Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Whenever I travel, the small moments stay with me longer than the big ones. The feeling of standing at the center of an ancient world in Delphi, Greece. The beauty of the fogs rolling in over the lush English countryside in springtime. A nectarine in southern France that tasted so divine that time stopped moving, just for a breath. It is the unexpected experiences that bury themselves in my memory, to be remembered and re-lived often.

I may not be able to tell you all of the landmarks I have seen or the museums I have visited, but I can tell you how it feels to sit on the steps of a church in Rome at night, the piazza lit with yellow lamps, and listen to a man softly strum a guitar. In the end, that may be more important after all.

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

On my recent trip to Paris and southern France, I fell in love with pear sorbet at Soleileïs, a quaint ice cream shop in Arles. The sorbet was the literal essence of pears; the texture, the delicate sweetness, and the soft flavor were all represented. From that moment on, whenever I found another ice cream cone on my travelswhich was oftenpear sorbet was tucked in the bottom of the cone so I could savor it in the last few bites.

While pear sorbet is somewhat of a staple in France (and perhaps most of Europe?), the United States is barren to such pleasures. Since I adore it so, I set out to create my own version of that first cone.

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Not to be confused with pear ice cream (where pear is blended in more or less equal parts with cream), this sorbet stays pure to its namesake. Pears are peeled, cored, and cooked down with vanilla bean, forming the base of the dessert. There is little added sweetener in this sorbet, relying on the natural sugars of the pear to bring out the sweetness. The pear flavor reminds me of a good vanilla ice cream: satisfying spoonful after spoonful, but never overpowering. 

Make a batch to share and create your own new, small moments to remember.

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Pears are cooked down with vanilla bean, lemon juice, and sugar before they are blended into a thick puree. Use a high setting to keep the sorbet silky smooth. The final sorbet will retain the flavor, sweetness, and texture of a good pear. I find that a cone full of sorbet can be used as a wonderful palate cleanser after meals, since it feels light and bright on the tongue.

One Year Ago:  Pear Chocolate Scones
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookies and Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
Three Years Ago: How to Freeze Cookies Dough, Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Dark Chocolate Oatmeal
Four Years Ago: Minnesota Wild Rice Soup, Cherry Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies, and Cranberry White Wine Spritzer

Pear Vanilla Sorbet

Yields about 1 quart

6 bosc (or bartlett) pears, peeled, cored, and diced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise with seeds removed
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)

In a large saucepan, place prepared pears, sugar, water, lemon juice, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla bean pod. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce heat, and simmer until the pears are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pods. Stir in agave nectar. Cool until warm to the touch (it is dangerous to blend hot liquids because they expand drastically).

Transfer pears and juices to a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Place in the refrigerator and chill 3-4 hours, or until cold.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 2-3 hours before serving. The sorbet will keep well for 2 weeks in the freezer.

 

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

I have a tendency to forget about myself, to push my own needs aside in favor of others. As a novice teacher, I arrive early to school and stay late, long after the last bell rings in the afternoon. I write up dozens of notes for my students on their work, knowing that most will go unread, but still marking the page in case a stray eye happens to catch the blue ink. I fall asleep in front of the computer in the evenings, typing up powerpoint presentations for the new courses I am teaching. I love my job and enjoy my students, but some days I wonder when I can set down the textbooks and pick up something I'd actually like to read.

I wonder when my time will start to become my own. 

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

I often forget how important it is to set aside time for myself. With a to-do list that never ends, I cross off one item right before starting the next. Owing to the advent of a new year, I am trying to work closer towards a balance. After my first week back in school from the holidays, I woke up late on the weekend. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I set out to make muffins. And again and again, just to make sure I got them right. There is a peacefulness in the kitchen, of mixing ingredients and knowing how they will come together. 

The first time I mixed up a batch of these muffins I used clementines, which was a mistake. Clementines are too tart to act as a foil against the cranberries. The second batch was good, but it wasn't sweet enough to make the pockets of cranberry taste pleasant. The last batch, however, was just right. The muffins are bright in flavor, sweet in nature, and the tart cranberries can truly shine. 

