“Let us go early to the vineyards to see… if the pomegranates are in bloom – there I will give you my love.” Song of Solomon 7:12

‘Tis the season for one of the world’s oldest and mythical fruits, the pomegranate.  Dubbed “nature’s most labor intensive fruit” by Barron’s Food Lover’s Dictionary, pomegranates are the perfect seasonal fruit to zest up your holiday dishes. Pomegranates are large, heavy fruits with a thin, leathery skin.  The tiny red seeds that grown within a white membrane are edible.  These seeds, called arils, are en-coated in a red juicy pulp and are rich in potassium and vitamin C.  You can sometimes buy these arils separately, as prying them from the skin of the pomegranate can prove to be a messy and dangerous task.  Pomegranate juice stains easily, so beware!  Why go through the trouble of cutting and seeding these beautiful fruits?  Asides from the juicy flavor and delicious taste, pomegranates allegedly have more antioxidant power than other beverages, including red wine, blueberry juice, green tea and cranberry juice.
The pomegranate is rich in history and is believed to be one of the world’s first cultivated fruits.  It has been a symbol of good health for centuries all over the globe, and because of this, pomegranates were often depicted in artwork and used as decorations.  The fruit originated in the Middle East over 4,000 years ago. Pomegranates were found in Iran and the Himalayas in Northern India, and then culitvated throughout the Europe, Asia, Africa and China.  In 957 B.C., the pomegranate decorated King Solomon’s temple and the robes of  the Torah. The pomegranate also adorned Jewish coins, jewelry and furniture.
  In 1600 B.C., the pomegranate was abundant in Egyptian culture.  The Egyptians used the juice of the pomegranate to fight intestinal worms and used the pomegranate skin to dye leather.  Pomegranates were commonly found on Egyptian wall paintings in tombs as they symbolized life after death. King Tut also took a pomegranate vase into the afterlife with him. 
 In 700 B.C. when Zoroastrianism became the major religion of the Middle East, the pomegranate became associated with fertility. The leaves of the pomoegranate tree, which remained green for the majority of the year, symbolized eternal life. Thus, pomegranate trees were planted in the courtyards of Zoroastrian temple.
Also in 700 B.C., pomegranates were introduced to the ancient Romans, who named the fruit “Punicum malum” or “Phoenician apple.”  They grew in shady areas of residential courtyards for Roman people to enjoy.  Roman women wore headdresses made of pomegranate twigs to symbolize their status as married women.
In Greek mythology, Hades, Lord of the Underworld, famously used a pomegranate to tempt Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter. When Persephone succumbed to temptation and ate the arils of the pomegranate, she was joined to Hades forever.  Demeter, heartbroken at the loss of her daughter, prevented the earth from bearing fruit unless her daughter returned to her from the Underworld.  Zeus arranged a compromise with Hades, providing that Persephone would only live with Hades for one third of the year, and the other two thirds with Demeter.  The arrival of Persephone from the Underworld each year signifies the arrival of Spring.  
In Buddhism, the pomegranate is considered to be one of three blessed fruits. The legend is that between the period of 563-483 B.C., many of the Buddha’s wealthy disciples presented him with lavish gifts. When an old, destitute woman presented the Buddha with one small pomegranate, the Buddha rang the bell of honor in her name and considered this to be his greatest gift. Pomegranates are widely depicted in Asian art as a tool to repel evil spirits and is a symbol of good health and blessings.
In Islam, the legend is each pomegranate contains one aril that has been descended directly from paradise. In 600 A.D., the prophet Muhammad considered the fruit to be a cornerstone of good physical and emotional health. Pomegranates are abundant in Islamic art and architecture. 
 The pomegranate arrived in North America around 1521 A.D., after Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes conqured the Aztecs in Mexico, Spanish missionaries planted pomegranate trees.  The pomegranate was then transported north to missions in California and Texas. 
It is said that Thomas Jefferson planted pomegranates at his plantation, Monticello, in Virginia and that the English colonies attempted to grow them as well.  However, the fruit did not adapt to the harsh weather in the Northeast and fared better when it was grown in the south, namely, in Florida and in California.  Today, pomegranates are primarily harvested in California but are available throughout the United States. They are in season from August through December and are readily available in Northeastern Pennsylvania in November and December.
In 2002, POM Wonderful launched a line of conveniently extracted and packaged pomegranate juice. POM Wonderful grows, juices and bottles its own fruit and promises 100% authentic pomegranate juice free of added sugar, colorants and other low-grade fruit juices.
This year, I was delighted to receive a complimentary case of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice to use in my culinary recipes. As a little girl, I enjoyed eating pomegranate seeds and was amazed at the inside of the fruit. I wasn’t aware of how many culinary uses there were for the pomegranate, and had fun experimenting with different recipes on the POM Wonderful site. The bottled juice is easy to use in the kitchen. Here is a sampling of the POM recipes below, great for easy and fun holiday entertaining. You can find more recipes by visiting the POM Wonderul website.
Mini chocolate brownies with POM cream cheese icing.
Pomegranate Cream Cheese Icing

