Maple Poached Pears

Maple Poached Pears

I discovered this recipe thanks to a post on Kitchen Stewardship. (It’s from a cookbook called The Nourished Kitchen Cookbook.) And it has transformed my life.

Do you know how wonderful a mouthful of soft, creamy pears, hot and drizzled with a spiced, mapley, buttery syrup is? I mean, really?!? It’s so simple, but absolutely amazing. My children especially like it with a scoop of ice cream, and for Christmas dessert I made some cinnamon ice cream using maple syrup as a sweetener that went with it perfectly! But it’s also good all by itself, or perhaps even drizzled with some cream!

This recipe is pretty much just like the one on Kitchen Stewardship, but I’ve upped the butter and maple syrup because I didn’t think there was enough sauce in the original recipe. I also did mine in a cast iron skillet, and they were perfect!

Peel about 4 ripe pears and cut them in half. Then, take a spoon and scoop out the seeded center and the fibrous stem part.

Maple Poached Pears Maple Poached Pears

Meanwhile, in a large cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pan, melt 4 Tbsp of butter .

Maple Poached Pears

Add in about 1/4 cup of maple syrup, preferably grade B, and the spices.

Maple Poached Pears

Let it cook until bubbly.

Maple Poached Pears

Then place the pears in, face-down.

Maple Poached Pears

Let it cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes to caramelize the bottoms of the pears, and then place the entire pan in the oven for 45 minutes or until a fork pokes through them easily.

Maple Poached Pears

Serve drizzled with the sauce. If desired, top with ice cream, whipped cream, or a drizzle of heavy cream.

Maple Poached Pears

Pure deliciousness!

NOTE: If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can still make these but the bottoms won’t caramelize as nicely. You can start the pears on the stove top, and then transfer the pears and sauce to an oven-safe baking dish to do the baking part. 

Maple Poached Pears
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
If you don't have a cast iron or other oven-safe skillet, you can start them on the stove top and then transfer them to a baking dish instead. They won't caramelize as nicely but will still turn out yummy! Don't forget to scrape all the sauce into the baking dish with the pears.
Ingredients
  • 4 ripe pears
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Peel the pears, slice them in half, and scoop out the seeded center and tough stemmy parts with a spoon.
  3. Meanwhile, in a cast iron skillet melt the butter and add in the syrup. Let cook until bubbly, and then stir in the spices and vanilla.
  4. Place the pears, sliced side down, in the skillet and let cook on medium for 3-5 minutes to caramelize the bottoms
  5. Place the whole pan in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a fork pierces the pears easily.
  6. Serve hot, drizzled with the sauce. If desired, top with ice cream, whipped cream, or a drizzle of heavy cream.

 

spelt

Grinding My Own Grain!

My husband bought me a grain grinder for my birthday.

I’m really not sure what this says about me. But between the grain grinder and the backyard chickens, I sense that I’m crossing some sort of line. Some line manned by alternative hippy dippies and paranoid survivalists. (Is this a bad time to mention that I haven’t used conventional deodorant in over a year? I swear, I don’t stink though.)

Anyway, I now grind my own grain. I fantasized aloud back in September about how nice it would be to have freshly ground grain – since it tastes so much better that way. And then my supply at Whole Foods dried up. For over 5 months they had no whole grain spelt.

So my husband bought me a grain grinder for my birthday!

It’s a Wonder Mill Jr. It’s hand powered, not electric, because I thought it would be more durable. Theoretically, this thing should last my lifetime and beyond! You can buy an attachment to use your drill to do the grinding, but we haven’t tried that out. So far it’s just been manual labor all the way. But I have two slaves children to do said manual labor, so it’s not so bad!

One slave child is particularly enthusiastic about the grinding.

IMG_4991 grinding spelt

Grind baby grind!

spelt

We have this policy of whoever walks into the back room (where the grinder is set up) has to do a few cranks on the grinder. This started out working great, but lately production has dramatically dropped. (I’m going to have to break out the whips soon.)

