Festive Pear Crostini

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I am taking part in the “USA Pears Blogger Recipe Challenge”. This is my first entry into the appetizer category.

It’s holiday time and that means partying with USA Pears. At their peak of freshness right now, pears are a beautiful versatile fruit that need little embellishment. Sliced on a cheeseboard or tossed into a salad pears are an easy addition to every festive table. Come on now. They come in both red and green Christmas colors! If that doesn’t just get you excited about cooking with USA Pears during the holidays then the flavor will.

Here is a crowd pleasing appetizer recipe for holiday entertaining. With a few flavorful ingredients you will WOW your guests with this delicious pear bite. The sweetness of the pears complements the nutty cheese and balances out that little pop of pomegranate.

Roasted Pear Crostini with Manchego & Pomegranate

  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 bunch fresh thyme

2 USA Pears, (1 red like Anjou and 1 green like Bartlett), cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 large baguette, cut on an angle into ½-inch slices (I like a whole grain loaf)

 4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup shredded mild Spanish Manchego cheese

Freshly ground black pepper, optional

¼ cup fresh pomegranate seeds


Heat oven 375F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Spread several thyme sprigs over bottom of one baking sheet. Fan pear slices over top of thyme. Using two tablespoons of butter, spread butter lightly over 1 side of each bread slice and place butter-side-up on other baking sheet. Melt remaining butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add sugar and swirl until melted and starting to brown. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Spoon mixture evenly over sliced pears. Bake pears and bread for 10 minutes. Arrange baked pears on top of crostini. Sprinkle each with some cheese. Return crostini to oven and bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired and top with pomegranate seeds and fresh thyme leaves. Serves 8 to 10.

For more information and delicious recipes check out the website www.usapears.org and their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram) @usapears

The Best Cranberries For All Seasons

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Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries is hosting a blogger challenge. I am thrilled to participate and bring this kind of quality product to my blog.  For more than 70 years the Rhodes family has been harvesting cranberries. Just open a bag of their cranberries and you will see nothing but bright red and fresh beautiful fruit. Available all year long, I have never seen cranberries like these before. They are like jewels and I just could not wait to create some recipes with them.

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Just last week I was eating the best cranberry lemon muffin I had ever tasted. It came at a premium price from a high-end coffee shop. It was so good I went back the next day and purchased another. I knew I needed to try and make these muffins at home and I did. Light and buttery these muffins are filled with cranberries and tart lemon curd. Husband approved these muffins are perfect for all those overnight holiday guests.

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Fresh Cranberry Lemon Muffins

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Zest of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons milk

1 and 1/2 cups Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries (do not thaw)

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray a 12 count muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners that rise above the rim of the pan (like the tulip shaped liners in the photo). In large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs; beat until well blended. Add yogurt, vanilla, lemon extract, zest, lemon juice and milk; blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups filling to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 20 to 24 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. With a melon baller tool scoop out the top center of the muffin. Fill with a small spoonful of lemon curd. Replace muffin tops.

Please note that if you use standard liners that just fit the size of your muffin tin that your yield will be up to 15 muffins and your bake time will be a few minutes less. [/recipe]

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While most of us use cranberries in baking have you thought about adding them to a main dish or entree? Tapping into my Sicilian roots I thought Cape Cod Select cranberries would be perfect in an agrodolce sauce recipe. Agrodolce translates to sweet & sour and these cranberries shine in a savory mix of onions, vinegar, apple cider, rosemary, ginger and brown sugar. Can you say dinner on the table this busy holiday season in 30 minutes? Yes, you can!

Festive Cranberry Agrodolce Chicken

4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs*

1-teaspoon kosher salt

½-teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes

1 small to medium onion, chopped

1 cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups apple cider or juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus additional for garnish

1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

cooked spaghetti squash; optional

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add chicken; cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. To same skillet, stir in ginger, pepper flakes, onion and cranberries; cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add butter, apple cider or juice, red wine vinegar and rosemary; stir well and bring to a boil. Gently boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Stir in brown sugar. Return chicken and any accumulated juice to pan. Cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and tender. To serve: spoon cooked spaghetti squash over center of plate. Top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with fresh rosemary. Serves 4.

