Crunchy Vegetable and Pear Salad

crunchy saladDid you know that many varieties of USA Pears are delicious when not yet ripe? Red and Green Anjou Pears are a perfect example. Though they might not seem ready to eat, they are already full of juicy pear flavor with a great, lightly crunchy texture. That makes unripe Anjous the perfect addition to salads and slaws.

This tasty salad is full of crisp, colorful vegetables and sweet Red Anjou Pears. Toss it with my almond butter-based dressing (sweetened with dates instead of refined sugar), and enjoy it as a quick lunch or an easy dinner side.

Crunchy Vegetable and Pear Salad

Ingredients
For the Almond Butter – Date Dressing:
3 tablespoons unsalted almond butter
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
½ cup water
½ teaspoon sea salt

Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Set the dressing aside until ready to use.

Ingredients
For the Salad:
4 packed cups chopped cabbage (red and/or green)
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced thinly on a diagonal
1 bunch watercress
2 firm USA Pears, such as Red Anjou, thinly sliced
¼ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients except for the almonds. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the almonds over the top and serve.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 – 6 servings

The Two Diet Changes to Make in 2016

When it comes to personal meal goals, it’s important to focus on making changes that will make an impact, but aren’t unrealistic or overwhelming. So, we’ve put together our top two big-impact changes. These are changes that studies have shown will help you stay at a healthy weight, prevent disease and have more energy!

1. Keep track of the colors on your plate: Mind your fruits and veggies and aim to get 1 1/2 – 2 cups of fruit and at least 2 1/2 – 3 cups of veggies each day. For more information about exactly how much you should be eating based on your age and activity level, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov. Research shows that getting enough colorful produce can help keep weight off and ward off nasty diseases like cancer and heart disease. This is why the new 2015 – 2020 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans continues to recommend eating a variety of fruits (specifically whole fruits) as one of the keys to a healthy diet.

One way to help you meet your goals is to set a general guide for when you will have your fruits and veggies each day. For instance, many people find that having 1 cup of fruit at breakfast and 1/2 cup with a snack or after dinner works well. 1 cup of fruit is equivalent to one medium whole piece of fruit, such as a medium pear, or 1 cup of pear slices. For a fast snack on-the-go, we love to pair (pun intended!) a pear with 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds (or 14 whole almonds).

As for veggies, a great way to divide the servings up is to eat at least 1/2 cup with breakfast or a snack, 1 cup with lunch and 1 1/2 cups with dinner. In the winter, it’s great to include veggie based soups with lunches and dinners to make it extra easy to get your servings in. And don’t forget salsa and tomato sauce, which also count as veggies. Click here for a downloadable pdf that makes tracking colors each day a fun challenge for kids and adults alike.

Inspired? Try this crunchy and delicious Watercress Pear Slaw. Watercress Pear Slaw

2. Make the switch to unrefined carbohydrates: Many fad diets make carbs out to be the enemy – but not all carbs are bad! Refined sources of carbohydrates, such as those made from white flour (white bread products)), white rice, and those with added sugars (cookies, cakes, soda, sweetened cereals, etc.) are quickly digested and don’t offer much staying power. Plus, they can contribute to weight gain and elevated triglycerides. Think of these carbs as treats–– you can still have in small amounts, but not as the main part of a meal.

Less refined carbs, which include whole grains (rolled or steel-cut oats, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, 100% whole grain pasta), whole fruits (like pears!), starchy vegetables (winter squash, peas, and corn), and beans and legumes (black beans, lentils, etc.), contain more nutrients, particularly fiber and protein. These carbs keep you feeling satisfied and your blood sugar and energy level at a more even keel.

Inspired? Try starting the day with this refreshing and satisfying Pear Oatmeal and Blueberry Smoothie!pear-oatmeal-blueberry-breakfast-smoothie-sm

If you make these two changes you will notice a huge difference in the way that you feel within days! Have a healthy and happy new year!

