Baked Macaron/Macaroon Pears

Sometimes the simple things are the best  ~ 

like this dessert from Donna Hay. It takes practically no time to prepare, but it is very satisfying . . . not too rich, or too sweet.

A warm pear, with a soft macaroon cookie baked in the middle, and served in a warm, buttery brown sugar syrup ~ perfect for a Fall evening!

The recipe suggests red pears (which I happened to have on hand), but you could use any medium-firm pear. My pears were ripe enough to eat out of hand, so I reduced the baking time so they would retain their shape and texture. If you use pears that are less ripe, increase the baking time a little.

The method is so easy ~ wash, halve and core the pears (I use a medium size melon-baller tool to neatly extract the seeds in one scoop.)  Place the pears cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Brush melted butter over the cut surfaces, sprinkle lightly with brown sugar, add a little water to the baking dish, around the pears then cover and bake for a few minutes.  I baked mine for 12 minutes since they were ripe and ready to eat; bake up to 25 minutes for firmer pears. 

In the meantime mix 1 cup of desiccated coconut * with 1/4 cup sugar and one egg white.  (This will become the Macaron/Macaroon filling.)

* Desiccated coconut is dried, unsweetened coconut, which works best for this recipe.  My local grocery stores do not carry it, but it is readily available in the the bulk section of my healthy food store.

After the pears have finished their initial baking, remove from oven, uncover and divide the Macaron/Macaroon mixture evenly among the pear cavities.

Press lightly and return to oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until coconut is golden.

Serve with the syrup which has formed in the baking dish ~ you can also serve with cream, ice cream, frozen yogurt or lightly whipped cream.  I served them without any accompaniment except the pan syrup and we thought they were perfect that way.  The flavors though simple make an exceptional combination.  If this sounds good to you, I hope you'll give it a try!

Thanks for coming by today, friends.   Have a wonderful weekend!

xo ~mari

You'll find a printable copy of the recipe over on my recipe blog Once Upon a Plate Recipes.

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Wordless Wednesday ~ Outdoor Wednesday: Around Home


Greek-Style Rotisserie Lamb and 50% Whole Wheat Pita Sandwiches

Forget the overly-sweet mint sauce ~  

There is something about the Greek way of grilling lamb, marinated in lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and fragrant dried oregano, that makes it irresistible and utterly delicious.

The anticipation (and aroma) while the spit slowly turns is part of the pleasure . . .  knowing that there will be a fine meal to come.  

This time I selected a smallish 4+ pound bone-in leg, minus the shank portion, I like to roast it slowly for maximum juiciness and flavor, so I use the 'indirect method' of roasting the meat on the Weber gas grill. (Front and back burner on medium heat, center burner in the off position.)

To go along, I served lemon-scented orzo with toasted pine nuts, and one of my favorite summer salads ~ Greek, with lots of goodies from the veggie garden; red tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, herbs as well as some marinated locally produced Feta cubes, a mix of Greek olives, and onion, all tossed with a fragrant red wine vinegar & herb vinaigrette.

It is one of my favorite meals, we don't have it often and we really savor it when we do.


The thing about lamb is that I don't find it anywhere near as appealing when served as leftovers.  Unless, that is,  it's thinly sliced, gently warmed and served in warm pita pocket bread with lots of other flavorful goodies tucked in.

Where I live the freshest pita bread comes from my own oven ~ If you've never made it you might be surprised to learn how fun and easy it is to make your own.  This time I used 50%  00 Italian flour and 50% home-milled whole wheat flour.

You can use a bread machine, stand mixer, or food processor to make the dough, or mix it by hand if you prefer.  (There is a link at the bottom of the page for the pita bread recipe.)

As I mentioned,  I'm not so fond of lamb leftovers, so when making a lamb roast, I always plan on making pita bread too, for the leftovers.  

(See the grapes in the background?  We planted the vines three years ago and this is the first crop!)  Can you tell I'm excited?!  :D  
They are so sweet and juicy . . . wish I could share some with you.

When assembling the stuffed pita sandwiches I add lots of other flavorful goodies and just a few thin slices of the warmed lamb.

Slices of red and yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, and baby salad greens from the garden (see below.) Thin slices of sweet purple onion, and a generous spoonful of tzatziki (cucumber & garlic, and sometimes dill, in plain yogurt)  then sprinkled with  ground Sumac* to add a bright finish.  

