Canned Pear Cake


This time of year the empty jars start piling up, and the full jars start to disappear. The jar management game, if you’re a canner,  begins. I might be a little early this year. I tend to be somewhat of a hoarder, which means that by the time asparagus and rhubarb starting producing in the garden, I’m still using up pantry items. This year I want to have a clean slate by that time. And to defrost the freezer! Big plans over here. This cake was a success on all fronts, even though it’s name sounds dull. Not only was it delicious, but it used up almost two jars of pantry goods. And it’s a healthy breakfast cake to boot. Success!

Success feels good. Of course, I don’t post failures, but don’t be fooled, they are legion. I’m never truly bothered by a kitchen fail. It’s disappointing, sure (especially when I think something is going to turn out great and spectacularly fails), but it never deters me from forging ahead. I’m so matter of fact about the failures: huh, that didn’t work. Guess I’ll try this. I wish I could be that forgiving with the rest of my life. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately after reading this article on Brain Pickings about fixed  and growth mindsets; in particular I liked the quote about how growth mindsets  instill “a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.”  People with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, “see risk and effort as potential giveaways of their inadequacies, revealing that they come up short in some way.” My cooking life definitely has a growth mindset. The rest of me? Not so much.  I think my personal life could learn a lot from my cooking life–the biggest lesson being: keep going in the face of failures (big plural!).

The success of this recipe is that it’s adapted one of my favorite recipes from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, a simple one for banana bread. My spin is that I’ve used some pears canned in light syrup, and a pear jam. I also like date molasses (try it!) for this, but maple syrup or honey would both be fine. Keep in mind the honey will be sweeter, so maybe use 1/4 cup, and maple perhaps 1/2 cup? It also depends on how sweet your jam and pears are, so adjust for that.

Canned Pear Cake

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8×8 pan.

2 cups canned pears (this can be pear sauce, or canned pear halves that have been mashed)

3 tablespoons of oil or melted butter

1/3 cup of date molasses (or 1/4 cup of honey; 1/2 cup maple syrup–see note above on sweeteners)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pear jam (mine was a chunky style with no embellishments)

1 tablespoon of sugar for topping (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients well. Whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix them together. Smooth in prepared pan. Spread the top with jam, and sprinkle with sugar for a little crispness, and bake for about 40 minutes. Look for the sides to be golden, and the very tips of the jam beginning to brown a little. You can also check with a toothpick inserted coming out clean.

Even a few days out, this is still good. I put a slice of cold butter on a untoasted piece of this, and it was heavenly.

Bloomington, NY




Last week I made vegetable sushi for dinner. A new and inspired filling I discovered was  bok choy which I sautéed with ginger, garlic and soy. I guess I was hungry so I made an extra large batch of sushi rice. After we were done, and so full, there was a lot of rice left over. Now, the world over will tell you to throw out leftover sushi rice. That is utter crazy talk, in my opinion. I’m here to tell you that throwing out sushi rice is not necessary.

I made onigiri (rice balls) by tossing the rice with sesame seeds and a bag of those Trader Joe’s Seaweed Snacks all chopped up with a scissor. I saved some wrapped in the fridge for the next day. Heated up a touch, they were fine with a little soy and sweet chili sauce. I also froze them, wrapping them individually (which was wasteful, and sort of a pain), and again they were just fine, heated up a little, if maybe a touch more crumbly.

I love this Onigiri FAQ.

Next time I make extra, I will make these crackers.

Frozen Yogurt with Boozy Figs


I don’t want to forget this one! I’ve been on a bit of a frozen goodies tear, because according to my son, the winter is the best time for ice cream! I’m sure he’ll say the same thing in summer, but I’m going with it. We made raspberry sorbet for Valentine’s Day–he’s more of a fruit-loving kid than a chocolate one (the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree). But this one here was just for me. And what’s best about this dessert is that it came together with leftovers.

The figs: There were some dried figs that I had been meaning to use for a long time, so I soaked them in some hot water for about thirty minutes, before draining them and then covering them in a mixture of bourbon and nut liqueur (Pisa, a mixed nut liqueur). I picked these two liquors because they were taking up valuable real estate in the liquor cabinet, with only a finger or two of booze left in them.

The yogurt: Lately, I’ve been putting cream in my yogurt; say a fifth of the milk gets replaced by cream. The last batch I put a touch too much, making the mistake of using a carton of cream up. What could be wrong with yogurt that’s too creamy? Well, it ended up being a bit too rich for breakfast, but not for dessert. I thought it would be perfect for frozen yogurt.

The details: 

1 1/2 cups of full fat yogurt

1/2 cup of milk

1/2 cup superfine sugar

some boozy dried figs, about a 1/4 cup, drained of the booze and chopped

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of the bourbon/liqueur mixture

1/2 teaspoon of almond extract

Mix the (very cold) ingredients gently. Put in an ice cream machine and run for 20 to 30 minutes. I found that this stayed a perfect texture after being frozen, I’m guessing due to the alcohol.

