Friday, January 29, 2016

Recipe: Apple Pear Sauce -- Shiny!

Like applesauce, but with pears, too!

I was chatting with my friend, Shiny, on his Twitch channel while making this and he asked for the recipe. So, Shiny, this one is for you. I measured everything out best I could as I went, just as you asked ... even though I never measure anything for this particular dish.

How long it will take:

About 8 1/2 hours from start to finish, but you'll be able to ignore it for most of that time. Only about 30 minutes of actual work at the beginning and then just the occasional stir.

More time will be needed at the end if you want to can it, but that is completely optional. It is perfectly acceptable to just eat it all, though I don't recommend trying it in one sitting.

What you will need:

  • crock pot (I have several. I used my six-quart, self-stirring one for this.)
  • 2 lbs pears
  • 3 lbs tart apples (I used Granny Smiths)
  • 3 lbs sweet apples (I used Gala)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider (optional, apple juice also works and is also optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice

If you like your applesauce sweeter, go with more sweet apples. If you like it very tart, go with more tart ones. Keep in mind, there is no sugar to counter the tartness and the pears are a bit tart as well. This ratio gave a nice, moderately tart flavor with gentle pear undertones. If you don't like pears, just leave them out. Or replace them with more apples, sweet and/or tart, to give the same volume. (Sorry, Shiny, but that's about as exact as I can get with this one. Use the amounts listed and you won't be disappointed, I promise.)

If you absolutely MUST add sugar (ugh!), go with brown. Seriously, though, you don't need it.

What you will do:

Peel the pears and apples and cut them into largish chunks.  Smaller chunks work, too, and will cook faster. I like large chunks because it's a LOT of peeling and cutting and it goes faster if I leave the chunks bigger.

I've tried leaving the peels on, but if they are tough they can muck with the texture. Had one batch that the peels never quite dissolved, leaving these little "woody" bits throughout the sauce. Tasted fine, but the bits of peel were kind of nasty. You are welcome to skip peeling if you are feeling brave or lazy or simply like the texture of wood in your applesauce. Me? I take the time to peel now.

Toss all the chunks into the crock pot. I do this as I cut them, so I don't have to dirty up a bowl. If you like to wash bowls, by all means, use one. Or two or three. Knock yourself out.


NOTE: This amount of fruit filled my six quart crock pot to the top. If you are using a smaller crock, adjust accordingly. Or snack on the extra pieces while the rest cooks. Either works.


Pour the cider in with the pears and apples. I add this because it takes awhile for the fruit to "juice up." You can safely omit it, if you want.

Sprinkle with spices. Stir to mix them in, if you like. Or not. The fruit doesn't care. I stirred mine, after I took the picture though.

Cover and cook on low until everything is soft and mushy, stirring occasionally. (Or use a fancy-shmancy self-stirring crock pot, like I did, and it will stir itself.) The fruit should break down and fall apart until it gets to that familiar, applesaucy consistency. The longer you cook it, the darker it gets and the more intense the flavor becomes. If you cook it long enough, it becomes apple-pear butter, but we aren't going to take it that far today.

After about five hours of cooking, the apples had pretty much disintegrated, but some of the pears were still intact. So I grabbed my trusty pink potato-masher and mashed away.

There, that's better!

It's still not as thick as I'd like it though, so I turned the lid sideways to allow some of the moisture to escape. (I think the stirring mechanism will still work like this, but if the lid goes skittering across the kitchen, we'll know I was wrong. Pretty sure the manufacturer advises against this!)

I'll give it another hour or three to thicken up.

After 8 hours, you can see that it's reduced by about half (from the original, full crock). It's a lot thicker now and the sugars have had a chance to caramelize, giving it a rich, brown color. It's hit the point where every bite is an explosion of apples, pears and spices. That means it's ready.

Serve warm, all by itself -- or topped with whipped cream -- or over vanilla ice cream. All are good, trust me.

