Fall is the Pear-fect Time for Sweet Swaps

Let me set the record straight: there’s no one food that’s a miracle cure for all ailments, nor is there just one food that is responsible for causing all of our health issues. Balance is what’s key when it comes to a healthy diet.

If there is one food that adds calories without adding much value, it’s sugar. Sugar is what I call, The Master of Disguise, appearing more often on food labels than you might realize, and not always spelled as s-u-g-a-r. These aliases can show up on ingredient lists as molasses, high fructose corn syrup, organic cane juice, and dozens of other names.

The good news is that our new food labels (on or before January 2020) will finally differentiate between natural sugar (the sugar that is inherently within foods like milk, yogurt and fruit) and added sugar (the sugar and its substitutes that food companies add to their products).

In the meantime, it’s best to get your sweets from natural sources, like fruit, which don’t even need to wear any labels. Pears are an example of a delicious fruit that not only satisfies your sweet tooth, but also brings a bushel of other nutritional benefits.

Did you know that one medium-sized pear provides 6 grams of fiber, a nutrient most of us don’t seem to get enough of? Fiber helps you feel fuller for longer and helps food move through your system more efficiently, two important factors that could help promote weight loss and better digestion. Pears also contain important nutrients including vitamins C and K, potassium, calcium, and an array of antioxidants…and contain only 100 calories!

Although a juicy pear can stand on its own as a snack or even dessert, you can also purée pears and use them as a “sweet swap” in a variety of recipes. For example, pear purée can be substituted for refined sugar in baked goods – like cookies, cakes and breads – as a natural sweetener. With Halloween and the holidays on the horizon, sugary temptations are inevitable. Don’t be afraid to put a spin on a classic recipe by trying a pear purée sweet swap. You might just be creating a new crowd favorite!

Inspired to try a sweet swap recipe? Try my Crunchy Pear Cobbler for dessert tonight — it’s so easy to put together and even easier to enjoy!

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.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Pears

Valentine pears dipped in chocolate and topped with fun toppingsMove over strawberries—chocolate dipped pears are a fresh twist on this decadent Valentine’s Day treat. Rich dark chocolate pairs perfectly with Red Anjou pears, which just so happen to be heart-check certified by the American Heart Association. (Happy National Heart Month!) 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. With this thoughtful homemade gift, your Valentine will definitely be yours!

Makes 32

2 USA Red Anjou pears (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon Fruit-Fresh® Produce Protector
8 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped

Options for Sprinkling:
Finely chopped pistachios or other nuts
Flaky sea salt
Shredded coconut
Chile powder
Curry powder
Sesame seeds
Chopped colorful dried fruit, such as apricots, cranberries, or goji berries

Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

Halve, core, and stem the pears and cut each one into 16 wedges. Sprinkle with the Fruit-Fresh and toss the pears gently to coat evenly. (This will prevent the cut pears from browning for several hours.) Arrange the pears on the prepared baking sheet and place it next to the stove.

Place the chocolate in a medium stainless-steel bowl and set the bowl over the pan of simmering water. (Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.) Once the chocolate begins to melt, stir until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes. Remove the chocolate from the heat.

Immediately begin dipping the wide ends of the pears in the chocolate, coating about half the length. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl and place the dipped pears on the wax paper. Working quickly before the chocolate dries, sprinkle with your choice of the optional garnishes. Refrigerate, uncovered to allow the chocolate to set, about 1 hour.

Once set, cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep the pears in the refrigerator until served. Enjoy them within the day.

Chocolate Pears 3

Waiting for the Weight?

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_rosipro'>rosipro / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Ah, the holidays. That magical time of year when friends and family come together, airports are overrun, siblings fight, and we all pack on a few pounds that we resolve to lose in January. (Actually, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 suggests we only gain about one pound over the holidays!) My first holiday gathering is this week, and since I have a terrible sweet tooth I’ve already pictured the dessert table. It looks delicious and is full of my favorites, so what do I do? I say it every year – plan, plan, plan! So where to start?

