Poached Pears

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Poached Pears with Frozen Custard and Orange Slice Garnish  Picture by Connie Cockrell

Lots has happened to me since my last post in June. July held the Payson Book Festival for which I am the director, then August is prep for the Northern Gila County Fair which is the weekend after Labor Day. Then, well, I was just tired.

But, news! In August I began eating the Paleo Diet. I love it! I lost 15 pounds in August alone. If you don’t know what the Paleo Diet is, a quick explanation is that you stop eating grains and dairy. You can Google it for a more complete explanation. I have Celiac Disease which is closely related to Hashimoto’s disease. With that, you should also stop eating sugar (well, we all should anyway), caffeine (which I gave up years ago), and raw cruciferous veg (cooked is ok). So that’s what I’ve done.

I don’t feel deprived at all, despite my strong love of anything pasta. But it was making me feel bad so, while I may make the very seldom choice to go gluten-free pasta, it’s gone! Now I eat as clean as possible (meaning organic, grass-fed meat, organic veg, organic fruit. It helps that I have my own pear, apple, and peach trees, and grow a lot of veg in my small garden.

The pears are where this blog comes in. My Bartlett pears became ripe the end of September. They’re not a soft pear. I was having my brother-in-law and his girl for supper and was thinking about dessert. At first, I thought about an avocado-chocolate mousse, (more on that next month), but then I was looking at all of my lovely ripe pears and decided poached pears would be a better choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really missing anything on my new diet, but a girl does like the occasional sweet, am I right?

Serves 4 – 6.

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Hardware and Ingredients  Photo by Connie Cockrell

Hardware

Cutting board

Knife

Saucepan

 

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Juicing the Oranges  Photo by Connie Cockrell

Ingredients

4 pears, peeled, cored, cut into quarters or sixths

3 navel oranges, 2 juiced (1/2 cup or more if extra juicy), 1 sliced into rounds

5 – 6 whole cloves

1 tsp vanilla (Pictured is a bottle of homemade vanilla my friend Dee gave me for Christmas. It’s almost gone. ☹)

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Cutting up the pears  Photo by Connie Cockrell

Directions:

Put the pears, vanilla, orange juice, orange slices, and cloves in the saucepan. The recipe I was using didn’t call for any other liquid and I saw that the pears were not fully submerged. Thinking that if they were going to poach they needed more liquid, I added water to just cover the pears.

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Everything in the pot, heating up  Photo by Connie Cockrell

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Check to see if the pears are completely tender. If not add another 5 to 10 minutes or more until they are.

I made my pears early in the day and after the mixture cooled, refrigerated it until time for dessert. However, you can plate this warm as well.

I served it with Culver’s vanilla custard (broke my diet a little there) and the pears.

For the picture, I did decorate with an orange slice but when I served it to my guests, I left the orange off. I thought it looked a little mushy and not nice to eat. The orange gives the pears a nice floral note and the cloves a little warm spicy flavor. Yum.

Enjoy.

Notes: Culver’s vanilla custard, as of this writing, is gluten-free. I figured the 1/4 cup I ate wouldn’t break the Paleo diet too much.

 

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Do you have a favorite dessert to serve guests? Please tell us about it in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Mysteries, and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.

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Making Soap

Lavender, Soap,

Lavender Soap by Connie Cockrell

The kitchen isn’t just for making breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t know about you, but a lot of crafts get done in my kitchen. Not long ago I showed you how to make butter. Here is another craft that is fairly easy to do at home and the result is great for gift giving. Hoo! Anyone thinking about Christmas?

So, here’s how you do it.

Some hardware and ingredients for making soap

Some hardware and ingredients for making soap

Hardware

2 quart glass measuring cup

1 quart glass measuring cup

2 cup glass measuring cup

2 silicone muffin sheets (optional. 2 4X8 inch bread pans, lined with parchment)

1 cookie sheet

2 wire racks

1 large stainless steel spoon to still lye and water mixture

Stick Blender

4 quart stainless steel pot

Rubber Gloves and Eye Protection

Soap ingredients

40 ounces olive oil (not extra virgin)

10 ounces of coconut oil

16 ounces of warm water (from the tap is fine)

6.9 ounces of lye

1.5 to 2.2 ounces of essential oil, any scent (optional)

1/4 cup of crushed flower petals, chopped herb, whatever matches with your essential oil

Directions

Things move quickly when you’re assembling this so make sure you have all of the ingredients measured out, open and ready to add to the pot. Use glass and stainless steel so there won’t be any adverse reactions. Aluminum is not suitable for the measuring cups or pot.

Place the 4 qt. pot on the stove.

