to Whenever I have poached pears, I think about Rémy Fünfrock, the pastry chef who changed my life forever. He took a just graduated girl (who was trying to figure out how to combine her passions with a job) under his wings, forbid her from applying to culinary school and jump started her career in the food industry. Rémy is also the first person to introduce me to poached pears.
Around this time ten years ago, on the Le Voyage section of the Café Boulud Palm Beach dessert menu, we featured a Frozen Hazelnut Parfait with Warm Poundcake and a Poached Pear.
Ridiculously delicious! Not to mention that all of Rémy's dessert looked like pieces of art.
Rémy taught me so many kitchen techniques and introduced me to new desserts from which I realized for the first time in my life I preferred fruit desserts over chocolate (gasp). I am forever grateful for the care and time he put into sharing the beauty of this fabulous trade, training me and answering all of many many MANY questions I had (even if he had to ask me to shut it once in awhile!).
When I was at the store the other day there was a great deal on organic Bartlett pears, so naturally I jumped on it and went straight home to poach. There are numerous ways to poach fruit, but I swoon over red wine poached pears likely because of the great memories from Café Boulud. Also, poached pears can be used for both sweet and savory dishes and look so elegant while being so easy to prepare. For this recipe, I added some citrus flavors and seasonal spices to go along with the fall mood.
In addition to the pears, I tried something new this time since I knew I was going to have the pears with my almond milk oats and sweetened up the red wine reduction by adding maple syrup. DELISH!
You can use the pears and sauce for a variety of dishes: serve with some yogurt or ice cream, slice and add to a sandwich or top off a salad. I fanned a pear and drizzled the sauce over my morning oats (see first pic) and had one of the best breakfasts ever!! Check out the recipes below!
Red Wine Poached Pears
& Maple Syrup Red Wine Reduction
Yields: 4 servings
In a small pot, bring all the ingredients (except the pears) to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.
Place the pears on their sides (yes, only half the pear will be covered). Let simmer for 5 minutes and then flip the pears so the opposite side is covered. Repeat for about 20-30 minutes until the pears are a rich red cover and cooked yet firm.
Remove the pears from the heat and cool. Transfer the pears and red wine broth to a storage container and chill overnight (or at least 3 hours).
To make the reduction, remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the broth into another small pot. Simmer the broth for about 20 minutes until it starts to thicken to a desired consistency (note the maple syrup will thin it out a tiny bit). Stir in the maple syrup. Drizzle on top of your dish or let cool to use later.
Sweet Potato Cannellini 'Hummus' with Basil Walnut Pesto
It's easy to see that I don't really contribute too much to the savory recipe world but this little concoction is something I'm not afraid to share!
Last weekend I vowed to not leave the house for one day because I'm always on the go and was beginning to feel homesick. And it was one of the best days I've had in a long time. I played in the kitchen for hours, cleaned and organized a long awaited list of things too boring to mention and just simply chilled out with the big screen. For which I needed some snacks...
I'd been jonesing for some sweet potato chips (because anything sweet potato is my vice) but similar to my cookie rule: if you want chips, makes chips. So I made chips! Just a basic paprika spiced sweet potato crisp with some olive oil and Maldon sea salt. But I figured if I'm eating chips, I should pair them with something a bit more nutritious for me and that would provide some protein since meals and snacks should be a nice balance of protein and fiber. Given this time of year, it's only natural I needed my chip dip to be seasonal so I shook up a simple white kidney bean dip with my left over sweet potato puree, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm!! Tasty treat loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, iron, magnesium, potassium and more.
So why the pesto if the 'hummus' was so yummy? I was Sunday meal prepping and made pesto to use in a pasta dish. After tasting it, I quickly realized it really complimented the 'hummus.'
You never know until you try, so always try because you might be pleasantly pleased! :)
For the Basil Walnut Pesto, I sort of just used what I had in the house and didn't really measure the amounts. It was probably about 1 cup of fresh basil, 2/3 cup walnuts, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Just threw everything but the oil into the food processor and blended until nearly smooth. Added the olive oil and kept processing the pesto until it was smooth.
Then seasoned to taste and voilà!
Sweet Potato Cannellini 'Hummus'
Yields: ~2 cups
Puree all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth (or desired consistency).
Pour into a bowl and drizzle with additional olive oil if desired. Serve with crudité or freshly baked chips.
