A gift of pomegranate

cut pomegranateOne of my favorite Christmas gifts was four beautiful pomegranates. Pomegranates are one of those foods that I don’t often consider buying for myself. They are a real treat.
One of the reasons I usually shy away from buying them is that pomegranates can be tricky to peel and separate the juicy aril from the surrounding membrane. This is a slow process that usually results in stained fingers and spots of pomegranate juice on my clothes.
Never heard of the word “aril” before? It means a fleshy appendage covering seeds—or seed sacs. Each pomegranate contains about of 600-800 of these arils or about ¾ cup fruit. The crunchy seeds and this surrounding juicy pulpy sac are the choice edible parts.
Knowing I like kitchen gadgets, my friend also gave me a pomegranate deseeder (www.seedout.com) and it does make getting the arils or seeds easier. There are several different types available in fancy food markets and most cost under $5.IMGP9372
If you don’t have a deseeder, there are several ways you can get the seeds out. It’s usually recommended to peel them underwater in a bowl. The heavy seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl and the pity membrane floats. You just remove the white membrane and strain the water off the arils. I have to admit, the results are worth the work. Yum.
Nutritionally pomegranates are considered a “super food” because they are a concentrated source of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Just 1/2 a medium pomegranate gives you 130 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 25% of your daily Vitamin C needs. They also have some B vitamins and potassium.
This is a time of year to buy fresh pomegranates. They are in season September through February.
What can you do with pomegranates? Once you’ve tried them, the ideas are endless.
• Eat alone as a fruit
• Add to cereal or oatmeal
• Mix with yogurt
• Make into a smoothie
• Combine with sweet and spicy peppers and cilantro to make salsa to eat with meats, shrimp or fish
• Add to chicken salad
• They add a sweet crunch when sprinkled on green salad
• Use pomegranate arils in our Red Quinoa and Berry Salad

Introduce your kids to pomegranates, too. They might enjoy the adventure of seeding and tasting this unique fruit. Kids tend to like new things when they can help prepare them.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Here is a beautiful arrangement of winter fruits with pomegranate, persimmon, and grapes.



15 Chef’s Ideas To Help Kids Love Healthful Foods

You can make all of the healthful dishes in the world, but if your kids don’t want to eat them, it feels like you are spinning your wheels. As the Chef and Founder of Food & Health Communications, Inc., I am keenly aware of what foods my son and I need to eat for optimal health. I also know that this is easier said than done, even for me as a chef because it is hard to find the time.

My son, Nicholas, was one of the pickiest eaters around as a child. He didn’t want any foods on his plate to touch, he wouldn’t try anything “mixed,” he didn’t like any kind of sauce, he only liked a few vegetables, he wouldn’t try soup, and he wouldn’t even look at a salad. At first, the whole thing was baffling and I didn’t know where to start. I ate a wide variety of healthful foods, and I exposed Nicholas to them at a very young age because I made a lot of his baby food from scratch so how could he be so picky? I felt that I should do something to help him expand his repertoire and enjoy more fruits and vegetables. I did notice that whenever he helped me cook something, he was more likely to eat it, so that is where I started and just expanded to these projects:

1) We started a simple, inexpensive herb garden. Nicholas and I spent quality time together learning about herbs, buying them, growing them, harvesting them, and using them in our cooking. During the evenings and on weekends, we would stop and look at the garden, pick some herbs, or care for them. Before bed, I would read him a funny cooking book called Warthogs in the Kitchen. Herbs are amazing because they have a wonderful smell. Mint was like his gum; rosemary is like a tree; basil smells like pizza sauce; thyme is a little like the woods. I used the herbs as a way to get Nicholas to try new foods, and I was met with instant success. We made herb-flavored vinegars that could be used on salad, which prompted him to start eating salads. I also used the herbs in new and healthful dishes like beans and rice, taco salad, tortilla pizzas, stews, etc. When herbs from our garden were in play, Nicholas would usually try the new food that featured them. He didn’t like every dish, but I?never gave up on getting him to try healthful foods.

2) We started doing more physical activities together. I noticed that whenever Nicholas’s activity level increased, so did his appetite! Instead of watching TV after dinner, we went for a bike ride or a walk with the dogs. Whenever I ran, he would ride beside me on his bike. When I swam, he joined me for the last few laps. He even did a triathlon and won first place!

3) Healthful food was always available. I kept 3 or 4 different types of fruit ready to eat in the refrigerator at all times. Salad was always cut and ready, along with potatoes, frozen vegetables, and baby carrots. And fruit was served in the most creative desserts.

