Do’s and Don’ts of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? In response, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recently released stricter high blood pressure (hypertension) guidelines, narrowing the diagnosis from ³140/90 mmHg to ³120/80 mmHg. These numbers represent the amount of pressure exerted against the blood vessel walls when the heart contracts and relaxes. Over time this elevated pressure damages the heart, blood vessels, and increases risk for heart attack and stroke. The stricter guideline means more people will be diagnosed with hypertension, but instead of a push for pharmacologic remedies, the American Heart Association recommends improving diet for long-term heart health. February is American Heart Month, the national campaign to tackle heart disease. Is there a better time to love your heart?

A heart-healthy diet is attainable for everyone, with more DOs than do NOTs. For instance…

-Do eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread.

-Do replace solid fats with unsaturated liquid fats or unsalted nuts and seeds.

-Do eat more fish and plant-based proteins.

-Try not to eat excessively salty or processed foods. This may mean eating fewer meals and snacks on the go.

For me, eating hearthealthy means running out the door with portable food in hand to prevent vending machine and fast food temptations. Preparing larger amounts and portioning them into portable containers for one-pot meals is my secret! Try

– Sprinkling sliced pears, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and gorgonzola atop a bed of lettuce or quinoa; drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.

– Mixing grilled veggies, chicken, brown rice, and a splash of seasoning or lite soy sauce.

– Tossing together oats, diced pears, dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon or brown sugar (if you like), and low-fat milk. Refrigerate overnight for refreshing overnight oats, pop in the microwave for a comforting breakfast or lunch, or check out this One Pot oatmeal recipe!

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Want more ideas? Check out delicious, heart-healthy recipes at USA Pears!

Chocolate Pear Hand Pies

I had heard rumblings about the glory of pairing pears and chocolate in pie. I mean, they’re both two delicious things, so how could it not be amazing?

I also loved how portable these hand pies are. They’re so easy to just hold in your hand and completely devour in five seconds while watching Netflix with bae (or by yourself…any situation really).

Some ingredient notes: I used a combination of Bartlett and Bosc pears. For chocolate, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but if you have some REALLY good chocolate laying around (like some Valrhona discs…) you should totally go for it.



Crust (crust recipe adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup butter (straight from the fridge, cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (I use cider vinegar, mix it in the water)


  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups peeled, cored and diced Bartlett or Bosc pears (this should be a relatively fine dice, see pictures below)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Pinch of cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


To make the crust, mix together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, “cut” in the butter. This means you’re almost mashing the butter into the flour with the blender, ensuring all butter is covered in flour until the butter pieces are about the size of peas or a bit bigger.

Then, splash in a bit of your water mixture (2-3 tablespoons) and mix it around with your hand. Continue to add a little at a time and mix and squish with your hand until a large dough ball forms. If you need to get a bit more binding, add a bit of water to your fingers to help it along. Don’t feel compelled to use all the water, mix it in until just combined and the dough is holding together. Cut the dough ball into two halves and flatten into disks. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, make chocolate ganache. In the microwave or on a stovetop, bring cream to an almost boil and pour over chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Let sit for a minute, then whisk together until smooth. Set aside.

Remove dough disks from fridge and let sit for 5-10 minutes so the dough doesn’t crack. Roll out each disk on a floured surface circle about 12-13 inches in diameter. Use a heart cookie cutter to cut out dough hearts and refrigerate on a parchment-lined baking sheet while making the filling.

In a large bowl, toss together diced pears, lemon juice and granulated sugar with your hands and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes. In another bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, spices and vanilla. Drain excess moisture from pear mixture and sprinkle sugar mixture on top. Toss with your hands until pears are evenly coated.

To assemble the hand pies, take one heart and spread a thin layer of ganache onto the middle of the dough. Spoon about 1 tbsp of filling on top of the ganache, like below.

Place a second dough heart on top of the pear layer, sealing the edges of the dough together with the tines of a fork.

Repeat with remaining dough hearts and refrigerate assembled pies on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes.

Brush the tops of the hand pies with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

Recipe and photography by Ellie Hannaford of Pie Girl Bakes.

