I can't give you a recipe, but I can give you instructions…

Peel and puree enough pears to make about 4 cups of pears.

If you want some chunks of pears in your bread, you don’t have to puree it – or puree half and fold in the other half measurement of chunks when you fold in the walnuts.

I make this batter in my food processor in a matter of minutes. To the pear puree, add:
3 eggs,
1 1/2 cups of white sugar,
1/4 cup of oil,
1 cup of sourdough starter,
3 cups of flour,
2 teaspoons of baking powder,
2 teaspoons of cinnamon,
2 tablespoons of vanilla,
1 teaspoon of baking powder,
1 teaspoon of salt,
and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Processes this in the food processor till it is thoroughly blended.

Fold in 2 cups of walnut pieces – if you have reserved perar chunks, fold them in now, too.

Pour the batter into 2 greased and floured bread pans. The batter should fill 1/2 the pan – it will rise to fill the pan nicelly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted into the loaf and drawn out clean.

Let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a bread board.

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This perfect grab-and-go breakfast bar is limited only by your imagination!

I’m not gonna pretend that this is a low-fat or sugar-free concoction…

Start by breaking out your food processor – you are going to need your chopping blade and your dough blade. If you don’t have a food processor, there are plenty of alternative methods to accomplish this dish!! Just read along and apply your knowledge of the tools you have at hand!

With your chopping blade in place, add one cup of old fashioned rolled oats (oat meal) to your food processor. Whirl it till it is coarsely chopped. You can whirl it all the way down to powdered oat flour if you wish. You may also opt to not chop up the oats (especially if you don’t have a food processor)… either way, its gonna be good!

Switch to the dough blade of your food processor.

Add the following ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups soft unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (optional, or add more)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla (optional, or add more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of ground flax seed
  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour (or white flour)

Whirl this all in your food processor till it is all well combined and completely emulsified together.

Add two more cups of whole wheat flour and process till the dough is thoroughly blended.

These instructions call for a total of 3 cups of flour. You can use all whole wheat or any combination of white and whole wheat flour that suits you.

This dough should be moist – you may need to add water, a tablespoon at a time, to make a moist cookie-batter consistency. You will need to roll it out and it needs to be flexible enough to bend.

Turn the dough out onto a well-flour board. Divide it in half and roll out a large 1/4″ sheet.  Cut the sheet into long rectangular strips about 3 1/2″ wide. Spoon filling (see below) down the middle of each strip. Fold each side over the filling, ovverlapping the edges

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Place the long roll on a prepared cookie sheet. Repeat til you have used all the dough. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into desired length.

FILLING

The filling for your breakfast bars are limited only by your imagination.

My most recent creations were made from blueberries I canned in Maine last summer and toasted almonds. The berries were pureed with a bit of lemon juice and vanilla and thickened with arrowroot powder and simmered to a thick jam consistency. I spooned the berries and added toasted slivered almonds.

I have also recently used chopped fresh figs from our tree. A generous 4 cups of chopped figs simmered with a cup of honey and a bit of lemon zest made homemade fig newtons.

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Thick jams or fruit preserves, sweetened soft cheese, lemon curd, or any number of tasty concoctions can be used as filling.  Add a handful of toasted nuts to increase  the taste and nutrition!

Wheat & Grains Bread

Mastering bread was a specific goal… I wanted a loaf that stayed together when sliced, soft on the inside and crusty on the outside, and a good source of lots of wholesome grains and good stuff.

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Start with a warm mixing bowl – I find running it full of hot water or popping it in a warm oven for a few minutes works well…. You will need to keep things moderately warm to make the yeast work well.

Start by putting 3 cups of hot water in your mixing bowl. Add 2 eggs. If the eggs are from the fridge, the warm water will offset the chill of the eggs. Try setting your eggs out to come up to room temperature for an hour or so before starting your dough for good results.  Use a hand mixer to beat the water and eggs together.

Add 3 heaping teaspoons of yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt and mix with your hand mixer. Since I use heavy flours and grains, I add a little bit more yeast than most recipes.

Add three cups of flour to the liquid and beat it till it is smooth and glossy. I use 1.5 cups of white bread flour and 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour.

Add 1/2 cup of ground flax seed and 1/2 cup of wheat bulgur. If you want your bread to have a little bit of crunch, add dry wheat bulgur.  If you want less crunch, soak the wheat bulgur in water for about an hour before using.

