Dark Chocolate Dipped Pears

Valentine pears dipped in chocolate and topped with fun toppingsMove over strawberries—chocolate dipped pears are a fresh twist on this decadent Valentine’s Day treat. Rich dark chocolate pairs perfectly with Red Anjou pears, which just so happen to be heart-check certified by the American Heart Association. (Happy National Heart Month!) Decorate your dipped pears with a variety of creative options for sprinkling, like nuts, coconut flakes, and even vivid red chile powder for a kick. With this thoughtful homemade gift, your Valentine will definitely be yours!

Makes 32

2 USA Red Anjou pears (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon Fruit-Fresh® Produce Protector
8 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped

Options for Sprinkling:
Finely chopped pistachios or other nuts
Flaky sea salt
Shredded coconut
Chile powder
Curry powder
Sesame seeds
Chopped colorful dried fruit, such as apricots, cranberries, or goji berries

Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

Halve, core, and stem the pears and cut each one into 16 wedges. Sprinkle with the Fruit-Fresh and toss the pears gently to coat evenly. (This will prevent the cut pears from browning for several hours.) Arrange the pears on the prepared baking sheet and place it next to the stove.

Place the chocolate in a medium stainless-steel bowl and set the bowl over the pan of simmering water. (Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.) Once the chocolate begins to melt, stir until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes. Remove the chocolate from the heat.

Immediately begin dipping the wide ends of the pears in the chocolate, coating about half the length. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl and place the dipped pears on the wax paper. Working quickly before the chocolate dries, sprinkle with your choice of the optional garnishes. Refrigerate, uncovered to allow the chocolate to set, about 1 hour.

Once set, cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep the pears in the refrigerator until served. Enjoy them within the day.

Chocolate Pears 3

Why Alternative Protein Like Cricket Flours May Work for You

What do you do when you can’t eat 90% of the foods you used to enjoy? You start from scratch and that’s not such a bad thing.

Charles B. Wilson – Founder & CEO of CricketFlours.com

Many of us have shared that same feeling when we look around the kitchen and think, “There is nothing to eat in here!” However, in reality there many delicious recipes that could be made with ingredients at hand but sometimes we lack the inspiration or motivation. However, a little while ago I found myself along that same line of thinking but there was actually nothing that I could eat – literally nothing.

I confess, I have a vested interest in this topic, as I’m the founder of Cricket Flours. But let me tell you a little about my experience and why it led me to create this company. A few of you may be squeamish about the flour, and I totally understand! I’ve found it to work well with my many food allergies, but it’s not for everyone.

Here’s my story: Growing up my family had a couple of different food allergies and dietary restrictions, but I never really had any of those same issues myself. However after I started getting sick and not feeling like myself, I decided to undergo food allergy tests with my doctor. I never knew those tests would lead to a restrictive diet that removed over 60+ different foods from my diet. It is easy to remove foods that you don’t like or perhaps ones that you know you shouldn’t eat. But removing ingredients such as black pepper, shrimp, wheat, cocoa, coconut, and many others, it really made it difficult when you can’t eat 90% of the foods I used to enjoy.

tea-cakesRecipe idea: Pear and Cricket Financiers – A new twist on the classic almond tea cake with brown butter and all purpose cricket flour. Super easy and elegant to make. After I received those test results, I had to rebuild my diet from scratch. Baking flours I used to use growing up were now off the table. Even protein powders I used to love after a workout were gone. It was on this journey to find new foods and ingredients that worked with my new diet that I came across a new ingredient: cricket flour. I was searching for alternative flours and protein powders that could work, and found a few articles talking edible insects that are used by cultures around the world. Not only are insects sustainable, but also I could use them in my baking recipes or even in my protein shakes for a boost of protein and nutrition. I found that cricket flour worked great in a lot of our family’s recipes because it adds a slightly nutty or even a hint of cocoa to baked goods and is naturally gluten free.

