Pear-Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

Baked pear and rhubarb crisp in a white bowl with a dollop of Greek yogurtPears pair perfectly with spring ingredients like rhubarb. Throughout the month of May, consider combining the two in your favorite recipes, from pies and tarts to chutney and compote. This hearty breakfast bake highlights in-season Anjous in a more healthful take on warm fruit crisp, with a crunchy, granola-like topping. It’s positively delicious with a big spoonful of creamy Greek yogurt. Kids will love the idea of dessert for breakfast, but with olive oil standing in for butter, and maple syrup adding a touch of sweetness, it provides a satisfyingly wholesome start to their day.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
3 large USA Red Anjou Pears (about 1 1/2 pounds), stemmed, cored, and sliced
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut on a bias into 1/2-inch slices
Zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (can be omitted, but increase cinnamon to 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup whole-wheat or white all-purpose flour
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Greek yogurt, for serving

Directions:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 375°F.

Toss the pears, rhubarb, and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cardamom, and a pinch of salt and toss again until evenly coated. Pour the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and pat it down in an even layer.

In the same bowl that was used to make the filling, stir the oats, hazelnuts, flour, olive oil, maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of salt until thoroughly combined.

Loosely sprinkle the oat topping in an even layer over the pear mixture. Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and transfer it to the oven to bake until the topping is deeply browned and crisp and the filling is bubbling, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Serve the crisp warm from the oven or cooled to room temperature, with a big spoonful of yogurt. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cauliflower Pear Soup

soupCauliflower and pear are blended together to form a rich and creamy soup with just a hint of sweetness. A garnish of pear and sage leaves adds a festive touch.

 Ingredients:               
2 Red D’anjou pears
1 head of cauliflower, about 4 cups roughly chopped
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10-12 fresh sage leaves

Directions: 
Peel, core and chop one pear, then cut the other pear in half and peel, core and chop one half. Remove the core from the reserved pear half, and finely dice it, and set it aside for a garnish. Place the chopped pear and cauliflower in a soup pot and add the water and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until the cauliflower and pears are very soft, about 10 -15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet and add the olive oil. When hot, add the sage leaves and cook until crisp. Set aside to use as a garnish.

Add the milk, cheese and ½ teaspoon salt to the soup. Puree in a blender in batches or using a stick blender, until very smooth. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Note: amount of salt will depend on the broth you use.

Divide soup into bowls and garnish each with fried sage leaves, a drizzle of the oil and some diced pear.

prep time:10 minutes
cooking time: 20 minutes
yield: Serves 4

Stuffed Avocado with Bay Shrimp, Pear, and Mango

This stuffed avocado recipe is both simple and elegant. Begin with sweet and salty bay shrimp, and add crunchy pears and tropical, ripe mango to provide great texture and flavor. Bright, fresh lime juice plays perfectly with the creamy, rich avocado, and a pop of fresh mint will bring it all together. Serve this salad for lunch on a warm day, or alongside some grilled meat at your next barbecue.

Stuffed AvocadoIngredients
8 oz. bay shrimp
¼ a red onion, finely minced
1 firm ripe USA Pear, small dice
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced small
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 small handful fresh mint leaves, torn
2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted

Directions
In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, onion, pear, mango, and lime juice and gently stir to combine. Add the oil and salt, and toss to coat. Gently mix in the torn mint at the last moment. Divide the mixture between the four avocado halves, filling the cavity and allowing the extra shrimp salad to overflow onto the plate. Serve immediately.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Tackle the Fridge!

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This weekend I tackled the fridge, and I don’t mean Super Bowl XX champions Chicago Bears’ William “Refrigerator” Perry. I’d like to say that I clean my fridge at least once per month, but like most Americans I only get to this important task about twice per year. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to increased food spoilage, food waste and risk for foodborne illness. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 9000 deaths and 6.5 to 33 million illnesses each year are directly linked to foodborne illness – often from not keeping foods at the appropriate temperture. [1] It seems to me we need to talk about refrigerator health!

First things first: Your refrigerator should remain under 40°F. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40° and 140°F, called the Food Danger Zone, and some can double in number every 20 minutes in this zone. These foods may look and smell perfectly fine but can cause illness, so it’s best to cool foods quickly and purchase a refrigerator thermometer. [1] Second, foods that will not be cooked, such as fruits and vegetables, should live above riskier foods, such as raw meats. These hazardous foods should reside in sealed containers on bottom shelves. Likewise, crisper drawers are appropriate places for fruits and vegetables – they preserve freshness by maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity. Third, items should not be packed so tightly in the fridge that cold air cannot circulate around foods to maintain freshness. Finally, the FSIS recommends wiping up spills immediately, particularly from raw meats, and going through the fridge weekly to discard potentially hazardous or old food. [2]

Now that spring and summer fresh fruits and veggies are abundant, make sure your refrigerator is a happy, healthy home for them – and you. Salud!

