Tag Archives: food processor

the only exception

I’m not usually drawn to recipes that require specialty ingredient substitutions to make a dish healthier. Brewer’s yeast, soy cheese, nut cream—not my thing. I often find little other uses for expensive health alternatives.

Oh, but today’s cookie—a whole different (do-able) story.

Pear readers know not to bother visiting this spot for dessert recipes. It’s not that I don’t like desserts—if I could bake, I would eat the entire pan of whatever chocolate-y goodness popped out of my oven. Thankfully, I flop at nearly everything I bake, which means it’s easier to be healthy when there’s no cookies in the house.

Let’s also clarify something: ours is a healthy home, so I don’t really endorse daily cookie eating. Or recipes that call for funky ingredients and substitutions. BUT HERE’S WHERE I’M WILLING TO MAKE A PERMANENT EXCEPTION.

When Vegetarian Times magazine called this “The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookie in the World”—let’s say I was intrigued.

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I am an oatmeal-for-breakfast girl through and through (berries + cinnamon + honey = mmm mmm), and typically I would raise an eyebrow at you if you ever tried to put my breakfast in a dessert. But seriously, people: the exception.

Besides that this is deliciously chocolatey and moist, let’s talk nutrition facts for a sec. Take a Mrs. Fields’ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (65 grams) made with butter, brown sugar, whole eggs, vanilla, salt and baking soda—standard cookie ingredients…

MRS. FIELDS                                   THIS COOKIE

280 calories                                      173 calories

13 g fat                                                 10 g fat

8 g sat. fat                                           3 g sat. fat

40 g carbs                                           21 g carbs

140 mg sodium                                122 mg sodium

35 mg cholesterol                           0 mg cholesterol

1 g fiber                                               2 g fiber

17 g sugar                                           12 g sugar

Two big points I take away from this cookie comparison is the fat content—both cookies are high in fat per serving, but the cookie with walnuts and oat flour has less saturated (artery-clogging) fat. The cookie here is also cholesterol free.

It is not time to start substituting cookies for breakfast or a nutritious snack, but this is a great dessert alternative for get-togethers—a huge hit among a crowd of family members that might have freaked if I mentioned the word “vegan”… With nine people in the house the weekend I cooked these in Delaware, they were gone by morning! This cookie is work, but not complicated work. This cookie is worth it.

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Note: I found oat flour in Giant’s “Natural” health aisle. (Does it drive anyone else bonkers that a commercial FOOD store has a single aisle devoted to “healthy” products?)

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Vegetarian Times, February 2009

makes 30 cookies, active time: less than 30 minutes

3 Tbs. canola oil

2 cups walnuts

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups oat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

3 3.5-oz. bars bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped, or 12 oz. dark chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes more, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down sides of food processor occasionally. Transfer to bowl.

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Whisk together brown sugar and ½ cup water in small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. Pour brown sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.

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Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

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Shape cookie dough into 2-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies with bottom of drinking glass dipped in water.

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Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

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There aren’t too many desserts here, as baking is simply not my strong suit (ironic that I was employed as a baker four years ago…) Still, there are a few desserts I love to recreate. Find my galette, brown-butter krispies, fresh berry tart, watermelon bites, chocolate peanut-butter pie and more here.

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pantry picnic

If you live on the East Coast, you know Mother N. hit the fast-forward button straight from winter to summer. I’m rocking sundresses on a daily basis these (80-degree) days and ready to eat outside. Andrew and I have re-opened Cafe Lindrew for the season—that is, our little stone patio looking out to the woods. This week has been barbeque with cousins and Mickey Mouse birthdays, and Happy Hour on the patio with the hubs (yuengling for Andrew, textbook for me).