Incidentally, this is the first year I've grown this particular variety of yellow tomatoes; the name is 'Lemon Boy' ~ I highly recommend!  Medium to medium-large size they are bright yellow, meaty and juicy with few seeds and a nice, mild low-acid flavor.
Yum!  You might keep them in mind for next year.

*Sumac?  I love that stuff! It's delicious sprinkled on vegetables eggs, rice & other grains, pizza, chicken, fish and any kind of meat. Just a little sprinkle before serving really adds a nice bright flavor, to almost anything. It's slightly lemony and not spicy at all.

As many of you know our property is located in thickly wooded forest land ~ so most of our vegetables and herbs are raised in raised beds and containers.  

One of the things I like to plant each spring is a large container of baby mixed salad greens, I keep this one on the back deck near the kitchen door.  This one grows well under a huge Douglas Fir tree which the deck was built around.

 You can cut a few leaves from each plant and they will continue to grow, or you cut the entire plant and grow another pot or two, each two weeks apart, for successive harvests. The other advantage of planting these tender lettuces in pots is that you can move them to the shade in the hottest part of the day to prevent them from bolting (going to seed) prematurely.

(My kitty is old and she doesn't climb up to sample the greens, but it you have active pets, you might want to elevate the pots.)

I picked this particular mixed packet of seeds at a local (& ordinary) hardware store/nursery.    This one is offered by Plantation Products (in MA.), it's called "Italian Salad Blend" and contains 6 different Italian lettuces:

Foglia di Quercia Rossa
Freckles  :)
Meraviglia delle quattro Stagione
Rossa di Trento

Along with other Italian varieties of greens:
Chicory: Pallo Rossa & Castelfranco 
Endive: di ruffec & Cornetto di Bordeaux
Spinach: Riccio d'Asti & Gigante d'Inverno
Swiss Chard: Argentata 

You can allow the plant to grow to full mature size, but I prefer to harvest when the leaves are small and tender.  We liked the variety, and I would definitely plant this mix again.

I'll miss you Greek Salad ~ 
It won't be much longer until we have to say good-bye until next summer.  
(By the way, this salad is also fabulous tucked into a pita pocket either plain or with some tzatziki spooned over, and you can add tuna, sliced chicken, sliced hard cooked egg, etc. to add protein.)

If you would like the recipe for the 50% Whole Wheat Pita bread, you'll find it over on the OUaP recipe blog, click here.

Thanks for stopping by friends! I hope you have a very nice weekend.

Until next time!  ~m


3 Harvest-Time Soups ~ They're Penny Pinchers!

 The inspiration for these harvest-time soups is simple ~

I hate wasting food.

Among other things we grew green beans and squash this summer, and as often happens,  I usually run out of ideas of interesting ways to prepare our harvest before the gardens have given us their all for the season.

These simple soups to the rescue ~ 

The preparation method is the same for all three; the variable between them is the vegetable, and herbs you choose.  

As you can see, few ingredients are required, and you can enjoy a delicious, comforting, low-fat cup or bowl of goodness in no time.  The added bonus is they are a penny pincher's dream!

The ingredients you'll need are as follows:

A white or yellow onion (which I forgot to photograph!)
If you happen to have a sweet onion variety ~ those play especially well with the mild summer squash . . . adding just a hint of natural sweetness.

The vegetable of choice; I chose yellow crook-neck squash-- these from our neighbors (thank you J & P!), carrots from the farmer's market, green beans and herbs from our gardens.  (You can use dried herbs if you don't have fresh.)

Low sodium chicken stock/broth (homemade or store-bought), a little oil and salt & pepper.

Crookneck Squash & Tarragon

The method couldn't be more simple ~ saute the chopped onion in a little oil in a pot until translucent but not browned, add the chopped/sliced vegetable of choice, a bay leaf and pour in enough chicken stock/broth to just cover the vegetables. (If you choose to use dried herbs, add them now.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer with the pot partially covered. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, adding more stock if it begins to boil away too quickly.  Add the herbs of choice a few minutes before the veggies are fully cooked.

Use a blender, food processor or immersion blender to achieve the silky smooth consistency, adding more broth if necessary. Return the soup to the pot to heat through, taste and adjust seasonings.*  Serve up and garnish as desired.

