Grilled Stuffed Pears

Pears grilled and stuffed with quinoa and cheeseWhen it comes to summer grilling, pears are often overlooked. But the fact is their hardy texture is ideal for standing up to the intensity of the grill, and as they cook, their delicious flavor is enhanced by the smoky flames. Grilled pears can be prepared in both sweet and savory ways: think grilled pear halves topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert, or sliced grilled pears tossed in a summery salad. Here they are cooked on the grill until just tender and juicy, with a quinoa salad stuffing that evokes flavors of the Mediterranean. Extra-virgin olive oil, Spanish-style chorizo, and fresh mint add a bold, summertime flare, while white balsamic vinegar adds a sweet, fruity tang to complement the flavors found in the grilled pears. Serve these at your next backyard barbecue, for an outside-the-box appetizer or entrée.

Serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as an appetizer

4 USA Anjou pears
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (sometimes labeled “golden” balsamic vinegar)
1/3 cup chopped dry-cured Spanish chorizo
1/4 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled feta
8 cups baby arugula

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan and add 1 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the hot quinoa to coat evenly, then spread it out on a platter to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the chorizo, almonds, scallions, and mint and gently toss to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Prepare a hot fire in a gas or charcoal grill, or preheat a stovetop grill pan until smoking hot. Grease the grill grates with oil.

Meanwhile, cut the pears in half. Using a round metal spoon, such as a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon or a melon baller, remove the core plus a little extra flesh. Rub the pears on all sides with a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt.

Grill the pears on the cut sides until deep grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the pears over and fill them with the quinoa stuffing, piling it on in a big heap in the center of each one. Sprinkle the tops with the feta. Close the grill lid and continue grilling until the pears are tender when pierced with a fork and the feta topping is lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. If they seem to be cooking too quickly on the bottom before they become tender within, simply move them to a cooler part of the grill and continue grill roasting, with the lid closed, until they are cooked through.

Serve the hot grilled pears over the arugula, finished with a drizzle of olive oil over the pears and greens.

Be empowered to shift your perspective around food and your body!

woman cooking in the kitchenAs the summer months quickly approach, the buzz around diets and weight loss become more and more prevalent. This summer, try shifting your focus from deprivation and that elusive “bikini body,” which you already possess, and take the opportunity to slow down. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and “wants” that you may forget to glorify the little things that make your life rich on a day-to-day basis. Be empowered to shift your perspective around food and your body! When you breathe, slow down and harness food gratitude, you’ll be pleased to learn that eating can be an extraordinarily joyful experience.

Eating requires that you engage all your senses, which cause your brain to release feel-good chemicals, elevating your mood and evoking feelings of trust, enjoyment and relaxation. Let’s try it!

Take in and embrace what you see. From vibrantly colorful produce stacked at the market to a beautifully plated meal, our eyes act as a gateway to appreciating the food we eat. This is a great time to consider where your food came from and how it was grown, and if you’re eating a meal, you can reflect on the work that went into preparing it.

Try this: Hold a pear or two in your hands. Note the differences that are present between one pear and another from shape and texture to size and color variations. Currently in season are the Red Anjou and Green Anjou, which have been taking a nice long rest in cold storage since late last fall (they don’t ripen on the tree) and are now ripening perfectly!

Savor each bite. We often choose our foods based on the way they taste and the flavors we enjoy, but we rarely take the time to truly savor each bite. Chew mindfully and pay attention to the experience and the way the flavor and texture of your food changes. By savoring each bite, you can enjoy less quantities of food – and still feel satisfied.

Try this: Take a bite of a ripe pear. Note the texture, level of sweetness and juiciness this particular pear possesses. There are ten varieties of USA Pears, each with its own distinctive features – from taste to texture to color – so have fun to trying the different qualities that each variety embodies.

Inhale. Scent evokes memories and emotions, which you can use to enhance the enjoyment of a meal. How a food smells is directly related to your perception of how that food tastes.

Try this: Cut into a juicy pear and take a moment to embrace the sweet aroma. Does this evoke any emotions or excitement? Take note of your thoughts.

You may give this a go once in a while or incorporate a few of these tips on a daily basis, but either way, the act of engaging yourself in all that your food is offering will allow you to celebrate your plate in a way that takes the emphasis off dieting and deprivation. Happy Summer!

Spring is in the Air

pear blossoms on a tree in springSpring is in the air. And along with that, at least for me, comes the feeling of renewal – out with the old, in with new. First thing I like to do is go through my closet; sandals to replace boots, t-shirts replace sweaters, and long sleeve dresses make room for sleeveless ones.

Next stop, the kitchen. I try year-round to make sure my cupboards and refrigerator aren’t stocked with foods that have expired. But part of my spring-cleaning ritual still includes a thorough review. And after the gloominess of winter, I long for a kitchen stocked with fresh produce that make me feel great.

Well, hello, Anjou pear.

Yes, I could have enjoyed you when it was snowing outside, but honestly, I got sidetracked. Packed with satiating fiber and with the powerful antioxidant of Vitamin C, you are a welcome addition to my refreshed, spring lifestyle. Since I’ll be even more active than I was in the winter (just completed my yoga teacher training last month!), I’m going to need to stay satiated and energized with the right foods.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy pears:

1. Sliced and cooked into my morning bowl of oatmeal for some sweetness.

oatmeall topped with pears and walnuts in a bowl2. Thin slivers on a slice of 100% whole wheat bread with peanut butter for crunch and sweetness (instead of jam). Perhaps with a drizzle of honey. Whole wheat toast topped with peanut butter and sliced pears
3. Slices or cubes added to any type of mixed green salad with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar for crunch and sweetness. Goodbye croutons and sugar-laden salad dressings.Mixed greens topped with fresh, sliced pears
4. Cut into wedges served with a tablespoon of almond butter for a delicious snack.Sliced pear wedges with nut butter for dipping

And now, I’m feeling properly prePEARed for spring!

