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HOW TO SEED A POMEGRANATE

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The arrival of the pomegranate is one of my favorite things of autumn. Pomegranate seeds can be mixed into salads or desserts for a little extra taste of fall. My favorite use is to sprinkle them on top of oven roasted brussels sprouts!

Their bright color and tangy burst of flavor make them a perfectly simple way to dress up any dish…as long as you know how to get them out of their shell.

Pomegranate seeds are inside a thickly skinned fruit protected by a thin and sticky membrane. If you don’t know how to seed a pomegranate the right way, trying to get those suckers out can be a disaster.

There are a few different ways to seed a pomegranate, but this is my method of choice:
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Remove the top
First, identify which end of the pomegranate is the top. It’s the end with the spout-like stem sticking out. Then, slice this end completely off, but only about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep into the pomegranate.

You want to open the pomegranate so the seeds are fully exposed (as pictured) but don’t want to take too many seeds with you in the top. It’s ok if there’s a few, though.
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Divide along the membrane
Once you’ve sliced the pomegranate open, you’ll see there is a thin, white membrane that stems from the center and divides the fruit into sections. Each section is filled with seeds.

Slowly and carefully slice through the thick skin of the pomegranate, right where each white membrane meets the skin. Go just deep enough to fully pierce the skin about 3/4 of the way down the pomegranate.
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Separate the wedges & tap out the seeds
Once you’ve made slits along the outside of the pomegranate, they should seem like wedges that are all connected at the bottom of the fruit. Hold the pomegranate with both hands, with your fingers cradling the bottom and your thumbs resting on the exposed seeds.

Using your thumbs, gently pull the wedges away from the center. The seeds will be sticking to the membrane, so be careful to pop as few as you can.

Once you have pulled the the wedges from the center, flip the pomegranate over. Standing over a bowl, use the back of a wooden spoon to tap the skin. Most of the seeds will gradually release from the membrane. Be patient! This part takes a little time.
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Pull out remaining seeds & eat!
Once you’ve gotten most of the seeds out by tapping the back, gently use your fingers to release any seeds that are still stuck to the membrane. If there were any seeds in the top you sliced off, gently turn the top inside out to release those seeds.

Sift through your bowl of fresh pomegranate seeds and remove any large bits of the white membrane. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container!

HOW TO BUILD A BLOODY MARY BAR

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There’s no way around it: I can’t stop fantasizing about football game-day brunch. And as much as I love a good mimosa bar, there’s a time and a place for that. In my humble opinion, no morning cocktail is going to transition you into nachos and wings (and oven fried broccoli) better than a Bloody Mary.

So, if you’re hosting the big game at your place, nothing will make people happier than a well-stocked Bloody Mary bar. My favorite part about building a Bloody Mary bar is that you can go as simple or over the top as your want. Just make sure there’s vodka.
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How to Build a Bloody Mary Bar:

Salts
If you want to include fancy salts for glass rims, you have a few options. You can go out and buy some fancy flavored salts and be done with it. Or, just buy a large canister of kosher salt and make your own. Keep one plain, mix another with equal parts Old Bay seasoning, and mix another with cracked black pepper. This is fancy already!

Liquor Selection
If you’re looking to go simple, just choose a bottle of decent, unflavored vodka. Extra options can include flavored vodkas (think pepper, lemon, or tomato) or tequila for those who want to take the Bloody Maria route.

Ice Cubes
While hydration is key if you’re in a “hair of the dog” situation, that doesn’t make a watered down bloody mary taste good. Plan ahead and freeze some of your bloody mary mix into cubes (or better, full on spheres) for maximum flavor.

Meats
If you want to have a few meats available, shrimp and bacon are great go-to’s. The shrimp can either be boiled or roasted in the oven, peels off but tails on. Bacon should be crisp – no one wants to stick a piece of floppy bacon in their morning cocktail! Various charcuterie meats arranged on toothpicks or bamboo skewars are also fun.

Pickles, Olives, and Peppers
Cruise your grocery store’s olive bar and/or pickle aisle and see what peeks your fancy. Consider non-traditional pickles (pickled green beans or asparagus) and olives stuffed with crazy thinks like garlic and jalapeños. Hot peppers are good, too. Have a small assortment or go crazy and get some of everything – it’s up to you!

Sauces & Seasonings
Providing an array of spices and seasoning is a great choice. People can customize their drinks to their liking, and you can get away with just providing tomato juice instead of mild and spicy mix options. Include a few different hot sauces, Worcestershire sauce, grated horseradish, and celery seeds. Have salt and pepper on hand too.

Traditional Garnishes
Don’t get so carried away with creative add-ins that your forget the things everyone usually wants! Lemon and lime wedges along with leafy celery stalks should all be on the table.

So there your have it – let football brunch season begin!

AN EASY WINE PAIRING GUIDE

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Wine pairing is a tricky business. I find that a lot of the guides I read are complicated and include a ton of wines I’ve never even heard of before.

And really, I’m not trying to be a sommelier. I just want to look a little fancier than I actually am by intentionally serving wine that’ll compliment the dinner I just slaved over. So here’s an easy wine pairing guide, designed for the everyday wine-o turned chef:

For starters, if you’re making a wine sauce, serve the same wine! This is a really simple trick that works every time. Whether you’re making a red wine sauce to serve over pasta or a white wine sauce to sauce with chicken or fish, just serve what you’re putting in the sauce! Done and done.
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Appetizers: If you want to serve something different with appetizers than you will with dinner, go for a dry Rosé. It’s refreshing, will appeal to almost everyone, and go with everything you serve.

