Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March-ing Right Along....

I can't believe spring has sprung on us already!  Keeping myself busy has really helped me get through the dreaded Tax Season (which, you would think after 32 yrs I would be used to).  So here's what has been keeping my attention these days:

First of all, I do believe I have this sourdough bread baking business down to an art.  A darn good art, at that!  I have a great starter and I bake bread whenever I can.  Honestly, I think I have OD'd my neighbors on bread for now.  

Next was my Growth Chart project to send for Cade's birthday.  I cannot believe it, but that little guy is walking!  He took his first steps before he was even 11 months old, little stinker!  I could not find a pattern anywhere for making one of these, so I had to make it up as I went along.  I looked at lots of images online that were out there, believe me.  So, here is what I came up with:

I loved the jungle/safari themed material- so bright and colorful!  And since I had quite a bit left over, I decided to make a quilted blanket for him too.  I have always said he was a little monkey, the way he would use his feet and toes.  So, this is the front/top:

And then I put this on the back:

After finishing these and getting the box off to KY (along with other toys, clothes and books for him) I started planting seeds for the container garden I'm going to have this year.  I have yellow squash, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, 3 different kinds of tomatoes, broccoli, romaine lettuce, seed lettuce and morning glories (not for containers).  I will be sharing many of these plants with others.  Hope everyone has a great, allergy-free (ha ha) spring!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Got Pears?

I love pears.  So much so that when they came in season I kind of went overboard and bought a bunch of them.  Unfortunately they all ripened at the same time and before I knew it, I had about 4-5 ripe pears that I needed to do something with (besides eat) pronto.  
I remembered scanning a recipe that was in my mother's "collection" (when I was writing my cookbook) that involved pears so I began searching for it and found it- yay!  
It was for Pear Cake which intrigued me right away.  Never heard of Pear Cake before.  A quick online search turned up one or two more similar recipes but this one sounded SO good.  I think it's because of what you do to/with the pears beforehand that makes this a winner.

And that is: you peel and thinly slice 4-5 ripe pears, put them in a bowl with nuts and add brown and white sugar. Stir the mixture and let it sit for at least an hour, stirring now and then.  This amazing process produces more juice and seems to caramelize the nuts and....well it's just awesomeness.

The pear mixture is then processed in a blender or, in my case, I just used a potato masher, which left a few little chunks of pear. This mixture is added to the rest of the cake batter and wow, it made a really thick, moist cake!

Some people said they cooked theirs in a Bundt pan and poured a glaze over, others said they made 2 loaves and called it Pear Bread.  Then some iced their cake with a Cream Cheese icing- however it was noted that (while I LOVE that icing) this tended to cover up the wonderful flavor of this cake.  Bearing that in mind, I just left my cake naked.  I figure the true test of a cake is if it can stand on it's own without any kind of topping then it's a great cake.  This was!

I'm glad I left those little chunks of the caramelized pears in there, too.  It is said that you can substitute apples (zucchini?) for the pears and if you do that, I would definitely put it in a blender since ripe apples don't get as soft as pears.  So here is the recipe.  It leaves a lot of wiggle room to add spices if you so desire.  I would try it first 'as is' and take it from there.  Let me know if you make it!



4-5 fresh pears
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and slice pears thin. Mix sliced pears with white sugar, brown sugar, and nuts and let sit for one hour, stirring now and then. After sitting puree pear mixture in a blender.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 13x9 inch pan.

By hand stir in until just blended; the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to pear mixture and add oil, vanilla and eggs. Pour batter into prepared pan *

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

* OR place in 2 prepared loaf pans; bake for 50 minutes.