Spring Means Fresh and Green!

Pear and Spinach Salad

Green is the color of spring, when the world comes out of hibernation and bursts into vibrant shades, aromas, and flavors! Many of us, myself included, get into a winter rut: After months of hiding indoors and surviving on comfort foods, I’m ready for a fresh start. How about you? Why not use the inspiration of the season and think green?

Have you heard that you should eat your greens? It’s absolutely true! Green fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals to help you live and feel your best, and the more variety you eat, the more benefits you get. Try tossing some fresh green Anjou pears into your morning smoothie. Or perhaps try fresh spinach on a sandwich? One of my favorite go-to salads is to toss together diced green Anjou pears, arugula, a splash of fresh lemon juice and olive oil, grated parmesan, and top with grilled chicken for a zesty, delicious, fresh meal. However you slice it, going green is good for you!

Chicken Salad with Pears, Bacon, and Avocado

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Spring is here, and I’m so relieved! By the end of winter I always feel utterly empty when it comes to cooking ideas, but show me a few blooming flowers and some 60-degree temperatures and new thoughts come flooding in.

I’m so grateful that we can get pears nearly year-round, and USA-grown Anjou pears are not only easy to find, they have a super juicy and bright flavor that is perfect for spring recipes. My new recipe is inspired by spring and is full of beautiful shades of green – sweet Anjou pears, crisp endive leaves, creamy, ripe avocado, and crunchy chopped pistachios.

This recipe will serve you well for many spring occasions. It would be a perfect addition to an Easter or Mother’s Day brunch, or make a lovely appetizer for a baby or bridal shower. Use store-bought rotisserie chicken and this lovely recipe will come together in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients
2 heads Belgian endive
4 pieces thick-cut bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
1 ½ cups cooked chicken breast, diced
2 firm ripe Anjou USA Pears, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt

Directions
Trim the bases from the endive and separate the leaves. Set aside until ready to use. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, setting aside 1 tablespoon each of the bacon and pistachios for garnish if desired. Gently toss the ingredients together until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the individual endive leaves and arrange on a large platter, leaning the leaves up against one another to steady them. Lastly, sprinkle the remaining bacon and pistachios over the stuffed endive for garnish.

prep time: 30 minutes
yield: about 20 stuffed leaves

Happy National Nutrition Month!

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This year’s National Nutrition Month campaign focuses on enjoying the taste of eating healthfully. It is known among nutrition professionals that, although many reasons play a role in food choice, the primary reason someone purchases one food over another is because of taste. I teach nutrition in a university culinary program; healthful food is key to living well and preventing disease, but nutrition doesn’t count until you eat it! Food must taste good.

So how can food taste good and be good or your body? Focus on starting with fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack, add protein, then splurge on the garnishes – dash with cheese, dollop a flavorful sauce or dip, or top with small amounts of other higher calorie. For instance, a fresh sliced pear with a spoonful of peanut butter is a perfect snack. Also, try following the 90/10 rule: Make healthful choices 90% of the time, then the other 10%, or about 200 – 300 calories each day, can be for splurges. There is room in a healthy lifestyle for treats! This also limits too many splurges, because you never feel deprived and you eat the nutrition your body needs. Enjoy your food, enjoy your health, and enjoy national nutrition month!

A Tribute to Torin Koos

Leavenworth Olympian deserves recognition – and so does his community
By Rep. Brad Hawkins

Rep. Brad Hawkins R-12The Washington State House of Representatives occasionally takes time during its course of business – drafting budgets and passing laws – to recognize people, groups and events that are significant and worthy of statewide credit.

Torin Koos, Leavenworth’s own Olympic athlete, is more than deserving of such recognition. Last week, I was honored to sponsor a House resolution to recognize his accomplishments. Competing in his fourth Olympic Games this year in Sochi, Russia, Torin did our state and country proud. The second-oldest member of the 14-person skiing team, Torin tied for 37th out of 85 racers in the qualification race for the men’s sprint free event. Torin has proven himself an extraordinary athlete and remains the reigning U.S. national freestyle sprint champion, winning his eighth national championship at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships in January.

People like Torin teach us that accomplishments do not come without sacrifice and setbacks. In 2009 at the World Championships, Torin fell out of the start gate, ruining his time. He has suffered three major injuries in his career – most recently during a race in Norway in February 2011. Despite a dislocated shoulder, he continued to compete through the rest of the season when he had surgery.

Torin is not only a role model for aspiring athletes, he is a fabulous representative for Leavenworth. At the age of three, Torin was introduced to skiing by his father, a U.S. biathlon skier himself. He didn’t compete in skiing until he was 12, but Torin has always been an exceptional athlete regardless of sport. I actually remember competing with him in cross country…running! It was hard enough to keep up with him on foot; it makes sense that he would become one of our nation’s best on skis.

