You Are What You Eat: Asian pears, lumps of gold
By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD
Recently, I went into my garden with the light of my flashlight and picked gold. Well, I really picked golden Asian pears, but they are as good as gold. With a great taste of fall, these crunchy apple-like, but pear-flavored fruits are great in any recipe calling for pears.
There are many varieties of Asian pears, and they ripen sequentially, so you can enjoy them for several months. Try the recipes below, including the one for homemade blue cheese dressing. The dressing is much lower in salt and tastier than anything you can buy in the store. Your taste buds - as well as your heart and kidneys - will thank you.
Asian pear salad
2 cups washed mixed salad greens
2 Asian pears, peeled and diced
½ cup fall raspberries
½ cucumber, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ cup walnuts or pecans
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
Put greens in four salad bowls, sprinkle with pears, raspberries, cucumber and bell peppers. Place nuts, sugar and water in a small frying pan over high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar turns light brown and frothy. Turn nuts out onto waxed paper or parchment. Separate while hot. Let cool, sprinkle over salad. Serve with homemade blue cheese dressing.
Nutritional information (without dressing):
Calories: 190, Carbohydrates: 25 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sodium: 5 milligrams
Homemade blue cheese dressing
1 cup low-fat sour cream
½ cup milk, or as needed to thin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon hot chili sauce
About 5-6 ounces good blue cheese, crumbled
Mix all ingredients but the cheese. Once mixed, add cheese and serve. Leftover dressing will keep 7 to 10 days in your fridge.
Nutritional information (per two tablespoons):
Calories: 49, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Protein: 2 grams, Sodium: 15 milligrams
Pear caramel cupcakes
¼ cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 Asian pears, peeled and diced
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use low-sodium baking powder if available)
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt ¼ cup butter in large, nonstick fry pan. Stir in ½ cup sugar. Add pears. Cover and cook on low to medium heat about 15 minutes, checking regularly to avoid burning, until sugar begins to turn brown and caramelize.
Meanwhile, with electric mixer or in food processor, beat 2/3 cup butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light in color and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla, add milk. In a separate bowl, mix flour with baking powder and cardamom. Fold into egg mixture with spatula, until just combined. Put caramelized pears in cake pan or muffin tin. Spoon batter evenly over pears. Some pears may stick up a bit, which is fine. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Cool cake about 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of pan or muffin cups. Flip out onto a plate. Makes 12 cupcakes.
Nutritional information (per cupcake):
Calories: 295, Carbohydrates: 39 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sodium: 17 milligrams
The recipes in this column are meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.
[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]
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