First, never arrive hungry. If I’m hungry when I walk in the door, within minutes I might have a bottle of wine and an entire cake in my hands. That’s not good, so carry filling snacks with you or stop on the way to the party for a filling bite.

Second, eat well throughout the day to avoid peaks and valleys in blood sugar that may cause overindulgence. A good tip I tell my clients is to always eat two macronutrients together, such as a high-fiber carbohydrate with a protein or fat – for example, a fresh, fiber-rich pear with a few cubes of cheese or a smear of nut butter. Fiber, fat, and protein help us stay satisfied in different ways, so we can stay on track when temptation dances in front of us.

Third, step away from the table! We tend to linger in the kitchen or over the treats; this makes sense because we’re social eaters and eating together connects us, especially at the holidays. But if you move the party away a few feet, you’re less likely to mindlessly nibble. Likewise, use a beautiful fruit bowl as your centerpiece – happy and healthy!

Fourth, watch the libations! If your indulgence is more of the liquid kind, try a low-calorie mixer or follow what I call the sandwich method: Have your cocktail, but follow it with a glass of water before the next cocktail. This will help you avoid overindulgence and help you stay hydrated – another cause of overindulgence.

Finally, if you do overindulge, cut yourself some slack, stick to your exercise routine, and get back on track with the next bite . Eating healthfully, enjoying plenty of fruits and veggies, and drinking more water will help you fight the holiday overindulgence and stay on track through the New Year!

Pear Sweetened Spiced Molasses Cookies

pear-cookies-crop-1These delightful fall cookies are reminiscent of a classic soft molasses cookie, but are made with less than half of the sugar in a typical recipe. Pear puree stands in for much of the sugar, adding a wonderfully unique pear flavor to the cookies, along with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Bake off a batch of these tender cookies and store the extras in the refrigerator for packing into lunches or for after school snacks.

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup pear puree (from about 2 ripe USA Pears, such as Red or Green Bartlett, diced and
pureed in a blender until smooth)
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
granulated sugar, for rolling

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar and whisk to combine. Add egg, one cup of the pear puree, and molasses and whisk again until smooth. In a second bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking powder, and salt, and stir to mix. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until the mixture comes together to form a soft dough. Refrigerate the dough until firm, at least one hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a small bowl of granulated sugar for rolling the cookies. Roll the chilled dough into 1 ½ inch balls and roll in the granulated sugar, placing the cookies onto greased baking sheets as you go. Lastly, flatten the cookies slightly with the bottom of a drinking glass that has been dipped in the remaining sugar to prevent sticking. Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, rotating once during cooking. Allow to cool before removing from pans.

Pear Compote with Earl Grey & Vanilla

compoteThis super simple compote is a beautiful and delicious way to preserve some of fall’s fading flavors. You’ll make a simple infusion which combines the unique flavor of Earl Grey tea with vanilla and orange, and then simply stir in sugar and fresh pears. Serve this compote over yogurt or ricotta for a delightful breakfast or snack, spoon it over vanilla ice cream, or try it atop crostinis spread with your favorite soft cheese.

Pear Compote with Earl Grey & Vanilla
Ingredients
1 cup boiling water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1 orange
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
¾ cup sugar
3 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Comice or Red Anjou, small dice

Directions
Place the tea bags into the cup of boiling water and steep for 2 to 3 minutes to make a very strong tea. Remove the teabags and discard. Peel two long strips of zest from the orange using a vegetable peeler. Stack them on top of one another and slice them on a diagonal into very thin strips. Slice the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a medium saucepan. To the same saucepan add the tea, orange zest strips and vanilla paste, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 5 – 7 minutes or until reduced by half. Once reduced, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes (but no longer) to lightly caramelize the sugar. Stir in the diced pears, cover, and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes until the pears are just tender. Allow to cool for one hour and then transfer to a pint jar, being sure the pears are submerged in the syrup, and refrigerate (the compote will thicken considerably as it cools). Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1 pint of compote

Sweet Vermouth Poached Pears

vermouthpoachSweet vermouth has really made a comeback thanks to the craft cocktail movement, and I am so glad it did. Without it, I’d have never tried a Manhattan and noticed the distinct and wonderful flavors that a good vermouth can lend, not to mention that I’d have never come up with the idea for 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.

