Pear Inheritance

The year after my father passed away his beloved pear tree had a banner year. Tons of big beautiful pears were produced and we were able to harvest them before the local raccoons could. We said at the time “all those years, hardly producing a decent pear, and NOW it decides to be amazing!” Wish he could have seen it. For the next 5 years it went back to its rather anemic performance – producing small, pitted pears- in small amounts.

This year my mother passed away and of course the tree put on a show stopping performance – huge, blemish free pears and TONS of them. Wish she could have seen it.

If that isn’t the universe speaking in some way I don’t know what is.

So of course I felt the need to harvest the pears  – making some baked goods right away and cooking some down to pear sauce and freezing for another use well into the winter. So much like my blueberry inheritance I could enjoy a little of my pear inheritance for a while longer.

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The first thing that came to mind to make with these amazing pears was of course coffee cake! Wouldn’t that be your “go to” baked goodie too?

I’m no baker so I just bought a quality box mix for coffee cake (complete with streusel mix) and added sliced pears, brown sugar and melted butter to the bottom of the glass baking dish before mixing up and adding my coffee cake mix according to package instructions. Just be sure to slice the fruit fairly thin so it will definitely get soft in the baking process.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Santa Fe Experiment

Recently I had opportunity to travel to Albequerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. To me it seems like the entire state smells amazing, and especially the farmer’s market that I visited in Santa Fe. The smells of sage, chili powder, piñons and fry bread wafted through the air like a savory air freshener, as I walked through sampling any and everything I could find!

When I returned it only made sense to try one of the “edible souvenirs” that I brought back with me. (Those also cost me an extra 20mins and an extra bag search at airport security.)

Posole mixes were abundant at the farmer’s market and after looking over all the choices I selected one that looked fool-proof for a gringo like me to make. Posole is a Mexican (or probably more accurately Aztec in origin) pork and hominy stew. The mix contained dried hominy and several over dried beans/seeds/legumes that I really have no idea what they were. It also came with a spice packet and recipe.

I followed the instructions exactly except for 2 things. I decided to use the slow cooker as one change to the recipe and since I have a smaller slow cooker, I only used 2.5 quarts water, figuring I could always add water. I was glad I used the slow cooker since it took longer then 3 hours on high – I actually ended up leaving on it overnight on low after the first 3 hours on high. And I never need to add the extra 1/2 quart of water.

Here is the recipes in pictures with one notation…after trimming the pork meat from the bones I tied up the bones in cheesecloth to add to the stew for flavor. Remove the bundle before serving. (click on the slide show below to enlarge)

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In full disclosure, I added a generous amount of salt and pepper to this as well as a healthy tablespoon of mild New Mexico red chile powder that I also obtained at the farmer’s market and made it through security at the airport. Without that and the fresh toppings, the stew would have been actually kinda bland. I am not experienced to know if the stew is supposed to be just a rich broth with a somewhat mellow flavor to allow the fresh toppings to shine? ( kinda like vietnamese Pho)

Or maybe I was supposed to season/brine the pork first? And perhaps even brown it first? I do know that it is common practice to add green or red chile to the stew and so I felt justified in adding some red chile to mine.

And while my version turned out pretty good – but not amazing – next time I would get even more elaborate on the fresh toppings… sliced radishes, avocado, thin sliced cabbage to name just a few more.

Here is a nice source for seeds if you want to grow your own chile peppers: https://www.sandiaseed.com/pages/about-us

 

 

Indian Starter Kit

I have the distinct pleasure of working with colleagues from around the world during the day, including one lady from southern India. One day we were discussing Indian food and cookery and I asked if she had a “dabba.” (this is a special round metal spice kit with a tight fitting lid that I first learned about over here at my favorite blog: The Perfect  Pantry.)

She said “oh yes, but I don’t use that thing any more!” She had received it as a wedding gift from her mother and used it diligently as a young wife, but now, years later, had moved on to a different way of storing/accessing her daily spices for cooking. I must have look at her yearningly because she promptly said “Do you want it?” I tried to strike a balance between shouting YES! and “that would be amazing!”