 
1. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/fighting-bac-by-chilling-out/ct_index
2. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/refrigeration-and-food-safety/ct_index

Smart Snacking 101: Using the Rule of Two

Snackable CollageFollow this snacking rule to stay satisfied and energized longer!

Snacking has some major benefits, aside from being fun and delicious. We can think of a couple easy scenarios where snacks are critical to a busy day:

1.  When hunger strikes in between your normal meal times. Having a snack between meals can help keep you satisfied, so you don’t nosh on the first thing (or everything) you see.
2.  When meals don’t have enough fruits and veggies, snacks come to the rescue to balance things out.

Not all snacks are created equal. Some snacks can leave you with low energy, craving more food soon after eating. As Registered Dietitians, we often get asked to share our tips for the ultimate snack that provides long-lasting energy, steady blood sugar and will keep you full. We recommend using the “rule of two”, meaning, we choose two out of three important components to make a pearfectly healthy snack.

Rule of Two: Include two out of three of the major macronutrients:
• High fiber carbohydrates: Like whole fruit, starchy veggies like peas, corn, potatoes/sweet potatoes, winter squash and whole grains
Protein-rich food: Such as lean meats, beans, nuts/seeds and dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk)
• Source of healthy fats: Including nuts/seeds, nut/seed butters, avocado, olives and oils

Getting hungry? Here are a handful of our favorite “rule of two” snack ideas:

• A pear, sliced in half, each half spread with 1/2 tablespoon almond butter.
• Two slices of turkey breast each spread with 1 tablespoon hummus and rolled up with 1/2 slice of cheese.
• 6 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt topped with 1/2 diced pear and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.
• A pear and a 10-ounce low-fat (or soymilk) latte.

Snack Right to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Office candy dishes, gifts of baked goods, parties, dinners, and extra-packed to-do lists all shuffle in with the holiday season. And increased stress levels can also follow suit. While we can’t do your holiday shopping for you, we can offer up a helpful tool for keeping your energy level stable, your mood happier, and your weight steadier during the holiday season… snacks. But not just any old snacks will do, follow these four tips to ensure your snacks are energy-boosting powerhouses.

Use the Rule of 2: The combination of protein, high fiber/less processed carbohydrates, and fat is one that keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable for hours. At mealtime, make sure you have this triple threat (+ veggies!) on your plate. At snack time, aim for at least 2 of the 3…what we call the “rule of 2.” Examples: Sliced pear (carbs) with almond butter (fat); string cheese (protein) with hummus (fat); small latte (protein from milk) with walnuts (fat).
Recipe idea: Pear Slices With Goat Cheese, Pistachios, And Pink Peppercorns

Sip with Snacks: The winter air is dry. When you combine that with a hectic schedule with too few sips of water, dehydration often comes knocking. To ensure water intake throughout the day, hydrate along with snacks. A cup of herbal tea or sparkling water with lemon not only helps to hydrate but also makes your snack feel more satisfying by naturally slowing you down while you eat (because you’re also sipping). Including fruits and/or veggies in snacks also helps to hydrate, since these foods naturally contain lots of water.
Recipe idea: Pear And Pineapple Green Smoothie

Pear and Pineapple Green Smoothie smSQ

Practice Mindfulness: A busier-than-usual schedule mixed with more-abundant-than-usual treats lying around can lead to all-day noshing without really realizing or enjoying it. Mindfulness — having an internal conversation with yourself before eating to ask yourself if you’re actually hungry, what you’re really hungry for, etc. — is a vital component to ensuring that you don’t eat more than you need and also make choices that make you feel good. Before eating, ask yourself “Will this make me feel good now? In two hours? Tomorrow?” If you can answer yes to all three, and you’re genuinely hungry, then have enough to satisfy that hunger. If your answer is no, take a walk, sip some tea, catch up with a co-worker, or any other non-food related 5-minute activity.
Recipe idea: Grilled Chicken, Pear, and Avocado Toasts

Plan Ahead: Preparation is key during the holidays. Have a holiday party coming up? Think about your schedule, consider what time the party starts, what you want to eat there, and whether you need a snack beforehand. If you’re shopping on the weekend, plan where you’ll have lunch, how you’ll stay hydrated, and whether you need a snack or two in your bag (answer: you usually do.) The bottomline is that if you don’t plan out food choices ahead of time, you leave it up to chance and that doesn’t always bode well during the busy, sweet-filled holidays. But a little planning goes a long way to making you feel better all season long!
Recipe idea: Pear PB And J Bouquet

PBJ Bouquet 1

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

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This winter has been one of the coldest, snowiest I can remember! I don’t like being cold, so I spent this past weekend watching a movie marathon while 10 inches of snow fell outside. And… now it’s official: I have the winter doldrums. But, nothing can fix this cabin fever like a little exercise! Today I’m planning to be active, won’t you join me?

