Pear and Gouda Cheese Ball with Cranberries and Pecans

The all-American cheese ball is a throwback worth revisiting. Popular at holiday parties of yesteryear, today we take a fresh, lightened-up approach with the addition of pears. Swap the classic orange cheddar or crumbly blue for a nutty aged Gouda. The nuttiness plays well with both the sweet pears folded into the cheese mixture and the crunchy pecans that are sprinkled on the outside, while parsley and scallions add a savory bite. Perfect for an office gathering or a family affair, this pear-flecked cheese spread presents well in the shape of everyone’s favorite holiday fruit. And it’s deceptively easy to pull off, too.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups finely shredded aged Gouda cheese (about 6 ounces), at room temperature

1 ripe USA Anjou pear, peeled, cored (reserving the stem), and finely diced

1 green onion, white and light green parts only, minced

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Nonstick cooking spray

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

3 tablespoons minced dried cranberries

Crostini or crackers, for serving

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, Gouda, pear, green onion, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, the salt, and pepper until well combined.

Coat a large piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Transfer the cheese mixture to the center of the plastic wrap and press and mold it into an oval disk. Tightly wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the pecans, and cranberries; set aside.

Remove the cheese disk from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it in the center of a serving platter. Use another piece of plastic wrap and your hands to mold the cheese mixture into the shape of a pear. Sprinkle with the pecan mixture to coat the top and sides evenly. Wipe the edges of the platter clean with a damp paper towel. Place the reserved pear stem in the top, and serve with crostini or crackers arranged around the edges of the platter.

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

Fresh Fruit for the Holidays!

Tis the season for gift-giving, social gatherings, and indulging. With all the excitement of the season, it’s important to make sure you add eating healthfully to your to-do list. It’s the most wonderful time of the year to savor everything the season has to offer, and December also happens to be National Pear Month! Pears are an especially festive fruit and a refreshing change of pace during a season chock full of high-calorie food and drink. If you are attending bunches of social events, fruit is an excellent addition to your daily intake, particularly considering the sometimes frenetic and unusual eating schedule during the holiday season. Consuming fruit provides necessary nutrients to maintain energy for the endurance needed on long days, and may fight cravings by maintaining satiety and blood sugar levels. I like to drink a glass of water and eat a piece of fruit or some fresh cut veggies before meals, errands and gatherings – this way I’m not ravenous and prone to undesirable decisions.

The fiber boost from pears is filling, so I’m not hangry when I arrive, and also helps limit blood sugar peaks and valleys that can trigger cravings or overindulging. And if alcohol will be consumed, it is even more important to eat! Fiber and other food components can reduce the absorption rate of alcohol, and this delay is enhanced when consumed with protein and/or fat. Pears are a festive and fitting addition to your wine and cheese board, in part because cheese contains both protein and fat, but also because the creamy texture complements the sweet and refreshing flavor of pears. Not sure which pear to pair with your favorite cheese or wine? For ins-pear-ation, check out these pairing suggestions on our site.

During the holiday season, it’s important to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of everything else. Even if you aren’t following your usual routine, adding a quick nosh on fruit is a convenient and delicious fix. Happy holidays!

We’re celebrating National Pear Month by giving away a box of pears! Enter HERE.

Pear Rugelach

Rugelach, the crescent-shaped, cookie-like pastries filled with any combination of nuts, fruit, chocolate, and seeds, is a festive holiday treat of Jewish decent. Though they are commonly filled with dried fruits, like raisins, fresh pears diced extra small are a tasty twist. Pear butter adds another layer of flavor and allows the filling to stick to the dough as you roll them up. It can be found in the jam aisle at many supermarkets. The cream cheese dough is tender, flaky, and oh so easy to mix together, making this recipe a fun endeavor for families of any faith during the holiday season.

Makes 36

Ingredients:

Dough

16 tablespoons (1 cup/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup finely diced pears

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts

3 tablespoons pear butter (homemade or store-bought)

1 egg, beaten

Directions: 

To make the dough: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, sour cream, and salt until creamy. Add the flour, and stir by hand until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into three equal portions, and pat and press each into a smooth disk. Tightly wrap the disks in plastic, and chill the dough until firm but not hard, about 1 hour. (The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator; soften slightly before rolling.)

