Showing posts with label pears. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pears. Show all posts

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heartwarming Sweets and a Giveaway

One of the benefits of writing a food blog is that occasionally you are offered the opportunity to review cookbooks or try out new products and give your opinion. I don't accept every offer I receive but now and then I find one to be a good fit. I imagine they do the same thing before offering...take a look at the blog and see if they go well together.

Recently I received an e-mail from a publicist at Thomas Nelson, long time publisher of a variety of books. After checking out a few of the titles online I became enthused about trying out some recipes in their books.

The first book I've tried is Bless Your Heart, Saving the World Once Covered Dish at a Time with Recipes by Patsy Caldwell and Stories by Amy Lyles Wilson. It organizes recipes around gatherings like church suppers, tail gate parties, and bookclubs.

There is a pure Southern sensibility, particularly in the stories at the beginning of each chapter. These recipes are often created to be given as gifts of the heart so, although there are some recipes that are super healthy, many are comfort foods where no one is counting calories.

I belong to a women's scholarship group and we have luncheons twice a month. Many of the casseroles like Scalloped Potatoes with Country Ham and salads like Norma's Pretzel Salad with strawberry gelatin look very familiar even though we are far from the South. Quite a few recipes in Bless Your Heart are American classics like deviled eggs and peanut butter cookies and others are classics with a twist. There are lots of great photos of the recipe results, too (although all these photos are mine).

The first one I tried is a tea or quick bread familiar in that it is leavened with baking powder and baking soda and perked up with spices and nuts. The twist is that you grate pears to add to the batter and they add flavor, moisture and a subtle perfume. I used two firm but ripe red pears and followed the recipe with only two changes: I used half granulated sugar and half brown sugar instead of all white sugar and I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup water instead of 3/4 cup oil. I'm a fan of brown sugar and have found in the past that I prefer a bread with less oil, particularly if there is fruit in it to keep it moist.

This sweet bread was really lovely. I like the moist but firm crumb, the understated spiciness and that it isn't too sweet. Sweetie isn't a big fan of pears but he really liked this bread. Some tea breads need embellishments like a glaze or powdered sugar but this one is perfect as is.

I made it on Tuesday and it was still delicious today at tea time so it seems like a good keeper, too. It's nice because it gets stirred up with a spoon in one bowl so the cleanup is quick, too. The next time I make it I'm going to double the recipe so that I can bake three large loaves because I bet it will freeze well, too. It's always nice to have something like Bebe's Pear Bread in the oven to serve to unexpected guest.

The next recipe I tried was old-fashioned peanut butter cookies. These couldn't be simpler and are always a hit with peanut lovers. The only change I made was to include 1/2 cup chopped peanuts since I like crunchy peanut butter and think that some crunch is great in cookies, too. For about half the batter I also added some dark chocolate chips. Peanut butter and chocolate are also a classic combo, so why not? I'm sure they are delightful without either mix-in, too.

A note on quantities: Since I didn't follow the recipes exactly that probably explains the differences, but I found that the Pear Bread only made one large and one tiny loaves, not two large ones. I also found that the Peanut Butter Cookies made closer to 4 dozen than 2 dozen. Since I was eyeballing the amount of dough instead of using a measure and because I added a full cup of additional mix-ins it's not too surprising...and extra cookies are a good thing, right?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I'm disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Now for the giveaway...Katherine R. at Thomas Nelson Publishers has generously offered to send copies of the book to up to three readers. All you have to do is comment on this post. I'll post the winners on March 29 from comments received up to noon PDST that day, after which time the winner will need to e-mail me their mailing address so that I can pass it on to the publisher. Winners outside of the U.S. can expect delivery to take up to six weeks.

You'll be glad you have this book the next time you need to bring a dish like Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie or Cabbage Slaw with Red and Green Apples to a family reunion or pot luck. You will also find recipes for dishes your family will enjoy for weekday meals and special occasions like Fresh from the Garden Tomato Pie or Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Topping.

You can order a copy for yourself at Amazon HERE or at your local bookstore, too. Here is the information on the book: Bless Your Heart, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nov. 2010, ISBN 978-1-4016-0052-5. (BTW - no kickback from Amazon, either, nor from local bookstores.)

