Purely Pear Sauce and The Joys of Eating In Bed

Pear sauce made with Bartlett pears…but pictured with Bosc pears. Because I ate all the Bartletts.

As I type this, I’m eating breakfast in bed. My breakfast? Freshly made pear sauce — fragrant and smooth and delicately-flavoured and just scrumptious! I’m spooning it up straight out of the jar, because I plan on eating the entire thing! Fresh pear sauce is so yummy. It’s just like applesauce, but…pear.

And have I mentioned how easy it is to make? So. Incredibly. Easy.

Pears were on sale this week and last week, so I had the DH buy lots so that I could make lots. I like to stir it into my homemade yoghurt sometimes, to sweeten it slightly, and add some fruit and fibre.

Want to make some yourself? Let’s! Be prepared though, it’s jaw-droppingly easy.

Purely Pear Sauce

Ingredients:

  • a bag of ripe pears

Peel pears, and quarter them. Remove pits and stems. Place in a pan over medium heat. The pears will release enough liquid that they shouldn’t stick to the pan, but be sure to stir it occasionally. Once the pears are mushy and appear to be cooked through, you can either mash them with a potato masher, use a stick blender to blend them in the pot, or blend them in a kitchen blender. And…done!

I know it seems too easy to be true — I was surprised myself. Even the DH didn’t believe the sauce only contained pears; he thought for sure that I had added in sugar. Nope! It’s Purely Pear Sauce!

I like to use ripe Bartlett pears for this sauce, and personally, I leave the skins on so that I get some extra fibre (and then just make sure to blend it extra well at the end). You can use Bosc pears as well (or any pear, really) but it will be a slightly different texture (a tad more grainy) and taste. That said, eh, use what you want! Life is too short to always follow the recipe. Tee hee!

Next Post: I made a great pea soup flavoured with ham bits for the DH. Should I post that? I think so! Or maybe something sweet. Mmm…I sure do love my baked goods!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, and Happiness is Homemade!

Triple-Strawberry Custard & Cream Cake: Birthday Cake Heaven!

Happy Birthday in cake form! (Plus, all natural colours and flavours, and gelatin-free!)

A special birthday requires a special cake, n’est pas? The DH’s birthday is this week, and I made him a special cake, because he’s hitting a milestone birthday. I shadn’t say how old (or young!) he is now, as I shall hit the same birthday in a few months myself, and I’d like to preserve a little mystery in our blogging relationship, dear reader!

But as I said, a special birthday requires a special cake! And the DH does love strawberry cake. (Unless it’s pink, as I learned several years ago.) So, one super-yummy fancy-pants strawberry cake coming up!

I used strawberries three ways in this cake: dried and turned into a powder to make the vanilla custard filling extra flavourful; in jam, to keep the cake layers moist; and on top, for decoration and taste!

ANATOMY OF A CAKE

The Layers: vanilla cake, all golden and moist, and oh so yummy!

The Filling: Homemade strawberry vanilla custard. Eggless, it’s thick enough to spread, flavoured (and naturally coloured!) with my home-dehydrated strawberries (I dehydrated sliced strawberries, then froze the dried slices and blended them into a powder).

Cake-Maker-To-The-Stars-Hack: simple syrup mixed with strawberry jam, spread on the cake layers, make the cake extra moist, and prevents it from getting all dry!

The Icing: whipped cream, baby! Some bakers use gelatin in their stabilized whipped cream, but I just add a bit more icing sugar instead. It won’t stay as long in the fridge, but really, is a delicious strawberry cake going to sit for weeks in the fridge, anyway? Um, not in my house! (Or more correctly, not near me!)

The Strawberry Flourish: strawberries, topped with apple jelly (as opposed to gelatin, because I be veg, yo’).

This cake is a little more finicky than most recipes I post on this blog, but a) it’s worth it and b) once you understand the parts of the cake, it’s really not that difficult. Basically, you make two cakes, split each of those in half and spread jam and then custard on those halves, and put them back together into two cakes. Then you stack those two cakes, using whipped cream icing, spread icing on the top and sides, and pipe some decoration. Voila, an all-natural fancy-pants cake!

Glistening, jelly-topped berries. Yum-o!

The how-to:

TRIPLE-STRAWBERRY CUSTARD &  CREAM CAKE

Make the CAKE

  • any vanilla cake recipe (I used this one, except that I substituted 3 whole eggs for the 6 egg whites because I don’t care about a perfectly white cake, added 1/2 tsp. baking soda for extra fluff-power, and left out the almond extract) 

Bake cakes. Let cool.

Make the FILLING

  • one batch of vanilla custard (I used this one)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. dehydrated powdered strawberries
  • 1 c. strawberry jam
  • 4 tbsp. simple syrup

Make custard. When making custard, stir in powdered strawberries, so that they rehydrate as the custard cooks. Let cool.

Mix strawberry jam with warm simple syrup. Let cool.

