Thanksgiving Foodstuffs (aka Holy Crap, I Made 3 Pies!)

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Oh my god, guys, I have so many pressing news items to share with you about Thanksgiving! Hubby McMan and I went to Michigan to visit his brother, sister-in-law and their faboo children. We were there for 4 days, during which time we ate a LOT of food. Yes, we ate the requisite large, two-to-three-plater Thanksgiving meal. But believe me--lunch and dinner were an event every time. And I helped make it happen! Yay! I like being useful!

News Item #1: My Sister-in-Law Completely and Utterly Rocks at Making a Turkey
You may remember me singing Angela's praises back when she gave me the greatest Char Siu recipe on the planet. It turns out that she's just all-around great at making meat. She used a Tyler Florence recipe for this beautiful bird. And I would recommend it to ANYONE. Even you, kind reader.

Herb-Roasted Turkey (from Tyler Florence w/Better Homes & Gardens)
-1 12- to 14-lb. turkey
-1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
-Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

**NOTE! Angela did not do any of the separating of the bird. She kept it whole. Therefore, it took a lot longer--but it also looked much prettier. ;)**

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and set it on a cutting board. With a boning knife, separate the thighs/legs from the bird by cutting through the skin and joint where thigh connects to the body; set aside.

2. Remove the breasts from the bone by using a sharp, thin knife to cut down the length of the turkey breast bone. This can also be done by a butcher. You can set aside the bones for gravy. At this point, you will have two thigh/legs and two breasts.

3. In a mixing bowl combine the olive oil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage. Rub mixture all over turkey. Finish by liberally seasoning the turkey all over with salt and pepper. (**NOTE: I advised Angela to loosen the skin under the breast and rub the mixture in there, too. It's how I roast chickens, and it is soooo good.**)

4. Place legs, skin sides up, in a large roasting pan. Roast 20 minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven; add breasts to pan, skin sides up. Roast 30 to 45 minutes, or until breast reaches 165 degrees F when checked with a thermometer. Remove from oven; loosely cover with foil and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

-Makes 8 to10 servings.


News Item #2: Hickory Farms Sent Me a Free Box of Goodies to Share (which I received through the Tastemaker program on Foodbuzz)!
Ohhhh yeah, baby. Free cheese and sausage! Do you know the chorus of angels I heard when I opened up the shipping container and saw this amazing spread? It is every Wisconsin girl's dream to be shipped free cheese and sausage (and mustard, really). Plus, being that Hubby's family is also from Wisconsin, I knew this would go over quite well in general. Boy, did it.

I will tell you--Hickory Farms knows how to spoil you. The family decided the hands-down champions of this goodie box were the Beef Summer Sausage (naturally), both mustards (Sweet-Hot and Cranberry), and the Creamy Swiss Blend cheese. Preferably, you would combine all of those together (well--just one mustard, not both at once).

So good. Thanks, Hickory Farms! You helped make our Saturday-After-Thanksgiving. :)


News Item #3: Oh My God! I Helped Make a Non-Failing Mochi!
So, I didn't MAKE mochi. Well, I kind of did. I should say that I FORMED mochi after the dough was made. You may all recall The Great Mochi Disaster of August 2010. Well, this was vastly more successful. I attribute that success to several things.

1) These were not ice cream mochi. We used a crushed pecan and/or a coconut filling/topping.

2) We used gloves instead of our bare hands. This prevented the everpresent danger of burning yourself.

3) We oiled up the gloves before and between mochi. This was INCREDIBLY helpful and made mochi making much less a sticky, horrifying disaster.

News Item #4: Heather Successfully Rolls Out a Pie Crust.
Please note that I did not say that I successfully MADE a pie crust. Angela made the crust. I just rolled it out, trimmed and fluted the edges, and made the filling. It became evident that my pie crust problems lie in the making of the dough, and not the parts that come after. This dough was a freakin' miracle. It was so easy to roll out, pick up, and form. It's so easy that even I can do it.

