Creamy Gouda and Pear Risotto

Creamy Gouda and Pear Risotto SM

If you haven’t yet made risotto part of your regular dinner repertoire, this recipe will help to change your mind. While it’s true that risotto requires a little bit of attention, it’s the perfect match for roasted meats, which require almost no attention at all. Try this creamy version, packed with the fall flavor of pears and spiked with aged Gouda cheese (you know, the one with those delicious cheese crystals), alongside the simplest roasted chicken. You won’t be sorry!

4 cups (1 box) chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium shallots, small dice
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
4 ounces aged Gouda, such as Beemster Vlaskass
1 firm ripe USA pear, halved, cored, and very thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

Pour the broth into a medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce to low heat to keep warm. Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until translucent. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring often, until the rice is lightly toasted. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to pick up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to cook for about one minute until nearly evaporated. Add about one cup of the hot broth to the pan and cook the risotto, stirring occasionally, until most of the broth has been absorbed. Add another half-cup of broth and repeat. Continue adding the broth half a cup at a time and stirring frequently until absorbed. Check the rice often for doneness—it may not require all four cups of broth. Once the rice is al dente, stir in the grated Gouda cheese and allow it to melt. Lastly, stir in the thinly sliced pears and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a warm bowl and serve immediately.

prep time: 30 minutes
yield: 4 – 6 servings

Delicata Squash, Pear, Arugula, and Pomegranate Salad

Delicata Squash, Pear, Arugula, and Pomegranate Salad SM

Here is an elegant, seasonal, and colorful first course for your Thanksgiving meal. Sweet roasted delicata squash rings make the perfect base for filling with this bright salad of arugula and thinly sliced pears. Drizzled with a creamy toasted pecan dressing and sprinkled with jewel-like pomegranate seeds, this salad will please everyone invited to your table this holiday season.

Creamy Toasted Pecan Dressing
½ cup pecan halves, toasted
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup neutral oil, such as sunflower oil
1 large delicata squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 firm ripe USA Pear, such as Green Bartlett or Concorde
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces baby arugula
¼ cup pomegranate seeds

For the dressing: Place the toasted pecans into a blender or food processor and pulse until they become a fine powder. Add the honey, sugar, lemon, vinegar, and salt and puree until combined. With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil to emulsify the dressing. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim the ends off of the squash and cut into 6 evenly sized rings. Remove the seeds and place onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Arrange the squash in a single layer and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the squash is just cooked through. In the meantime, slice the pear into a fine julienne either by hand or using a mandoline. Place in a large bowl and toss with the ½ teaspoon of lemon juice. Add the arugula and gently toss to mix. When the squash is done, transfer to individual plates and fill each ring with a generous handful of the arugula and pears. Drizzle each salad with the pecan dressing and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds.

prep time: 50 minutes
yield: 6 servings

Chai-Spiced Baked Oatmeal with Poached Pears

2 cups milk
2 chai tea bags
2 large eggs PLUS 2 egg yolks
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups old-fashioned oats
1 firm ripe USA pear, such as Bosc or Anjou
For garnish
1 ripe USA pear, such as Concorde or Anjou
½ cup fresh berries, such as raspberries or blueberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and warm over medium heat until steaming. Add the teabags, cover, and steep for 5 minutes. In the meantime, combine the eggs and yolks in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly with a fork. Once the tea has infused the milk, remove and discard the teabags. Add the brown sugar to the hot milk and stir to dissolve. Next, add the cold whipping cream, followed by the beaten eggs and the salt, and whisk thoroughly to combine. Set the mixture aside.

Divide the oats evenly between six 6 – 8 ounce ramekins. Peel the firm pear and cut into ½ inch cubes (if your pear is still quite firm, try dicing into even smaller cubes so that it will become soft during baking). Divide the pear cubes between the ramekins. Lastly, pour the custard into the ramekins atop the oats and pear, filling all of the ramekins evenly. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and pour boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides. Cover loosely with foil and carefully transfer to the preheated oven.