Sweet Vermouth Poached Pears

Ingredients
3 cups good quality sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
1 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 orange, peel only (use a vegetable peeler to cut several thin strips)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
3 firm USA Pears, such as Bosc
Greek yogurt, for serving

Directions
In a medium saucepan, combine vermouth, water, honey, orange peel, and spices. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, peel and halve the pears. Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds. Transfer the pears to the simmering liquid, being certain they are submerged (cover with a piece of parchment paper if necessary). Reduce the heat slightly to keep the pears at a low bubble. Simmer the pears for 15-20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer the pears to a bowl, leaving the liquid behind, and cover them to keep warm. Increase the heat under the sauce to medium-high and bring to a low boil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to about ¾ cup. Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and onto the still-warm pears. Serve immediately with Greek yogurt on the side.

Caramel Pear Galette

caramel-pear-galette-SQsm

Easier than pie! This free form fruit tart is terrific with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of crème fraiche. 

Ingredients
1 refrigerated pie crust (9-inch)
3 tablespoons of caramel sauce, divided
3 ripe Red or Green Anjou USA Pears
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon granulated or turbinado sugar

Directions 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring pie crust to room temperature as directed on package. Unroll the pie crust on a non-stick or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread one tablespoon of caramel topping on the crust, leaving a 1 ½-inch border.

Peel, quarter and core the pears. Slice each quarter lengthwise into 4 even slices. Place pear slices in a bowl and toss with cinnamon and flour. Starting in the center, arrange the slices on the dough in a spoke pattern, in overlapping layers as necessary to fit and leaving a 1 ½-inch border. Drizzle the pear slices with 1 tablespoon of caramel topping. Fold the edge of the crust over the tart. Brush the top of the crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 30 minutes or until crust is lightly brown. Let galette cool 10 minutes. Drizzle top of the fruit with the remaining tablespoon of caramel topping before serving.

prep time: About 15 minutes
cooking time: 30 minutes
yield: Serves 6

Recipe developed by Amy Sherman.

Baked Stuffed Pears

Baked-Stuffed-Pears-smSQ

Tangy cranberries, walnuts, ginger, and cinnamon complement the sweet and spicy Bosc pear. Perfect for baking, Bosc pears hold their elegant shape.

Ingredients              
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
3 Bosc USA Pears
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 teaspoon minced crystallized ginger
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Cut each pear lengthwise, scoop out the core with a melon baller, and expand the opening to about 1 ½ inches.

In a small bowl, blend the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Mix in the walnuts, cranberries, and ginger. Spoon the filling into the centers of the pears. Place the filled pears in a baking pan just large enough to hold them snugly.

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, water, and lemon juice. Pour around the pears in the baking dish.

Bake until the pears are tender when pierced, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool and serve with the pan juices.

prep time: About 20 minutes
cooking time: 30 minutes
yield: Serves 6

Recipe developed by Amy Sherman.

Pear Clafouti

pear_clafouti-sm-SQ

You can make this custardy French dessert using only the blender and a toaster oven. A splash of rum or brandy accentuates the flavors of the pears.

Ingredients
Bartlett USA Pears, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
⅓ cup flour
Powdered sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the core and the stem from each pear half. Cut each in lengthwise slices ¼- to ½-inch thick and fan the slices out, keeping them attached at the stem end. Arrange the sliced pear halves in a non-stick or greased 9-inch pie plate with the stem ends pointing toward the center of the pan. Pour the rum or brandy over the pears.

In a blender, combine the sugar, eggs, cream, milk, and flour and blend until smooth. Let batter rest for 10 minutes then tipping the pie pan slightly, drain the liquor into the batter and stir. Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet to catch any spills, and pour the batter over the pears. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake until the clafouti is puffed and brown in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

prep time: About 20 minutes
cooking time: 45 minutes
yield: Serves 8

Recipe developed by Amy Sherman.