In the “normal world,” desserts without gluten or sugar are pretty hard to find.
I get stuck in normal mentality sometimes, so when Jenny McGruther of the Nourished Kitchen blog asked me to be the dessert stop in her “progressive dinner” for her new cookbook (coming out next week!!!), I felt no little trepidation.
It’s Lent, and around here that means a strict no-gluten, no-sugar regimen that I didn’t really want to bend just for a blog project.
Of course, when Jenny talked further and mentioned that most of the desserts are fruit-based, I realized: of course, what could I have been worried about? This is Nourished Kitchen, after all.
The desserts chapter is appropriately titled “From the Orchard” and includes twenty-two truly decadent, although not overly sweet, desserts. Jenny’s prose smattered throughout the book is classic Nourished Kitchen – lilting and lovely, clearly crafted by someone who loves food, appreciates what the earth has to offer, and knows how to prepare it for beauty and taste.
“For the most part, I serve fruit without much fanfare. On its own, a ripe peach speaks volumes and needs little help from me. Its syrupy juices need no sweetening from the jar of honey sitting on my countertop. We eat fruit with joy and with abandon, but very occasionally, and for special moments, I prepare fruit-based desserts: pies and stewed fruit compotes, ice creams and sorbets.
After reading that, I couldn’t wait to get to the pear recipe Jenny had recommended for me, and I’m so glad she did. It was perfect: so doable, no off-the-wall ingredients that I didn’t have, and it seemed that it would probably take less than 10 minutes to prepare and bake while dinner was being eaten.
I was pumped – I think Jenny picked it out especially for BUSY me!
The Nourished Kitchen Cookbook
If you got to catch the cookbook author Hangout I did a few weeks ago (like a laid-back talk show that you can listen to while you’re doing other things), you heard Jenny talk about the importance of her taking her own pictures to retain the atmosphere of the Nourished Kitchen blog in her book, also titled The Nourished Kitchen. The book is just gorgeous, and if you love Jenny’s traditional approach to food and respect for the earth from which it comes, you’ll love every morsel of text and photos within.
The Dilemma of Making Desserts in a Busy Family
I’ve noticed I don’t make a lot of desserts lately, even before Lent began. It’s hard to find time to make a dessert at all in the midst of three meals, two snacks, and the rest of life – especially one that needs to be cooking while dinner is going. But for the honor of being part of this progressive dinner, I figured I could handle it – on a weekend.
I planned the pears for a Saturday night and then nearly forgot about it entirely – we had a lovely family walk, compelled to capture the welcome thaw and mild temperatures we had been waiting many long, blustery months to embrace. Dinner, which was simple to prepare and already cooking when we left for our walk, still wasn’t on the table until nearly 7:30p.m., and my kids are 2, 5 and 8 – yikes!
When I remembered the pears at the last minute, I thought I was in big trouble,
But this recipe was truly so quick and easy.
I made it pretty much to specs other than I skipped peeling one pear – I won’t tell you if I got distracted and just sliced into it before peeling or if I meant to test it out to see if it could be made any easier, since peeling is probably about 50% of the work for the entire dish…let’s just say that the peels really didn’t detract from the finished dish for me, if you need a shortcut!
I wanted to use my cast iron pan, but that pan has had way too many veggies sauteed in bacon grease lately. I didn’t want to risk bacon-flavored pears!
Here is the recipe: mouth-wateringly sweet with the natural flavors of the earth, satisfying for dessert but something you could nearly pass off as a breakfast with a bit of granola and milk.
Thanks for stopping by Kitchen Stewardship on this book launch progressive dinner!
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbs. Grade B maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. finely ground unrefined sea salt
- 4 medium pears, peeled, halved, and cored
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When it froths, whisk in the maple syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Remove from the heat and place the pears cut side down in the pan.
- Spoon a bit of the sauce over the pears and bake for 45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.
- Serve warm, drizzled with the pan juices.
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Reprinted with permission from The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther, (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Jennifer McGruther
Publisher retains all copyrights and the right to require immediate removal of this excerpt for copyright or other business reasons.
The children were over the moon excited to have any sort of special dessert offered, and we joke that all three of them are “fruit nuts” so I knew this one would be a huge hit.
Everyone asked for more, since half a pear plus a fourth of a pear just wasn’t very much once it was all divvied up evenly! Here’s my John demonstrating how delicious it is:
If you did the math, you may have realized there was a “remainder” of one-fourth of a pear on that division. Ahem. Whoever cleans up gets to take care of the leftovers. I volunteered.
The only change I made to the recipe was that I didn’t have freshly ground nutmeg and I only baked it 35 minutes instead of 45, mostly because it was already going to be so late. I wanted to see how it would do, and the pears were perfectly soft – perhaps the syrup would have caramelized more in the last 10 minutes, but I certainly didn’t get any complaints!
Although the instructions are clear and simple, I did find myself wondering how Jenny cores the pear halves. I admit I just hacked into them with a paring knife, but I’d love to hear how Jenny does it!
I might include the word “spiced” in the title since the nutmeg is very prominent – if you aren’t a huge nutmeg fan, I recommend starting with half or even less and then see if you like it.
The only bad thing about the recipe is all the syrup that you can’t quite scrape out of the bottom of the pan.
And the only thing that would make it better? I couldn’t help thinking it – ice cream.
Maybe I should put ice cream in the pan after the kids go to sleep and just swirl it all around in the excess syrup…
(We actually put our soaked oatmeal in the pan the next morning and swirled it around – perfection!)
Traverse the Rest of the Progressive Dinner
For more peeks at the recipes inside The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle plus some visits to other rock star real food bloggers, here are the other courses that have taken place this week:
- Chapter 1: My Humble Kitchen: Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad with Spiced Kombucha Vinaigrette
- Chapter 2: Nourishing Joy: Fresh Herb Frittata
- Chapter 3: The Prairie Homestead: Braised Short Ribs with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Herbs
- Chapter 4: The Nourishing Gourmet: Pan-Seared Halibut with Melted Cherry Tomatoes and Tarragon
- Chapter 5: Weed ‘Em and Reap: Yogurt and Dill Crackers
- Chapter 6: Home Grown and Healthy: Little Sourdough Dumplings with Venison
- Chapter 7: right here!
- Chapter 8: Oh Lardy: Fennel, Kohlrabi and Green Apple Relish
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