Archive for November, 2011

November 23, 2011

The Stain-Free Way to Remove the Seeds of a Pomegranate

Pomegranates, sometimes referred to as “The Jewels of Autumn,” are steeped in tradition and symbolism.  Just looking at its crowned top, beautiful shape and skin and opening it up to see what appear to be hundreds of jewels (the arils) makes you feel like you are opening a treasure from the past.  And in reality you are.  Pomegranates were the first fruit to be cultivated nearly 4,000 years ago.  They have traveled the globe and are an important part of many cultures, religions, ceremonies, history, and art.

I have a childhood connection to pomegranates.  Our neighbor had a tree and would allow us to pick and eat many of his pomegranates.  It is probably the first fruit I ever enjoyed freshly harvested. I had no idea that in addition to enjoying its beautiful color and taste, I was also eating a nutritious super food.

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, have been shown to lower cholesterol, and contain not one but three types of polyphenols (which help prevent cancer and heart disease).  They also have vitamin C, potassium, and fiber (when you eat the crunchy part of the seed).  The high nutritional value has led to the selling of pomegranate juice in most grocery stores.

Buying the juice can be more appealing than buying a raw pomegranate, because obtaining the arils of this royal fruit is actually a bit overwhelming.  One wrong move and you or your kitchen wall will get squirted with its permanent dye.  Here is a method I use that will allow you to stay stain-free and make it safe for your children to help as well:

The Stain-Free Way to Remove the Seeds of a Pomegranate

* Cut off both ends of the pomegranate (with a paper towel underneath to protect the cutting surface from its dye).

* Score the outside, making slice marks just barely through the peel (perhaps 5 or 6 slits). This will help you more easily break it apart in the next step.

* Submerge the pomegranate in a large bowl of water and start breaking the pomegranate apart to gather the arils.  The fruit will drop to the bottom while the white part and the skin will float to the top.  Submerging it in the water will stop any of its staining sprays from reaching you.

* Skim the white part and peel floating on top and discard it.

* Pour the fruit into a strainer and pick out the remaining white bits.

* Place the arils in a dish and serve.   They can be eaten plain (my favorite), or served in salads, drinks, dips, or on top of desserts.

November 16, 2011

Tell the Thanksgiving Story with Thanksgiving Trail Mix

A few years ago I discovered something that was like the concept of Thanksgiving Trail Mix.  I took the idea and made it into a more chronological and complete story.  I also made a visual presentation (Thanksgiving Trail Mix Presentation) and laminated each page. The idea is to use ingredients that symbolize parts of the Thanksgiving story and add them one by one while you explain what they represent.  By the end you have a yummy treat and have discussed the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving.  We all take turns reading a part of the story and pouring an ingredient in the bowl. Once the story has been told, everyone has something to munch on while they wait for Thanksgiving dinner.  This will be our fourth year doing our Thanksgiving Trail Mix tradition, and my kids really look forward to it.

November 13, 2011

Savory Spaghetti Squash

Our good friends gave us a spaghetti squash from their garden.  To be truthful, I had never cooked a spaghetti squash, or really tried one. The name alone should have told me what it would taste like, but still I was unprepared.  It was delicious and did not taste “squashy” but rather like a yummy noodle.  Spaghetti squash screams out savory.  I tried it many ways, but putting brown sugar and butter on it was probably my least favorite alternative.  I tried marinara sauce and butter and parmesan, but my favorite was shredded cheese and real Hormel Bacon Bits (found in the salad dressing aisle).  Your choices are endless because whatever you would enjoy on a noodle, you can also put on spaghetti squash.

From a caloric standpoint, it is a superior choice to pasta.  One cup of spaghetti squash has a mere 42 calories.  Since one cup of spaghetti has 221 calories, you would be saving 179 calories a cup. The vitamins and antioxidants it contains also make it a better choice nutritionally; it is a vegetable after all.  Also, on the glycemic index scale (how the food affects your blood sugar) it is an impressively low 2 out of 100.

I have since cooked spaghetti squash 3 times, and I have determined my favorite way to cook it.

* Set your oven to 375 degrees.

* Cut the squash in half & dig out the seeds. Sometimes I cut off the hard ends first so my knife has an easier time cutting lengthwise.

(* The seeds are similar to pumpkin seeds, so you can roast them after they have dried if you would like.)

* Lay the squash in a casserole dish flesh side up, in about 1 inch of water.

* Loosely cover with tin foil and cook for 45 minutes.

* Take the tinfoil off and cook for about 30 more minutes.  This will help dry up the water. In previous attempts, although the squash was good it was watery.  I find that cooking this type of squash for a longer amount of time helps the noodle become dryer, softer and yummier.