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Category Archives: Pears

Geography Studies: Iceland

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Iceland was the last European country that we studied before our school year ended right before Christmas.  It is also a regularly forgotten member of the continent.  Sometimes it isn’t even included on maps of Europe while you’re looking for one to print for school.  Even better is the fact that my mother lived there for a while because my grandfather’s job moved them there.

While we did listen to the national anthem online and read books from the library, this study ended a bit differently than our others.  Grandpa lent us his slide projector and boxes of slides from their road trips through Iceland.  We set up a screen made from a white blanket for our slide show.  It was lots of fun to watch the kids try to guess which family member was which, not to mention the great pictures of the Icelandic countryside.

My aunts and uncle insisted that we must try to find pylsurs, Icelandic hot dogs made of pork, beef, and lamb.  However, I never found a place to buy them in the States, and I imagine they’d be expensive anyway.  Another option mentioned in our books was hamburgers, but though it may be a regular option in Iceland, it didn’t seem to be a memorable option for our schooling.  So with that in mind and other unique options such as puffin, walrus, and whale equally unattainable, we decided to go with lamb.

We seared lamb chops in my cast iron skillet with salt and garlic.  Then I served it with salad, rhubarb compote, and Icelandic potato salad.  Rhubarb apparently grows very well in Iceland.

Rhubarb Compote

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup frozen chopped rhubarb (fresh would work)

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add the rhubarb and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm or chilled.  It also makes a good jam for toast, or warmed as a thick syrup on pancakes.


I used the last of out Hungarian Dill Pickles for the potato salad.  Click on the links below for the recipes for the mayonnaise and sour cream that I use.  I simply substitute vinegar for the lemon juice in all the recipes.  Not everyone in the house can have eggs.  Instead of mixing them in, I sliced them to top the potato salad of a select few in the house.

Icelandic potato salad and Lamb chops with rhubarb compote

Kartoflusalat (Potato Salad)

1 3/4 lbs red potatoes
3 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
2 pears, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped pickles
1/4 onion, small diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup soy-free, vegan sour cream (scroll to the last recipe in the post)
1/2 teaspoon Ruth’s Special Blend Curry Powder
salt, to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender.  Cool and cube the potatoes.  Chop the rest of the ingredients as noted above.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and chill for at least six hours before serving (At least the original instructions said to chill the dish.  I didn’t plan that far ahead, but our slightly warm potato salad was good!  The leftovers were even better).


Pear-Pumpkin Soup

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This soup is fast and easy to make if you already have all the ingredients in the freezer.  I defrost all of the ingredients in advance, but that is most of the preparation that I had to do for dinner tonight.  The soup can be served hot or cold depending on the season and your preferences.  On warmer days I pair chilled soup with a simple salad, but today I served it warm with some toast made from Thanksgiving leftovers.  Sometimes I swap the beans with half a can of coconut milk.  It provides a subtly different soup, but my kids never seem to notice the difference.

Pear-Pumpkin Soup
I double this recipe for my family, but this smaller version is all that fits in my blender at one time.

Pear-Pumpkin Soup

1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 – 1 tsp salt, to taste
2 cups cooked pureed pumpkin (about one 15 oz can)
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 pears cored and sliced

Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Warm gently if desired.

This may be served chilled or warm with sides of toast, salad, or both.

Sausage and Sauerkraut with Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes and Plenty of Vegetables

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I have some homemade sauerkraut at the the back of my fridge that needs to be used. It is very easy to make and tastes so much better when you make it yourself.  Little Man loves kraut and will eat it before the other vegetables on his plate.  He is particularly fond of purple kraut, and I agree with his assessment.  Besides serving it with sausage or pork chops, we like to sprinkle some over our stir fry meals as well.

Sausage and Kraut

Tonight’s dinner served as a chance to use up some stray vegetables at the back of the refrigerator.  I have to say, though I like fennel, I’m glad we used the last of it tonight.

Sausage and Kraut (with all the fixin’s)

2 lbs potatoes, large dice
1 package Gluten Free sausage of your choice
1 jar sauerkraut
1/2 lb fresh green beans, snapped into 2 inch sections
2 bunches green onions, chopped into 2 inch sections
1/4 lb radishes, optional
oil and salt, to taste
Pear-Fennel Salad (A friend suggested adding mustard and walnuts to the salad and dressing.  It was wonderful with these additions!)

