09 July 2012

Ambrosia Pie -- A Tribute to my Grandpa

My grandpa was a hoot.  He lived his life to the fullest every day until he had a stroke that left him almost completely blind and with greatly impaired mobility.  I like to think that he kept that same zest for life even after he had to move into a nursing home.  At the nursing home he kept an imaginary pet -- a tiny horse that sat in the palm of his hand, carried on conversations with him, and lived in a shoe box under his bed.  That tiny pony kept us smiling when we went to visit him.

My grandpa served in the army during World War II.  He was stationed in Hawaii when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place.  While he was in the islands he developed a love for pineapple.  This love got passed on to my mom and me.  I truly love all things pineapple, but that love is boosted by the fact that it reminds me of my grandpa.

If you aren't familiar with Ambrosia Salad, it is a southern tradition.  It is a mixture of whipped cream, pineapple, oranges, and coconut.  It can also contain chopped nuts and cherries.  Ambrosia Salad gets its name from the nectar drunk by the Greek gods.  Many Southerners consider a proper Ambrosia Salad to be heaven-sent.  This cool salad sure is a blessing during the sweltering summer months.

almond windmill cookie, a.k.a. Speculoos
This pie is such a snap, but making it didn't go down without a tiny bump in the road.  This bump turned out to be a great one, though.  I went to a local store to buy graham crackers for the crust, only to find that they were ridiculously overpriced.  I didn't want to make another stop, so I started searching for an alternative.  I ended up with Windmill Cookies, also called Speculoos.  These cookies, heady with spices and almonds, worked out so much better than graham crackers ever would.  They made the best crust I could have imagined.  The crust was just as easy as a graham cracker crust, but had so much more depth of flavor thanks to those almonds and spices.  You can substitute a graham cracker crust if you want to save time or can't find these cookies.

The filling for this pie comes together in about 2 minutes.  No kidding.  The crust takes about 10 minutes to pull together.  For something so airy, light, and delightful, I think that about 15 minutes of hands-on time is absolutely worth it. 

My grandpa would have loved this pie
Ambrosia Pie
makes one 9" pie

Print me, Please!!!

For the Crust:

1 1/2 cups finely ground windmill cookies or speculoos
3 Tbsp sugar
7 Tbsp melted butter

For the filling:

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
5 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 cups whipped topping (a.k.a. Cool Whip)

To make the crust:  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Stir together the cookie crumbs and sugar.  Stir in the melted butter until the mixture holds together when pressed between your fingers.  Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate.  Bake crust for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

To make filling:  Stir together the coconut, pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, condensed milk, lemon juice, and lime juice.  Gently fold in the whipped topping.  Pour filling into cooled crust.  Chill pie for at least 2 hours, or until set.

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