Befriend the Forelle

Next up in the National Pear Month lineup: the fun, freckled Forelle!

Forelle USA pear

Forelle means “trout” in German, and you can see where this variety gets its name—it’s easily spotted by its spots! Smaller than the average pear, the Forelle has a crisp texture and a slightly tangy flavor.

The Forelle shines in a classic salad, like this Pear and Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese, Gouda, and Walnuts.

Pear Watercress SaladLooking for something more upscale? Put pears on your holiday menu along with some seasonal seafood, like this King Crab with Pear Tabbouleh Salad.

kingcrab_FS banner

Polish it all off with these adorable little bundled Forelle Pears Baked in Pastry. They’re like mini pies, but with twice the filling.

forelles baked in pastry

If you need ripe Forelle pears for your recipes or a quick snack, just check the neck. If your pear gives to gentle pressure near the neck, it’s ripe and sweet! Store your Forelle pears in the refrigerator if you need to slow ripening.

Don’t forget to check out our Instagram account this week—we’re running a contest for the first ten days of December! Tell us your #PearfectPairing and you could win a box of fresh pears delivered straight to your doorstep!

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.

Ingredients
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
Salad
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

Directions
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

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

The Perfect Poach

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December is National Pear Month and the holiday season… This is the perfect recipe for poaching pears! So, how do you poach the perfect pear? Easy, it’s science! Osmosis is the movement of water across a membrane, or in this case, the pear’s cell wall. Poaching uses a minimal amount of water to simmer at a low temperature to optimize texture and flavor: The fruit will soften due to an increase in movement of the poaching liquid into the flesh of the fruit; thus, the flavor of the poaching liquid is infused into the fruit! Ideally, the poaching fluid is about 2 parts liquid (water, wine, acid) to 1 part sugar/spices. Poaching creates a tender mouthfeel by breaking down the plant cell wall and allowing the poaching liquid to enter and leave its essence. Yum!

To poach the perfect pear:
Choose a pear with a slightly firmer texture, such as a Bosc or Seckel.
Peel if desired, then either leave whole or cut in half and core.
Fill a stainless steel pan with the poaching liquid. (Hint: sugar solutions help maintain fruit texture!)
Flavor the liquid with spices or herbs.
Ensure the pears stay submerged and simmer until the fruit pierces easily with a fork or knife.
Remove the pears and serve! Dispose of the liquid or simmer until desired consistency for serving.

Happy National Pear Month and happy holidays!

Savory-and-Sweet Pear, Ham, and Gruyere Strata

strata

This delicious savory-and-sweet strata is the ideal recipe for this holiday season. It’s so versatile that it can act as the main course or a side dish for any meal—breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Ham, gruyere cheese, and fresh thyme add a rich, savory element, and pears and real maple syrup add a subtle sweetness that creates the perfect balance. Put this together the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning for an easy but elegant brunch to feed the whole family.

Ingredients
Butter for greasing pan
2 ½ cups half and half
6 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest (from about half an orange)
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
10 loose cups good-quality, artisan bread, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes (from one small loaf)
⅓ pound best quality ham, thinly sliced
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Red or Green Bartlett, cut into large cubes
1 cup (loose) grated gruyere cheese (vintage sharp cheddar would be great, too)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking dish or large casserole. In a large bowl combine the half and half, eggs, salt, orange zest, thyme, and maple syrup and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the bread cubes (be sure not to use more than 10 cups or the strata will be too dry) and toss to combine. Next, add the ham (tearing into smaller pieces if necessary), the pears, and about half of the cheese. Toss once again to evenly distribute the ingredients. Transfer the mixture and all of its liquid to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese (at this point the strata may be covered and refrigerated overnight). Bake the strata for 45-50 minutes, or until nicely browned and very hot in the middle. If baking the strata directly from the refrigerator, add 15-20 minutes to its cooking time, covering it loosely with foil for the additional time to prevent over-browning.

prep time: 20 minutes plus baking
yield: 6 – 8 servings

Pear-Infused Vodka and Chai Cocktail

cocktail

Here is an elegant and delicious cocktail for you to enjoy this holiday season. You’ll need to infuse the vodka at least 10 days in advance, so be sure to grab some pears on your next trip to the grocery store! I recommend buying a mix of colorful pears for this recipe – the skins will turn your vodka a lovely honey-rose color as the flavor infuses. Then make a simple syrup with chai tea and shake up this sweet-and-spicy cocktail.

If you find cocktails like this too strong for your liking, try dividing a single recipe between 3 or 4 champagne flutes and topping with a dry, sparkling wine. You’ll get all the wonderful flavor with much less alcohol. Cheers!