How I Make Mashed Potatoes: First, start the potatoes, covered with water, boiling in a large pot.  Cook until fork tender.  Reserve the cooking water.  Mash in your electric mixer with 1/2 tsp salt, about 3 tbsp olive oil, and enough cooking water from the potato pot as you need to achieve a fluffy mash (about 1/2-3/4 cup potato water. Really it’s enough to make you happy, so use more if you need it).

Prepare the pear-fennel salad or any other salad you prefer.

Then brown the sausage on medium heat in a cast iron skillet, and use the kraut and its juices to deglaze the pan.  Put the lid on the pan to poach the sausages until they finished cooking in the middle.  Empty the skillet to free it for the next step.

Next add a little oil and salt to the pan with the green beans.  Saute them for about five minutes.  Then add green onions and saute them until everything is tender crisp.  This way all of the last bits of sausage flavor will incorporate into the green beans.

Finally toss some diced radishes into the again empty skillet with a tiny bit of salt.  These saute for just a few minutes until they are browning on the sides.

Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders with Pear-Fennel Salad

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Today has been a day full of roasting and pureeing pumpkins for the freezer.  I freeze the puree into two cup portions, chill them in the fridge, then freeze them for the next year.  I make soups, muffins, pies, smoothies, sauces, and now pancakes with the spoils of cooking all our fall decorations.  Between now and the Nativity fast, I will be processing the rest of the squashes that have been decorating my house for the last month.   I even got a great deal on some hail damaged butternut squash from a nearby chemical free farmer.  Buster has requested that we try butternut pancakes, and I think it’s a great idea.

I am also on the lookout these next few weeks for a couple of well priced turkeys for the freezer.  I cook one and shred it for quick meals after Christmas.  The other goes straight into the freezer and waits until the first round is cooked.  “Why so much turkey”” you ask.  I like variety and this time of the year is the best time to get well priced turkey.  My mom and sister are also both allergic to chicken and beef.  This method of stocking up allows me to cost effectively cook for them.  Other cuts of turkey any other time of they year are out of my price range.

Tonight’s dinner is a favorite around here.  It is fast and easy, but and is made with things around the house instead of a bottled marinade.  It is based off a meal we were served once at a friend’s house.  My very talented friend Anita, is also a wonderful cook.  Anita grilled these on skewers, but I’ve modified the recipe for the oven.  I change up the sides based on what is in the house, but oven roasted potatoes are always on the side.  It’s the green stuff that varies.  Normally I don’t make quite so many sides, but I had a little of a lot of different things and hungry tummies to fill.

Today I served the chicken over sauteed purple and white cabbage.  That cabbage was left over from last week’s spring rolls and the borscht I made yesterday.  I’m still working on the borscht post, so you haven’t missed anything.  Then I sauteed up the long beans from last week’s CSA with a little onion in the same hot pan.

This week from Bountiful Baskets, we got lots of fennel and some pears, so I tried a fennel salad for the first time.  That fennel salad outshone the chicken!  Every kid ate it quickly, and the pickiest of them said, “It was mostly good.”

Honey Mustard Chicken
Tomorrow I promise to post what we always prepare with the rest of the package bacon.  This dinner is always prepared when the next morning is not a fast day.  The kids are always excited when we have this meal, because they know what is coming for breakfast.

Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders

1.25-1.5 lbs chicken tenders
1/3 pkg of bacon strips cut in half, 1/2 slice per chicken tender (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Mine is usually already cooking the oven fries at this temperature, so it’s ready to go.

In a large (9X13) glass baking pan or casserole dish, whisk the dijon and honey with the spices and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Place the chicken tenders in a single layer in the pan.  Evenly coat both sides in the honey mustard.

Put a half strip of bacon on each chicken tender if desired.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked throughout and still juicy.  Serve with a generous slathering of the honey-mustard drippings.  Sometimes when I’ve only got lettuce for a salad I drizzle the cooled drippings as dressing.

Pear-Fennel Salad

1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (everything, bulb, stalks, and fronds)
3 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced
3 pears, diced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp golden balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1/4-1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl.  Enjoy!

Persimmon and Millet Stuffed Winter Squash

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Tonight’s dinner is one that takes more effort to prepare than many of our other dinners.  Nevertheless, it is well worth the time.  It has been a resounding success two years in a row, but this year I tried something a little different.  Last year I used pears and mushrooms, but this year I tried persimmons in the stuffing mix.  The results were so good, I’m dreaming of planting a persimmon tree in my backyard now.  If you can’t find persimmons, you can simply use pears or apples instead.

