Pulled Pork and Pear Tacos with Pear Pico de Gallo

Time for a taco party! In this festive recipe, pears appear in two ways: braised with pork shoulder to create depth and sweetness for a juicy, shredded taco filling, and also mixed into a zesty pear and jicama pico de gallo for topping. There will be plenty of the flavorful slow-cooked meat to feed a crowd, and any leftovers can be frozen for quick taco making for future weeknight dinners. Serve with margaritas and chips and salsa to round out the menu.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder (pork butt)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon chile powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 large ripe USA Pears, peeled and chopped

1 small white onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

4 canned chipotle chiles with a little extra sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lime

Pear Pico de Gallo

1 1/2 cups finely diced USA Green Bartlett Pear

1 cup finely diced jicama

4 finely minced green onions

1/4 cup minced cilantro

2 minced jalapeños, or to taste

Juice of 1 lime

Kosher salt, to taste

Corn or flour tortillas, for serving

1 avocado, sliced

Sour cream, for serving

Pulled Pork and Pear Tacos with Pear Pico de Gallo

Directions:

To make the pulled pork: Cut the pork into 4 large chunks and season them with salt, chile powder, cumin, and pepper, coating all sides. Put the pork in a slow cooker and add the pears, onion, cilantro, chipotle chiles, and garlic, and squeeze the lime juice over everything. Cover and cook on until the meat easily shreds, 8 to 10 hours on low, or 4 to 6 hours on high. (This can also be cooked in an Instant Pot at high pressure for 75 minutes, following manufacturer’s instructions.) Shred the meat using two forks right in the slow cooker, discarding any fatty pieces. Keep warm.

To make the pico de gallo: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl up to 2 hours before serving.

Serve the pulled pork in warmed tortillas, topped with avocado, sour cream, and the pico de gallo, as desired.

(Leftover meat will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months.)

Pork and Pear Tacos

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)

5 Tips for Plant-Powering Your Eating Style

Plant-based eating is hot, hot, hot! More and more people are turning away from the traditional American plate – with a slab of meat at the center – towards a gorgeous, colorful, plant-centric plate filled with pulses (beans, lentils, peas), whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. No wonder this eating style is catching on—it’s downright delicious! From a whole grain bowl filled with chickpeas, pears and sunflower seeds, to a homemade veggie burger with avocado slices, there are so many delicious offerings.

A plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat altogether if you don’t want to; it just means that your diet focuses mostly on plants. This flexitarian eating style is linked with a boatload of benefits, such as lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and obesity, as well as lowering your carbon footprint. With so many reasons to go crazy for plants, what are you waiting for?

My Top 5 Tips for Plant-Powering Your Diet

1. Breakfast with Plants 

Kick off the day by flooding your body with feel-good nutrients from plants. Try nutritious, tasty starters, such as oats topped with pear slices and walnuts, buckwheat waffles with almond butter and berries, or a veggie burrito stuffed with sautéed veggies and black beans. See what I mean?

2. Whiz Up a Plant Smoothie

For energy and protein fuel, turn to your blender to create a plant-powered smoothie for a healthy snack or light meal. Throw in soymilk, a handful of nuts or seeds, sliced pears, and greens to create a lean, mean, green smoothie

3. Meal Prep

Instead of turning to takeout or fast food, pack your own nutritious lunch combinations by prepping your meals at the beginning of the week following this easy formula:

In an individual, airtight container layer: Salad greens (kale, arugula, spinach) + whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, farro) + plant protein (beans, lentils, tofu) + veggies (bell pepper, broccoli, snow peas) + fruit (diced pears, raisins, blueberries) + sauce (tahini dressing, vinaigrette, hummus) = nutritious and delicious.

4. Let Plants be the Star on Your Dinner Plate

When you ask the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?”, go straight to the plants in your fruit bowl, refrigerator and pantry. With simple ingredients, such as pears, quinoa, carrots and pistachios, you can create a flavorful pilaf. Yum!

5. Snack on Plants

You don’t have to limit your plant offerings to mealtime; munch on them between meals by dipping snow peas into tahini, pear wedges into almond butter, and whole grain flatbread into hummus.

