Finally! An Easy Way to Seed Pomegranates

I’ve tried several different ways to seed pomegranates, each touted as “the” easy way.  So when a video showed up in my Facebook timeline this morning, claiming to be yet another easy way to seed this fruit, I’m sure my eyes did a little roll.

As luck would have it, I had a pomegranate in my kitchen.  While preparing my lunch, I decided to give it a whack (literally).  It turns out, that it worked!  My apologies to Martha Stewart for the eye roll.

The Easiest Way to Seed a Pomegranate Video

In case you’re not familiar with pomegranate seeds, they’re delicious.  My kids and I both love them.  The seeds are encapsulated within a membrane that’s filled with pomegranate juice.  When you eat one, you get a splash of the sweet and tart juice, then you are left with a small seed to chew.

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Pomegranates are great on salads, as well as by the spoonful.  And now that they’re not so much work, I foresee them making a regular appearance in our winter fruit rotation.

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(As you would expect, pomegranate seeds are 0P+ for Weight Watchers followers.)

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Super Flour (a.k.a. Supah Flour)

With summer over and fall sneaking up, I’ve found myself enjoying time cooking and baking more.  All Purpose flour doesn’t have much nutritional value, so I often mix up a little concoction that my boys have dubbed “Super Flour,” because, well, it is SUPER when compared to regular, unbleached flour.

The mixture consists of equal parts toasted wheat germ, whole wheat flour and all purpose flour.  Toasted wheat germ is a good source of fiber, protein, Vitamin E, Thiamine, Phosphorus and Zinc.  In fact, just two tablespoons of wheat germ contain 7% of the daily recommended value of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  The whole wheat flour is higher in fiber and some vitamins than its all purpose counterpart.

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The Super Flour has been successfully substituted for all purpose flour in many of my family’s favorite recipes.  It’s especially delicious in buttermilk pancakes and zucchini bread.

I mix up larger batches of Super Flour and store it alongside my other pantry items in an airtight container.

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Amping up your flour really is a super way to squeeze in a little extra nutrition!

Go Blue!

In case you hadn’t yet heard, blueberries are (right now) at their peak. That means (right now) is the time to invest a (very little) effort, so that you’ll be able to enjoy these delicious and nutritious berries for months to come.

Freezing blueberries is a great way to preserve them. Frozen blueberries are quite versatile. They can be eaten straight out of the freezer for a cold treat. They can be thrown into a blender for smoothies. They can even be used for baking. (Think: homemade pancakes.)

By looking around, you may be able to purchase larger quantities of peak blueberries.  For example, my grocery sells 5-pound boxes and the farm stand that I frequent currently has 10-pound boxes.  So far this year, I’ve frozen 10 pounds, which equaled about two gallon zip-top bags.  (I plan to freeze another 10 pounds this weekend.)

You can either wash the berries before freezing, or you can wash after freezing but before using. I choose to wash them before freezing, because 1) I like to get the “work” over with and 2) I’m afraid that adding another step later would deter me from grabbing them as often.

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How to Freeze Blueberries:

  1. Rinse them in a colander and gently shake away excess water
  2. Spread onto a kitchen towel; discard any stems or damaged fruit
  3. (Optional) Cover with a second kitchen towel for a few minutes to absorb water from the tops
  4. Allow to air dry 15 – 30 minutes, until mostly dry
  5. Transfer to parchment-lined, rimmed baking trays and place into freezer
  6. After fruit is firm (not necessarily frozen solid), move to a zip-top freezer bag
  7. Put in freezer to enjoy later

That’s all there is to it!  It really is *that* easy.

Here are a few tips:

  • Set a timer to check the freezer beginning at around 30 minutes; leaving the berries in too long may cause them to shrivel a bit
  • Stand the zip-top bag up in the colander to keep it from tipping as it’s filled
  • Form a funnel with the parchment paper, to quickly transfer frozen berries to the bag
  • If you have a deep freezer, your blueberries will stay beautiful well into the winter… maybe even until spring

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Go Blue!

 

 

Mini-Cucumbers

A friend who works lunch duty at an elementary school recently asked me if I had seen mini-cucumbers in the produce section at the grocery.  She has been noticing them appear in kids’ lunch boxes.  Always up for trying something new, I added them to my shopping list.

They’re tiny, portable, cute, flavorful, crunchy and refreshing!  They range from the typical small-size gherkin up to restaurant-size pickles.

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I prefer mine quartered and lightly salted, though you could easily just chomp into them whole.  They taste like fresh cucumbers (obviously), but have the feeling of eating a pickle.