brownies-3Recipe idea: Chocolate Decadence Cake with Pear Compote – A fudgy, flourless chocolate cake made with cricket powder and with pear ginger compote. When we use cricket flour in our baking recipes we can add a few tablespoons to our normal recipes, or add up to 1 part cricket powder to 4 parts normal baking flour. In shakes/smoothies 2 tablespoons adds 10g of protein along with calcium, iron, and even B12 for energy. We found it was great way to get the protein and nutrition again in our favorite recipes. So starting from scratch in our kitchen definitely hasn’t been easy, but it did get easier when we found alternative ingredients like cricket flour. So we put together these great recipes for you to try using cricket flour in new ways. Enjoy!

smoothie-2Recipe idea: Tropical Pear Juice Boost – Delicious pears, pineapple and mangoes get a boost of protein from cricket powder in this refreshing juice drink.

Check out other interesting alternative protein recipes!

USA Pears does not endorse the views in this blog, 
only those produced by the USA Pears

Love Your Heart!

heart-shaped pear

For centuries, the heart was thought to be the center of all thought processes and, therefore, responsible for emotions – particularly love. If you’ve ever been in love and felt your heart pound at the mere sight of your sweetheart, this makes sense! Although we now know that the heart does not control emotion, you should still love your heart. The heart is the epicenter of the body’s transportation system; through muscular contraction and relaxation it pumps blood through every single tissue to nourish and remove waste products. When the heart or blood vessels are damaged, such as from stress, inactivity, or a poor diet, there is an increased risk for hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and more. Researchers, again and again, suggest a diet high in plant foods – whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and plant oils, particularly olive oil or canola oil – may reduce risk for coronary artery disease and stroke. [1]

This Valentine’s Day, do something good for your heart! Aside from the benefits of phytonutrients, heart-healthy antioxidants in plant foods, pears are also an excellent source of fiber that may help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce risk for heart disease. [2,3] One of my favorite, easy treats is chocolate covered fruit – yes, dark chocolate also contains phytonutrients!

  1. Prepare your favorite chocolate by melting over a double boiler or heating slowly in a microwave. Stir often and keep an eye on it!
  2. Slice pears into eighths, dredge in a mixture of 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts water, and pat dry.
  3. Dip pear wedges halfway into chocolate, and place on wax or parchment paper to set.
  4. After approximately 10 minutes, you have a delicious treat.

Love your heart!

[1] American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/544S.full

[2] American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Seasonal-Produce—Spring-and-Summer_UCM_441181_Article.jsp

[3] American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp

National Chocolate Cake Day

It’s National Chocolate Cake Day! What are you waiting for?!

If you haven’t yet celebrated, don’t worry. I’ve dug up three delectable chocolate cakes that just so happen to include the lovely, complementary, ever-so-sweet pear. Get to baking!

First up, Smitten Kitchen’s rustic Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake. You know you want to dig into that.

Next, we have an Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake from the cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More. (This cookbook is delightful—we gave away a copy last year in an e-newsletter contest!)

And behind door number three, the symmetrical, gluten-free Flourless Chocolate and Pear Cake at BBC Good Food. The measurements are metric, since it’s a British recipe, but you can find some help with that online.

So, celebrate! Today you can have your cake and eat it, too!

Have a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day!

love1

I look forward to Valentine’s Day every year. It’s a day to celebrate love of family, friends, and chocolate! As a dietitian, I get many questions about the health benefits of chocolate. Is it true? Well, it is no coincidence that the American Heart Association chose February as American Heart Month. Well, maybe that’s because of Valentine’s Day, but the science is true. As part of an overall nutritious and physically active lifestyle, chocolate has a place!

chocolate-and-pearsSpecifically, cocoa contains agents protective against high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. These benefits are from flavonoids, a type of antioxidant; antioxidants have been shown to protect cardiovascular tissue by neutralizing the damaging effects of free radicals. Like fruits and vegetables, cocoa is a plant food. However, how chocolate is manufactured tends to make it less than healthful. In other words, processing and added fat and other ingredients increase fat and calories while limiting cocoa’s antioxidant properties.

red-anjou-cupidHowever, a moderate portion of dark chocolate is a fairly healthy option, because dark chocolate contains more cocoa and fewer added ingredients. To get a heart-healthy benefit this Valentine’s Day, try dipping or drizzling melted chocolate over your favorite fruit! For instance, pears are full of nutrients, fiber, and water, and will help you fill up faster (and limit going overboard on sweet treats!). Either creamy or crisp pears are delicious paired with dark chocolate. Try this easy and tantalizing recipe: Halve and core pears, grill until tender, and then drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Not only will you and your sweetie find this dessert delicious, but it’s also nutritious!