I bought a ridiculous amount of spelt berries from a farm in Idaho. $50 for 50 lb, which is really good. Unfortunately, the shipping cost as much as the spelt – which is NOT so good! After this runs out, my next goal is to find a source that’s more local so that I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg just to get it to me.

spelt spelt

I poured it into two buckets with air-tight lids. The whole berries should keep this way indefinitely.

spelt spelt

And the verdict? Is there really a difference between freshly ground and store bought flour?

Yes! I’ve so far made biscuits, banana bread, dumplings (chicken and dumplings), cookies, and rolls with the flour, and they all taste noticeably better! They’re light and tender and delicious! I have noticed that some of the ratios are different, though. For example, my biscuits take much less liquid with the freshly ground flour than the pre-ground stuff.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to buy a grinder and start grinding their own grain. The VitaSpelt from Whole Foods worked just fine for me before they stopped selling it. (The Bob’s Red Mill brand spelt, however, tastes AWFUL. Truly, truly awful. Don’t bother with it.) But if anyone out there is curious and does want to, I can testify that it is worth it and is delicious. And we’ve been very happy with the Wonder Mill. I suspect it will outlast me on this planet.

And, don’t worry. I don’t really think owning a grain mill actually makes you a paranoid survivalist. (Unless you also have a cellar full of canned goods and a stockpile of weapons. Then you might be.) But it DOES make you one seriously good cook!

 

 

 

hot chocolate

World’s Best Hot Chocolate

There’ve been some pretty cold days here in Pennsylvania lately. And with cold days comes craving for hot drinks. We all enjoy Cranberry Cider Swizzle, and at bedtime I love a mug of honey-sweetened Cardamom Milk, and there’s always tea. But on certain days – especially snowy days when you come in from sledding and playing outside – nothing will do but hot chocolate!

Here’s our go-to hot chocolate. It is the best hot chocolate you will ever drink in your whole life. I don’t mean, it’s “pretty good for being healthier for you.” I mean, it will blow that packet of Swiss Miss out of the water and make you wonder why you ever put that stuff in your mouth. It is rich, chocolatey, and deeply satisfying. Every single person who has ever had it has said, “Wow! How do you make this!” and can hardly believe how good it is. So, if you’ve been used to making instant hot chocolate packets, try this instead. It’s cheaper, healthier, and waaayyyy tastier!

And – bonus of bonuses – not only is it absolutely delicious, it’s also made with a minimum of sweeteners and only natural, whole-food ingredients! So you can drink this (as long as you’re not highly inflammatory at the moment) and give this to your family and feel good about it!!

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hunter's chicken

Hunter’s Chicken

This is one of those childhood dishes that I remember eating my whole life, and is one of my favorites. I don’t know why it took me so long to get it on the blog! It’s one I pull out for company because it seems impressive while being really simple, so I’m not stressed out for my guests.

It starts out with 1 pound of chicken. I prefer to use thighs because they fall apart really nicely in the sauce, but you could use whatever chicken parts you want. I believe this dish originally called for a whole, cut-up chicken. You can make it that way too, but then the chicken parts stay whole instead of breaking up into the sauce. Still perfectly good, just a different variation!

So, take your chicken thighs, or whatever you’re using, and dredge them in tapioca flour or arrowroot flour.

hunter's chicken hunter's chicken

Then place the chicken in the bottom of a very hot pot coated with some oil. (coconut oil, palm shortening, lard, ghee, or olive oil.)

hunter's chicken

Sautee for a few minutes until browned and crispy, and then flip them over.

hunter's chicken

Add in some chopped onions and minced garlic.

hunter's chicken

And then add in 3/4 cup of white wine, 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 small can of tomato paste, and the spices: bay leaf, basil, marjoram, and salt and pepper. Stir it all together!

hunter's chicken

Simmer for 45 minutes, then add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook for another half hour. (If your family rebels at the suggestion of mushrooms, as mine does, you can leave them out. But they’re delicious!) At the end, if you’re using boneless chicken thighs you should take your spoon and break them apart.

hunter's chicken

Serve over pasta. We usually use a brown rice and quinoa spiral pasta from Trader Joes which is really good!

hunter's chicken

And that’s it. This is one of those good simple recipes to have in your everyday-recipe-that’s-good-enough-for-company arsenal!!