Originally, I was just making one pie: Pumpkin. While I was laying the dough out in the pan, my niece came over to watch. She noticed there were a lot of extra pie scraps laying on the cutting board, so I suggested we make her an individual pie. A Sophie Pie!

A Sophie Pie consists of frozen blueberries, the juice of one underripe lime, tapioca flour, and raw sugar, to taste. First, combine some tapioca flour with the frozen blueberries and defrost in the microwave for 3 minutes, stirring halfway through. Pour off a little of the excess juice if you want. Then, combine with sugar and lime juice, mixing well. Do you think you need some extra tapioca flour? You probably do. You can add that now. Mix it up good and cook in the microwave another minute or two, until the combination is really thick and gooey. Now you have a delicious pie filling, appropriate for any season!

Back to the Pumpkin Pie. Angela used real pumpkins instead of canned pumpkin, which marks the first time I've ever made a pumpkin pie that way. My advice? DO IT! It was much lighter and more delicately flavored than with canned pumpkin, and it allowed all the flavors of the spices to shine right along with the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie (from Better Homes & Gardens)
-1 portion Alan's Pie Pastry, (recipe below), or 1 rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crust
-1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (**NOTE: I used at least 1/2 cup extra of the steamed & pureed pumpkin Angela made--it gave a stronger pumpkin flavor.**)
-2/3 cup packed brown sugar (**NOTE: We used Sugar in the Raw instead of brown sugar, which is likely part of the reason why the pie is light in color.**)
-1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/8 tsp. ground cloves
-2 eggs, lightly beaten
-2/3 cup milk
-1/2 cup whipping cream
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out pastry, flouring work surface and rolling pin as needed, to a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie tin or plate without stretching. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edge as desired. Prick bottom and sides of pastry with a fork. Place in freezer 10 minutes. Line pastry with foil pie pan (see Blind Baking, below); fill with dried beans or pie weights. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove foil pie pan. Bake 5 minutes more. Cool on wire rack. (If using rolled refrigerated crust, bake according to package directions.)

2. In a saucepan combine pumpkin, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cloves; cook and stir over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes to integrate flavors. Remove from heat.

3. Beat in eggs; add milk, cream, and vanilla. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 1 hour. Refrigerate to store.

Super Magical Amazing Splendifferous Pie Crust (or "Alan Carter's Pie Pastry," from Better Homes & Gardens)
1. In a very large bowl combine 3 ¾ C all purpose flour, 1 tbs sugar, ½ to 1 tbs kosher salt, and ½ tsp baking powder.

2. With a pastry blender cut in 1 ¾ C cold unsalted butter leaving chunks the size of peas.

3. Combine 2/3 C ice-cold water, 2 tbs of sour cream, and 1 tsp vinegar.

4. Add liquid all at once to the flour mixture. Quickly stir to distribute; do not overmix. The dough should be slightly crumbly.

5. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. The finished dough should break,
not stretch.

6. Divide into three portions; shape into disks. Use at once or wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days. Or freeze up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen. Makes 3 single-crust pastries.

Alan's secrets for perfect pastry:
• Always use chilled, not frozen or room temperature, butter. Butter should feel like clay to the
touch.
• Do not overwork your pie dough. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour and butter, then stop. As
it rests the dough will come together.
• Acid helps pie dough set up. A little vinegar and sour cream added to the water does the trick.
• If your pie dough is ugly and lumpy with butter knots the size of peas, it's perfect.
• You want a generous crust, so don't roll it too thin. About 1/3 inch is good.
• Always butter the pie dish. Sometimes, especially with fruit pies, the juice sneaks under the
crust and acts like glue, bonding the crust to the pan.
• To prevent shrinking do not stretch the dough into the pie plate or over the top of the pie.

Ohhhh, what's this, you ask? Well. It's a third pie. That's right. I (of all people) helped make 3 pies this weekend. And they were all successful and delicious.

THIS pie is technically Apple-Blueberry. But WE called it "Surgery Pie." Greg's brother, Mark (hence the "M" in the top of the pie), had surgery the day after Thanksgiving. We made the pie in part as a surgery consolation prize, but also because Angela asked me to. ;) We called it Surgery Pie for the first reason...but also because it looks lumpy and bloody. We're gross, I know.

