Pear and Fresh Vegetable Summer Rolls

summerrollsThese colorful and refreshing summer rolls aren’t just beautiful, they are absolutely delicious! You can use any variety of vegetables and herbs to fill the rolls, not just those I’ve mentioned here. Use firm pears for filling the rolls – they add just the right amount of sweetness along with a unique crunch. It takes a little practice to get the hang of working with the spring roll skins, but once you’ve got it down, you’ll be wanting to make fresh rolls all summer long.

Ingredients:
several handfuls spinach leaves, stems trimmed
half an English cucumber, cut into long, thin strips
1 large carrot, grated or cut into a fine julienne
1 sweet pepper, cut into long thin strips
2 firm USA pears, such as Anjou, sliced julienne style
several sprigs fresh basil
12 spring roll skins
your favorite peanut sauce or sweet chili sauce for dipping

Directions:
Prepare all of the vegetables first and place them in small dishes around your work area. Julienne the pears last to delay browning, and place them at your workstation as well. Moisten one spring roll skin by running it under cold water for about 5 seconds on each side. While the skin is still firm, transfer it to your work surface. Do not allow the skin to get too flexible before you place it on your work surface or it will be difficult to work with. Fill the roll by layering several spinach leaves across the center, leaving about one inch of open space on both sides. Top with the sliced vegetables, then the pears, and finally with a few basil leaves. By now the wrapper will be pliable. Starting at the bottom, carefully roll the summer roll up like a burrito, wrapping the ends in about halfway through your roll. Place the completed roll on a platter, and repeat the process until you are out of ingredients. Do not stack the rolls, as they can become quite sticky. Once all of the rolls are completed, slice them on a diagonal with a serrated knife, arrange, and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Prep time: 40 minutes
Yield: 12 rolls

It’s What is on the Inside that Counts

more bruised pearsWe’ve all done it – picked up a slightly speckled piece of fruit and put it back in search of a more cosmetically appealing piece. Just like meat and eggs, produce is graded, and most grocery retailers purchase and profit from higher grade produce. According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, U.S. Number 1 fruit must be “carefully hand-picked, clean, well formed” and free from injury, including bruising. Produce items that don’t make the gradearenow being called “ugly fruit and vegetables” – those that are imperfect and less/not profitable – and often end up being discarded. According to the USDA, food waste is the greatest contributor to landfills, 31% of edible food is wasted, and food waste accounts for an estimated annual loss of $161.6 billion.

Interestingly, recent studies suggest that blemished fruit, the stuff not pretty enough for consumption, may have increased antioxidant content and actually be better for us. Antioxidants, such as polyphenols found in pears and other fruit,1-3 molecules that prevent damage to human cells and may play a protective role against disease and illness,4 act as part of a plant’s immune system fending off pests, fungi, and disease.5-8 When a plant is injured, polyphenol amounts increase in the affected area to protect and heal the injured tissue as seen in studies on apples, strawberries, green beans, raspberries and walnuts: If we eat these affected areas, we may consume more antioxidants than just consuming healthier portions of the plant.6-8 Some organizations are already onboard with collecting and distributing ugly produce, including California-based Imperfect Produce who recently partnered with Whole Foods to increase sales of ugly produce. And this trend isn’t going anywhere – this is the first time the USDA has issued food waste reduction goals.

For fruit, just like humans, perhaps the perfect body doesn’t exist – what matters is what is on the inside. Not sure what to do with that bruised pear? Slice it, bake it, or throw it in a smoothie for a delicious meal or snack!

1 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/727.full
2 http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691510005697
4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18778075
5 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20043255
6 http://publik.tuwien.ac.at/files/PubDat_194363.pdf
7 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-7348.2010.00402.x/abstract
8 http://ojs.aas.bf.uni-lj.si/index.php/AAS/article/view/197/126

Don’t Be a Yo-Yo!

RBP9037046 Woman with PearThat dreaded time of year is here again – swimsuit season. I have helped countless people lose weight, including myself, and despite many new and radical diets, the science still points to one principle: To lose weight, expend more calories than you eat. Sounds simple, right? Nope. What this doesn’t take into account are cravings, lack of motivation, hormones, metabolism, boredom, emotions, workplace and social saboteurs… Should I continue? Unfortunately, many experience the yo-yo effect, losing weight, gaining it back and having to start over again. For lasting weight loss, small changes must be made and maintained over time for true behavior change – and to end the weight loss/regain cycle.

