Staying Fit and Healthy Through the Holidays

peartapemeasureToo many indulgences and fewer workouts can wreak havoc with your energy level and your waistline this time of year. However, there are simple ways to create balance that don’t require sacrificing your favorite goodies, or even stepping into a gym. Check out my realistic three-step strategy for staying fit through the holidays.

Step One: Whip up some healthy holiday dishes
Go ahead and enjoy your very favorite holiday foods prepared traditionally. But commit to lightening up others. For example, replace one pie with baked pears, or a mock pear cobbler. Simply sauté chopped ripe pears over low heat in a little water seasoned with a bit of fresh squeeze lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Top with a healthy “crumble” made from mixing rolled oats and ground cinnamon into almond butter. Or instead of creamed spinach, serve a fresh spinach salad, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, topped with sliced pears and chopped walnuts.

Step Two: Move in ways you look forward to
You don’t have to spend hours on the elliptical to burn off holiday calories. In fact, this is a great time of year to be active with family and friends in fun ways that can still keep you fit. Head to an ice skating rink, have a dance off, or organize a group hike, walk, or game.

Step Three: Make room for special indulgences.
Many of my clients find themselves eating things they don’t even really like during the holidays, simply because they’re there. When faced with a treat, take a moment to rate it, using a 5-star scale, 5 being “can’t-live-without” and 0 being “meh, if I pass it up, I won’t feel deprived.” If a food rates a 3 or less, skip it. And if it’s a worthwhile splurge create balance in simple ways. For example, if it’s carb-heavy, like a brownie, opt for a protein topped salad rather than a sandwich or wrap for lunch. This strategy literally allows you to have your cake (or pie) and eat it too!

Cheers to Wine and Pears

Last weekend, some of us here at Pear HQ drove out to the lovely valley of Hood River to sample pears at the Columbia Gorge Wine & Pear Fest. As you and I both know, pears and wine are BFFs. They’re meant for each other from the start: they even grow in the same area and climate.

We sampled Green and Red Anjou pears to eager attendees, teaching them how to “Check the Neck” for ripeness so that they can enjoy pears at their sweet and juicy peak at home. Whether they were drinking Pinot Gris or a red blend, hard cider or Syrah, wine aficionados agreed that pears and grapes are a match made in heaven. (Which is what some visitors call Hood River, not incidentally.)

Some of our pear growers joined us to sing the praises of their favorite fruit, even getting in on the action with some sweet (temporary) tattoos!

Thirsty for more? Check out our custom pear, wine, and cheese pairings!

Pear Excellence 2013

This year’s Pear Excellence Culinary Student Competition was another pear-fect success, with talented culinary students from across Canada showing off their flair with the pear for a panel of esteemed judges. Held in Toronto in April, the contest celebrated its sixth year. Culinary students Diego Beltran, Rebekah Roberts, Allegra Jimenez, Connie McKibbon, and Aaron Lackie faced off for the National Grand Prize, showcasing pears in dishes savory and sweet, from gluten-free chocolate chai cake to grilled flatbread. The judges chose Allegra’s “Pearfect Pearing” dish for the grand prize. The dish paired a savory cheesecake with poached Bosc pears, pear chips, and a candied beet salad for a plate the judges said was innovative, well-executed, and an exceptional blending of flavors.

All the regional finalists were applauded for their creativity and execution. Their dishes truly put USA Pears on a pedestal:

  • “The Pearfect Pearing,” Allegra Jimenez, National Grand Prize Winner, Regional Winner – Vancouver
  • “Pear and Black Thai Rice Cakes with Pear Sage Pesto,” Connie McKibbon, People’s Choice Winner, Regional Winner – Ontario
  • “Trout Ceviche with Pear Blini,” Diego Beltran, Regional Winner – Quebec
  • “Pear and Bison Grilled Flatbread,” Rebekah Roberts, Regional Winner – Prairies
  • “Pear Cake Delight,” Aaron Lackie, Regional Winner – Maritime

To view the winning recipes and photos of the finalists” culinary creations, click here.

(Parlez-vous francais? Cliquez ici.)

Feast Portland

Last weekend, the big dogs of the food world came to play in Portland, and we were fortunate to be able to celebrate the plentiful produce and culinary creativity of our lovely region with them at Feast Portland. This food-focused festival, which took place in restaurants and event venues across town, was a smashing success, in our humble opinion. (And in the opinion of one not-so-local foodie, Adam Rapoport, editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit!)

Here in our hometown, local ingredients were celebrated with gusto: local wines and microbrews, of course, but also hazelnuts, berries, and pears. Widmer Brothers even flaunted the versatility of Oregon’s state fruit (ahem) with the official brew of the weekend, Krystal Pear, a filtered American-style wheat ale fermented with Northwest pears. It was delightful, natch.