Olive Oil and Coconut Oil Melting

Olive Oil and Coconut Oil Melting

Add the olive oil and coconut oil. Heat on low for about 3 minutes, just enough to warm the olive oil so it melts the coconut oil. (Note: you can substitute rose oil or other oils for some of the olive/coconut oil mix.)

Lye and water and protection

Lye and water and protection

 

 

 

Adding Lye

Adding Lye

Stir the lye and water mix

Stir the lye and water mix

In the meantime put on the rubber gloves and eye protection. Wear an apron as well if you think you might splash. Lye is a caustic ingredient and will fizz up violently when you add it to the warm water. Keep your face away from the measuring cup. The lye and the lye water will burn your skin. Add the lye to the warm water. It gets very hot! Stir to dissolve. If you don’t stir, it will turn into a solid lump at the bottom of the measuring cup.

Stir lye water into warm oil

Stir lye water into warm oil

Turn off the oil if you haven’t already done so. Make sure the coconut oil is melted. Add the lye water and stir to combine with the same spoon you used for mixing the lye and water together. You can see in the pictures that I used a wooden spoon. I only use this spoon, with Lye written on it, for soap making. Since wood is porous and lye is poisonous, I keep it stored away from my cooking utensils.

Stir oil and lye mix

Stir oil and lye mix

 

 

 

 

 

Use the stick blender

Use the stick blender

 

 

 

 

 

Soap is thick and creamy

Soap is thick and creamy

Using the stick blender, mix the contents of the pot until the soap mixture is creamy looking. If you don’t have a stick blender you must stir vigorously for a long time until the soap is creamy looking. This can take half an hour or longer.

Lavender essential oil

Lavender essential oil

Lavender buds

Lavender buds

 

Stir in flowers and essential oil

Stir in flowers and essential oil

If you’re using essential oil and flower petals/herbs, put them in now and give the soap a final stir. Making plain soap is perfectly acceptable. I use half a recipe of soap every other time I make soap, to have plain, unscented soap to use for making shampoo.

Pouring soap into the muffin cups

Pouring soap into the muffin cups

I pour the soap from the pot into the 2 quart measuring cup and then pour into the individual muffin cups that are on the cookie sheet. I still end up spilling but it’s easier than pouring out of the pot or dipping. You use the method you think best. Note: you can substitute the bread pans, lined with parchment, 2 inch ends over the top of the sides and ends of the pan, for the muffin cups. Pour half of the soap into each bread pan.

Set the cookie sheet aside for at least 24 hours for the soap to begin to harden. You may have to let it sit for several days. If it’s too soft you end up scooping the soap out of the cups and trying to reform them. That’s what happened in my final picture. The soap is still good, just not very pretty.

Curing the soap

Curing the soap

Once you take the soap out of the muffin cups let sit on a wire rack for 4 – 6 weeks. It takes that long for the soap to “cure”. Then you can put it in plastic bags and use for hand washing, showers, whatever you want. Note: to remove from bread pans. Lift the ends of the parchment paper up and out of the pan onto a cutting board. If it doesn’t lift, run a thin knife around the edges of the pan between the pan and the parchment to loosen. Then cut the “soap loaf” into 2 inch thick slices to make bars. Let cure the same as the soap from the muffin cups.

I don’t use color in my soap because I’m looking for a natural product. However, if you’d like you lavender soap to be a lavender color, go ahead and use food grade coloring. I am guessing but I’d think a paste type food color would blend the best. Go ahead and experiment!

Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your garden or favorite craft recipe in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Thrillers, Mysteries and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.

And in conclusion…

On Sunday I ran the Rock & Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. A gorgeous, perfect-for-running morning like this:

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ended with this:

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Quite honestly, there were times along the course that all that kept me going was thinking of the free beer at the end. Well, free after you consider the miles run and the registration fee. Anyway, I’ve had Mich Ultra before, but it never EVER tasted so good as it did after 13.1 miles of running. I highly recommend it to anyone (who’s over 21 and not driving afterward).

Alas, my finishing time sucked, so I’m watching more closely the things I eat, and exercising more, because I have another half marathon in October. Maybe next year or 2015, I’ll try for the Philadelphia Marathon. Or maybe I’ll wait ’til 2017, when I turn 50. 🙂

Who Doesn’t Love Fries?

Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to be healthy, what with all the running and the veggies and stuff. Once in a while I need have a glass of wine. Or three. Sue me.

However, not long ago a local restaurant tried out some new ideas for summer, and one got my attention: eggplant fries. Needless to say, I had to try them.