Ingredients
Pear-Infused Vodka
5 firm ripe USA pears, such as Starkrimson, Green or Red Bartlett, Comice, or Anjou
1 bottle of vodka (750 milliliters)
Chai Simple Syrup
1 cup water
2 chai teabags (choose your favorite chai tea)
1 cup white sugar
Cocktail
2 oz. pear-infused vodka
1 tablespoon chai simple syrup
2 ice cubes
Cinnamon stick for garnish

Directions
infusionFor the vodka: Gently wash the pears under cool water and remove any stickers. Quarter and core the pears and place them into a half gallon glass jar (or divide between 2 quart-sized canning jars). Pour the bottle of vodka over the pears, seal, and set aside to infuse. Allow the pears to infuse the vodka for a minimum of 10 days or up to 3 weeks. To strain, place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and pour the pears and vodka over the sieve, pressing gently on the pears with a wooden spoon to release all of the liquid. Store the vodka in a clean glass jar.
For the simple syrup: Place the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the teabags and steep 5 minutes to infuse. Remove the teabags and add the sugar, turning the heat back on to low. Stir until sugar dissolves. Cool the simple syrup and store in a jar in the refrigerator.
For the cocktail: Place the vodka, simple syrup, and ice in a cocktail shaker, cover, and shake vigorously for 10 – 15 seconds. Strain the liquid into an appropriate cocktail glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

prep time: 25 minutes total (plus infusion time)
yield: 12 cocktails

ThanksCraving

cornucopiaWe have so much for which to be thankful! One thing I’m not thankful for is a week full of binging on foods that make me feel sluggish, grumpy and guilty. So how can we change our minds around Thanksgiving? By rethinking the craving to overeat.

My family is coming to my house for Thanksgiving this year, and I plan to pour my heart into every second with them. Of course, the crescendo will end in the Thanksgiving meal, which will feature a beautifully seasoned turkey, pear and chestnut stuffing, cranberry persimmon sauce, green beans amandine, rosemary focaccia, and of course, delectable pumpkin pie tartlets. Instead of encouraging moderation at the Thanksgiving meal, why not splurge? If we can keep our urge to overeat to one meal, and one meal only, perhaps the craving to splurge will be blunted. The brain triggers cravings in response to emotions, from pleasure to anxiety. Indeed, a classic study from the journal Appetite found that 97% of women and 68% of men reported experiencing cravings.1 But will avoiding cravings or finding a substitute make them go away? Not likely. Research suggests that resisting cravings can actually cause us to eat more – until we develop new patterns to avoid habitual cravings. So what’s the best way to manage cravings? Keep it to the actual meal itself – focus on enjoying your Thanksgiving meal, and get back to smart choices and portions on Friday. Happy Thanksgiving!

1Weingarten, H. P., & Elston, D. (1991). Food cravings in a college population. Appetite, 17, 167-175.

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!

Happy New Year!

RBP9037046 Woman with PearAfter the fireworks and dancing of New Year’s Eve, what do we have on January 1? A resolution that most of us fail to achieve. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45% of Americans make resolutions, but only 8% are successful in achieving their goals. Not surprisingly, in an adult nation that is 69.2% overweight or obese, weight loss is the most common resolution. Although statistics suggest the likelihood of accomplishing a resolution is slim, if you want to achieve your goal, start small, be realistic, and be specific. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to meet their goals!

Start by writing a plan week by week or month by month. For instance, instead of planning to exercise 5 times per week, plan for 3 times per week. Making realistic goals keeps us from feeling guilt and disappointment. Try one of these tips for a quick, attainable plan. Cut out soda or a sugary snack every day for one month (likely, you won’t add it back in!). Next month, add one more serving of fruit or veggies each day. Add exercise in small amounts – add a walk every other day, or add ten minutes of activity to each day. You’ll feel better, look better, and are more likely to make a different resolution next year. Good luck and happy New Year!

Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 12/13/2013

Pear and Quinoa Breakfast Custard

custard 2

The holidays are my favorite time of year for making big family breakfasts. Extra days off means extra time for cozying up with a good book while a satisfying breakfast dish bakes away in the oven. My creamy Pear and Quinoa Custard couldn’t be more perfect for the season. The silky vanilla and orange-scented custard together with the earthy quinoa and soft, ripe pears makes this breakfast both wholesome and satisfying. The sooner you get to cooking, the sooner the aroma of pears, vanilla, and sweet custard will fill your kitchen!

Ingredients
2 ounces dried pears (about 5 pear halves)
1 cup dried quinoa (yields 2 ¼ cups cooked quinoa)
1 ½ cups water
1 ¾ cups half and half
3 eggs
⅔ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest (from about half an orange)
¼ teaspoons salt
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Comice or Bartlett, large dice

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the dried pears in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside to cool. Place 1½ cups water in a saucepan with a lid over high heat. Rinse the quinoa under cold, running water in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Once that water boils, add the washed quinoa to the pot and stir to combine. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low, cooking the quinoa just until al dente, 9-12 minutes. Drain any remaining water from the quinoa and set aside to cool slightly.

Prepare the custard by mixing the half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange zest, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the ingredients together vigorously until well combined. Remove the dried pears from the water and chop into small pieces. Add the quinoa, the dried pear, and the fresh pear chunks to the custard and stir gently to combine.

custard 1

Carefully pour the custard into an 8-inch round casserole dish. Create a water bath by placing the casserole dish inside of another larger baking dish and pouring boiling water into the large dish until it comes about halfway up the sides of the smaller dish. This will help insulate the custard and protect it from overcooking.

Slide the dishes into the oven and bake for 60-75 minutes or until the custard is just set in the middle. You don’t want to overcook custard, so I recommend checking on it after 45 minutes and then every 10 minutes thereafter just to be safe. You’ll know when it’s done because it will still jiggle in the middle, but it will no longer be watery.

Allow the custard to cool for at least 10 minutes and serve hot or still warm. This delicious custard would be perfect on a plate alongside crispy, thick-cut bacon and some additional fresh pear slices.