Vanilla Chai Spice Dried Pears

Vanilla Chai Spice Dried Pears

A big box showed up in our dining room in mid-September with my name on the shipping label. 

It was my birthday but I still scratched my head. This September, I had been so stressed that I mostly avoided the topic of my birthday or gifts with anyone that asked— I certainly didn’t need anything, but I also just couldn’t find a minute to think about it clearly.

I had ordered nothing from Amazon myself (though in the same minute that thought entered my mind I also started doubting myself— had I hit “buy now” on that Dehydrator I had been eyeing instead of “add to cart?”). 

When I got halfway through opening the box with a paring knife and found it was a Dehydrator, I doubted myself even further. So much so, that I stopped right there and pulled out my phone to check my Amazon order history.

Vanilla Chai Spice Dried Pears

Relief washed over me when I saw I had placed no orders in the last month, but I still had a mystery on my hands. I finished unpacking the appliance before drilling Oliver on who had bought it. It probably took me four tries to get it right, but when I did land on my dad it all made sense. I had given him a non-answer when he had asked about my birthday in general, so he had asked Oliver.

This new dehydrator was about five times nicer than any of the ones I was planning to buy myself! Quieter, easy to use, and has a timer (key, if you ask me!). It’s the Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator (affiliate link!). (THANKS DAD!)

So far, my absolute favorite thing to dehydrate has been pears.

This recipe is inspired by one I found in Dried and True (affiliate link), a cookbook that takes dehydrating to the next level, moving it from boring old-fashioned recipes to new, inventive, and tantalizing flavors. I made the Dried Vanilla Pears from the book twice before venturing out on my own.

Vanilla Chai Spice Dried Pears

As soon as our first fall day hit, I immediately was dreaming about warmer flavors, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Chai. And that’s how these pears came to be — a day dream, like most of my recipes 😉

In real life, each slice of pear was such a treat, I savored every one. We took them hiking, ate them around the house, and packed them in our bags for outings around town. I always looked forward to those delicious pears. I thought, for about 5 seconds, about sharing them with a few coworkers but greed got the best of me and I kept it to myself. Sharing the recipe is almost as good, right?!

This recipe is good for dehydrating-pros or a newbies like me. Make it while the pears are at their peak! I used Starkrimson Pears one round and Colorado Heirloom Pears another; Bartlette and D’Anjou would also be great.

Vanilla Chai Spice Dried Pears

Vanilla Chai Spice Dried Pears

Published October 16, 2018 by
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Yield: 20 slices   |    Active Time: 8-9 hours



Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe pears Starkrimson
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 slices of fresh ginger - each about the size of a nickel
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch of ground cloves

  • Directions:

    1. Combine all ingredients but the pears in a sauce pan, and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
    2. Wash pears and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Remove seeds and cut of stems as you go.
    3. Work with 3-4 pear slices at once: submerge pears in syrup on the stove, simmering slices for 10 minutes. Pears should be softened through but should not fall apart easily.
    4. Use a slotted spoon to remove slices from syrup and set on a plate to cool for several minutes.
    5. When all of the pears are done, spread them out on the wracks of your dehydrator (I use this one - affiliate link!), with at least 1/4-inch of space between each slice.
    6. Place wrack in dehydrator and set to 135°F for 8-10 hours, until pears are dried but still chewy.

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    Honey Nut Coconut Clusters

    Honey Nut Coconut Clusters

    Covered in dirt from the soles of my shoes to the tips of my hair, I made my way up our driveway, which was now blanketed in the shade of the night. The sunlight was up and on this day, like every day this week, that meant it was time to put down the shovel and go find something to eat.

    When we moved to a new house a year and a half ago, we inherited a front and back yard, both of which were covered in some patchy grass and a lot of bindweed (my nemesis). We knew we would never put out a sprinkler to keep our grass green; it's something that feels like a waste of water in this naturally semi-arid landscape. 

    So, a woman on a mission, little has passed through my mind this month other than how to build our garden boxes, which native plants to buy, and where to acquire a copious amount of mulch. It seems everything — even stopping for lunch - has taken a back seat as I rush home to put in a few hours of labor before the sun sets. Rather than planning recipes, I wander in around 8:30pm and make something that requires no thinking… an usually no cooking. 

    Honey Nut Coconut Clusters
    Honey Nut Coconut Clusters

    Like all house projects, I probably under estimated the amount of work it would take to get it all done, but I'm a keep-your-head-down and get-her-done type of person. Besides, I found that even in the heat of day I would be smiling as I dug in the dirt. It's satisfying. So, I just keep digging. 

