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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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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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!

Make sure to follow USA Pears on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for all things pears!

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)

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)

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).

Beat the Heat!

Creamy pear popsicles with chunks of kiwi and yellow sticks

Summer is my favorite season, because of the social gatherings, barbecues, picnics, and summer treats that satisfy my sweet tooth. I pay attention to my calorie intake carefully – especially during the hot summer when cold, decadent treats are everywhere. So, what is a dietitian to do? Make popsicles, of course! Anything that can be made into juice or a smoothie can also be made into a delicious popsicle that fulfills that sweet craving, cools you off, and packs in nutrients without unnecessary calories.

Making popsicles is very easy, in fact it’s a fun activity for the whole family. And you don’t need any molds or special equipment, paper cups and popsicle sticks will suffice. For this method, place the cups on a tray, fill them ¾ full, cover the cups with saran wrap, and press the sticks through to keep them in place. Once frozen, just peel off the paper cup. No blender? No problem! Slice or dice fruit into small pieces, place in molds or paper cups, and fill cups ¾ full with juice.

So, what makes a delicious popsicle? I skip the added sugar and go straight to the fruit. A basic recipe might be a sliced, cored, ripe pear blended with enough water to make smoothie consistency. I like the sweetness and texture of blended Bartlett or very ripe Anjou pears for my popsicles. Then try simple additions, such as other fruits, 100% fruit juices, coconut water, dairy or alternative milks, and maybe some herbs or favorite extracts. Maybe you’re craving a creamier, more decadent treat? Try blending pears with yogurt, a banana, or an avocado. Popsicles are great for entertaining, too. If you really want to impress your guests, unmold your frozen popsicles, drizzle with chocolate sauce, dust with nuts or sprinkles, and place back in the freezer before serving.

Indulgences don’t have to be elegant, and treats that beat the heat can be just as satisfying! Want more inspiration? Try this recipe for creamy pear popsicles with kiwi and lime.

Vacation, all I ever wanted!

RoadVacation is my favorite word. I love adventure, new places and activities, and enjoying time with friends and family: The problem is keeping your health goals on track while traveling. I will be driving across the country this summer to help a friend move and I find road trips make for the most challenging way to travel healthfully. Gas stations, convenience stores, fast food… How do you make smart choices with limited options?

For starters, plan ahead. Pack healthful snacks, including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and plenty of water — enough for the number of days you’re travelling. When you do stop for refreshments or fuel, avoid the candy and chip aisle at the gas station; however, if temptation is too strong, perhaps allow yourself one indulgence each day on the road. If you know the cities you’ll pass through, locating restaurants with mixed options ahead of time may allow more flexibility. Then, aim for adding veggies as a side or an appetizer, splitting meals, or having fruit for dessert. Likewise, staying active may help offset some indiscretions. Many hotels offer exercise facilities, or even better, get out on foot and explore new people and places!

Small changes go a long way on the road, but remember that enjoying yourself is number one. Give yourself a break, relax, and have fun!

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.

Stop Shoulding on Yourself!

arefree happy woman lying on green grass meadow on top of mountaShould is a nasty word; it implies you’re doing something wrong. We all think it, we all say it, and we all need to be a little nicer to ourselves. I’m terribly guilty of this. I just finished the first official year of my doctoral program and today I decided to relax, not go to the gym, and enjoy a little downtime. (GASP!) I’m generally a go, go, go person, so I always feel like I should be doing something productive. But why? I liken the word should to the word shame, as in, I’m ashamed that I did or did not do __X__.

I should go to the gym. I should not eat that ice cream. I should start working on the next project.

Eating well, exercising, finishing that task, the list of our shoulds is endless. In one of the women’s groups I work with we talk about self-compassion. We seem to should things that may be meaningful, but… Do they deserve the importance we give them? What I mean is, I can’t count the times I’ve said, “I should order a salad,” when I really want something else. Even now, that statement makes me feel a level of shame and judgment. (I literally just thought to myself, “I should make a salad for dinner.” Sigh.) On the other hand, if I say to myself, “I should make sure I have food and shelter,” or “I should avoid being attacked by a bear,” I don’t feel shame or judgment. (In fact, I’m unconsciously nodding my head. That IS a good idea.) In contrast, making sure I order a salad at lunch isn’t quite as meaningful. So why do we feel so terrible when we aren’t perfect?

I think there is this notion that for some people healthy choices are easier or more natural, whereas the rest of us have this lifelong back-and-forth of temptation and willpower that creates a make-believe standard impossible to meet. As a dietitian, I walk a fine line between hoping people become healthier and hoping they become more accepting. Telling ourselves that we should or shouldn’t be, do, or act a certain way does not change behavior; in fact, I think it may worsen the situation. In the end, I want everyone to have a long, fulfilling life, and constantly shoulding ourselves doesn’t sound fulfilling.

This is the reason I talk about small changes: Walk an extra ten minutes at lunch; add a pear as a snack; take five minutes to breathe and relax. Small changes don’t require shoulds, they’re small dos that up to a lot of small victories.