The herbs I used were as follows ~Crookneck squash - Tarragon (a little goes a long way),  Green Beans - Oregano (and garnished with a sprig of lavender),  Carrot - Dill (and garnished with a toasted pecan.) Ground cumin works well with carrots too.  Just choose any herb you think would complement the vegetable you're using.

Carrot & Dill

Green Bean & Oregano

Healthy, delicious, and very budget friendly!  You can also use spinach, chard, zucchini, potatoes (peeled), tomatoes (peeled), most any root vegetable, etc. The key to the smooth texture of this soup is to cook any vegetable you choose until very, very tender to achieve the best results.

*Of course, if you're feeling flush you can add a spoonful of butter and some light or heavy cream to the vegetables while you're blending them, that's up to you! 

Thanks for stopping by to visit today, I love to read your comments!  

See you next time! xo~m. 

This is my entry for Foodie Friday @ Designs by Gollum.


Kung Pao Chicken ~ Helen Chen's

This is Helen Chen's version of Kung Pao Chicken, and it is very good.

Helen was born in Shanghai and raised in Boston where she was taught simple, home-style food from their homeland. You may know that Helen's mother is Joyce Chen, founder of the cookware company with the same name.

Of the several Chinese cookbooks I have, Helen's is one of my favorites because it is actually designed for the home cook, family recipes passed down from one generation to the next.

 (Click image to learn more.)

A few other Chinese cookbooks that I have are based on restaurant recipes, just scaled down for the home cook. I prefer this book because the recipes are easily doable at home, no double-frying or oil blanching, yet the results are quite authentic.

This version of Kung Pao chicken was a big success at my house. I like that you can control the quality of ingredients and the amount of oil (and seasonings) that go into the dish. Instead of the dried red chilies usually found in this dish I used fresh red Thai chilis from the garden to provide the heat ~ they worked out perfectly and I like the look of fresh, too.

Some versions of Kung Pao Chicken include water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, and by all means include them if you like.

Helen's recipe doesn't call for them, and I really didn't think I needed them since I served them with . . .

. . . a quick stir-fry of vegetables, mostly from our garden.

And to make the meal a little lighter, I skipped the steamed rice this time and served the chicken and vegetables on raw, thinly sliced cabbage instead. It added an interesting texture contrast ~ and we didn't miss the rice at all.

We rated this dish 5 out of 5 stars, and this will be my "go to" recipe for Kung Pao Chicken from now on.

If you would like a printable copy of the Kung Pao Chicken recipe you'll find it on the Once a Plate Recipe blog ~ click HERE.


I don't have many of Joyce Chen's products, a few bamboo products, and some steamer baskets.  But hands down, my favorite product of hers are her Universal Kitchen Scissors, I've used them for years.

Besides red, they also are available in white, blue and yellow.

These scissors will amaze you ~ they are compact but mighty, the finger and thumb loops are flexible so they are kind to your hands and fingers. It doesn't take much effort to cut right through raw chicken bones (really---thigh and leg bones, too!)

Very sharp and efficient, I keep a couple of pairs in the house. They are the perfect size for snipping flowers & herbs from the garden, and also snipping the herbs right into the pot or dish you're preparing.

Great for cutting twine, ribbon, trimming flowers for the vase (and thorns from rose stems.) I also use them for cutting the thorny tips from artichokes before cooking, cutting lobster and crab shells, etc. for any job that kitchen shears do. They are just the right size for sewing or craft box, and they work equally well for right or left-handers.

Priced at under $20. they make a nice gift for any cook or gardener you may know. I've given several out as gifts through the years ~ everybody loves them!

Thanks for stopping by today friends, I love it when you leave me comments so I know you've visited.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! xo~Mari


Potato-Chive Cakes with Jarlsberg Cheese and Rough Mustard Vinaigrette

My mom used to make something similar to these with leftover mashed potatoes when I was growing up, but for this version the potatoes are baked and mashed specifically for the recipe, the texture is a little different than those I remember from home.

Mom never added cheese, but she did sometimes add scallions. So here is a dressed-up version of Mom's Potato Cakes (I'm sure mom would approve.)

The potato cake part of the recipe is adapted from Cindy Pawlcyn's  "Mustards Grill" Cookbook.

Since I no longer live so close to the Napa wine country, I miss dining at Mustards ~ but cooking and eating the recipes from this book is the next best thing.  I can get my "Mustards-Fix" without leaving home!

