Pear And Cranberry Crisp

Ingredients for pear & cranberry crisp 2016



Are you ready for something really yummy? As some of you (who follow me on Instagram) already know, I have been using my art supplies and working on pears lately. Pears are such a good subject to try and paint because they teach you the basics of form (i.e.. value.) The way light, whether natural or from a lightbulb, caresses those pears, lets you work on your painting skills at your own pace. Going at your own pace is critical to getting your head wrapped around the crazy thing you are doing - which is using mark making tools to fool your eye into believing that your two dimensional surface contains real three dimensional objects.

Well, the very same thing holds true when you are learning how to cook; you need to start with something foolproof. I chose pears, to work on for my progress in art for a reason - I have an AWESOME recipe for pear and cranberry crisp that will knock your socks off. Not only is it over-the-top delicious, but it could not be an easier recipe to pull off even if your cooking skills are at the absolute beginner stage. If you cook already, your kids could make this for you as long as they can handle working with a knife to peel the pears with.

Gather your ingredients and let the show begin! This recipe is so easy, and fast. Perfect for a chilly evening treat, and great timing in the fall or wintertime when both pears and cranberries are cheap and plentiful. You will need a package of cranberries. In the US, they come in a 12 oz. package at the supermarket; and one package is all you will need to make this dish. This time of year, you don't have to look far for them as most folks are busy making cranberry sauce for the holidays with them, but, soon, the cranberries that the market does not sell, will go into their freezer (look for them there if the fresh ones are gone from the produce section.) Once they are gone, that's it until next October or November. I buy a few bags and put them in my freezer until I need them. For this recipe, I don't thaw them. They go into the baking dish frozen rock solid... and the recipe works great. 

You are going to need 3 or 4 pears - get the bartlett pears. In the photo, below, they are the greenish yellow ones. The brown (Bosc) pears, in the back of the photo, are great for eating sliced with a good stilton cheese, but aren't the ones for this recipe. When you buy the pears, buy them green... they will turn a beautiful golden yellow in a few days time. If you want them to ripen faster, put them next to bananas on your counter. The bananas will cut the ripening time by a day or so.

Bartlett pears at the market 2016

Don't wait too long before you use them. Once the skin begins to feel leathery to the touch, the pear will be mealy and not good for eating. Your pears will be perfect when they are golden. As you can see from the very first photo in this post, a few of mine had a bit of blushing red going on. This just makes them worth painting, don't you think?

Once you have peeled your pears, slice them, avoiding the core which gets tossed out. These cut pieces of pear don't have to be all the same, or even bite-sized, as after baking they will give easily to the slightest pressure from your spoon. The roasting pan I used is roughly 8 x 13 inches. A cookie sheet won't do, as you need higher sides to hold it all in there in a good 2 inch layer. If you only have a bigger baking pan, you need to adjust the recipe to fill your larger pan. Mix the pears with the cranberries, and also add the juice of a lemon and the maple syrup. give it a slight mix with a spoon.

Mixing the cranberries with the pears for the crisp 2016

Then mix the oats and brown sugar with the the melted butter with a couple of tablespoons of all purpose flour:

Mixing the rest of the crisp ingredients 2016

Pile this oatmeal mixture on top of the pears and cranberries. You are almost done. The hardest part of cooking this recipe is remembering the next step: that is to put in a preheated oven set to bake at 400° fahrenheit for 10 minutes, THEN lower your oven to 350° and continue to bake for another 25 minutes. That is it. I have made this exact recipe at sea level, at 7000' above sea level, and several altitudes inbetween. It works... deliciously. If your having guests over, your biggest dilemma will be not dipping your spoon into it before they arrive.

Pear & cranberry crisp 2016

To print a copy of my recipe for this delicious dish, click on:

Download Pear & Cranberry Crisp

you are going to L-O-V-E it. I wish I could be in your kitchen to hear you swoon when you put a spoonful of the crisp into your mouth. YUM!

Here is my latest little painting:

Four Pears 2016 gouache on board, 8 x 10 Carolina Elena

Four Pears. 2016, 8 x 10 gouache on board

I painted it using gouache - an opaque water based paint that, like watercolor reactivates if, after drying, it gets touched with water. Acrylic paint, which is a water-based paint does not reactivate after it dries because it has so much plastic in it. I am new to gouache, but I am trying to figure it out. My hope is that I figure out how to layer colors well enough so that I can go out and paint en plain air with a minimum of stuff to schlep, yet still be opaque. The trick is getting your gouache to look luminous. Practice, practice, practice.

Let me know if you make the crisp... and if you shared it with anyone else!!

Until next time,

Carolina Elena


Three Pears To Help Slay The Dragon

So here I am... dealing with my demons, trying to paint. It is tough when you are just learning how to paint, when you have been away from your paints for a long time, or even when you paint every day, therefore you face a blank surface often.

