Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eating Seasonally

It seems like summer is the season of plentiful harvest but fall, too, has her share of bountiful produce.  Fall’s showcase can sometimes prove to be tricky to figure out how to enjoy at our tables.  But today I’d like to share one of my favorite fall fruits and figure out a way to enjoy fall harvest just the same!

Bring on the pomegranate.  This is one of my favorites.  This fruit is in season from September through January here in the U.S., just around the time when you’re favorite summertime fruits have said goodbye.   If you've ever tried this fruit, you’ll know it is challenging to eat, stains your hands and clothes and sometimes leads as outsider to question why one would put themselves through the effort of eating it.  But the truth is…it’s so worth it!

Let’s start with some history…The pomegranate has been a long time staple of the Middle Eastern cuisine.  Its old age is recorded in ancient texts like the Book of Exodus, the Homeric Hymns and the Quran.  The ancient fruit-bearing shrub, from which it grows, is native to Persia, the lands we now call Iran and Iraq.  As with most of our earth bearing foods, the pomegranate traveled; it spread eastward towards China and India.  More recently it has become popular here in the States and the Mediterranean regions for what has been discovered as amazing and quite intense health benefits.   

I like to explore the etymology of words to understand more about the food itself and our ancestors’ descriptions of such.  Here, pomegranate derives from Medieval Latin Punica granatum and means seeded apple.  And that’s exactly what it looks like.  From the outside this fruit resembles an apple, but cut it open and all you will find are juicy seeds.  Here’s an interesting fact: remember that Shirley Temple you were always ordering from the bar as a child.  Well a Shirley Temple is made with a splash of Grenadine, sound familiar?  That word is derived from the same Latin as the pomegranate and low and behold, grenadine was originally prepared from pomegranate juice, sugar and water.

Add this holiday treat to your Thanksgiving tradition for the children at the table:

Homemade Shirley Temples                                                                    

- 2 parts ginger ale
- 1 part orange juice
- 1 part pomegranate juice (can be substituted with Grenadine – although 
      today’s version is often toted with artificial ingredients)
- A maraschino cherry

Directions: Combine liquid ingredients, stir to blend and top with a cherry.  The children at the Thanksgiving table will feel special with their fancy holiday drink and get a nice dose of vitamin C!

If we have a children’s drink, we have to have an adult drink as well…

Cosmo Pomegranate Martini (also known as a Pomegranatini)                                                                     

- 2 oz citron vodka
- 1 oz orange liquor, Cointreau
- 2 oz pomegranate juice
- ½ oz lemon juice

Directions: Combine vodka, orange liquor, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker over ice.  Cover; shake until outside begins to frost.  Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a lemon rind curly Q and enjoy!

I get excited every time I enjoy a pomegranate for I know I am enjoying an ancient secret: plentiful health benefits.  In Ayurvedic medicine (a link to discover more on one of the world’s oldest medical systems) the pomegranate was and still is considered a source for their traditional remedies.  One remedy I find striking  is that the seeds and juice are known as a tonic for the heart and throat.  There are many other ways in which this medical system and other traditional medical systems believe the pomegranate can be used for health.

From the literature I can tell you that the pomegranate offers about 20% of our DRV of vitamin C.  It is a good source of B5, potassium, fiber, packed with antioxidants and other micro-nutrients.  Researchers continue to link this fruit to anti-disease benefits and are looking at the pomegranate to be effective in reducing heart disease.

So let’s eat it then!  The best way I enjoy a pomegranate is to simply cut it open and eat it.  Here are some simple instructions (disclaimer: wear clothes you might not mind staining, have plenty napkins on hand, and be prepared for a red mess):

  1. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the skin into quarters or sixths from the stem side down to the crown end.
  2. Cut off the top of the pomegranate and remove any pale yellowish pith.
  3.  Gently pull the sections apart and follow the pomegranate as it divides itself by the pith (it will naturally pull apart in most cases. 
  4. You can break off small sections, peeling away the membrane to reach the clusters of seeds.
  5.   Rub or pop each seed off the pith and pop them into your mouth.  You can eat the whole seeds.  Some choose to spit out the fibrous center (although that is edible and has health benefits itself.)

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    Pomegranate seeds are great as a salad topping.  You can sprinkle them on desserts for that added sweet yet tart flavor.  One idea after seeding is to extract the juice for an intense antioxidant drink.  If you’re inspired, check out the Food Network’s list of recipe for other ways to incorporate this seasonal fruit into your meals.

Eat seasonally, eat health, eat and enjoy your life!


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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Many Ways To Bring Pumpkin To The Table

Pumpkins.  Its autumn and these orangish yellowish gourd-like squash are everywhere, mostly for decoration.  But realize that there are just so many opportunities for us to incorporate this fruit into our diets.  

Some history…the entomology of the word pumpkin originates from a Greek work meaning ‘large melon’.  And although a clear lineage hasn’t been recorded, most believe that the pumpkin’s ancestors began life in North America some 9000 years ago.

Health benefits…Research indicates that pumpkins contain phytochemicals, hence that bright orange hue, that may favorably affect our insulin and glucose levels. That orange color, as with carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, is an indication that pumpkins have the well-known antioxidant beta-carotene, which researchers believe may play a role in cancer prevention (National Cancer Institute). Pumpkins also pack a punch of vitamin A with over 200% of our daily recommended value.  Remember, vitamin A is important for healthy vision.  Also included in the pumpkin: tryptophan, vitamin C, and potassium. Want more….?  Well.. pumpkins are an excellent source of fiber, not to mention they are low in calories; the end result: a food that helps us shed pounds!

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All this information is great but we want to get to the heart of the matter…how can we enjoy the benefits of this fruit in our everyday diets.  No problem.  Here are some delicious and exciting ways to invite pumpkin in:

Pumpkin bread/muffins (see my previous post of an amazing recipe)

Pumpkin Beer – here is a link to BeerAdvocate listing pumpkin beers, their brewers, and a rating.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Ravioli: an easy, delicious, healthy 30 minute meal
·         1 cup canned pumpkin
·         1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1/8 teaspoon black pepper
·         24 wonton wrappers
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1/2 cup chicken broth
·         1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         Chopped parsley

1.  Combine 1 cup pumpkin, 1/3 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
2. Spoon about 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle, pinching edges to seal.
3. Place ravioli into a large saucepan of boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; cook 7 minutes, and drain in a colander.
4. Place 1/2 cup broth and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in pan; bring to a boil. Add ravioli, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with parsley.

The list goes on....

Look for additional ways to bring pumpkin to the table with these fine ideas...

Pumpkin Risotto
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

And feel free to contact me if you'd like any of these yummy pumpkin recipes or if you'd like me to create a personalized pumpkin dish.  

Happy Pumpkin Eating!

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