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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Chicken Scallopini with Mushrooms and Brandy Sauce: Chicklets in the Kitchen Post

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Here’s the thing. Aren’t we overwhelmed with food right now? I know, but chicken scallopini is an easy to make, impressive dinner that can be used for any holiday meal and wow your guests. Turkey could most certainly be substituted if you want to use a more traditional holiday protein.

Hardware

2 bowls or pie tins for breading process

Cutting Board

Knife

Cookie sheet with cooling rack

Large frying pan

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

 

Ingredients

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms, washed and patted dry

¼ cup diced onion

2 med garlic cloves, minced

Two full chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half

2 T Olive oil and 2 T butter

2 eggs, whisked and put in one pie plate.

Cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper.

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup half and half or heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

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In the large frying pan, add the olive oil and butter, melt. Add the mushrooms. Saute until browned, remove from heat.

Dice the onion and garlic.

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Dredge the now 4 chicken breast pieces in the flour. Dip in the egg, dredge in the flour.

Add more butter and or oil to the pan.

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Drop in the onion, garlic, and chicken pieces.

Saute until the chicken is browned but not done. Put the pieces on the cookie sheet and place in the oven.

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Raise heat to high on the frying pan. Pour the broth in the pan and scrape to deglaze. Turn down the heat. Add the half and half, stir to combine. Add the mushrooms.

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Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, then add the brandy and the chicken breast.

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Cook on a simmer another 10 minutes.

Plate and drizzle the sauce over the scallopini.

NOTE: I have served this with rice and asparagus, mashed potatoes and broccoli, whatever your family likes.

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Do you have a favorite holiday meal? 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.

Basic Water Fondant: Chicklets in the Kitchen

Finished Peppermint patties and Truffles by Connie Cockrell

Mid-November, I start thinking about Christmas. A bit of thought is required because I like to make candy and ship packages of it back to my family in New York. The problem is timing. Mail slows down, a lot!, in December. So I want to get it in the mail as soon as possible after Thanksgiving so it can reach its destination in time to be enjoyed for the holiday. That means candy-making is competing for time with National Novel Writing Month, garden clean-up, conferences and Thanksgiving.

One thing I can do to help myself is to make some of the candy in advance. A family favorite is homemade peppermint patties. Fondant is the key to that creamy filling. Since I don’t live near a baking/candy store where I can buy packages of it, I make it myself.

This recipe is taken from the book, Homemade Candy by the food editors of Farm Journal and edited by Nell B. Nichols. Copyright 1970.

So, here’s how you do it.

Hardware and Ingredients for Fondant by Connie Cockrell

Hardware

Liquid and glass measuring cups

1 cookie sheet

2-quart stainless steel pot

Silicone spatula

Bench Scraper

Food Ingredients

2 cups white sugar

2 T light corn syrup

3/4 cup boiling water

1/8 tsp salt

3/4 tsp almond extract

 

Directions

Almond extract is the traditional flavoring for fondant. Since I’m using the fondant for peppermint patties, I use peppermint extract. You can use any flavor you like: strawberry, maple, lemon, it’s all up to you.

All Ingredients combined and stirred

Combine all ingredients, except the extract and chocolate, in the 2-quart heavy saucepan and stir gently over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. I say stir gently because like all candy, you want to keep as much sugar crystallization off of the sides of the pot as possible.

 

 

Bring sugar mixture to a boil.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

Cover and Boil 1 Minute

Cover and boil for 1 minute. (This gives the steam inside a chance to wash any sugar crystals off of the sides of the pan.)

No picture of the next step. Sorry.

Remove the lid and cook to the soft ball stage, 238 to 240 degrees F. If you live in a high altitude area as I do, you’ll have to modify the temperature range to fit your altitude. See note below about my mistake. That step goes here!

Pour Mixture onto a cool, moist baking sheet

Pour at once onto a cool, moist baking sheet, platter or marble slab. Let cool until lukewarm.

Work with Spatula until smooth and creamy

Work with a broad spatula or wooden paddle until fondant is white and creamy. Add your extract of choice. Knead until smooth.

Place in plastic bag to mellow

Put in a plastic bag and close tightly. Place in refrigerator to mellow at least 24 hours or for several weeks!

 

 

 

 

Now, here’s a note. I tried three times to make this fondant.

Fondant is not turning creamy and white

You can see pictures here of the fondant not becoming creamy and white. It wasn’t until I was typing up this post that I see where I made my mistake. So if the fondant doesn’t come out, one fix is to add confectioner’s sugar.

Confectioner's Sugar to Fix

Poured mix into a bowl for easier mixing

Close to correct consistency

I added half a pound of sugar before it became the correct, well, close to correct consistency. I tried again a couple of days later and made the same mistake. That time I let the fondant sit on the cookie sheet, working it every half hour until it was close to the correct consistency.

