Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Month: December 2014

Pears Poached in White Wine and Maple Syrup Make a Charming Dessert

pears in bowlSometimes I find a recipe that is so easy and so lovely that I want to make it many times for lots of different people. That is how I feel about this poached pear recipe.  There is something festive about pears in the late autumn and winter time.  So much of the fruit has gone out of season and does not keep well, but pears and citrus keep well and travel well, and are a welcome burst of color and flavor in these cold months.  Of course pears have lots of health benefits too, as they contain lots of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidants.  I mentioned in a previous post that I am reading a book called Beyond the Mediterranean Diet by Layne Lieberman.  The poached pear recipe below comes from that book.  The only variation I added was that I drizzled chocolate sauce over the pears when I served them.  I can rarely resist a chance to add chocolate to something.  Sorbet or ice cream would also be a nice accompaniment. But they tasted completely delicious without the chocolate sauce too.  The white wine and maple syrup go together so nicely and give the pears a delicately sweet, sparkling flavor.   And truly, this is one of the easiest desserts I have ever made.  All you need are just a small amount of basic ingredients and about 35 minutes, most of which is baking time.  During this busy time of year, it can be a blessing to find something easy and light.  If you are looking for something healthy, quick, natural, and uplifting for dessert, I would recommend trying this. pears on bench 3pears on counterpears in chocolate

Poached Pears

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: about 10 minutes for preparation and 20-30 minutes for baking
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Ingredients:

  • 4 firm-ripe pears, cored and sliced in half (I sometimes peel the pears and sometimes don’t, depending on how nice the skin looks and depending on who is eating them–some people prefer fruit peeled and some don’t)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white wine (sweet or dry) or sparkling cider
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the pears, water, and white wine.  Add the maple syrup and cinnamon, and stir until the pears are evenly coated.  Spoon the pears into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pears are tender.  Serve warm, on their own, or drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired.  Add ice cream or sorbet on the side, if desired.  Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from Beyond the Mediterranean Diet by Layne Lieberman

Golden Potato Soup with Cabbage and Butternut Squash

chopped vegetables 3I guess I am in a bit of a soup mode right now.  What better way to cut the damp chill in the air than to make a pot of hot, steaming, vegetable-filled soup.  What better way to soothe a sore throat and nourish a loved one back to health.  A couple of us in my house had some kind of a mild illness last week, and homemade soups served us very well.  Even without a sore throat, my husband has benefited from the warmth and vitality of the vegetables.  At the risk of posting too many soups in a row (my daughter, who isn’t really a soup fan, warned me of this–I think she just wants me to make a dessert), I am sharing a delightful variation of the soup I posted a few days ago.  This particular soup has no meat, and it has a smooth, buttery taste, though it also has no butter.  The butternut squash gives it just the right creaminess.  This soup is chock-full of nutrients with the potatoes, cabbage,onions, and squash.  I added some Parmesan cheese to my bowl when I served it, and that gave it an extra amount of richness.  Aside from chopping some vegetables, this soup takes almost no effort to make, and can be done all in one pot.  You can serve it with some crusty bread, crackers and cheese, a green salad, or sandwiches. Or you can simply sip it on its own for a little comfort and revival of your energy. I’m going to take a couple of bowls over to the the Fiesta Friday link-up party at Angie’s blog, the novice gardener, where there are lots of other delicious dishes to check out! raw vegetableschopped squash and potatoesDSC_0566golden soup in bowl 2

Golden Potato Soup with Cabbage and Butternut Squash

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: about 15 minutes to prepare, about 20-30 minutes to cook
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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups potatoes, diced
  • 6 cups chicken broth–I love Better than Bouillon chicken base because it gives soups a rich texture (if you wish, you can use vegetable broth)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • dried or fresh dill for garnish
  • grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Wash and chop the onion, cabbage, and potatoes.  Wash, peel, and chop the butternut squash.  In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and the cabbage for about 5-7 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Add the potatoes and squash.  Then add the broth, a teaspoon of salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.  Bring the broth just to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer (medium-low).  Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes and squash are tender.  Add the milk and more salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  Top with a teaspoon or so of dill, if desired.  When serving the soup, add some Parmesan cheese to the bowls, if you wish.  Serve with bread, cheese and crackers, a green salad, or sandwiches.  Enjoy!

Rainy Day Soup

DSC_0546I call this Rainy Day soup for a couple of reasons.  First, because it is a warm, nourishing soup to have on a cold, rainy day.  (And we seem to be having a few of those lately).  Also, this soup is not an expensive soup.  It makes me think of the saying, “save it for a rainy day.”  During this time of year, many of us spend more money than we maybe should (or maybe I’m just speaking of myself!) on holiday preparations.  To make an inexpensive meal during this time helps balance the spending.  Cabbage is one of the cheapest vegetables around–and it keeps for quite awhile in the refrigerator.  Potatoes are also inexpensive and keep well (though less inexpensive if you buy organic, which I do, since we ate all our garden potatoes; still, they are economical).  And kielbasa, even the higher quality kind, is reasonable.  So I like to save this soup for a rainy day when I want to cut back on my food spending, but still create a good meal.  soup in pot 1Variations of cabbage and potato soups abound, and I have played around with lots of different versions, depending on what ingredients I have on hand.  This is just one of many experiments that I like, but this recipe is so simple, tasty and filling, that I have written it down, and want to share it on my blog.  For me, cabbage was an under-appreciated vegetable until the last few months.  Now I like to use it in soups as often as I can.  It helps that my son, who loves soup, likes cabbage too.  I know he is getting vitamins A and C, minerals, and fiber when he eats cabbage.  If you are looking for a way to warm up on a rainy day, get good nutrition, and be frugal without giving up taste, give this soup a try.  rainy day soup 2soup vegetables 4soup vegetables 3