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The packaging varies.  Here are the bags from a couple of the varieties that I’ve purchased.  (One company is even non-GMO, which I opt for when available.)

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For Weight Watchers followers… good news!  Fresh cucumbers are 0P+.

Thinking Outside the Sandwich

When my boys were younger, I’d often pack their lunches “in fours.”  Four of the following: protein, fruit, veggie, dairy, carbohydrate or treat.

To do this, I found square, air-tight containers and square silicon baking cups.  It was a way to send lunch without the usual sandwich at the center.  The boys’ appetites eventually outgrew the containers and I packed them away… until now.

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Recently, I’ve re-discovered how fun packing “in fours” can be.  Our daughter eats lunch away from home from time to time, so I broke out the containers once again.  Not only are they good for her, but they’re good for me too!  Depending on the day, it could make a large snack to hold me over while on the go.  Or it could be a light lunch in-between appointments, to keep my in control until snack time.

My favorites to pack:

  • Hard-boiled egg (2P+)
  • Toasted almonds (15 pieces for 3P+)
  • Carrot sticks (0P+)
  • Cubed cheese or cheese rounds (P+ vary)
  • Mini-pretzels (11 for 1P+)
  • Mini-marshmallows (20 for 1P+)
  • Toasted oat cereal (1/4 cup for 1P+)
  • Turkey pepperoni slices (17 slices for 2P+)
  • Sliced, salted cucumbers (0P+)
  • Dark chocolate chips (1 TBS for 2P+)
  • Grapes (0P+)
  • Popcorn (stovetop popped, 1/2 cup for 1P+)
  • Sliced apples – if eaten quickly, before they brown (0P+)
  • Crackers (P+ vary)

What items would YOU pack?  I’d love to hear some fresh ideas!

 

 

 

 

Coffee: Small Changes, Big Change

The promise of a hot cup of coffee is enough to pull me out of bed in the morning.  And along with a snack, it’s also a relaxing way to slow down the afternoon.  Before bringing a Keurig machine into the house several years ago, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker.  The allure of being able to brew a cup at a time, instead of an entire pot, eventually won me over.  (Ironically, I could probably brew and finish an entire pot by myself now.)

In the beginning, I’d pour in whatever dairy I had on hand and spoon in an undetermined amount of sugar, not paying much attention to how much of either.  Eventually I realized that the heap of sugar and splash (or two) of dairy were probably adding up to more calories than I wanted, so I set out to quantify and subsequently decrease both.

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Measuring out sugar and creamer, I realized that I liked about two teaspoons of sugar and a tablespoon of creamer.  Over the course of several months, I was able to slowly whittle down the sugar to a teaspoon and the creamer to two teaspoons.

Adding a teaspoon less of sugar and adding about a tablespoon less of creamer to a cup of coffee may seem rather trivial at first glance.  Assuming that I drink three cups of coffee per day, that seemingly trivial reduction in sugar and creamer add up to 120 calories (and 25g of sugar) per day!  Saving those 120 calories per day over the course of the month, if all other variables remained constant, adds up to entire pound lost!  The math is simple.  This equals 12 pounds lost over the course of a year… just by a gradual and seemingly trivial reduction in sugar and creamer.

Before making or ordering your next cup of joe, consider a gradual scale-back in sugar and dairy.  You might be surprised how little you miss it and what a difference it can make in your bottom line.

Veggies in a Flash

Find it difficult to get fresh veggies on the table at dinnertime?  When I’m in a pinch, I turn to flash-frozen veggies in microwavable steamer bags.  Since they are microwaved in their packaging, they go from freezer to table in a matter of minutes!

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I usually buy is Birds Eye Steamfresh.  Their Pure & Simple line contains only one ingredient (the vegetable!).  No added sauces, sodium or preservatives.  Birds Eye and other companies do sell varieties with sauces, so check the nutrition label to be sure.

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Frozen vegetables have their advantages over canned veggies.  During the canning process, vegetables lose some of their nutritional content.  Additionally, there are concerns about leaching from the metal can into the produce.

The steamer bags go on sale regularly.  When they do, stock up!  On a busy night, when you’re rushing to get dinner on the table, you’ll be happy that you did.

P.S.  There’s currently a $1 off of two Steamfresh bags on Birds Eye’s website, under Coupon Corner.

Note: For Weight Watchers followers, frozen veggies have the same PointsPlus values as fresh produce.  Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, etc. have 0P+.  Remember to count PointsPlus for peas, corn and edamame.