Research from the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, points to a variety of factors. The average weight loss for those on the registry is 66 pounds (range 30 to 300 pounds), maintained for an average 5.5 years (range 1 to 66 years). Most participants report maintaining a low calorie, low fat diet and four common trends, 1) eating breakfast, 2) getting on the scale at least once weekly, 3) watching fewer than 10 hours of television each week, and 4) exercising – participants exercised one hour/day on average. [1] Noted early in the research, once weight loss was maintained for 2-5 years the chance for longer-term maintenance improved dramatically. Not surprisingly, those who did regain weight reported significant decline in physical activity, increased consumption of calories from fat, and decreased restraint in food choice. [2, 3]

So, how can you put these principles into practice? Get moving, fill up on healthful foods that are generally lower calorie – particularly fruits and vegetables – and make small, sustainable changes!

1. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.full.pdf+html
3. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(13)00528-X/abstract

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

Asian-Style Pork and Pear Lettuce Wraps

asian-pork-lettuce-wrap

Here is a perfect no-fuss summer dinner for a busy evening. These pork and pear lettuce wraps require just 20 minutes from start to finish and are full of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors. Serve them with a simple and fresh cucumber salad dressed with rice wine vinegar for a lovely and complete meal.

Ingredients
12 cup-shaped lettuce leaves, from about one head lettuce
1 pound ground pork
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons grated ginger
3 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1-2 teaspoons fish sauce, to your taste
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Anjou or Green Bartlett, small dice
½ cup roasted and salted cashews, roughly chopped
4 scallions, sliced thinly

Directions
Pick 12 nice lettuce leaves, wash them, shake or spin dry, and place in the refrigerator to crisp. In a wide sauté pan over medium heat, cook the ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Once the pork is cooked through, transfer to a medium bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan (any additional fat can be discarded). Reduce the heat to medium low and add the chopped shallots to the hot fat. Fry the shallots, stirring often, until golden brown. Add the grated ginger and and stir to combine with the shallots.

Next, carefully pour in the mirin. Allow it to cook for about one minute, or until it forms a syrupy glaze. Return the pork to the pan along with the lime juice and fish sauce. Stir well to combine and taste for seasoning. The fish sauce will act as the salt in this recipe. Allow the mixture to cook for just one minute more to be sure it is thoroughly heated. Lastly, turn off the heat and add the diced pear and the cashews (you may reserve some for garnish, if desired). Divide the mixture between the lettuce cups and garnish with the scallions and remaining cashews. Serve with your favorite Asian chili sauce.

prep time: 20 minutes
yield: 4 servings

Summer Arrivals: Get Inspired!

usapears_recipes

I don’t know about you, but I have been waiting for summer to start for months. We have had so much rain and so many cool days in Denver that it has felt more like April than July. But summer is finally here and that means longer days, fresh fruit, and summer entertaining! Summer is the most wonderful time to explore your local grocer or farmers’ markets for bright colors and fresh flavors. Whether a couple of friends stopped by after work or you’re planning a dinner party for twelve, having fresh fruit handy will make you the host with the most.

Personally, when I go all out I decorate the table with all sorts of fresh flavors, put together a fresh spritzer or cocktail, and serve piles of grilled fruits and veggies. But if you’re having an impromptu gathering, try laying out any fresh fruit – raspberries, blueberries, freshly sliced pears – add some walnuts and a little cheese, then drizzle with honey. Or fire up the grill and top with fresh veggie or fruit skewers. Don’t be shy, add anything to these skewers! Perhaps you and your friends need to gab about work over a cocktail after a long day at the office? That’s easy, too, have seltzer, fresh fruit and herbs on hand to add pop to any beverage. Summer is in full swing, so get inspired!

Grilled Pizzettas with Pears, Shaved Ham, and Fresh Basil

pizzetta

Cooking pizza on the grill is an excellent way to keep your house cool in the summer and still enjoy one of your favorite dinners—and it’s easier than you think! This recipe makes four individual pizzettas, so everyone can enjoy their very own. You’ll lightly crisp one side of the pizza crusts, flip them, top them, and cook them until they’re done to your liking. Fresh USA Pear slices, shaved ham, and fragrant basil make the perfect summer toppings for this lighter (but no less delicious) version of this beloved meal.

Ingredients
1 ball (16 ounces) store-bought pizza dough
Flour for rolling out dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
4 ounces best-quality shaved ham
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Green or Red Bartlett
Several stems fresh basil leaves

Directions
About an hour before you’d like to eat, remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide it into four equal portions. Gently shape each portion into a ball and set on a cutting board, covered loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough soften for about 30 minutes before you proceed.

After 30 minutes, preheat your grill to medium heat. While the grill heats, start working on the dough. One at a time, lightly flour each piece of dough and press it out into an approximately 6-inch disk with your fingers or a rolling pin. Set the dough aside until ready to grill. Next, get all of the toppings ready to go and in one place—you’ll want to have everything ready for topping the pizzettas. Place the olive oil in a small bowl with a brush, grate the mozzarella, and slice the pears. Now you’re ready to head out to the grill!