Surgery Pie (partly from me, partly from a Better Crocker cookbook)
-2 pie crusts (top and bottom)
-5 1/2-ish cups of tart apples, like Granny Smith, cut into large chunks
-As many frozen blueberries as you think are appropriate (I used at least 3/4 cup)
-Probably 1/4-1/3 cup tapioca flour
-1/2 cup raw sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
-Sprinkles of cinnamon

1. Prepare your pie crusts. Lay one in the bottom of the pie pan, trimming excess to the rim of the pan.

2. Put frozen blueberries in a bowl with a healthy dose of tapioca flour, stirring well. Microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes and stir again.

3. Place chopped apples and blueberries in a large mixing bowl. Combine with extra tapioca flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Mix well and dump into the pie pan. If there's too much, just remove a little and eat it. It's good, I promise. :)

4. Place the other pie crust on top of the pie. Trim off excess. Tuck the top crust behind the bottom crust all the way around. Then, with two fingers, crimp the edge while poking inward with your other finger. This will help to press the edges of both crusts together so the filling doesn't ooze out the sides. Also, it looks pretty. Sprinkle with some sugar for extra sparkle!

5. Cover the edges with tin foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the tin foil and continue baking another 35-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown. Let cool for 1 hour on a cooling rack before slicing.

Oh yeah. That's the stuff.

Lime Tinted Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

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I hereby officially announce my challenge for 2011: Baking!

Yes, baking as a generalization. All of baking. Sure, I've done more baking this year than, well, ever in my entire life. But I want to be much, much better than I am.

I've been compiling a list of things I want to try. I may not do them all in the next year (I've yet to figure out the logistics of baking this much, since it's just me and Hubster eating said baked goods). BUT, please peruse this list and let me know what I am missing or simply MUST try. I like your input, you blog reader, you.

-Layer Cakes
-Fancy Cupcakes with Fancy Frosting
-Alligator Pastry
-Apfelstrudel
-Doughnuts
-Pie Crust, dammit (especially with a lattice crust)
-Crackers
-Cheesecake (**I've made cheesecake....but not in about 7 years)
-Pretzels
-Galettes
-Cannoli
-Mini tarts/quiches
-Eclairs
-Sourdough bread
-Madeleines
-Ciabatta
-Macarons
-Tiramisu (w/homemade ladyfingers)
-Italian Bread
-Kaiser Rolls
-Pane Siciliano
-Bagels
-Pain a L'ancienne
-Buttermilk Biscuits (the orgasmically good kind)
-Cake Pops
-Annalise's Raspberry Butter Braid Bread
-Breadsticks
-Petits Fours
-Creme Brulee
-Baklava
-Truffles with a tempered coating

One of the things that was at the top of this list were sugar cookies with royal icing. Before last week, I had never made sugar cookies. Ever. Please don't think less of me. There was just something about them that seemed intimidating--probably the use of a rolling pin. BUT, if there's one thing this whole blogging deal has done for me, it's showing me that nothing is really so difficult in the world of cooking. Or, even if it's difficult, at the very least it isn't scary.

So! It was my coworker Kathy's daughter's birthday. And I decided to make my first-ever batch of sugar cookies with my first-ever attempt at Royal Icing. I figured that a girl of 8 would not mind if the cookies ended up looking like crap. She would just be excited to eat the cookies (particularly if the cookies were decorated with her favorite colors). And so she was.

Look at that face. D'awww....

Lime Tinted Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing (adapted slightly from Everyday Food)
-4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for working
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
-1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
-3/4 cup sugar, plus more for decorating (optional)
-1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
-2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

1. In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add sugar, eggs, and lemon zest and process until mixture resembles wet sand.

2. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface; knead several times until dough comes together. Divide into 3 portions; flatten each into a disk. Roll each disk to an 1/8-inch thickness between sheets of parchment. Stack dough (still in parchment) on a baking sheet; refrigerate 20 minutes. (To store, wrap in plastic and freeze on sheet, up to 2 weeks. Thaw until pliable before using.)

