrow.
I made a pie for Mikey on Friday afternoon. As the sun set, and my family lit the candles for Shabbat, I thought of Jennifer, her family, and of Mikey. I held my loved ones close as we thanked God for our many blessings.
And suddenly, this rough year didn’t seem so very rough. In the face of unspeakable tragedies, we have love. We have God. And we have each other.
Thank you, Jennifer, for this lovely recipe… for helping us recognize how fragile life can be… and for reminding us how precious every moment is.
Mikey, this pie is for you.
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Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey
- 12 oz chocolate cookies
- 6 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- 8 oz finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 8 oz cream cheese (one package)
- 1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
- 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs, or pour cookies into a plastic bag and crush till the crumbs become are fine. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour half of the chocolate over the bottom of the cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.
- Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
- Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
- Take the whipped cream out of the refrigerator. Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (this helps lighten the batter). Fold in the remaining whipped cream.
- Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.
- Drizzle the rest of the melted chocolate on top of the pie. You can do this more neatly by pouring the chocolate into a piping bag or a disposable sealing bag and snipping a corner off, then squeezing the melted chocolate gently in a stream pattern across the top of the pie.Refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.
- Note: I only made two minor adjustments to Jennifer's original recipe. I added 50% more chocolate cookie crumbs and melted butter to make a taller crust (that goes all the way up the sides of the pie), and I melted some extra chocolate to drizzle on top of the pie. Other than that, the recipe appears as Jennifer wrote it.