Feast kicked off on Thursday night with the Sandwich Invitational. We were rooting for Chef Ethan Stowell’s decadent porchetta sandwich with Bosc pear mostarda, but were happy to see that local kitchen wizard Naomi Pomeroy of Beast took home the golden sandwich.

Luckily, Ethan shared his delicious sandwich recipe with us! This sandwich is seriously good—the thinly sliced porchetta provides the perfect savory foil to the sharp, slightly sweet pear spread. Click here for the delicious details.

The rest of the weekend was a mouthwatering blur—fresh pear sampling in Director Park (where we overheard classes on Pinot Noir, chocolate, and Thai street food); an expertly-soundtracked, raucous, and spicy food-filled Asian night market; and foie gras on top of, well, almost everything at High Comfort on Saturday night.

At the Grand Tasting in Pioneer Courthouse Square, our (in)famous Tattoo Pearlor, in which Feasters were inked with their choice of a pear icon (check ‘em all out here), was named “the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ thing of the weekend.’ We’ll take it!

We can’t wait until next year. But for now, we’re sticking to pears and Pepcid.

Pear Blossom Festival

This weekend marks the 59th annual Pear Blossom Festival in Medford, Oregon. Medford is one of the four growing regions of USA Pears, especially famous for its picture-perfect Comice pears. (You may know them from gift companies like Harry & David.)

The Pear Blossom Festival celebrates the annual appearance of pear blossoms around the area with an arsenal of activities, including the Pear Blossom Parade, a 5k run, a street fair, and the Pear A-Fare, which features locally produced wines, fruit, chocolates, and more.

The festival is a great celebration, rich with the community pride of Southern Oregon. It seems that everyone in the region is involved in this festival, from the preschool-aged Blossom King and Queen to the families volunteering behind the scenes to put on the event. Even Spock himself participated back in 1967 as Grand Marshal of the Pear Blossom Parade – the only time he EVER appeared in public!

For more information, visit www.pearblossomparade.org. And if you’re in the area this weekend, be sure to visit the Pear Blossom festival!

The Time is Ripe for Pears: Seattle

We ended The Time is Ripe for Pears Tour with a bang in Seattle, visiting a few of the city’s best restaurants and serving up some pear-fect pear and cheese samples for cold, hungry shoppers at Pike Place Market.

On our first day, we lunched at the restaurant of an old pal: Chef Ethan Stowell. Lucky us! Tavolata, his rustic yet sleek Italian joint in Belltown, was indeed a treat. We started off with a simple, sparkling drink – the Bosc Pear Spritz. Refreshing and light, this cocktail got the party started!

Before the main course, we happily slurped down a bowl of Chef Stowell’s  Sunchoke and Pear Soup, which he shared with us back in 2006 (recipe here). Instead of a sprinkling of chanterelle mushrooms and bacon, the bowls were set before us with a plump scallop sitting smack in the center, topped with fried sage leaves. Blissful.

Chef Stowell’s passion for creating harmonious dishes out of simple, seasonal ingredients shone through in every dish we tasted. But don’t just take my word for it. See why Chef Stowell loves ingredients (like USA Pears) here:

The next afternoon, we ventured down to Pike Place Market to serve USA Pears with a few delicious samplings from Beecher’s Cheese. Their Extra-Aged Flagship Cheddar was delicious with our slices of Red Anjou. Again, don’t listen to me! Listen to them:

All in all, we had a wonderful tour! We made new friends, reconnected with existing pear fans, and spread the word that the time is ripe for pears!

 

The Time is Ripe for Pears: Portland

Last week, we brought The Time is Ripe for Pears tour to our hometown, Portland! On Thursday, we were treated to an amazing luncheon at Castagna, where the food looked more like art. Take the starter, for example. We were presented with this of-the-earth ceramic bowl (which I secretly wanted to smuggle home in my purse – after licking it clean, of course).

The bowl contained drops of tangy yogurt, cubed Comice pear, and wisps of fennel. I was excited with this unusual starter, but it wasn’t done yet! Our server placed a box in the center of our table that contained little packets. Pear packets. No joke – they were made of dehydrated pear and filled with granola, and we were told to crumble them over our  yogurt. Gladly!

The meal continued on in a similarly jaw-dropping fashion. One of my favorite courses was this salad, for which you’ll see the recipe here very soon! I would encase this in glass and hang it on the wall of my cube.

Here’s a video of wizard chef Justin Woodward explaining how pears fit into his molecular, seasonal approach to delighting his customers:

The next day, we headed out to our local New Seasons Market, which we love for its friendly staff and amazing range and quality of goods, including, of course, pears. Right now, in the thick of pear season, they had eight varieties for sale!

Lunchtime shoppers loved the pears (and the impromptu ripening education):

We’re in Seattle this week for our last tour stop. If you’re near, join us this Friday between 4 and 6 p.m. at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Pike Place Market – we’ll be sampling three sweet and juicy varieties of USA Pears with expert-selected cheese pairings!