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Instant Pot Pear Oatmeal Jars

The Instant Pot, that magical cooking appliance that allows you to do everything from sautéing to pressure-cooking, is all the rage right now. I put it to use in the morning to cook steel cut oats in no time. What’s even better is that the oats can be combined with any variety of ripe USA Pears and cooked right in individual mason jars for the family on the go. After cooking, the jars are topped with a variety of toppings to jazz up this heart-healthy breakfast.

Makes 4 one-pint jars


2 cups diced USA Pears

1 cup steel cut oats

1/4 cup chopped dried fruit, such as cranberries, cherries, dates, or raisins

6 tablespoons honey

8 teaspoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Sea salt

About 3 cups water

Topping Ideas:

Coconut Milk Yogurt or Greek Yogurt

Dried fruit

Toasted Coconut Flakes

Cacao Nibs


In each of 4 pint-size mason jars, combine 1/2 cup of the pears, 1/4 cup of the oats, 1 tablespoon of the dried fruit, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the honey, 2 teaspoons of the chia seeds, 1/8 teaspoon each of the cardamom and ground ginger, and a pinch of salt. Pour about 3/4 cup water into each jar, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Screw on the tops and shake the jars vigorously to mix everything together. Loosen the lids slightly to allow steam to release as they cook.

Prepare the Instant Pot by placing a wire rack in the bottom and pouring in 1 cup of water. Place the jars on the rack and secure the top of the pot. Select high pressure and set the timer for 20 minutes.

When done cooking, allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. (Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.) Open the pressure cooker and carefully remove the hot jars. Allow them to rest until the contents stop bubbling. Remove the lids using hot pads, being careful for steam. Stir each jar, then top as desired with the optional toppings. The oats can be served immediately or the lids can be put back on to serve them later.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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Photography: George Barberis (@georgebarberis)
Recipe and Styling: Andrea Slonecker (@andreaslonecker)

I’ve Fallen Off The Wagon. Now What?

The holidays are behind us and grey months are ahead of us, which makes today a good day to consider the rest of 2018. Many of us make health-related New Year’s resolutions, and only 9.2% of people feel they successfully meet these goals. The problem may be that our goals were too drastic or too restrictive. We are all guilty of this type: “I’m going to run five miles every day” or “I’m only eating 1000 calories a day!” Unfortunately, drastic pledges that limit enjoying our lives generally don’t work. Plus, shouldn’t we enjoy life? YES! So, what can you do?

Step 1: Keep it simple. Counting calories or minutes on the treadmill may not be the best way to tackle your goals. If you currently don’t exercise, try adding one or two short walks during the day – even just ten minutes adds up to 70 minutes each week! If eating out is your doom, split a meal, try an appetizer instead of an entrée, or swap a side of fruit for a sugary dessert. Small changes really do make for long-term changes.

Step 2: Start fresh. Instead of drastically cutting calories, swap fresh fruit and a glass of water for a sugary/salty snack or side dish. Or maybe you don’t love veggies or you’ve grown tired of your go-to items – try something new! I get in ruts like everyone else, but a stroll through the produce section usually produces fresh ideas. It’s also easy to start the day fresh, I add sliced pears to cereal, oatmeal and yogurt, or diced veggies and salsa to eggs.

January 1 is no more magical than February 1 (or today, for that matter!). Start fresh and see how you feel in a few days! For more ideas, check out what the USDA suggests for small changes that lead to lasting results.

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Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

Keep Love In The Air With Chocolate and Pears

Love is in the air and few things are as enticing as the passionate relationship between chocolate and pears. These two foods may come from opposite worlds but when they meet, the chemistry is unmistakable and downright charming. The possibilities are truly endless with these two simple ingredients, and you don’t need to be a gourmet chef to pull off something delicious and creative. We can’t prove it, but we are pretty sure chocolate and pears will please pretty much anyone. As you think of the perfect way to please your Valentine, consider savoring the joyous relationship that is chocolate and pears with these five recipes.

1. Dark Chocolate Dipped Pears

Move over strawberries— there’s another fruit that tastes amazing when dipped in chocolate! Rich dark chocolate pairs perfectly with Red Anjou pears, which just so happen to be heart-check certified by the American Heart Association. 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.

2. Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce with Walnuts

Simple to make and yet oh so elegant Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce with Walnuts are the pear-fect finishing touch to any dinner party.