Countdown to Halloween: (#1) Candied Pear Mayem

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I got this beautiful cardboard stand at Michael’s Craft Store, and I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart is going to call any minute now to personally congratulate me on this work of art.  We added some new candied pears to our collection, and I’m pleased to bring you the chocolate covered pear rolled in toffee:

chocolate-with-almond-roca1

 We also experimented with sprinkles:

sprinkles3

 

And then we sort of lost our minds, as evidenced by this crazy pear and the overall state of our workspace:

img_3151 

All in all, it was a great time and we learned that pears make an excellent candied party offering for kids and adults.  Happy Halloween from USA Pears!

 

Countdown to Halloween: (#2) The Candied Ginger Chocolate Covered Pear

The Candied Ginger Chocolate Pear

The Candied Ginger Chocolate Pear

Who says you have to stick to sticking boring sprinkles and generic nuts on your chocolate covered pears?  Why not branch out and use your imagination?  It’s not like you have to enter them in the county fair and risk getting a white ribbon and an embarassing comment card from the judge, right?
 
Visit the recipe section of the USA Pears website and you’ll see where the inspiration for this little gem came from.  What can I say, the spiciness of ginger and the sweet, fresh, pure taste of pears mingle well together.  In fact, I’ve heard ginger referred to as the pear’s most complementary flavor.
 
To make this little treat, just mince a few pieces of candied ginger (usually found in grocery stores in the dried fruit section) and sprinkle it over your chocolate covered pear while it’s still hot and sticky.  You definitely want to sprinkle/ carefully place the minced ginger on the chocolate covered pear as opposed to trying to roll it.  Poor Alexa found that out the hard way :(  By the way, a big thanks to my friends Alexa and Jodi for helping me make and photograph these candied pears! 
 

Countdown to Halloween: (#5) The White Chocolate Candied Pear

White Chocolate Candied Pear

White Chocolate Candied Pear

I’ve decided to enlist the help of my poor, unsuspecting friends to make and post a photo of a different candied pear each day this week to celebrate Halloween.  We’re planning to use Forelle pears each day because they are small, beautiful, and well, we have a whole 22 pound box of them!  Seriously though, if I were throwing a party for kids and wanted to make candied pears I would use Forelle’s.  They are small and sweet enough on their own that you don’t even need to use a lot of sugary coating!

For this white chocolate candied pear, we simply melted white chocolate morsels in a bowl in the microwave, and dipped the pears in about half way.  You can get popsicle sticks at any craft store, and then get cute ribbon for the bow.  Sweet.  Simple.  Delicious.  Check back tomorrow for another lovely candied pear!

Delicious Pear Nachtisch (Dessert!) from Germany

With fall in full swing, the crisp autumn air makes evenings the perfect time to cozy up next to the fire and enjoy a delectable dessert.  To add an international flavor, try one of these decadent recipes from Germany.  Use the German names of each dish to expand your vocabulary and impress friends and family!

Steamed White Wine Amaretto Pear with Espresso Chocolate Sauceamarettobirnen_1-sized1
Amaretto Birnen

Ingredients for 4 servings:
450 ml white wine (2 cups)
50 ml Amaretto (1/4 cup)
1 slice organic orange peel
4 USA Anjou pears
1 cinnamon stick
250 ml milk (1 cup)
1 small bag (2 g) espresso instant powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch of salt
150 g dark chocolate

Preparation:

  1. Boil up white wine with Amaretto and orange peel. Peal pears and remove stem. Use a kitchen knife to carefully cut out a small wedge-shaped piece of pear at the pear’s neck and then make a hole at the top of the pear with a skewer. Briefly soak the cinnamon stick in water to make it easier to chop. Cut the cinnamon stick into four pieces. Stick a piece of cinnamon into every pear in the hole that you made at the top. Add pears to the white wine stock and steam for 6-8 minutes. Let cool down in stock.
  2. Boil up milk with espresso powder, sugar and salt. Chop chocolate and dissolve in milk. Let chocolate sauce cool down to lukewarm.
  3. Remove pears from stock and serve them with espresso chocolate sauce.

