Stuffed Baked Pears | With Oats, Figs and Honey

I have the most insatiable sweet tooth known to man. I’ve made this lofty claim previously but in the wake of Easter – which essentially amounted to an all out candy-eating gorge fest in my household – it bears repeating. Yes, it’s around the holidays that my tendency to overindulge in sugar really rears its insulin-spiking head. You might recall that huge Christmas cake of ill repute, the one I managed to polish off all by my lonesome, over the course of a few weeks, piece after piece stealthily snatched from the freezer. Well Easter witnessed similar petty crimes, except in this case my victims were a sickening number of chocolate bunnies and eggs.
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Really I have no problem munching on sweet treats over the holidays – it’s fun to be festive and depriving myself of food I enjoy puts me in a dark mood. The issue is that these holiday overindulgences tend to set me off on a rather unhealthy pattern of sugar consumption. Suddenly eating candy after dinner EVERY NIGHT doesn’t seem like too bad of an idea. An apple fritter with that Tim Horton’s coffee? Sure, why not? Pancakes for breakfast on a Wednesday? Oh hell ya! Before I know I’m back on the sugar wheel, consuming way too many sugary confections and always wanting more. Madness!
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So once again, I find myself having to do a self-intervention before I snack my way too far into diabetes territory. That being said, I’m not inclined to completely renounce my dessert habit – gotta keep a little junk in the trunk, right ladies? As such I’ve been searching for recipes that would provide a happy medium – that is, appease my sweet tooth without making feel like I’m ‘on a diet’ and eating like an ascetic monk. A tall order? Perhaps, but I knew that someone out there in the WordPress blogosphere or beyond must possess the answer to this culinary ruse!
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Sure enough, the universe answered my call. A couple of weeks ago I came across this recipe for baked apples on Nicole’s Cauldrons and Cupcakes blog. This is precisely the type of recipe I was after. It contains some seriously healthy ingredients – fruit, walnuts and dates – yet with some sort of sleight of hand tricks you into thinking you’re eating something quite sinful when really the opposite is true. Inspired by Nicole, and eyeing some nice ripe pears on my counter, I set about creating my own baked fruit dessert (or in my case, lunch; it was around noon when I made this). This is what I came up with, which essentially amounts to an inside out pear crumble. Old fashioned oats, dried figs, a dab of honey , pie spices and a little butter are combined, stuffed into a hollowed out pear and baked until fall-apart soft. Simply delicious. I think these baked pears have set me on the path toward better glycemic health – just do me a favour and call security if you see me approaching the ‘danger zone’ (AKA the bulk candy aisle) at the grocery store 🙂
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Recipe: Stuffed Baked Pears | With Oats, Figs and Honey
Makes 4 baked pears
Ingredients:
  • 4 ripe (but not mushy) pears – I used Bartletts
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (use gluten free oats if you have a gluten sensitivity)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried figs
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or agave or maple syrup) + a little more to serve
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or less if using table salt)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Remove top 1/5th of each pear and set aside – these will be the ‘lids’ for your baked pears.

3. Using a small spoon or apple corer, scoop core from each pear, making sure not to cut through bottom of pear.

4. Place pears in an 8″ x 8″ baking pan and set aside.

5. In a small bowl stir together oats, figs, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

6. Add butter (or vegan butter) and honey (or agave or maple syrup) and mix well until everything is combined.

7. Press oat mixture firmly into pears and top with pear tops.

8. Fill bottom of pan with 1/2 cup of water.

9. Place pan in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until oat mixture is warm and soft.

10. Remove from oven and serve, topping each pear with a drizzle of honey (or agave or maple syrup). Optional: Pair with a scoop or two of ice cream or vegan ice cream.

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Black-Bottom Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icebox Pie

We celebrated Hunter’s first birthday this weekend. This time last year, the last thing I thought I’d be festooning with birthday decorations was the interior of a 30-ft travel trailer. Then again, this time last year I was so gripped by the shock of delivering an actual infant (not sure what else I thought was going to happen after 9 months!) that I wasn’t anticipating much of anything about my existence from that point forward, let alone the specifics of Hunter’s first birthday!

As we moved to the Okanagan just a few months ago, Hunter doesn’t have baby friends here as of yet, so the three of us threw a little birthday party of our own. In the morning we had breakfast and opened presents, which Hunter quickly ditched in favour of chasing a helium balloon around the trailer and chewing on wrapping paper (his favourite past time). Later on we visited with my mum, who happened to have a short layover at the Kelowna airport, then made our way to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. The food and wine were predictably sub-par (don’t order the wine on special at a family restaurant; lesson learned) , but it was the ideal place to dine as Hunter was able to make random screaming noises, and throw bread and cutlery on the floor – which is basically what all babies go there to do – with impunity. The servers even brought him a little bowl of ice cream with a sparkler in it and serenaded him with a fairly enthusiastic rendition of Happy Birthday. He loved it!

Earlier in the afternoon I presented Hunter his single-candled birthday cake – or icebox pie, I should say. Last Summer I made the original version of this icebox pie recipe – a too-good-to-be-true melding of peanut butter, cream cheese and whipped cream on a graham cracker crust  – and it was so mind-bogglingly delicious I was dying for an opportunity to make it again. Then pumpkin season rolled around, and a new incarnation of the recipe popped into my dessert-obsessed brain. I’d keep the cream cheese and whipped cream in the filling, but replace the peanut butter with pumpkin puree and spices, and swap out the graham cracker crust for a chocolate wafer one. Then finish the whole thing with more whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. Hell ya!

Hunter’s birthday was coming up so I held on to the idea, and after much suspense put it into action over the weekend. The results were well worth the wait! Hunter might disagree – he’s been slow taking to solid foods and only sucked back a couple teaspoons worth – but Mike and I attacked the pie full-throttle and had to refrain ourselves from polishing the entire thing off in one go. I’m not sure what I like best about this recipe: the interplay of spicy pumpkin, smooth cream cheese and cool, fluffy whipped cream, or the crunchy texture of the chocolate wafer crust. I suppose there’s no real need to play favourites! Try this recipe as a quick, no-oven alternative to pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving (for all you Americans out there) or Christmas 🙂

Recipe: Black-Bottom Pumpkin Cream Cheese Icebox Pie (adapted from this Ezra Pound Cake recipe)

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs + a couple tablespoons more for top of pie
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup + more to serve (optional)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup cream cheese (I used the reduced fat kind), softened
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove

Method:

Prepare whipped cream: Combine heavy cream and maple syrup in a medium mixing bowl and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until medium-stiff peaks form. Place in fridge until needed.

Prepare chocolate wafer crust: Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan (or an 8″ diameter circular pan). Combine chocolate wafter crumbs and melted butter in a small mixing bowl and stir until combined. Press mixture into the bottom of your pan, making sure it is evenly distributed. Place in fridge to set.

Prepare filling: In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add confectioners sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla and spices and beat until everything is combined. Take 2 1/2 cups of whipped cream from the bowl in fridge and fold into pumpkin cream cheese mixture until well blended.

Finish pie: Pour the mixture into your chocolate wafer crust, then top with remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of chocolate wafer crumbs on top of whipped cream, then place pie in fridge to set for at least an hour before serving.

When serving, drizzle each portion with maple syrup. Eat!