The side benefit? The leftover bourbon/nut liqueur mixture is a great nightcap to sip by the fire. Happy weekend!


Lemon Olive Oil and SAD


I think that Seasonal Affective Disorder has finally landed. I was feeling like I had dodged it, but no. February is usually when it happens, especially after several snow storms drop a couple of feet of snow on you, like it has here. I had been feeling mildly surprised that my spirits have been so even keeled. One of those feelings that you are quiet about, internally knocking on wood, when you wake up and check your inner mood barometer: depressed? No? Great!

But just yesterday, the low feelings started to swirl around me like a sand storm, making it hard to see clearly. In the evening, I was sitting watching my son play with his trains, and somewhat suddenly, this swarm of darkness descended upon my head. I can’t help but to wonder if he felt it too because for some reason he immediately stopped playing and decided to go to sleep a half hour earlier than normal. That NEVER happens. EVER. Unless he’s sick, and of course I began feeling his head searching for fever. But maybe he knew that I needed to check out, watch some TV (Top of the Lake–finally watched the first episode. Wow.) and sip on a little liqueur. And then fall in a deep deep sleep, bones weary from so much heavy snow shoveling. (Only to be disturbed  in the middle of the night by a cat struck by cabin fever and a full moon who was alternately meowing and chasing imaginary mice. I glared at her all morning, and she knows it.)

We know why citrus is so good for us during these winter months. Sunny and full of vitamin C, we sun-deprived northerners understand we’re on a ship out to sea and the only thing that will get us safely to shore is citrus. Even though I just discussed my reigned in stance on citrus, it doesn’t stop me from buying a few beauties from the store. Two little Meyer lemons, perfect and smooth, the size of a medium egg when cupped in your palm. This recipe from Saveur immediately rang the gong in my head; I was seeing steamed vegetables drizzled with it, among other delectables. Of my two precious Meyer lemons, this is where one is headed.


I halved the recipe, because it seems you will have quite a lot using two lemons. I used one small Meyer lemon, 1/3 cup of good extra virgin olive oil, and a hearty pinch of salt. It blended up nicely in the Vitamix, although I am sure the food processor would have been fine, too. I didn’t strain it because it seemed fine–nice and thick. It also seemed like it would take a while; I started straining it, and I could tell it was going to take forever. Why bother? A thought for future incarnations: I will bet that throwing in a half of a can of anchovies wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

I will bet that along with dipping or dressing for raw or steamed vegetables, this lemon olive oil will also do nicely on greek yogurt for a savory breakfast, or over feta to serve with crackers and olives. It would also be delicious drizzled on a nice steak or pork chop.

Pro tip: I’m extremely frugal, and I was sad to see so much lemony goodness clinging to the sides of my Vitamix. So I blitzed up a quick vinaigrette in the container with some oil, a garlic clove, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to make a bright dressing.

Having all these sunny, lemony dressings on hand makes me cheer up, if only just a touch.


Citrus and the Long Winter


What have I been doing lately with citrus? Really just eating it out of hand (Cara cara navels have been very good, clementines as I mentioned earlier haven’t been so great), and drinking pressed juice (3 temple oranges from Florida yield an impressive full cup of juice). Last year I didn’t get with the citrus frenzy, and it worked out just fine. My mother sent me a small bit sour oranges and limes, if memory serves, and I still have candied peel, and frozen peel in the freezer. And a full quart of triple sec! This year I declined her offer. No, says I, I will resist the siren song of the winter citrus deluge. Though I do love being a voyeur and seeing the picture parade of gorgeous Meyer lemons on Facebook (so many from the amazing Lemon Ladies Orchards), piles of peels on Instagram, and all the lovely recipes lined up in my Feedly page. I will have to live vicariously.

You need certain things to find your way through winter. Citrus is one of them. After getting so much done on Tuesday, I allotted myself a half hour to go for a walk. Seeing as how we intend to get another foot of snow on Thursday, and might be snowed in for two days, I saw it as a necessity, and I will do the same today.  The sky was that stark winter blue, and at 2:30 the sun was at a perfect slanting angle. It was sharply cold—18 degrees?—but half way through the walk I was perfectly warm in my puffy apple-green down coat.

Winter blue.
Winter blue.

The hiking trails are dented and frozen, not to mention treacherous with ice, so I went for a neighborhood walk for ease and speed.. All the houses looked sleepy under their fat caps of white, some with a full set of sharp looking toothy icicles. The juncoes and the sparrows were pipping around on the sides of the roads where slashes of dirt and dead grass were exposed for them to search for seeds. I swear I heard a red-wing blackbird, usually a harbinger of spring to me, but it might have been a grackle or starling. I’ve been seeing flocks of bluebirds all over my yard. I know everyone is complaining about the winter—you can’t avoid talking about it anywhere you go, just like heatwaves in summer—but I really think we’re close to spring. The snow doesn’t mean a thing.

