Tales of the Third Coast

Pear-Cranberry Sampler

* 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar

* 1 tbsp. cornstarch

* 5 ripe pears, cored, peeled and chopped (4 cups)

* 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

* 1/3 cup low-fat milk

* 2 large eggs

* 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

* 6 slices firm white bread, crusts trimmed

* 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400. In an 8-inch square baking dish, stir together 1/4 cup of the sugar and cornstarch. Add pears and cranberries and stir until well combined. Place in oven to bake for 20 minutes, stirring midway, or until the fruit is tender and the juices have begun to thicken.

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow dish, whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Cut each bread slice in half diagonally, and soak in the egg-milk mixture, carefully turning the slices for even soaking. Remove the fruit from the oven and arrange the bread in rows on top of the fruit. Combine nutmeg and the remaining 3 tbsp. sugar; sprinkle evenly over the bread. Bake for 20 minutes more, or until the fruit is bubbling and the bread is golden. Serve immediately.

If you're looking for an extra flourish, try topping it with a bit of low-fat vanilla cream. To make it, line a sieve with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Spoon in 1 1/2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt and let it drain in the refrigerator until reduced to 1 cup, about 1 hour. In a chilled mixing bowl with chilled beaters, whip 1/2 cup light whipping cream to soft peaks. Add the drained yogurt, 1 tbsp. confectioner's sugar and 1 tbsp. orange liqueur; fold gently to mix. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 8 hours. Makes about 2 cups.

COFFEE WITH YOUR PIPE DREAM, SIR? No trips planned in the near future? Fantasize or finalize a trip to Greece for free. A travel program on Greece will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the It's Greek to Me restaurant (626 W. Lake St., Mpls.). The informational meetings are sponsored by Hellenic Adventures and presented by trip designer and Greek native Leftheris Papageorgiou. Greek desserts and coffee will be served. These meetings are free and open to the public. For further information, or to RSVP (required), call 827-0937.

CRY ME A DIET: Which is better, chocolate or ice cream? How can you get enough calcium in your diet when the very thought of milk brings boils to your forehead? You can get free, personalized answers to these and other nutritional quandaries from registered dietitians by calling the toll-free American Institute for Cancer Research Hotline (1-800-843-8114). The Hotline operates weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, and is a free public service of the Institute. In addition to questions about the foods you stuff down, you can request a list of free AICR pamphlets and recipe booklets that may help you lower your cancer risk.

GOLF BALLS IN YOUR FILET MIGNON: Looking for an out-of-the-way place to wine and dine that (chances are) you and your deserving company have never been to before? Recently opened, The Glen may just become a new favorite. Located on the second floor at Edinburgh (that's Edinburgh in Brooklyn Park, not Scotland), you can take in a panoramic view of the golf course below. (Outdoor seating is also available as weather permits.) Though the atmosphere smacks of Scotland, the cuisine is most continental. House specialties include pan-seared filet mignon, honey-pecan walleye, and pistachio-crusted chicken breast. The Glen (8700 Edinbrook Crossing) is open for dinner, Monday-Saturday evenings 5-10 p.m. Call 493-4380 for reservations.

TRICKING FATHER: Everyone knows some chump who gives Mom a cleaning or cooking device for Mother's Day. Well, that little trick, I'm happy to say, works just as well with Father's Day. This year, give him the Appalachian Heritage Cookbook with earmarks on the recipes that you'd like him to attempt to make for you. And he'll be learning to do more than cook; there are wise old sayings for him to memorize and useful household hints as well, like using hair curlers to hold cut flowers in a vase, an easy way to grate cheese, and peeling onions without tears. Snippets of Appalachian mountain poetry are also included. With any luck, you'll be reaping the benefits of this gift to Dad within a week. Maybe he'll even make you this recipe for Pudding Pecan Pie:

* One 3 3/4 oz. package vanilla pudding

* 1 cup corn syrup

* 3/4 cup evaporated milk

* 1 egg, slightly beaten

* 1 cup pecans, chopped

* One 9-inch pie shell, unbaked

Blend pudding mix with corn syrup. Gradually add evaporated milk and egg, stirring to blend. Then add pecans. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 375 until firm and just beginning to crack, about 40 minutes.

The Appalachian Heritage Cookbook is available from Pocahontas Press, P.O. Drawer F, Blacksburg, VA 24063. The price is $19.95 plus $3 shipping.

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