Another catch-up post. This one was published in the Rains County Leader on November 4, 2021:
The title of this column probably brings to mind the smell of a pot roast or a soup that has simmered all day while you were at work. I love my crock pot and all the easy meals it cooks, but the slow cooker in this story is me.
I enjoy cooking, and I’m pretty good at it. I can follow a recipe to get anticipated results, or I can adjust a recipe and end up with something completely different. One of my specialties is the creative use of leftovers or produce that is approaching the end of its shelf life in order to avoid throwing away food. That’s what happened last week when David called my attention to four pears that were getting soft and turning brown. A Google search yielded several suggestions such as smoothies, a pear crumble, and several pear breads.
I chose one of the bread recipes and scanned some of the general specs. I smiled at the prep time of 15 minutes. Maybe if I had an assistant who had all the ingredients, bowls, and implements ready for me, but since it’s just me in the kitchen and I’m slow by nature, I always allow at least twice as long as the recipe says.
I work on the island, and since it’s small and usually half covered with various glasses and containers, I don’t get out all the ingredients at once. I looked over the list to see if anything needed special attention. The streusel topping called for softened butter, so I measured out the correct amount and put it in a small mixing bowl. Getting the bowl took a couple of minutes. If a small kitchen is well equipped, the storage cabinets bear a strong resemblance to a jigsaw puzzle with everything nested and resting snugly into the one spot where it fits. The mixing bowls are under the island in the corner of an upper shelf behind the salad spinner.
The recipe also called for buttermilk, which I didn’t have. I had a half-pint carton of 2% milk, so I added a little bit of lemon juice to 2/3 cup and set it aside. Kitty heard the carton open and dashed into the kitchen, stretching to her full height to pat the side of the counter and let me know she was there. I know it’s not supposed to be good for her, but David and I eat things that aren’t particularly good for us – and it’s the only “people food” she likes. So I got a bowl out of the cabinet and poured her a couple of spoonfuls before going back to the living room to check the recipe on my computer.
The next step was peeling and chopping the pears and mashing one-half cup into a puree. That took a while because the peelings were soft and came off in small pieces. There were quite a few brown spots, but I was able to trim those away. I had to stop once during the process to wash my hands and read a text on my phone. A friend had taken her son to the ER the night before, and I had texted her to check on him. She said he was doing better, so I checked my recipe again and went back to the kitchen.
The dry ingredients were next. I needed one cup of all-purpose flour and one cup of whole wheat flour. My one-cup and half-cup measures were in the dishwasher, so I scrounged around and found an alternate half-cup that would work. I got distracted while measuring the all-purpose flour and couldn’t remember if I had put in one or two half-cups. I finally re-measured them into another bowl, just to make sure. The baking soda and baking powder are in a back corner of the pantry, and I have to move several larger items to reach them. The spices are in a small cabinet that I can reach but I can’t really see beyond the first row of bottles. If I don’t grab the right one on the first try, I just keep trying until I find the right one. I think I touched every spice on the shelf before I found the ginger.
With the dry ingredients thoroughly mixed, I moved on to the wet ingredients – whisk together buttermilk, butter…wait, the only butter I saw is softening to be used in the streusel topping. Hmmm, missed the six tablespoons I was supposed to melt and cool. The small saucepan I usually use to melt butter was in the dishwasher, so I dug a small microwave dish out of the lower cabinet next to said dishwasher.
Everything went smoothly from there until it was time to assemble the topping. Along with the melted butter, I also missed the half-cup of chopped pecans. I didn’t have pecans, but I had walnuts on the shelf I use for extra pantry space – the one I moved to the extra bedroom to make room for the garage-sale freezer I bought last month. I used a Pampered Chef mini chopper to make quick work of the walnuts, and after about forty-five minutes of prep time, the pear bread was in the oven.
So that explains why it always takes me so much longer than the recipe estimates. But the bread baked nicely and looked beautiful. It stuck to the bottom and came out in two pieces, but it was good. It wasn’t as sweet as I expected, but I didn’t have to throw the pears away, and the bread was perfect when covered with some leftover strawberries and Cool Whip I needed to use.