The next time I went there, they were my lunch. Me. a glass of water, and an order of eggplant fries. OMG, you’ve never tasted anything like it. Even if you swore up, down, left, right, and sideways that you’d NEVER in a zillion years eat eggplant, believe me, you’re going to fall in love with these. For starters, who doesn’t love fries? They were my son’s dinner of choice on his first birthday. It’s been a never ending love affair since then. Chances are darn good my first daughter in law will have worked at McDonalds at some point in her life. (Let’s leave the politics aside for today, please.)

Anyway, today at lunch I went to the local produce shop and found a beautiful eggplant. I was there for apples but this called to me. Later, the tomatoes and cucumbers beckoned too, but that’s another story.  I’ve been wanting to try eggplant fries at home, and I figured, “No time like the present!” Only problem is, I’m damn tired. It’s my first day back in the office after working from home for two weeks. I’m not a happy lady.

So I’m going to try out this recipe tomorrow, but it looks enticing (and easy) enough, so I thought I’d share. You could dip the finished product in ranch dressing or marinara, but trust me, they’re perfect on their own. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. They’re also vegetarian, low carb, gluten-free, and delicious. Hence, Perfect.

http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2009/03/18/eggplant-fries/

 You’re welcome. 🙂

My latest addiction

Sorry for the extended absenteeism. Once it started getting hot, the inspiration to stand in my non-air-conditioned kitchen all but disappeared. On the up-side, I can say we’ve discovered a lovely new solution to the summertime dinner dilemma: Wawa hoagies. 🙂 Put your order in the machine, take the slip to the cashier, and walk out with a custom-made hoagie. My oldest in particular LOVES the chicken parm, but then again, he eats so much chicken, I should check him for feathers. (You are what you eat, you know.)

Me, I’m turning into a total iced tea lemonade junkie. I can’t stop drinking it. I found it in Wawa in diet form, had one, and sighed. I’m tempted to say it’s better than sex, but it’s been a while so we’ll just let that one go, shall we?

Over the weekend, I almost picked up a case of Lipton low-cal iced tea lemonade. I don’t treat myself very often (shut up, Milky Way bars in the fridge) so why not, right? But then I saw the drink mix aisle. One pack of sugar-free lemonade and one pack of sugar-free iced tea later, and now thanks to two half-gallon jugs, I’m making it myself for less than $1 a gallon. The bottles went back.

I don’t know what it is I love about this stuff, but I do. Just enough tart, just enough sweet. I am one happy girl. Well, except for the aforementioned Hawaiian disease*, but you know what I mean. 😉 For now, this will do just fine, thanks.

(* As explained to me by an old foreman at my construction job, “Hawaiian disease” is known as “lackanookie.”)

A real “duh!” moment

There are several meals my kids would eat all the time if I let them.  My chili is one.  Meatball subs is another.  Both are super easy to make, but both take a little bit of time (browning the meat and simmering for the chili, and the rolling for the meatballs).

And the other day, I had an AMAZING idea.  Why don’t I make TWO batches every time I make the meal?  That way, I only have to make it ONCE!

Plus, if I poorly plan a meal for the week, I’ll have something in the freezer ready to go!

So I did.  And it was BRILLIANT!!!   I put the meatballs in a freezer bag, and then popped them out when I needed something fast.  The chili takes a bit more planning, since it also requires Abigail’s Awesome Guac.  But still – going to the grocery store for a few items is a lot easier than planning an entire meal.

Meatball sub recipe coming next time I make it so I can take some pictures.

Do you ever make double-batches of a meal?  Tell me all about it.

More Kale, Please!

Believe it or not, the kale chips recipe is still a winner. We’re on our third bag of greens, and the last time I made them—after dinner one night when I was bored and there was nothing on TV–I popped ’em in the oven and 15 minutes later shouted, “Guys! Kale chips!” Within a minute I had two drooling teenagers in my kitchen, gleefully surveying the spoils. So far we’ve flavored them with kosher salt, garlic salt, and Old Bay. No preferences yet; every roll’s a winner! 🙂

I’ve also been informed that Whole Foods has a vegan version of General Tso’s chicken. This, I need to try, so I’ll report back as soon as I’ve given it a taste-test of my own. I have to admit, there’s a lot of different Chinese foods I do miss since I went veggie, but I’ve also found a lot of super-delicious options.

That is all. Carry on.

Brilliant or bonkers? You decide …

You might think I’m crazy, but I’ve started doing … er … strange things with cottage cheese.

No, I’m not taking it on walks like the family pet, or smearing it on my face in place of moisturizer. Even I have limits.

What I have been doing is whipping it — like that Devo song I’m (almost) too young to remember. Continue reading