Hunter's Chicken
Author: 
Recipe type: dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
I use boneless thighs in this recipe, since they break up nicely in the sauce. However, you could use whatever chicken parts you wish, even whole, bone-in parts. The recipe will be slightly different in texture depending on what you choose, but will taste the same!
Ingredients
  • 1 lb chicken parts (I prefer boneless thighs)
  • tapioca or arrowroot flour (enough to dredge the chicken in)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • small can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • oil for cooking
Instructions
  1. Dredge the chicken parts in arrowroot or tapioca flour until completely covered.
  2. Put enough oil to cover the bottom of a wide pot or dutch oven, and heat over medium-high until very hot. Place the chicken parts in the pot and sautee for a few minutes, then flip to the other side.
  3. Add in the onions, garlic, wine, chicken stock, tomato paste, and spices and stir.
  4. Turn heat down and simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. After 45 minutes, add in the mushrooms and cook for another ½ hour.
  6. Serve over pasta.

 

pumpkin pie

Pumpkin Pie

Okay, this recipe has been a long time coming. I’ve been meaning to share it since Thanksgiving! Oh, well. It’s a little late for the holidays, but, really, is it EVER a bad time to eat pumpkin pie? I mean, why do we need to wait for November to have some of this deliciousness? It’s made with a winter squash (pumpkin or butternut squash), so in my book that makes it fair game at least until April. And if I’m really craving it, then it’s fair game any time of year.

This pie is a really easy one to make without refined sweeteners because of all the spicy flavors in it. However, there is a comparatively large amount of sweeteners in the recipe, so this isn’t something to eat if you’re sensitive to them or are recovering from inflammatory symptoms. However, it is a really good real-food version of a classic favorite!

First, prepare a pie crust. I explain how to make a spelt crust in my quiche recipe. Basically do the same thing, but if you want you could add some stevia or some other sweetener to the dough. (If you can’t eat grain/gluten, or just don’t feel like making a crust, you can just leave it out and turn it into a custard! I explain more below.)

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked and pureed pumpkin or butternut squash (fresh is good, but canned is fine too), 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2/3 cup palm sugar, 2 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 eggs, 1 Tbsp melted butter, and the spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and salt.

pumpkin pie

Pour the mixture into the uncooked pie crust and cover the edges of the crust with tin foil or a crust guard to prevent it from burning.

pumpkin pie

Bake at 425 for 40-45 minutes. The center should be slightly jiggly, but set, when finished. When you shake it, it should act a little like jello.

pumpkin pie

And that’s it! Is that simple, or what? And delicious!

NOTE: If you don’t feel like making a crust, you can just leave it out! Instead, turn this into pumpkin custard. Instead of pouring the mixture into a pie shell, pour it into a buttered 8×8 baking dish. Place the baking dish inside a 9×13 baking dish. Put it in the oven, and then fill the 9×13 dish with boiling water. (See my fruit custard recipe for pictures if you’re confused about that.) Bake as usual. 

Pumpkin Pie
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Don't feel like making a crust? Leave it out! It's perfectly good that way! Instead, prepare the custard and pour it into a buttered 8x8 dish. Place the 8x8 dish inside a 9x13 dish and fill the 9x13 dish with boiling water. Bake as instructed.
Ingredients
  • Prepared pie crust for 9 inch pie (I have a spelt crust on my quiche recipe on the blog if you need one)
  • 1½ cups cooked and pureed pumpkin or butternut squash (or canned)
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup palm sugar
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ⅛ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix all ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie shell.
  3. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the center is jiggly but set, kind of like jello when shaken.
  4. Slice and top with heavy cream that's been whipped and sweetened with maple syrup.

 

cider vinegar drink

Healing Vinegar Drink to Ease Joint Pain

So, you’ve fallen off the wagon? Or perhaps the holidays were a little more indulgent than you planned? And now you’re paying for it. You’re paying for it with joint pain and stiff joints when you wake up in the morning. Maybe you’re also paying for it with not-so-nice tummy feelings as well. You know that getting back on the anti-inflammation wagon will fix things up again…but is there anything else you can do to speed the process?

