Spinach and pears pair up for a hearty salad


Mature, larger-leaved spinach holds up better to the warm bacon vinaigrette than baby spinach in this healthy spinach salad. If you don't want the spinach to wilt, let the dressing cool before tossing it with the salad.

On the side, sweet pear, salty cheddar cheese and crunchy nuts make the cheese ball an alluring treat. Serve with an array of crudites and crisp crackers.

Warm Pear and

Spinach Salad with Maple-Bacon


10 cups fresh spinach, tough stems removed

1 medium firm, ripe pear, thinly sliced

1/2 cup red onion, slivered

2 slices bacon, chopped

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 cup toasted walnut halves

Combine spinach, pear and onion in a large bowl.

Cook bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add enough oil to the pan drippings to make 2 tablespoons total. Add vinegar, syrup, salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Immediately pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with the bacon and walnuts. Serves 4.

Per serving: 194 calories; 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 60 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 3 mg cholesterol; 261 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Pear-Pecan Cheese Ball

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 medium firm ripe pear, finely chopped

1 scallion, white and green separated, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

Stir cream cheese, cheddar, pear, scallion whites, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl.

Coat a large piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Scoop the cheese mixture onto it. Using the plastic wrap to help you, form the cheese mixture into a ball, then completely wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Just before serving, combine pecans and the reserved scallion greens in a shallow dish. Roll the cheese ball in the mixture, pressing to adhere. Makes 24 servings

Per 2 tablespoon serving: 63 calories; 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 71 percent calories from fat); 2 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 13 mg cholesterol; 117 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 0 g fiber.