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with racks in middle and lower thirds. Working with 1 dough sheet at a time, peel off parchment (save for baking). With lightly floured cutters, cut dough into desired shapes and arrange, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets (reroll scraps, if desired). Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

4. Bake until cookies are set but still pale, 7 to 9 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Using a spoon, frost cookies with icing; decorate with sugar, if desired. (To store, cover and keep at room temperature, up to 4 days.)

Kathy's son liked this because it looks like a starfish. Bless children and their imaginations.

Royal Icing (from Sweet Pea's Kitchen)
-4 cups powdered sugar
-2 tablespoons meringue powder
-6 tablespoons water (plus a bit additional)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine powdered sugar and meringue powder. Add water and mix on low speed for 7-10 minutes. Add more water by the teaspoon if it appears too stiff. You want to be able to pipe it easily.

2. Evenly divide the icing into containers based on the number of colors you will be using. Cover with a lid or a wet paper towel when not using so that it does not dry out.
Cut off the ends of your disposable piping bags, insert the coupler, and tip. I like to use a number 2 or 3 piping tip to outline my cookies. Transfer some of the icing into the prepared disposable bags and seal the top closed with a rubber band so it is less messy.

3. Outline the cookies with whatever color you want to flood (background) them. Outline the outside of the cookie using the prepared disposable bags. When you’re outlining the cookie, keep the tip at a 45 degree angle about about 1/2 inch away from the cookie, so that the icing just falls onto the surface. It is much easier to control your piping this way. Let the outlines sit until dry, about 15-20 minutes.

4. Once the outlines are dry you can flood the cookie. Add a few drops of water to the remaining icing in the small bowls until you get the correct consistency. To check for the proper consistency, dip a spoon into the icing and lift it up. The ribbons of icing drizzling into the bowl should disappear and become flat again within 10 seconds. Fill each squeeze bottle with the thinned icing.

5. To flood the cookie, using the prepared squeeze bottles start at one area and quickly zig zag back and forth until you have almost completely covered the cookie. Then take a toothpick and gently use it to distribute the icing to any empty spots. Shake the cookie gently to help settle the bumps if there are any. If you notice any small air bubbles, pop them with a toothpick. Once the cookies are completely flooded, let them sit 2 to 3 hours before adding any additional designs/details to the cookies.


Verdict: Very yummy, not as difficult as previously imagined (naturally). I think these turned out really well for a first attempt, though they are a bit lacking in the looks department. Still, they're much better than anticipated, so I'm giving myself a well deserved pat on the back.

So, let's add this one back onto the baking challenge list: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

At Last: The POM Party Recap!

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For the past two weeks or so, I've been posting all these pomegranate-based recipes on here (it's been worse on my Facebook page, where I keep taunting my friends with tantalizing photos). The reason is because the good folks at POM Wonderful picked me as one of 100 contest entrants to host a POM Party. They shipped me a crazy-huge amount of pomegranates (about 30-40?), 5 coupons for free POM juice, a cutting mat, super sweet canvas gift bags with lots of fun swag for guests, and this unbelievably wonderful and hilarious apron:

Obviously, this was taken at the end of my day of cooking.

In exchange for all this great stuff, we were asked to throw a party featuring pomegranates. We will be judged equally on incorporation of pomegranates into the menu, in the decor, and how we teach our guests that a pomegranate is really easy to open. Contestants have the chance to win some really fabulous prizes-- so, needless to say, I was motivated to win.

A week prior to the party, I got my craftsy on. You should know that I'm REALLY not craftsy...or artsy. The best thing I'd done to date was the flowers and boutonnieres for my wedding, and I'm shocked that they looked as passable as they did. When I read up on how to use pomegranates in centerpieces and wreaths, the directions were full of confusing concepts that I had no idea how to execute. Floral foam? Floral bowl tape? Dowel rods? 45 degree angles?! The horror!! Surely, I would lose (the contest, my mind) if I attempted any such thing. So, it was back to the drawing board.

