I have a thaaaaaaaaaang for pears, eating right out of hand and using them as the star ingredient in healthy desserts. If I was a partridge, I’d never fly out of my pear tree –the fruit is just so dang delicious and nutritious. Pomegranate Roasted Pears with Pine Nuts & Blue Cheese is a super simple yet sorta fancy-schmancy dessert or side dish that can be made in 30 minutes!
Fall and winter are prime time for pomegranates, a delicious superfood with juice and arils (fleshy seeds) that appear in everything from seasonal salads and smoothies to holiday cocktails and desserts. But there is much more to a pomegranate than festive flavor and ruby-red good looks, the prized fruit offers an abundant supply of vitamins, essential minerals, and a rich assortment of antioxidants – it’s also a good source of dietary fiber. It addition helping optimize health and wellness for the general population, pomegranate has several distinctive benefits for runners, ultra runners, cyclists, triathletes, obstacle course racers and other endurance and strength athletes.
Reduces DOMS: A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that the polyphenols found in pomegranate juice may help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in previously resistance-trained individuals. Study participants who drank pomegranate juice, rather than the placebo, reported less incidence of discomfort in the exercises administered to provoke arm and leg soreness. Take away: Drinking pomegranate juice before exercise may lessen soreness and quicken recovery so that you can train again sooner.
Increases Exercise Efficiency: A 2014 study reported in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, sports scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say that the nitrates in pomegranate extract enhance exercise efficiency by decreasing oxygen consumption during exercise without limiting performance, increasing blood lactate or increasing energy contribution from glycolysis or the phosphagen system. It’s the same sort of benefit that has also been attributed to consuming beet juice before endurance exercise. Take away: Pomegranate juice or extract supplements may enhance exercise efficiently and increase the amount of time it takes to get to reach exhaustion.
Reduce Inflammation and Bolster Immunity: Pomegranate seeds are rich in specific polyphenols, such as tannins, quercetin and anthocyanins — all of which may offer both heart health and anti-cancer benefits. Studies have shown that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and serves as a natural antihistamine to fight seasonal allergies. Additionally, studies specifically on athletes have suggest this phytochemical bolsters health during the 3 to 72 hour window of impaired immunity following heavy training and also may help increase endurance. Take away: Recover faster and keep from getting sick during intense training cycles with pomegranate.
Quick Source of Energy: A glass of pomegranate juice diluted with a bit of water makes a healthy “sports drink” that will fuel your brain and body with quickly-sourced, natural sugars. Take away: Ditch sugary, store-bought sports drinks and power up with the healthy carbohydrates and antioxidants found in pomegranate juice.
A mocktail featuring pomegranate is the perfect way to ring in 2106 – it’s a tasty toast to your health with no worries about driving home or feeling bad the next day. Shake up your holiday libations with my Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer, the recipe is simple, has no added sugar and features less acidic Meyer lemons (a hybrid orange-lemon) and the previously mentioned benefits of pomegranate arils and juice — it’s also no coincidence that both these fruits are in peak season as we speak!
Directions: In large pitcher, pour 2 liters sparkling water and mix in 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice, 4 packets Stevia (more or less to taste), and 4 ounces pomegranate arils (along with any juice in bottom of carton). Serve with thinly sliced Meyer lemon. Serves 8.
What are you drinking for New Year’s Eve? Do you seed your own pomegranates or buy the packaged arils?
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to refocus on the remaining festival of eating that spans now through the New Year! There is more noshing and nibbling packed into the next 30 days than perhaps in the whole calendar year! With invited (and quite possible uninvited guests) dropping by with holiday cheer and hungry appetites, I like to have a few simple yet show-stopping appetizer recipes at my fingertips so that no one is disappointed.
My recipe for Blue Cheese, Pomegranate and Quinoa “Caviar” is an easy yet elegant addition to any gathering, whether you need sophisticated snacks to headline a cocktail party or as a prelude to a full-scale dinner party. Or, perhaps as an “I’m not cooking tonight” mini meal to enjoy with a bottle of wine in your fuzzy slippers after everyone heads home!
One of the treasures of this holiday hors d’oeuvres recipe is pomegranates. Pomegranates on their own are a quite festive fruit, the little arils inside resemble ruby-red jewels and taste decidedly more precious. When paired with a pleasingly pungent blue cheese and the almost nutty texture and taste of quinoa, you get a taste experience that I can describe no other way than Manheim steamroller for your Mouth – a modern orchestra of fa-la-la flavor!
While this holiday appetizer looks like it spent all day getting ready for a food glamour shot, it’s actually embarrassingly easy to make. All the ingredients are just tossed together in a bowl and then molded into a standard 6-ounce ramekin dish. If you’d like to do individual servings, mold with a mini melon baller or cookie dough scoop.