1-1/2 cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
14 oz. powdered sugar
Store bought mini brownies. (I like Sam’s Club.)

Pour the POM juice in a small saucepan and reduce on low heat until the mixture has a syrup like texture.Set aside and let cool.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese. Beat and slowly add the powdered sugar and POM syrup.

Ice the mini brownies with the POM cream cheese icing. Top with red sprinkles or pomegranate arils.

Mixed green salad with shredded chicken and POM Honey Dijon Dressing.
Pomegranate Pear Salad with POM Honey Dijon Dressing
(Serves 8)

This recipe is by Chef Michael LeClerc of 350 Main Brassiere in park City, Utah. It appears courtesy of POM and can be found here


POM Honey Dijon Dressing 
Juice from 2-3 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates,* or 1 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pear Salad
1/2 cup arils from 1-2 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates
1 lb. salad greens
1/2 cup sliced honey roasted almonds
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 ripe d’Anjou pears


POM Honey Dijon Dressing: Prepare fresh pomegranate juice.* In a large mixing bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, white vinegar, lemon juice and zest, honey and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Pear Salad: Score 1-2 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranates under water to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.) Toss the salad greens with just enough dressing to lightly coat. Top with almond slices, blue cheese crumbles and sliced pears. (Slice the pears at the last minute to prevent browning.) Garnish with fresh pomegranate arils.
Pomegranate guacamole with cucumbers.
 Pomegranate Guacamole
(Serves  8)
This recipe appears courtesy of POM and can be found here on their website.
 It’s a really great way to incorporate healthy benefits of pomegranates into a festive holiday appetizer. It’s also delicious on pita chips!

1/2 cup arils from 1 large POM Wonderful Pomegranate

2 ripe avocados, pits removed, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped cucumbers
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Place diced avocados in bowl. Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.) Add 1/4 cup pomegranate arils and the remaining ingredients to the diced avocados. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place guacamole in a serving bowl and sprinkle remaining pomegranate arils on top for garnish. Serve with assorted color tortilla chips.
Mixed berry POM smoothies.
Fairytale Mixed Berry POM Smoothies
(Serves 4)
1 6 oz container of Fage Greek yogurt, 0% fat
1 cup of frozen mixed berries (or plain frozen blueberries)
1 cup of frozen strawberries
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/2 8-oz. bottle of POM Wonderful juice
Optional: fresh berries or pomegranate arils, and mint leaves as garnish.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse.  If too thick, add more POM juice or some water and blend. Top with fresh berriesor arils and mint leaves as garnish.

Enjoy! 🙂

Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for the “Fifth of May” is this Wednesday! Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla because it marks the day when the Mexican army triumped over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It actually has limited significance in Mexico but is commonly celebrated in the United States and the throughout the world to honor Mexican culture. So what will you be cooking or drinking to celebrate?

One of my favorite Mexican dishes is simple: chicken tortilla soup. This soup tastes as good as it looks! Plus it’s a very flavorful and healthful dish that is really easy to make. You start off by pureeing tomatoes, peppers, garlic and sauteed onions in a blender. (I don’t have a food processer. My blender works just fine for this dish!) Then just cook the chicken in the broth. And when you are ready to serve, garnish with your favorite ingredients.

