Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie and Optimism

For years I've deluded myself into believing I was the dreamer in my marriage. I'm the one who looked for the good in people and tried to find the silver lining on all the nasty little clouds life dealt us. The Gunny and his temper always focused on the worst aspects of every situation. It made sense that I was the dreamer. Not so.

The Gunny buys lottery tickets and plans what he's going to do with his money while he waits for the numbers to be drawn. In almost fourteen years of knowing him, the most I've ever seen him win was $6. But he still dreams of making a trip around the country in a brand new RV to surprise our long-distance family members with expensive gifts.

Last year we bought our first house. I took it as it was; a five bedroom house with storage space, a 1 1/2 car garage, and a Big Freaking Barn. The Gunny (who didn't breathe a word of this when we were signing papers) saw a potential sixth bedroom, a garage that could easily be converted to a rec room, and a Big Freaking Barn that sat on the perfect spot for an in-ground swimming pool. When is he going to start on these renovations? Probably never. But he dreamed of something more in this already beautiful house and (more importantly) believes he will some day see it happen.

The 10yo Gunny brought stray dogs home, tried out for sports teams, dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, built forts, opened a watermelon stand on the edge of the farm, and read Black Beauty again and again. I finally got to meet 10yo Gunny when he drove to Arkansas to pick up a bullmastiff puppy he fell in love with online. He pulled up in the driveway and stepped out of the car holding twenty pounds of fuzzy energy and unleashed it onto our terrified children. I was the one who forced him to buy an outdoor dog kennel and a puppy crate for her to sleep in at night. I was the one who woke up and tended to her when she cried. I was the one who washed the blankets in her crate and scooped poop out of the yard. He just reaped the tail-wagging puppy kisses and wrestled with her in the grass with a smile as wide as the Big Freaking Barn.

When I announced I was writing something big- an actual book instead of rambling blog posts- The Gunny's inner dreamer hyperventilated. It wasn't obvious at first, he just made sure I had time alone on the computer so I could work. When he realized I needed a computer of my own, he ran right out and bought one for me. When my writing time stretched late into the night and I crawled into bed at 2am, he kept the kids quiet in the mornings so I could catch up on sleep. I didn't see it then, but he was dreaming of my book becoming a sensation. Where I hoped to one day see my book in print, he saw dollar signs.

Every query I sent off was another anticipated rejection for me. For The Gunny, every query was a potential catapult onto the NYT Bestseller List and a SOON TO BE MADE INTO A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE sticker for the cover of my book.

After fourteen years together I finally understand he's the dreamer and I'm the realist. I may have the imagination in our relationship, but he has the unfailing optimism that scares me to death. While I'm just a dreamer, he's an honest-to-god Dreamer who believes his dreams are all attainable.

Maybe that's why I love him so much.

I'm posting a picture of my fabulous peanut butter pie with this blog post for all you dreamers out there. For all of you Dreamers out there, I'm also posting the recipe. Forget everything you know about chocolate and peanut butter; this is a dessert for grown-ups. The filling is light and mousselike without being overly sweet, and the chocolate ganache is glossy and elegant.

Eternal Optimism (a.k.a. Peanut Butter Pie)


1 1/4 cups graham cracker or chocolate wafer crumbs

3 T granulated sugar

5 T melted butter


8 oz mascarpone cheese (or softened cream cheese)

1 cup high quality creamy peanut butter

1/2 granulated sugar

2 t vanilla

1 cup heavy cream


1/3 cup heavy cream

2 T unsalted butter

4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Whipped cream (optional)

Combine crust ingredients and press into the bottom and 1/2" up the sides of a 10" springform pan (or all the way up the sides of a 10" pie pan).

Beat cheese, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl just until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold half the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spread the filling into the pie crust. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.

Bring 1/3 cup heavy cream and butter to a simmer in a saucepan. Remove from heat and immediately stir in chopped chocolate until melted. Let cool to lukewarm and pour over the top of the pie. Refrigerate until the glaze is set, about an hour.

Serve the pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired.