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)

Thai-Inspired Chicken and Pear “Noodle” Salad

PEARNOODLEThis fresh and fun recipe isn’t just chock-full of vegetables, it’s chock-full of delicious USA Pears! Firm, fiber-rich Anjou pears stand in for noodles in this salad, and the “noodles” couldn’t be more simple to make using a spiral vegetable slicer. Start by shredding leftover chicken (or pick up a rotisserie chicken). Next, shake together the Asian lime dressing, slice the veggies for the salad, and finally, toss it all together with the pear “noodles”. Top the salad with toasted, chopped peanuts and get ready to fall in love!

Thai-Inspired Chicken and Pear “Noodle” Salad

For the Asian Lime Dressing:
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
1 – 2 teaspoons fish sauce, according to your taste

Directions:
Combine the lime juice and honey in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to dissolve the honey. Add the water and fish sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more fish sauce or honey if necessary.

For the Chicken and Pear “Noodle” Salad:
8 ounces cooked, cooled, and shredded chicken breast
2 packed cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 medium carrot, fine julienne
3 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
3 firm USA Pears, such as Anjou, sliced into a noodle shape on a spiral vegetable slicer
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, cabbage, carrot, and scallions with about half of the dressing and toss gently to combine. Spiralize the pears at the last moment to prevent discoloration, and add them to the salad along with the cilantro and basil. Toss the salad gently once again to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more dressing if desired. Transfer the salad to a large platter or bowl and top with the chopped peanuts.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Make Time for You

Lonely SeckelI have an influx of stressed calls and emails this time of year, mostly from clients and students trying to manage health and holiday stress at the same time. I know how frustrating this time of year is, I struggle with the same problem! Don’t fret, there are simple solutions to help you have a healthy holiday season.

First, make a schedule and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, if you schedule time for exercise, food preparation, and sleep and you follow the schedule, you’re better equipped to take care of yourself and manage stress. Second, eat before events and move away from the treat table! At my friends’ parties, we always stand around the food, chatting and snacking. This is such a hard habit to break, but if you eat ahead of time and pull your friends away from the table you’re less likely to overeat. Third, make time to decompress. Whether you enjoy stretching, reading, games or simply sitting quietly, allow yourself at least 10 minutes every day for quiet time and positive thoughts. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to yourself! Nobody is perfect and there is always tomorrow. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating family and friends, so allow yourself to splurge a little, then get back on track the next day. Happy Holidays!

Play with Your Food!

This week, USA Pears attended the School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual Nutrition Conference in Kansas City. Many of the sessions were geared toward helping school lunch professionals increase fruit and vegetable consumption, while limiting sodium, fat, and excess calories. Although this seems simple, sometimes children are picky and sometimes they are simply more familiar with the taste of processed foods. What nutrition experts have discovered is that if children play with their food, that is to say that if they help in the preparation and explore the different colors, textures, and flavors of different fruits and veggies, they’re more likely to eat them now and throughout their lives.

Here’s a simple suggestion: slice fruit and veggies into smaller pieces and let kids add fun toppings. At SNA we showcased a pear “salad” bar – sliced pears with a variety of toppings, including yogurt, granola, cheese, nut butters, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds. The bar was a hit with the participants, many of whom plan to include this idea in their school districts. Just imagine how many more fruits and veggies kids will eat when eating healthfully becomes fun and flavorful!

Grill, Mastered!

grilled-pears-with-currants

It’s finally summer, my favorite season! I love summer because of all the fresh foods, the outside gatherings, and of course, the warm weather. Unfortunately, it’s only early June, and I’m already tired of the fatty fare available at picnics. Well, the grill isn’t just for burgers anymore! Try something delightful and healthy at your next outdoor grilling event. Grilled fruits and veggies are an excellent and delicious way to add color, variety, and nutrients to any backyard bash.

Ditch the potato salad and coleslaw and pop some festive veggie kabobs on the grill! You can use any vegetables you like, but seasonal, grillable options include peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, and onions. Just brush them with olive oil and grill over medium heat, turning until tender and marked. But if you’re like me, you’re more interested in dessert! Try grilling fruit, the heat brings out the complexity and intense sweetness. Mouth-watering options are pineapple, peaches, pears, or watermelon, but experiment with your favorites. If it doesn’t slip through the grill, it’s a delicious, nutritious way to add a little flair and a lot of flavor to your next shindig!