Six Simple Habits for the New Year

Woman Texting In Kitchen

A new year brings many things, a fresh start, a year of possibilities, and broken resolutions… We often set lofty goals and envision working out every day looking cute in our gym outfits, not the sweaty messes we really are. Visions are easy, reality is usually harder. Picking a healthy habit to work toward, rather than a resolution, might be simpler and more realistic. Give it a shot!

1. Make a plan. Whether you want to exercise more or lose fifty pounds, have a plan in place. Make it simple, such as walking 20 minutes twice a week or prepping meals on Sundays. Simple is easier to stick to and gives your schedule more flexibility.

2. Add a fruit or veggie. It’s not news that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 13% of Americans eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 9% eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables. Keep it simple: pick up a pear or some baby carrots to munch between meals.

3. Move more. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested inactivity may impact health more than obesity! But you don’t have to run a marathon, or run at all, to be active. If you don’t currently exercise, work steps into your day or walk 30 minutes each week. If you’re already active, add one more workout each week. Small steps lead to big changes.

4. Don’t like exercise? Grab a buddy! Working out with someone may increase motivation; it may even improve intensity or performance. I have a gym buddy: We motivate each other to exercise and have much more fun doing it. For someone who used to be obese and hated exercise, I actually look forward to our work outs now!

5. Dust off your knives and cook a little. You don’t have to win Chopped to get a little creative in the kitchen. Plus, cooking with friends or family may improve dietary quality and enjoyment of meals. And if you’re preparing food at home you’re less likely to grab take out, right?

6. Finally, get back up again. Everyone has fallen short of goals or fallen off the wagon – sometimes many times. Life isn’t suddenly better when you reach the top, so stop beating yourself up. Get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back on that wagon. Happy New Year!

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

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions
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

Pear, Fig, and Salami Salad

pear fig salami salad

This salad of pears, figs, greens, salami, and cheese is full of subtle flavors that celebrate transition from summer to fall in the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy it with simple pork chops cooked on the grill or a lovely fillet of roasted salmon.

Ingredients
Dressing
¼ cup fresh orange juice (from about half an orange)
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon toasted almond oil
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salad
4 cups baby arugula, packed
2 heads Belgian endive, halved lengthwise and sliced into ½ inch strips
10 – 12 fresh figs, halved or quartered
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Red Bartlett or Starkrimson, sliced
3 oz. mild salami, cut into ¼ inch cubes (or salami slices, cut into strips)
¼ cup ricotta salata cheese, crumbled

Directions
For the dressing: Combine the first four ingredients in a blender. Combine both the oils in a measuring cup and with the blender running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify the dressing. Set aside until ready to use.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine the arugula and sliced endive and toss with about ⅔ of the dressing. Transfer the greens to a platter and place the figs and pears decoratively on and around the greens. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the fruit. Top the salad with the salami, followed by the crumbled cheese.

prep time: 20 minutes
yield: 4 – 6 servings

Autumn Concorde Pear Salad

Concorde Pear Salad

This salad, created by Chef Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant in Boston, spotlights the distinct vanilla flavor in Concorde pears against savory fennel and celery root to refresh the tried-and-true combo of greens, nuts, and cheese.

Ingredients
Vinaigrette
¼ cup moscato vinegar or champagne vinegar
1-½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ shallot, finely minced
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salad
2 Concorde USA Pears, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
½ small celery root, peeled, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 head endive, halved, then cut in ¼-inch thick slices on bias
1 cup watercress
¼ cup blue cheese
¼ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions
Whisk the vinegar, mustard and shallot together. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Gently toss the sliced celery root and fennel with the endive. Add the sliced pears and watercress and gently toss again, to evenly distribute the ingredients. Crumble the blue cheese over the top, add the walnuts and ¼ cup of vinaigrette and toss gently to coat all of the ingredients.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide between 6–8 plates and serve immediately.

yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

Kale and Pear Salad with Lime-Yogurt Dressing

kale and pear salad with lime-yogurt dressing

I’ve been dreaming about how I could create a kale and pear salad for some time now, and I think I’ve come up with the perfect combination. If you’ve yet to find a kale salad you love, try making this one, which calls for baby kale, the young, tender leaves of the plant. Toss the baby kale with sweet, ripe pears and my lime yogurt dressing, and then add texture and color with freeze-dried corn, salty pumpkin seeds, crumbled cotija cheese, and the bright pop of pomegranate seeds. If you find fresh pomegranates are unavailable, use freeze-dried seeds – you can often find a small section with a variety of freeze-dried fruits and veggies at a natural foods store. Store them in your pantry, and you’ll be enjoying this salad all summer long!

Ingredients
Dressing
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
⅓ cup grapeseed oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Salad
5 ounces baby kale
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Bartlett, Red Anjou, or Green Anjou
⅓ cup freeze-dried corn
⅓ cup pumpkin seeds (without hulls)
⅓ cup crumbled cotija cheese
¼ cup pomegranate seeds

Directions
For the dressing: Place all ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.
For the salad: Set aside about half of the cotija cheese and the pomegranate seeds for garnish. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently with about ⅔ of the dressing. Reserve the remaining dressing for drizzling on the salad, if desired. Sprinkle the tossed salad with the crumbled cheese and the pomegranate seeds and serve.

Chicken Salad with Pears, Bacon, and Avocado

chicken salad final

Spring is here, and I’m so relieved! By the end of winter I always feel utterly empty when it comes to cooking ideas, but show me a few blooming flowers and some 60-degree temperatures and new thoughts come flooding in.

I’m so grateful that we can get pears nearly year-round, and USA-grown Anjou pears are not only easy to find, they have a super juicy and bright flavor that is perfect for spring recipes. My new recipe is inspired by spring and is full of beautiful shades of green – sweet Anjou pears, crisp endive leaves, creamy, ripe avocado, and crunchy chopped pistachios.

This recipe will serve you well for many spring occasions. It would be a perfect addition to an Easter or Mother’s Day brunch, or make a lovely appetizer for a baby or bridal shower. Use store-bought rotisserie chicken and this lovely recipe will come together in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients
2 heads Belgian endive
4 pieces thick-cut bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
1 ½ cups cooked chicken breast, diced
2 firm ripe Anjou USA Pears, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
¼ cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt

Directions
Trim the bases from the endive and separate the leaves. Set aside until ready to use. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, setting aside 1 tablespoon each of the bacon and pistachios for garnish if desired. Gently toss the ingredients together until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the individual endive leaves and arrange on a large platter, leaning the leaves up against one another to steady them. Lastly, sprinkle the remaining bacon and pistachios over the stuffed endive for garnish.

prep time: 30 minutes
yield: about 20 stuffed leaves

Pear and Celery Salad

Pear and Celery Salad heroHere is my modern take on a classic: pears and blue cheese in a salad. There are so many ways to use these two perfectly paired ingredients together, but this recipe combines them to create a side dish with perfect flavor, texture, and richness.

I use crunchy celery as the salad’s base and include the tender inner celery stalks as well as the celery leaves – they have a delicious and light flavor that I adore. Beautiful, ripe pears are tossed in, adding tenderness and a honey-sweet flavor. A simple, light lemon vinaigrette glazes the celery and pears, and finally, the salad is topped with blue cheese crumbles and bits of savory, salty Marcona almonds.

Serve this salad alongside simple roasted chicken or fish and prepare to be delighted.

Ingredients
Dressing
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about one lemon)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup olive oil
Salad
1 bunch of celery, including inner stems and leaves, sliced thinly on a diagonal
2 USA Pears, such as Red Anjou or Starkrimson, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
⅔ cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Directions
For the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Set aside until ready to use.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine the sliced celery and pears with half of the chopped almonds and blue cheese. Add approximately half of the dressing and toss gently to combine. Taste the salad, adding more dressing if desired. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or platter and sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese and almonds.

prep time: 20 minutes
yield: 6 servings