So she brought it in for me – FILLED WITH SPICES!!

We discussed what recipe I should start with and settled on a basic chicken curry. So a few days later I got my new spice kit out and added in a few things that are essential to Indian cooking: fresh ginger, garlic, lemon, powered turmeric, cinnamon. And with little help via text I made my first ever chicken curry.  As soon as the first spices hit the hot oil, it smelled like a real Indian kitchen!!

Take a look at my first adventure …

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PS my colleague gave me a B+ for my efforts!

 

Christmas Mash-Up

Mashed potatoes are not my specialty. They are more than just “not my specialty” – they are my arch nemesis! I just can’t seem to master them. They usually come out gluey or lumpy or both all at the same time!

I think making mashed potatoes are a lesson in patience (which I am short on) and require some amount of technical ability.  You need to put the peeled (patience needed) potatoes into the big pot of cold water and bring it all up to boil together (more patience) for the potatoes to cook evenly. You really should warm up whatever dairy product you are adding – milk, cream etc. Don’t over mash and make sure you season liberally.

For Christmas lunch – I decided to be patient with my mashed potatoes and I was rewarded with lovely, creamy, perfect mashed potatoes!

And then I added a few things…

Some roasted garlic cloves. Some grated Parmesan cheese…Some chopped spinach. Yup, chopped spinach. I thought the chopped spinach would be a fun “mash-up.” Like having creamed spinach and garlic mashed altogether.

While my mother and I thought it was tasty, my husband did not!  Weird because cooked spinach is one of the few veggies he really likes and he likes mashed potatoes very much. So what’s not to love about mixing the two?

Ingredient list to fill a 9×13 baking dish

5 lbs Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cut into similar sized pieces.

3-6 large garlic cloves – roasted and mashed

1 box of chopped spinach ( 9 oz +/-) defrosted and squeezed of excess water.

1/2 stick salted butter

1 cup whole milk – warmed

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tb “Better Life Foods” Depot spice ( or more to taste)

Ground black pepper and additional salt to taste

Easy-Fancy Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes are the perfect blend of  “easy but looks fancy!”

What are they? Basically they are baked potatoes that have been sliced in a decorative manner. They were a Swedish invention at the “Hasselbacken Hotel” in Stockholm, where they are called “hasselbackspotatis,” back in the 1700s.

I decided to test these out as a possible Thanksgiving dish. We were always more of a baked potato family than a mashed family so a twist on the family standard seemed like a good idea. I washed and sliced some potatoes, poured melted butter and seasoning over them as the many internet recipes suggest and baked them in a high oven ( 450!!!) for 50 mins. They were easy and they look impressive, but I think next time I will slice and bake them with just a bit of oil rubbed onto the potatoes and at a slightly lower heat. I will save the butter-garlic-topping for when they come out of the oven because I noticed that garlic pieces burned unless you conscientiously tuck each one into a slice – who has time for that on thanksgiving!

Here is a look at my “test drive”

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One Pan (or Board) Plan

oneboard-plan

clockwise from top: chopped white onion, chopped green onion, salt & pepper, chopped garlic, Penzey’s lamb seasoning, raw Cauliflower “rice” (i.e. finely chopped), quartered Compari tomatoes, 2 lamb patties. not shown: crumbled Feta cheese – wouldn’t fit! 🙂

Folks around the home-cooking world are clamoring about “one pan plans” or “sheet tray dinners.” this is where all the ingredients are cooked in one pan or one sheet tray.

I am not sure my “one board plan” actually qualifies but I did only use one saute pan to cook. I simply cooked the lamb patties (season each generously with salt & pepper), flipping once, till done to my level. (medium/medium-well for lamb, for me, please) removed them from the pan and set aside under foil. Next added the white onion, garlic and lamb seasoning and saute a few minutes. Add the Cauliflower and tomatoes, stir till combined,lower heat and cover. Simmer till cauliflower is soft ( maybe 10-15 mins tops) Taste and add salt & pepper as needed. Add patties and any juice back in to warm through. Served garnished with the green onions and feta cheese.

Here is my Mediterranean “one board plan” on a plate….

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