A long-time member of the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club, his participation in the group allowed him to practice his talents and be encouraged by others in this community. In addition, one of Torin’s sponsors is USA Pears – which is a true representation of Central Washington given our proud tradition of agriculture.

Tourists and locals alike appreciate the many winter recreation opportunities near Leavenworth; including backcountry skiing, dog sledding, ice climbing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, sledding/tubing, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Leavenworth is perfectly nestled between Stevens Pass and Mission Ridge for great access to ski trails. Your Ski Hill provides a closer option for those wanting to stay closer to town. For those seeking something more remote­­­­­­­, opportunities abound in the Icicle Creek, Highway 2 corridor and Chiwaukum Range. Clearly, winter activities are part of your community culture, which only makes sense given Leavenworth’s recreational opportunities.

Being a member of the U.S. Olympic Team for the fourth time, Torin’s achievements highlight all Leavenworth has to offer and the home-grown talent found in these mountains. It is such an honor to represent a region so abundant with opportunities not only for tourists and families, but for Olympic athletes as well. Future Olympians are probably skiing now on your Leavenworth trails. These boys and girls will remember Torin as I have – one of our area greats. It was my honor to sponsor House Resolution 4693 to help recognize him and his accomplishments in representing us.

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 Rep. Brad Hawkins serves the 12th Legislative District, which includes Chelan, Douglas and parts of Okanogan and Grant counties. For more information about Rep. Hawkins, visit his website at www.representativebradhawkins.com. He can be reached by e-mail at brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov or by phone in Olympia at (360) 786-7832.

Pear and Maple Breakfast Sausage

pear maple breakfast sausage

If you’ve tried my recipe for Braised Pork with Pears and Sherry Vinegar, you know that pears and pork are truly magical together. Savory-and-sweet is a classic combination any time of day, but I think breakfast is my absolutely favorite meal for combining the two. If you’re anything like me when it comes to breakfast, you waffle (HA!) when deciding whether to go the sweet or savory route. Well, now you can have both delightful tastes with my Pear and Maple Breakfast Sausage. These sausages are extremely simple to make, they freeze well, and they cook up like a dream—crispy edges, tender centers, and a burst of juicy, sweet pear in every bite. Try them alongside French toast on a Sunday or with eggs and fresh pear slices for a simple breakfast.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for frying sausages
½ small red onion, small dice
1 pound ground pork
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
2 or 3 shakes of your favorite hot sauce (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
Several turns of freshly ground black pepper
1 firm-ripe USA Pear, such as Red Anjou, medium dice

Directions
Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the diced red onion and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, combine the pork, maple syrup, hot sauce, salt, pepper and the browned onions. Mix the ingredients together thoroughly to distribute the seasonings. Lastly, add the diced pears, mixing them in as gently as possible.

Form the mixture into 10-12 sausage patties. Lightly moistening your hands will help prevent the sausage from sticking to you. At this point, some of the sausage patties may be stored in zip-top bags and frozen.

To cook the sausage patties, fry them in a thin layer of canola oil over medium heat, about 5 minutes per side. Check the centers for doneness. If the sausages are not cooked all the way through, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan for an additional 5 minutes.

Love your Heart!

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February is American Heart Month, and not just because Valentine’s Day is right in the middle of the month. Now that our New Year’s resolutions have worn off, we need a reminder that health should be a focus every day of the year. According to the CDC, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and 600,000 people die from heart disease every year. Indeed, heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the US. But, studies suggest that simple changes leading to a drop in excess body fat can dramatically reduce risk of a heart attack.

So how can you live healthier? Simple: Eat well and exercise. That’s it. There is no magic pill, drink, or cream. You need ten minutes of planning and ten minutes of doing. When you visit the grocery store, instead of heading down the candy, chip or soda aisle, head to the produce section. Grab some pears, lettuce, carrots, and anything else you like, then, fill your lunch and your fruit bowl. This simple change can save you hundreds of calories over a week. Next, take ten minutes to be more active. Getting off the couch burns calories, and studies show us that if we get active for ten minutes, those ten minutes often turn into twenty. So what are you waiting for? Love your heart!

Pear and Celery Salad

Pear and Celery Salad heroHere is my modern take on a classic: pears and blue cheese in a salad. There are so many ways to use these two perfectly paired ingredients together, but this recipe combines them to create a side dish with perfect flavor, texture, and richness.

I use crunchy celery as the salad’s base and include the tender inner celery stalks as well as the celery leaves – they have a delicious and light flavor that I adore. Beautiful, ripe pears are tossed in, adding tenderness and a honey-sweet flavor. A simple, light lemon vinaigrette glazes the celery and pears, and finally, the salad is topped with blue cheese crumbles and bits of savory, salty Marcona almonds.

