POMEGRANATE SALAD WINS THE HOLIDAY RIBBON!

Pomegranate Apple Salad5 copyPOMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

Taking full advantage of the fruits of the season, this sweet and tangy tart salad makes an eye-appealing side dish, adding diversity in flavor and texture. And, it’s so easy to assemble. You’ll quickly notice that with each bite of this zesty and flavorful fruit mélange, the plump, juice-filled pomegranate seeds release their rich, ambrosial juices, and deliver bracing sweetness with a pleasing crunch.

I’ve made this salad many times over the years and discovered it’s easy to vary its good looks by sometimes cutting the fruits into small dice, while on other days I make the salad much chunkier.whole-and-sliced-pomegranates

Unfortunately, this is not a salad you can make a day or two ahead because it rather dramatically loses its bright looks as well as fresh flavors. You CAN remove the seeds from the pomegranate a day or two ahead and refrigerate them.  If you make sure to have everything at hand, it’s a fairly quick assembly.

 POMEGRANATE-APPLE SALAD WITH GINGER AND MINT

 Yield: 6 servings

1 large pomegranate

2 sweet, crisp apples, unpeeled, choppedPomegranate Apple Salad5 copy

8 ounces edamame, cooked and shelled

1 navel orange, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 to 3 heaping teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

  1. Carefully following the handy directions below, remove the pomegranate seeds, drain them well and put them in a large bowl.
  1. Add the apples, edamame, orange, maple syrup, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, ginger, and salt and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  1. Add half the mint leaves and mix well. Garnish the top of the salad with the remaining mint leaves. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Serve the salad within 2 hours to preserve the bright colors.

Two Techniques for Retrieving Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate-seeds1Removing the pomegranate seeds from a fresh pomegranate is easy. Here’s one handy technique:

  1. Put on an apron. Pomegranate juice will most likely splatter a bit, so protect your clothing. Have a deep bowl handy. Wash the pomegranate and cut it in half crosswise. Put the cut sides up and make a couple of cris-cross cuts into each half.
  2. Take one half, turn it upside-down over the bowl, and use your fingers and thumbs to break up the sections. Some of the seeds will begin to fall out. Tap on the top to release more seeds.
  3. Continue to use your fingers and thumbs to loosen the seeds from the pith by pushing on them until all the seeds are in the bowl. Use them immediately or put them into a covered container and refrigerate them. They’ll keep well for up to a week.

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Here’s another method that involves releasing the pomegranate seeds in water:

Ripe pomegranate on the branch. The foliage on the background.

Ripe pomegranate on the branch. The foliage on the background.

  1. Place a colander into a very large, deep bowl and fill the bowl with enough water to submerge a large pomegranate. A salad spinner is the perfect bowl and colander set-up.
  2. Put the pomegranate on a cutting board and cut the top off. Carefully, cut the pomegranate vertically into six sections.
  3. Working with one section at a time, lower it into the water with the seeds facing downward. Use your fingers to release the seeds into the water.
  4. Most of the seeds will sink to the bottom, while the pith floats to the top for easy removal with a skimmer. Repeat the process with the other pomegranate sections. Then, simply lift the colander and shake off the excess water.

For convenience, remove the pomegranate seeds a day ahead, put them in a container, and refrigerate them until ready to use. To prevent the naturally bright colors of the pomegranate seeds and edamame from becoming muddy looking, assemble the salad an hour or two before serving, and the salad will look bright and cheery and very inviting.

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WARM, SWEET, AND SPICY PUNCH FOR HAPPY HOLIDAY TOASTING

Latin-Twist-cover-300Authors' photo

 

As a food blogger, my aim is to share those tasty bites and sips I think you will find as delightful as I do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting two exceptional authors and food bloggers at a presentation at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles (Melissas.com). Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack teamed up to create a true thirst-quencher, Latin Twist, a gorgeous book filled with 97 traditional cocktail recipes from 18 Latin countries plus Spain.

At Melissa’s I was sampling five delicious “mocktails,” that is, the cocktails without alcohol. After tasting Ponche Navideno, I was enthralled with the flavors imparted by the exceptional combination of fruits, some familiar and some exotic. Not only did this festive beverage taste great, but it also emitted irresistibly sweet, spicy, and fruity aromas throughout the room. This was a recipe I knew I must share.