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Isn’t it clear it’s time to get outside for some Vitamin D? In keeping with our humble canned-food quest, here’s a two-minute slaw to take on your next picnic—even if it’s in your backyard. Yes, I realize the contradiction: canned food + a $150 food processor? A big ol’ food processor makes this salad lightening-fast. In case you don’t have a large food processor, you could make this in batches in a small $14 food processor, or just chop up all the ingredients and stir in a big bowl! I never have luck with these hand choppers, but this slaw is the perfect use for one if you’ve got it!

I was missing several ingredients (indicated below) and this was still delightful—like the chicken salad solution for vegetarians. A surprising hit in both the teacher’s lounge and my hubby’s sneak taste-test. “Wow, that smells awesome,” he said over my shoulder. “Am I allowed to have some?” Don’t mention it’s missing meat 😉

Chunky Artichoke and Chickpea Salad

Vegetarian Times, serves 6

For a spring picnic or lunch, serve this dish as a dip with crackers or spread on pumpernickel and top with tomato.Or enjoy with your favorite sandwich (apple and cheddar). Don’t freak out at the number of ingredients until you see how many steps follow.
1  16-oz. can / jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1  12-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cornichons (French baby pickles)—I used a bread & butter spear
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh celery
¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used regular Hellmans)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. capers (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (I omitted)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I omitted)

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until chunky. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

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Thank you Vegetarian Times for the nutrition facts! Per 1/2-cup serving (note the majority of the fat is not saturated):

Calories: 148, Protein: 5 g, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 435 mg, Fiber: 6 mg, Sugar: 3 g

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a salad to weather the weather

It’s April, and I find myself discussing “Spring” with the kindergarteners each day. Spring, however, is a confusing concept on the east coast of the United States of America in the year Two-Thousand Thirteen.

Last week was Spring Break; I spent three days in the mountains with my in-laws and the remaining weeks shivering with my folks at the beach.

Spring break day one (at a magical mountain cottage) looked like this:

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our NEIGHbors

Spring break day two looked like this:

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Last week I wore short sleeves to work; the following night’s forecast was sleet and flurries. This weather certainly leaves one stumped about dinner. Something potato-laden, bubbling with cheese? Or shaved asparagus with lemon, crisp and chilled? Here’s a very special salad featuring some buttery comfort from the oven and simple fresh veggies.

$19 mandolinFIRST, SECRETS TO A SUPERB SALAD: I get lots of compliments from guests about my salads, and this is the real texture secret: a mandolin. I have a $10 mandolin from Home Goods and love using it to slice peppers, apples or pears to toss with salad greens, lemon juice and olive oil (those last ingredients are Secret Number Two). The salad is uniformly thin, fork-friendly and crisp. No more salads weighted down with thick cuts of carrots and radishes that require endless chomping. I used my mandolin (carefully, so carefully) to quickly slice the onions and bell pepper for this recipe. You can find a mandolin at Target, Wal-Mart, TJMaxx, Amazon, etc. (Other kitchen essentials here).

Andrew and I loved this restaurant-quality dressing, exciting enough to enjoy the salad for two dinners—and use up the leftover buttermilk for fruit-topped pancakes on night three.

Time-saver Note: I whipped up Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix in two minutes and baked this while prepping the remaining salad. I have still included a from-scratch cornbread recipe I’ll try on a weekend 😉

Corn Bread Salad

Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium or halved cherry tomatoes)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula (crucial!)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings
1 recipe Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (below)

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Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.

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Chop the tomatoes with the skin on. Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with buttermilk dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.

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Deb’s do ahead tip: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — she suggests keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
5 tabespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (they say from 3 to 4 limes; I only needed 1 1/2)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional, this was my addition to give it more zing)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

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Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Can covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to two days.

Note from Lindsey: I kept this hand-chopped and chunky, but I think it would be creamier (and faster) in a blender. Since this is a repeat recipe, I plan to puree next time. This recipe is a fabulous twist on my favorite couldn’t-be-easier salad, Panzanella. Try it here.

if you’re not making the cornbread from a mix, read on…

Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.

While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).