Grilled Pears

It’s hot here. Really hot. Today’s forecast is a high of 97 degrees in Portland, and I have no air conditioning at home. Last night, as I was whining to my roommate about the heat in our kitchen, all I could think about was ice cream. And although I didn’t have any (but selflessly let her polish off our shared pint), today the perfect combination came to me. As soon as those Bartlett pears are picked in the next couple of weeks, I’m getting my hands on some and making this:

It will be divine. Especially if I put a scoop of this on top. Ohhhh yes.

Have you ever grilled fruit? What do you put on your grilled pears?

Sweet Scents

Just as I’m starting to pine for the days of Starkrimson and Bosc pears in my fruit bowl again, I stumbled across some exciting news that has me even more eager for fall!

Orla Kiely, London designer of Target collaboration fame, is working with Method this year to develop an exclusive line of fragrant home cleaning products for Target stores. I jumped for joy to hear that among the new scent lineup is pear ginger, which will be available in gel and foaming hand wash as well as dish soap and all-purpose cleaner!

Check out this blog post for more details. And mark your calendars! If this launch is anything like previous Target collaborations, these sweet suds will be flying off the shelves.

Star-Spangled Spirit

girl eating pear

The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday and it’s just around the corner! I love the food, the fanfare, the fireworks and fun times with friends. Instead of the rich, heavy foods served on winter holidays, Independence Day is an opportunity to explore summer’s fresh foods without ruining your waistline. Alongside sweet corn grilled in the husk and fresh hand-picked tomatoes topped with basil and olive oil, I am particularly fond of grilling fresh pineapple, peaches and pears or fresh fruit salads that marry the flavors and patriotic colors of summer fruits.

Fruit salads are incredibly easy to make, and since you only need fresh fruits, they are a healthful addition to any outing. For a red, white and blue salad, start with raspberries or sliced strawberries, add blueberries or blackberries, and finish with fresh cut, slightly crisp pears; mix just before serving to keep the colors from blending and you have a delicious, fresh dessert! For a truly star-spangled salad, toss in starfruit sliced crosswise to make star shaped slices. In addition to fireworks, you now have a healthful dish that tastes dynamite!

A Pear-fectly Sweet Easter

For me, it finally starts to feel like spring when Easter rolls around. Everything’s awash in pastel colors, the weather is (hopefully) warming, and fresh spring foods take the menu: asparagus, lamb, berries. This year, I decided to bring together my love for great food and creative crafts with these little Easter projects:

Sweet Easter Treats

Everyone loves a good Easter egg hunt, right? There’s the spring sunshine, the thrill of the hunt, and best of all, the eggs! Filled with chocolate or coins, they’re a small but sweet award. Imagine if your next Easter basket looked like this after the hunt:

Beautiful! But let’s take a closer look.

 

These aren’t your ordinary Easter eggs. They’re egg-shaped Anjou pears! Decorated with a careful hand and some sugary cake frosting, these pears become even sweeter. They’d be delicious sliced and shared with the family – even better if the decoration was done in chocolate!

Here’s another twist on a classic Easter dish.

Deviled Pears

 

Swap out the hard-boiled egg for a ripe Anjou pear, fill the core with golden raisins or mincemeat, and sprinkle with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Ta-da! An Easter tradition, transformed.

How are you getting creative with your menus and crafts this spring?

USA Pears on Pinterest

If you’re not already spending too much of your spare time pinning beautiful images to dozens of themed boards on Pinterest, we have an incentive: USA Pears is on Pinterest! Yep, we have an array of fun boards rich with ideas for meals and snacks of all kinds.

 Have you always wanted to make something savory with pears? Check out our Pear Entrees board!

If you want to make meals fun with your kids, get them involved in the kitchen, or pack them healthy and simple snacks and bagged lunches, we have boards for that. Check out our Pear Snack Attack and Kid-Friendly Recipes boards.

You know pears are the pear-fect partner to foods like cheese and nuts. But what about other pear-fect pairings, you say? Ask no more—just head to our Pear-fect Pairings board for some tongue-in-cheek fun.

So, if you’re not already addicted, join us! Visit Pinterest to request an invitation today. Once you’ve created your profile, you can find us on Pinterest and like any or all of our boards with a simple click. Happy pinning!