4) No bribes, just snack platters slipped in. I never bribed him to eat healthful food. Food is not a reward. It is nourishment. But I did slip a fruit plate in his room while he was playing video games  (screen time was never in excess, though, because we always had a lot of fun outside toys plus dogs to walk). A bowl of baby carrots usually appeared on his desk during homework. The best time for fruits and veggies is when they are busy and you just “make them appear.”

5) Food and meals were always pleasant. I didn’t force him to eat anything he didn’t like nor did I punish him for not eating a particular food. I offered a wide variety of healthful foods and he chose what he wanted to eat. I did not keep a whole pantry full of chips, crackers, cookies, and sweetened cereals, either. When we wanted to eat cookies, we make them from scratch. I did buy cookies or crackers as an occasional treat. That way, we established that those foods weren’t forbidden — they just weren’t mainstays. I always make a big deal about dinner – it takes little effort to set a beautiful table with placemats, cloth napkins, nice water goblets and bone china or any neat china. We have a candle that is battery operated and it comes on every night!

6) Let’s cook! He helped me with meal preparation on most days. This is not always easy when you are tired or in a hurry, but it does make a difference. Here is our special chocolate chip cookie recipe along with age-appropriate kids tasks.

7) Backups count, too. The after school babysitter had a menu and recipes so that she could prepare healthful snacks and meals. Our babysitter really loved the cooking lessons and she just wrote that she is getting married and she is so happy she can make so many good things!!

8) Shopping is a fun activity. We grocery shopped together and visited farmers’ markets, too. The focus was what to put on our list and we always stuck to it in the store.

9) Dine fancy. I took him to fancy restaurants and let him choose whatever he wanted. This is a situation that really promotes the opportunity to try new things because it is their choice. He picked the most adventurous things like stuffed zucchini blossoms when we were dining in Greens, the famous vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco! It makes the child feel special when  you take them to a nice place to eat. When he was young we dressed up and I would talk about how he was expected to act. It wasn’t always perfect in the beginning but now he is a perfect gentleman.

10) Grow more. He planted a vegetable garden when he got older. The items to plant were his choice and he was so proud of his tomatoes, potatoes and huge zucchini.

11) Teach them to cook. He learned a whole repertoire of items he can prepare that included: cookies, salad, pizza, macaroni, bean quesadillas, salsa, pasta and much more. I bought kitchen equipment like quesadilla makers, bread machines and waffle makers that help him succeed. His favorite dish right now is a vegetarian pannini.

12) Chef’s table. He created a chef’s table in his room for my birthday and he planned the menu and cooked!

13) Summer camps can enrich knowledge. His last summer camp was at Stanford for 2 weeks where he and his classmates at Stanford’s OHS worked on a multi-disciplinary topic, “The Problem of Food.” They were required to read “An Omnivore’s Dilemma”, plan menus, visit farms, calculate kitchen math and cook for an audience. Other summer camps have taught him to program iPhone Apps and he is the programmer for Salad Secrets and Holiday Secrets, two of the food apps we made together. The important thing is to find one that a child will love.

14) His list, too. Now he helps me with the meal planning and grocery list. We have a list that stays on the refrigerator and whenever he requests an ingredient, he puts it on the list and I buy it! Usually his requests include black beans, tortillas, salsa and bottled waters, because he is still riding his bike to the pool and swimming!

15) Have fun and don’t worry. When he was a toddler he would eat watermelon for 3 days in a row. I likened that to reading the same book over and over. And once, when I was practicing for the ProChef II test, he discovered chocolate eclairs and wanted them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He even put them in his lunch box. That was the only time I made them and it a good memory.

As you can see, the possibilities for kids and food are endless. It usually only takes 10 more minutes each day to make something special for dinner together and the memories are priceless.

If you have questions, please click “Contact Us” from the link below.

By Judy Doherty, PC II

Chef and Founder

Food and Health Communications, Inc.

Communicating Food for Health


Judy is a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and the Fachschule Richmont in Luzern, Switzerland. She spent over 20 years in foodservice. She was the executive pastry chef for the Grand Hyatt Westshore in Tampa, FL and The Hyatt on Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, AZ. She has received the ACF Chef of the Year, ACF Bronze Medal and ACF Gold Medal. She holds the ProChef II Credential from the Culinary Institute of America. She has authored 12 books including Salad Secrets, Holiday Secrets, No Battles Better Eating, Cooking Demo Ideas and a new one coming up called the Art of the Lowcal Dessert. Her work has appeared in Chocolatier Magazine, Bon Appetit and Great Chefs of the West.

