Kitchen garden + a really small batch pear butter recipe




purslane Gargoyles-eye-viewThis summer, Nina tried her hand at potting up herbs and ornamentals. Over a dozen pots are scattered in and around our kitchen garden, transforming it into our new happy place. // Gargoyle’s eye view.
lunchOn weekends, she’ll pack herself a lunch and hang out on the steps, hoping to catch a blue-tailed skink.
purple.peppersThere is a baby skink curled up in this pot, under the doreanthus!
Every time I make this it turns out a different color. This batch was a pale gold.

Sage and white pepper-infused pear butter

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You’ll want enough chopped pears to fill your slow cooker one-half to three-quarters of the way up; four or five pears are a perfect fit for my 2-quart slow cooker. When I make this for my family, I just tuck the sage and peppercorns into the pot and strain them out later. (Or not – the peppercorns are really pretty when the sink to the bottom of a jar.) If I’m making it as a gift, I bundle them in muslin or gauze. Also, I think rosemary (with the pepper) or lavender (without) would taste wonderful in place of the sage.

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4-5 pears, any variety
juice of 1 lemon wedge
3-4 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon white or mixed peppercorns, or 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon muscovado or dark brown sugar

Peel, core and chop your pears. Add the chopped pears into the slow cooker, squeeze a wedge of lemon over the top, tuck your sage and peppercorns in the middle and sprinkle your sugar over it all. Set the slow cooker to low and cover. Check every thirty minutes or so, smashing the pears around with a wooden spoon as they soften. When your pears have the consistency of applesauce, vent the lid and continue cooking until thickened, stirring every so often to prevent sticking or scorching. When the pears are done cooking, allow them to cool for 15 minutes before you strain and transfer to glass jars.

Yield: 1 Cup

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 2-5 hours, depending on your slow cooker


One, two, three, four . . .

Yes, I’ve been listening to a lot of Feist lately. But it’s not penguins I’m counting . . .


Welcome to the Blue Plate Special tour stop for Kathy Hester’s virtual cookbook blogtour!  Today’s tour has four parts:

1. The nitty gritty.
Title: The Great Vegan Bean Book
Author: Kathy Hester
Blog: Healthy Slow Cooking
Publisher: Fair Winds Press
Why this book belongs on your bookshelf: Whether you’re a bean lover because they’re cheap or an heirloom bean aficionado for whom price is no object, you can make any of these recipes without breaking the bank. Recipes span everything from your traditional chili and curry to doughnuts(!) and popsicles(!!). Nearly every recipe has instructions to make them soy- or gluten-free.  Also!  Beans are high in fiber and protein. But I bet you already knew that.
Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Herbivore, Indiebound

2. The sneak peek.


Niçoise salad


Indian chickpea yogurt salad


Blueberry almond oatmeal pancakes


Insanely flaky, melt in your mouth, gluten-free biscuits

3. The recipes.
With permission from Fair Winds Press, I’m sharing two recipes from the book with you today: one that is Kathy’s (Southern style gravy), and one that is mine (gluten-free biscuits). Below are the recipes as they appear in the book. In a separate post, I’m going to do my best Cooks Illustrated attempt at explaining the why’s and how’s of these gluten-free biscuits.

Gluten-free biscuits and Southern style gravy

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This gravy gets its Southern kick from a healthy dose of black pepper.  I like to round mine out with some fresh minced thyme and sage.  The biscuit recipe as printed in the book has my name in it, which is why they’re called “Monika’s” gluten-free biscuits.

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Southern-style white bean gravy:

1 1/2 cups (269 g) cooked white beans or 1 can (15 ounces, or 425 g), rinsed and drained
3/4 cup (175 ml) unsweetened nondairy milk (*use soy-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each of minced fresh sage, thyme, or rosemary

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more pepper if it doesn’t pack a kick. Southern gravy is traditionally on the spicy side, but it’s just from ground black pepper.

Transfer to a saucepan and warm over low heat and then serve over homemade biscuits split in half.

Yield: 2 Cups | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 10 minutes

Monika’s gluten free biscuits:

¾ cup (100 g) sweet sorghum flour, plus extra for kneading
¾ cup (90 g) millet flour
Scant ¼ cup (48 g) potato starch
6 tablespoons (45 g) tapioca flour or starch
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon (13.8 g) baking powder
½ cup (112 g) vegan shortening, chilled and cut into small cubes (*use soy free)
1 to 1 1⁄3 cups (230 to 307 g) plain soy yogurt (*use coconut yogurt)

Sift the flours, starches, salt, and baking powder thoroughly in a large bowl and then transfer to a food processor. Distribute the cubes of chilled shortening evenly over the surface of the flour and pulse several times until the pieces of shortening are the size of peas.

Add 1 cup (230 g) of the yogurt and pulse just until incorporated. The dough will be stiff, with a few dry spots. If needed, add the remaining 1⁄3 cup (77 g) yogurt and pulse to incorporate. Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover, and chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F (230˚C, or gas mark 8) and place a cookie sheet on the center rack to preheat at the same time.

Tear a large piece of parchment paper the size of your cookie sheet. Lay it out flat and sprinkle lightly with gluten-free flour. Turn your dough out onto the parchment paper and sprinkle the top lightly with more flour so your fingers don’t stick.

Pat the dough out into a 1-inch (2.5 cm) rectangle, cut in half, and stack one half onto the other. Repeat five or six times, patting the final rectangle to ½ to ¾ inch (1.3 to 2 cm) tall.

Cut the rectangle into several small pieces (about 12 to 16). Space them out as much as you can over the piece of parchment paper. Using a peel or another baking sheet, carefully transfer the parchment paper onto the preheated cookie sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the biscuits have turned golden.

These keep for up to 2 days if wrapped loosely in a dish towel, but taste best if eaten the same day.

Yield: 12-16 biscuits | Prep time: 45 minutes | Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

4.  The giveaway!

This giveaway is open to the U.S. and Canada. To win your own copy of this book, simply post a comment by midnight Pacific time on Monday, June 17th, 2013 (please make sure to leave some sort of way I can get in touch with you), and I’ll draw a random winner.

Congratulations, Diana!  Your name was drawn to win a copy of Kathy Hester’s The Great Vegan Bean Book.