Tag Archives: walnuts

Caramelized Pear and Arugula Salad

Wow! Do I have a lot to talk about.

First, I really enjoyed not blogging for a week, and staying as far away from the internet as possible. Second . . . I’m glad to be back!

So much has happened in the past few weeks–my band’s first experience playing at a wedding–the marvellous wedding of Kevin and Katina! This included the Chicken Dance, in case you were curious. Jazz was sung. Tambourines were hit repeatedly, and hard. I was also the backup photographer, so there’s a whole ‘nother can of something. A Christmas party for Lydia high school students that I photographed. Our Christmas celebrations. Our trip to Wisconsin. Baby James! A visit with my grandparents (yes, the notorious Mama Kitty). Our New Years party! And the inevitable return to ye squeaky chair in ye Chi-town office.

Wow, wow, wow. Do you know how many pictures await processing? Do you know?? You don’t want to know. Heck, I don’t want to know. Even thinking about opening Photoshop makes me get cold shivers up and down my spine. By indulging in excessive photography, I’ve gone and created a beast.

So my simple solution is to take it nice and easy. Nothing ever happens in January and February anyway, right? So I can take my time and blog about December for the next 6 to 8 weeks?

Oh, good–I’m so glad you don’t mind.

Now let’s talk food.

Do you all know Donna Hay? She’s an Australian recipe developer and food stylist, and I latched on to one of her cookbooks during my first year of marriage. Latched on and didn’t let go. That Christmas everyone got a Donna Hay cookbook for Christmas. The photography and the simplicity of her recipes make her books fabulous–they’ve got the looks and the goods.

So based on the very first Donna Hay recipe that ever graced my table, I bring you an incredible salad. It serves 4 as an appetizer or side, or you can do as I did and simply have it as the main and only dish for dinner (in that case it serves 2).


(Serves 4)

2 oz (4 TBS or 1/2 stick) butter
3 TBS white wine vinegar
1 TBS brown sugar
2 firm brown pears
1/2 cup walnuts
4 oz arugula or mixed greens
5 oz soft blue cheese such as Cambozola

Wash, core and quarter the brown pears. Why must they be brown, you ask? Well, Donna says so. And I think the brown kind are softer than the green kind . . . maybe?

Place the butter, vinegar and brown sugar in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.

When the butter is melted, add the pears (flesh-side down) to the skillet.

Well bless my buttons, it’s a perfect fit! Oh lawsy.

Sprinkle in the walnuts too.

Cook for 8 minutes, until the pears are just softened. Turn the pears halfway so that both sides of the flesh get browned.

Not quite there . . .

But close. We’re looking for this lovely color:

Yes, yes, yes. Make sure you move the walnuts around during this time if they appear to be burning.

Cut the blue cheese into slices or wedges.

Place the arugula or mixed greens on serving plates and top with the pears and walnuts.

As long as you’re not afraid of a little butter, spoon the pan juices over the salad and top off each plate with a slice or two of blue cheese.

Let’s cut into one of these delectable pieces of fruit . . .

Mmmmmm. You won’t know how good this is until you taste it yourself!

So what are you waiting for??

(Sorry, am I coming on a little strong? Because I really love this salad, see.)

Happy New Year everyone! I can’t wait to read about your holiday experiences on all your blogs–I’ll be stopping by to catch up asap!

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Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Bread

It there’s a woman who knows her baking, it’s Veronica. I know I’ve raved about her before, but she’s worth raving about. From her Buttery Beer Bread to her Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies to this lovely Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Bread, her recipes are tried-and-true. So this morning we’re going to make two fabulous, moist, nutty, sweet-but-not-too-sweet loaves of bread (original recipe here).


(Makes 2 loaves)

1 cup dried cranberries
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 eggs
2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin puree
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 TBS vanilla bean paste or extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp allspice

Roughly chop the dried cranberries and put them in a small bowl.

Soak them in the orange juice for 1 hour.

Now! If you have big walnut pieces, give ’em a little crush-crush with the heel of your hand, just to break them up a little.

After you’ve exerted yourself in this fashion, please take a little drink of red wine. You’ve earned it. Unless you’re making this in the a.m., in which case stick to the coffee.

Spread the walnuts on a microwave-safe plate . . .

. . . and microwave them in 30 second increments (for about 2 minutes total), stirring them with your fingers in between bursts, until they’re toasted and fragrant.

I dearly hope no one’s allergic to these babies, because they add such a fabulous dimension to the bread.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter (or spray with baking spray) two 9×5 loaf pans.

Drain the orange juice from the cranberries into the bowl of a stand mixer–but keep the cranberries aside for now.

Add the eggs to the juice, and whisk ’em until they’re well beaten.

Add the pumpkin puree, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla to the eggs/OJ.

Beat until well mixed, scraping down the bowl with a spatula if needed.

Combine the flour and remaining ingredients (all dry stuff) in a bowl.

Stir it all around until it’s combined. I like to use my fingers to feel for any clumps and break them up.

Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture little by little, beating until smooth.

Gorgeous! Now stir the cranberries and walnuts into the batter.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Divide the batter between the two pans . . .

. . . and bake for 65-80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

At this point, I had severely miscalculated how long this would take to make (I kinda forgot about the hour-long cranberry soaking) so I was in bed, waiting for the sound of the timer to get my butt back outta bed and remove the loaves from the oven.

And of course, for some mysterious reason my loaves kept coming up raw and batter-a-licious in the middle.

They had to go for more like 85 minutes. Maybe even 90–I was too sleepy to keep track.

Cool the loaves for 10-15 minutes, then remove them from the pans. Let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

Around 11:30 pm my loaves were finally cooling on the rack. Of course, then I started worrying that if I left them out all night, they would dry out and go stale on me before their time.

So I decided to trust my habit of waking up to pee in the middle of the night, at which point I decided I’d scurry out to the kitcen to wrap the fully cooled loaves in aluminum foil for safe storage.

And that’s exactly what happened. It was a midnight baking adventure. 

The next day I got around to taking pictures of the loaves, buttering a piece, and (last but not least) taking a bite . . . and oh man.

Pumpkin cranberry walnutty bliss!

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