Eat your jack-o-lantern?

Kids love Halloween, costumes and carving pumpkins. Extend the fun by serving dinner in a pumpkin. This meal could be made ahead and served before the goblins go out trick-or-treating or have it in the oven while passing out treats at home.  I made this for family friends a couple of years ago and they still talk about the time I put a pumpkin on the table.

Get the kids involved in this meal. Make it a family outing to select the pumpkin or pumpkins.  The large round pumpkins that make great jack-o-lanterns are not the best for eating, they are usually stringy and tasteless. Smaller flatter pumpkins are best for cooking. Look for  sugar,  pie pumpkin or cooking pumpkins.

I could only find small orange pie pumpkins at our farmer’s market. There was also a hybrid pumpkin variety called a Buck Skin. This was a tan  on the outside rather than orange but bright orange inside.  This is one of the varieties of  pumpkins used by commercial canneries use to make canned mashed pumpkin and pie filling.  So, it’s a great eating pumpkin.

A word of caution when it comes to selecting pumpkins to fill for a meal. Don’t get one that’s too big.  It might not fit in your oven or may be too heavy once filled.  If you can’t find a nice medium-sized cooking pumpkin, you might want to go with individual smaller pumpkins.  Everyone could have their own pumpkin for dinner.

It may be tempting to try to do “double duty” with a pumpkin, to first have it as a jack-o-lantern and then make it into a pie. Let’s not go there. Like any other food, once it has been cut, pumpkin needs to be kept refrigerated. You should plan to eat or refrigerate pumpkin the same day you cut into it. You could use the whole pumpkins for yard decorations, just don’t cut them until you’re ready to cook them.

The bright orange color is a dead give-away that pumpkins are full of important nutrients and antioxidants and beta-carotene. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient for proper health of eyes, respiratory tract, skin and tooth enamel.


Tips for making a meal in a pumpkin:

  • Make a recipe of your favorite soup, chili or meal-in-one casserole.  Cook that recipe almost complete.
  • Wash the outside of the pumpkin. Cut off the top as if you were making a jack-o-lantern and thoroughly clean out the seeds and strings, leaving the pumpkin shell.  This can be a great job for the kids.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the hot filling into the cleaned pumpkin shell, replace pumpkin top and place entire pumpkin with filling on a baking sheet in oven.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until pumpkin is tender.
  • Carefully place the pumpkin on a serving platter (this may be difficult or impossible if your pumpkin is very large.) Remove the pumpkin lid and serve the contents. For your vegetable, scoop out the cooked pumpkin and serve.
  • Add a cold glass of milk and toasty bread and this provides a complete meal.

Food safety notes:

  • The soup, chili or casserole should be hot and almost completely ready to eat when put into the pumpkin shell. 
  • Do not put raw ingredients, especially meats or poultry into the pumpkin shell, the heat will not penetrate the hard shell enough to cook these items.
  • Ingredients such as rice that need a long cooking time should be almost tender when placed inside the pumpkin.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University


Produce Puzzler


I’m stealing this idea from a local produce market.  They do a great job promoting their foods on Facebook and Twitter.  Each week they ask a question they call the Produce Puzzler and offer food prizes for the person answering correctly.

The question last week was: “What fruit is consumed more than any other fruit in the world?”
Now I’m sure I could have cheated and searched the web for the answer.  However, I felt fairly sure about the first idea that popped into my mind.  So I responded: banana.

Other people were saying apples, tomatoes and mangos.  There were lots of people that said mango. I wondered to myself, have these folks ever priced a mango? 

I was wrong. The market claimed that mango was the correct answer. (Could all those people be that much smarter than me or did they “Google” the answer?)

Their source was James Scherrer @ Banderasnews.com (a newsletter out of Puerto Vallarta). He claims that worldwide mangos are consumed 3 to 1 over bananas and 10 to 1 over apples.

I didn’t believe that.  So I kept looking.

Wiki.answers.com questions that answer, too.  They say it’s the tomato.  While it is technically a fruit, most of us consider the tomato a vegetable and while lots are consumed worldwide, most are consumed in a cooked product.

Anwser.com agrees with me about the banana.  They state that there are 95 million tons of bananas produced per year.  In terms of price, availability, ease in eating and what people like, you can’t beat a banana.

They also say that “mangoes are the world’s most popular fruit” because many of mangoes are grown in home gardens, not produced commercially or imported to America. 

Ask.com agrees that it’s the mango, stating that they are “the most eaten fruit worldwide, being staples in diets in India, South Asia, China and Latin America, while we in America still consider them an “exotic” fruit” (thus the price.)