I used a chipotle chile pepper canned in adobo sauce to spice up my soup.  A chipotle chile pepper is actually a dried, smoked jalapeño. It has wrinkled dark brown skin and a smokey sweet and almost chocolate-like flavor. Chipotle chili peppers are commonly found dried, pickled and canned in Adobo sauce. Adobo sauce is a dark red sauce or paste made from ground chiles, herbs and vinegar.  Most grocery stores carry canned chipotles.  I found mine in the specialty Mexican section of Wegmans.  (I also used this sauce in my Renaissance White Chicken Chili.)  If you cannot find chipotle peppers canned in adobe sauce, feel free to substitute a chopped and seeded jalepeno.  Jalepeno peppers, named after Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz, Mexico, is a smooth dark green pepper that ranges from hot to very hot. These peppers are scarlet red when ripe (hence, the red chili icon from Chili’s!)

WARNING: For those of you who have never worked with hot peppers before, take heed: BE SURE TO THOROUGHLY WASH YOUR HANDS after touching any of these peppers, ESPECIALLY THE SEEDS OF THE JALEPENO!!! NEVER TOUCH YOUR EYES OR FACE WHEN WORKING WITH HOT PEPPERS! 🙂

I also used some cotija cheese to add another layer of flavor to this dish. Cotija is a Mexican cheese named after Cotija de la Paz, a town in the state of Michoacan. (It is pronounced koh TEE ha.)  It is a salty cheese similar to the Greek feta cheese. It can be made from cow’s or goat’s milk and can be semisoft to very hard. This cheese is optional – I didn’t use it when I was really trying to count my calories. But a little crumble of this cheese goes a long way! 🙂

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 4

1 cooking onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 14 oz can of tomatoes
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or 1 seeded jalapeño)
6 cups of low sodium chicken broth
Frank’s Hot Sauce
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Emeril’s Southwestern Essence
1 bag of Guiltless Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
1 handful of fresh cilantro
1 avocado
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Cotija Cheese

Sauté the onion and garlic in a large soup pot. When the onions are translucent, add them to a blender with the can of whole tomatoes and chipotle pepper. Add 1 teaspoon of Adobo sauce. Puree.

Return the mixture to the pot and add the chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Rub a little of the Emeril’s Southwestern Essence onto the chicken. Add the chicken to the soup and let cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot when it is cooked and shred.  Add the chicken back into the pot.  Season the soup with salt and pepper and a dash of Frank’s hot sauce. (Be careful with this step unless you want the soup to be really hot!)
Scoop broth and chicken into a bowl.  Serve with blue corn tortilla chips, diced avocado, and fresh cilantro.


Guacamole, one of the most beloved Mexican specialties and a common dish in the United States, is probably the easiest treat you can whip up for yourself this Cinco de Mayo. It is easy to find a pre-packaged guacamole in your local grocery store but it’s easily made from scratch by mixing avocado mixed with lemon or lime juice and other seasonings. It can be used as a dip, sauce, topping or a side dish.  Once you make fresh guacamole yourself, you will never go back to that processed guacamole laden with chemical preservatives – I PROMISE!

The star of guacamole is the avocado.  You want to make sure that you use ripe avocados when making guacamole so that they will mash easily.  You want them to be a dark green color and firm to the touch but not too firm or hard.  (To speed the ripening process, you can place them in a paper bag for a few days at room temperature.)  In case you have never worked with avocados before, note that when you cut them open they discolor quickly. To prevent this, we use citrus juice. Avocados are rarely cooked (even on Iron Chef America they were left at room temperature!) because cooking avocados longer than a few minutes causes them to lose their flavor and they turn bitter.

I used to use lime juice in my guacamole but switched over to lemon juice and I am really glad that I did! Eva Longoria, my favorite “desperate housewife,” said the secret to the best guacamole is to use lemon juice. And not only is Eva Longoria a successful Mexican actress, but she also owns her own restaurant, Beso. She was right. The lemon juice REALLY makes a difference!

Here is my recipe for a chunky guacamole. I don’t add tomatoes because I don’t want other ingredients to outshine the flavor of the avocado or cilantro- my two fav Mexican ingredients!

Fairytale Chunky Guacamole

2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 jalepeno, seeded and chopped
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lemon
Salt + pepper to taste

Using a fork, mash the avocados into big chunks. Mix in onion, jalepeno, cilantro, and garlic.  Drizzle with the juice of one lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.