Bake for 20 minutes, and then check the custards for doneness. This is most easily achieved by pulling back the foil and very gently shaking the pan. If the centers are still jiggly, they need more cooking time. Continue to check every 5 minutes until the centers are just set. Once set, carefully remove the pan from the oven and then remove from the hot water bath individually using tongs or a kitchen towel. Serve the baked oatmeal hot or warm with slices of fresh, ripe pears and a few of your favorite berries.

prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 30 minutes
yield: 6 servings

Autumn Panzanella Salad with Pears, Butternut Squash, and Hearty Walnut Bread

panzanellaBased loosely on a traditional panzanella salad which combines garden fresh tomatoes with crusty bread to soak up the juices, this savory autumn panzanella features ripe, in-season pears, roasted butternut squash, and hearty walnut bread. Serve this salad throughout the fall and winter while pears and squash are abundant. It will also make a delicious and colorful addition to your Thanksgiving table.


1 small butternut squash, cut into ½-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups of cubed squash)
2 large shallots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil for roasting squash PLUS 2 tablespoons for the salad
Salt and pepper
4 cups cubed whole grain walnut bread from your favorite bakery
¼ cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Bosc or Red Anjou, medium dice
1 tablespoon roughly chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cubed squash, sliced shallots, and 3 tablespoons olive oil on a baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread into a single layer and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the squash is soft and the shallots are beginning to brown. While the squash roasts, use a serrated knife to cut the bread into ½-inch cubes as well. Spread the bread cubes onto a second baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast the cubes lightly, for 5-7 minutes total, while the squash roasts. Allow the squash to cool slightly (or to room temperature) and then transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle the squash with the additional 2 tablespoons of oil, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup. Toss gently to coat. To the bowl, add the toasted bread cubes, dried cranberries, diced pears, and parsley. Toss the mixture together gently once again and transfer to a large platter or bowl. Sprinkle the shaved parmesan cheese on top and serve immediately.

prep time: 45 minutes including roasting
yield: 6 – 8 servings

Hangry IS A Real Thing

Pear and toast

The Oxford English Dictionary, the quintessential guide to the evolution of the English language, just added a few trendy words as new entries including awesomesauce, mic drop, and hangry. This last one is of particular interest to me, since it’s related to hunger and nutrition. You’ve probably heard someone say hangry or perhaps you’ve felt hangry, bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. Although it may be a popular descriptor, it is a fact of life. What causes one to become hangry? The likely cause is low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia.

The body, particularly the brain, primarily runs on glucose, a carbohydrate. So, when you skip a meal, eat less than usual, exercise, or have certain conditions or medications, you may run out of fuel. This drop in available energy causes a stress cascade that can trigger fatigue, depression, irritability, anger, or worse. Sadly, if you’re prone to low blood sugar, you may not even realize that your blood sugar is low and that you’ve become hangry. What is the solution? Unfortunately, high-sugar snacks cause blood sugar to spike and may lead to a dramatic drop. Therefore, regular, small snacks that include carbohydrate plus fiber, protein, or fat will help sustain normal blood sugar over time. Try pears sliced with cheese or a handful of nuts to stay even, focused, and hopefully, happy!

Successful Mornings Start Here!

coffee-cup-bed-bedroomIf you’re like me, you’re busy…all the time. Sometimes I wake in the wee hours of the morning, my mind racing about what I have to accomplish the next day. ACK! So what can we do to make sure our mornings are more successful, that we have a positive day and a little peace of mind? Start here.

  1. Start with breakfast and don’t skip meals! Your brain and body need fuel. Low blood sugar is often the culprit for bad moods, low energy, and attention deficit. Try prepping breakfast and packing your lunch, or plan where and when you are going to eat the next day to make sure you don’t fall into this slump! Likewise, several studies have found that skipping breakfast leads to negative consequences, such as weight gain.
  1. Exercise three times (or more!) each week. Activity naturally reduces stress hormones and increases endorphins, our feel good hormones. Exercise can also improve mood and sleep!
  1. SLEEP. This may be the most important thing you can do to reduce stress, maintain weight, and have a positive attitude. Eight hours may be a dream, but shoot for a minimum of six.
  1. Find time for a little peace and quiet that isn’t sleepRelaxation, whether it’s sitting quietly, stretching, or simply unplugging, allows your brain to switch off and unwind.
  1. Finally, if you’re like me, before getting into bed write down everything that is bugging you or that you have to accomplish the next day. Hopefully, if it’s on paper, it’s off of your mind!