I’m assuming that mangoes must be much cheaper and more readily available in other parts of the world.  I remember once while traveling in the Bahamas, I was delighted with the two (yes, two) mangoes in the packed lunch prepared for me by the hotel. I commented about that being such a treat, telling the staff that these fruit usually cost over $1 each in our stores.  They just laughed at me saying they grew all over the island.

If you look at this question just a little differently, what is the most popular fruit in the United States, mangoes don’t even make the top 10. Apples top that list. Bananas are up there, too.

 I’m really not sure of the statistics or the correct answer for the question of the “most consumed” fruit in the world. This could be a fun tip for parents – what is the most popular fruit at your house?  Buy a bunch, take a poll and have fun. The best part is everyone wins with increased fruit consumption.

It could also be good for work-site wellness programs – take a poll on favorite fruits and post the answers. Maybe different departments have different favorites.

Here’s a great recipe from Chef Judy for a Vanilla Custard Sauce that turns these favorite fruits into a fancy dessert.  Hint:  it’s great with mangoes and bananas. http://www.foodandhealth.com/recipes.php?id=1133

You can also serve mangoes and other fresh fruits in a tall glass with chopped mint for an elegant dessert.

Well,  I’m not going to complain to the market, dispute their facts or try to claim the prize.  But, just wait till next week’s question.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Surrender to the ice cream temptation

Summer time and the living isn’t always easy.  Hot weather seems to cry out “time to stop at the ice cream shop.”  Ice cream is a great treat, but it can also be a dilemma for those that are mindful about a healthful diet.

The number of calories in that ice cream treat can vary widely and range from about 100 calories to over  500 depending on portion size and what goes in and on your ice cream.

Here are 10 ways to make trade-offs that keep you in the fun without the guilt or blowing your calorie or fat budgets:

  1. Pick a cake cone instead of a waffle cone (this could save you about 100 calories). Have your ice cream in a cup and avoid the cone all together.
  2. Go for a child’s size, one scoop or a small cone instead of a “regular”  which is frequently 2 or more large scoops.
  3. Watch the flavors you pick. Plain flavors such as vanilla and strawberry usually have less calories than the fancier choices.
  4. Limit the add-ins. Obviously those with added chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, cookie crumbs and candies have more calories.
  5. Select ices or sherbets instead of ice cream.  These usually have less or no fat. Greek yogurt bars are pre-portioned and a great treat, too.
  6. Look for light, reduced fat or fat-free  ice cream, since they generally have less fat (and calories) than regular ice cream.
  7. Many soft-serv cones are lower in fat and calories than the hand-dipped ice cream varieties.
  8. Don’t assume that a frozen yogurt is more healthful or contains less fat or calories—be a good consumer and read labels or ask for nutritional information.
  9. Instead of going out, make ice cream or sorbet at home.  It is a fun family project if you have an ice cream maker. Plus you won’t be tempted to keep gallons on hand. Consider that a gallon of ice cream can be over 5000 calories! Peach Berry Crush Frozen Fruit Pop Cups
  10. How about substituting frozen fruit instead?  I posted about the Yonanna machine https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/your-bananas-my-bananasyonanas/  a while back that takes frozen fruit and turns it into an ice cream-like product.

It isn’t always easy when the gang is screaming for ice cream.  As we all know healthful eating is a matter of moderation.   I have a friend who says that once or twice a summer she goes out and  gets a super cone with all the frills, but it’s not a daily or weekly practice.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University


Eggs in the Microwave

IMGP0066Years ago when microwave ovens were still new in most kitchens I taught many how-to classes.  I remember telling folks that eggs were difficult to do in the microwave.  There are always exceptions to every rule.

Recently while visiting my mom she showed me how to poach an egg in less than 45 seconds. She has a specially designed “egg cup” to use in the microwave.

I’m not sure what the original instructions are…but let me tell you how she does it.  Place one teaspoon of water in the bottom of the cup. Drop in the egg –you don’t need to pierce the yolk.  Put the lid on and microwave for 30 seconds.  Open the door, take the lid off and look at it.  Put the lid back on and microwave for 13 seconds more.  It worked. IMGP0078

Now, as the “microwave teacher” in the family, I said OK…I can do this too. I thought that part about stopping the oven and looking at the egg was pointless.  So, I put the water in the cup, added the egg and put the lid on and microwaved for 43 seconds.  Wrong. The egg exploded all over the oven.

Obviously you need that “rest” in the middle for the egg to continue to cook and the steam not to build up too quickly in the yolk.  I admit, mother knows best.