Oh my goodness, these warm potato cakes are divine ~ crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. They make a fine luncheon dish ~ or a sturdy appetizer.  At the restaurant the plain cakes (without the beans and vinaigrette) are served alongside grilled meats or poultry.

But since I wanted to serve these for lunch I deviated a bit from Cindy's recipe. The haricot verts (slender green beans) out in the garden were just begging to be used, so I went out and picked a handful, sliced and quickly blanched them in boiling water, drained & sprinkled some around the perimeter of the potato cakes, then finished with a drizzle of wholegrain mustard vinaigrette. 

Voila ~ a delicious, elegant little lunch!

The potato cakes are so flavorful, you can skip the green beans & vinaigrette entirely to simplify the dish, and do as they serve the cakes at Mustards ~ along with any grilled or roasted meat, poultry or fish.  

They are absolutely yummy either way.

If you try them, I hope you like them too.

You can access a printable copy of the recipe HERE on my recipe blog.

Thanks for stopping by today, friends!!

Just a note:  We are having a little difficulty with some of your comments appearing correctly (they may be invisible!)  I'm working on this, and hope to have everything running smoothly before long.  Thank you for your patience while we're working out the kinks.  


Congratulations! We have a winner ~ Girard's Giveaway

Congratulations, Rett of  The Gazebo House  is our lucky winner of the Girard's Dressing Give Away!!!

Rett, if you'll email me your mailing address I'll forward it along so the company can get you your gift box right away.

Thank you everybody for entering the contest ~ 

We'll have more give aways coming up in the near future, so please stay tuned.

Have an enjoyable weekend everyone.

xo ~ Mari


Duck (or Chicken) Burgers with Asian Flavors

In my last post I mentioned I had made those Brioche Buns with a special sandwich in mind, and here it is!

But first a question . . . Do you tuck your outdoor grill away when summer passes?

I know many of you live in mild climates where grilling is possible all year long, others of us have very different climates.  Here, I do sometimes grill in spite of our rainy winter season, though I'm not so inclined to do so when we get our occasional snowfall. How about at your home?

The GOOD news is, whether you put your grill to rest for the cooler months or not, these burgers can be cooked on the grill or in a saute pan, so you can make them all year round.

Combining ground duck or chicken breast meat with ground pork shoulder makes these burgers deliciously juicy. Garlic, shallots and Chinese 5 Spice powder mixed into the meat mixture adds an intriguing flavor dimension, not your everyday burger at all.

For the crunch appeal, thinly sliced red and green cabbage is tossed with a vinaigrette of lime juice, fish sauce (you can substitute soy sauce if you don't care for fish sauce), a little sugar and spicy chili-garlic sauce, along with a sprinkling of sliced green onions and chopped cilantro. This is a really good slaw all on its own, and when piled on these burgers it takes them over the top.

If you give these a try, I hope you like them as much as we did.

For a printable copy of the recipe, please visit my recipe blog HERE.

Hope you're having a great day, everyone ~  thank you for stopping by. Hugs !~m.


Brioche Buns ~ No special pan needed

Brioche (pronounced: [bʁi.ɔʃ]) is a highly enriched French pastry, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It is "light and slightly puffy, more or less fine, according to the proportion of butter and eggs"[1] It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust, frequently accentuated by an egg wash applied after proofing.  [Source: Wikipedia]

This is the first time I've made Brioche using our own hen's eggs and I was rather astonished at how golden they turned out.  

Buttery, Eggy, slightly sweet ~ more cake-like than bread, the dough is often baked in traditional French (small or large Brioche) pans:

Actually you can use any baking pan, a round cake pan, or loaf pans work well.

Brioche was the very first bread I posted about on my blog in August, 2008 ~ back then it didn't occur to me that Brioche could be made any other way except in baking pans.  Live and learn.

Without a pan, the texture of the bread is a little different; not quite as light and airy, a little firmer, but still full of that buttery, eggy delicious flavor.

And they make the cutest buns.

Really good with just butter, or take them over the top with a drizzle of honey or a spoonful of jam.

BUT . . .

 I had something else in mind for these ~ a special sandwich, which I'll share with you next time. I think you'll really like it!

A printable copy of the recipe is on Once Upon a Plate the Recipes ~

Hope you're having a wonderful day, friends! ~m.

P.S. Just a reminder, if you haven't entered yet, there are only 6 more days until the Girard's drawing ends.

Details on the side bar and HERE.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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