Here’s some citrusy links to cheer us winter-bound folks up:

Happy to see Laundry Etc. writing again, giving us this Blood Orange, Rhubarb and Cardamom marmalade.

Which reminds me of Hitchhiking to Heaven’s quince-orange-cardamom marmalade, which is stellar. First hand knowledge.

The translucent orange of Local Kitchen’s Kumquat habanero marmalade is like stained glass. Don’t forget her citrus peels page!

Mixed citrus marmalade from Cakewalk. Gorgeous!

Buttermilk cake with Meyer lemon from Hip Girls Home.

Love this simple citrus salad from Eating From the Ground Up, and all the writerly links.

This picture from Food in Jars was one of the photos that gave me a pang of citrus envy. I also love the link to parsnip cake, which I need to make!

I’ve been meaning to make this cake from My Pantry Shelf for a few months now…

This cake from White on Rice Couple just looks ethereal.

And some sunny music:

Love Love Love

Who Loves the Sun

Summer’s Cauldron

Cara cara navels.

Lamb Pastries

Lamb pastry with nigella seeds.
Lamb pastry with nigella seeds.

For a long time now I’ve been making savory pastries with suet. They are by far the flakiest pastry I’ve every made, and there’s something about them (the fat? the meat? the meaty fat?) that is just melt-in-your-mouth amazing. I’ve noticed that sweet pastries don’t really work with suet; it’s just a little too meaty tasting, in my opinion. Savory applications work best.

I first started experimenting with suet when I purchased a quarter of a grass-fed steer a while back. Now when I order my half of a hog, I usually pick some up. It lasts a while in the freezer (that’s according to me; I have been told that fat shouldn’t be stored in the freezer over three months but I think mine stays in there much longer and it seems fine) and it makes an amazing quick pastry. What you fill it with can vary according to your tastes and what you have in the fridge. Toss a salad and you’ve got dinner.

For these, I sautéed garlic and one small diced onion in some olive oil. Then I added about a pound of ground local lamb meat and cooked it until it wasn’t pink. Some salt and pepper, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, and a chunk of crumbled feta was stirred in. I left it to cool while making the dough which comes together quickly in the food processor (follow this recipe of mine for Suet Pastry Dough). For this meal, I had in mind these Uzbekistan pastries I used to get in Brighton Beach at a small place called Chio Pio (at least I think it was called that…). This recipe gave me the idea for the cumin seeds; which were a welcome addition.

For a long time I struggled with rolling out the dough and cutting out circles, like biscuits. It was very time consuming. I am always thinking of how to do something quicker, with less hassle, and am so excited that I thought of using Andrea Nguyen’s technique for making dumplings. Which is to roll out the dough into a long snake, then cut it into chunks, and take each chunk and roll into a circle. You save a ton of time, and the circles are much neater and roll thinner. (There are some pictures here that might illustrate this more clearly.) The rest is simple: use about a tablespoonful of filling for each one, don’t over fill, fork them closed, brush with buttermilk (or egg, but buttermilk is more frugal and works fine) and sprinkle with nigella seeds. (I sometimes want to sprinkle nigella seeds on all my breads!) Bake them at 375 for about 30 minutes. Dinner!

Lamb pastry with nigella seeds

Moving forward…


I have been thinking about this space here for about a month now. It’s been almost two since I posted at What Julia Ate. I’m missing it. There’s so much to say! And although I do love it, Instagram doesn’t feed me the way writing does. My photos belong with some writing; that’s not to say that all photos need writing to make them stand. But mine do. I want to say things. That’s why I take pictures!

Like the above? There’s so much to say: like those apricots were super tiny from the orchard down the block from me and because the owner of the farm doesn’t have an easy time selling them because they are so tiny (but delicious! an Italian variety!) he might chop the trees down, which I’ve been worrying about all winter. Or that apricot liqueur is still my favorite to make, but I still wonder what to do with the apricots because you know there’s something special to make out of them. A fancy mustard? A syrupy sauce?

I’ve been stalling on starting this blog lately, even though I’ve been writing and thinking about writing a lot. And I miss it. And I’m waiting too long. Deliberating too much. I was just thinking about this the other day, just telling myself you can’t over think it. Things take time and even if you wish them to be a certain way, you can be pretty sure that they will change regardless of how you try to keep them a certain way. Then I read this piece on Dianne Jacob’s site Will Write for Food, which was really Molly Wizenberg talking about her blog and writing there. It was very inspiring, so I took it to heart.