Instant Pot Pear Oatmeal Jars

The Instant Pot, that magical cooking appliance that allows you to do everything from sautéing to pressure-cooking, is all the rage right now. I put it to use in the morning to cook steel cut oats in no time. What’s even better is that the oats can be combined with any variety of ripe USA Pears and cooked right in individual mason jars for the family on the go. After cooking, the jars are topped with a variety of toppings to jazz up this heart-healthy breakfast.

Makes 4 one-pint jars

Ingredients:

2 cups diced USA Pears

1 cup steel cut oats

1/4 cup chopped dried fruit, such as cranberries, cherries, dates, or raisins

6 tablespoons honey

8 teaspoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Sea salt

About 3 cups water

Topping Ideas:

Coconut Milk Yogurt or Greek Yogurt

Dried fruit

Toasted Coconut Flakes

Cacao Nibs

Directions:

In each of 4 pint-size mason jars, combine 1/2 cup of the pears, 1/4 cup of the oats, 1 tablespoon of the dried fruit, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the honey, 2 teaspoons of the chia seeds, 1/8 teaspoon each of the cardamom and ground ginger, and a pinch of salt. Pour about 3/4 cup water into each jar, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Screw on the tops and shake the jars vigorously to mix everything together. Loosen the lids slightly to allow steam to release as they cook.

Prepare the Instant Pot by placing a wire rack in the bottom and pouring in 1 cup of water. Place the jars on the rack and secure the top of the pot. Select high pressure and set the timer for 20 minutes.

When done cooking, allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. (Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.) Open the pressure cooker and carefully remove the hot jars. Allow them to rest until the contents stop bubbling. Remove the lids using hot pads, being careful for steam. Stir each jar, then top as desired with the optional toppings. The oats can be served immediately or the lids can be put back on to serve them later.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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

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

I’ve Fallen Off The Wagon. Now What?

The holidays are behind us and grey months are ahead of us, which makes today a good day to consider the rest of 2018. Many of us make health-related New Year’s resolutions, and only 9.2% of people feel they successfully meet these goals. The problem may be that our goals were too drastic or too restrictive. We are all guilty of this type: “I’m going to run five miles every day” or “I’m only eating 1000 calories a day!” Unfortunately, drastic pledges that limit enjoying our lives generally don’t work. Plus, shouldn’t we enjoy life? YES! So, what can you do?

Step 1: Keep it simple. Counting calories or minutes on the treadmill may not be the best way to tackle your goals. If you currently don’t exercise, try adding one or two short walks during the day – even just ten minutes adds up to 70 minutes each week! If eating out is your doom, split a meal, try an appetizer instead of an entrée, or swap a side of fruit for a sugary dessert. Small changes really do make for long-term changes.

Step 2: Start fresh. Instead of drastically cutting calories, swap fresh fruit and a glass of water for a sugary/salty snack or side dish. Or maybe you don’t love veggies or you’ve grown tired of your go-to items – try something new! I get in ruts like everyone else, but a stroll through the produce section usually produces fresh ideas. It’s also easy to start the day fresh, I add sliced pears to cereal, oatmeal and yogurt, or diced veggies and salsa to eggs.

January 1 is no more magical than February 1 (or today, for that matter!). Start fresh and see how you feel in a few days! For more ideas, check out what the USDA suggests for small changes that lead to lasting results.

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

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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!

5 Meal Prep Tips for a Healthy New Year

A healthier new year starts with building better nutrition habits. Cooking is one way to get yourself into a healthier groove, and adding a little bit of meal planning to make a significant difference! Making sure you have a well-balanced, varied diet can easily be achieved with meal prep. Here are 5 meal prep tips to give you a head start:

1. Less is more

Begin meal prepping with recipes that are easy to prepare and require simple ingredients. I like to select recipes with no more than 10 ingredients (less is better!). Once you get the swing of preparing these recipes, you can expand to more robust dishes.

2. Batch cook

Cook a large amount (double or triple the quantity of a recipe) so you can enjoy part of it that day, and then save or freeze the rest for another day in the week. Dishes that freeze well include chili, soups, meatballs and muffins.

3. Creatively reuse

Eating the same exact meal every night can get boring, especially if you have kids! Repurpose your meal creatively throughout the week. For example, grilled pears can be enjoyed in a sandwich, sliced and diced into a salad, or blended into a savory soup.

4. Don’t forget snacks

Snacks should include foods and nutrients that you may not get enough of during meals. As 90% of Americans don’t get enough vegetables and 85% don’t get enough fruit, snacks are a perfect way to add them to your healthy eating plan. Plan for snacks like sliced pears and cheese, Greek yogurt topped with granola, or trail mix.