Pear, Carrot, and Coconut Muffins

Pear, Carrot, and Coconut Muffins SM

Here is a fun fall take on the classic morning glory muffin, a popular recipe published in Gourmet Magazine back in the 1980s. These muffins are chock-full of fruit, vegetables, and nuts, making them hearty and filling, but they retain a soft, light texture, as any great muffin should. They will keep very well in the refrigerator and reheat wonderfully thanks to their high moisture content. If you prefer your muffins warm from the oven, you can even mix up a batch and bake off just a few at a time, saving the remaining batter for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups finely shredded carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
1 ½ cups finely diced pear (from about 2 ripe USA Pears, such as Bartlett)
⅔ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
¾ cup neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or safflower
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons demerara sugar, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda, and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the carrot, pear, coconut, and walnuts to the flour mixture and stir gently to coat the fruit and vegetables. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the dry and stir gently until no dry pockets of flour remain. Line a muffin tin with papers and fill each cup ¾ full with the batter. Sprinkle each muffin with a little demerara sugar. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

prep time: 15 minutes
yield: 12-16 muffins

Time to don your thinking cap!


barlett_almond_butter-2183Children and school buses have started roaming the neighborhood; I can’t believe we’re already back to school. No matter the age of the student, those of us in nutrition and education know that what fuels brain power is food! This means healthful meals, but maybe more importantly, healthful snacks throughout the day. All of us, but especially children and adolescents who are growing – yes, this includes college students – need to eat regularly to maintain proper blood sugar levels, aka energy, and essential nutrients that power the brain and body. Think about it this way: The body (and especially the brain) is generally like the engine of a car. The engine parts are proteins, fat is the oil that allows the parts to function together, and carbohydrates are the fuel that drives the engine. Just like the parts of an engine rely on each other, protein, fat, and carbohydrate work together for optimal performance.

Eating whole foods, those that are minimally processed and naturally contain essential nutrients, every 2-3 hours is likely the best strategy to meet nutrient needs. This means snacks and packing extra food into a backpack are musts, rather than relying on schools to provide snacks. Remember that nutrients in the body work synergistically, so combine items that contain a variety of nutrients: Consider fresh fruit plus nuts, seeds, single-serve items such as cheese or pretzels, or low sugar granola bars. Happy snacking equals happy studying!

Barbecue Pork, Pear, and Cheddar Quesadilla

Barbecue Pork, Pear, and Cheddar QuesadillaHere is a quick quesadilla recipe that makes great use of leftover pork, ripe autumn pears, and cheddar cheese. The combination of these three ingredients is so delicious, it just might become your favorite afternoon snack. These quesadillas are a great use of leftover ribs from your favorite barbecue joint. If you’ve never made your own barbecue sauce, try your hand at Pear Barbecue Sauce with Chiles and Spice to use for this recipe and double the pear punch!

6 ounces cooked, shredded pork
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, plus more for dipping
4 flour tortillas (8-inch size)
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 large, ripe USA Pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, sliced
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the shredded pork with the barbecue sauce and microwave for 1 ½ – 2 minutes to warm. Set aside until ready to use.

Lay out two of the tortillas in a single layer on a sheet pan. Sprinkle the tortillas with half of the cheese. Divide the warm pork between the two tortillas. Next, arrange the pear slices around the tortillas as evenly as possible, and then top the pear slices with the remaining cheese. Lastly, place the remaining two tortillas atop the cheese layer and transfer to the oven.

Bake the quesadillas for 10-12 minutes, or until the tortillas begin to crisp lightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and slice into quarters. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately with more barbecue sauce for dipping.

prep time: 20 minutes
yield: 4 snack-sized servings

More Reasons to Eat Pears!

200253631-001I’ve been a fruit and veggie advocate for years and often give you ideas to increase your consumption. Fruit and vegetables are necessary for vitality and wellbeing – I personally believe these foods should make up the majority of our carbohydrate consumption. I tout pears as an excellent choice, but I’d like to take a moment to get back to basics and review the many reasons why.

A medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber, or 24% of your recommended daily needs. This nutrient is necessary for gut health, satiety, and weight management, and plays a preventive role in gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and many other illnesses. Pears also contain 10% of your daily vitamin C needs and 5% of potassium; adequate amounts of these nutrients are linked to well-being and preventing cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. Many antioxidants are also found in pears, particularly flavonols, carotenoids and vitamin C. These nutrients are protective against most chronic diseases, but especially cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Beyond these vital nutrients, pears are also portable, delicious, versatile, and keep you satisfied between meals. This humble little fruit packs a powerful punch!