Then, inspiration dawned. With logistical help from my artistically inclined brother (who is unhelpfully stationed 863 miles away in NYC), I figured out that it might be possible to block print a pomegranate half onto cloth napkins! I had not block printed anything since middle school art class, and did not even remember that it was called block printing (thus the logistical help from the bro). The idea was a seed (or aril, as it was), and I was tickled to try it. I picked up my fabric ink, a brayer, and some cloth bandannas (which doubled as napkins, 'cause .99/each was a lot cheaper than a real cloth napkin), and got crackin'. Fortunately, the results were fairly freakin' awesome.


How to Make Pomegranate Print Napkins:
To make these, you will need the aforementioned items, plus a surface upon which to spread your ink thinly. I ripped open a cardboard cereal box and laid it flat--this worked great and cost me nothing.

1. But FIRST, you'll want to cut your pomegranate in half and lay it on a thick stack of paper towels (on top of a plate) to drain for an hour or two. Be sure to change the paper towels once or twice halfway through. As you may know, pomegranates have a lot of pent up juice, and that juice will definitely be all over your napkins if you skip this step.

2. Once you're pretty sure your pomegranates are done draining, squirt some of your ink onto the cardboard surface and use your brayer to squeegee it back and forth until it's thin and shiny. The brayer will make a squeaky singy noise on really thin, shiny ink--that's how you know you're ready to start printing. Ink the brayer and then use the brayer to apply ink directly to the pomegranate. This ensures that you get the most ink possible onto all parts of the pomegranate. Really make sure you get the edges of the pomegranate (and the top!) well defined with ink.

3. Before you print, be sure that you put a piece of cardboard under the cloth, directly where you intend to print--this will make it so it doesn't bleed onto the other parts of the fabric or your counter top. Then, with great assuredness that you are a marvel of modern domesticity and artisticness, place the inked pomegranate half onto the cloth. Press down firmly all over the pomegranate (but not so hard that you squish anything), paying special attention to the top and edges. After a minute or so of pressing, gently lift it up.

4. BEHOLD YOUR AWESOME NAPKINS! Let them dry fully. After they're dry (ie no longer shiny), put a piece of paper over the top and iron the design. This is called setting the ink, and makes it much, much less likely that you will have an inky, runny mess when you wash them. Enjoy!

The other piece of advance prep I did was to make place cards out of the 6 Easy Steps to Opening a Pomegranate. I took beautiful photos of each of the steps, used Photoshop to write the steps and the guests names, and framed them in black with Word. I cut a horizontal slit in the stem of a pomegranate and used it as a place card holder for each person. The idea was to familiarize everyone with at least one step, and then discuss how to do it over dinner. THEN, I would have two teams compete to see who could open a pomegranate the fastest. It worked remarkably well!





Here are some pictures of Team Girl and Team Boy opening their pomegranates and doing a totally kickass job:






After the party, I decided to cobble together a video about how I presented the steps to my guests. Would it have been easier if I'd done it before and during the party? Uhhh, yes. But, my hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, I didn't even know what iMovie was until last week. So, if you're wondering why this video is both unentertaining and of crappy quality, that's why. :)



Yikes.

Eeniwho, let's move on to the rest of the decor!

My other ideas were to use a tall glass cylinder vase, stack it with pomegranates and fill in the empty spaces with these brown tree blossoms you usually see around town, and to fill candle votives with pomegranate seeds and place a tealight on top. The latter worked out really well, as you'll see below. The former, however, was befouled by my inability to find any of the previously abundant tree blossoms. Seriously--last year, they were EVERYWHERE. This year, nowhere to be found. So, Greg (my Creative Director for the POM Party) helped me pick up some pine cones, disassemble some fake leaves I bought, and used all those elements and more to assemble a totally gorgeous fall-pomegranate themed centerpiece.