If you make a lot, like I did, the extra can be canned for later use. (For more info on canning, check out Ball's Fresh Preserving site.) You should also be able freeze it, I would think, though I've never tried. Or just stick it in the refrigerator and eat it all over the next few days. There is no sugar in it, so no guilt. Unless, of course, you put it over ice cream. In which case, you've earned it, right? So, still no guilt.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Recipe: Whole Wheat Pizza Dough


A friend of mine requested this recipe and I've been meaning to post it for awhile now. I just keep forgetting because, honestly, I don't make this very often. I mean, face it. Even with the addition of a whole grain crust and lots of veggies, pizza still doesn't quite qualify as "healthful." Unless, of course, you leave off most of the cheese and pepperoni. And then, really, what's the point?

Anyway, for those times when you absolutely MUST satisfy your pizza craving, this is a tasty way to make it a bit healthier for you ... even if you go for the meat-lover extreme version.


I use a combination of white whole wheat flour and spelt flour for this dough, because I like the flavor the spelt adds to it. It can totally be made with just the white whole wheat flour if you don't have, or don't like, spelt. You can also try substituting red whole wheat flour for the spelt, if you prefer, but you will probably need more water.  

A bunch of the ingredients below are listed as optional. That means you can leave them out if you don't want them. Or don't have them. They do add quite a bit of flavor to the crust, which I enjoy. To get a more neutral, plain crust, just omit them.


  • 1-1 1/4 cup warm water (about 120-125°F)
  • 2 tsp rapid rise yeast
  • 1 Tbls sugar
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour (or use a total of 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp basil (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (optional but highly recommended)


Measure all ingredients, except for water and olive oil, into a large mixing bowl. That's right, just dump it all in there together. I know, it sounds too easy. Just go with it. 

Give it good stir to mix it all up.

Check your water temperature. You want it pretty warm, about 120-125°F (ask Google if you want that converted to Celsius). If you don't have a cooking thermometer, a good way to judge is that the water should be warm enough that it's uncomfortable, but you should still be able to keep your finger in it without actually taking damage.  

Add the water and olive oil to the dry ingredients and mix well. Switch to a dough hook and allow machine to knead the dough for 6-7 minutes until dough is very elastic. If you don't have a dough hook, you can toss the dough on a lightly floured counter top and knead it by hand for about 10 minutes.

Spray or grease a bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to grease the top. 

Cover with a towel and allow to rise until double in bulk, about an hour.

You can tell the dough has risen enough when you gently poke it with two fingers and it leaves an impression. Don't ask me why two. I don't know. You can try one or three, but I won't be responsible when your dough doesn't turn out right.

I like to cook my pizza on an actual pizza stone. It makes for a much crisper crust. Plus, it sounds cool to say you cooked the pizza on a stone. 

To do this, shape the pizza on a large piece of parchment paper. You can place a pizza pan under the parchment to help you get it the right size and shape. If you prefer to cook it directly on the pizza pan, you can still use the parchment paper or skip it and just grease the pan.

Either way, when the dough is ready, punch it down and start smooshing it into shape. If you've had a rough day, all this punching and smooshing can really help you release some of that tension.


Keep smooshing and stretching until the dough is about a 15-16 inch circle. Leave a little lip on it so that the toppings don't all fall off the edge. 

If you prefer smaller pizzas, you can divide the dough in half and make two individual sized pies. That way, you don't have to worry about YOUR pizza getting contaminated with pineapple. Since I was doing the cooking, there were no pineapple worries so I went with one big one.

Place the pizza stone (but not your crust ... you still need toppings, silly!) in the oven and preheat them both to 425°F. If you aren't using a stone, then I guess you won't be putting it in the oven now, will you? Still preheat the oven though. Pizza cooks faster in a hot oven. 

You can finish putting your pizza together while things heat up. I mean get hot. Ahem. You know what I mean.

Top the shaped crust with sauce and your favorite toppings. Or your partner's favorite toppings if you are trying to earn some brownie points. Though, come to think of it, actual brownies might be better for that. Mmm, brownies. Er ... what was I saying again?

Slide the pizza, parchment and all, onto the pizza stone. Or place the pan in the oven if you are going that route. 

