Cheers to another holiday season, and bring on 2015!
Hey all! Just in case you have not headed out for the evening’s shenanigans I wanted to catch you to say a big THANKS for a great year. I’ll be back atcha in the morning with some expansion on the ginger picture that popped up earlier today. Tomorrow’s discussion will be all about health, and ginger, and onion ear muffs. I know you can’t wait.
In the meantime, I hope you have not forgotten your sabering skills and are armed with lots of pomegranate seeds to put in your sparkly drinks (or atop snowy drinks if you are so lucky) this evening. Have a happy, fun and safe New Year’s Eve. I’ll be toasting you with ginger ale and chicken enchiladas, and we’ll get all healthy…later.
“Tis the season to overdo everything. So let’s overdo pomegranates!
It’s almost Christmas, and whether you celebrate it or not, I’ m giving you a gift. Pomegranates. Well, I’m not actually buying them for you, but I am unlocking their potential. For a long time we have heard about the amazing health benefits of pomegranates. They are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, low in calories, high in fiber, high in heart healthy phytochemicals (say that three times quickly then google it). They strengthen the immune system, regulate blood pressure, improve oral hygiene, reduce wrinkles and even give PMS the boot.
All this, and yet I have ignored pomegranates entirely, for the simple reason that they are a pain in the butt. They are messy, labor intensive, not roastable in any way and obscenely expensive in their juiced or seeded form. Until recently nothing moved me to entertain an interest in the pomegranate or its derivatives other than as a splash in a martini.
But then I found myself living with a young friend who has a pomegranate-a-day habit. Fortuitously this coincided with running across a pomegranate hack that made seeding a pomegranate so easy that I had to try it. Bells rang, stars aligned, produce departments rejoiced. Now, my record for getting all the seeds out of a pomegranate is 1 minute 11 seconds, and it is a rare day in my household that does not involve this “super fruit.”
Incidentally, my young friend rejected the hack, even after we staged timed contests to prove hack efficiency. A traditionalist, he adheres to his old ways, enjoying his ritual of settling down on the couch, focusing on his pomegranate, a bowl and the mission. I respect. But I also have yet to find a primary food provider who is in search of labor intensive food prep rituals. So for the rest of you, here is your key to pomegranate freedom.
Though I adore the Russian Food hacker, his version (by his own admission) is a bit too bare bones: “Ve really need a bowl, not zeez cheap plastic plates from single guy apartment.” This guy is a bit dry (and he could crack you in half like a pomegranate), but he is a pro.
And now, what to do with the bonanza of pomegranate seeds you have just unlocked? I’ve got you covered, with four festive ideas to let those seed brighten up your holiday.
#1 Pomegranate Bubbly
Pour anything bubbly—Prosecco, champagne, sparkling cider, birch beer, ginger ale etc—over pomegranate seeds and they will float up, be festive and give you something to chew on. Yum!
#2 Pomegranate Cheese Log
8 oz cream cheese (or 4 oz goat cheese and 4 oz cream cheese mixed)
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup chopped chives
2 Tbsp finely minced fresh basil
Crackers, toasts or dipping vehicles of choice.
Place cream cheese (or goat/cream cheese mix) on waxed paper and form into a log. Mix pomegranate seeds, chives and basil on another sheet of waxed paper. Roll cream cheese in seed/herb mixture, pressing lightly to stick. Serve with crackers.
# 3 Pomegranate Guacamole
Oh my! This brings me back to my very first pomegranate cocktail ever, the pomegranate margarita at Rosa Mexicano. This use for pomegranate seeds pretty much assures the pomegranate market in New Hampshire. Lest we forget, guacamole is not an exact science by any means. Shallots or green onion instead of red onion? Awesome. No fresh cilantro? No problemo. Roll with it– its Happy Hour fergawdssakes. If all you can muster is avocado, a shake of Adobo seasoning, a squirt of lemon and pomegranate seeds you are good to go.