BeBe's Pear Bread
Makes two medium loaves - Perfect for a bake sale or for tea

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup each granulated and brown sugar)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil (I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup water)
2 cups grated pears (2 large pears)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Set aside. In a large bowl add the flour, sugars, pecans, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the oil, water, pears, eggs and vanilla. Stir until just moistened. Pour into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 2 loaves or 24 servings.

Note: If you are making this recipe for yourself, it is wonderful served with cream cheese.

Peanut butter cookies are a childhood favorite, great in a bagged lunch or for an after school treat. This recipe is just right...tender, buttery, robustly peanutty and perfect with a glass of cold milk.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
makes at least 2 dozen medium cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl cream teh butter, sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt together and add to the creamed mixture. Add the vanilla and mix well. If you are using chopped peanuts add them and mix well. You can add the chocolate chips instead of or in addition to the peanuts and can add them now or mix in later as I did.

Scoop the cookie dough 1 tablespoon at a time and roll into a ball. Place each cookie on the prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Flatten with a fork or the bottom of a glass. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Now where's that glass of milk?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pear Season

Not only are the apples ripe early, but the pears are too. They are usually ready to be harvested (hard and green) in early September. If you let them turn golden on the tree you cut in to them and find that the inner part is browning and pasty in texture. Found that out the hard way our first year here. They do much better if you pick them green and let them ripen in a brown paper bag. Did that a week ago, so we now have a lot of ripe pears...the Bartlett variety.

Recently I found the site of the Pie Lady, Brittany. It's a great blog if you like to bake and she has some great recipes. Go check it out!! You'll be glad you did. Then come back and see what I did with her recipe.
One that caught my eye was for Buttermilk scones with fruit. This morning I decided that I'd make some Buttermilk Scones with Pears for dinner. I used her recipe to jump from, but made a lot of changes.

I like oatmeal a lot. Have it most mornings, cooked in the microwave. For the scones I decided to grind up some oatmeal to replace part of the flour. It adds a nutty taste and some good nutrients. Healthy eating and scones are not really partners, but there's nothing wrong with having some of the ingredients be nutritious. I replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat flour, too. The finished scones are darker that way, and sort of homey.

Sweetie loves molasses, so I decided to replace the sugar with molasses, except for a sprinkle on the tops for decoration. Having eaten the finished product, I think adding about 1/2 cup of sugar, plus the molasses, would have been better, so that's how I wrote up the recipe.

Pears go really well with almonds, so I included some almond extract. Buttermilk provides tang, butter and eggs do their thing well. Salt, baking powder and baking soda provide flavor and leavening. Pears and golden almonds provide the fruit.

The result is a light scone with great flavor, juicy bits of pear, chewy little raisins. If I were to do it again, I'd throw in some orange zest and/or finely chopped candied ginger for a little more pizazz. I might also put in a little more butter. These were more muffin like than scone like in texture. More fat might improve them and you can't beat the taste of real butter. i could have added it when I ate the scones, but I didn't. I did try some orange marmalade with them. It was a good combo.

Buttermilk Oat and Wheat Scones with Pears and Golden Raisins
Based loosely on Buttermilk Scones recipe by the Pie Lady, Brittany

1 egg (or ¼ cup egg substitute)
¼ cup molasses
½ teaspoon real vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk

½ cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 ½ cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 oz. unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup fresh diced pears, peeled and cored first
1/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a measuring pitcher, whisk together the egg, molasses, vanilla, almond extract, and buttermilk. Put in the fridge while making the dry mix.

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl the rolled oats until a fairly fine flour is formed. Add the two flours, the sugar, the salt, the baking soda and the baking powder. Pulse to blend. Add the cold butter and pulse briefly until the mixture is crumbly. (Elle’s note: the butter almost disappears…that’s OK).

Put the dry mixture into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, pour in the liquid mixture and with your hands or a spoon, stir until about half way incorporated. Add the diced pears and the raisins and continue to mix, just until the dry mix is incorporated. Don’t over mix.

Turn the batter out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently pat into a long rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 8 squares. Then, cut each square diagonally so you have 16 scones. Place on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet and sprinkle with some sugar if desired. I used crystal sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the scones are brown and firm to the touch. Remove to a rack to cool.
Serve warm or cold, split and spread with butter or lemon curd. Some orange marmalade goes well, too.