Don’t let the 20 servings discourage you from making this wonderfully satisfying punch. If you’re not serving a large group, you’ll have plenty for a cozy gathering of celebrants to enjoy seconds and thirds. You’ll need a large stockpot, about an 8- to 10-quart size.

PONCHE NAVIDENO

Ponche Navideno(Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch)

 Ponche Navideño is a hot punch served with or without alcohol during the holiday season and most generally during Las Posadas. On those chilly nights this fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’re hooked. Brandy or tequila can be added, making it Ponche con Piquete (punch with a sting).

Makes 20 servingsCinnamon sticks

16 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

5 long tamarind pods, husk removed, and seededTamarind pods

1/2 pound tejocotes or crab apples, left whole

6 large guavas, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks

2 red apples (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

1 pear (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks

2 (4-inch) sugarcane sticks, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 cup pitted prunespiloncillo

1/2 cup dark raisins

1 orange, sliced

8 ounces piloncillo, chopped, or 1 cup dark brown sugar

1 ounce brandy or tequila per cup (optional)

Directions:

Ponche NavidenoPlace the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind pods, and tejocotes or crab apples in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. After it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tejocotes are soft.

Remove the tejocotes or crab apples from the pot with a slotted spoon, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.

Add the guavas, apples, pear, sugarcane, prunes, raisins, orange slices, and piloncillo. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.

To serve, ladle into coffee cups or mugs, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit. If desired, add 1 ounce of brandy or tequila to each cup.

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The two charming authors generously shared another warm, fruit-filled punch recipe from from Latin Twist that’s typically enjoyed at Christmas. Ponche de Frutas is similar to Ponche Navideno but has a few additional exotic flavors such as coconut, plantain, and a hint of ginger. Both can be sipped and thoroughly enjoyed with or without alcohol.

PONCHE DE FRUTAS

Makes 15 servings

16 cups waterhandful allspice berries

3 cinnamon sticks

4 whole allspice

1-inch piece fresh ginger

5 whole cloves

2 (8-ounce) bags dried fruit mix

1 pineapple, husked, cored, and diced

1/2 medium papaya, diced

4 red apples, diced

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup prunesplantains

1/2 cup raisins

3 plantains, diced

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark rum (optional)

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, allspice, ginger, and cloves.

Add dried fruit mix, pineapple, papaya, apples, and coconut. Follow with prunes, raisins, plantains, and sugar. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. When the fruit is cooked and sugar dissolved, remove from the heat and pour in the rum (if using).

Serve hot with some of the diced fruit.

GOTTA HAVE STUFFING FOR THANKSGIVING!

StuffingSAVORY CHESTNUT AND FRUIT STUFFING

Without fail, Thanksgiving brings out our most nostalgic memories. Often those treasured times call to mind remembrances of the delicious stuffing our mothers and grandmothers brought to the table at holiday time.

Those flavors we remember so fondly may have been savory, sage-infused, and earthy, or perhaps they were sweet, fruity, and spicy. Each year I debate whether to prepare a savory stuffing or one more focused on the fruity side.

This year I’ve settled my own conundrum by uniting both sides of the sweet-savory debateChestnuts roasting and adding one of my very favorite foods of the autumn season–CHESTNUTS! Here’s a quick recipe for roasting chestnuts. If you prefer to boil the chestnuts, a method I turn to most often, here’s my post on Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts with step-by-step directions:

https://veganfortheholidays.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/cooking-peeling-chestnuts-illustrated/

If you don’t have the time to cook and peel fresh chestnuts, you can find them already prepared in jars and vacuum-sealed packages. Avoid the canned chestnuts packed in water–they simply don’t have the alluring taste and texture of vacuum-packed chestnuts.

This scrumptious stuffing, replete with chestnuts, is so fruity and ravishing, it makes a delicious meal by itself. Enjoy it as a side dish or use it to stuff acorn, butternut, or delicata squash.

For convenience, prepare the stuffing a day ahead, and warm it for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated 350-degree F. oven before serving. If you use fresh chestnuts in the shell, cook and peel them in advance also, to bring this recipe together more easily.

This tasty stuffing recipe is very copious so there will most likely be leftovers that can easily be covered with aluminum foil and reheated. For a small family gathering, you might want to cut the recipe in half.