To make the filling: Stir the sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix the pears, hazelnuts, and 1/3 cup of the cinnamon-sugar, reserving the rest to sprinkle the top of the rugelach later.

Dust a work surface generously with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll one of the dough disks into a 10- to 11-inch circle. Brush the surface evenly, all the way to the edges, with 1 tablespoon of the pear butter. Use a spoon and your fingers to spread about one-third of the filling mixture over the pear butter. Use a pizza or pastry cutter or long knife to cut the circle into 12 wedges by first cutting it in half, then in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Roll up each wedge, beginning at the wide end and rolling toward the tip. Arrange the rugelach on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, with tip sides pointing down. Repeat with the remaining two dough disks.

Brush the top of the rugelach with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and refrigerate the rugelach while the oven preheats.

Bake the rugelach until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rugelach will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days, or wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 3 months.

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

10 Pear Cocktails to Brighten Your Holiday Spirit

Hailed as a “gift of the gods” by the Greek poet Homer in his epic The Odyssey, the venerable pear has graced civilizations for more than four thousand years. For a chunk of that time, crafty folks have been incorporating the fruit into their alcoholic beverages. Like other fruits, pears are a delicious and creative ingredient, and it’s no surprise that mixologists jump at the chance to include them in their libations. Even though there are plenty of reasons to eat pears for their nutritious value, there are also reasons incorporate pears into more fun parts of the menu.

Whether muddled, juiced, mixed, pureed, shaken or stirred, pears present countless possibilities as a cocktail ingredient. Because it’s the holiday season as well as pear season – not to mention National Pear Month – we figure there’s no better time to highlight some of our favorite pear cocktail recipes. As we like to say…when life gives you pears, make cocktails!

A Pear of Cloves

Warming spices like clove pair beautifully with the harvest-fresh flavor of pears. The drink’s pale green hue comes from the bits of green skin left behind after muddling the pears, making it very fresh and fun.

Millionaire Pear

This delicious drink looks great in a martini glass, champagne flute or cocktail glass, especially with the sparkle of the sugared rim. The vodka float and black pepper make for a subtle, elegant appearance but the addition of a few pear batons as a garnish would not detract from its simplicity. A very thin pear slice (cut on a mandolin) can also be floated on top.

Pear Dauphine

This delicate cocktail tantalizes the taste buds with a balance of sweetness and substance. The elderflower liqueur brings out the floral essence in the flavor of the fresh pear.

Kietsu: Sake Pear Margarita

Cultivated palates around the world thirst or flavor combinations that inspire. In this fresh pear cocktail, crisp, dry sake and smooth silver tequila unite for an intriguing fusion of flavors and cultures.

The Oregon Anjou

Fresh Green Anjou pears are put on the pedestal they belong in this flavorful libation. Handcrafted Pinot Gris syrup adds another layer of complexity that balances the drink with a subtly dry finish.

The Pearhattan

This cocktail’s pretty ruby red color is unexpected, as are the flavored pear-lemon ice Pearhattan cubes which imbue the cocktail with additional flavor as they melt.

Oh Pear

A variation on the classic Rusty Nail, the silky smooth pear purée makes this cocktail a joy to drink either up or on the rocks. Leave the skin on the pear for a beautifully colored pear purée.

Pear Cardamom Flip

Velvet smooth and practically singing with pear flavor, this charming cocktail offers spicy notes of cardamom, mint and ginger and is perfect for any time of day. It would be apropos as a brunch cocktail.

Dragon Well

Fresh pear, green tea, and lavender flavors combine in this verdant cocktail that delights the senses. Garnish with pomegranate seeds to give this gorgeous green drink an added pop of color.