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pizza: it’s what’s for dinner

Let’s get in the mood with a scene from a beloved childhood film. In this clip from Back to the Future II, we glipse at the McFly family in the Future: the year 2015. Ha!

I am impressed the writers in 1987 foresaw caller ID. Still waiting on Black & Decker to release The Hydrator.

Yes, it’s a cherished dish since I was born in the 1980s when Mom, Dad, Jason and I would lay the picnic blanket on the family room floor to watch TGIF around a piping hot pizza box. Even on a scorching summer night, 26 years later, pizza is still the ultimate end-the-week dinner. Now that I’ve wrapped up nutrition classes, it seems an apt time to talk about up-ing the nutrient value of our favorite foods. Let’s start perfecting the pie.

OVERLOAD

Carry-out pizza, despite the presence of carbs, veggies, dairy and in one serving, can be nutritionally void and calorically perilous. Fat and salt reign. The sodium overload in the sauce, pepperoni, and cheese cancels out much hope of absorbing calcium. Pizza also often lacks fiber so crucial to our diet; I found a way to include it in my version, with a flavor just as appealing.

RETHINK PIZZA

What do we love about pizza? The crust’s crunch, rich tomato flavor, the alluring salty cheese? Here’s just one way to enjoy this essence without sacrificing our heart’s health. Using an appropriate portion of salty cheese provides ample cheesiness and significantly decreases the saturated fat. I added toppings high in vitamins, low in calories—then baked it to that golden brown we all adore.

Heart-Healthy Pizza

A  Friday Night Linvention

1 cup baby spinach leaves (use arugula for peppery kick)

1 cup mixed basil and mint leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bell pepper, sliced thin

½ cup shaved parmesan cheese (pecorino, romano, asiago are all great options)

1 prepared pizza crust (mine was only about 9 inches diameter; whole wheat is a great choice)

budget tip: purchase a wedge of romano or asiago cheese and shave with a vegetable peeler. this can be several dollars less than pre-shredded parmesan.

Note the sodium per serving size on this Trader Joes’ pizza crust! It would have been all too easy to eat this entire pie. It’s not just about fat: it’s about the whole picture.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

In a food processor (a 2-cup machine is sufficient), puree the spinach and herbs with 2 tbsp olive oil. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop all of greens and stir into the olive oil. A traditional pesto with nuts and cheese would add much more fat than I desired here.

Spread the pesto over the crust. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the sauce along with the peppers. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher or sea salt over the tomatoes—this will help them roast in the oven. Scatter the cheese in between the tomatoes and peppers, leaving the tomatoes exposed.

Bake directly on the rack according to the crust’s package directions, or until the cheese browns. I place a large baking sheet beneath the pizza to catch any dripping oil or cheese as it bakes. Cool slightly before cutting; I prefer a long knife instead of a pizza wheel.

Other ideas:

Rather than high-sodium pizza sauce, top your crust with thin slices of salted beefsteak tomatoes (and herbs if you like) and bake until the tomatoes begin to dry out. Top with ½ cup of salty cheese, and the veggies/meat of your choosing and bake until brown. Of course, the tricky part is not eating the whole pie! Serve with a salad and munch on fruit or nuts before dinner. Eating a salad (tossed with peaches or berries) while our pizza is in the oven helps with smaller portions.

Pizza is a favorite is our home, and we’re always playing around with new ways to make it memorable in our own kitchen. Find more pizza inspirations here and recent medical news on life-saving fiber from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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street food: fritters!

I didn’t like meat growing up. I thought this surely meant a life of alternating peanut-butter and grilled cheese sandwiches. Then in college, Anna introduced me to the wonder that is Indian food–only to be followed by my love and exploration of many ethnic foods. Hellllllllo falafel.

One bite of this fried chickpea patty and you’ll understand why I planned my entire budget birthday around this delight. Serve it traditionally in pita (the “Israeli hamburger” said my friend Johanna) and drizzle with a store-bought yogurt sauce like tzatziki. Or let it accompany a knockout mixed grain dish.

