Apple Pear Cranberry Love

A container of beautiful bright red cranberries came in my CSA box this week. I wasn’t immediately sure what I wanted to do with them, but I knew I needed to move quickly or the cranberries would be consigned to shrivel quietly in the back of the fridge. I still had a ton of apples and pears left from my previous box, plus a new influx in this week’s box, plus two wine-poached pears left over from the amazing party on Sunday that I still need to write a post about. Disher, my picky eater, is terribly fond of apple crisp, so I instant messaged him to find out if cranberries were on the list of acceptable foods. “IĀ eat all of those things. Eagerly,” was his reply when I broached the idea of an apple, pear, and cranberry crisp. Excellent! I’d found the dish I wanted to make, found someone to eat it, and was ready to go.

I’m very into baking crisps right now because they’re so darn easy to make vegan and gluten-free. They’re much less exacting than most baking projects and so my usual anxiety about cooking failures tends to be less severe. (I am the most anxious person ever when I am serving dessert to people. I hate not being able to taste what I’m serving beforehand!) For this crisp I read about six different recipes for apple and/or pear crisps with cranberries and ended up improvising my own version. I’m really happy I left the peels on the apples and pears – it keeps the filling from getting too mushy/applesaucey and I can fool myself by thinking about all the extra vitamins and how healthy they are. (This recipe may be gluten-free and vegan but it is most certainly not a health-food dessert. It has plenty of real sugar and real fat.)

So my improvised crisp turned out pretty fantastically, if I do say so myself. I asked the picky eater if he had any feedback for improving the next crisp and he basically said, “Change nothing. Oh, but maybe serve it in a different bowl.” (Apparently he has trouble scooping every last morsel out of my square bowls.) When they’re focusing on the tableware, you know you’ve done a good job! I liked the autumn flavor and texture so much that I’m planning to make another one next week for Thanksgiving. I’m not hosting this year, so this will be the first time in a few years that the dinner is not entirely vegan, but I’m going to do my best to contribute as many delicious vegan dishes as possible.

Apple, Pear & Cranberry Crisp
5 pears, chopped with peels on
4 granny smith apples, chopped with peels on
7.5 oz cranberries
juice & zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
cinnamon, to taste
allspice, to taste
nutmeg, to taste
1 t. vanilla
3. T. apple cider, apple juice, or water

2 c. rolled oats
1 c. GF flour (I used my standard mix which has sorghum, rice, garfava, and potato flours)
1/4 t. xantham gum (can skip this if you are using a baking mix which already contains xanthan gum)
1 c. brown sugar packed
4 t. cinnamon
3/4 cup mixed coconut oil & Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9×12 casserole (that’s the large brownie-pan size).
In a large bowl, mix filling ingredients.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix oats, GF flour, xanthan gum, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in coconut oil and Earth Balance and then crumble with your clean hands until the mixture is entirely incorporated.
Spread filling on the bottom of the casserole dish. With your hands, scatter the filling across the top until it covers the surface fairly evenly.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is starting to crisp and the fruit is cooked through.

Sweet, sweet night

On Thanksgiving, as on all Thanksgivings, we ate and ate and ate. Thanks to a menu that leaned generally towards the healthy side, I actually didn’t get that traditional, but painful, groaningly stuffed feeling. I felt just right – like I had feasted but not overindulged. However, there was still an entire dessert course waiting to be conquered – or would it conquer us?

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves

We decided to go for a walk. After much bundling up and changing of shoes, we all trooped out to Golden Gate Park. The whole neighborhood was nearly deserted, even usually-bustling Haight Street was dark and silent. We moved in and out of happy, chatting pairings between old friends and new acquaintances. I led us in a big loop through the park and the Panhandle, but it didn’t really matter where we were going. This wasn’t actually about the fresh air or the exercise or the sightseeing. This was about making room for dessert!

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine Syrup

We returned home having found a few crevices and crannies in our bellies where just a bite of something sweet might possibly find a home. Duck and I had planned the dessert course with even more military precision than the rest of the meal, attending to the balance between chocolate, spices and fruit, making sure to include a complement of traditional holiday flavors, and supplying beverage choices ranging from tea and coffee to a honeyed, floral dessert wine.

Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves (recipe follows)
Pumpkin Pie from Crave Bakery (review follows) *not vegan
Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine Syrup (recipe follows)
Chewy Ginger Cookies (recipe follows) *not GF
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
Coffee & tea selection

More on each dish follows… Continue reading