Rainy Day Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: about 15 minutes preparation, about 30 minutes simmering time
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups potatoes, washed and cubed
  • 2 cups green cabbage, washed and finely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth (I like to use the Better than Bouillon chicken base mixed with water–it is delicious)
  • 8 ounces kielbasa, fully cooked and thinly sliced

Directions:

Wash and chop the onion, potatoes, and cabbage. Thinly slice the kielbasa.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes, until soft.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  When the broth is boiling, gently add the chopped potatoes.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the potatoes for about 12 minutes, until fork-tender.  Add the cabbage.  Gently simmer for about 20 more minutes.  Add the sliced kielbasa and cook until heated through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.  Serve with rustic bread. Enjoy!

Cozy Apple Spice Cake

apple cake on porch 2Sometimes you just need a simple, satisfying dessert to make an evening more enjoyable.  Sometimes you crave something sweet, but somewhat healthy.  Sometimes you want something to offer your kids for a snack besides a plate of pretzels or chips.  Or sometimes you want your kitchen to have that iconic scent of apples and cinnamon baking away in your oven.  That’s when I like to make this apple spice cake.  It is still making something from scratch, which is a satisfying and healthy thing to do, but it doesn’t take much thinking, and the margin for error is pretty small (unlike making a pie with a homemade pie crust, which I also really like to do, but mostly only when I have the time and energy).  The most time-consuming part of this recipe is peeling and chopping the apples, but even that isn’t too bad, since the recipe calls for just about 4-5 apples (3 cups chopped).  This apple cake recipe is something you can pull out in a pinch when you need a comforting dessert or snack, and don’t want to go to too much trouble.  It is made up of mostly basic things I usually have on hand.  The wheat germ is the only ingredient that may not be a staple for everyone, though I like to keep it on hand to add to smoothies and muffins.  Wheat germ gives this apple cake a little extra heartiness and lots of health benefits, since it is full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.  Of course, if you have a wheat allergy, this cake is probably not for you, but otherwise, I highly recommend it as a delicious, cozy, simple dessert.chopped applesapples on porch 4

Apple Spice Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: about 15 minutes for preparation, about 45 minutes for baking
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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups apples, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with butter.  In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture.  Stir in the apples and wheat germ.  Stir until just combined.  Pour and spoon the batter into the baking dish.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is lightly brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or on its own. Enjoy!

Ruby-Red Goodness: Tart Cherry Pie

cherries in panFor my husband’s birthday, instead of a cake I made him a cherry pie, one of his favorite things to eat.  Cherry pies are layered with all kinds of memories for me.  More tart cherries are grown and harvested in Michigan than in any other state in the U.S., and my family has always enjoyed Michigan cherries.  As a child, one of the highlights of my summer vacations was getting a cherry pie at the Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan, and eating it outside.  Then we started going to Charlevoix (also in northern Michigan) every vacation we got, and we discovered Friske Orchards, just south of Charlevoix.  My mom and I began making cherry pies regularly from Friske Orchards Montmorency red tart cherries, and a family tradition has continued and evolved.  I cannot think about cherry pies without thinking of my father, since it was his favorite dessert for as long as I can remember.  He called it a “bright and lively” pie.  And it is bright and lively.  A cherry pie is a great way to add some cheerfulness to a dark, cold evening.  When we look outside and see so much brown and gray, it is nice to feast our eyes (and palates) on the deep, bright hue of the cherries.  And that ruby-red goodness is full of health benefits too–tart cherries contain antioxidants and help reduce inflammation.  I have continued to make cherry pies for special occasions, and my husband and children have come to love them too.  In fact, we planted a couple of cherry trees in our yard a few years ago, in hopes that we can someday make cherry pies with our very own cherries.  But we will have to be patient until our trees get bigger.  Right now we have to share what little cherries our trees produce with the birds and insects, not to mention the deer who chew on the branches!

cherry pie on the porchAnyway, the frozen cherries from northern Michigan are deliciously tart, and are a source of pleasure.  Because of their delicate nature, most tart cherries are frozen right after they are picked and washed, so they are available to be enjoyed year-round.  I am sharing the recipe for the cherry pie filling found on the package of frozen Montmorency tart cherries from Friske Orchards.  I am sure you can use any type of frozen tart cherries and this filling recipe will work.  If you need a simple and delicious recipe for a double pie crust for fruit pies, I have a good one at this link. What a treat to enjoy some brightness when the darkness is coming earlier and earlier. cherry pie in pie platecherry pie overview

Friske Homemade Cherry Piefill

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: about 20 minutes, plus about an hour for baking
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680g/5 cups) frozen tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and mix well.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring often.  Filling thickens as it cooks. Pour into a pie crust and cover with the other pie crust.  Follow the baking directions for the pie crust recipe.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or just on its own. Enjoy!