Pear Tea Cobbler

The Cobbler is an old form of mixed drink that consists of a base spirit and fresh fruit. Here it’s been updated with the delightful flavor of gin combined with sweet USA Pears to experience an entirely new flavor sensation.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

Pear Waldorf Salad

During those weeks between the holidays at this time of year, a crunchy, fresh salad with a wintery undertone is just what we crave. The Waldorf Salad may be traditionally made with apples, but we love it with the soft, seductive sweetness of ripe pears. Instead of gloppy mayonnaise, we toss crisp celery and fennel, toasted walnuts, grapes, and those succulent pears with Greek yogurt for a tangy take. Fresh herbs and sunflower seeds add texture and a modern feel. Serve the salad spooned into butter lettuce or radicchio leaves, or scoop it up with warm pita bread for a light and simple lunch.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 ripe USA Red Anjou Pears, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, reserving fronds, cored, and sliced

3 ribs celery with leaves, stalks sliced and leaves coarsely chopped

1 cup halved red grapes

3/4 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the pears, fennel, celery slices and leaves, grapes, walnuts, and parsley leaves. Add the yogurt, lemon zest, salt, and pepper and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and the sunflower seeds, and serve.

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

Here’s How to Celebrate National Pear Month!

There is a whole month to celebrate pears? Why yes, yes there is! Personally, I believe pears should be celebrated ALL year long, but I especially celebrate the bounty of pears in December when it is National Pear Month.

As a nutritionist with 20 years of experience under my belt, I have found few foods that bring me as much joy and energy as a pear. They are versatile when it comes to cooking, are juicy and sweet, and because of their fiber content, keep me satiated. In honor of the month-long designated occasion, here are 3 reasons to get into the pear spirit:

Pears have more fiber than most other fruits. A graphic showing how pears rank higher than bananas and oranges in fiber

1. Nutritional Benefits

  • Fiber: A medium pear has 6 grams of fiber, which equals about 24 percent of the recommended daily value. Did you know that the skin contains the majority of the fiber found in a pear?
  • Hypoallergenic: With an ever-growing population of food allergies, pears have been coined to be hypoallergenic. Safe food is good food!
  • Pectin: Pectin is an essential water-soluble fiber that helps to bind to cholesterol and remove it from the body making pears an excellent addition to anyone with high cholesterol.

2. Endless Culinary Possibilities 

  • Combining both the natural sweetness of pears, beets and sweet potatoes, with just a slight hint of ginger, look no further for a tasty dish. By the way, fresh ginger contains natural anti-inflammatory properties making it a perfect and delicious pear-ing.

3. The Time is Ripe

All 10 varieties of pears are in-season right now, so the time is ripe to be enjoying this delicious fruit. Pears can be found at grocers throughout the month of December!

Above all, pear your food with the best company and music, and you will enjoy a rich and nutritious Pear Month!

Make sure to use the hashtag #NationalPearMonth on social media and follow USA Pears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all things pears!

Kathy Smart, RNC, RNCP, HTC, PTS

Kathy is known as Canada’s Leading Nutrition Expert, Canadian Holistic Nutritionist of the Year 2016  is a popular speaker, health and fitness presenter, and the go-to media expert in all things health and wellness expert with over 20 years experience in both the health and fitness sectors.

Hasselback Baked Pear Oatmeal Bowl

This warming bowl of oats is the perfect way to start a chilly morning! Naturally sweetened with banana, this breakfast is topped with a caramelized, soft, hasselback baked pear. Prep the pears the night before, and you can throw this bowl together in 5 minutes!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry oatmeal (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 USA Bosc pear
  • Coconut oil
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice or Apple Pie Spice
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Creamy almond butter (other nut butter is fine)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Slice pear in half and remove seeds. Cut side down, make narrow slits into each half, being careful not to slice all the way through.
  • Grease a small cast iron skillet or baking dish with coconut oil. Place pears cut side down in skillet.
  • Sprinkle with a little more coconut oil and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until soft and tender.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the oats with water or milk, according to package instructions.
  • Mash banana in a bowl, and add to cooking oats with chia seeds and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice.
  • Stir well until oatmeal is cooked to desired consistency.
  • Divide oatmeal evenly into two bowls. Top each bowl with ½ of the baked pear, a scoop of almond butter, and other toppings of choice. Enjoy immediately!

If preparing the pear the night before, microwave for 30 seconds – 1 minute to reheat.

Recipe development and photography by Alexandra Aldeborgh (@daisybeet).