You can also add other alternative grains – chopping a bit of old fashioned rolled oats in your food processor is a good choice. I add extra grains at 1/2 cup increments and remember to reduce the amount of flour accordingly. Overall, if you were adding no grains, this bread will need about 6 cups total of flour. Reduce accordingly as you add other grains.

Continuing to add more flour, use your hand mixer till you can no longer use it effectively in the dough. You will need to add a total of 2 more cups – 1 of white and 1 of whole wheat.  The dough is sticky and will stick to your hands. Now you will need to work it with your hands, adding a surface dusting of flour as your knead and turn the dough. Continue kneading the dough and adding bits of flour till you form a ball of dough.

To knead the dough, I find it easiest to turn the mixing bowl with one hand and knead with the other. Pull the dough from one side and punch it in to its middle, turning the bowl and working the sides into the center.

When you can easily lift the dough ball, remove it from the mixing bowl and add a bit of olive oil to the mixing bowl. Roll the dough ball in the oil, cover the bowl with a dish cloth and set it aside to rise. It needs to be in a draft free slightly warm area of your kitchen to rise effectively.

When the dough has doubled in size (about an hour), remove it from the mixing bowl, handling it lightly and divide it in half. Knead each half slightly again. Don’t punch all the air and fluff out of it. Only knead it a couple of times before forming a ball from each half and placing it on an oiled cookie sheet or stone. Dust the surface lightly with flour. Using a serrated knife make 3 shallow cuts in the top of each loaf. Cover it and allow it to rise again, nearly double in size.

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The key to making a crusty bread is humidity in the oven. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven.  Load a spray bottle with water.

Put the risen bread in the warm oven for about 30 minutes. Open the oven every once in a while and spray the oven side to make it steam up.

When the bread is “the right color” and it feels crusty to the touch, its done!

Lemony Rice Pilaf

I have never been happy with boxed rice mixes…. Boil the contents, then dump in this packet of mystery powder… The flavors we want are simple flavors – fresh herbs, broth, etc…. so what could be in that mystery powder that we should actually be getting from “real” ingredients?

These instructions create a rice pilaf that can be accomplished in the same amount of time as those box mixes!! And you control the contents!

Mystery powder be banished!!

Start by preparing the plain cooked rice. My trice to cook rice fast is to “toast” the grains slightly in oil in my cooking pot. Add one cup of UNCOOKED rice and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil – start stirring the rice over high heat till the grains start to change color slightly. White rice grains will turn bright white, less opaque. Slightly toasted is fine – but have 2 cups of water STANDING BY…. its easy to over-toast the grains if you are not prepared with water standing by.  Dump the water in – it should more or less boil immediately – reduce heat, cover and let it cook. This method will practically cut the cooking time of the rice in half, so keep an eye on it.

Use white rice, brown rice, wild rice, couscous, quinoa, orzo, or anything you like!

While the rice is cooking, toast some nuts under your broiler. Sliced almonds, pieces of cashews, walnuts or pecans, pine nuts all work GREAT. Be careful – the toast very fast! I like lots of nuts – so I used about 3/4 cup.

Chop 8 pitted dates, four green onions & a tuft of dill (I made about 2 tablespoons).

Whisk all the ingredients except to the rice all together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Put all that in the rice and mix thoroughly!

Serve it cold or warm – just make enough! I made one batch last night hoping to have leftovers…. no leftovers!! >

Now get creative!! What other kind of stuff can I put in rice? hmmmm…. this is gonna get fun!

Asian Pork Soup

Nothing is better on a cold day than pork soup chock full of tender veggies with a slight spice and tang that sets it apart.

This wonderful soup could easily be modified to create some awesome hot & sour flavors (included at the end).

Start with about 4″ of trimmed pork loin. Cut it into slivers about 3″ long. Brown the pork in your stock pot in a bit of sesame oil.

Pour 64 oz of chicken broth in the stock pot, bring to a boil.

Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar (or rice vinegar) and 1/4 cup of soy sauce.

Chop to matchsticks: 2 carrots and one stalk of celery. Sliver about a cup of button mushrooms of your choice. Mince 1/2 cup of fresh ginger. Thinly slice 6 green onions. Add it all to the stock pot…

Drain a can of bean sprouts, and add it to the stock…

Sliver one 8 oz can of bamboo shoots and an 8 oz can of sliced water chestnuts, and add it to the stock.