3. Chocolate Pear Delight

This decadent dessert for two is disarmingly simple to prepare. Double it for dinner parties and turn dessert into a chocolate celebration!

4. Caramelized Pear and Chocolate Pizza

Pizza for dessert? Hey, it’s a pie, right? This one is layered with sweet caramelized pears and rich, dark chocolate. It’s a happy ending for any meal.

5. Hot Fudge Pear Sundae

This pretty sundae gets seasonal flavor from the addition of fresh pears. Add a different flavor of ice cream (peanut butter, rocky road, strawberry) to make it your own!

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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Celebrate Pear Love During American Heart Month

With an occasion like Valentine’s Day, there’s no better month to celebrate the heart than February. Embracing heart-healthy habits this Valentine’s season can translate to a lifetime of improved wellness, and one is as simple as eating more of a delicious food you enjoy – pears!

According to the American Heart Association, many factors contribute to heart disease, including your diet, activity level, age, and genetics. However, eating more produce may help fend off a heart attack or stroke. Pears in particular are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of immune-supporting Vitamin C – both key nutrients linked to heart health. With 6 grams, one medium pear provides nearly a quarter of the daily recommended fiber intake.

Including more pears in your diet – especially Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears, which have all been Heart Health Certified by the American Heart Association – is one simple tactic for taking good care of your ticker. And it’s easy to incorporate pears into meals, snacks, and desserts. Blend a ripe pear into your morning smoothie or fold a diced or shredded pear into your oatmeal. Add fresh or oven roasted pear slices to a garden salad or mix chopped pears into a gingery stir-fry. At snack time, pair a fresh sliced pear with either almond butter or Mediterranean olives. For dessert, drizzle whole pears with a combo of maple syrup, fresh ginger and cinnamon, and bake in the oven, or dip fresh pear slices into melted dark chocolate.

Another savvy heart-health strategy is to simply keep more fruit, including pears, on hand, within sight and reach. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90% of Americans fall short of the recommended minimum daily fruit intake. During American Heart Month, USA Pears is promoting a social contest called #WhatsInYourFruitBowl. The belief is that keeping a well-stocked fruit bowl within easy reach is a simple way to inspire more people to reach for fresh fruit. Give it a try and track your own fruit intake. And for more information about pears and heart health, visit

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Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

Pear, Green Tea, and Honey Granita

As we enter the depths of winter, after the holiday rush has slowed to steady daily routines, we take pleasure in things with a simpler, more nourishing feel. Enter granita, the flavor-rich frozen treat that is Italy’s answer to French sorbet or Hawaiian shave ice.

Perhaps it’s most often served as a refreshing end to a rich meal, but that’s not the end of its capabilities. After all, this recipe is simply a mixture of lusciously ripe fresh pears sweetened with a touch of honey, accentuated by a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, and enhanced with the addition of matcha powder for green tea flavor and color, which also lends a smooth texture to the fluffy ice. Yes, it’s delicious served all on its own to finish dinner, but consider the options. Freshly shucked oysters benefit from a dollop to bring out the sweet and briny flavors. It’s also a traditional topping for a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with the two frozen textures—one cream, one crunchy—playing yin and yang to one another. Perhaps my favorite way to eat granita is with a fresh topping of finely chopped pears, cucumber, and mint, mixed with lime juice and pomegranate seeds—a refreshing and delicious dessert indeed, yet not overly indulgent.

Serves 6 to 8


2 ripe USA Bartlett, Green Anjou, or Comice pears

2 tablespoons honey

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder

Pinch of sea salt


Peel, core, and coarsely chop the pears and put them in a blender. Add the honey, lemon juice, matcha powder, and salt. Blend on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish, such as a cake pan or bread loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place the pan in the freezer until the mixture is frozen solid, at least 2 and up to 4 hours.

Using a fork, scrape the frozen granita into fluffy crystals. Spoon into small bowls, or serve as desired.