Painting, or rather, getting better at painting is tough stuff and not for the faint at heart.

When I want to paint, here is what I do:

I start by procrastinating. I clean the house, start laundry, eat something, anything to avoid facing the drama of it all. It is the impending disappointment that is oh so reliable. I know it is coming. I think of it as a dragon. This dragon rears it's ugly head from behind me. It breaths fire onto my art surface before it is ready to be judged. I can sense the snickering going on as I begin to paint..."she thinks THAT is the right color to start with?"..." she really should have learned to draw as a child," and it goes on like that from there.

In an effort to keep the dragon quiet yesterday, I chose to work with pears. I find that working with a subject I know really well already, helps tame that silly dragon. Because pears are organic shapes, painting them, vs. a hard edged object, like a building, allows me a little more wiggle room. By painting pears, then, I can attempt to slay the dragon.

I start with a pencil sketch. This forces me to spend time looking at my subject. By not jumping right into paints, I get myself "in the zone" and am more able to detect the nuances of what I am painting. Three Pears 2016 Carolina Elena Palomino soft graphite on paper 8x6

Note how dirty my table gets. I just use my kneaded eraser directly on the table surface to clean up my mess.

Regardless, of the drawings I make before painting, it still almost impossible to quiet the voice of the dragon completely. As I paint, I try and recall the words of Ira Glass, below.



Thank you, Ira, from all of us. We need to hear that- again and again. Someday that dragon will know it's place and hang out in the corner until the painting is finished.

After sketching with my Palomino soft graphite pencil, I turned to my pastels. I like to work on a painting, from start to finish, in one sitting. It just works best that way for me. Below, you will see how I start. Since my drawing skills are sketchy (pardon the pun. I couldn't resist,) I tend to use my pastels, not as drawing tools so much, but rather like sculpting tools. I tend to work out the shapes as I go along. I work one plane, then another... stand back, adjust, stand back, adjust again, and I repeat this, over and over again, until the shape starts to emerge. I am sure there is a better way, but without lessons, this is what I found works best.


Here is the final painting:

Three Pears On A Tray, Carolina Elena 2016 16x20

Pears On A Tray, by Carolina Elena

pastel on sanded board 16 x 20"

Until next time,

Carolina Elena

Stuff Just Has To Get Done

Lara Disposing The Grass Clippings 2016 Carolina Elena pastel on paper 9X10

Lara Disposing The Grass Clippings, pastel on sanded paper, 9x10"

It is so totally true... stuff just has to get done. My landlord, and friend, Lara, works hard. She puts her hours into her regular job, her family, and also mows my lawn- and that of several other people. I am sure there are other things she wants to do, but where to find the hours in a day to get to those things?

I have been away working on another task - an all consuming one at that. I want, more than anything, to be able to get better at painting. In order to do so, I must paint every day. The days get consumed, though, by must-do tasks. I can't always stop and just paint. I take photos of everything that catches my eye. Taking the photos keeps my eyes on the lookout, and the concept of composition in an ongoing conversation with myself, but it is not enough. When I get back to my actual paints and brushes, the materials seems foreign to me - even if I have only been away a week or so. This stuff, this not being able to paint everyday, gets downright depressing.

It is a viscous cycle of taking care of daily living, not getting to paint, feeling guilty about it, feeling like a total poser in the art world, feeling worthless from the lack of progress, and then finally pushing everything aside only to feel completely inept with the materials at hand. It makes me want to toss all my art supplies in a bin and search for what else I may be better at. Then stagnation sets in. Before you know it, I burst and actually make some art. It feels euphoric...but it does not last, again I am called to duty before I can attempt another go at it with my materials.

Stuff just has to get done.

In an effort to massage that viscous cycle and coerce it into a more fruitful direction, I have added simple sketching with a pencil to my day. It requires no effort to carry, to set up, or to clean up. It keeps my eye talking to my brain, my brain talking to my hand.


In the permanently unfinished image above, you see a sketch of a sofa I spent a few minutes on. There is no need for me to finish it as the purpose was for my eyes, brain, and hand to simply have a bit of a chat. My soft graphite Palomino pencil is new to me. It is a dream tool to work with. A bit costly for a "lowly pencil," but working with it is a dream. I like the sound it makes as I scratch the surface of the paper. It makes a good dark... something I need to push myself to to not lose in my drawings. 

I made another quick sketch, one when my day had left me spent. I was too tired to set up my paints.



It it is not great, but it did the trick of getting rid of the guilt of not painting. The image is of where I was staying while working on project that was at the top of my stuff-that-has-to-get-done list. In retrospect, I realize that MAKE ART needs to be written at the top of that list. Sketching is one way that I can do that.