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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Red Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Pink Grapefruit Salad | With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction

The Okanagan has been hit with numerous dumps of snow already this Winter – many more than the norm, or so I’ve been told. Over night at least 6 inches of the stuff came down – probably the most we’ve seen fall in one go – and I spent an hour this morning shovelling the RV pad like a champ – huffing and puffing onerously the whole time as I haven’t done any physical activity in months (apart from opening and closing the fridge door). Fortunately the snow was light and fluffy – not the cardiac arrest-inducing, wet and heavy kind – otherwise I’m sure I would have thrown in the towel (shovel?) half way through.

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There is only one Bobcat on site at the trailer part to keep the roads clear when it snows, and the last few weeks it’s been hard pressed to keep up with the demand. I witnessed a dramatic scene this morning as I sat gazing out the window while I drank my morning coffee – one brave sole had endeavoured forth in his golf cart before the roads had been cleared and found himself spinning his tires right in front of our RV. I froze for a moment, wondering if I should ask him if he needed a push, but moments later he managed to back up a few feet and accelerate forward with renewed vigour and was on his way once more.

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After being worked over by the snow shovel this morning I wish I’d kept some of this salad in reserve for lunch today – I actually made it over the weekend and it came together so perfectly we were seduced into eating it in one go. My boyfriend the omnivore even loved it, particularly the quinoa and beet components – he’s all into “super foods” now after watching a show on KCTS9 about the benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet. Of course I’ve been telling him this stuff since we met but he actually believes me now that he’s heard it from a third party on public television 😉

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On top of looking pretty (I still can’t get over how amazing the intense pink of the grapefruit looks alongside the beets and the quinoa), this salad does everything a good salad should: tastes great, keeps you full for hours, and is super healthy to boot. Everyone already nows that quinoa is good for you, and red quinoa is no exception – it offers the same nutritional benefits as the white variety, but has a richer, more nutty flavour. Beets are high in folates and B-complex vitamins, and grapefruit is a great source of fibre, as well as anti-oxidants vitamin-A and vitamin-C. I added a handful of hazelnuts for some extra crunch, and shallots and fresh dill give a bright, fresh flavour to the salad. The syrupy, tart-yet-sweet balsamic reduction – drizzled on top before serving – is delicious, especially in combination with the earthy flavours of the quinoa and beets. This salad a great option if you’re looking to get your eating habits back on track after the holidays (who isn’t) – without feeling like you’re depriving yourself of the good stuff 🙂

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Recipe: Red Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Pink Grapefruit Salad | With Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction

Makes 2 meal-size salads

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 1 small golden beet
  • 1 small red beet
  • 1/2 cup red quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water (to cook quinoa)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts (I kept them whole but you can chop them if that’s your preference)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1/2 small red grapefruit, cut into 1/2″ sections
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For balsamic reduction:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or your choice of vegan sweetener)

Method:

Prepare roasted beets: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut beets in half and wrap each half in aluminum foil. Place wrapped halves on a baking sheet and transfer to oven. Roast for 30 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove from oven, carefully open each aluminum package and set aside to cool. While beets are roasting, prepare quinoa.

Prepare quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Prepare balsamic reduction: In a small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar and honey (or vegan sweetener) and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until liquid forms a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat and set aside.

Finish salad: Once beets are cool enough to handle, peel away skin. Cut beets into 1/2″ cubes and place in a medium salad bowl. Add cooled quinoa, shallots, hazelnuts, grapefruit and dill. Gently toss to combine. Add olive oil to bowl and toss again. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve, topping each portion with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Eat!

Avocado, Blue Cheese and Manuka Honey on Whole Grain Toast

I like to start my day with a bang. For some this might mean chucking kettle weights for an hour at the gym, but for me – no surprise here – it means sitting down to a tasty breakfast. It doesn’t have to be a froufrou breakfast – mimosas with a side of Nutella-stuffed crepes, say (although I certainly wouldn’t turn it down) – but I do like putting some thought into what I eat and making it enjoyable, even if it’s something simple. This means giving the proverbial hand to liquid meal replacements, instant oatmeal, packaged breakfast bars and other convenience products designed to make life easier (OK, I’ll make an exception for the odd toaster waffle). I gotta do breakfast right or I’ll be out of whack for the rest of the day.

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Normally I stick to my old standards in the morning, like oatmeal with flax meal and dried fruit mixed in, and topped with almond milk. But from time to I like to break from routine and experiment a little. That’s how my breakfast lentil bowl was born. Taking a cue from Nuts Over Oats and Emmy Cooks I’ve recently started jazzing up my morning oatmeal using savoury ingredients like tomatoes, fresh herbs and cheese. I’ve also been switching things up in the toast department. Like oatmeal, toast is something of an edible canvas. While there’s something to be said for the delicious simplicity of toast with jam, sometimes it’s nice to get fancy and try out more unusual flavour combinations.

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I regularly eat toast with avocado and honey, but when I recently threw some blue cheese into the mix the whole thing was taken to the next level. And when I tried it with manuka honey – a darker of honey with the added advantage of having antibacterial properties – suddenly what I had on my hands wasn’t toast but something far more mystical! The buttery texture of the avocado combined with the pungent saltiness of the blue cheese and the richness of the manuka honey really make for a mouth full of awesome. I highly recommend you try it.

