Looking to lighten up your holiday fare? With so many heavy and indulgent foods taking center stage this time of year, it is a nice balance to round things out with something a little lighter, a little brighter and something unexpected… the pomegranate.

Its vivid red color adds to centerpieces, entrées and beverages, perfect for holiday festivities! The best part is the pomegranate is currently in season and readily available, meaning it won’t break your entertaining budget!

food-salad-healthy-lunchThe name pomegranate comes from Latin; its literal translation is “seeded apple.” The average fruit contains 600 juicy seeds called arils. Deeply rooted in the history of many cultures, it has been around for more than 8,000 years; it was one of the first cultivated fruits in Greece. In ancient Egypt, King Tut made sure to have a pomegranate buried by his side. In Buddhism, the pomegranate is considered one of the three blessed fruits. Closer to home, Thomas Jefferson cultivated them at his estate, Monticello.

The ancients were on to something: Pomegranates are loaded with nutritional benefits. The fruit is low in calories (83 per 100g serving) and high in fiber (4g per 100g serving). It also provides 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K and 17% of vitamin C. Pomegranates are rich in anti-oxidants and high in phyto-chemicals that promote heart health and help to prevent cancer so they really are a super fruit!

Intimidated by how to cut into the fruit, or hate the spray of red juice everywhere? The folks at Pom Wonderful have great interactive instructions with pictures that show the right way to open a pomegranate.

There are many ways to incorporate this ravishing red-head into your holiday menu:

  • Centerpieces – Nothing is more stimulating to the appetite than a display of brightly colored fruit. Fill a decorative bowl with bright green apples, a couple pomegranates and some clementines, cranberries or figs. Throw in some un-shelled nuts, pine cones or decorative balls and you and you have a stunning centerpiece.
  • Salads – Use the fruit from you previous night’s centerpiece for a breakfast fruit salad. Pomegranate arils are a juicy pop that pair nicely with other winter fruits like pears, apples and citrus. They also taste great in savory salads. I like to use them with baby spinach or kale, adding in toasted pine nuts, bleu or feta cheese and a vinaigrette dressing. This red and green salad looks particularly festive on holiday tables.
  • Side dishes – What a deliciously unexpected twist to pair pomegranates with savory vegetable dishes! This Thanksgiving I experimented with my traditional roasted Brussels sprouts and couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. I roasted the sprouts as normal with olive oil, salt, pepper and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar on a sheet pan. When they were done, I let them rest for 5 minutes and then sprinkled pomegranate arils in the pan. I drizzled a little more balsamic vinegar across everything and then placed in a serving bowl. I was pleasantly surprised with both the contrast in color and flavor; it turned out to be a great pairing! I have also replaced water with pomegranate juice when making cranberry sauce; the two super fruits go great together!
  • Beverages – Pomegranate juice is a wonderful healthy addition to holiday punch, sparkling water or champagne/wine spritzers, adding a nice rosy hue and a pop of flavor. It is also fun to drop a few of the arils in the bottom of clear glasses before pouring in the liquid, a fun simple way to add a little flair to holiday drinks.

However you choose to use it, the pomegranate was meant for the holidays! Healthy, delicious and a sight to see, it will become the little red dress on your holiday entertaining menu!

A Colorado native and mom of two girls, Mary from Fruita lives a gluten-free lifestyle and also blogs about her active life every Tuesday on Fruita Moms.

Photo Credit: chany14 via Compfight cc