Thursday, November 4, 2010

Winter Foods (or Pomegranates for Dummies)

It was officially winter for me today. Oh sure I've already seen my first junco of the season (a birding sign of winter). I've already scraped my car a couple of times now. I've worn my mittens. I've had the heated mattress pad cranked up in the evenings. I've even brought out my winter coat. But the final straw was this morning when the house dropped below 63 and we had to turn on the furnace. Winter begins when the furnace kicks on for the first time. From now until March the house will rarely drop below 68. We spend a small fortune in heating bills but it's worth it.

One of my other signs of winter is that I get the sudden urge to bake. Each winter I typically bake a couple dozen cookies but I'm learning this year to bake bread. Last week I started with an easy banana bread that came out pretty well. I didn't have enough banana to make the recipe so I substituted in some applesauce which worked beautifully. It was a bit dry but very tasty. This week I'm thinking about doing a wheat and rolled oat bread from a recipe I found in a dieter's cookbook. We'll see how it comes out. I'm also suddenly interested in cake decorating. i picked up a couple books from the library and am going to spend some time with food coloring, sugarpaste, and royal icing. We'll see what comes out of that. I'll post pictures of both the successes and tragedies. I'm assuming both will be equally tasty. :-)

But my big excitement for November are those oddly shaped red fruits called pomegranates that I gorge myself on every year. If you're new to the blog, I wrote about my undying love of pomegranates. I devour them throughout their limited season until I'm practically sick. And about the time I'm starting to get tired of eating them day in and day out, the season ends and I have to wait 10 more months to get them. When Jeff and I were in the grocery store today I noticed that they were back in stock. I bought three and brought them home to rip apart.

For those of you who've never prepared a pomegranate, they can be a bit time intensive. You have to pluck the delicate seeds from the rest of the fruit. I used to waste hours on them until I mentioned my addiction in the blog and my friend Salt pointed out a much better way to prep them that I thought I'd share here. First, you want to pick your pomegranates based on weight. The fruit should feel surprisingly heavy. That means the seeds are filled with juice. Once you get them home you'll want to cut the top and the bottom off of the pomegranate. Try to stay pretty shallow so you don't cut any of the seeds. Once that's done, score the fruit along the white material. I tend to stay shallow for this as well. Then the fun begins.

Grab a big bowl and fill it mostly full with water. Holding the pomegranate under the water, start to gently pry it apart. The seeds spray purple everywhere when pushed too hard, so having the fruit underwater will minimize the mess. Rub the seeds off gently by pulling them away from the white foundation. You'll be able to pull off multiple seeds at one time by simply rubbing the tops of the seeds. The fruits will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the white debris will float to the surface. After all the seeds have been pulled off, I scoop the debris off the top of the water, and then strain the seeds. They go into a tupperware container to sit in my fridge. I've found them great for snacking or in salads. They'll keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Winter may be my least favorite time of the year, but baking and pomegranates make it just a little bit sweeter.

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