Preparation time approx.  20 minutes + cooling time

Tip: Use stock for pear compote.

karamellisierte_birnen_1-sized1Caramelized Pears
Karamellisierte Birnen

Ingredients for 4 servings
4 USA Anjou pears
50 g sugar (1 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
50 g walnuts
30 g dried cranberries
Mint to garnish

 

 

Preparation:

  1. Halve pears and remove core. Peel pears.
  2. Allow sugar to caramelize until golden brown. Add pears and briefly fold into caramel. Add lemon juice and maple syrup and allow the caramel to detach. While turning, cook pears in caramel for approx. 5 minutes.
  3. Chop walnuts, roast and mix them with cranberries. Arrange pear halves with caramel syrup and dredge with walnut-cranberry-mixture. Serve garnished with mint.

Preparation time approx. 20 minutes

Tip: Serve with vanilla sauce or ice cream as desired.

Köstlich (delicious)!  Visit the recipe section of our website and peruse our Seasonal Pear Menu for more delicious pear dishes!

Pearing Up with Good Day Oregon

The Good Day Oregon Van in front of Foster and Dobbs

andy-and-cameraman1

On February 4, Andy Carson hung out with us at Portland specialty cheese and wine shop Foster and Dobbs, and showed thousands of viewers a few of the marvelous things pears pair well with. Beginning at 4:30 a.m. (eek!), pears were featured on Fox 12’s Good Day Oregon. Here’s a recap of some of mouth-watering pairings created by Foster and Dobbs’ own Luan Schooler:

bosc-and-blue-cheeseBosc Pears + Rogue River Blue Cheese

If you’re a blue cheese lover and this is the first time you’re learning of Rogue River Blue…you’re welcome. Each exquisite wheel is hand wrapped in grape leaves that have been bathed in, drum roll please, pear brandy. This cheese tasted incredible with the sweetness and subtle spice of Bosc pears, even at 4:30 in the morning!

luan-making-fondueRed and Green Anjou + Swiss and Gruyere Fondue

Here’s a shot of Luan whipping up some fondue. She used Swiss Emmental and Appenzeller Gruyere, and added Clear Creek Distillery Pear Brandy (notice a pattern with the pear brandy?), Erath Pinot Gris, lemon juice, and nutmeg. I’m no stranger to fondue, and this was by far the best fondue I’ve ever tasted. I hope this wasn’t a top secret recipe, Luan!

goat-cheeseGreen Anjou + Cypress Grove Fromage Blanc

Folks, amongst all of this deliciousness, this was my favorite pairing of the day. Cypress Grove Fromage Blanc is every bit as fresh and creamy as the company’s website suggests, and this goat cheese went PEARfectly with a nice, ripe Green Anjou pear.

There were many pairings that fateful morning, but the last one I’ll share with you involves chocolate. Normally I tend to shy away from chocolate sauces that involve any sort of alcohol. I’m not really sure why, but it may have had something to do with too much liqueur chocolates at some point in my early adulthood. Anyway, this pairing changed all of that for me. Luan fed us a dark chocolate Cognac sauce by Robert Lambert, who is an award winning cookbook author and chef, paired with a crisp Bosc pear. Microwave this sauce for 10-15 seconds and serve with any variety of pears and you’ll be the hit of any party. Granted, I have only used this sauce at parties in which I am the host and only attendee, but I stand by my “hit of any party” statement and firmly believe it will work in traditional party-like situations in which there is more than one guest in attendance. Try it for yourself and find out!