Jazz It Up: These scones would also be good with a few tablespoons finely diced crystallized ginger, and/or a tablespoons of orange zest.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Not Too Late

We have returned home from the land of St. Honore'. Thanksgiving has come and gone, but there is still time to enjoy fresh cranberries. Right now bags of fresh cranberries are pretty inexpensive where I shop, so I grabbed a few more bags and threw one in the freezer for later. For now there is Cranberry Pear Sauce, perfect with leftover turkey if you still have some hanging around, but also a great dish to go with roast pork or duck or chicken thighs. It goes together fairly quickly and is delicious!

We had this sauce at Thanksgiving and it was so good that my nephew said it was the best cranberry sauce he had ever had. I chose to cook it because I usually served the canned jellied stuff but wanted something fresh, but not too sweet. I'm taking some to Meeta's Monthly Mingle which is for Traditional Feasts this month. Meeta blogs at the wonderful What's For Lunch Honey and hosts these mingles often, which is really nice. Come by after the first of December and see what everyone has brought.

This recipe is faintly like a chutney since it has some cider vinegar, cinnamon and grated fresh ginger, but it is also like a nice cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving with both white and brown sugar and the sweetness of sauteed pears. The recipe is a slight variation on one I found in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper November 14th. Give it a try while fresh cranberries and pears are in season. An addition of chopped toasted walnuts would be good, too.

Cranberry-Pear Sauce
Makes about 3 cups - serves 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 ripe pears, preferably Bartlett, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup, packed, dark brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
12 oz. fresh cranberries, washed and picked over for spoiled berries

Heat the melted butter in a large saucepan. Add the pears and salt and cook oer moderately low heat, stirring, until they begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the sugars, vinegar, cinnamon and ginger and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon to prevent sticking. (Your kitchen will smell heavenly!)

Add the cranberries and cook over moderate heat until the cranberries have fully cooked and thickened, 15-20 minutes, crushing the berries against the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl, remove the cinnamon stick if used, and let cool before serving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Celebratory Dessert

Clinic finished up tonight with a celebratory dinner. The young chef made a wonderful lemon-mustard-garlic-rosemary chicken dish that is his own creation. If I get his permission, I'll do a post on it later, with recipe. My office partner made a delicious ratatouille with eggplant from the physical therapist's garden. There were lots of veggies, salad, and local bread. My contribution was made in response to a large number of ripe Bartlett pears. When you buy a flat of fruit, they all seem to ripen at once.

The solution was a pear and cranberry crisp. It is a very good dessert for autumn. This one was really nice because it was not too heavy nor overly sweet. The pear flavor really stood out and the contrast of soft silky pear slices, tangy cranberries, zingy orange flavor and a crunchy oat topping was lovely.

Credit for most of this recipe goes to Dorie Greenspan, although I made a few changes. Dorie's book Sweet Times is a wonderful collection of sweet recipes. As usual, the recipe was well written and foolproof. As you can see, we had no trouble in convincing everyone to help themselves.

I think that this is the perfect dish to bring to Peabody's open house. It should travel well and feeds a lot of people, plus it's sweet and baked! See you there on December 8th.

Pear-Cranberry Crisp
based on a recipe by Dorie Greenspan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup broken walnut pieces, toasted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces

6-7 large ripe Bartlett pears (about 3 lbs.) cored and stems removed
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Topping: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms large curds, about 1-2 minutes. Alternately, mix everthing but the butter in a bowl, then cut the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives. Set aside.

Fruit: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Quarter the pears and cut each pear quarter lengthwise into 3 slices. Dip the slices in a bowl containing the orange juice. Then arrange the slices in the bottom of a deep dish pie pan or a 2 quart baker. (I left on the peels, which worked out fine.) Repeat with all of the pear quarters, coating the slices in the juice to keep them from darkening. Sprinkle the cranberries evenly over the pears, then sprinkle on the golden raisins.
Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the fruit.
Sprinkle the orange juice that you dipped the pears in over all, then sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit.
Place the crisp on a baking sheed with raised sides and bake 40 -45 minutes, until the top is brown and the fruit juices are bubbling. Remove the crisp from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving, but can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Serve vanilla ice cream, heavy cream ot pour, or whipped cream to garnish if desired. Serves 6-8, or more at a buffet.

The photo below was taken in the morning where the fog was burning off right near the clinic building. That is a very old redwood tree on the left.