Exercise boosts endorphins, chemicals that trigger feel-good emotions in your brain. Likewise, exercise focuses the brain and relieves stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep disruptions that lead to more stress. While we still have this snow, I’m planning to pull out my sturdier running shoes for a short snow run – I feel less impact on my knees. Walking releases stress, too, and allows me and my doggie to enjoy the loveliness of the winter wonderland! Perhaps this weekend I’ll grab a few friends and hit a nearby trail for some snowshoeing. And if the snow doesn’t stick around, I can do any of these activities with different footwear! There are so many more activities, too – skiing, snowboarding, sledding – all of which torch calories while you’re having fun. No matter what winter activity you’re enjoying, make sure to dress warmly, stay hydrated, and grab your snacks before you hit the cold. Plan to eat an hour before you head out or find easy, portable snacks, like pears plus peanut butter, that fit in your pocket or next to your water bottle in your pack. Even better, après snow, curl up with a steaming bowl of tomato soup plus a grilled pear and cheese sandwich. Mmm, deliciously warms the soul! I promise we’ll all feel better getting out and about!

Shaved Pear and Vegetable Salad with Blue Cheese

Shaved Pear and Vegetable Salad with Blue Cheese

Here is a distinctive salad recipe that uses slightly underripe pears. All of the salad components are shaved very thinly using a mandoline slicer, making the salad not only beautiful, but highlighting the unique texture of every ingredient. Try substituting different seasonal vegetables to make your own version—thinly sliced celery, sweet onion, cabbage, delicata squash, carrots—whatever you like!

Ingredients
Dressing
2 tablespoons tangerine juice (from one juicy tangerine)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons walnut oil
Salad
1 small red onion, peeled and trimmed
1 fennel bulb (reserve delicate fronds for garnish)
1 small bunch radishes, bottoms trimmed and about ½ inch of the top left on (leaving a little greenery on makes the radishes easy to hold while slicing on the mandoline)
2 raw beets, peeled and trimmed (use golden beets or Chioggas if you can find them—red beets will color the other vegetables)
2 slightly underripe USA Pears, such as Concorde or Anjou
4 ounces of your favorite blue cheese, crumbled

Directions
For the dressing: Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.
For the salad: Slice all of the vegetables as thinly as possible on a mandoline slicer, transferring them to a large bowl as you go. This can be done several hours in advance—be sure to cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just before serving the salad, thinly slice the pears on the mandoline, leaving the core behind. Add the pears to the bowl with the other vegetables along with about two-thirds of the dressing. Gently toss the ingredients together, sliding apart vegetables that remain stacked together with your fingers. Arrange the salad on a platter, drizzling with more dressing, if desired. Crumble the blue cheese on top and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.

prep time: 25 minutes
yield: 4 generous servings

Check the neck.

It’s a simple catchphrase, but it does its job, as the best of catchy phrases should. Check the neck: these three words are the key to sweet and juicy USA Pears. If you’re one of those people, like my roommate, who has always felt, oh, ambivalent about eating (not to mention enjoying) fresh pears, you’ll want to pay attention now.

You’ve probably felt that way because the pears you’ve had in the past have been lackluster. Unripe. Overripe. Languishing in a fruit cocktail mix on your grade school lunch line. But that can all change now! You, too, can enjoy juicy, delicious pears that are sweet as candy! You’ll just need to check the neck. It’s simple: hold a pear in the palm of your hand and press near the stem with your thumb. If the skin there gives a little to gentle pressure, it’s ripe. If not, no worries. Just leave it out on the counter or in your fruit bowl at room temperature and keep checking the neck every day until it feels sufficiently soft. Then, enjoy!

I recently converted my roommate into a pear lover with this simple trick. I mean, I know I can be intimidating in my championing of fresh pears, but her conversion was easy. It didn’t take begging, or magical incantations, or the world’s finest pears flown in from a secret arboretum. It just took one pear, one phrase (you can guess this), and lots of napkins. (It was really juicy.) She was impressed. I wanted to take her picture for proof, but she wouldn’t let me—she had pear juice dripping down her arm.

So, the next time you’re faced with a potentially delicious pear, do it a favor. Make sure it’s ripe, and enjoy!