Vegetable Dishes: For something light and green, like a salad, go with a light, dry white wine. Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio are good options. For something hardier, roasted, and maybe including more root vegetables, think about a dryer white (Chardonnay) or a light bodied red. Pinot Grigio is my go-to.

Fish: In general, fish and Pinot Grigio are best buds. For a lighter fish meal (something you might squeeze a lemon over) you can also go with a Sauvignon Blanc. For something richer, with a lot of butter or a creamier sauce, Chardonnay is also a good bet.
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Chicken and Pork: This is where we start to move up the scale a little bit. The lighter end pairs well with a dry white, like Chardonnay. From there, depending on the richness of the dish, you can go with a lighter red like Pinot Noir or a medium red like Merlot or Tempranillo.

Beef & Other Red Meat: For something lighter, like a grilled steak, a medium bodied red like Merlot or Tempranillo is a great pairing. For something richer, like a slow roasted pot roast or bolognese, think big and bold – Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are your friends!

When in doubt, Champagne/Cava/Prosecco goes with everything!

Seriously.

HOW TO: KEEP INDOOR PLANTS ALIVE

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I love indoor plants … have a whole pinterest board dedicated to them. I made our dog share the back seat with a laundry basket full of plants while we drove across the country for five days instead of just giving them away. It’s taken a lot of work to keep those guys alive over the last few years!

And truthfully, I’d be lying if I said all the plants I’ve had over the last few years have survived. Some were more well positioned than others (beware of the sale rack plants), but some I just straight up killed. Here are some lessons I’ve learned to keep indoor plants alive:

Overwatering is probably the easiest and most common way to kill an indoor plant. While most times our plants need less water than we think, it’s also important to remember that not all plants need to be watered on the same schedule! Pay attention to each one individually. This is made pretty easy by using a moisture meter – I have this one. Stick it into each plant before you water, measuring the bottom, middle, and top inch of the soil. Also be sure to always use room temperature water – anything too cold or hot can shock your plant.

Light is another thing that needs to be taken into consideration when picking new plants. Always read the care instructions that are tucked in the dirt of a plant – if it needs full, direct sunlight make sure you have a place in your home that can provide that.

Choosing the Right Pot is something we don’t always think of, but it can make a big difference. Succulents, for example, do better in a smaller pot. When it’s time to upgrade, Wider is a better choice than deeper as their roots grow outward. Understanding how your plants grow makes them much easier to care for!

Drainage is probably the most important point for you to keep in mind. If your plant isn’t able to drain excess water, it’s likely that the roots will rot and your buddy will die – even if you’re not severely overwatering. Pots with holes in the bottom are the best option. Self-watering pots are okay, but you need monitor the soil moisture often as the water has no way to escape the pot entirely. Regardless of what kind of pot you use, make sure to lay down at least a one-inch layer of potting pebblesbefore adding soil and your plant.

Did you know that many indoor plants also love a little coffee from time to time? Black, unflavored coffee acts as a gentle and natural fertilizer for most plants. Let any extra coffee you have cool to room temperature, water it down a little, and pour over your plants just as you would water!

Looking for more helpful hints? Check out this post from Apartment Therapy and this post from A Beautiful Mess!

HOMEMADE INFUSED OILS

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A few weeks ago I posted about non-wine hostess gifts, and these homemade infused oils should definitely be added to the list.

But first, make some for yourself.

I used small cork bottles that hold about 1 1/4 cup of liquid (similar here). I first filled the bottle with water and then poured that into a measuring cup to know exactly how much oil to use. The flavors of these oils are somewhat mild. If you are looking for something more potent, simply increase the flavor to oil ratio.

Thyme Oil
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
12 full sprigs fresh thyme

Add the oil and 6 sprigs of thyme to a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Heat until the thyme starts to sizzle. Let the thyme sizzle for 3-5 minutes, making sure it does not burn. Remove the pan from heat and let cool without removing the thyme springs. Meanwhile, place the remaining 6 sprigs of thyme in your bottle. Once the oil has cooled, remove the cooked thyme. Use a funnel to pour the oil into the bottle. Let sit for at least 1 hour before corking.

Garlic Oil
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
6 whole cloves garlic

Add the oil and 6 cloves of garlic to a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Let the garlic sizzle for 3-5 minutes, making sure it does not burn. Remove the pan from heat and let cool without removing the garlic. Once the oil has cooled, use tongs to place each garlic clove into the bottle. Use a funnel to pour the oil into the bottle. Let sit for at least 1 hour before corking.

Chile Oil
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
10 dried chilis (I used chiles de arbol)

Add the oil to a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Crack the tops of 3 chiles open and pour the seeds into the oil. Heat until the seeds start to sizzle. Let the seeds sizzle for 3-5 minutes, removing the oil from heat once they start to brown. Let the oil cool. Meanwhile, place the remaining 7 whole chiles in your bottle. Once the oil has cooled, use a funnel to pour the oil into the bottle. Let sit for at least 1 hour before corking.

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These oils are an easy way to add an extra layer to just about anything. Use them to sauté vegetables or drizzle on top of hommus and soups. I made these oils with single flavors, but you could also combine multiple herbs and garlic in one oil. I especially like to use herbs that are tough to find where I live – that way I can still get their fresh flavor when they’re not in stock at the store.

Have you infused oils at home before? What are some of your favorite flavors?