A long time ago when I found myself reaching for more sweet treats than my body needed, I instated the house rule: if you want a cookie, then make a cookie. Why? Well for starters if I'm really craving a cookie, then I would be happy to put the work into making one fresh from scratch instead of lazily darting to the nearest store for an unsatisfying quick fix. Secondly, so many store bought cookies are laced with processed ingredients and words I cannot pronounce, so if I am going to have a dessert snack, I am going to have one that will not harm my body but rather provide some nourishment.
This said, at any given time there is at least one type of cookie dough in my freezer! ;)
Except for last week... All week long, I wanted a chocolate chip cookie but with the usual hectic lifestyle we all lead, I had no time to bake until the weekend. So sadly no cookies for me!! :*(
By the time the weekend came, my craving was still in full force but changed slightly as I was reminded of how hard I tried last year to make a really flavorful pumpkin cookie. Many trials and tasty cookies later, I still wasn't completely satisfied. And then winter was over...
But here we are again, embracing crisp weather and decorating the house with mini pumpkins and gourds! As expected, I had some sweet potato puree, whole wheat flour, coconut oil and dark chocolate chips in the house, so away I went creating my wholesome treat. The sweet potato not only provides the main flavor, but is also loaded with vitamin C to help fend off the fall cold, B-vitamins for basically everything, potassium for my muscles and fiber to keep my heart healthy, my gut moving and my hunger tamed. The whole wheat flour also adds some fiber and protein to the cookies but most importantly doesn't spike and drop my blood sugar levels as quickly as a baked good made up of refined white flour. Essentially, even after eating my sweet treats, my mood will remain much stabler! The coconut oil, while still a saturated fat, unlike butter is known to raise HDL 'good' cholesterol and is a great substitute for anyone with a dairy allergy or intolerance. And lastly, the dark chocolate chips provide antioxidants and a richer chocolate taste with less added sugar than milk chocolate.
These cookies are my best turn out ever! The sweet potato flavor is alive and kicking and the texture is soft and moist (almost fudgy but not fudgy). If you like crispier cookies, I recommend flattening the dough a bit before baking and leaving them in the oven for a couple of extra minutes. Also, while I usually avoid refined sugar, I did use brown sugar with a mix of maple syrup and vanilla for the sweetener, but I think if you tried you could cut the sugar down. I'm okay with the amount because I rarely consume refined sugar and believe that moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan optional)
(recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addition)
Yields: 20 cookies
Combine the coconut oil and sugar until smooth. Stir in the puree, maple syrup and vanilla. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices.
Pour the liquids into the dry goods and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop the cookie dough by 1 Tablespoon portions on a Silpat (or parchment paper or greased cookie sheet). Bake @ 350*F for ~10 minutes, rotating halfway for an even bake, until the tops of the cookies start to crack.
Cool and gobble up!
Goes great with coffee... ;)
with Hearty Apple Almond Crisp
You will quickly learn that I care a tremendous amount about breakfast, am a self-proclaimed breakfast-pusher and still believe it IS the most important meal of the day despite arguments and studies against the age-old saying.
This is why: breakfast jumpstarts my day and ultimately motivates me to end the day as well as it starts.
Eating breakfast is a daily reminder that I begin the day on the right foot, nourishing not just my body but also my mind. The positive start to the day gives me more energy physically and mentally, allowing me to concentrate better knowing that I am prepared to work or study without dealing with mood swings or cravings from lightheadedness due to low blood sugar levels. Choosing to have a healthful breakfast not only gets your engine going, but also prompts good decision making from the moment you get up. You are more likely to avoid the worse for you foods and prevent overeating at lunch or dinner.
Even if there are clashing studies on breakfast's physiological benefits, there are plenty of studies showing that skipping breakfast is associated with eating more throughout the day, greater BMI (body mass index), weight gain and metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes (1,2,3,4). Those risk factors include a large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol levels (high-density lipoproteins aka ‘good cholesterol’), high triglyceride levels, high fasting blood sugar and high blood pressure (5). Earlier this year a prospective study from Sweden also reported that adolescents who skip breakfast or have "poor breakfast habits" are at increased risk for metabolic syndrome later in life. Eek! Too young!!
If your main excuse to skip breakfast is that you don’t have enough time in the morning to prepare, then try making it the night before (ex. overnight oats or yogurt parfait) or making something that is easy to eat during your commute (ex. veggie omelet wrap, homemade smoothie or nut butter on toast). Remember, breakfast doesn’t have to be huge or even comprised of traditional breakfast foods, but it does need to be a nutritious combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats, and limited in sugar and saturated fats.