2 medium ripe avocados
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Chips or assorted veggies for serving
Halve and pit the avocados then scoop out the flesh into a large bowl.
Add the red onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper to the bowl, mashing the mixture together with two forks until it reaches your desired consistency.
Stir in the pomegranate seeds then serve the guacamole with chips or assorted dippers.
#4 Pomegranate Desserts
Fly, be free. Let’s not overthink this. Sprinkle them on vanilla ice cream or yogurt. Put them in a trifle or slip them in fruit pies. Mix them with ripe sliced pears, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of cinnamon. Or just eat them with a spoon or funnel them from the bowl right into your mouth. Um. Of course, nobody would do something like that.
Bonus points: Just to let you know, in addition to the above we have also sprinkled them on raclette, put them into quesadillas and on salads, tossed them with sliced steak, put them in crepes and on cereal and thrown them in smoothies. And no, I have not yet roasted them, but the holiday season is young.
Are you still with me? Are you intrigued by the above? My sister turned me on to this video and my captive son and I got a little obsessed with yarn/toilet paper roll pom-pom hats. I figure there are worse obsessions, and who doesn’t need another decorative totally useless bottle topper? Right?
Here’s a thought. How about an EASY holiday baking project? How about granola? Don’t get me wrong. I love to create festive holiday cookies and build gingerbread houses (structurally sound mind you— I’m married to an engineer), but every now and then I just want to throw everything in a pan, bake it at 350, and call it a show. Granola is easy peasy and this recipe has one of my all-time favorite ingredients, candied ginger! It’s medicinal, flavorful, and spicy. What more could you ask for in one ingredient. Plus, granola is a great holiday giveaway for friends and family.
I got this recipe from Cookie and Kate. Kate is a vegetarian food blogger extraordinaire, and Cookie is her cute little dog. You should check out her site. The photography is beautiful and she has a ton of great recipes.
Have fun making batches of granola. And if you want to stick to the basics, you can also make my traditional Simply Sue’s granola. Give it away, but make sure to save a generous bagful for yourself or you’ll have to make more.
Oh, and one more thing before we get started with the granola recipe….. when you are at the store, pick up some pomegranates because Edie has some quick and easy pomegranate intel coming at you this weekend.
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raw pecans, walnuts, or both
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or olive oil)
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped candied ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Stir to thoroughly combine. In a separate bowl, stir together oil, maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Turn granola out into baking pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove granola from the oven and add coconut flakes. Mix in the coconut and return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes. In the meantime, roughly chop the candied ginger.
When granola is done cooking, let it cool completely. Then add the cranberries and candied ginger.
Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container or store in freezer for up to 3 months.
There are a hundred ways to package granola to bring it as gifts to friends and family. You can use mason jars, cellophane or paper bags, Chinese take out boxes, and much more. For tips and tricks on wrapping, go to our Boot Camp Bonnie wrapping expert and you are sure to find something fun and festive.
Bonnie and Sue with just a smattering of supplies.
Every Christmas season I get this desire to make and eat a lot of cookies. If you are like me, you have a hedonist side thinking butter, sugar, rich, and gooey. And then you have a healthy side thinking oats, dried fruit, nuts, and light. My inability to make a decision on which to make had me make a batch of each. For the hedonist side, I made these salted toffee chocolate squares (your mouth is watering right now, I know it is). These are in the same family as Edie’s infamous crackle bars with slightly different ingredients. For the healthy side, I made these flourless peanut butter granola balls. Both were delicious, but I’m sure you can guess which ones were devoured first. Yes, the salted toffee chocolate squares — but no surprise there.
14-16 store bought graham crackers
1 bag (8 oz) toffee bits
1 1/2 cups raw almonds, toasted, then coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 tsp coarse salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place graham crackers in a single layer on sheet, edges touching (cover entire bottom of sheet with graham crackers). Sprinkle toffee bits and toasted almonds evenly over graham crackers.
