Touch of Nectar

{September 22, 2009}   Bento #58 – Uninspired Leftovers

Oh well. At least it is kind of pretty. I like all the colors. Today is the first day of fall – all that orange/green wasn’t intentionally a theme, but I like it.

On the left: carrot and cucumber slices, Green Goddess dressing. Teriyaki chicken thigh, mung bean sprouts.

On the right (snack/breakfast): white peach, grapes, grape gummy candy, cheese stick, boiled egg, tomatoes from my neighbor’s garden


{September 21, 2009}   Jam, Jam and More Jam… Whew!

I decided, after picking an abnoxious amount of blackberries and having been gifted an entire tree’s worth of pears, that I would like to learn hot to make jam this year. My friend, Sarah, promised to teach me. Yes, I know. Jam making is not difficult. But it is more fun with company. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas?

First up – Blueberry! I think we were a little short on berries, so Sarah tossed in some of her hand-picked wild ones. YUM!

Next – Blackberry!

Then Sarah loaned me her canning kit so I could do pear jam yesterday. I really wanted to do a pear-amaretto jam, but I couldn’t find a recipe and I’m not brave enough to start experimenting yet…

Had to go buy more jars, sugar and pectin, but I think I did alright. Just plain pear. How do I get the chunks to not float?

And the final result… Almost 3 dozen jars of jam. Anyone want some jam?!

I told hubby last night that I’d like to learn how to do pickles next. Specifically green beans. Really spicy ones to stick in a bloody mary. Mmmm…

{September 21, 2009}   Boring Bento – #57

I had intended to have a much nicer selection of foods for my bento by the beginning of this week. I’m not sure what happened. Too much jam making prolly.

This is mainly leftovers from two different dinners. In the upper left: bok choy and porcini mushroom stir fry, tomato from my neighbor’s garden and a few steamed green beans. There is green goddess dressing in the little yellow cup for the veggies.

In the upper right: Polynesian Pork on rice. I had to pull some rice out of the freezer because we ate all the leftovers.

The large section has sliced carrots and cucumbers, pickled mushrooms, a boiled egg and grapes.

We went out to dinner for my birthday yesterday, but I have dinner leftovers anyway. Just the salmon is from last night. The rice and broccoli are from two nights ago. Tomato from my neighbor’s garden and some Swiss chard sauteed with miso (recipe calls for mustard greens – we’ll see how this tastes). Not too exciting, but it will work… I so need to go grocery shopping!

{September 17, 2009}   Back to Bento – #55

I finally managed to make a bento yesterday. It has been a long time and my lunches lately have been less than exciting.  This bento, as usual, is mostly dinner leftovers.

In the top compartment: salad, cherry tomatoes from my neighbor’s garden, cheese stick and Green Goddess dressing.

On the left: canned pears, cottage cheese topped with ginger pear butter (not great).

On the right: peas and diced honey-mustard pork.

Despite all of the cooking I have been doing lately, I have managed to finish a few small knitting projects.

A couple of hats:

Hurricane Hat (Ravelry link) – the yarn is hand dyed and recycled by me!

Jacques Cousteau Hat (Ravelry link). This is a gift for my friend Jeff, but hubby is modeling it for me.

A few Dishcloths. I think these will end up being Christmas presents, paired with some hand made (not by me) soaps.

Double Bump

Unique Basketweave

And last but not least… My Ishbel!

{September 15, 2009}   Pear Overload – Part #4

Just when I thought I was sick of fruit, my friend, Jerry had me harvest his Asian Pear tree. Then my mother in law brought me a big bag of apples… I think I’m going to be busy for awhile! Anyone want an apple pie? We won’t talk about the 15 cups of blackberries in the freezer… yet.

But I digress… onto the pears. I am almost done! (until I go harvest the rest that is..) I have about 4 pounds left that I am going to run through the dehydrator today.

Last night I made Pear Zucchini Bread. The zucchini came from my neighbor’s garden. Do I look hungry? People keep giving me food! LOL. Not that I’m complaining of course…

Pear Zucchini Bread

2 cups chopped peeled pears
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350*. In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. In a smaller bowl, mix flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well blended, and add to egg mixture. Fold in pecans. Pour into 2 greased 8x4x2-in. loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

I don’t mess around with changing ingredients with baking recipes too much. The proportions need to be right for the final product to turn out. Ask me how I know…? I did use cinnamon instead of pumpkin pie spice, but other than that, I followed the recipe.

I wanted smaller loaves, so I bought some aluminum bread pans. One of these days I’ll get around to buying myself some nice smaller pans…

And breakfast has arrived! Where’s the Nutella? Or cream cheese?

{September 15, 2009}   Pear Overload – Part #3

Okay, I am officially sick of pears… And despite that, I am going back today to harvest the rest of the tree. Yes, I’m nuts. But I never say no to free food!

Saturday night I cut up the pears so that I could have everything ready on Sunday morning to dump in the crock pot. What was I making? Ginger Pear Butter. I had never made pear butter (0r any kind of fruit butter for that matter) before, so this was a bit of an adventure.

