Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pear Rescue

I set myself up for this. I know I did. A year or so ago, I purchased a pyramid-shaped fruit holder, thinking that I liked the idea of decorating with fruit, it would be cool in my newly renovated kitchen, and D would love to unpack the fruit onto the stand. All of this proved to be true, but I did not predict the regularity with which I discovered all my lovely fruit to have single bites taken out of every single piece. It's inevitable when the fruit is out on the counter, just begging to be tampered with.

I hadn't used the holder for a while because I had been discouraged by D's aforementioned treatment of the fruit (taking bites out of all of them and putting them back). But it had been a while, and I had some pears that needed ripening, so I plunked them on the holder, and promptly forgot about them.

Enter not-so-baby G, who has learned by observing his brother that moving chairs to the counters and climbing on them opens up a whole new world of opportunity. By the time I started paying attention, all the pears had been removed from the holder, one dropped, two revealed that they had started to rot, and the rest of them had single bites taken out of them.

I wondered out loud about the two that had started to turn. D piped up, "That's probably because I dropped them and they bruised." Ah, thanks for the info.

I suddenly had a lot of pears that needed peeling and turned into something, with little time to do it. I decided to poach them (a fancy name for stewing, really), using apple juice and adding some of the cranberries (in the freezer) left over from Thanksgiving. The results made a refreshing dessert!

Cranapple Poached Pears

1 child's juice box of 100% unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (you could use dried cranberries as well)
4 or 5 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 whole clove

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Don't worry if the pears aren't covered by liquid. Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes, until the pears are soft and the cranberries have burst. Sweeten with honey or a bit of sugar if desired. I didn't sweeten it at all, and while it was a bit tart, we all still enjoyed the flavour.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bake Sale Success, A Bit of Travel, ABC Cookies

I apologize for my long absence; two weeks ago, I was wrapped up in a preschool fundraiser that included a bake sale, which I was preparing for. My husband also hurt his back (happily, it is already much improved). I had a full weekend of workshops and other events. Then my kids had a stomach bug. Then I spent the long weekend traveling to Vernon, BC to visit my sister and her new baby. In brief, let me share the few foodie adventures I've managed to fit in as I fly through life at warp speed.

I found the two cupcake recipes I made for the bakesale, from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book, on a blog devoted to making all of the cupcakes in Martha Stewart'a Cupcake book, and another one devoted to making cupcakes. Handy!
Cookies and cream cheesecakes
Chai tea mini-cupcakes with condensed milk frosting

Thanks to Way More than 52 Cupcakes and Holly's 101 Cupcake Challenge for reminding me that I really need to take photos and post them on my blog. Gorgeous photos on these sites.

I also made Chewy Oatmeal Cookies from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking for wrapping individually and selling.

I'm happy to say that all my baking sold, and the majority of it sold to the preschool executive before the bakesale had even officially opened. I'd say the chai tea cupcakes were a bit dry, but I think that has to do with a cake philosophy that aims for "fine crumb" which is is usually less moist and dense, and therefore...well, dry. My family prefers moist cakes, at the expense of fine crumb.

On my brief trip to Vernon, I spent some time with friends in Kelowna, who rescued me from the airport while my sister was trapped on the Coquihalla. We stopped in at Hoang Gia Vietnamese restaurant and picked up fabulous Pho (the real thing with rare beef and tripe!), as well as a grilled meat/vegetable wrap-your-own fresh roll dish that was super yummy.

Today, glad to be home and spending time with my own kids (nieces and nephews are nice and all, and the new baby is absolutely precious, but they just aren't the same as my very own), I remembered that D got a baby gift of alphabet cookie cutters, which we have not yet used. I decided to bake cookies with him this afternoon, and it was quite a hit. He was happy and helpful, and only a bit messy, and I got a much better sense of how many letters he recognizes and how fascinated he is with the idea of spelling his name. I was worried that leaving the dough to chill for a half-hour would test his patience, but we simply read a story while we waited, and he was just fine with it.

Here is a nice whole-grain cookie recipe for rolling, cutting and decorating. Not too sweet, so it can take some icing. Our cookies weren't very big, and D was ready to just eat them by the time we had cut and baked them, so ours didn't get decorated. A different project for another day.

Chewy Oatmeal Decorating Cookies. Enjoy!