Recipe, Photos and Styling: Andrea Slonecker (@andreaslonecker)

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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5 Hearty Pear Soups to Warm Your Winter

Few things warm the body and soul like a bowl of soup in the wintertime. When it’s cold outside, soup can bring a sense of nourishment and comfort. The winter months also happen to be an ideal time to experiment in the kitchen since the frigid temperatures keep many of us inside. Pears may not be an ingredient that immediately comes to mind when you think of soup, but they can bring a unique flavor and texture to both sweet and savory soups. They’re also an excellent source of fiber and a good source of vitamin C, making them a nutritious and delicious ingredient. Whether sautéed with vegetables before stock is added, roasted and pureed to blend with stocks, or simply chopped and added to an already simmering broth, pears are a fun and tasty way to step up your soup game. These five soups will add plenty of warmth and sweetness to the winter months.

1. Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Bisque

Developed by chef Vitaly Paley of the acclaimed restaurant Paley’s Place in Portland, OR, this vegetarian soup is simultaneously simple and decadent. Rich flavors take center stage as the creaminess, heartiness and sweetness strike a heavenly balance with squash and pears getting a nice curry kick.

2. Mulligatawny Soup with Chicken, Pears and Coconut

This autumn-inspired version of Mulligatawny soup is sure to delight. Colorful pears, tender chicken, sweet potatoes and rich coconut milk star in this adaptation of a classic English soup with Indian origins. The recipe comes together in about 30 minutes for an easy weeknight dinner, and the leftovers taste even better! Top the soup with crunchy toasted coconut and bright, fresh cilantro leaves.

3. Roasted Pear and Delicata Squash Soup with Parmesan Croutons

Simplicity is the key in this recipe with basic ingredients and cooking directions that are easy to follow. This velvety smooth soup can be made up to three days ahead of when you plan to eat it. Once it’s ready just cover, cool and refrigerate, warm it up just before serving whenever you’re ready! Homemade croutons make it a total crowd-pleaser too!

4. Pear and Sunchoke Soup with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Bacon

Sunchoke is a root vegetable also known as a Jerusalem artichoke because of its artichoke flavor. This recipe, developed by Ethan Stowell of Seattle’s Staple & Fancy, Tavoláta, How to Cook a Wolf and Anchovies & Olives, brings a sweet start to any meal with an unusual combination of ripe pears and sunchokes. Oh yeah…and bacon!

5. Pear and Sweet Corn Soup with Basil-Macadamia Pesto

Basil-macadamia pesto serves as a zesty compliment to the sweetness of the pear and corn soup. This is yet another recipe that is uncomplicated and quick to whip up, which makes it a satisfying dish to make for the family on those hectic weeknights. It’s also meatless and fairly low on oil!

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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5 Meal Prep Tips for a Healthy New Year

A healthier new year starts with building better nutrition habits. Cooking is one way to get yourself into a healthier groove, and adding a little bit of meal planning to make a significant difference! Making sure you have a well-balanced, varied diet can easily be achieved with meal prep. Here are 5 meal prep tips to give you a head start:

1. Less is more

Begin meal prepping with recipes that are easy to prepare and require simple ingredients. I like to select recipes with no more than 10 ingredients (less is better!). Once you get the swing of preparing these recipes, you can expand to more robust dishes.

2. Batch cook

Cook a large amount (double or triple the quantity of a recipe) so you can enjoy part of it that day, and then save or freeze the rest for another day in the week. Dishes that freeze well include chili, soups, meatballs and muffins.

3. Creatively reuse

Eating the same exact meal every night can get boring, especially if you have kids! Repurpose your meal creatively throughout the week. For example, grilled pears can be enjoyed in a sandwich, sliced and diced into a salad, or blended into a savory soup.

4. Don’t forget snacks

Snacks should include foods and nutrients that you may not get enough of during meals. As 90% of Americans don’t get enough vegetables and 85% don’t get enough fruit, snacks are a perfect way to add them to your healthy eating plan. Plan for snacks like sliced pears and cheese, Greek yogurt topped with granola, or trail mix.

5. Stock up on containers

The right containers are everything to a meal prepper. Stock up on containers that take up less space and are BPA-free, leak-proof, dishwasher safe, freezer safe and microwave safe. You may also want to stock up on glass jars or bento boxes so you can easily tote your meals to work.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD is a nutrition expert and author of best-selling The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.