Working the Fondant

What was my mistake? I skipped the cooking to soft ball stage step. Color me red! I wanted to share that fail with all of you. Not everything done in the kitchen comes out right. Laugh, and keep on going.

When you’re ready to make your patties, pull the fondant out of the fridge, and divide into 4 equal portions. Knead the fondant until soft then press into shape. For me, this would be one inch balls that I then press into a disk shape. I put the disks on a cookie sheet and let the fondant develop a skin. This will allow the discs to hold their shape when I dip them into warm, dark chocolate. Place the dipped candy on a wax or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet to harden in a cool place.

Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your favorite candy recipe or biggest kitchen disaster 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 atwww.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.

Christmas Cookies: Mexican Wedding Cakes – Gluten Free

Merry Christmas to everyone. May you have a relaxing day with family and friends.

These cookies are also called Russian Tea Cakes or even snowballs and they’re my daughter’s favorite cookie. It wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without them. I have started just making these. Back when the girl was little I’d go all out. I made sugar cookies, jam thumbprints, these Mexican Wedding cakes, all sorts of things. Now, I’ve gotten lazy and I just call this my signature cookie and make a double batch to give away and enjoy at home.
I’m in the habit of sending out a cookie tin of homemade candy and these cookies to my sister, brothers and daughter as a Christmas gift. So I have to get them made early in December to meet mailing requirements and deadlines. So I took the opportunity to take a few pictures while I was making them. The recipe comes from my Betty Crocker cookbook with adjustments for making them gluten free. My cookbook is so old it’s being held together with duct tape. A sign that it’s provided many a happy meal, I guess. The recipe below is doubled and makes about 5 dozen, one inch cookies.

Russian Teacakes
Also called Mexican Wedding Cakes

2 C softened butter
1 C confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (Optional: 1 t vanilla, 1 t almond flavoring)
4 1/2 C all purpose flour (Optional for gluten free: 4 1/2 cup all purpose gluten free baking flour. I used Bob’s Red Mill but whatever you use is probably fine.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I generally use walnuts but almonds would be good too.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F

In a large bowl cream butter, sugar and vanilla.

Creamed butter,sugar, flour,nuts.

Creamed butter and sugar with added flour and nuts.

Work in the flour, salt and nuts until the dough holds together. Note: This is a dry dough, you’ll be tempted to add water. Don’t. It will hold together. It’s supposed to be a little “sandy”.

Creamed butter,sugar, flour,nuts

The Dough ready but still ‘sandy’ looking.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Cookie Dough, ready to bake

Dough Ready to bake

Bake 10 – 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Let cool until you can handle them then while warm, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Cool on a wire rack. Roll in sugar again.

Dipping baked cookies in sugar.

Dipping baked cookies in sugar.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies
Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Please tell us about your garden or favorite cookie recipe in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.
My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Women’s Fiction and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at http://www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com.

Gluten-Free Girl’s Robin’s Nests Cookies

In the spirit of sharing festive cookie recipes, I couldn’t resist bringing out an old family recipe. It’s a cookie recipe I’ve shared here before, but one so yummy, it’s worth sharing again! 🙂

The cookies are called Robin’s Nests. I’m not sure when or how we started baking these at Christmas, but we’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. The only year I didn’t bake them, I was on pregnancy bed rest and my sister made them for me! 🙂

Now, one word of warning: Plan to be in the kitchen for several hours. This is the most labor-intensive recipe I’ve ever baked but it’s completely worth it because these cookies are incredibly delicious!

Without further delay, here’s the recipe! Continue reading

Guest Ashlyn Macnamara: Ragoût de boulettes (Meatball stew)

Today, I’m pleased to welcome guest chicklet, Ashlyn Macnmara! Ash, as she’s known by her friends, is here to share a lovely holiday recipe and shares a little French-Canadian Christmas tradition. But…let me get out of the way so Ash can tell you all about it! Take away Ash!

Continue reading

Gluten-Free Girl & the Jell-O Mousse Tree

It’s that time of year again. As the world gears up for the holidays, schools wind up (the kids) for holiday break. Which means party, party, party.

But being gluten-free at a party is the pits! Well, it doesn’t have to be. There are easy things you can do to make sure you contribute something fun and tasty. This week, my sons (Indy & The Captain) wanted to do Jell-O.

Indy doesn’t like lime flavoring, so we used Berry Blue flavor and added a few drops of yellow food coloring to make it green!

I was never a fan of the wiggly stuff growing up. Because I’m a firm believer that if my food is moving, I don’t want to eat it! My boys disagreed and this week, they won out. With really fun results. Continue reading