Make the ICING

  • 2 c. whipping cream
  • 1 c. icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp. meringue powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Using a chilled bowl and beater, whip cold whipping cream with icing sugar, meringue powder, and vanilla extract, until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled.

Make the TOPPING

  • 1 pint strawberries (hulled, washed, and dried)
  • 1/3 c. apple jelly

Assemble the CAKE

Slice cooled cakes into half horizontally. Spread each half with the jam-syrup mixture. Spread half the custard on each of two of the 4 cake layers. Reassemble into two cakes. (You’ve essentially just made two custard sandwiches using the cake layers, using the jam as you would butter bread!) Place one cake (i.e. custard sandwich) on a plate. Spread whipping cream on top. Stack second cake on top. Spread whipping cream on top and sides. Once covered, put remaining whipping cream into a piping bag and pipe a border on the top and bottom of the cake. Place strawberries, pointing tips up, on the top of the cake. Heat apple jelly until melted but not hot, and brush onto strawberries as a glaze. Chill cake in fridge until serving. Voila! You’ve just make a Triple-Strawberry Custard & Cream Cake!

A slice of cake heaven!

This cake will disappear before you know it. I had my family over to celebrate the DH’s birthday, and we ate half the cake. Twenty-four hours later, the other half of the cake had vanished. (I may or may not have had a hand in the vanishing.) Long story short, make the cake, eat the cake, and…eat some more cake. You and your tummy will thank me!

Next Post: Something healthy maybe, to balance out this cake. What about a recipe for Purely Pear Sauce?  

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

Three-Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta, And When Not to Freak Out

Pasta + cheese = want!

As the name implies, blue cheese is the star of this pasta dish. One pot, three ingredients, super-easy and super-quick to make…what’s not to love?

Unless you don’t love blue cheese. Then, move along lil’ doggie (to another recipe! Such as this one). Otherwise, make this dish and you’ll be in blue cheese heaven!

I first had this dish when I went snow-shoeing with some friends this winter. A bunch of us had rented a cabin and we ate communal-style, with lots of laughter and joking, and with some very good food! One of our friends made this blue cheese pasta, and told us that she developed the recipe when backpacking across South America recently. I’ve modified the amounts of the ingredients to make it more to my taste, as I like a saucier dish as opposed to a stickier one, but the outcome is the same — blue cheese yumminess!

Basically, you toss the pasta with a two-ingredient sauce, stir in some more cheese, and then sprinkle a tad more on top. And voila, done! It’s very quick to make; cooking the pasta is what takes the longest.

Let’s do this, boyo!

All you need!

Three-Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta (serves two)

  • 3 cups cooked pasta (I used cavatappi, but you do you, boo)
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. plus two tbsp. blue cheese, crumbled

Cook pasta, and set aside. In the same pot, whisk the milk and 1/2 c. blue cheese together, until a thin sauce forms. Stir in pasta, and 1 tbsp. blue cheese. Plate and sprinkle remaining tbsp. of blue cheese on top. Et voila, tu es fini!

By the way, don’t freak out when you’re making the sauce and it starts to look a little…blue. That’s ok! It IS blue cheese, after all, and but it does look more appetizing when you’ve stirred in the crumbled cheese and sprinkled a tad more on top.

I will say, if you don’t like blue cheese, you won’t like this dish, as it’s the central theme, obviously. And it’s best to serve the dish with a nice side salad in order to balance out the strong flavour of the cheese. I served this dish alongside my broccoli slaw, and the DH loved it!

Next Post: I have the BEST cake recipe that I developed to celebrate the DH’s recent milestone birthday, and I’m going to be sharing it with you all! What kind of cake is it? Delicious, obviously, but stay tuned and find out the flavour shortly!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday and at Happiness is Homemade!

Salads I Have Known & Loved: Eat-the-Rainbow Roast Veggie Salad, with Asian Flair

Good enough to eat all day!

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this salad recipe, as I couldn’t decide to showcase the roast veggies in the name or to emphasize the (very mildly) Asian aspect of it. It’s a riff on a salad available from Panera, which is a soup-and-sandwich joint in my neck of the woods. A co-worker bought a salad from there for lunch one day, and it smelled so good that I had to replicate it on my own.

The salad base (as I re-envisioned it) is a mixture of romaine lettuce and spinach, which is then tossed with oven-roasted veggies, shavings of real parmesan, mandarin segments, and sesame seeds, and then finished with a homemade Italian dressing.

The roast veggies are what take this salad to the next level — ever had eggplant, zucchini, baby tomatoes, all oven-roasted and tossed with slightly charred roast peppers? Oh, so good! If you’re thinking blech, roast veggies, then you DEFINITELY need to try this dish, as it will change your mind and make you a roast veggie convert for life! The roasting of the veggies caramelizes them and makes them soft and crispy and sweet and savoury all at the same time. I could happily eat roast veggies on toast with a dash of salt for many a meal (and have done so).

But aside from tasting really, truly yummy, the dish is obviously healthy and a great way to get a whole lot of veggies packed into a single plate. So let’s make some!