If these muffins can master this balance between extremes, perhaps there is hope for me too.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry orange muffins are a play on sweet and tart, and they perform this harmony so well. The batter is infused with orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice to give it a vibrant citrus flavor. The cranberries add a tartness, but it is a relief against the rest of the muffin. I enjoyed these muffins with a mug of black tea and an old episode of Friends. I encourage you to find a way to sit down, relax, and savor them as well.

One Year Ago: Double Chocolate Brownies
Two Years Ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls, Rosemary Sandwich Breadand Cranberry Flaxseed Muffins
Three Years Ago: How to Make Cake Flour, Cinnamon Sugar Cake, and Vanilla Bean Pudding
Four Years Ago: Fleur de Sel Caramels, Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies, and Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Zest from 1 orange
1 large egg
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (95 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1 cup (110 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a muffin pan or line with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, rub the zest and sugar between your fingers for several minutes to release the oils. The sugar should become fragrant. Beat in the egg, melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually fold in the flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the orange juice until uniform.  Mix in the cranberries.

Divide batter evenly between baking cups and sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Coconut Almond Quinoa

Coconut Almond Quinoa

A new year brings a fresh outlook and a clean slate. The last few years I have wavered in my thoughts toward resolutions. I have made them (and kept them), made them (and ignored them), and refused to make them in the first place. Last year, while buried deeply in work and stress, the prospect of trying to improve anything about myselfwhen I could hardly stay afloat to begin withseemed almost laughable. As we enter into 2015, I feel quite similar to last year: too tired to think up a list of resolutions. I know that I should be thinking positively, taking time to imagine a better self, but I'm writing this after an eleven hour work day and, with a pile of work to still sift through before bed, I'm struggling. 

Instead of putting even more pressure on myself by resolving to cook healthy meals or to take advantage of the gym membership I have been paying for (but not using) the last three months, I am going to switch it up and resolve to teach myself a few new tricks.

Coconut Almond Quinoa

Coconut Almond Quinoa

While baking comes quite naturally to me, cooking is entirely something else. Seasoning dishes, cooking meat, or dreaming up new dishes are not tasks I feel comfortable with (nor am I good at any of them). For this reason, I want to learn to truss and roast a proper chicken. I intend to go back to old episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef and let her show me the way.

I have never made a batch of perfect macarons on my own. After buying four pounds of almond flour, this will change.

As I have said a dozen times before (and I will say a dozen times more), I adore reading. Earlier this year, without space for a bookcase, I bought a Kindle to encourage myself to delve into the books again. While I didn't think I would enjoy a digital reader, I surprised myself by loving everything about it. This year I want to make time to read more books, even if it is just setting aside a few minutes before bed. 

And, as always, find the inspiration to keep baking.

Coconut Almond Quinoa

For the past few years, I make a sweetened quinoa for breakfast each morning, finding it a filling and satisfying way to begin the day. With a new year upon us, I thought a new recipe of an old favorite seemed suitable. The quinoa cooks in coconut milk, becoming creamy and subtly flavored. When cooked, almond butter is added for a nutty undertone and maple syrup is swirled for sweetness. A topping of chopped almonds and toasted coconut complete the ensemble. Best of all, this makes a large batch, which can be heated for breakfast throughout the week.

One Year Ago: Almond Date Banana Smoothie
Two Years Ago: Candy Cane Cupcakes, Chocolate (Dairy-Free) Ice Cream, Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal, and Raspberry White Chocolate Scones
Three Years Ago: Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Green Tea Coconut Ice Cream, and Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Peppermint Ice Cream, Banana Cinnamon Muffins, Vanilla Pear Milk, and Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Coconut Almond Quinoa

Yields 3-4 servings

14 ounces (414 ml) full-fat or light canned coconut milk
1 cup (170 grams) quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons almond butter
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (adjust to personal sweetness)
Chopped almonds
Toasted coconut flakes
Splash of soy or almond milk

In a large saucepan, stir together quinoa and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in almond butter and maple syrup, adjusting for personal sweetness. 

Divide evenly between 3-4 bowls and top with chopped almonds and toasted coconut flakes. Add a splash of soy or almond milk. 

To store, quinoa can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. Reheat in the microwave, add a splash of milk, and it can be made as a quick weekday breakfast.