I thought I’d died and gone to heaven… or at least gone back in time. I was at the Goshen Community Market on a typical fall Saturday, filling my bags with great food, when I spied this large basket of pears—big green speckled pears like the ones I picked with my grandparents from the side of a country road or in a neighbor’s yard (With their permission, of course!). The Family Garden from over in New Douglas, IL was selling them, harvested from their front yard. I had to make two trips on my bike to get them all home!

Picking fruit is a favorite childhood memory—except for maybe persimmons, when I had to learn the hard way that you shouldn’t try to eat them unless they were syrupy and super ripe. Cotton mouth for hours. Pecans, apples, pears, walnuts, persimmons—all these local delicacies were foraged on crisp, sunny autumn afternoons when I was a child. My grandma brought them home and turned them into pies, cobblers, breads and jams. So I did the same with these amazing market pears.

My spicy vanilla-scented muffins are perfect with a dab of butter on a cool fall morning—they also tasted pretty good with my new love Raw Vegan Caramel Cream! I really think you should give them a try–not too sweet, whole grain goodness and full of fresh fruit flavor!

Note that this recipe has a couple of upfront steps to prepare the pears. After the recipe, I’ll give you a way to extend this pear preparation for other uses. So find a tree and stock up on the pears!

Vanilla Spiced Pear Muffins

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 18-20 muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Vanilla Spiced Pear Muffins

Ingredients

  • Two to three large firm pears, peeled, cored and diced, enough for two packed cups of diced fruit. (If your pears are like mine, you’ll want to allow extra time for scrubbing well and trimming away bad spots. So worth the effort!)
  • One-quarter cup fresh lemon juice, usually one large lemon
  • One fresh vanilla bean (You can get quality vanilla beans from Penzeys. My go-to for this luxury item.) If you don’t have the vanilla bean, substitute one teaspoon pure vanilla extract, but keep in mind this won’t be the same.
  • One-half cup pure, raw honey
  • One tablespoon unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • One-half cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skin rubbed off, fine chopped (Feel free to substitute walnuts or pecans here, but be sure to lightly toast.)
  • Three cups whole wheat pastry flour (if you prefer a less dense muffin, replace some of the whole wheat pastry flour with all-purpose flour.)
  • One cup oat bran
  • One-half cup freshly ground flaxseed
  • One-half cup light brown sugar
  • One tablespoon baking soda
  • One teaspoon baking powder
  • One teaspoon fine sea salt
  • One teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • One teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • One teaspoon freshly ground allspice berries (or one-half teaspoon ground allspice)
  • One teaspoon ground cardamom
  • One cup whole buttermilk (if you can find full-fat get it; if not go with low-fat.)
  • One cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • One large egg, slightly beaten
  • Two tablespoons flax oil
  • Raw sugar for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Begin by prepping your pears: put the fresh lemon juice in a small bowl that has a cover. Add your pears as you peel and dice them so they don't brown. Slit the vanilla bean and scrape all the seeds from the pod into the pears; then, place the pod in the bowl, too. Add the honey and molasses, stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate your pears for at least an hour, up to 24 hours. Can be made the day prior to baking the muffins; the longer they set, the richer the flavor.
  2. Toast your hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, just until fragrant. Cool and rub off the dark skin with your hands or a clean kitchen towel. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just rub off most of the skin so they are not bitter. Chop by hand or pulse in a food processor to get an even, fine consistency. Again, this step can be completed ahead by a day or two; just store the toasted, chopped nuts in an airtight container until ready to use.
  3. When ready to bake your muffins, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Use a large balloon whisk to combine the flour, oat bran, ground flaxseed, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, beaten egg and flaxseed oil.
  6. Remove the pears from the frig and the vanilla bean from the pears. Reserve the vanilla bean for later (See the notes following the recipe.). Dump the pears and all their reserved juice into the buttermilk mixture and combine well.
  7. Make a large well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour the buttermilk/pear mixture into the well. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour from the sides of the bowl into the center well. Turn the bowl and continue combining, trying to get everything incorporated without over beating. The batter is going to be somewhat stiff at this point, but do not overwork.
  8. Now fold in the hazelnuts.
  9. Line 18 to 20 muffin cups with natural parchment baking cups or grease your tins with coconut oil. I prefer the coconut oil because you get a lovely crunchy crust on the outside of your muffin. If you prefer super moist muffins without a crunch, use the paper baking cups.
  10. Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full for over-the-top muffins. Sprinkle with raw sugar, if desired, for added sweetness and sparkle. The sugar works well here, I think.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating muffin tins halfway through.
  12. Once out of the oven, if you have greased the tins rather than use the paper baking cups, run a butter knife around each muffin to loosen.
  13. Serve warm with a pat of butter for a decadent breakfast. They are also just fine at room temperature, but you’ll want to cover them to keep them from drying out.

Notes

Note that the prep time represents how long it takes to prepare the pears, roast the nuts and combine the ingredients. It does not include soaking the pears for longer than an hour. However, if you are pressed for time on muffin baking day, prepping the pears and nuts ahead is the way to go.

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Using Your Bean

Remember the vanilla bean pod I told you to reserve? Well, here’s what I did to extend the duty of this expensive ingredient: put the pod back into the bowl that contained the lemon juice, pears and sweeteners. Add a second round of these ingredients back into the bowl—three large pears that you have peeled, cored and chopped; a quarter-cup lemon juice—even the zest if you wish; the honey and molasses to taste. Refrigerate overnight and up to about five days. Use this vanilla-scented fruit to top yogurt, eat right out of the bowl or in the kale smoothie here, featuring Swanson Vanilla Protein Powder from the New Hope Network Blogger Box

Photo Collage with Swanson Plant Protein Powder and Vanilla Pear & Kale SmoothieVanilla Pear & Kale Smoothie

You’ll need the following:
One cup of the prepared pear chunks and some of the liquid (How much liquid depends on how thick or thin you enjoy your smoothies.)
One cup washed, chopped kale leaves
One scoop Swanson Plant Protein Powder, Vanilla Flavor
One tablespoon nut butter—peanut or almond work well
One half-cup cashew milk, or plant beverage of choice
Pinch coarse sea salt
Agave syrup to taste

Just put everything in your blender and process on high power for about two minutes. Timing depends on the power of your blender.

Swanson was an easy choice to feature on my blog. The company is well established in the world of supplements and healthy  living products, having been around since 1969. Also, Swanson is committed to transparency in its practices and to corporate responsibility concerning company employees and the  companies around the world from which they purchase ingredients. The company operates under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (SB 657):  “Swanson Health Products is committed to conducting business in an ethical and responsible manner. It is Swanson Health Products’ priority to safeguard the rights of our employees and those of the workers who manufacture our products or work in the supply chain. Swanson Health Products’ suppliers are expected to conduct their operations in a socially responsible manner.”

Finally, Swanson has a lengthy list of community engagement activities, dating from the company’s inception, and a considerable amount of charitable giving. Plus, I love the rich vanilla flavor of this powder and its ability to smooth out nicely in the smoothie. Give it a go! You can shop online directly from them or contact your independent local health food store to see if they carry Swanson Products.

Looking for more stuff to “pear”? Try this month’s Pear Galette that is savory, not sweet. Or try the crisp I made a couple of years ago. Both are great recipes to highlight this seasonal treat.

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