12 Creative Ways to Poach a Pear

How many ways can you poach a pear? There may not be a set answer when you consider that the pear-ssibilities are endless. The classic go-to seems to be red or white wine poached pears, which is definitely one of the prettiest and most decadent ways to poach. But when it comes to poaching, sometimes it’s worth it to think outside the pear box. Besides wine, pears can be poached in cider, bold and flavorful beers like stouts and Belgian ales, and even espresso, among other liquids. Restaurants love to impress diners with beautifully poached pear dishes because, besides being delicious, they are visually striking. Even though poached pears may look challenging to make, most recipes are easier than you might think.

December is National Pear Month and the time of year when all ten varieties of Northwest pears are in season. It also happens to be the holidays, making it the ideal time to test out your poaching skills and impress friends, family and party guests with these 12 creative poached pear recipes…

Spiced Anjou Pears

Even if you haven’t tried poaching a pear before, this is an easy recipe to get you started! Simplicity is key and the combination of spices and herbs makes for a dish that is sweet, refreshing, and totally festive.

Sweet Vermouth Poached Pears

Sweet vermouth has really made a comeback thanks to the craft cocktail movement, and we should all be glad it did. The distinct and wonderful flavors that a good vermouth can lend make classic cocktails like the Manhattan truly timeless, which is the same sentiment that went into this unique recipe. Pick up a bottle for making these poached pears and pour yourself a little over an ice cube to enjoy while you cook. You won’t be sorry.

TAZO Spicy Ginger-poached Pears

Berry or bright red teas make for a fruity twist in this recipe. Spoon any extra sauce over scoops of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, or serve as a syrup with hot pancakes or waffles.

Tropical Hibiscus Poached Pears

Most poached pear recipes rely on Bosc pears, but this recipe calls for Bartletts, which many consider to have the ‘classic’ pear flavor. That juicy and distinct pear flavor is only enhanced by this recipe’s poaching liquid, which consists of a tropically-flavored white wine, hibiscus flower tea, orange slices, and whole vanilla bean. The pears take on a lovely, light pink hue while bathing in the liquid, which reduces to a deliciously sweet and wonderfully unique sauce for serving.

Red Wine Poached Pear With Mascarpone and Candied Almonds

Did someone say dessert? Here’s another simple yet decadent recipe that is perfect for impressing a date or whipping up for your holiday guests. We all know that pears and cheese are delicious when served together, and with this recipe we get a beautiful mélange of sweet and creamy.

Poached Bosc Pears

Simple and delicious, poached Bosc pears retain their distinctive honey sweetness and are firm enough to maintain shape. Lightly used, spices can add their voice to this dessert, which can be served warm or chilled.

Pears Poached in Belgian-Style Beer

Poaching pears in wheat beer makes for a silky, mellow treat. This recipe is a great accompaniment to a cheeseboard with olives, crackers, and honey, perfect for starting off a meal.

Espresso and Cherry Poached Pears

Wake up your dessert offerings with these espresso and cherry poached pears. Sweet and smooth, they’re heavenly with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. It doesn’t hurt that they look like artwork on a plate.

Poached Pears with Vanilla Caramel Sauce Recipe

Although any firm pear will do, this recipe is perfect for long-necked Bosc pears as they hold their shape well during cooking. The combination of tangy, sweet and nutty is wonderfully divine.

Bourbon-Masala Poached Pears

Here’s a poached pear recipe for the whiskey lover, which combines bourbon and sweet Indian spices in the poaching liquid. The flavors are deepened thanks to a quick steep of the spices before the pears are added along with a reduction of the sauce as a finale. Serve these poached pears in their own rich sauce with a scoop of coconut gelato. They also make a complementary addition to our Ham and Goat Cheese Sandwich!

Creamy Coconut and Star Anise Poached Pears

In this recipe, coconut milk and star anise come together to create a simple but indescribably delicious sauce for classic poached pears. It can be dished up as a dessert, with the warm poached pears served with a drizzle of the coconut-anise poaching liquid atop, or, as in the following recipe, as a tasty protein-and-fiber-filled breakfast with the poached pear served over creamy Greek yogurt and crunchy granola.

Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce with Walnuts

Simple to make and yet oh so elegant! Poached pears in chocolate sauce with walnuts are the pear-fect finishing touch to any dinner party.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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