Looking for more ins-pear-ation? Here’s my easy, delicious recipe for Jade Pear Pistachio Salad.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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

5 Pear Salads To Freshen Up Your Spring

When you think of spring, what comes to mind? Nourishment, freshness and rejuvenation may all describe it, and not just the season but also your diet and lifestyle. If you’re the type who hibernates all winter, then spring is ideal from coming out of your shell and embracing healthy choices and better eating habits before summer hits.

Besides their sweetness, pears make a great addition to salads as a way to elevate the nutritional value of the dish. One medium-sized pear packs 6 grams of fiber and contains zero sodium, fat or cholesterol, so you get all of the flavor and texture without the unhealthiness. Plus, when it comes salads, there are endless pear-ssibilities! We recommend kicking off spring with these five flavorful pear salads to suit any occasion.

1. Grilled and Fresh Pear Salad with Chile Oil and Togarashi

Try this flavorful Thai inspired salad with grilled and fresh pears for contrasting flavor and texture. The complex spice and chile blend to brighten a meal.

2. Warm Greens with Balsamic Lentils and Roasted Pears

Here is a hearty salad to warm and nourish you. Honey sweet roasted pears and tangy balsamic lentils are tossed with winter greens to make this simple and balanced meal. Serve the salad while still warm, but be sure to save the leftovers – this salad will be delicious straight from the refrigerator the next day after the flavors have continued to meld. If you desire a little more richness, try topping the salad with long curls of parmesan cheese.

3. USA Pear Super Simple Signature Salad

A classic salad suitable for a delicious, nutritious entree! The tangy crumbled blue cheese is delightfully offset by the sweet and juicy pear. Woodsy balsamic vinegar gives this salad further depth and hearty flavor. The greens can also be changed to spinach to give the salad extra nutrients. Roasted almonds or candied walnuts are good options with spinach.

4. Pear and Watercress Salad with Goat Cheese Gouda and Walnuts

This salad pairs sweet and juicy pears with peppery watercress and pungent cheese in a perfect blend to welcome spring to your dinner table.

5. Crunchy Vegetable and Pear Salad

This tasty salad is full of crisp, colorful vegetables and sweet Red Anjou Pears. Toss it with almond butter-based dressing (sweetened with dates instead of refined sugar), and enjoy it as a quick lunch or an easy dinner side.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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

3 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Diet

They say that summer bodies are made during the winter. If that’s the case, what happens during spring? For many of us, when spring has finally sprung, crunch time inevitably has as well.

Say goodbye to wintertime excuses and say hello to a version of yourself that looks and feels the way that you want to. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, after all! To start summer with a clean slate, it’s crucial to look at what you put on your plate. Here are 3 ways to do so:

1. Fiber up – When it comes to cleaning up their diets, most people focus on what they can’t have, rather than what they can have. This notion of deprivation can make eating healthily seem, well, dreadful and depressing. Fear not: clean eating need NOT involve deprivation, dread, or depression. One of the most simple, enjoyable, and effective ways to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes actually comes down to adding MORE to your diet—adding more fiber, that is. A diet rich in fiber is associated with a host of health benefits, such as fighting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancers, and, yes, dreaded weight gain. Fiber acts as a “broom” that sweeps harmful toxins from your body.

So how do you get your hands on some of the good stuff? Well, pears are a delicious way to start. A medium-size pear packs 6 grams of fiber, which brings you closer to your daily needs. What are these needs? Women should aim for 35 grams, and men should aim for 38.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – As the days become longer and temperatures begin to increase, so does your body’s need for water. Make sure that you sip on water throughout the day and with meals, aiming for 2-3 liters of water a day. Water is involved in nearly all bodily functions, and fiber, as mentioned above, needs water to work its magic! Your hydration need not be sourced entirely from liquids though—piling your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables can help keep you hydrated too, as they tend to have a high water content. Pears, for example, are 84% water. Pair that with some actual agua, though, to ensure that you’re consuming an adequate amount of water.

3. Clean out and stock up – Spring cleaning shouldn’t just take place in your closet. Show your pantry and fridge some TLC during this season of renewal, too. Get rid of the products and ingredients that have been sitting around collecting dust and freezer burn and use the season of rejuvenation as a time to clean house. To set yourself up for success, attack this task with a plan: make a list—and check it twice, taking into consideration the tricky temptations and tastes that tempt you. Then, select better-for-you options that will satisfy those pesky cravings and keep you looking and feeling your best. If potato chips are your thing, try popcorn, which is also salty and crunchy, but has 3g of fiber per serving too. If your sweet tooth occasionally seems to be your only tooth, or if you suffer from spring allergies, purchase pears, which not only contain fiber, but are also rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that can also help to prevent immune cells from releasing histamines, which worsen seasonal allergies. Better-for-you options are easier to find than you think!