A food processor is best for making this dish in a pinch: mix, chill, fry. That’s it!

My Favorite Falafel

tweaked from Joan Nathan, The Foods of Israel Today 

1 cup dried chickpeas OR 2 15-oz. cans

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried cayenne

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons stone-ground white corn meal (or flour)

Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

Prep the Mixture

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, cayenne, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until just evenly chopped.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour (or cornmeal—I found the cornmeal achieves the perfect crunchy exterior), and pulse. You want to add enough cornmeal or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Do not overmix, or the falafel will be tough. Leave a little chunky.

Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours. I’ve found one hour sufficient, but you could also prep the mixture the night before.

Fry the Falafel

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts—squashing into a disc fries faster and makes for easier sandwiches. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test.

If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. I find they fry well if lowered gently into the oil with a chinese strainer. Drain on paper towels. Falafel does not absorb oil, so it is not a greasy food—despite being fried.

Joan Nathan’s tips:

Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Tahina is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at www.ethnicgrocer.com.

To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at www.ethnicgrocer.com), mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

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March 12, 2012 · 2:53 pm

best of 2011

Drumroll please… the most delicious, memorable, must-make dish from our kitchen in 2011…

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

 

In case you didn’t catch it the first time around, here is the post again. Here’s to a healthy and delicious 2012!

 

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who actually has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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recipe for success

I love cookbooks with photos. I want to know exactly how to plate a new dish, and how appealing it will look after my labor. With holidays and company and potlucks upon us, it’s time to peruse the ol’ cookbook collection for a photo of Stellar food. You’ll know it: the page on which you pause, salivate, and remind yourself that it’s unhealthy to consume paper. If you are looking for Something Different this year, and seeking inspiration beyond this baby of a blog, spend some one-on-one with a cookbook from days of yore.

I found many discouraging trials in my early days of self-taught cooking when my meal rarely resembled the recipe’s promises. Should you find yourself apprehensive about risking your time and ingredients on the unfamiliar, here are some thoughts you may find helpful upon opening your cookbook:

Serves Eight

In our home, I’m cooking for two. When it’s a meat dish, that’s only one and Andrew is not always up for a week’s worth of leftovers. Be practical with your ingredients; a freezer-friendly casserole or soup may be more economical to double. On the other hand, if you also have a small household and consider the recipe more daring, cut the recipe in half to avoid waste. As I suffer arithmophobia, I usually pencil the ingredient adjustments directly in the cookbook to avoid simple, serious errors. Because that’s what happened on my math tests.

Unfamiliar Ingredients?

An impearative (ha!) disclaimer about Indian cuisine here: I insist you step out of your cabinent comfort zone for this wonder. However, a lengthy list of ingredients, especially the exotic, are a frequent turn-off in other circumstances and perhaps not your best bet for weeknight experimentations.

Pantry Finds

Similar to the idea above, seek out recipes with items you keep in stock. This makes a recipe more accessible and budget-friendly.

Serve Immediately

Beware the Serve Immediately finale. Many of my favorite dishes (egg noodles + brown butter + feta) need be served straight from the stove. However, a new recipe for company is not the time for a dish that risks sogginess as it sits. For company, those recipes recommending “flavors meld at least several hours or overnight” are ideal for cooking in advance and attending to your guests. The Serve Immediately dishes are wonderful, but be sure it works with your meal’s timing.

Read the Recipe to the End

This got me in a lot of trouble in my early repetitive cooking flops. If I did read it to the end, I often did not read the recipe through several times. Those painful paragraphs with four steps-in-one often led to my skipping crucial components. Familiarize yourself with all the aspects of the ingredient preparation and techniques, and look up any pieces that may be confusing. This is why the Internet was invented. YouTube has wonderful tutorials for cooking techniques.