Check out one of my favorite balanced breakfasts that you only need to make once but can eat for a week (i.e. meal prep) when you know your schedule is going to be extra busy. My Hearty Apple Almond Crisp is loaded with fiber (whole grains, fruit), protein and omega-3 fatty acids, all necessary nutrients to keep my brain focused, my hunger managed, my mood stabilized, my digestive system running and my heart healthy.
And the recipe is easy peasy: place the fruit mixture in the pan, top with the oats mixture and bake in the oven until the crisp turns golden brown and the fruit liquids start to boil through the top. This recipe includes apples (yes, I am still using my Annual Farm Crawl apples - 13 pounds is a lot!), plums and blueberries, but feel free to get creative and switch up the combinations to your fruit preferences.
Hearty Apple Almond Crisp
Yields: 8 servings (7" x 11" glass baking pan)
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Combine the topping dry ingredients in a bowl. FYI - the flaxseeds have a strong nutty flavor to them so if you don't want that to stand out, cut the amount in half.
In a separate bowl, chop up the apples and plums into 1"-2" pieces and combine with the blueberries. Add all of the spices, orange juice and maple syrup from the first list of ingredients and stir until all of the fruit is coated. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a baking pan (make sure to grease it - I misted it with olive oil).
Add the almond milk, maple syrup and olive oil to the dry mix. Spread the oats mixture evenly on top of the fruit base.
Bake the crisp for ~45 minutes until the topping turns golden brown and the liquid starts to bubble through.
Eat alone or top with some nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!! :D
It's pretty obvious how excited I get for the Annual Farm Crawl, and I get equally excited for the aftermath too. I spend weeks using my farm fresh apples in a variety of recipes, some new some old. One sweet treat I always make is applesauce in the slow cooker. It's easy, delicious and quite nutritious for a snack or a side.
The slow cooker is a staple in my kitchen simply because of its simplicity. For most of us our days are extremely busy running around from one place to the next. A slow cooker allows you to minimally prep for a meal and leave it to cook while you're taking care of business, only to return for ready to be deliciousness. I literally took ten minutes, threw all of the ingredients in the pot, pressed the on button, went to bed, and woke up to chunky applesauce. Okay, so maybe I didn't sleep enough this night but rising to smell of sweet apples, cinnamon and ginger drifting through the house made getting up earlier much easier. ;)
I'll write my 'recipe' below, but the truth is I just sort of winged it this year. First, I chopped up my apples (mixed variety from Riamede Farms) into big chunks. And yes, I left the skin on. You'll quickly learn, I don't peel much of anything. Why? Not only do fruit and vegetable peels contain fiber, which is lacking in most Americans' diets (and needed for more reasons than you want to read right now), but also a large percentage of a food's vitamins and minerals lie right under the skin. So when you peel a fruit or vegetable, you're discarding all of these other beneficial nutrients too. For an apple, that means you could be getting at least 1/3 less of vitamins A and C than you thought!
The next step was to add the seasonings. This part is up for interpretation because we all have different taste preferences. I like my applesauce with a little kick, so if you don't particularly like spicy applesauce, I recommend lessening the measurements of the cloves and ginger.
I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, set the pot to cook and ta-da!!
Despite the picture making the apples look like chili, I guarantee the applesauce looks prettier in person and also smells heavenly! :D
Since I knew my applesauce would eventually be part of an apple cake recipe, I used an immersion blender to get a smoother texture. You can use a blender or any other item to puree the apples, but if you use the immersion blender, go slowly because it may splash! And can be hot!
Now you're ready to have your homemade applesauce! See?! An incredibly nutritious and delicious sweet treat with minimal effort. My favorite eats include topping with some nonfat plain greek yogurt or spreading on some toast. Enjoy! :)
Seasonal Spicy Slow Cooker Applesauce
Yields ~4 cups
Chop the apples (with the peel!) into large chunks and place them into the pot. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the seasonings and water, and stir until the apples are evenly coated. Cover the pot with the lid.
Cook the apples on low heat for 4-6 hours. I leave this decision up to you and your preferences. The applesauce will be a bit thicker if you cook it longer.
Let the applesauce partially cool and puree until desired consistency. Serve immediately or store in containers in the fridge for later.