And don’t forget to enter our sweepstakes now! There’s just one week left in the sweeps, and YOU could win fresh pears or a trip for two to enjoy the culinary delights of one of these eight great cities! Click here to join!

The Time is Ripe for Pears: Chicago

From Philadelphia, we headed west to the chilly city of Chicago on our sixth stop in The Time is Ripe for Pears Tour. The city’s trademark wind was in full force, but so was the enthusiasm of local pear fans!

On our first night in Chicago, I was treated to a delicious local delicacy: a pizza pot pie. Yep, that’s right; it’s all the tasty toppings of a pizza—plum tomatoes, peppers, garlic, whole mushrooms, sausage—wrapped up inside a doughy bundle and set inside a dish to bake. When it’s finished, they bring it to your table inside the dish and gently coax it out onto your plate. It’s so good! If you’re ever in the Windy City, check it out: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. And order the Mediterranean Bread!

On Thursday, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the impressively sleek Blackbird Restaurant. Chef David Posey (below) treated us to a meal just as impressive. My favorite course was the Seared Bass with Clams, Glazed Parsnips, and Pears (also below). Luckily for you, I get to share the recipe here!

That evening, we bundled up to head to Pastoral Artisan Cheese in the Loop, where we sampled Bosc, Anjou, and Starkrimson pears along with some complementary cheese choices, courtesy of our friends at Pastoral. The pairings were excellent, but don’t take my word for it! Check out this video to see what these tasters had to say. And note: I’m not the only one who uses, er, cheesy pear puns!

 

They also drew this darling little sign to spread the word. Curious to learn more about which cheeses you should pair with pears? Watch this short video to see what we sampled in Chicago, and click here for more pairing inspearation.

All in all, we had a great trip to Chicago — and we’re very excited for our last two stops here in the Pacific Northwest! If you’re in the area, make sure you visit us! We’ll be here in Portland on Friday and sampling at Beecher’s Cheese in Seattle the following week. More info here.

The Time is Ripe for Pears: Philadelphia

Last week, we visited the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia! (Where I learned that “philadelphia” literally means “brotherly love” in Greek. Duh.) We saw the Liberty Bell, the famous LOVE sign, and lots of beautiful fall colors.

For our first stop, we ventured across the river to neighboring Cherry Hill, New Jersey to share ripe pears with eager shoppers at the local Wegmans grocery store. What a gorgeous place! I’m envious there aren’t any Wegmans stores in my area—I’d be shopping there now. Lots of busy moms—and their savvy kids—were out on this Monday morning. Watch our video to see what they thought of USA Pears!

After that stop, we swung by John’s Roast Pork to sample their famous (and deservedly so) cheesesteaks, answering lots of questions about our T-shirts along the way. Again, we commented that the sandwiches would have been delicious with some sliced pears inside (especially if they were sauteed), but we didn’t have time to pick up a pear before we chowed down.

On Tuesday, we were treated to a delicious pear lunch created by Chef David Katz of Meme Restaurant. We devoured it all, from a pear-fectly purple salad of beets, wine-poached pears, and red cabbage to a delicious olive oil cake topped with pear ice cream. Watch this clip to see behind-the-scenes at Meme!

We’ll be sharing Chef Katz’s delicious flatbread recipe soon! And remember, only four weeks remain in The Time is Ripe for Pears sweepstakes! Don’t forget to enter if you haven’t already – and share the pear love with friends and family! Click here for more info.

The Time is Ripe for Pears: Miami

On our all-too-short tour stop in sunny Miami, we enjoyed friendly people, lots of great food, and of course, the sunshine! We dropped in at the Whole Foods Market in Coral Gables to sample ripe Bartlett, Starkrimson, and Bosc pears. Watch this fun video to see what our fans had to say about our pears:

In the evening, we went to Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in the design district for a decadent spread: four courses of pear desserts! We were on a sugar high for hours. And it wasn’t an ordinary sugar kick – we were treated to dishes by renowned pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith, a fellow pear fanatic. Watch this video to learn how she uses pears in her dishes:

 

Hedy also shared the recipe for her Pear Panini with Membrillo and Manchego.

Inspired by Spain, this lavish dessert had the perfect balance of salty and sweet, with fleur de sel sprinkled over the fruity quince spread and sliced pears. Visit the Michael’s Genuine blog to get the recipe.

 

Before leaving Miami, I took a quick walk on the beach to soak up some sun. Here’s the gorgeous view from my hotel room!

Don’t forget to enter our Facebook sweepstakes—one lucky winner could be walking the same beach and enjoying delicious pear delicacies, too!

We’re halfway through our tour already, but we still have four great cities to visit. If you live in or near Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, or Portland, join us at an upcoming event to taste ripe pears and enter to win dinner for two!