I’ve served this Christmas and New Year’s Eve party recipe on one of my favorite cracker; the nearly paper-thin wafers from 34º Crisps. However, you can use the cracker of your choice or even serve a dollop atop an apple or pear slice.
If you have leftovers, a big spoonful or two of Blue Cheese, Pomegranate and Quinoa “Caviar” is fantastic on a steak salad – especially with the Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette. Enjoy!
PS – Need some other easy cracker-topping ideas? I’m your girl, I have a gazillion combinations of goodness. Here is just a sampling of my madness — 10 Easy and Elegant Ways to Top a Cracker.
So, what are your favorite things to put on a cracker? See if you can surprise me! Share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
First, let’s fruit chat, because food always comes first — even before winning races! Anyway, it’s that time of year – pomegranates are on parade at the grocery store now through early winter! This big red fruit is a precious member of my produce bin, those little arils inside look like ruby-red jewels and razzle dazzle with sparkling flavor. In addition to big flavor, pomegranates are a superfood offering an abundant supply of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C – and are also a good source of dietary fiber.
This past weekend at Fresh Summit (Produce Marketing Association) I got to see all the pomegranates in every imaginable way – from whole fruit and pre-packaged arils for convenience to a variety of juices and sweet snacks. The pomegranates I see in my market are about the size of a softball, but some of the beauties being shown off at this produce convention were almost the size of bowling balls.
Pomegranates are picked and delivered ripe, so pomegranates can be purchased and enjoyed right away. A tip to take home the best in the bushel is to look for a pomegranate that feels heavier than it looks – a good indicator that the inside is loaded with juicy flesh. You can keep whole pomegranates on the counter for a week or so and in the product bin of your fridge for up to three months! However, once the arils are removed, it’s best to enjoy them within three days. In addition to the smoothie recipe I’m sharing below, pomegranate arils are also excellent sprinkled on salads, yogurt and mixed into sauces.
Pomegranates are juicy good news for everyone, and maybe even more so for individuals with an active lifestyle. Some research suggests the polyphenols in the juice of pomegranates can help offset delayed-onset muscle fatigue in trained athletes. Beets (also in the featured smoothie recipe) are high in nitrates which can help reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and enhance efficiency. This is why I’ve always loved a beet juice smoothie — check out my Sweet Beet Smoothie. Plus, with the quality protein found whatever protein powder you use (or the Core Power I like), perfect for pre-workout fueling and post-exercise recovery, this Pomegranate, Blueberry, Beet Protein Smoothie is a winner in every way!
Edit: I recently came across Beet Juice Powder — I love it! It’s more economical than buying pre-made juice and waaaaaaay less messing than juice beets at home.
Pomegranate, Blueberry, Beet Protein Smoothie: In a blender, add 12 ounces vanilla almond milk, one scoop protein powder (or sub one bottle of Core Power Vanilla for milk and protein powder), ½ cup pomegranate juice, ¼ cup pomegranate arils, ½ frozen blueberries, and ½ cup shredded fresh beet. Blend until smooth, adding ice as needed to achieve desired consistency.
I also want to give you the quick recap on the Hill Country Trivium on October 18, 2015 – there was a 10k, a half marathon and full marathon. I ran the half marathon and the recap — It. Was. Hilly. I am no stranger to hills, we have plenty in my neighborhood and I’ve been an ambassador for the hilly Zooma Women’s Race Series in the Texas “Hill Country.” This race I would say was comparable in hills to Zooma, but with an extra bad boy that started at mile 4 and pretty much lasted through mile 5 – or so it seems. It was rough, it was tough, but I got up – I wish I would have looked back over my shoulder to see the challenge of the climb (which reduced me to walking more than once). I used the mantra from the Unbroken story more than once — “If you can take it, you can make it”!
So, I endured the hills and the suffering and the story ended well – I WON the half marathon as the first female finisher and also the FIRST finisher male or female. Yup, I chicked the guys – knowing I was probably going to pull it off was all that kept my lactic-acid, jello’d out legs going in the final two miles — that and my awesome The Ones from Altra Running (light for speed yet just enough cushion in the roomy toe box to keep feet happy coming down the steep hills). Also a fun touch at the race – everyone got a slice of pie at the finish!
Check out my friend Jill Conner’s blog for great fitness and life inspiration —
like Tips for a Productive To-Do List! I so need that!
Do you like running in hills? What’s the hilliest race you’d finished? Pomegranates — do you buy the whole fruit or the pre-packaged arils? Please share in the comments, XOXO – Jennifer
Looking for an easy yet elegant salad — a gorgeous plate of early fall flavors that will have co-workers peeking over the cubicle or neighbors knowing at the door? My Steak Salad with Fig, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette will have you running to the grill for some last minute steak-making before Jack Frost rears his ugly head. Honestly, in Austin, the fall is the BEST time of year for grilling!