Question: Are you a breakfast person or can you go without? For the breakfast eaters, do you typically go for something sweet or savoury?

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Recipe: Avocado, Blue Cheese and Manuka Honey on Whole Grain Toast

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices whole grain bread, I like Silver Hills (or your choice of gluten free bread)
  • A bit of butter or margarine
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 drizzles of Manuka honey (or your choice of honey)

Method:

Toast your bread. Lightly butter each piece of toast then top with sliced avocado and crumbled blue cheese. Finish with a drizzle of honey. Eat!

Whole-Roasted Local Carrots with Honey and Fresh Sage | Served with Warm Kamut Orzo and Chanterelle Mushroom Salad

With the farmers’ market in Lake Country now finished for the year (not impressed!), this past weekend we branched out and made a trip to Kelowna to check out the farmers’ and crafters’ market there. As the largest of its kind in BC, you’d think I would have given myself longer than an hour to look around, but it was only as we left the trailer park around noon that I realized the market runs from 8am – 1pm each Saturday. Oops. Should have quit lollygagging around the RV and gotten my butt in gear earlier. Anyhow, with the time available to me I quickly scanned the food vendors’ carts, which ranged from crepes to baked goods to Mexican, lingered for probably a bit longer than necessary at a stall selling tie died clothing (I have a thing for tie-die, don’t ask), and passed by multiple tables (why so many?) hocking magnetic bracelets purporting to cure numerous maladies and ailments, before grinding to a complete halt before a spread of super cute handbags and wallets (my other obsession, besides food) made entirely from repurposed leather jackets and vintage fabric. Successfully fighting the urge to purchase a wallet I don’t need, I moved on to an adjacent vendor, where my wherewithal to not spend money eroded completely. Sigh. Who could possibly resist a handmade ceramic tag with his or her name on it? Not me…

In my determination to find a tag with each of our names on it, which involved digging madly through several bowls containing hundreds of tags each, not only did I work myself into a hot sweat, but managed to distract myself from what I’d gone there to do, namely size up the fresh fruits and vegetables. With the few minutes I had remaining I made a beeline for the first enticing thing that caught my eye, which happened to be a table piled high with beautiful exotic-coloured carrots. I grabbed a few of each colour: red, orange, white and best of all, PURPLE. I didn’t have a specific plan for the carrots at the time but already a few ideas were coming to mind: a nice salad or slaw, or maybe I could do to them what I do best… roast ’em. I also considered snacking on a few right on the spot, because I was starving and all the food vendors’ carts had already closed. But I resisted.

So that was it for my first foray to the Kelowna farmers’ market. Next time I’m giving myself more time to look around and steering clear of the non-food items so as to emerge at the end with more ingredients to cook with than a bag of carrots! The following day I set about putting them to use, keen to see how they differed from conventional orange carrots (verdict: WAY tastier). I decided I’d work with them whole so as not to interfere with their good looks, and figured that roasting them in the oven would be an effective way to draw out their natural flavour. I had some fresh sage in the fridge and had just bought a lovely jar of honey from Armstrong, and I thought a little bit of each would work well with sweetness of the carrots.

I also had some local Chanterelle mushrooms on hand that needed to be used, so I set about making a little pasta dish to go with my carrots. I have plenty of experience cooking with white and brown mushrooms as well as Portobellos, but Chanterelles were new to me, and admittedly a little outside of my culinary comfort zone. When I spotted them at the produce stand a couple days earlier I was slightly put off by their appearance, being somewhat more ‘wild’ and unruly-looking than your average edible mushroom, if that makes sense. I wondered if these things were in fact edible or intended for other purposes altogether? Could they be poisonous? What ever happened to my copy of this? Once I got them home I cautiously nibbled the edge of one, and swear I immediately experienced a mild tingling sensation on my tongue (which sent me directly to WebMD to self-diagnose) but moments later the tingling vanished and I was still breathing, so it must have been psychosomatic. Fungi-neuroses aside, the Chanterelles were fun to cook with. Their flavour is mild and nutty and a good complement to the kamut orzo pasta and walnuts I happened to have in the pantry. Fresh parsley and goat cheese, added just before serving, brighten up the dish both in taste and appearance, without overpowering the mild flavour of the mushrooms. I was quite pleased with my colourful little meal!

Recipe: Whole-Roasted Local Carrots with Honey and Fresh Sage | Served with Warm Kamut Orzo and Chanterelle Mushroom Salad

Ingredients:

Whole-Roasted Local Carrots with Honey and Fresh Sage

Makes 2 servings

  • 6 carrots, local if possible
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Warm Kamut Orzo and Chanterelle Mushroom Salad

Makes 2 servings

  • 2/3 cup kamut orzo, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups Chanterelle mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare carrots: Preheat oven to 400F. Peel carrots and place in a single layer on a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and honey, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place sage leaves on top of carrots. Fold in edges of aluminum foil to create a tight package around carrots. Place package on a baking sheet and put in oven to roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and carefully open foil. Set oven to broil and put carrots back in oven for another 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Prepare orzo salad: Cook orzo according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil. Add Chanterelles, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and saute until tender. Add chopped walnuts and stir until just golden brown. Fold in orzo, and stir until combined with other ingredients. Remove from heat and fold in fresh parsley, then crumbled goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange your roasted carrots on a plate alongside a a couple generous scoops of warm orzo salad. Admire your creation, then eat!