A refreshed, rejuvenated you awaits! So long, winter—lean, green spring is calling!

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

Want more ideas? Check out delicious, heart-healthy recipes at USA Pears!

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.

Be empowered to shift your perspective around food and your body!

woman cooking in the kitchenAs the summer months quickly approach, the buzz around diets and weight loss become more and more prevalent. This summer, try shifting your focus from deprivation and that elusive “bikini body,” which you already possess, and take the opportunity to slow down. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and “wants” that you may forget to glorify the little things that make your life rich on a day-to-day basis. Be empowered to shift your perspective around food and your body! When you breathe, slow down and harness food gratitude, you’ll be pleased to learn that eating can be an extraordinarily joyful experience.

Eating requires that you engage all your senses, which cause your brain to release feel-good chemicals, elevating your mood and evoking feelings of trust, enjoyment and relaxation. Let’s try it!

Take in and embrace what you see. From vibrantly colorful produce stacked at the market to a beautifully plated meal, our eyes act as a gateway to appreciating the food we eat. This is a great time to consider where your food came from and how it was grown, and if you’re eating a meal, you can reflect on the work that went into preparing it.

Try this: Hold a pear or two in your hands. Note the differences that are present between one pear and another from shape and texture to size and color variations. Currently in season are the Red Anjou and Green Anjou, which have been taking a nice long rest in cold storage since late last fall (they don’t ripen on the tree) and are now ripening perfectly!

Savor each bite. We often choose our foods based on the way they taste and the flavors we enjoy, but we rarely take the time to truly savor each bite. Chew mindfully and pay attention to the experience and the way the flavor and texture of your food changes. By savoring each bite, you can enjoy less quantities of food – and still feel satisfied.

Try this: Take a bite of a ripe pear. Note the texture, level of sweetness and juiciness this particular pear possesses. There are ten varieties of USA Pears, each with its own distinctive features – from taste to texture to color – so have fun to trying the different qualities that each variety embodies.

Inhale. Scent evokes memories and emotions, which you can use to enhance the enjoyment of a meal. How a food smells is directly related to your perception of how that food tastes.

Try this: Cut into a juicy pear and take a moment to embrace the sweet aroma. Does this evoke any emotions or excitement? Take note of your thoughts.

You may give this a go once in a while or incorporate a few of these tips on a daily basis, but either way, the act of engaging yourself in all that your food is offering will allow you to celebrate your plate in a way that takes the emphasis off dieting and deprivation. Happy Summer!

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.

Sweet Breakfast Barley Bowl with Pear and Walnuts

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, bestselling author and nutrition expert
www.franceslargemanroth.com; @FrancesLRothRD

As a parent and professional, I’m always looking for easy, yet flavorful and delicious recipes that can be prepped ahead of time and taken on-the-go. With the warmer weather and longer daylight, it’s all the more important to be satisfied so I can seize the day.

Enter one of my go-to breakfasts bowls. Both the barley and pear are high in fiber (this recipe has 17g per serving!), to keep you feeling full until lunch.

Instead of making the individual servings, you could use the whole batch of barley at once and top it with the sliced pears and walnuts to bring to a picnic or other summertime gathering. Bosc and Red and Green Anjou, so called “winter pears” are in season at the moment, and only ripen evenly to sweet, juiciness after a good long rest in cold storage. As they don’t ripen well on the tree, they’ve been chilling since late last fall and are now perfectly ripe for adding to your favorite spring and summer recipes!

A white bowl of barley topped with pears and walnuts on a blue tablecothSweet Breakfast Barley Bowl with Pear and Walnuts

Makes 6 servings

2 cups uncooked hulled (or pearled) barley, rinsed
pinch of salt

Per serving:
2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk or any type of milk
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1 USA pear, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

1. Cook the barley: In a large saucepan, combine the barley with the salt and 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes, until tender but still chewy. Drain off any excess water.