*We love chicken thighs in our house, but feel free to substitute boneless chicken breast if that is what you prefer. Just leave the chicken skin intact to avoid overcooked chicken.

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How about that gorgeous drink featured in my first photo? Greet your guests at the door with my Holiday Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer and they may never leave. It’s your fault that you are treating your friends and family to the best of the best.

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Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup pear brandy

¼ cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

1 sprig fresh rosemary plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ cup (4 ounces) good quality vodka

1 cup (8 ounces) cold prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer

In small saucepan, over medium heat, swirl sugar, pear brandy, cranberries and rosemary until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes just to a boil. Let mixture steep and cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove and reserve cranberries. Remove and discard rosemary sprig. In a shaker filled with ice, combine cranberry pear syrup, lime juice and vodka; shake well. Pour over 4 ice filled glasses. Top each with ¼ cup (2 ounces) prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer. For glass garnish: skewer reserved cranberries onto fresh rosemary sprigs and drape on top of glass.

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Thanks Cape Cod Select for sponsoring this recipe contest and sharing your delicious cranberries with me and my readers. For more fresh recipes, fabulous photos and how to purchase check out the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capecodselect/#

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CapeCodSelect

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/capecodselect/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/capecodselec

For the store locater link: http://www.capecodselect.com/store-locator/

 

View from Will’s Bench & Holiday Gifts

cranberry apple relish

cranberry apple relish

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but before we head into the dead of winter lets take one last look at autumn. The view from Will’s Bench in the fall is glorious. It is the best time of year to visit New England.

Will's Bench Middlebury, CT

Will’s Bench Middlebury, CT

Who doesn’t like rainbows and a pine forest? I can’t help but think of my boy when I see the sun shining down on the water in such a colorful way. He’s out there, casting a line just happy to be. I can almost see him. There is a scent of pine still on his sweatshirt.

the rainbow shot

the rainbow shot

And to the one who always leaves flowers I wish you peace and hope always, but especially during this holiday season. Thank you.

peace and hope

peace and hope

Whew! I feel much better now that I have put the fall season behind us…and you have to believe that I really do actually enjoy the Christmas season. I miss William terribly, but I have to rejoice in the thought that I had his bright light in my life for 23 years. How lucky am I to have loved such a son. And to have so many in my life who continue to love and honor him, too. William is the gift that keeps on giving.

can't have an empty jar

can’t have an empty jar

Do you love a homemade gift as much as I do? Nothing better than a gift from someone’s heart. Homemade means someone has given you their precious time. It can’t be bought. It’s priceless. So, this recipe for cranberry-apple relish was born because I was feeling guilty about simply opening up a jar or can of cranberry sauce and tossing it on the table at Thanksgiving. Pressed for time I just didn’t think anyone would care about cranberry sauce, but the thought of not doing something homemade for such a special event got the best of me. Thankfully, I got it done. The jar was practically licked clean by my guests and my darling daughter announced it was the best cranberry sauce she had ever eaten and could I make more. So I did and so should you.

honey to your taste

honey to your taste

Cranberry-Apple Relish

  • Servings: 2 1/2 cups
  • Print

1-cup water

½ cup sugar

1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries

1 Meyer lemon or medium-size orange, grated zest and juice

1 large honey crisp apple, peeled, grated

½ cup honey

pinch of Alaskan alder smoked salt or finishing salt of your choice

½ cup toasted chopped pecans, optional

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cranberries, lemon (or orange) zest and juice, apple and half the honey; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring mixture occasionally, pressing cranberries with the back of your spoon against the side of the pan insuring all have popped. Taste and add additional honey to your desired sweetness. (I use the whole half-cup if using the Meyer lemon instead of an orange). Simmer until the mixture is thickened. Cool. Stir in salt and pecans, if desired.

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For a nice gift pour into sterilized jars while still hot. Seal and wrap with a decorative ribbon.