This salad features top sirloin steak, a lean cut of beef that packs a great nutritional punch for athletes and active individuals with only about 150 calories and 6.5 grams fat for a 3 ounce serving plus 26 grams protein and lots of iron and other essential vitamins and minerals. The beauty of sirloin is it’s versatility, convenience and (duh) taste – it’s a weekday AND weekend go-to for me. Because sirloin is already a fairly tender cut, there is no need to marinade except to add flavor — my simple pomegranate marinade adds a slightly sweet, super delish dose of that! But, if you are rushed and need to skip marinating, the recipe will still be yummy.
Figs have been so great lately, you may want to make a few more fig recipes before the season is over. Check out the 5 Ways with Fresh Figs from the Simmer and Boil blog at CookingLight.com
What is your take on fresh figs, love ’em or hate ’em? What are you doing this weekend, anyone have a race? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
Although we’re just a few days into November, soon the winter holiday season will be in full swing. Invitations to parties galore will be popping up in your inbox and you may even be hosting a soiree of your own. If you’re anything like me, indulging in foods that have been forbidden to pass your lips for months upon months are now welcomed as the beloved, long-lost friends they are. It’s so wonderful to see you again cheesecakes, chocolate kiss cookies, mugs of eggnog and bacon-wrapped finger foods — squeal!
But, before you dive off head first into a bowl of fully-loaded artichoke spinach dip, remember – all things in moderation! I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again; I’ve never been a food denier. But, I do balance my splurges with healthy foods and watch my portion sizes when I know that tempting foods are coming my way.
One festive, flavorful and yet still fit dish I like to make (or bring) to parties is Pomegranate Jicama Salad with Roasted Cilantro Shrimp. I created this colorful recipe to fulfill a request for “elegant and easy healthy holiday ideas” for the Living Litehouse blog. This simple to assemble salad makes a showy statement when served as a light entrée. It can also be divided up among stemmed glasses and served as an appetizer, shrimp cocktail-style! If you’re not up to roasting the shrimp yourself, just purchase them ready to go at the chef-prepared food section of any upscale market. Guests will be impressed with the presentation and pomegranate flavor of this shrimp salad and not feel a bit guilty about overdoing it.
- For the shrimp:
- 2 pounds uncooked (12 to 15-count) shrimp
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
- For the salad:
- 1 lb jicama peeled and julienned
- 1 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 1 large pomegranate peeled and arils harvested
- 2 Tbsp. minced jalapeno
- 2 Tbsp. fresh very thinly sliced green onion
- 2 Tbsp. fresh minced cilantro
- 2/3 cup Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup salted roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 4-oz. crumbled Feta Cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place shrimp on a sheet pan with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir shrimp around a little to coat them in oil and then spread in a single layer. Sprinkle with cilantro.
3. Roast for approximately 8 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, in large bowl, add julienned jicama, sliced red onion, pomegranate arils, jalapeno, spring onion, and cilantro. Pour Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette over mixture and mix gently to combine.
4. Add spring mix to serving bowl or platter. Mound jicama-pomegranate mixture in the center of lettuce; sprinkle with pepitas and feta cheese.
5. Arrange roasted shrimp around perimeter.
With this deliciously nutritious and low-cal salad, you don’t have to feel guilty about taking a wild ride on the dessert cart; or, perhaps having a second slice of my Lower-Fat Caramel Apple Carrot Cake! Don’t forget to visit Living Litehouse for my recipes!
On another note, it’s less than a week until I leave for Las Vegas to battle it off spatula to spatula with the other 99 contestants in the Pillsbury BakeOff. If you missed it a few months ago, my recipe that made it through to become a finalist is an appetizer – Spicy Beef and Sweet Potato Samosas. How cute is the official apron this year? It was created especially for the event by designer Whitney Port and I can’t wait to wear it!
Last week I attended a cooking class called “Indulge the Heart,” and indulge I did – but in a healthy way. The Heart Hospital of Texas in conjunction with the Texas Beef Council showed us all how to make a delicious date-night meal from a healthy lean cut of beef. Chef Richard Chamberlain of Chamberlain’s Steak & Chop House in Dallas, Texas and cardiologist Dr. Paul Coffeen enlightened the group on the health benefits of beef and shared healthy tips for cooking it up. I’ve never been shy about my love of lean beef and the role it plays in my training and recovery diet, it’s also no surprise that I get around in beef-circles and I already knew these two beef experts – I’d say they were preaching to the choir!