Serve this salad alongside simple roasted chicken or fish and prepare to be delighted.

Ingredients
Dressing
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about one lemon)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup olive oil
Salad
1 bunch of celery, including inner stems and leaves, sliced thinly on a diagonal
2 USA Pears, such as Red Anjou or Starkrimson, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
⅔ cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Directions
For the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine the sliced celery and pears with half of the chopped almonds and blue cheese. Add approximately half of the dressing and toss gently to combine. Taste the salad, adding more dressing if desired. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or platter and sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese and almonds.

prep time: 20 minutes
yield: 6 servings

Be Your Own Valentine!

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

Some people are lucky. But some of us, unfortunately, are a touch unlucky, whether it’s in love, career, health… My family health history is a convoluted maze of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. My genetic prescription suggests I may not live a long, healthy life: That’s not just disheartening, it’s downright discouraging!

But this Valentine’s Day, there is good news! Although DNA plays a role in health and lifestyle, we can combat our genetic roadmaps; we can change our lives, we just have to love ourselves enough to make the change! At one point I was much heavier, couldn’t name many fruits or vegetables, had disordered endocrine function, and was, simply, lazy. One day I decided I was done being uncomfortable in my own skin and decided to love myself. I experimented with veggies, added fruit to my lunches, found activities I enjoyed, and recruited a positive and supportive group of friends. These changes successfully instilled new hope in my future, and indeed, my life will be longer and happier. Love yourself enough to make the change, too! Start with a piece of fruit or ten minutes of activity today. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Pear & Arugula Pesto Stuffed Chicken


pear pesto stuffed chicken heroThis recipe takes several ingredients that one might use to make a delicious pear salad and incorporates them into a pesto-like stuffing for chicken. The filling consists of sweet pears, salty pumpkin seeds, earthy arugula, and big, crumbly chunks of dry Jack cheese. Dry Jack is simply an aged version of Monterey Jack cheese, and is sometimes described as having a butterscotch flavor. The dry Jack is an important component to the stuffing, so don’t skimp on it!

Once the chicken breasts are stuffed and in the oven they don’t need to be fussed with, so you can get to work on a side dish. The chicken would be perfect served alongside your favorite type of rice with a side of grilled or roasted vegetables.

Ingredients
3 ounces baby arugula (2 packed cups)
3 tablespoons hulled pumpkin seeds, toasted
4 ounces dry Jack cheese, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning the chicken breasts
2 small firm-ripe USA Pears, such as Anjou, small dice
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the arugula, pumpkin seeds, cheese, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt into the bowl of a food processor and process until the cheese has broken down. The mixture will be very thick – you’ll need to stop the machine and scrape down the sides a few times with a spatula. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and fold in the diced pears. Set aside while you prep the chicken.

Drizzle the chicken breasts with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season them liberally with salt. Place the chicken breasts rib-side down on a cutting board and using a sharp paring knife, cut a pocket horizontally into the thickest part of the breast. Cut as deeply and widely as you can without letting the knife come through at the sides. Stuff each pocket with approximately ¼ cup of the pesto and pear filling and secure the breasts, pocket-side up, with two pieces of butcher’s twine.

pear pesto stuffed chicken prep

Place the breasts into one or more pans so that they fit snugly and will not fall over during cooking. Transfer the stuffed chicken breasts to the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to roast until the chicken is fully cooked, 40-45 minutes longer.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully snip the butcher’s twine and remove just before serving.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Pears and Crispy Bacon

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Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite winter vegetables, and it won’t be long until they disappear from produce shelves everywhere until next fall. Get your fill of Brussels while you can by roasting them into a delicious hash dressed up with crispy bacon and sweet pears. This easy recipe makes for a satisfying side dish. Simply cook the bacon lightly to render out the fat before tossing with the Brussels sprouts, then season and roast. At the last minute, add the beautiful pear chunks and the fresh thyme and warm through. Serve this dish with my Braised Pork with Pears and Sherry Vinegar for the perfect pear-inspired winter dinner.

Ingredients
5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe, colorful USA Pears, such as Comice or Red Anjou, large dice
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only, roughly chopped

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the bacon pieces in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until most of the fat has been rendered out and the bacon is just barely starting to get crispy in a few places (it will finish cooking in the oven). Place the halved Brussels sprouts onto a sheet pan and pour over the bacon and all of the fat from the pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Toss the mixture together to thoroughly coat all of the sprouts with seasoning and transfer to the hot oven.

Bake the hash for 22-24 minutes, stirring once during cooking. At this point, the bacon should be nicely crisp and the sprouts should be softened. Add the diced pears and the thyme leaves and toss together gently. Return the hash to the oven for 4 to 5 minutes just to warm the pears through. Serve immediately.

prep time: 15 minutes plus 30 minutes in the oven
yield: 4 servings