    Snacks that are ready to eat whenever have been necessary this week. Crackers and cheese, fresh fruit, hummus. And of course, these Honey Nut Coconut Clusters, which sit somewhere between granola and trail mix (and they call for only five ingredients: coconut, sesame seeds, cashews, honey and salt). 

    Thanks to the honey and the sesame seeds, they taste a bit like Honey Nut Cheerios -- hence the name. But, of course, made with coconut and real nuts and seeds, they are far more satisfying. These would be perfect as a trail mix while hiking, or as a a topping to yogurt, but I mostly just ate them as an afternoon snack. 😋

    Honey Nut Coconut Clusters

    If you're in the same boat as me -- tight on time - here are a few other quick and easy recipes to get you through: 

    Honey Nut Coconut Clusters

    Published May 8, 2018 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Total Time: 20 minutes



    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/2 cups coconut flakes (affiliate link!)
    • 1/2 cup cashew pieces
    • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • Generous sprinkle of salt

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine coconut, cashew, and sesame seeds. Pour in honey and toss until everything is coated and sticky. Sprinkle with salt, and stir a bit more until salt is incorporated.
    3. Spread mixture out on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake 8-10 minutes, stirring at the 5 minute mark to ensure even cooking. After 10 minutes, coconut should be toasted. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Store in airtight container.

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    Power Cookies

    Power Cookies

    Last night, the snow fell as over-sized flakes and we tried to catch them on our tongues, like we were 5 years old. Just two days ago, I was in a tank top looking for a mountain bike trail. This is Colorado springtime.

    These Power Cookies enjoy all sorts of outings and fare well through all sorts of weather: throw them in your day bag for a hike, or munch on them while riding the ski lift. They are jam-packed with ingredients to give you energy. Peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips (how could I not include chocolate chips?) pecans, and coconut. That's why they're perfect for the Trail Snacks recipe series I'm working on! 

    Why is it called a “Power Cookie?”

    This cookie recipe sits somewhere between granola bar and cookie. But if you've ever made granola bars you know that they call for a lot (a lot a lot) of sugar in the form of honey, maple syrup, or (usually) rice syrup. That syrup is all there is to hold everything together. And don't get me wrong -- it's delicious! And there are some genius recipes that don’t call for quite as much sugar. But many have so much sugar, they are far too sweet for me. THESE cookies get the help of an egg, peanut butter and some almond meal, which helps them stick together without half as much syrup. YES: more whole foods, less processed syrup. 🙌 So, it’s a power-bar slash cookie, making the final results a Power Cookie.

    Power Cookies

    I mentioned my friend Brian (Sports Nutritionist and author of Climbing Nutrition) in my first post in this Trail Snack series -- Mocha Almond Energy Bites - and he has some really well-explained and thoroughly researched articles on how to get the most out of your food while you're out climbing (or doing whatever it is you love to do). 

    But, these Power Cookies are really inspired by my dad, who was the first person I knew to make a "energy cookie." He had a recipe similar to this on top of his fridge, in an over-stuffed manila folder. When I started baking a lot on my own (some time in high school), Power Cookies were one of the things I would make. This recipe is different -- the original is lost to me - but similar enough to be given the name "Power Cookies." 

    Hope you enjoy, whether you take them on an adventure or eat them right here at your computer, while they're still warm! (They are good either way — you do not need to be out and about to enjoy these. They make a GREAT mid-afternoon power up when you start feeling that 3pm slump, and since they are not so syrup-heavy, they keep you going longer, with real nutrients).

    Power Cookies

    Power Cookies

    Published March 27, 2018 by
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    Serves: 24 cookies   |    Total Time: 20 minutes



    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup nut butter (try peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter)
    • 1/4 cup honey 
    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    • 2 eggs 
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional - the cinnamon flavor comes through, so if you do not like cinnamon, skip it!) 
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
    • 1 cup rolled oats 
    • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
    • 1/2 cup almond flour
    • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips 

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the nut butter, honey, butter, eggs, and vanilla using an electric mixer until smooth.
    3. Add optional cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl, and beat into wet ingredients until incorporated.
    4. Now, add the rolled oats, coconut, almond flour, and mix until a stiff batter forms. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold the chocolate chips and pecans into the batter.
    5. Scoop the batter by the heaping tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet fitted with parchment or a Silpat (affiliate link!). Cookies will not spread as they bake, so flatten them slightly with the back of a spoon.
    6. Place in center wrack of oven and bake for 8-12 minutes. Cookies will be golden on the edges, but still soft—they will continue to set as they cool. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

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