Equipment and Tools

Understanding what tools you need for a recipe will prevent much frustration, and precisely why it’s important to read all the way through a recipe. After drooling over endless recipes stating, “Now with your food processor…”, I skipped many appealing recipes due to equipment limitations. For me, the food processor investment has been worthwhile: a 2-cup Cuisinart miniprep got me through college, now I find plenty of use for my 11-cup Kitchenaid.

It is important, too, to consider whether a paring, serrated, or chef’s knife is most appropriate for ingredients that require slicing. A 6-inch skillet also does not count as a “very large saucepan”. If your pot or pan is not large enough for the amount of food, simply divide the food evenly between two pans. This is crucial for searing and roasting where ingredients must have space to caramelize. Before I invested in a 12-inch skillet, I found much more success dividing my dishes between two medium skillets than crowding and steaming foods in one pan.

Assessing your recipe before committing will hopefully lead to greater success with your culinary endeavors. As recipes are rarely perfect, be certain to taste your creation about 3/4 through cooking and also before serving. Salt is usually the answer, but you can never take it away—underseason first.

What’s new in your kitchen? It’s Lebanese on our stovetop, recipes soon! Click here for some favorite cookbooks from my shelf.

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party food

It’s December, time to talk about freezing.

I am skeptical of the freezer, especially freezing foods into which I have poured many hours and ingredients. Our foods are always freezer-burned, despite the new fridge. (You cannot imagine how repulsive today’s toaster waffles…)

Upon throwing our first party in this much larger home, I wanted a no-fuss, feed-abundant-company recipe. Carolyn, a very dear family friend, insisted I consider these hot mushroom turnovers for which she always receives compliments—and that I could make and freeze them in advance. She was right, they were brilliant, and everyone loved them. Funny enough, the first bite brought me right back to childhood autumn visits at Carolyn’s house.

A Pear to Remember is a blog for do-able recipes. This often means fast recipes with few ingredients. Mushroom turnovers are neither, but they are simple to make and, like all the recipes here, worth your time and ingredients.

Further evidence the 1980s produced some really awesome things (including this cook), from Good Housekeeping:

These hors d’oeuvres are exceptionally delicious because the pastry is made with cream cheese, and the filling with fresh mushrooms. You can even assemble these mini turnovers and then freeze them, unbaked. When company comes, no need to defrost – just bake a bit longer than the recipes states. Consider doubling the batch and freezing the rest for later use.

Hot Mushroom Turnovers

from Good Housekeeping in the early 1980’s

One 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½  cup butter, softened

3 T. margarine or butter

½ lb. mushrooms, minced

1 large onion, minced

¼ c. sour cream

1 t. salt

¼ t. dried thyme leaves

1 egg, beaten

sesame seeds for sprinkling

In advance or about 2 hours before serving:

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat cream cheese, 1 ½ cups flour, and ½ cup (stick) butter or margarine until smooth; shape into ball; wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a 10” skillet over medium heat, melt 3 T. butter.  Cook mushrooms and onion until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in sour cream, salt, thyme, and 2 T flour; set aside.

On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll half of dough 1/8” thick.  With floured 2 ¾” round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as possible.  Repeat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Onto one half of each dough circle, place a teaspoon of mushroom mixture.  Brush edges of circles with some egg; fold dough over filling.  With fork, firmly press edges together to seal; prick tops.

Place turnovers on ungreased cookie sheet; brush with remaining egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 12-14 minutes until golden.  Makes 3 ½ dozen. Each turnover: about 70 calories, 5 g. fat; 12 mg cholesterol, 110 mg. sodium.

Some other (well-received) homemade goodies from our housewarming…

poppy seed cheese twists and strawberry-tomato balsamic bruschetta

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rosemary’s baby (back ribs)

In the spirit of Halloween, I could not help myself.

If you salivated over read Andrew’s meat-lovers’ birthday menu from my last post, it might have also dawned on astute readers that ribs with a side of grilled hot dogs left little for the vegetarians in the group. Yes, I whipped out my top-secret, future award-winning mac and cheese, but thought the menu could use a little greenery.

