Thursday, November 18, 2010

POM Wonderful Pomegranate Dinner Party

As some of you may have already read in an earlier post, I was selected by POM Wonderful to be one of one hundred hosts of a dinner party featuring POM Wonderful pomegranates.  I have been so excited to finally get everything put together and posted. 

Let me just take a moment before we begin with the photos to tell you that I will post the recipes from dinner party as well as a couple of bonus recipes that came about as a result of the preparations for the party.  However, for the purpose of keeping the dinner party post cohesive, I probably won't post every recipe in this post. 

Next, I'd like to mention that POM Wonderful sent the most incredibly generous party kit!  I received tote bags for each of my guests which contained a coupon for a free 16oz. bottle of POM Wonderful Juice, a set of their chef series recipe cards and a "wonderful inside" bracelet.  In addition to the guest tote bags, they also sent one for me which contained 5 coupons for free pomegranate juice, a really cool cutting mat with step by step directions for opening a pomegranate printed on it AND the cutest apron ever!  Oh and lets not forget the TWO CRATES of fresh pomegranates.  Yes...I did say two entire crates!  I counted 58 pomegranates in all!  Needless to say...we have done our share of picking seeds for the last two weeks!

Here is some of my POM Wonderful loot!

THE best apron ever!

A peek inside one of the pomegranate crates.  Aren't they gorgeous?

Not to toot my own horn BUT...I am probably one of the best people they could have chosen to host a pomegranate party for two very important reasons.

1.  I LOVE pomegranates!  I am fascinated by the beautiful jewel like seeds,
     their tart and sweet taste, the way they burst in your mouth when you eat
     them and lastly, (and this leads us to reason number 2), they are     
     gloriously RED!

2.  I am totally and unapologetically obsessed with the color RED!

My little brain went straight to work taking inventory of all the marvelous red things that I have with which to decorate.  Unbelievably, I even had a set of beaded pomegranate christmas ornaments. 

I decided to create my decorations in two different venues; my dining room table and the patio table by the pool.  For those who don't know, you can still go to the beach during the day here so I was not too worried about an outdoor setting!

All this jabber when what you really want is to see the pictures!  The perfect blend of bling (of which I have plenty) the gorgeous, shiny pomegranates made for an elegant and VERY red theme.  See for yourself...

I began with a clear glass platter filled with a stack of polished pomegranates which I threaded through with strands of glass beads and there are also some battery operated lights hidden between the poms.  The platter was set on an antique lace tablecloth and then wrapped with sparkling red tulle.  Branches of berries were used to create some interest and a perch for my two fabulous red sequinned peacocks. 

To add more glamour, I draped the chadelier with string pearls, added red globe candle holders which I wrapped with silver beads and crystals.  Clear glass crystals were tossed about on the table.  Small antique gold trimmed shot glasses were used as votive cups.

For the outdoor venue, I used my incredible "chandalabra" (tabletop chandalier).  I just added some red crystals, used my cardinals with their feather boa tails, crystal candle sticks, beaded pomegranates and berries, red silk and fresh pomegranates interpersed into the setting.

Here they are...beautiful!  I used some highly polished fresh poms woven in with the boa tail feathers of the cardinals.  It was a stunning table!

We began the evening by sipping refreshing Pomegranate Spitzers until all the guests arrived.  They are made with a lime simple syrup, freshly juiced pomegrante juice and sparkling mineral water.  Garnish with some fresh pomegranate seeds (arils).

The menu for the evening:

Pomegranate Spitzers
Brie en Croute with Pomegranate Molasses
Butternut Squash and Rum Raisin Savory Pastries

This is a simple yet elegant starter made simply by wrapping a wheel of brie in layers of phyllo dough brushed with melted butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until dough is browned and crispy.  Top with a drizzle of warm pomegranate molasses and sprinkle liberally with arils.  I made the pomegranate molasses myself and I will post the pictures and recipe in another post.

The second appetizer is also quite simple and utilizes won ton wrappers to hold a filling comprised of roasted butternut squash puree which has been combined with cream cheese, rum soaked raisins, pomegranate juice, chopped pecans, a tiny pinch of cayenne and topped with grated parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle with some arils for a pop of sweet-tart goodness in every bite.

I have to say, the salad course was my favorite.  This was quite simply...a marvelous salad!

Mixed Baby Greens are topped with walnuts candied in brown sugar and pomegranate molasses.  The nuts are dusted with ground cinnamon while they are still hot.  I made them ahead and stored them in an airtight container in the fridge.  I also added some amazing ultra-white hard, mild goat cheese crumbled atop the salad greens.  Of course, pomegranate arils were added to complete the salad. 

