Platters overflow with cookies. Pies are piled high. There’s no shortage of sweets on your holiday table, but are any of them healthy? Bring on the baked pears! These festive fruits are warmed and drizzled with raw honey and non-fat Greek yogurt for a nutritious and delicious dessert. Top with a sprinkling of homemade granola to keep the sugar count down and elegance level up.
Brie is a mild, slightly sweet cheese that pairs particularly well with pears. Layer thin slices of each on crusty, whole grain bread for a sensational gourmet-style sandwich simple enough for anyone to make. A creative condiment takes the place of typical toppings, adding the perfect flavor contrast (and keeping the calorie count down!).
Move over mistletoe and holly—another green superstar will be sharing the spotlight this season! The USDA has proclaimed December as National Pear Month.
After a survey revealed that 84 percent of people don’t know how to tell whether or not a pear is ripe, growers in Washington and Oregon thought it’d be a good idea to enlighten the nation’s unaware fruit eaters. The Pear Bureau Northwest offers these tips and fun facts about pears:
• Pears are one of few fruits plucked from the tree before ripening—if they come down too soon, their flesh will be gritty.
• To test pears for ripeness, apply gentle pressure to the neck, or “stem end,” with your thumb. If it yields, the pear is ripe and juicy. Don’t wait for the whole fruit to feel soft or it will be “mushy” when eaten.
• To ripen a pear, let it sit at room temperature, or place in a paper bag with a banana. Don’t refrigerate unripened pears! Once they start to ripen, you can put them in the fridge to slow down the process.
• Pears can be enjoyed at any point in the ripeness spectrum. Fully ripe, juicy sweet pears are delicious as-is. Less ripe, crisper, sweet-tart pears are ideal for cooking or baking.
• Bartlett and Bosc pears are best for cooking or baking. Anjou pears are good raw or cooked. Comice pears, with exceptionally sweet and juicy flesh, are said to be the best pears to eat raw.
• Overripe pears are great blended into smoothies, soups, sauces and purees.
• If adding to fruit salad, keep cut-up pears from browning by dipping in a mixture of half-water, half- lemon juice.
• Sliced or cubed pears are great in salads. They also pair well with cheese.
• To poach pears, peel and core them. Simmer in a syrup (equal parts water and sugar, or use wine in place of half the water) until tender (a medium-size Bosc pear takes about 45 minutes to poach). Remove and let cool before serving or refrigerating. Drizzle honey, chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce or cream over poached pears.
• To sauté pears, cut into slices. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add pears; cook for about a minute on each side. Sprinkle with sugar; continue cooking and flipping for about 5 minutes until tender. Add to salads, or eat as is, topping as desired.
• Pears are an excellent source of fiber (24% DV), a good source of vitamin C (10% DV) and have only 100 calories (medium-sized pear), no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol.
For more information on pears, as well as easy-to-make recipes, kids’ activities and more, visit the Pear Bureau Northwest.
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