Unusual “Pear-ings’

My mother has a pear tree in her yard and in the last few years it has really started producing. Each year we get bushels of pears off of it. This year I tried a classic savory tart involving blue cheese and pears.

I compared two kinds of blue cheese I had in my refrigerator. The one on the left was a “St. Clemens” which is traditional version imported from Denmark. The one on the right was a domestic raw-milk version from Wisconsin. I choose the domestic version because it was smoother, sweeter and had less of the that “blue cheese bite.”

I used a refrigerated puff pastry dough from the store and the whole thing took very little time and came out kinda fancy!

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Slit the dough (try not to cut all the way through) to form a border and dock the middle before pre-baking about 10 mins in a 400 degree oven.

Pull it out and lay thinly sliced ripe pear slices in the middle. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to give it that savory seasoning. Dice a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and nestle them among the pear slices. Bake in the oven about 10-12 mins more until the pears just start to brown a bit and the crust is fully puffed and brown. Be careful that the crust doesn’t  burn.

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter




When it comes out of the oven, crumble the room temperature blue cheese over the hot pears and drizzle honey generously over the all and serve.

Pretty to look at...

Pretty to look at…

...yummy to eat.

…yummy to eat.


Potluck With A Southern Spin

I had the pleasure of attending a potluck surprise 50th anniversary party recently. It was held outdoors at a beautiful location called “Muster Field Farms.” The day was perfect, the couple was surprised and the food was delicious. Although many had come from all around the country to attend – this was in no-way a “southern” event. It was in fact a quintessential “New England” event. Taking place in central-west New Hampshire on a working farm and historical homestead from the late 1700s.

I brought 2 items: a southern spin on a 3-bean salad. Using green beans, corn and black-eyed peas. Fresh parsley and a light, bright sweet/sour dressing made this perfect to sit on the table on a hot day. (no mayo means no concerns)

My second item was dessert – a  “grape salad.”  This did require some all important refrigerator space until it was time to bring out the dessert including the anniversary cake! This salad was an adaptation of Trisha Yearwood’s recipe and it was a hit! Thanks Trisha!

grape salad 2

This is from a second batch I made for the photo shoot – sauce wasn’t as thick due to not measuring properly – but still delicious!

My adaptations included substituting Vanilla yogurt for the sour cream called for in the recipe. (I had forgotten to buy the sour cream!) I also used 12 ounces of cream cheese instead of the 8 ounces called for just to make sure the mix stayed thick!

Make sure you wash and DRY the grapes before you mix in the yummy stuff. This way it will stick to the fruit, coating it nicely.

Also be sure to add the topping (brown sugar and chopped pecans) just before serving otherwise the sugar will melt into the salad and lose its crunch!

Brunch On The Porch

If you have been reading along perhaps you already know about the most beautiful dining room in New Hampshire.  If not… well that’s okay too, but you can see it here and here.

This particular weekend we had stopped for bagels on the way up and I spotted some “French toast” bagels and grabbed a couple of those along with a honey wheat and a couple of cinnamon raisin to bring up to my mothers. I was already forming inspiration with those French toast bagels in mind but I hadn’t quite nailed it down yet.

While reviewing my “potluck” cookbook for an upcoming event I stumbled across the perfect use for those leftover bagels. A “French toast casserole!”

But of course I had to improvise partly because that is what I do and partly because I was in my mother’s kitchen with some limitations on ingredients. I also cut back on the sugar – preferring instead to bump up the sweetness with addition of maple syrup served at the table on the side.

The recipe

Start with either a regular loaf of bread (16oz) or as I did – 3 large bagels. Break up your bread of choice into large chunks and toast by baking it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven until dry, light and slightly browned.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick baking spray and pack the bread in. Next: make the custard.

Whisk together: 6 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups half and half, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Pour this mix over the bread (bagels) pushing down any bread that doesn’t get totally coated with liquid. At this point cover it with plastic wrap tightly and store overnight in the refrigerator.

bread and custard ready

The “golden” colored bagel pieces are the “French toast” ones.

