Monday, July 30, 2012

"semi-homemade" Banana Pudding

It is not often I buy pre-made items like instant pudding and cookies.  (Unless we are talking Oreos....I love those). I enjoy making those things but I wanted to try Paula Deen's Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding and making the cookies and the pudding would have made this a marathon dessert. As is, it was quite simple and very tasty.

I did make a few little changes to the recipe as I went along.  First, I used banana instant pudding instead of french vanilla to pump up the banana flavor. I also made my own whipped cream (some things I just can't buy!) and lastly I used Nilla wafers instead of Chessman cookies.  The Chessman looked so cute but were just too pricey....I would have spent $8 in cookies, ouch!

Even though you are using pudding from a box, Paula does a great job making the whole thing taste much more homemade by adding cream cheese and whipped cream to the instant pudding. This isn't a low cal dessert buy any means but it is so good!  And the 9 x 13 pan size makes it perfect for taking to a Summer bbq.

Click here for the recipe!  And Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Strawberry-Soda Ice Cream

More strawberries?  Yeah.  Any minute now I'm going to have to change the name of this blog from 4 Pears to 4,000 Strawberries.  Sorry about that but I am having a really hard time staying away from all those strawberry sales at the market.  And apparently my Mom is too because when we got home from vacation there were some in the refrigerator that I knew I needed to do something with soon.

Luckily this month's Food Network Magazine provided me with the perfect new strawberry recipe which just so happened to coincide with my other obsession right now: homemade ice cream.

Up until now I've only made custard based ice creams (you know, the kind with eggs that has to be cooked on the stove and takes a couple of days to completely finish).  Custard-based ice creams really are the richest and creamiest ice creams out there but they take more time and effort than I had after a delayed flight home from Maui, complete with an overnight stay in LA and 4 hours of sleep.

This recipe can be made in the afternoon and will be ready to enjoy by evening, or even eaten right away if you don't mind can anyone mind soft-serve?  In that case this is a pretty great 30 minute ice cream with a wonderful crisp strawberry flavor and a pretty pink color.  The recipe calls for red cream soda such as "Big Red", but I've never heard of that so I have no idea what that tastes like on its own.  Mr Pears went to the store to grab the soda (you can use regular cream soda too) and came home with strawberry soda instead and it was delicious.

Another wonderful strawberry treat to try this summer, I hope you love it!

PS.  The above photo is from Food Network, I tried to photograph my ice cream but I just couldn't get a good shot of it in my bowl and while I was pondering other ways to photograph it I just started eating it.  I apologize but it was starting to melt and I just couldn't let that happen. ;)

Strawberry-Soda Ice Cream, slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine July/August 2012 (or here)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups half and half
3/4 cup red cream soda, regular cream soda, or strawberry soda
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup strawberries, mashed (you can you frozen too, just thaw first then mash)

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.  Pour this into your ice cream machine and follow your machine's basic churning instructions.  It should take between 10 and 20 minutes depending on the machine to produce a "soft-serve" consistency.  Once it does, pour the ice cream into a freezer container and freeze until firm.  Or eat it soft...yum.

Monday, July 23, 2012


So sorry I disappeared!  I had the best of intentions to let you know that Mr Pears and I were headed off for some R&R but it just didn't happen.

But, we went to Hawaii!  And now we are back!  And it was awesome.  :)

Oh, here I am!

For a week we've been basking in the sunlight and the cool breezes of Maui...alone.  Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Leah came to watch the kids and though we missed our little guys, we really enjoyed having some time to ourselves.

To lay on the beach (and do beach yoga!)

To take walks and enjoy the scenery

To play in the pool

And to eat at lots of yummy restaurants. (This one below is Amasia)

Add in some water sports and spa time and you could say we stayed both active AND relaxed for a couple of very beautiful days.  

P.S.  I hope to get my act together and have a regular post ready for you by Wednesday. :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Strawberries Everywhere!

My boys eat a lot of fruit.  Before I had kids my mother was always telling me I should eat more fruit, because I rarely ate any.... now I feel like we are buying a ton of it every week at the store.  And since fruit tastes much better when it is in season (and on sale!)  I bought a huge "crate" of strawberries last week.  Mr. Pears sliced them all up so they'd be ready for the kiddos to munch on but a person can only eat so many strawberries.  So I made a strawberry pie and some strawberry muffins!  Yum.  Here are two great recipes in case you have a strawberry surplus...or if you just want some pie....or a muffin.  :)

Rustic Strawberry Pie from A Pretty Life in the Suburbs.  This pie is super easy to make.  You use a sheet of puff pastry dough for the crust and just toss the strawberries with some corn starch and sugar.  It is really good but it is certainly all strawberry so serve it with generous dollop of homemade whipped cream.

