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 “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.”

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.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Pears, Shallots & 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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