Now just set it to simmer for several hours.

Cube 16 ounces of hard tofu, mix it in to the stock.

Mix 2 tablespoons of corn starch with 1/2 cup of water and stir in to thicken the stock.

At this point, its done and good to serve!!!

You can whip 2 eggs into the rapidly boiling soup to add to the mix.

To give your soup an extra kick, adding white pepper and rice vinegar are the key flavors to hot & sour soup…. just add it gently and taste as you go!

Pumpkin Casserole

If you are still looking at those left over pumpkins from haloween, you may want to take a trip back in time and use a pumpkin as a baking vessel. Long before iron pots held stews, dinners were packed into pumpkins and baked in a fire.

You don’t need to go slay a deer and gather wood for this tasty dish, tho…. you just need to expand your expectations of the use of a pumpkin beyond sweet pies and breads.

Pumpkin is a squash. You can use it the same way you use acorn, butternut and other winter squash. Baked with a little butter it is a great side dish veggie.

A little side trivia… fed raw to horses, goats and other farm animals, pumpkin works to rid intestinal parasites.

Pumpkin Casserole is a favorite in our family… cheesy creamy comfort food baked in the pumpkin makes a beautiful presentation and conversation piece!

Our eldest daughter uses this pumpkin cassarole as the centerpiece of a pumpkin-themed bring-a-dish dinners with friends.

Pick a ripe, firm pumpkin. Wash its exterior. Cut its top off and scrape out the seeds and strings. Keep and clean the top – you will use it as the lid.

Create your cassarole mix. This is where you can get creative. Giving you specific measurements does not work – no 2 pumpkins hold the same amount. I generally make the casserole mix and freeze any extra for future use.

The basic casserole ingredients are: rice, shredded cheese, cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, chopped onions and green peppers. You may wish to add broccoli florets, mushroms, or any other ingredients that you favor. You may want to use cream of mushroom soup instead of chicken.

The basic proprtions are 2/3 rice & 1/3 chicken. If you add veggies, use 1/3 rice, 1/3 chicken, 1/3 veggies.

Cook the rice al dente. It will cook some more in the oven.

Cut up and fry the chicken or boil it and shred it.

Cook the onions and bell peppers in a bit of butter till tender. You need to add the amount that fits your taste.

Get a mixing bowl approximately the size of the pumpkin cavity. Thoroughly mix the al dente rice, chicken, shredded cheese (quantity to your taste) and veggies. Pour the mix into the pumpkin cavity. Mix the soup according to packages directions (do not heat it) and pour into the pumpkin,  put the top on the pumpkin and place it in a baking dish. I usually cover the whole thing with tin foil to hold in juices and steam. You may need to add wads of tinfoil to the baking pan to support the pumpkin.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. The casserole is done when the pumpkin flesh is tender. I tend to like to cook it till the pumpkin is nearly overcooked and really tender.

Serve by scooping out some pumpkin flesh with the casserole.

Some savory modifications: instead of chicken, use ground beef, left over roast beef, ground pork or pork sausage. Some friends recently suggested trying it with left over turkey, dressing & gravy. Your best results will come from your experiments!!

Potatoes, cream, cheese, butrer and CRANBERRIES?  Yes! Awesome!

What you will need: one potato for each person, grated asiago, heavy cream, pats of butter and some dried cranberries.

Peel the potatoes (optional). Use your favorite type: russet, red, golden. Slice them thinly. Use a mandolin slicer or the slicing blade on your food processor if you can.  Rinse the slices in water to reduce starch a bit. If you are not immediately assembling the cassarole, cover the slices in water and set aside.

Spray a cooking dish with non stick sspray or oil.

Layer potato slices, chips of butter, drizzle cream, a sprinkle of salt and sprinkle a handful of cranberries. About half way through the layers, spread a generous amount of shredded asiago cheese.

HOW MUCH? For 5 med/lg russets, I used about 1.5 cups of cream, 1.5 cups of grated cheese, and 1 cup of dried cranberries.

On the top layer, add a little more cream than the other layers and a covering of cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees. How long? Thats a tough one. About an hour… your potatoes need to be fork tender and the top and sides browned.

This is a great dish to make ahead. Cover it and put it in the fridged for a couple of days to really let the flavors develop. Heat and serve individual portions or the whole dish.