It is dressed simply with a Honey Pomegranate Vinaigrette.  I made the vinaigrette with 1/3 cup freshly juiced pomegrante juice, 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar, 1/4 cup saw palmetto honey, a couple of pinches of kosher salt and about 1/2 cup organic grapeseed oil.  I also added a couple tablespoons of walnut oil for the flavor.  Keep at room temperature until ready to serve.  Dress the salads just before serving.  Store unused dressing in the refrigerator. 

Our main course:

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Pomegrante Gastrique
Candied Sugar Pumpkin Wedges
Browned Butter Haricots Vertes

To make the Pomegranate Gastrique, I brought 1 1/2 cups sherry vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 cup fresh pomegrante juice to a boil.  Boil until mixture is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups liquid and use to baste pork as it roasts.  Bring the gastrique to a boil and serve the extra with the pork.  It's amazing!

The little sugar pumpkins were cleaned, cut into wedges and basted with melted butter.  I then grated fresh nutmeg over them and baked until they were nearly tender.  In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter and add 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses and another 1/4 cup brown sugar to make a syrup.  Toss in a couple of cinnamon sticks.  Bring the syrup to a boil and pour over pumpkin wedges.  Roast until they are tender.  Baste with juices while pumpkins roast.

The haricots verts are lightly steamed and then flash sauteed in browned butter.  They are seasoned very simply with some coarse sea salt.

I also served a drink with each coarse.  For the main course we had Pomegranate Tangerine Iced Tea.  Simply combine 2 quarts of freshly brewed black tea with 3 cups freshly juiced pomegranate juice and the juice of 3 large tangerines.  Sweeten as desired.

This was a totally incredible drink!

Last but by no means least...dessert!  Now everyone knows I never had a dinner party that didn't end with a killer dessert and this one is no exception.

Pears Poached in Pomegranate Juice and a bottle of 2007 St. Supery Moscato have been hollowed out and filled with a Pomegranate Mascarpone Mousse and drizzled with chocolate ganache.  They are topped off with some chilled pomegranate arils and a drizzle of pomegranate simple syrup.  I served it with a cup of Mulled Pomegranate Cider.  This dessert was divine...truely the piece de resistance!

For those who have never tried opening a fresh pomegranate; I have a video tutorial available on my youtube channel.  Drop by and check it out at:

This party was such fun and I'd like to extend my thanks to POM Wonderful for the opportunity to participate!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Great Gingerbread Project of 2010

Here I am again...another two week gap between posts.  To be honest, I REALLY couldn't eek out the time for it.  I mentioned in my last post that there was a lot going on and I've got the pictures to prove it!

First of all, stay tuned!  The photos, recipes and a video from my wonderful POM WONDERFUL party will be coming up this week.  The dinner party is tonight and I have pulled out all the stops!  I can't wait for you to see it.

Second, yesterday was the annual Christmas Shopping Extravaganza at my mother's church.  We had a booth there selling some of the items that I made and cookbooks.  This was an emourmous event by the way...95 vendors!  There were probably around 5000 shoppers that came through. 

The great gingerbread project of 2010 was to be the focal point of our booth.  Granted, I try to make one every year but I usually don't make it till after Thanksgiving.  However, this year I made it early.  I'm just going to post pictures and let them speak for themselves. me, unless you are nuts like me, you won't be interested in the recipe or the instructions!!!

Here it all of it's glory; standing 3 feet tall and weighing in at around
thirty five pounds.

back can see, it is lighted -both the cottage and the tower.  The "rocks" are chocolate rocks and the white capped waves are royal icing.  The "sand on the cliff face is brown sugar adhered to royal icing while its still wet. 

The railing and light cage at the top of the tower are made from piped gingerbread that had to be first tinted black.  The process is a MESS!  You take some of the already made dough (the dough for the entire piece is made at once and then smaller amounts are tinted or otherwise manipulated as needed), chuck a little piece in your blender with a spoonful of warm water and gel black food coloring paste.  Add water one spoonful at a time until dough is the consistency of thick icing.  Fill pastry bag fitted with a writing tip (sizes vary depending on what you are piping) and go to town!  The easiest way to pipe your pieces and know that they are going to fit properly is to slide the pattern piece under a sheet of waxed paper and then pipe over it; rather like tracing a drawing.  You then slide the patter piece over to the next clear area of the paper and pipe some more.  Or you can just do like me and lay the pattern piece to the side for reference and freehand it.  This isn't my first time at this particular rodeo however!  The railings and light cage pieces are baked right on the waxed paper.  The open window panes have also been filled with piped gingerbread BEFORE the pieces are baked. 

Here is a closeup of my little cliff face with the rocks and some white caps breaking against it.

This close up of the tower shows how smooth the royal icing coat is on the buildings.  My hand is NOT that steady!  In order to "whitewash" an entire building you need to use what is known as "the flood technique"  It's like coloring inside the lines really.  It must be done BEFORE assembly.