Ginger Roasted Beets, Sweet Potatoes and Pears

 

This recipe is the perfect way to celebrate the bounty of fall and winter produce. The two root vegetables partnered with Anjou pears (green or red) are beautifully enhanced by the addition of fresh ginger and thyme. Present this at your next holiday gathering and be prepared to have guests swooning!

Ingredients:

3 medium-large beets, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 large sweet potatoes, diced into 1 inch cubes (peel or keep skin on, either works)

2 green Anjou pears (ripe but still firm)

1-2 tsp fresh thyme

Salt to taste

1-2 tbsp Avocado oil or olive oil

1-2 tsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine beets, onion, garlic, ginger, salt and about 1 tbsp avocado oil. Toss so veggies are well coated in oil. Spread beet mixture evenly on baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. While beets are baking, combine sweet potatoes, pears, thyme, salt, and remaining oil in bowl.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes and pears to the baking sheet and mix to combine.
  5. Place mixture back into the oven and roast for an additional 40-50 minutes. Toss mixture halfway through baking.
  6. Add more salt to taste after cooking, and garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy warm or cold – it tastes delicious either way!

Recipe development and photography by Alexandra Aldeborgh (@daisybeet).

Pear and Sausage Stuffing

Whether you are a “stuffing” or a “dressing” kind of person, pears add a magical twist when served alongside your holiday bird. Because they are sautéed and then baked, the pears are meant to be meltingly soft in this side dish, and any variety will do. Sausage adds a piquant kick, and don’t skimp on those fresh herbs. Consider this recipe another delicious vehicle for getting pears on your Thanksgiving table.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing and brushing

1 (20-ounce) loaf white bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

12 ounces mild Italian pork sausage (casings removed if the sausage is in links)

2 ripe USA Pears, stemmed, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade turkey stock

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish with butter.

Spread the bread cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven until lightly browned, 12 to 20 minutes (depending on the moisture content of the bread). Combine the toasted bread cubes, parsley, and sage in a large bowl; set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft and translucent and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the pears and continue cooking until they are just soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the stock, add the pepper, and bring it to a simmer. Pour the contents of the pan over the bread cubes and toss until evenly moistened. Taste and add salt as needed.

Loosely pack the dressing into the prepared dish and cook, uncovered, until the top forms a deep crust, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

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

Want more pear-a-licious Thanksgiving recipes? Click HERE!

3 Sweet Reasons to Choose Pears if You Have Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month and it’s also a great time to find perfectly ripe pears, which comes in handy since pears have a lot of the attributes we recommend in a diet to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Pears are a low glycemic index (and low glycemic load) food – a medium-sized pear ranks 38 on the glycemic index – which means they have a mild effect on blood sugar levels. While there isn’t a cure for diabetes (yet!), we do know that food is a very powerful tool that can be used to reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. As registered dietitians, we see the power of food every day, and the research supports just how much of an effect food can have on reducing the impact of diabetes.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or want to make some preventative dietary changes, we think including pears in your diet is a great idea. Here’s why:

Fiber. Soluble fiber, the type that binds with water to form a gel-like substance in your digestive tract, slows the rate that your body pulls glucose from food in your stomach. In other words, soluble fiber can help slow down the rate at which your blood sugar rises. A medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber (24% of your daily needs), and some of that 6 grams is in the form of soluble fiber! From a preventative perspective, eating a diet rich in high fiber foods (like pears) might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Flavorful sweetness. Reducing added sugar is an important part of keeping blood sugar levels stable at meals and snacks and avoiding spikes, or quick rises, in blood sugar levels. When you use pears to add flavorful sweetness to things like plain oats or yogurt, you get sweetness along with lots of flavor, so you wind up needing to use a lot less sugar (and oftentimes you won’t need any sugar at all!). Pears also add natural sweetness to smoothies and peanut butter sandwiches, so you can skip the added sweeteners altogether.

Kitchen creativity and fun. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming when it comes to revamping your food choices to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Pears are a delicious way to add flavor and fun to your time in the kitchen, whether it’s diced in a chicken salad, sliced in a turkey sandwich, or ”pear-ed” with aged cheddar cheese for a snack. A diabetes diagnosis might mean changes to the way you eat, but it certainly doesn’t have to mean bland or boring meals and snacks!

For additional information on pears and diabetes, check out this link.