Here’s a swift budget-friendly side dish to feed a crowd, a tasty last-minute Linvention. Like the rest of Andrew’s birthday dishes, it’s only five ingredients.

Rosemary Grilled Vegetables

a Linvention, serves 12

1 sweet onion

1 bunch petite asparagus

3 large redskin potatoes

olive oil

2 large sprigs of rosemary

you will also need

aluminum foil

a mandolin

Scrub the potatoes. Keeping the asparagus tied in a bunch, remove the woody asparagus stalk by slicing 1.5 inches from the bottom. Discard the woody asparagus ends and cut the bunch into thirds; the asparagus pieces should be about 2 inches in length. (If you can only find jumbo asparagus, remove woody ends and cut each stalk into 1-inch pieces).

Peel the onion. Using a mandolin or slicing disc, slice the potatoes and sweet onion into very thin slices. Because the potatoes take longest to cook through, you could cut each potato in half before slicing to decrease grilling time. Add the potatoes and onion slices to the bowl with asparagus. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with two large pinches of coarse salt.

Snip the rosemary sprigs into 1-inch pieces and toss with the vegetables.

Add one handful to each sheet of aluminum foil (at least 12 x 15 inches). Make sure each packet has at least one sprig of rosemary. Enclose the vegetables leaving an accessible opening on top.

Put each foil packet, opening face up, over direct medium high heat—checking after about 8 minutes. The potatoes should be tender enough to pierce with your fingernail. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the grill and serve.

I had never combined asparagus with rosemary or potatoes, and what a delightful combination. Of course, this would also be a lovely melange for roasting in the oven on the coldest days. There are still lovely autumn days ahead to grill outdoors! What are you grilling?

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scary good

new kitchen, good witch

On Halloween, my school held a sweet Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character day. Maybe walking around both my workplace and the grocery store as Amelia Bedelia inspired this fun, casual dinner. But this was one of those meals where the first, divine bite was this melting moment of, “That’s the best taste in a looooooong time.” Really, it’s just a sandwich, jarred pantry ingredients, nothing fancy. And you need to grill it this week.

I should also mention that you really don’t taste the artichoke, if that’s a dealbreaker for some Andrews readers out there.

Artichoke and Eggplant Panini

from Gourmet 2009, serves four

1 (6 oz.) jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 small garlic clove

1 (3/4-pound) eggplant

olive oil

1 (1-pound) loaf Italian bread, 8 (1/3-inch-thick) slices cut from middle

1/4 pound Fontina, thinly sliced or shredded

1/3 jar roasted red peppers (optional)

1 tablespoon drained capers (optional)

Prepare a gas grill (or stovetop grill pan) for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat. (If you do not have a grill, brown both the eggplant and sandwich in your oven broiler).

Pulse artichokes, mayonnaise, capers (optional), and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Trim off a thin slice from 2 opposite long sides of eggplant, then cut eggplant lengthwise into 4 thin slices. Brush both sides of slices with olive oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Grill eggplant slices, covered, turning once and brushing grilled sides with olive oil, until golden-brown and tender, about 4 minutes, then transfer to a tray.

(Since Andrew isn’t “into” eggplant, I hammered one chicken breast into an even piece and grilled along with the eggplant. Literally, with a hammer).

Brush both sides of bread with olive oil and grill, covered, without turning, until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes. (We used regular hearty sandwich bread).

Top each of 4 bread slices, grilled sides up, with cheese, peppers, and an eggplant slice. Spread artichoke mixture on remaining 4 bread slices, grilled sides up, then assemble sandwiches.

Put sandwiches on grill and press down with a metal spatula, then grill, turning once, until heated through and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes total.

Enjoy with pickles, maybe some soup, and a slightly spooky movie. We love Young Frankenstein. What’s your pick?

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Filed under dinners, health