I discovered persimmons last year when they came in my Bountiful Basket.  They were great in cookies and sweet bread in our first experiences with them.  Now they’re back again this year, and I wanted to see if we could use them differently.

If you are a persimmon novice, like I was, start with the fuyu persimmon.  They are sweeter when firm and much more forgiving for a first experience.  This is also the variety that is easier to eat fresh and make into jam.  Fuyus are good when firm and soft, so you have a lot more time to use them before they go bad.

Hachiya persimmons are best used for baking and aren’t sweet enough to eat raw until they are soft like an over ripe tomato.  Hachiyas are best when they are so mushy that their skins split when you gently handle them.  That can be a little “off-putting” for a first experience, unless you know what to expect.

Winter Squash
You can stuff any squash you like with this recipe.  Last year, I only used acorn squash and mini tiger pumpkins.  There is a larger variety in my pan this year since my harvest packs included new varieties.  I’ve got two white patty pan squashes, one white acorn squash, four mini tiger pumpkins, one small carnival squash, two white mini pumpkins, and one orange mini pumpkin.  All in all, I think my family will get two and a half meals out of this batch.  The kids had lots of fun over dinner sampling the different flavors and textures of the various selections.  Little Man was very proud of himself for eating a whole pumpkin.  What is your favorite winter squash?

Also, if you want a vegan stuffing, you could use mushrooms or pecans instead of the meat.  I actually missed the mushrooms I put into last year’s version.  On the other hand, I’m probably the only one that noticed the difference.

Don’t forget to save those squash seeds for roasting.  Put the kids on it.  The task is a great sensory experience and good for fine motor skills, too.

Stuffed Winter Squash

Stuffed Winter Squash
(Note:  This was enough to stuff my whole selection of squashes, so cut down on the filling if you are making a smaller batch.)

A selection of winter squash, washed, dried, cut in half,  and seeded.  Brush the insides and edges with olive oil.

Put in oven cut side up for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees (F).  Some of the smaller ones may be ready earlier, so take them out as needed.  They should all be fork tender, but still retain their shape when you remove them from the oven.

4-5 cups of cooked millet (measured after cooked, this is a great thing to do with leftovers).  Start it cooking now if you don’t have any leftover.

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb ground pork or turkey
4 green onions, chopped
1 T fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
2 T fresh sage, minced (2 tsp dried)
Salt to taste  (I used about 2 tsp today)
1 1/2 cups diced persimmon, peeled if desired (5-6 fuyus)
4-6 mushrooms small diced (optional)
2 cups kale or swiss chard, cut into ribbons

In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add celery, garlic, fennel seeds, and salt.  Saute for 5 minutes.

Add ground pork and saute until almost cooked, 8-10 minutes

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and saute until the greens are wilted and the mushrooms are fully cooked if you have included them.

Toss with fluffed millet and evenly distribute.

Stuff winter squashes and bake another 20 minutes.

Serve with a side salad and a simple oil and vinegar dressing.

Braised Chicken and Pears

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We love pears.  Pears and apples are the fruits of fall.  Since three out of five people in our house are sensitive to apples, we often use them in place of apples in recipes.  I make pear sauce for snacks and sometimes to top pancakes.  Pears in porridge; pear pie at Thanksgiving.  Tonight pears became part of dinner.

When I’ve made this meal in the past, I’ve always used thyme.  Today was rainy and the sage looked so happy in the garden that I decided to try it this way instead.  This resulted in a delicious autumn dinner.

Braised Chicken and Pears
Braised Chicken and Pears

4 Chicken thigh quarters, salted (or one whole cut up chicken)
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 pears, cored and diced (any variety or mixed, I used 2 d’Anjou and 2 red)
3 Tbsp minced fresh sage ( about 1 Tbsp dry) [or thyme, if you prefer]
1 1/2 cup broth
1 1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

3 cups rice, prepared with package instructions.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In an enameled cast iron pot (whatever pot you use should be oven safe), heat oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side until nicely browned.  Remove from pot and reserve on a plate.

Add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery to the pot with a generous pinch of salt.  Saute for about five minutes, then layer pears over the vegetables and sprinkle with sage.  Pour broth and water over the pears and vegetables.   Place the chicken on top of the pile.  Be sure that the chicken sits mostly above the liquid.  If you don’t the skin of the chicken will not stay crispy.

Cover with a lid, then bring to a boil.  Remove lid; place on oven.  Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until the meat near the bones is completely cooked and juices run clear.

Serve over rice.  We like to serve this with a side salad.  Today we also added a side of okra, sauteed in olive oil with garlic and salt.