Tropical Winter

Pie and POG in paradise

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I hoped my recent two-week sojourn to the Big Island of Hawaii would give me enough distance from the Pacific Northwest’s seemingly endless winter that, by the time I returned, spring would be making an appearance.

And while there are signs of a new season via longer days and burgeoning blossoms, since my return to the mainland snow has continued to fall on a regular basis and frigid mornings still require the dreaded donning of long socks, sweaters, hats and gloves before venturing into the cruel, cold world.

But as long as vestiges of my Hawaiian tan still remain, I’m able to hold onto the memories of my tropical vacation. On the surface, I’m playing the role of a functioning adult—going to work, paying bills, shopping for groceries, wearing enough clothes to keep my extremities safe from harm, etc.—but in my mind, I’m still in paradise with my alter ego, Vacation Amy.

Vacation Amy eschews socks and only wears flip-flops, spends countless hours staring at the vast ocean in hopes of seeing migrating humpback whales, swims like a mermaid, sleeps outside and wakes up early to watch the sunrise. And even if she gets bit by a fire ant on the face in the night and one of her eyes swells to a small slit, she’ll still get on a boat before dawn to watch an enormous lava stream flowing from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano and into the sea.

The brassy broad is also fond of a reminding everybody it’s cocktail hour via the mixing of vodka and POG (a heaven-sent juice concocted of passionfruit, orange and guava), coconuts hacked open with a machete, and the various other food items encountered on a regular basis when all that’s on the schedule is rest and relaxation.

A few of the memorable meals from the trip include marinated chicken barbecued on an open fire pit; bread pudding topped with a mix of freshly harvested papaya, bananas and oranges; unique SPAM nachos made by a fellow vacationer (which are way better than they sound); Loco Moco (a local special featuring rice topped with hamburger, brown gravy and over-easy eggs); and, for dessert one night, a coconut cream pie baked by one of Bellingham’s preeminent pie purveyors.

It’s the vision of that glorious pie I keep returning to when the snow falls and I magic myself back to the Big Island. The next time it snows, I’m planning on turning up the heat in the house, reclaiming my flip-flops and making the “triple-threat” dessert. Aloha!


Triple Threat Coconut Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust


For the crust

25-30 gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
5 tablespoons melted butter

For the filling

1 can coconut milk
1 ½ cups half and half
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut


Whipped cream and toasted coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Process the gingersnaps in a food processor until fine (you can use gingersnaps or just graham crackers or a combination). Add to a bowl along with the coconut and melted butter; toss until combined. Press firmly to the bottom and up the sides of a deep-dish nine-inch pie pan. Bake 10 minutes and let cool completely.

Add the half-and-half, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla to a round-bottomed saucepan off the heat and whisk together until the mixture is smooth and the cornstarch has dissolved. Place on medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly while it thickens. Once thick like pudding, remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 1 cup coconut.

Pour the thickened mixture into the cooled pie shell and refrigerate for two hours or until set. Add the remaining 1/4 cup coconut to a baking sheet and toast in the oven for five minutes. Top the pie with whipped cream and toasted coconut before serving.

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