Ginger Pear Butter

3 lbs ripe pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Add the first 4 ingredients to the slow cooker; stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. Remove the lid and stir in the fresh and ground ginger. Increase temperature setting to HIGH; cook, uncovered, 1-2 hours, to thicken and blend, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely, then transfer to glass jars or other containers with tight fitting lids; store in the refrigerator where they will keep for several weeks.

Since this was all new to me, I mostly followed the recipe for a change. I did double it. I’ve decided that I could probably use a kitchen scale. I felt a bit ridiculous weighing my pears on the kidling’s old baby scale. Hey, it worked! LOL.

Into the crockpot everything went and I was off for the day. I love crock pot recipes!

I came back home to a house smelling amazing. I added the ginger and increased the heat. I didn’t exactly measure the fresh ginger. I just grated it right into the pears. I may have gotten a little carried away. The final product is VERY gingery.

I took my stick blender to the mass of chunks in the crock and let the butter cool a bit before packaging it up. Oh man, did the house ever smell good! Like fall had moved right on in.

I think either my pears were a bit wet or I added to much water initially because the final pear butter is more like a thick sauce than something spreadable. From 6 pounds of pears, I got about 8 cups of pear butter (sauce). My foodie friends say this is freezable. So I think about half will be frozen and half will be gifted and eaten right away. 

So what do you do with a super gingery pear butter? Well yesterday I had it spooned over some vanilla yogurt.

It would also make a nice glaze for ham, pork or chicken. Maybe served on some green beans? Drizzled over ice cream. Toss with cubed winter squash or sweet potatoes and baked?  Made into some sort of salad dressing? Top pancakes or waffles. Served over chevre like you would serve a chutney… I’d love to hear other ideas. I have a ton of this stuff!

{September 14, 2009}   Pear Overload – Part #2

Yesterday the kidling and I needed breakfast, and I still needed to use up all these pears. I went on a hunt for a recipe for pancakes or waffles using pears… RecipeZaar let me down this time. That rarely happens! found a recipe at Everyday Health that turned out beautifully.

Pumpkin Pear Waffles

1 cup flour, whole-wheat pastry
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup pear, finely diced

Mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Add in the flour mixture. Fold in the pumpkin and pear. Pour batter into a hot waffle iron coated with nonstick cooking spray and cook until waffles are crisp and browned. The batter will make 3 waffles.

I have posted it to my account at Zaar for safe keeping (not public yet). The recipe says it will make 3 waffles, but I think it depends on your waffle maker. I doubled the recipe and got a lot more than 6 waffles. If you use an egg substitute, these can be vegan!

Of course, being me, and completely unable to follow a recipe as written, I made a few changes. First, I doubled the recipe. I wanted some to freeze and I wanted to use up as many pears as possible. I was out of cinnamon, so I omitted that, but added about a teaspoon of real vanilla extract. In hindsight I think I could have added more vanilla and a bit less nutmeg.

One can of pumpkin puree is closer to 1 1/4 cups, not the 1 cup I would need for doubling. The whole thing went in. A little extra pumpkin flavor won’t hurt, right?

I used regular all purpose flour. I don’t keep lots of different flours on hand. It worked fine. Just let the batter “rest” before you start spooning it into the waffle maker. This will help make nice fluffy waffles.

One thing I learned the hard way was that the waffles will stick, despite having a non-stick waffle iron. Spray that baby!

After breakfast, I let the leftovers cool. I froze them individually before bagging them up. I have a plastic deli tray that is perfect for this. I use it for berries and apples too. Now the kidling can have gourmet waffles for breakfast any time she likes.

I think I’ll have some this morning topped with the ginger pear butter I made yesterday… Tomorrow’s Pear Overload post. Stay tuned.

{September 13, 2009}   Pear Overload! Part #1.

I recently had the privilege of harvesting an entire tree’s worth of pears. Almost 5 gallons worth (and there’s still more to harvest!). What to do with all these pears?

I just happened to have a butternut squash in the fridge that needed to be eaten as well… So I did a quick search on RecipeZaar and found a great, easy recipe!  Butternut Squash and Pear Soup.  And it’s vegan! Bonus.

I wanted to use the entire squash, so I more or less doubled the recipe. I also used my new lemon curry powder, which is lighter in taste and worked perfectly in the soup. I didn’t have any vegetable broth on hand, so I used water and vegetable buillion.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (about half a medium squash)
2 ripe medium bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

Heat oil on medium heat in Dutch oven or soup pot. Gently sauté onions until softened—about 5 minutes.

Add curry powder and stir, sautéing for 1 minute. Add butternut squash and pear pieces. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Pour in vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until squash and pear are tender. Transfer soup to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth, working in two batches if necessary.

I let the soup cool, then took my stick blender to it. The soup is creamy and thick, but not gloppy. Into tupperware it went! Each container is about 2 cups (~2 servings) of soup. Labeled and put most of it in the freezer for later. It isn’t really soup weather right now, but this will be fantastic in about a month as the weather turns cooler. I intend to eat it for lunch – maybe with some grainy crackers and chevre cheese.

And so begins my fall food storage…

et cetera