Bring sugar and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, and cook at a rapid simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, approximately 2 minutes. Immediately pour over graham crackers. Bake until sugar is bubbling, approximately 12 minutes. Immediately sprinkle chocolate bits and salt evenly over graham crackers. Let cool, then cut or break into pieces.
Flourless Peanut Butter Granola Balls
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used Nature’s Path)
1 cup crisped rice cereal (I used Kashi brand)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/4 cup dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, or cherries
Heat honey, peanut butter, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until warmed through and smooth, approximately 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cereal, oats, and dried fruit. Mix to combine well.
Drop mixture by the tablespoon into mini paper cupcake liners. Place on rimmed baking sheet and chill until set, approximately 15 minutes.
I am just reentering the real world after a trip to Vail, CO, where their trees look like this. One day they were just, you know, trees. And the next day we were living in a patriotic LED forest. In addition to designer trees I had three days of life in the VIP tent at the base of the race course, a fantasy world I hope everyone can experience at least once.
Here’s what goes down in the VIP tent:
Pretty women in puffy pink coats pass glasses of champagne filled at the outdoor bar, where Bloody Marys are also mixed to order. Next to the bar juicy burgers are grilled up, nestled into buttered buns and wrapped up so you can grab them if you’re the outdoorsy type. Inside, tables are laden with fruit, cheeses and nuts, fresh baked breads, a Veggie Nirvana of salads, a Carnivorama of roasted beasts, coconutted shrimp, and steamy soups topped with mini grilled cheeses. And then comes the dessert table which is completely off the hook. I never even made it to dessert because another roving server appeared with a tray of whipped cream-topped hot chocolate with vanilla vodka, which sort of ended the lunch conquest.
I’m not going in to such detail to be mean, but to establish the high bar going in to prime, party intensive, holiday season. If you need some ideas for what to bring to your next soiree, here are just a few ideas from the Bring It! repertoire.
Bringing the cheer:
Cut to the chase and get the party started by bringing a premixed, seasonal cocktail like these ones we had at Thanksgiving. If you are going to be outdoors bring a Thermos of hot cocoa or tea and the hootch to add. Dark rum is a solid go-to for hot drinks and, as noted above, apparently so is vodka. Fixin’s for a big batch of mint chocolate milk will build your snack cred with all ages.
Apps for a crowd?
You can’t go wrong with Sue’s marinated shrimp and artichoke number, or the ever-festive, ridiculously easy Funitella Bruschetta. Below see a basic recipe for the cheddar cheese rounds that make their way into every spiral-bound community cookbook for good reason. (Bonus feature: they can be made with ingredients procured at any mini mart.) Bacon wrapped dates? Yes, have some! And really, putting that fondue pot in a tote bag with a big bag of grated cheese, and firing up some Guinness fondue is always the right thing to do.
Remember wrap master Boot Camp Bonnie? ‘Tis the season to revisit her tips for packaging brilliance.
You’ve got the week to prep for this weekend’s shenanigans, and a whole lot of joy on the calendar, so let’s do this holiday thing!
Can’t Go Wrong Cheddar Crisps
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (some curry powder is also good if that’s your thing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, cheese, flour, cayenne and salt until it forms a ball stuck lightly together. (Use your hands or a wooden spoon to fully incorporate all ingredients.) Gently fold the cereal into the dough. Pinch off nickel-size balls and roll tightly between your hands. Place them about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet. When all the balls are rolled, flatten each one with the tines of a fork. Bake 15 minutes.
Cool crisps 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan to serve. Leftovers may be stored in a tin up to 1 week. Makes about 4 dozen.
Note: Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a long log, wrap it in plastic or waxed paper chill. When ready to make them, slice log into ¼” (or so) rounds and bake as directed above. They’ll take a bit longer so just watch them. The whole make ahead, roll and chill (or freeze if needed) thing comes in handy and the end result looks pretty pro.