First, brush the grill with olive oil to prevent sticking. Now carefully lay the pizza dough out on the grill, either two or four at a time. Close the grill and allow the dough to cook for 3-4 minutes. Once the crusts are firm on the first side, flip them to the second side using a large spatula. Brush each crust generously with olive oil and top with the cheese, shaved ham, and pears. Close the grill cover again and allow the pizzettas to cook for 3-5 minutes more until done to your liking. Transfer the pizzettas to a cutting board and top with the freshly torn basil leaves. Slice and serve immediately.

prep time: 25 minutes
yield: 4 servings

Pear and Blueberry Pie Bars

Pear and Blueberry Pie Bars

These delicious pear and blueberry pie bars have all the wonderful flavors of a fresh-baked summer pie, but require much less work as well as less oven time. Whip up a batch for a potluck or even as a weeknight dessert (just add vanilla ice cream). Store the extra bars in the fridge—they make an easy and delicious breakfast or a grab-and-go snack—not to mention they contain fiber and antioxidants, thanks to the fresh pears and blueberries.

Ingredients
Crust
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla
Filling
3 slightly underripe USA Pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 pound blueberries
Streusel Topping
¾ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
⅔ cup old-fashioned oats

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper (this will make the bars much easier to remove from the pan later). Combine all of the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse about 10 times until the mixture has a mealy texture. Scatter the meal in an even layer across the bottom of the pan and then press it firmly into place to form the crust. Dock the crust with a fork all over to prevent rising, and place in the oven to bake for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, peel and slice the pears and toss them very gently with the lemon juice. When the crust comes out of the oven, allow it to cool slightly while you prepare the streusel topping. For the streusel, combine all of the ingredients except the oats in a food processor and pulse about 10 times. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add the oats, thoroughly combining them into the mixture using your hands. Transfer the streusel topping to the refrigerator to chill.

While the streusel chills, assemble the filling by first laying the pear slices out on top of the crust in a single layer. They may overlap slightly if necessary. Next, scatter the blueberries over the pears evenly. Lastly, crumble the chilled streusel over the top of the fruit. Transfer to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the blueberries are bubbling and the streusel has lightly browned.

Allow the bars to cool for at least 30 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan. For best results, cool the bars fully before slicing into squares (but of course you’ll want to try a few while they’re still warm!). Store in the refrigerator.

prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 60 minutes
yield: 18 servings

Pear Barbecue Sauce with Chile and Spice

pearbbq-finished

Here is a simple and rewarding recipe you can make and use all summer long. The ingredients are simple, but the flavors are both complex and balanced. Guajillo chile is tangy and bright, but never too spicy. Cinnamon and fennel add a nice warm spice flavor which balances perfectly with the pears, and the tomato, vinegar, and dark brown sugar give this recipe a classic flavor base.

Using the pears for body and sweetness makes it possible to cut down on the sugar dramatically, and this barbecue sauce contains fiber, too! Slather this sauce on chicken wings or spare ribs during their last 10 minutes on the grill, or use it as a substitute for store-bought barbecue sauce in a pulled pork or brisket crock pot recipe.

Ingredients
2 dried guajillo chiles
Boiling water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium sweet onion, large dice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 ripe USA Pears, such as Red or Green Anjou, large dice

Directions
Toast the chiles in a hot skillet on both sides, pressing down on them with a spatula until they just begin to lightly blister. Transfer the chiles to a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Place a smaller bowl on top of the chiles to weigh them down, filling it with water as well, and set aside to soften.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the canola oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and salt and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. At this time, add the whole fennel seeds and continue to cook the onion and fennel together for about an additional five minutes, or until the onion is beginning to lightly brown. Next, add the cinnamon and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the tomato and cinnamon are beginning to toast on the bottom of the pan and become fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, the brown sugar, and the diced pears and stir to combine. Lastly remove the guajillo chiles from the water and pull off their stems. Tear the chiles open lengthwise and remove all of their seeds, rinsing them under water if necessary. Tear the remaining chile flesh and skin into about 2 inch pieces and add it to the sauce mixture. Stir and cover the sauce and bring it to a simmer. Once it simmers, reduce the temperature to low and cook for 20 -30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the pears are very soft.

Once cooked, uncover the sauce and allow it to cool for 20-30 minutes before pureeing. Puree the sauce in a blender, scraping down the sides as necessary, until very smooth and uniform. Divide the sauce between three half-pint jars or other glass containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks or in the freezer for several months.

prep time: 25 minutes plus cooking
yield: about 2 ½ cups sauce

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