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Archive for September, 2011

This past week, even though it’s still rather warm here in Southern California, I’ve definitely noticed the changes that mark the movement of Summer into Autumn.  They’re very subtle, and someone who hasn’t lived here for most of their lives wouldn’t necessarily notice–how the morning air is just a few degrees cooler, the afternoon light tilts just slightly casting a warm glow across the skies, even though it’s still 85 degrees outside.  With the seasonal nestiness kicking in, my thoughts have been moving to some of my favorite things to make–roasts, braises, and the like.  Tonight, I made some last minute plans to have friends over for dinner, so I wanted some uncomplicated dishes that I knew I could put together easily–a Roast Chicken with root vegetables cooked in the pan; a salad… but what about dessert?

Yes, even with living a primal lifestyle, dessert can and does come into the equation.  The occasional sweet thing is not verboten, and with a little tweak here and there, you can make something spectacular.  Here at El Rancho, I had a bag of pears sitting on my counter that needed some attention, and I KNEW what I had to make.

Taking the firmest of the pears, they got the peeling and coring of their lives.

A vanilla bean was split down the middle and scraped of its insides (wow, that sounds awfully violent, doesn’t it?) and blended with some melted butter and local Orange Blossom Honey.  After the pears took a little bath in this magical syrup, they were nestled in one of my favorite roasting dishes and put in the oven for an hour.

What came out:

And I’m not joking when I tell you these smelled amazing when they came out of the oven.  The pears with the honey, vanilla and a splash of lemon just works.   What’s fantastic is that the juices mix with the syrup and caramelize into this sauce you could pretty much wear as a perfume.  It’s so simple, but one of these guys with a spoonful of whipped crème fraiche and a handful of fresh raspberries… okay, words don’t do it justice.

I admit:  not the greatest picture.  Not gonna apologize for it, either–that pear was warm, the crème fraiche was melting, and I needed to PUT IT IN MY MOUTH.

Honey-Vanilla Roasted Pears

  • 4 firm pears, peeled, cut in half and cored
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Butter roasting dish and arrange pears cut side up
  3. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds.
  4. Add seeds to a small saucepan with the honey, butter, lemon juice and melt on low heat until butter has melted and created a syrup.
  5. Tuck the remaining vanilla bean with the pears, pour syrup over the pears, making sure some of the syrup is in the core of each pear.
  6. Roast for about 30 minutes, then turn over and roast another 20-30 minutes until the pears are fork-tender.
  7. Turn the pears cut side up again, and brush juices over the tops.
  8. If you’d like a little extra browning like I did, turn broiler on low and broil the tops for 3-5 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with whipped crème fraiche or if you’re feeling decadent, some great vanilla ice cream.

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I know I’ve been rather quiet here on BBB this year, for a multitude of reasons which I won’t bore you with all the details except for the major one:  the complete change of how my family eats, especially since the beginning of this year.   We’ve moved to eating in a primal/paleo fashion.  You may have heard of it–it’s gaining followers, and for good reason, I believe.  I’m not going to preach about it, but if you’re curious, you can learn more about it at the Whole9 Blog and Mark’s Daily Apple to just start out.  Essentially, we’ve cut things out of our diets such as grains, legumes and heavily processed foods; and began focusing our diets on meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats such as coconut oil and things like fruit, full-fat dairy and nuts in moderation.   Sure, we’re not perfect–we do go off the rails sometimes for holidays or when we’re traveling–but we figure we always do the best we can, and our bodies do like to remind us when we’ve cheated enough.

It’s really been an incredible change for us.  I’ve lost 80 pounds and have seen many of my health markers change for the better:  my A1C, cholesterol and liver function numbers went to normal within 6 months of starting the diet–I sleep better and I have the energy to get through my day (with exercise, even!).  Choo has been on this also, and he’s lost somewhere to the tune of 50 pounds.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about this change, because it will change the tone of BBB in the future.  I may experiment with the occasional baked good that’s been tweaked to fit our lifestyle (because sometimes CAKE is the only thing that matters), but from now on, I’ll be focusing on dishes that will fit into a primal/paleo lifestyle.  Like this one:

 

Oh sure, it’s BACON.  But, even with fat not being the enemy in a paleo diet, if you’re using cured bacon, it still needs to be treated like it’s candy:  sweet, delicious meat candy.  Still, these make a fantastic appetizer, especially right now while figs are at the height of their season.  These are super-easy but still impressive (don’t you love it when that happens?).

Bacon-Wrapped Figs 

Serves 6

  • 1 pound sliced bacon (about 12 slices)
  • 12 figs
  1. Heat your broiler on low and cover a sheet pan with foil.
  2. Slice figs in half lengthwise and cut bacon slices in half.
  3. Wrap bacon around figs, secure with toothpicks if needed (I didn’t need to, the bacon held in place)
  4. Place sheet pan in oven on the top rack setting, broiling figs about 7-9 minutes on each side, depending on how crisp you like your bacon.
  5. Fight the urge to immediately pop one in your mouth the minute they come out of the oven.

 

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