Our menu included an Italian Post Roast with Sweet Peppers, Olives & Capers from the Healthy Beef Cookbook – it was superb! Not at all like the stringy meat and mushy carrot pot roasts that I remember from my childhood (not that MY mom ever cooked one like that). It’s hard to believe I’ve never actually cooked a pot roast myself, but the chef and doctor sure sold me on the idea and inspired me to come up with my own recipe. Plus, when I saw that Angus Chuck Roast was on special for $2.97 a pound at Sam’s Club, I couldn’t resist. For us fitness types, it’s reassuring to know that pot roast today is a much leaner hunk of meat than it was back in the day. A three-ounce serving has just 5.7 grams total fat (1.8 grams saturated fat) and falls in the middle of the 29 lean cuts of beef.
So, are you hanging on the edge of your seat wondering what I did with the beef and how I ending up with leftovers that were transformed into an equally delicious meal? Here’s the skinny – I came up with the recipe Pomegranate-Balsamic Pot Roast with Baby Bella Mushrooms following the master idea from Chef Chamberlain. However, since I can never stick to a recipe and didn’t have any red wine (which his recipe called for), I took my meal in a whole ‘nutha direction. When I was plating the meal, I realized that I should have made a “sopping substance” for the sauce — brown rice, noodles, polenta, riced cauliflower or something!
In any event, the recipe made quite a lot of sauce by design – the meat needs to be completely covered up with liquid to braise properly. While we polished off the beef that night, I still had a stockpot more than half full of sweet-savory, umami-packed sauce. I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it away so I stuck it in the fridge! So what happened the next day was genius, if I do say so myself. I added a can of petite-dice tomatoes, a can full of water, a pound of cooked ground beef and a handful of bow-tie noodles to the pot, heated it up until the pasta was cooked – and, viola, a rich (but not fattening), ultra flavorful soup! No chintzy leftovers here; this salvaged meal made a large amount of hearty soup that fed the entire family with refills! So what would you name this soup? I need a name, let me know in the comments below!!
Pomegranate-Balsamic Pot Roast with Baby Bella Mushrooms Recipe
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast (approx. 2 lbs)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 8-ounce carton of baby bella mushrooms, sliced (use your favorite variety)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 ½ cups pomegranate juice (make sure actual juice – not “cocktail”)
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes, with juice
- 2 cups beef broth (from can, paste or fresh)
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
- ¼ cup water
In large stock pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Place beef in pot and brown evenly on both sides. Remove from pot and season with salt and pepper.
In same pot, add onion and mushrooms and sauté for approximately 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute.
Add pomegranate juice to deglaze the pan, stirring until simmering and crusty beef bits have come off the bottom of pot and become incorporated in the sauce.
Add tomatoes, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and crushed red pepper; stir to incorporate.
Return roast to the pot and bring everything to a boil; reduce heat and cover pot with tight-fitting lid. Continue to simmer for approximately 2 hours or until fork tender.
Add sliced carrots and continue to simmer. Stir arrowroot powder into 1/4 cup water to create a slurry. Pour slurry into pot and stir for a couple minutes until sauce is thickened; take care not to overheat.
Remove bay leaves and serve over rice, noodles, polenta or riced cauliflower.
Serves 6 to 8.
The New Year brings new resolutions about food for most of us. For me, it usually means trying to find healthier desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth. Inspired by poached pears served at a dinner party I attended New Year’s Eve, I came up with this Poached Pears with Pomegranate-Mascarpone Sauce version to share with you for a healthy 2013. A delicious and decidedly more nutritious alternative to my Bluebell ice cream habit, these poached pears are so simple to make and have very few calories, not much fat, and lots of dietary fiber. You could top them with vanilla ice cream, but they are yummy enough to stand alone on sweetness.
Instead of Bartlett pears, you can use other varieties known to hold up through the cooking process such as Bosc or Anjou. Remember to choose pears that aren’t super ripe, you want them to be fairly firm so that they don’t fall apart in the pan. While some people peel the pears for aesthetics, I prefer to keep it on in order to retain the naturally high levels of chlorogenic acid found in the skin (a phytonutrient that can help control blood glucose levels). By the way, in the rare chance you have leftovers; they are great the next day sliced up in a salad.
Poached Pears with Pomegranate-Mascarpone Sauce Recipe
- 3 semi-firm Bartlett pears
- 2 cups all-natural pomegranate juice (not pomegranate cocktail)
- 1 teaspoon Stevia
- Pinch ground clove
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- Garnish: fresh mint leaves
Slice pears in half lengthwise. In medium pot, bring juice to a light simmer. Stir in Stevia and spices.
Gently lower each pear into juice, flat-side down. Reduce heat to med-low and let pears cook for approximately 10 to15 minutes, or until softened. Turn several times during the process for even cooking.
Remove pot from stovetop and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove pears from juice. Leave 1 cup of juice in the pot, add mascarpone cheese. Return to stove and warm over low heat, stirring until well-combined. Pour sauce over pears and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve. Before serving, garnish with fresh mint.