Put Your Best Fork Forward!

Woman with curly blonde hair in an orchard excitedly about to bite a fresh pearHappy National Nutrition Month! Every year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages getting back to the basics of a healthful diet, and moving toward healthful habits can be as simple as changing the next bite. Lately, I have been hearing of more nutrition and food fads and myths than usual. It seems the internet has made everyone a nutrition expert. (Insert a shrug and a sigh.) My personal pet peeve is the use of the phrases good food and bad food. Unfortunately, nutrition isn’t black and white unless you’re eating a hot fudge sundae. When I was an obese teen, I’d come home after school and cram my mouth full of snack cakes, potato chips, whatever packaged food I could find in our overstuffed pantry. These, of course, were not nutrient-dense choices and I don’t ever recommend eating this way. But can we still splurge on perceived bad foods while maintaining a healthful diet?

Yes. Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as starting with the next forkful. Each bite is important, but never splurging is an impossibility. I eventually overhauled my diet and my palate – but I didn’t start there. I started with one simple change. I added more fresh produce. Notice I didn’t say I cut out the junk, ran five miles a day, and added fresh produce, because I didn’t (at first). I made a conscious decision to add fresh foods to my plate. Sometimes it was as simple as a few carrots in addition to my chips. Sometimes it was a piece of fruit after a meal. Over time, I started to feel a little better and liked how fresh foods tasted – and it wasn’t terribly difficult to maintain one bite at a time. Now, I feel great and I definitely still splurge!

Considering it is National Nutrition Month, let’s focus on a simple change, such as improving the next bite. Do I wish as a teen I had stuffed my face with pears and carrots instead? Of course. But starting with the next bite can turn into a lifelong habit!

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

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!

Kale, Cabbage, and Pear Slaw with Citrus Dressing

Kale, Cabbage, and Pear Slaw SM

Here is a quick fruit and vegetable slaw with a sweet and tangy dressing. This slaw makes an ideal side dish for a simple summer dinner of grilled fish or chicken, but it will also transition well into the fall as a bright and fresh side for roasted meat. This recipe is the perfect use for slightly under-ripe pears—they will add a unique texture and flavor to this colorful slaw.

Ingredients
Dressing
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral-flavored oil)
Salad
1 small bunch Lacinato kale, stemmed and shredded
1 small head red cabbage, cored and shredded
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 firm USA Pears, such as Bosc, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped almonds

Directions
For the dressing: Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside until you are ready to dress the salad.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, kale, scallions, and pears. Toss gently with the dressing to thoroughly coat the ingredients. Transfer to a clean bowl or platter and garnish with the chopped almonds.

prep time: 25 minutes
yield: 8 servings

Black Rice Salad with Cherries, Pears, and Gouda

Black Rice Salad with Pears sm

This simple and hearty salad is full of fresh fruit and contains fiber. Its lightly sweet flavor comes from the ripe pears, cherries, and just a touch of fresh-squeezed orange juice in the dressing. It also features wonderful savory notes courtesy of the rice, gouda cheese, and walnuts. Put them all together and the result is a beautiful salad full of unique flavors, colors, and textures.

Try this salad for dinner on a hot summer day. Cook the rice and roast the onions in the morning and you’ll only need 10 minutes to complete this dish in the evening. Serve the salad alongside something simple from the grill, or as a vegetarian meal in and of itself.

Ingredients
Salad
1 small sweet onion, large dice
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 cups cooked and cooled black rice (or use any type of rice you like)
20 black cherries, halved and pitted
3 ounces gouda cheese, cut into small cubes
⅓ cup walnut pieces
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou, medium dice

Dressing
¼ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (from about one orange)
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon salt

Directions
Note: You will need to prepare and cool the rice before starting this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the diced onion in a small baking dish and toss with the tablespoon of canola oil. Roast the onion for 25-30 minutes, stirring once during cooking. Remove and allow to cool. In the meantime, prepare the dressing by combining the ingredients in a small jar and shaking vigorously. Set aside until ready to use. In a large bowl, combine the cooked and cooled rice, roasted onion, halved cherries, gouda, walnuts, and pear slices. Shake the dressing again to combine and pour over the rice mixture. Gently toss the ingredients together. Serve the salad at room temperature or return to the refrigerator to store and serve cold.

prep time: 40 minutes
yield: 4 – 6 servings

Creamy Spring Pea Salad with Pears

Creamy Spring Pea and Pear Salad

Here is a quick and fresh salad recipe to welcome spring. Based loosely on the classic pea, bacon, and mayonnaise salad famously served at every Midwestern potluck, my version uses fresh sugar snap peas, bold radicchio, smoky bacon, and sweet, ripe USA Pears for balance. Toss the fruit and vegetables in a simple, creamy dressing and chill until crisp. Serve this salad on the first day you fire up your barbecue—it will pair perfectly with anything from the grill.

Ingredients
Dressing
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from half a lemon)
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
Salad
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked, cooled, and chopped
1 head radicchio, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
1 pint fresh sugar snap peas, strings removed and sliced on the bias
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Green or Red Anjou, medium dice

Directions
For the dressing: Combine the lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to dissolve sugar. Add the shallots, sour cream, and mayonnaise and shake again to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients (you may reserve a small portion of the bacon for garnish). Toss thoroughly with the dressing, cover, and refrigerate for one hour (or up to 24 hours). When you’re ready to serve the salad, remove from the refrigerator, toss again gently, and transfer to a clean platter or bowl. Garnish with the remaining bacon, if desired.

prep time: 30 minutes plus chilling
yield: 4 servings