The table was really lovely, and looked like this:


Jen and Grant arrived and brought us balloons assembled to resemble pomegranate seeds!
On to....THE FOOD!
POM Margaritas
Pomegranate, Gouda and Pear Quesadillas
Avocado & Pomegranate Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
Vegetarian Chiles en Nogada
Pomegranate Truffles
Salted Pomegranate Caramels
Pomegranate Flan



POM Margaritas
(from POM Wonderful)
-1 3/4 cups chilled pomegranate juice
-Kosher salt
-1 1/2 cups silver tequila
-1 cup triple sec
-2/3 cup fresh lime juice
-ice cubes
-8 lime wheels, for garnish

1. Pour 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice into a saucer; spread kosher salt in another saucer. Moisten the outer edge of 8 margarita glasses with the pomegranate juice, then coat with the salt.

2. In a pitcher, stir the remaining 1 1/2 cups of pomegranate juice, the tequila, triple sec and lime juice. Working in batches, shake the mixture in a large ice-filled shaker, then strain into the glasses. Garnish each margarita with a lime wheel and serve.

-Serves 8
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Pomegranate, Gouda, and Pear Quesadillas with POM Salsa (from POM Wonderful)
Quesadilla:
-1 cup arils from 1-2 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates
-6 8-inch flour tortillas
-4 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, thinly sliced
-2 large firm pears, thinly sliced
-1 tablespoon granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon vegetable oil

POM Salsa:
-juice from 1 large POM Wonderful Pomegranate* or 1/4 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
-2 cups arils from 2-3 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates
-3-4 teaspoons chopped jalapeno pepper
-1/4 cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper
-4 tablespoon granulated sugar
-1 tablespoon rice vinegar

POM Cream Garnish: (this is my own concoction)
-About 1/8 cup POM juice
-About 6 ounces of light sour cream

Quesadilla:
1. Score 1-2 fresh pomegranates 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.)

2. Place 2 strips of cheese on each tortilla. Using fingers, press 1 teaspoon of arils into cheese. Add 2 slices of pear, sprinkle with sugar. Fold tortilla in half.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon oil to a nonstick skillet and heat. Place folded tortillas in the pan and brown lightly; turn over and cook until crisp. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of oil if needed. Cut each tortilla into halves and serve with POM Salsa.

What quesadillas look like before plating, good lighting, and photoshop. :p

This cracks me up. I look so angry, but I was really just concentrating on plating at the table.

POM Salsa:
1. Score 2-3 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate 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 2 cups of the arils from the fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)

2. Thoroughly mix to combine all ingredients. (Salsa will keep covered, in the refrigerator, for 2 to 3 days.)

POM Cream Garnish:
This is easy enough--using a fork, mix together, adding POM juice slowly until you achieve the consistency you'd like. I added just enough to tint the color and add a touch of flavor, but did not lose the thicker consistency.

-Makes 12 pieces
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Avocado & Pomegranate Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette (from About.com)
-5-ounce package baby greens, herb salad, or baby spinach, rinsed and dried
-1 large avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
-Arils (seeds) from 1/2 pomegranate
-Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

1. Mound the baby greens in the center of a platter or on individual salad dishes. Arrange avocado slices over the greens, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.


Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette:
-1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Adjust the salt to taste. Toss with salad greens, drizzle over steamed vegetables, or use as a marinade.

-Serves approximately 3 people
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When I submitted the menu for the POM Party, I chose Chiles en Nogada. You may remember (even though this is a long entry) that this dinner was based vegetarian cuisine. Chiles en Nogada is REALLY NOT vegetarian--it's chock full of meat. Two kinds of meat, in fact! What was I thinking?! So, I really scrambled at the last minute to come up with a combination of ingredients that would hold their own as a chile filling, but would still maintain the essential sweet and savory elements of the dish. In the end, I don't mind saying that I did a damn fine job. This is super filling and super tasty! Highly recommended for any vegetarian looking for a stunning dish to impress their guests.