Vegan Holidays lowresOh, and by the way, this delicious recipe is from my Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook!

SAVORY CHESTNUT AND FRUIT STUFFING

 

 

Yield: 12 to 15 hearty servings

2 cups water

2/3 cup pearl barley

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

8 cups whole wheat bread cubes

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3 large sweet onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large apples, cored and chopped

1 1/4 cups chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or pecans, or walnuts

1 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (preferably Turkish)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons white miso

Garnishes

1/4 bunch parsley

3 tangerine wedges or Fuyu persimmon slices

3 fresh cranberries

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup chopped parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  1. Combine the water, barley, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the barley is tender and all the water is absorbed.
  1. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry. Transfer the bread cubes to an extra-large bowl.
  1. Add the vegetable broth to the bread cubes and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the bread cubes are broken down into a coarse meal. Set aside.
  1. Combine the onions and celery in a large, deep skillet and add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Cook and stir for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the bread cubes.
  1. Add the apples, chestnuts, raisins, cranberries, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, cooked barley, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and mix well.
  1. Thin the miso with about 3 tablespoons of water, add it to the stuffing mixture and combine well to distribute it evenly. Adjust the seasonings.
  1. Spoon the stuffing into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a light crust forms on the top.
  1. To serve, garnish one corner of the pan with the parsley and artfully nestle the tangerine wedges and cranberries into the parsley. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the top, along with the chopped parsley.

Can You Make Apple Crisp Blush?

HOLIDAY READY APPLE CRISP

A venerable, time-honored dessert as homespun as they come, this old-fashioned apple crisp spruces up for the holiday with a blush of cranberries and a touch of citrus zest.

applecrispWhile the name “apple crisp” may evoke a ho-hum response when you tell guests what’s for dessert, you’ll find them nodding and mmmmm-ing after they’ve taken the first taste. Honest, it’s a winner! Thank the cranberries and blow a sweet kiss to the dried apricots for making this apple crisp zing and dance with exceptional flavor. This yummy dessert is one ofVegan Holidays highres the special gems in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook.

When you take the baked crisp out of the oven, it doesn’t look especially enticing–all brown and lumpy. So, if you’re dishing it out at the table, try putting the pan on a colorful placemat or napkin and toss a few fresh cranberries over the top. Each time I make the crisp, I play a little more with garnishing.

applecrisp2Truthfully, how it looks may seem unimportant to some people who are much more interested in how it tastes. But when I bring a dish to the table looking like a knockout, I know it stirs excitement and anticipation–and this little flavor-infused dessert really delivers.

After a large, festive meal guests will welcome this dessert. Because it’s mostly fruit, it’s lighter than a cake, sweetly satisfying, and leaves everyone with a smile.

It’s so easy to prepare you might even convince the family to pitch in and help put it together while you prepare another dish. And, taking part in the dinner or dessert preps has a special reward for the host–it makes the participants so much more appreciative.

I like to make the crisp a day or two ahead and warm it a bit before serving. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and pop it into to warm for about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also serve it room temperature. If you’re an ice cream nut, you might include an indulgent scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream on top.

HOLIDAY READY APPLE CRISP

Yield: 6 generous servings

Filling

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and sliced

1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup Turkish apricots, snipped into quarters

1/2 teaspoon orange or lemon zest (optional)

1/3 to 1/2 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

ToppingHoliday Ready Apple Crisp copy

3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready an 8-inch square baking dish.

  1. TO MAKE THE FILLING, combine the apples, cranberries, raisins, Turkish apricots, and orange zest in a large bowl and toss together.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the organic sugar, flour, and cinnamon, mix well, and add to the apple mixture. Mix thoroughly until well combined and spoon the fruits into the baking, dish. Set aside and prepare the topping.
  3. TO MAKE THE TOPPING, combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the margarine and use a pastry blender or your hands to work it into the topping mixture.
  4. Sprinkle the topping loosely over the apple mixture, forming a crumbly, uneven, lumpy topping. Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the apples are soft when gently pierced with a fork. Cool 15 minutes and serve warm or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note:

If you prefer your apple desserts a little more toward the tart side, use the 1/3 cup measurement of organic sugar. Those with a die-hard sweet tooth will be happier with 1/2 cup of organic sugar.