In the morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator to get the chill off while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make your topping.

The topping consists of: 1 stick of salted butter, softened. 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. 1 cup of chopped nuts (measure pre-chopped) – I used walnuts but pecans would be divine! Mix it all and spread as evenly as you can in clumps on top of bread/custard. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top to give it a bit of a sweet crunch on top.

ready for the oven

The next morning, with the topping (light-colored clumps) spread on top. Ready for the oven!

Bake on middle rack, uncovered for 1 hour. It should be puffy and golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle. Pull it out- let cool for 10 mins and serve with warm maple syrup to taste. And bacon.



Summer: 23 Days Away (And My Favorite Comfort Food Comes In-Season)

But who’s counting anyway. Ok maybe I am.

After this last winter here in the Boston area, summer can’t come fast enough! However we have had some pretty decent spring weather (maybe a little too hot for me, but then again a true ‘New Englander’ is really never satisfied with the current weather!)

As spring/summer comes so does my favorite comfort food…. Watermelon!

Yep Watermelon. I mean I love carb-loading on stews, mac-n-cheese, and warm bread from the oven as much as the next person. But truly watermelon is a comfort food for me. Growing up my mother would always serve this to us if we were feeling bad. “Easy to digest” she would say.  Admittedly it was the perfect first food after a bout with a stomach flu, a tooth pulling or even a fight with my brother. Somehow its refreshing sweet flesh always made everything better.

My father and I would sneakily compete to see who could get to the much-desired ‘heart’ of the watermelon first. The ‘heart’ is the best part – sweet and seed free. He would wander out to the fridge at night looking for the perfect TV snack only to discover that I had already carved out the best part!

To this day, my late night snack of choice is some watermelon!

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Spring: Day 58 (Brunch On The Porch)

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

When I considered the restaurant brunch options for Mother’s Day in my mom’s hometown I couldn’t think of any place nicer then her porch. Besides I know her likes and dislikes better than any chef and I love to cook!

We had a full day ahead of us, opening up the porch to ready it for summer, changing out storm windows for screens and getting the hoses out in the extensive yard.

So breakfast on Mother’s Day was not going to be an elaborate, leisurely affair but rather a quick, nourishing start to our busy day.

And lucky for everyone her garden chives are already up so I paired that with the “corn and tomatoes on the porch” leftovers from the night before to make tasty omelets!

So fresh and yummy – even if I do say so myself! and of course it’s never really too early for a decadent dessert made with early strawberries, warmed slightly and sweetened with just a touch of honey, served over the best vanilla ice cream! (crumbled chocolate brownies optional!)


Author’s note:

I actually graduate tomorrow (yippee!) and I am looking forward to new and more frequent blog entries now that I can have my life back! Stay tuned….

Spring Day 30: (Florida Corn)

Here in New England we have a saying… “knee-high by fourth of July!”

What we are referencing is the corn needs to be about “knee-high” in the fields in order for it to be on schedule for our typical growing season. This means local corn doesn’t really come into the stores until early august. (Maaaaybe late July if we had a warm spring and a farmer willing to take a gamble and plant early)

But if you are willing to contribute to a “carbon-footprint” you can have your “fresh” corn-on-the-cob in May, grown and flown in from Florida.

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Just one of those things that I must have!

(More from me about corn here and here!)

Spring Day 23: (Actual Warm Weather & Quiche)

spring quichePredictions of 60 degrees today in Boston!

Other than snow farms and parking lots, the snow is just about gone. A quick inspection of the yard showed that yes, maybe all the plants survived – although I have my doubts about the Hydrangea. Of course now the spring yard work and clean up must start in earnest and that means busy weekends.

I still think quiche is the best way to use up odds and ends from the fridge and it gives you something that can be available as a snack or meal in between filling the yard waste bags.

This one had asparagus, sweet red bell pepper, spring onions, and  feta cheese of course. A real spring classic. As always I try to use whole milk or better yet “half and half” for a rich, moist quiche. You can see a couple recipes here and here!