Cook for 15-18 minutes. If cooking on a pan instead of a stone, you can slide the pizza off the pan and cook it directly on the oven rack for the last 2-3 minutes to get a crisper crust. Don't try doing that at the beginning though. You'll just end up with a gooey mess in the bottom of the oven and you'll have to order delivery even after all that work.

I slide the pan I used to shape the pizza under it when I cut it. That way I don't leave a mess all over the stove top. See how clever we are? Oh, yeah, it's recommended you let the pizza sit for about 5 minutes before cutting it. Good luck with that.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I came across this abandoned post today when I came back to the blog at the request of a friend. I honestly don't know why I didn't publish it when I wrote it. Obviously, something distracted me. That happens a lot, actually. Interestingly, I've had a fairly stressful year or two since writing this up (thus the temporary abandonment of the blog). In spite of that, I find it still rings true for me today ... which was actually very encouraging to discover. So, I'm hitting the publish button. I only added one word ... writing ... plus a comment. Other than that, it remains as originally written. I hope you find some wisdom in it. Or hope. But no typos.

Taking a brief respite from recipes today. I had a thought this morning (while mixing up bread dough, so this isn't completely off track from my other posts). It was interesting enough that I wanted to get it down and maybe even share it because, well, it felt like there was something important in there. So, anyway, it occurred to me (as things often do when I'm cooking) that if I were to make three lists ... Stuff I Want, Stuff I Need and Stuff Missing From My Life ... they would look very, very different.

Take the first one: Stuff I Want. I won't bore you with the entire list. Let's just say it would be huge. I mean, gargantuan. I'm the kind of person who doesn't just have one Amazon Wish List ... I have like 15. Seriously. Stuff for me, stuff for the house, stuff for the shop ... it goes on and on. All stuff I want. (Not even getting into my lists for other people.) Some I want more than others, but it all falls under want for some reason or other. I know. It's embarrassing.

Compare that to my second list: Stuff I Need. Truth is, this one is actually pretty short. For example, I need a new roof on half of my house. We replaced the other half last summer and will take care of the rest this year, but I still need it at the moment. (Note: we finished the roof work since I wrote this, but I left it as is since it properly depicted where I was at the time.) I need a new septic tank. I need to have the fluids changed in my Jeep. And I need someone to make a really, really good coffee ice cream bar without any nuts. (Okay, "need" might be a bit of a stretch on that last one, but not much.) That's pretty much all I can come up with, believe it or not.

Now, let's look at that last list: Stuff Missing From My Life.

*waits a few beats*

I got nothing.

Seriously, even after writing up my "needs" list, I can't come up with anything that is really missing from what I have. For instance, my roof may need replaced, but I have one. Same with the septic tank. My Jeep may need some routine maintenance, but it currently runs fine. And as for the ice cream bars, well, that's a close one but there are some salted caramel ones out there that do almost as well.

I have all the necessities ... food, shelter, clothing, companionship, money to pay my bills. I have lots of luxuries ... computer, tablet, camera, TV ... the list could go on. I have tons of nature ... my garden, greenhouse, tadpoles, birds, snakes, chipmunks. I have entertainment and hobbies ... cooking, writing, gaming, painting, woodworking, reading, hiking, photography, etc. I have challenges  ... take random items from any other category mentioned above and you'll find tons of them. Could I add others? Sure. Are they really "missing" ... as in there is a noticeable hole or absence where they should be? Nope, not at all.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wanting stuff. Wanting, in my opinion, is a good thing. It motivates us. Gives us things to strive for. Keeps life changing and moving forward. Those are all good things. As, of course, is satisfying all our essential needs. But, to realize ... I mean really, really realize ... that there is nothing truly lacking in the life you are leading, well that is a truly awesome feeling.

So, what does this all mean? I'm honestly not really sure. I guess my point here (assuming I actually have one ... I don't always) is that I think every once in awhile we need to set aside thoughts about what we want or even what we need. Instead, maybe, look for what is missing. Hopefully, like me, you'll discover not much, if anything. But, if you DO find something, I think that is where your focus really needs to be. Fill that void. It's worth it. Contentment could rest just on the other side.