Yes! There is!

This is something that I’ve been doing for about a year on a regular basis, but especially during flare-ups of joint or digestive discomfort. It’s a drink made with two joint-support powerhouses: raw apple cider vinegar, and gelatin/collagen!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What kind of maniac DRINKS vinegar!?” Well, I’m not suggesting you just down the stuff straight, of course. When you combine a tablespoon or two in a glass of apple cider, it just tastes like apple cider that has started to ferment. Just a little tangy. It’s perfectly palatable that way. I’ve even started to crave it at times.

Take this twice a day, morning and night – or more, if you feel like it. If you want this to help specifically with digestive problems as well as joint pain, take this before meals, but otherwise it doesn’t matter if you take it with food or without. Now, if you’ve accumulated a ton of inflammation and have been eating a lot of bad-for-you foods for a long time – then it will take a little while for you to feel that this is helping. It will be helping, but you might not feel it at first; you’ll have to take it regularly for several weeks, combined with a clean diet, to start feeling relief. However, it will speed it up faster than just clean eating alone. If you’ve just had a little blip of bad food choices, though, and are feeling the results in your body, this should start to help you right away as you return to your standard good food choices!

Assembling your drink. (It’s not rocket science folks.)

Since you have to be careful how much fruit juice you drink when you’re managing inflammation, I always start out with the glass half or 3/4 full of water first.

vinegar drink

Then fill it the rest of the way with apple cider or unfiltered apple juice…

cider vinegar drink

and pour in a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar. This has to be the good raw kind – like Braggs – not the pasteurized stuff.

vinegar drink

Then I stir in a tablespoon or so of gelatin. It has to be a special kind of gelatin, though, called collagen hydrosylate. It dissolves completely in both hot and cold liquid, so you can add it to anything you want. I suggest Great Lakes brand – the kind that comes in the green can. (You can order it here in bulk, or in individual quantities from Amazon.) Stir it in right away until dissolved.

vinegar drink

That’s it. Since I get a little paranoid about if the vinegar might be eating away at my teeth, for good measure I also rinse out with water after I finish drinking it.

There are other benefits to this drink beyond just joint support, of course. The gelatin is good for joints, skin, hair, and soothing the intestine. Apple cider vinegar is known to be good for a wide variety of things. I personally have found it to help with digestive discomfort, heartburn, and healing faster from a sore throat. So, this can help you in many ways – not only in soothing achy fingers!

 

custard

Baked Fruit Custard

When I was little, my mother would often make baked custards. They were perfect little creamy desserts, topped with nutmeg. They were especially wonderful when we weren’t feeling well – nutritious, comforting, and easily digestible. So as an adult I learned to make them for myself, and anytime I had a little cold coming on and didn’t like eating too much, I’d whip up a batch of them and be transported back to the comfort of childhood and being taken care of by my mother and these custards!

Then, I changed my diet. I dropped sugar. And for a couple years I didn’t eat custards anymore, because I didn’t think I  could make them the same without sugar.

Well, I’m very pleased to say that I was completely wrong about that! I can make custards without sugar! All it takes is adding in a bunch of fruit to make up for the missing sugar. I’ve been playing around with proportions of ingredients for a while until I found the perfect combination. The result is something that’s different (being packed with fruit) but also very familiar. The custard is light and sweet and smooth and comforting, just like I remember. So now custard is back on the menu!

This recipe has 1/4 cup of maple syrup in it, but you could reduce that or even eliminate if you needed to. (The custard won’t be as sweet, but the fruit should compensate for it). I use mashed bananas to add sweetness to the custard, but for some reason these DON’T taste very banana-y. I swear! So don’t let that scare you off!

This dish makes a nice dessert, but also a great breakfast. Or, if you’re feeling unwell and can’t stomach heavier meals, an anytime-food! The fat from the milk, protein from the eggs, and nutrients from the fruit make this a great nourishing dish! 

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