Hello dear Parsnippians!  I bet you thought I disappeared, didn’t you?  Ha!  Fooled you.  I am indeed still up and at ’em – only now I’m in Portland, OR.   Not Bulgaria, not Asheville, not in the stressville that was my life the week before I hauled it cross country to land in this strange utopia.  But now I’ve got a job, an apartment, a (fancy) cell phone.  So I’m set. I’ve got a couple of weeks before I start working, so I’ve been spending time getting to know the area. I drove out to Multnomah Falls last Tuesday – that’s where the top and bottom pictures are from.

Right now I’m crashing with a friend who’s got a giant, beautiful house within walking distance of the nearest Whole Foods – I only wish she were home more often so I could show my gratitude to her by cooking her more dinners!  This morning I baked up some nice blueberry muffins and threw in some ginger and citrus peels.  If I don’t scarf them down plain, I might take the time to spread some ginger pear butter on them – I made that a few days ago.  You’ll get the recipe for that, too.  Why not?

If you wanted to, you could veganize this by making the usual substitutions – but here’s an idea: use pear butter instead of the egg. Yes? Yes.

Blueberry Ginger Orange Muffins
makes 12

1 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
60 or so blueberries

Preheat to 400F and grease 12 muffin tins. In a small bowl combine half-and-half, melted butter, egg, and sugar. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. (If you use kosher salt, put that in with the liquids instead, to give it more chance to dissolve.) Combine the two and mix until it just barely comes together. Add ginger and zests and give it another couple of stirs.

Fill muffin tins half full with batter. Go through and put about 5 blueberries on each muffin. (This will keep you from getting purple streaky muffins, which would happen if you had mixed the blueberries in the bowl. This is especially needed with frozen blueberries.) Top with remaining batter. Bake ’em for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let sit for 2 minutes, then remove from pan.

Ginger Pear Butter
makes 1 cup

3 pears, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2″ fresh ginger, finely grated
juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water

Throw all that in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until water comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, mash the pears up, and cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches a thick, spreadable consistency.

What you’re essentially doing here is cooking most of the water out of the pears, so you don’t need any grand cooking skills to do this – just patience. This is a low-n-slow dish.