Vegetarian Chiles en Nogada (by me and various recipe sources, so all measurements are approximate!)
-12 Poblano chiles
-2 pounds sweet potatoes, cubed
-About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and finely diced
-1 D'Anjou Pear, peeled and finely diced
-1 white onion, finely diced
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-1 pound Roma tomatoes, diced
-4 oz canned pineapple tidbits, juice drained
-1/3-1/2 cup Craisins
-1/2 cup cider vinegar
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2-1 ounce goat cheese (or whatever you have leftover from the sauce)
-About 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Walnut Sauce:
-1 cup walnuts
-2 ounces almonds
-1/2 cup Crema Mexicana
-4 ounces goat cheese
-3 ounces cream cheese
-Milk, as needed to thin
-Salt, to taste
-White ground pepper, to taste
-Sugar, to taste


Garnishes:
-Flat leaf parsley (1 big bunch should do), chopped
-2 cups pomegranate seeds



1. Preheat a grill or broiler to high heat. Broil the chiles, turning occasionally, until the skin blisters. Place in a paper bag, fold the top over, and let sit for 20+ minutes. Flake off the burnt skin and GENTLY cut down the side of each chile (don't cut through!). Remove the seeds and membranes, but do not remove the top/stem! It helps to rinse gently with cold water.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put the sweet potatoes in and boil until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the water and mash the potatoes while they're still hot. Set aside.

3. In a food processor, blend all of the ingredients for the Walnut Sauce. The sauce should be thick and nutty. If you want it thinner, add a little milk. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until just slightly softened. Add apple, pear, and garlic. Cook a bit longer until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, pineapple, cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Let simmer approximately 5 minutes.

5. Add the sauteed ingredients to the pot of sweet potatoes. Add the craisins. Mix everything well. Add the goat cheese and cream and mash/mix in well to get a creamier texture.

6. Stuff the chiles gently with the mixture--no need to 'close' them. Top with pomegranate seeds, a thick strip of Walnut Sauce, and chopped parsley.... now, you have the Mexican flag on your plate!

-Serves 6 (2 chiles each)

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After so much successful foodstuffs had come out of the kitchen, I was happy and confident to present Pomegranate Flan to my guests. All I can say is that if you haven't made flan before, you probably shouldn't wait until you're throwing a dinner party to try it out. It was a terrible disaster of a flan. The worst part is that I have no idea what went wrong. It *tasted* good, but...well....let's take a look:


The good news is that even though it looked like vomit and my guests were really full, they still wanted to eat it. And they even enjoyed it, as you'll see below:

Grant really likes pomegranates. I did not know that when I invited him.

Pomegranate Flan (from ABC News - Ivy Stark)
-1-1/3 cups water 

-2/3 cup granulated sugar 

-1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses 

-3 extra large eggs 

-3 extra large egg yolks 

-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-2 cups half-and-half 

-1 1/4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice 

-pomegranate seeds for garnish

1. Heat water, the 2/3 cup sugar, and pomegranate molasses together in a small heavy saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to medium-high. Swirl the pan gently until the syrup turns a rich golden brown - about 12 minutes. Pour the caramel into a 10-inch round cake pan or 4-cup custard mold. Swirl it around to coat the mold evenly. When the syrup sets, turn the mold upside down on a piece of aluminum foil or heat proof surface.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

3. Beat eggs and egg yolks with the 1/2 cup sugar until they are well blended. Pour the half and half into the egg mixture, beating continually. Pour the pomegranate juice into the mixture and beat until well combined.

4. Pour the custard through a sieve into the cake pan or mold. Place the mold in an ovenproof pan and pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the pan or mold. Cover the pan or mold with aluminum foil that has been punctured in several places for ventilation.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the flan comes out clean. The flan will be soft and creamy.

6. Remove the mold from the pan of water and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

7. Slice and serve garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds.


-Serves 6

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And, as I posted about previously, I made Pomegranate Truffles and Salted Pomegranate Caramels.

Truffles in all of their glory:



And the amazing-but-soft caramels, and guests enjoying them:





We had a fun, casual, and super delicious Mid-Fall/Mexican-themed meal, thanks to POM Wonderful! Thanks, POM!