Meyer Lemon Strawberry Muffins from My Baking Addiction.  I've made these muffins a couple of times and I really like them.  Sweet but not too sweet, the hint of lemon is delicious.  I made the muffins with a regular lemon I had in the house this time and they were just as good. But.... no picture.  I ate the last of them   a few minutes ago....oops.  Well that isn't true.  There are six in the freezer because I always freeze half of my muffins.  Muffins don't last very long before the get either dry from being left out, or mushy from being in a container.  They do thaw really well though so freezing is a great option if you find you need more than two or three days to eat all of them.  Unfortunately frozen muffins aren't very photogenic though, oh well.  Click over to My Baking Addiction, plenty of good pictures to go with the recipe.  :)


Monday, July 9, 2012

Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad

I saw this summer salad on Pinterest the other week and I just knew it was going to be amazing.  The salad includes nothing but yummy stuff.  I love love love grilled corn.  Avocados are delicious and healthy; cherry tomatoes, feta?  And a cilantro vinaigrette to top it off.  How could this not be good?

It is better than good.  It is light and refreshing and simply delicious.  I really love the sherry vinegar and the cilantro in the vinaigrette.  This is a salad I'm sure we'll be making again very maybe this weekend!  My mom is coming to visit and I'm sure she'll love it.  :)

Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad,  from Authentic Suburban Gourmet  click on the link for some great information on, did you know only 43% of Americans buy avocados?  That means more than half of the people in this country are missing out on this delicious salad!  Tragic.

5 ears of corn: grill them without the husks, brush with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper.  Cut kernels from the cobs
2 avocados, diced and sprinkled with lemon juice to keep from browning
2 cups cherry tomatoes (red or yellow), halved
1 small red onion finely diced
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 English cucumber, diced (leave skin on)

Cilantro Vinaigrette
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. If you aren't serving the salad right away store it covered in the refrigerator.  When you are ready to serve it, put all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a jar or another container with a tight lid and shake it to emulsify.  (You can also whisk the olive oil into the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl).  Pour it over the salad and gently stir to coat.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Sensory Bins and Cloud Dough

I've recently started putting together "sensory bins" for the kids. Sensory bins were a new idea to me as a first time Mom but the kids have been really enjoying them. To make a sensory bin you basically fill a container of some sort with something for the kids to explore with their senses. Pretty open-ended definition right? Well that is the point. Open-ended play. Exploration and creativity...the best kind of play!

So I've made three bins so far. After I make up a bin I put it out for the kids to play with a few times over the course of two weeks. Then we start a new one. Since it is so hot here we play with the bins inside. The contents are usually somewhat messy but I lay down a big sheet on the floor of the play room which, so far, has done a great job containing the mess.

The first bin I did was filled with wild bird seed. I bought a huge bag for around $5 and filled up a shallow plastic storage tote. The boys loved scooping and pouring the bird seed into different bowls and containers.

Playing inside the box was fun too!

Until the box got too crowded.

The next box I did was filled with Cloud Dough....this stuff is like a cross between sand and playdough. It looks and feels like sand but it is moldable like a dough. An indoor sandbox! The kids loved it. It is very simple to make, you just stir together two ingredients! Here's the recipe to make your own.

Cloud Dough 
8 cups flour
1 cup baby oil

Put the flour in a large container and pour the oil over it. Mix it together with your hands until it is well combined. (told you it was easy)

I actually doubled this recipe and used an entire 5lb bag of flour. With two kids playing together, I use a large shallow storage bin for my sensory bins. I have no idea how long this stuff will keep but, just like with the bird seed, when the two weeks are up I will move the cloud dough into a smaller container to store. Hopefully it will still be good to use when I rotate it out again sometime but if not, that's ok too.  It was a fun box and cheap and easy to make.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Olives

This was one of those side dishes we just sort of choose of the Food Network app because we had some quinoa in the pantry.  We hoped it would be a good accompaniment to our grilled salmon but we weren't expecting it to be spectacular.  This stuff was awesome.

Grilled asparagus, tangy kalamata olives and slices of goat cheese are folded in to the quinoa and then the salad is dressed with a light red wine and mustard vinaigrette.  The goat cheese gets all melty and gooey making the quinoa nice and creamy and really very decadent.  I didn't think quinoa could be decadent, but I was wrong.

(Food Network's photo, I didn't take one...oops!)

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Olives, adapted from Bobby Flay
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Quinoa Salad
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups quinoa
1 medium bunch of asparagus, trimmed
olive oil for brushing
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
4 ounces goat cheese sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup parsley leaves

In a medium pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil and then stir in the quinoa.  Bring the pot back to a boil and then cover it and reduce the heat to low.  Allow it to simmer undisturbed for 30 minutes then remove the pot from the heat and let it sit 5 minutes more.  Once done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer it to a serving bowl.

While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the grill.  Put the asparagus on and lightly brush them with olive oil and season them with the salt and pepper.  Grill on both sides for about 5 minutes total.  Remove from the grill and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add them to the quinoa.

Make the vinaigrette: whisk everything but the olive oil together in a small bowl.  Slowly pour in the olive oil in a steady stream while whisking constantly to emulsify.

Now add the olives, goat cheese, basil and parsley to the quinoa.  Pour over about half of the viniagrette and fold everything together.  Taste it now (delicious, right?) and add more vinaigrette to your liking.  Don't oversaturate the quinoa, you can serve the leftover vinaigrette on the side to drizzle on top.

Serve and Enjoy!