5. Stock up on containers

The right containers are everything to a meal prepper. Stock up on containers that take up less space and are BPA-free, leak-proof, dishwasher safe, freezer safe and microwave safe. You may also want to stock up on glass jars or bento boxes so you can easily tote your meals to work.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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

Toby Amidor, MS, RD is a nutrition expert and author of best-selling The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.

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.

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!

You can also enter to win a box of fresh USA Pears HERE!

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.

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.

Pear Pecan Pumpkin Spice Bread

Some “breads” are actually quite sweet and sugary, acting more like cake than bread. This Pear Pecan Pumpkin Spice Bread lets the naturally sweet taste of the pears shine through without any added sugar AND it pears perfectly (pun intended) with savory dishes like a steamy bowl of butternut squash soup. It’ll also look beautiful on your holiday table!

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

2 fresh ripe USA Pears – peel, core, cut into pieces

2 fresh USA Pears with stem – cut in half (leave core attached), core and peel

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon pumpkin spice

2 teaspoons cocoa – unsweetened

½ cup extra virgin olive light oil or avocado oil

½ cup plain Greek yogurt – plain

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2/3 cup almond milk

1/4 cup pecans – chopped

Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350◦F

Coat a loaf pan (9 X 5 inch) with cooking spray. Set aside.

Place pears that are peeled, cored, cut into pieces into a food processor and puree. Set aside.

Spoon flours into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.

In a medium bowl, whisk flours together with the next 6 ingredients (through cocoa).

In a large bowl combine oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, eggs, syrup, almond milk and pureed pears and beat with a hand mixer until combined.

Add flour mixture to above mixture and beat at a low speed just until combined (don’t over mix.)

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle pecans evenly on top.

Arrange pear halves into the loaf pan, pressing each into batter.

Bake bread in loaf pan for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then carefully remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Serving suggestion: Serve a slice of bread alongside a steamy bowl of soup, like butternut squash. A perfect pear!

Add Pears to Your Tailgate or Watch-Party Spread

Tailgate and game watch party food are among my favorite meal categories. While I love indulging in some of the heartier game-day fare, I also like to balance things out and cleanse my palate with fresh produce. Juicy and naturally sweet USA Pears, which offer an excellent source of fiber (6 grams for a medium size), can play a crave-worthy role in any game-day menu.

A fresh, fruit salad is a staple dish I always enjoy on game day, whether it’s a get-together that I’m hosting or one where I’m attending as a guest. A fruit salad is also a crowd-pleaser, from toddlers to adults. (On a side note: The other day, my 4-year-old spotted the first pears of the season on our kitchen counter and literally squealed, “Ooh! Can I have one?” True story.)

While pears are in peak season during fall and winter, mix them into a salad with other fall fruits, like I did here in this Pear, Apple, and Grape Salad with Thyme and Walnuts. Or, if you’re a true pear connoisseur like me, use a few different pear varieties with a range of colors and textures and use just pears in your fall fruit salad!

I also add pears in my White Wine Sangria with Winter Fruits and in my mixed green salad made of spinach, arugula, pears, toasted almonds, and vinaigrette.

Happy tailgating!

Michelle Dudash, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. Join her on Instagram at @michelledudash for more delicious and healthy eating inspiration.

Want more fun pear-ific recipes to please a crowd? Check out our Recipes page!

Eating Seasonally

Pears with mother and son

You may have heard mention of the importance of eating seasonally, but what does that mean and why does it matter? Eating produce when it is in season is not a new idea, in fact, it was the norm before industrialized agriculture and giant grocery stores. The general idea is that we eat foods when they are naturally harvested, such as berries in the summer and pears starting in the fall. The nutritional benefit is that seasonal fruits and vegetables tend to pack more nutrients and richer flavors than foods that should ripen before being harvested or during shipment. And in this way, seasonal foods tend to be cheaper and less damaging to the environment. An interesting fact about pears is that optimal ripening actually occurs after being harvested and cold storage, and therefore, they are available nearly year-round!

So which fruits and vegetables should I eat now? Interestingly, autumn is the season when the most produce is harvested, including pears, apples, grapes, persimmons, kale, broccoli, squash, and brussels sprouts. Check out SNAP-Ed for a more detailed list to get your mouth watering! Try adding fresh seasonal produce to recipes for added flavor and texture. On a side note, since canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are picked during their peak seasons, these are also excellent choices as additions to your dishes. Look for products without added sauces and fruits packed in juice to limit added sugars. Happy eating!

For more information, visit the American Heart Association.