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Simple Weeknight Suppers With Pears

MISSION, KS -- (Marketwired) -- 01/21/14 -- (Family Features) "Hectic family schedules don't have to get in the way of serving up tasty and healthy weeknight dinners," explains leading nutrition expert, cookbook author and television star Ellie Krieger, author of "Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less."

Krieger notes that pairing the unique sweetness of healthy, fresh pears with savory proteins like pork or chicken makes for a satisfying supper that can be made in a snap. "Pears are a perfect pick for weeknight dinners," says Krieger. "Their distinctive flavor goes well in savory main dishes that are simple to make and will be enjoyed by the whole family."

Krieger's recipe for Pork Chops with Pears in Port Wine Sauce from her new "Weeknight Wonders" cookbook will help add variety to the weeknight dinner routine, as will these other suppertime recipes that feature juicy USA Pears.

For more great recipe ideas, visit www.usapears.org.

Check the Neck for Ripeness
Pears are best enjoyed at the peak of ripeness. The best way to judge whether a fresh pear is ripe, sweet and juicy is to "check the neck":

  • Press the neck, or stem end, of the pear with your thumb, and if it yields to gentle pressure it is ripe and ready to eat.
  • To ripen your pears at home, keep them at room temperature. Display these beautiful fruits in a decorative bowl as you wait for them to ripen.
  • To slow ripening, simply put the pears in the refrigerator.

Pork Chops with Pears in Port Wine Sauce
Makes 4 Servings

    3     large firm-ripe USA Pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou
          Cooking spray
    4     1/2-pound center-cut bone-in pork loin chops (about 3/4 inch
          thick)
    1/4   teaspoon salt
    1/2   teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3/4   cup low-sodium chicken broth
    3/4   cup tawny port wine
    1     tablespoon Dijon mustard

Peel and core the pears, then slice them into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Add the pears and cook, stirring once or twice, until warmed and slightly softened but they still retain their shape, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the pears to a plate.
Season the pork chops with the salt and pepper. Spray the skillet with cooking spray again, then add the pork chops and cook until just slightly blush in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a second plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the broth and port to the skillet, raise the heat to high, and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the mustard and whisk until dissolved, then return the pears to the pan and stir to combine.
Spoon the sauce over the chops and serve.

Recipe adapted and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Asian Style Lettuce Wraps with Chicken and Crunchy Pears
Makes 4 servings

    1       tablespoon cornstarch
    2       tablespoons peanut oil
    1       tablespoon minced garlic
    1 1/2   tablespoons grated gingerroot
    6       scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts separated
    1       pound ground chicken, dark meat
    1       tablespoon chili sauce
    2       tablespoons hoisin sauce
    2       tablespoons soy sauce
    1       large USA Pear, such as Red Anjou or Bosc, cored and cut in
            matchsticks
            Toasted sesame oil to taste
    12      large tender lettuce leaves, such as bib, butter or red leaf
            Cilantro sprigs

In small bowl, mix cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water to form smooth paste and set aside.

Warm peanut oil in skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add garlic, ginger and white parts of scallion and stir-fry until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently until it breaks into small pieces and is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.

Add chili sauce, hoisin, and soy sauce, stirring to combine and evenly distribute ingredients. Add reserved cornstarch slurry and stir until sauce is clear. Finish with reserved scallion greens, pear matchsticks, and a splash of sesame oil.

To serve, place heaping tablespoon of filling in middle of lettuce leaf with few cilantro leaves, if desired. Wrap lettuce around contents, pick up with hands and eat.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Pears, Shallots and Wilted Spinach
Makes 4 servings

  4       small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
          Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1/4     cup all-purpose flour
  1/4     cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  3       tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  2       shallots, thinly sliced
  2       large USA Pears, peeled, cored and cut in 1/2-inch dice
          Juice of 1 lemon
  1       teaspoon Dijon mustard
  3/4     cup chicken or vegetable stock
  4       teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (about 4 sprigs)
  2       tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  2       cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  1 1/4   pounds fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and dried

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using heavy skillet or mallet, pound breasts to 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lightly coat with dusting of flour.

Place 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter in large skillet over medium high heat. When butter begins to foam, add two chicken breasts and sauté one side until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn chicken breasts over and sauté other side until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate, raise heat to medium high and repeat with another tablespoon each of olive oil and butter and other 2 chicken breasts.

Add shallots and pears to pan and cook over medium-high heat until lightly translucent and golden, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice, mustard, chicken stock and any juices on plate and deglaze pan, scraping to loosen any brown bits on bottom with wooden spoon. Simmer until sauce reduces by half, about 4 minutes. Add chopped thyme and parsley, and gradually stir in remaining butter until just melted.

For spinach, add remaining olive oil and sliced garlic to large sauté pan. Warm oil over high heat. When very hot, and before garlic has color, add spinach and cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes or until spinach is bright green and slightly wilted. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, divide spinach between four plates, placing a mound on each. Top spinach with cutlet and spoon shallot and pear sauce over top.

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