The time on the second step can be adjusted a little depending upon how hard you like your eggs poached. Also, they do continue to cook for a short while after taking them out of the microwave, so don’t overcook. It  takes some experimenting based on your specific oven.  But it can be done.

Mom’s not really sure where she got her microwave egg cups, but it’s one of those cooking gadgets that she really uses.  I checked on E-bay and there are several different styles available, seems other people have known about these for years.

Judy Doherty, President of Food and Health Communications shared that she has great success with eggs in the microwave, too.  She makes a breakfast sandwich using egg whites that she says is a winner!

The National Egg Board emphasizes that egg wisdom dictates you shouldn’t try to cook an egg in the shell in the microwave because steam builds up too quickly inside and the eggs are likely to explode. IMGP0081

What’s great about both of these recipes, no added fat, no dirty fry pan and a fast easy protein-rich breakfast. Another plus, no need to turn on the stove, so something that kids or people with limited skills or mobility could do.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Heavenly apple…or is it a pear?

People that teach about healthful eating (me included) are always encouraging people to eat more fruit.  I admit that after a while there’s not much excitement in eating another banana or apple—although I like them both.  Asian pear 2

Sometimes I just need a change, so last week I treated myself to a package of Apple Pears.   That first bite had me thinking “wow this tastes wonderful, is it really something I’m encouraged to eat?”

When I say treated myself, I mean it was a splurge, they are not cheap.  A package of five was $6—making them over one dollar a fruit.  I have to tell you, they were worth every penny.

If you haven’t tried them I encourage you to do so.  They are sometimes called Asian Pears or Oriental Pears.  They are round like an apple and have skin like a pear.  Flavor-wise they are a mix of apple and pear— sweet and fragrant.  They are juicer than an apple and crisper than a pear.  Delightful.  Despite these mutual similarities, many people think they are a hybrid of these two fruits, but they are not.  Technically  they are classified as pears.

While they are native to China and Japan, they are also grown in the Pacific Northwest of the US.  Mine were from California.  Asian pear 5

The skin can be golden brown, golden green, orange or brown—depends on the variety.  Select Apple Pears as you would pick apples, they should be firm to the touch, not as soft as a pear.  Take special care as they do bruise easily. Look for pear apples that do not have bruises or marks.

They will keep for several months in a cool environment and can be held at room temperature for a week or so.  Nutritionally, one medium fruit has only 50 calories and it is completely fat-free with 13 grams of carbs and Vitamin C.

They have a beautiful white crisp flesh that doesn’t turn brown as quickly as an apple or pear when exposed to air….so they look great when featured in a salad or fruit bowl. They could be used in recipes designed for pear or apple, but my feelings are:  they as so good just eating out-of-hand why bother? Asian pear 4

Most people say that they should be peeled before eating.  I didn’t.

Looking for an activity to do with kids to teach them about eating more fruit?  How about comparing the apple, pear and Apple Pear?  Give them the chance to look at the similarities and differences in shape, color, texture and flavor. I’d be interested to hear the words they use to describe this fruit.   I’m using the words: delectable, delightful and heavenly.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Don’t lick the beaters

IMGP9498 IMGP9493Cooking with kids not only provides a family activity but teaches lifelong skills. Kids love to help and (of course) sample the products. It’s hard for kids (and adults) to resist eating the raw cookie dough or lick the beaters when making cakes or chocolate brownies. A food safety lesson you can teach early is that foods containing raw eggs should not be eaten—no matter how tempting. Raw eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria that could result in a food-borne illness. Salmonella can cause illness in anyone, but children who have undeveloped immune systems are especially vulnerable.

I’ve seen advertisements in cooking magazines for pasteurized eggs. While these products look like and can be used like regular “shell” eggs, they have been heated to kill any potential bacteria. Other sources of pasteurized egg products include whole-out-of shell eggs (liquid eggs—frequently used in restaurants) and low-cholesterol egg products (made primarily with egg whites). These pasteurized products are great if you want to use a favorite family recipe that calls for an uncooked egg such as egg nog, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise and uncooked ice cream. Another option is to search for “reformulated” safe recipes. We have a banana nog recipe that offers an eggless, low-cholesterol and low-fat alternative to an egg nog made with raw eggs and lots of cream.

While the ads for pasteruized eggs say it’s OK to lick the spoon, younger children may not be able tell the difference between products made with raw “regular” eggs and those made with pasteurized egg products. A good rule-of-thumb is that no one should eat uncooked dough or batter.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State Univeristy