Healthy-ish Oat Pear Pie

Greetings! I haven’t written any recipes in over a month but if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I tend to write less when I’m busy with school. In addition to being a full-time grad student, I also started a new job in september as a nutritionist! All of my work seems to be paying off and it’s a great feeling. I’m a big believer in occasionally celebrating achievements with healthy baked goods. I’m also a big fan of local produce. Combine these two you get my latest recipe: Healthy-ish Oat Pear Pie. I’m calling this recipe “healthy-ish” because pie isn’t the healthiest food in general, but I did make a healthier version of pie by using whole wheat flour and less (vegan) butter than found in some recipes.

Healthy-ish Oat Pear PieIMG_7578

Ingredients

Pie shell:

  • 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 sticks of  3/4 cup Earth Balance spread (melted)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp. nondairy milk

Filling:

  • 4-5 medium sized, locally grown (if available) bosc pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. agave
  • 1 tbsp. lemon
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions

For the pie shell:

  • Measure and mix dry ingredients. Melt the butter and add into the dry ingredients, mix well. Add the nondairy or regular milk along with the cold water into the mixture, slowly. If the mixture becomes too moist, add a little more flour by the tablespoon. Set aside and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. After time has elapsed, spray a round pie pan/tin with nonstick spray. You can either roll out the dough using a rolling pin coated in flour so that the dough can easily be placed and spread into the pie pan OR you can use your hands to transfer the dough to the pan and mush it into the pan so that it is completely covered on all sides (I used the second method). Add any extra dough to the upper sides of the pan to create a thicker crust.

For the filling:

  • Peel, core, and cut the pears. Pears should be cut into small pieces, but not diced. Place the pears in a large bowl, and add the maple syrup, honey, sugar, lemon juice, and stir in the cornstarch so that it dissolves into the liquid. Mix well. Add the cinnamon and mix. Transfer the filling into the pie crust that lines the pie pan.

For the topping:

  • Sprinkle oats and brown sugar on top of the filling.

Preheat the oven at 375°F. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the edges of the crust are browned and a knife can be inserted cleanly into the center of the crust. Remove from the oven after baking and allow to cool before cutting. Serve with ice cream, soy ice cream, sorbet, or hot cider. As always, enjoy!

-Jess

Are Superfoods Superior?

If you read health articles, chances are you’ve come across the term “superfood”, but are these foods superior to others? Lets start with the basics. A “superfood” can be defined as any food that is nutritionally rich in a particular vitamin, mineral, or other substance that is beneficial to one’s health.  In recent years, the rise of health gurus advocating for the consumption of “superfoods” has increased and it can be difficult to distinguish whether someone is actually knowledgeable about nutrition, or if they are trying to sell you something that you might not need.

Can a cookie really be "super" in the health sense? I'm not sure, so I'll just assume they mean super-delicious!

Can a cookie really be “super” in the health sense? I’m not sure, so I’ll just assume they mean super-delicious!

The marketing of specially-formulated powders and supplements, even when they only contain “natural” ingredients, is something I’ve noticed recently, and it’s alarming, because something can be natural, and organic, but not necessarily healthy or essential for the body. Another thing I’ve noticed is just how many packaged items appear to be “superfoods”, when in reality, the most superior of foods are the ones you can find in a farm stand.  Fresh, seasonal produce is the definition of a “superfood” to me, especially if it is grown in nutrient-rich soil and doesn’t need to be imported or shipped from many miles away. The longer a food item is in transit, the more nutrients it loses. Comparing locally-grown blueberries to Amazonian-harvested açaí berries (a so-called “superfood”), it’s actually better to eat the local blueberries because not only will you get vitamins and antioxidants, you’ll be supporting local agriculture, instead of consuming an overpriced, nutritionally-similar açaí berry which must travel a great distance to get to your health food store. Of course, if you have the means to buy more expensive and exotic ingredients, be my guest, but if you’re looking for a nutritious, native source of antioxidants on the cheap, your local farmers market has a plethora of options.

In my opinion, there are no perfect foods. We need a balanced diet, and perfection isn't the goal.

In my opinion, there are no perfect foods.

So, besides supplements and açaí berries, what are some other so-called “superfoods”? Alternative-health experts will tell you to buy goji berries, maca, cacoa, among others, and while these foods definitely have benefits, you shouldn’t feel any less healthy by not buying into the hype. One does not need to have a diet full of “superfoods” to be super-healthy! Fresh berries, greens and other fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy (if you tolerate it), and healthy fats are the things to focus on. My take is that a balanced diet based on whole foods is far superior than one based on supplements or packaged foods claiming to be “super”.

My idea of a meal full of "superfoods" is one rich in brightly colored, locally-grown vegetables.

My idea of a meal full of “superfoods” is one rich in brightly colored, locally-grown vegetables.

-Jess