2. Once the barley is cooked, you may use it immediately or let it cool and transfer it to a large airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

3. When you’re ready for your breakfast bowl, place 1 cup of the cooked barley in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk the milk, cinnamon, honey, vanilla and raisins together in a small bowl and then pour over the barley. Microwave for 40 seconds. Arrange the pear slices and walnuts on top and enjoy.
Calories: 411
Fat: 0.29g (sat 0.03g, moo 0.03g, poly 0.1g)
Protein: 10g
Carbohydrates: 83g
Fiber: 17g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 59mg
Potassium: 593mg
Calcium: 84mg

This recipe for Sweet Breakfast Barley with Pear and Walnuts is from my cookbook, Eating in Color.

Beautiful on the Inside

Mother and sun snuggling in the kitchen with an assortment of colorful, fresh pearsThis week a coworker said to me, “My son doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables, but it’s okay. He looks healthy.” Uh oh, this sounds familiar. Rather than what’s on the outside, the question we should ask is, “What does he look like on the inside?” Thinness does not imply healthy, and those who look like they are a healthy or expected weight on the outside may, due to poor diet or lack of exercise, harbor risk factors for chronic diseases on the inside. Medically this is called metabolically obese normal weight and socially called “skinny fat.” Unfortunately, like obesity, this condition is associated with insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipids, predisposing individuals to premature diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [1]

National data suggest that metabolically obese normal weight individuals make up more than 20% of the normal weight population, and about half of all American adults have one or more illnesses associated with poor diet. [2,3] And it’s no wonder. Americans tend to eat too much sugar, salt, and saturated fat, and not enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish that may protect against chronic illnesses. [4] Additionally, Americans don’t move enough; only 21% of US adults meet the national physical activity recommendation of 150 minutes per week. Weight is only one indicator of health status: The scale does not replace eating well, exercise, and an annual physical exam.

Like I discussed with my coworker (and just about anyone who will listen), small changes to increase fruit and veggie consumption and movement will go a long way – especially in children who are building lifelong habits. As we’ve been told a million times in our lives, it truly is what’s on the inside that matters.

 
1. Suliga E, Koziel D, Gluszek S. Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in normal weight individuals. Ann Agric Environ Med 2016; 23:631-635.
2. Wildman RP, Muntner P, Reynolds K, McGinn AP, Rajpathak S, Wylie-Rosett J, Sowers MR. Clustering and the Normal Weight With Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering Prevalence and Correlates of 2 Phenotypes Among the US Population (NHANES 1999-2004). Arch Intern Med 2008; 168:1617-1624.
3. Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple Chronic Conditions Among US Adults: A 2012 Update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11.
4. Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program, National Cancer Institute. [Accessed Apr 16, 2017]; Usual Dietary Intakes: Food Intakes, U.S. Population, 2007–2010.

Pear “Toasts”

Pears sliced lengthwise topped with delicious toppingsYou’ve probably noticed how trendy the idea of toast has become, with food magazines, cooking shows, and restaurant chefs across the country coming up with enticing toppings for a humble slice of bread. There are even entire cafes dedicated to the concept. But what happens when you have the wacky idea to exchange a slice of pear for the bread? Magic!

Here are four delicious ideas for topping pear “toasts” at home. Consider this a jumping off point for coming up with your own creative combinations, using whatever variety of pear you have ripening on the counter, and any tasty toppings sitting in your fridge or pantry. The options are practically endless, since pears taste amazing with both sweet and savory flavors. These quick creations are a yummy snack for kids and adults alike, whether the craving strikes after school or at the office. But really they are great anytime of the day, from breakfast on the go to a midnight snack.

The first step is to slice a ripe USA pear lengthwise, cutting on either side of the core to create 1/4-inch thick planks. Next, get topping!

Toast 1:
USA Green Anjou Pear
Almond Nut Butter
Banana Slices
Honey Drizzle
Cinnamon Sprinkle
Poppy Seeds

Toast 2:
USA Bosc Pear
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Cucumber Slices
Crumbled Feta
Chopped Kalamata Olives
Dill Sprigs

Toast 3:
USA Bosc Pear
Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese
Salami Slices
Chopped Hazelnuts
Chopped Parsley

Toast 4:
USA Red Anjou
Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Chopped Dried Apricots
Mint Leaves
Black Sesame Seeds