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!

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