Eat-The-Rainbow Roast Veggie Salad, with Asian Flair

(serves 4)

  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 pint baby tomatoes
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 bunch baby spinach
  • 2 red peppers, halved
  • shavings of (real) parmesan to taste
  • 1 can mandarin segments
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil, plus two tbsp. oil
  • dressing of choice (Panera uses a sweet onion dressing, but I used a homemade Italian dressing)

The first (and very important) step is to slice the eggplant into thin slices and salt them liberally. Stack on a plate and wait for an hour or so for the salt to draw out all the bitter juices. Then rinse off the salt and bitter juices.

Place all the vegetables (except the lettuce and spinach) on two cookie trays, and put 1/4 c. of the oil on each tray. Toss veggies to coat. Bake in a 400 degree oven until crispy and golden, about 30-40 minutes, making sure to flip the veggies with a spatula halfway through the cooking. When you flip the veggies, brush the remaining two tbsp. of oil on the veggies. When fully roasted, the eggplant and zucchini will look golden and caramelized, the peppers will be slightly charred, and the tomatoes will look shrunken. Let cool.

While veggies are cooling, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium high heat until golden brown (very quick). Let cool.

Slice romaine and toss with baby spinach and mandarin segments. Divide over four plates and divide veggies and place on top. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and top with parmesan shavings. Add dressing of choice.

Close-up, sans dressing.

This salad is SOOOOO good! I served it for dinner this weekend, and while it looks all healthy and light (and is!), it was also enough to keep my taste buds happy and my stomach full.

I imagine it would taste even better with a sweet onion dressing, and plan to try that next time. I honestly didn’t think roast veggies would go well with mandarin segments, but it really, truly does. Plus, the vitamin C in the mandarin segments helps your body absorb the iron from the spinach, so win-win! If the health benefits of this salad don’t convince you to try it, do it because it just tastes so darn good! You’ll thank me, you’ll see!

Next Post: Three-Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta…or Strawberry Custard and Cream Cake? I’m leaning towards the cake because of my sweet tooth, but…I do like my carbs, so it’s a toss-up! Any preferences? Let me know in the comments!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, and at Happiness is Homemade!

Dark Chocolate Chunk Whipped Shortbread, AKA The Diet-Buster

The title says it all. (More, please!)

I don’t usually publish two posts one day after the other, but I made some shortbread today and it was too good not to share right away! My mom is turning 70 this week, and we’re having a celebration. I planned to bake a cake and asked her what cake she would like. Turns out, she’d rather have shortbread! Fine by me, so I researched some shortbread recipes and tried a few out.

First I made traditional Scottish shortbread from a recipe given to me an online friend, and then decided I’d like to supplement that with a whipped shortbread. Traditional shortbread is a sturdy and solid cookie, fyi, and whipped shortbread is made of super-fluffy dough and ends up being an airy and crumbly cookie. Technically both are shortbread, but they’re very different beasts!

I came up with this whipped shortbread recipe because I had some dark chocolate I wanted to bake with, and because I know that corn starch is often the secret ingredient to make a nicely crumbly shortbread. It’s best to use icing sugar in this recipe, as regular sugar is too grainy to give that melt-in-your-mouth effect. And, whipping your butter and then whipping your dough, gives this cookie a super-light airiness that’s just perfect for an afternoon tea.

Next-level fluffy batter! It’s…(wait for it)…so FLUFFEH!

So! Let’s make us some shortbread, shall we?

Dark Chocolate Chunk Whipped Shortbread

  • 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar 
  • 1 c. butter, soft
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 dark chocolate bar (I used Lindt 80% cocoa), chopped

Beat butter until fluffy and lighter in colour (the butter lightens in colour due to the addition of air via the beating).

Add in other ingredients (except for chocolate chunks) and beat dough for 5-10 minutes. Will be super-duper fluffy (like, woah, fluffy!), and the dough will lighten up in colour. 

Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop in rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet (ungreased because these cookies have enough fat in them already! I used a silicon baking sheet to make clean-up easier). FYI, the cookies will flatten out as they bake, so you do need to have the dough in large rounds on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until the edges of the cookies are brown.

Let cool for a minute in the pan, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Cookies, anyone? Maybe with a glass of milk? Or a cup of tea?

And one last note, if you like sturdier shortbread, add in more flour and/or omit the corn starch. You do you, boo!

These are super-fluffy shortbread and will totally melt in your mouth. Plus, the combo of dark chocolate and buttery crumbliness is just too good! My mom loved them (and so did the rest of my family, including the chocolate-abhorring DH), so I’m sure you’ll love them too! Just…don’t make them if you’re trying to watch your weight, because they are way too good to only eat one. (I may have eaten four. Or five. Eh, you only live once, right?)

Next Post: Three-Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta! An easy, yet fancy-pants weekday dinner, for when you want gourmet food in the time it takes to order fast food. Stay tuned!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday and at Happiness is Homemade!