The pieces are first outlined with thick royal icing in a pastry bag fitted with a number 1 writing tip.  When flooding with dark colors, such as the red checks, do the colors FIRST.  Allow to dry for 20 minutes before proceeding.  When ready to begin coloring in the rest of the piece, place some royal icing in a small bowl and add water a spoonful at a time to reach a pourable consistency.  Too thin will result in a frosting that is too wet though.  It will still set but you'll be able to see through it AND it could warp your pieces from the extra moisture.  When flooding, frosting should be about the consistency of corn syrup.  It is also important to note that you are NOT painting the frosting onto the are merely coaxing it into the corners.  I try to pour evenly and as close to the lines as I can and let it spread how it will and then use a silicone pastry brush (so it does not leave streaks) to push it into the corners that did not get covered.  You must do this within a couple of minutes of pouring however.  It will form a "skin" within just a few minutes and if you touch it once the skin forms it will leave a bumpy imperfection in the coating.  It helps to complete all detail work while the pieces are lying down in this manner.  Especially on tall pieces like the tower of the lighthouse.  I let flooded pieces dry for a FULL 24 HOURS before assembling them.  You want that coating to be completely cured.  By the way, this technique will also lend a bit of extra stability to really tall pieces of "naked" gingerbread.

Here is a close up of the piped railing and tower pieces.  ALWAYS make twice as many as you need when doing delicate piped pieces like this.  I guarantee that you will break several.  The do not stick to the parchment at all when baking but they are very thin and brittle.  It does not take much to break them.  Here the cooled pieces are just stacked together on an extra sheet waiting for me to assemble.

This is one of the coolest techniques for making more realistic evergreens.  Begin with a set of nesting star shaped cookie cutters.  My set has four sizes.  Tint some of the basic dough green with gel food dye.  It's brighter and truer color than the liquid stuff AND it does not thin down your dough.  You'll definately want to wear rubber gloves for this and simple knead the coloring in like you are playing with playdoh!  Roll out the dough onto sheets of floured parchemet and then cut stars.  The amount you'll make will depend on how many and how tall you want your trees.  I had four trees on this piece.  Two are taller and have around 25 cookies total.  The other two have around 15.  Make at least 3  or 4 of the largest sized star for the base of the tree and just proceed from there, making several of each size.  BEFORE you bake the cookies, use a straw to punch out a hole in the center of each.  Construction dough has no levening so it does not spread or rise.  Your hole will not close up!  Once baked and cooled you simple insert a bamboo skewer into the base (in this case mine was styrofoam blocks under all that sugar) and simply slide the cookies onto it in descending size order.  Make sure that you turn each cookie a quarter turn so the points of the stars are between the points of the previous star.  Otherwise the tree doesn't "fan" out.  Glue them together as you go with blobs of royal frosting piped around the skewer before the next cookie is inserted.  Finish with extra frosting for snow and add "colored lights" while the frosting is still wet.  Allow to dry overnight and then snip off the skewer at the top of the last cookie.  Tree tops are made with four triangles cemented together with frosting.

To make the snow "glisten", it has been dusted with micro fine edible glitter.
All in all, I am pleased with this year's project.

Here is my table at the bizzare.  I had to finally put a "for display only" sign on the lighthouse!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Last Day To Vote!

Just a quick reminder...I really need your vote!  Please go to

and vote for my entry:  Creamy Pumpkin Polenta Two Ways.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Halloween Food Drive

I know I mentioned before about the food drive for the Harry Chapin Food Bank at Around the Clock Fitness in Cape Coral.  It was a great event and a lot of food was collected for the hungry. 

It is difficult sometimes for those of us who are so blessed to even imagine that there are people right here in the United States, in our cities, our towns and maybe even in our own neighborhoods who go to bed hungry.  It is hard to imagine that somewhere RIGHT NOW there is a mother who can't sleep because she doesn't know how she is going to feed her children tomorrow. 

For us foodies who make our livings or pursue our hobbies with and around food this is nearly unthinkable.  Sometimes I have to admit it...I'm ashamed of myself because I have made a dish for a post of a photo and it was never intended to be eaten so I have thrown it away.  We've probably ALL done it. 

Most of the Publix Supermarkets here in Florida sponsor food drives in conjunction with the Salvation Army or the Harry Chapin Food Bank.  Granted they aren't going to take food that is already cooked BUT...nothing would prevent me from dropping it off at a local soup kitchen or rescue mission. 

The fact is ONE in SIX Americans faces hunger on a daily basis and if you believe it only affects certain areas, populations or demographics you may be sadly and shockingly surprised.  Statistically speaking, we probably ALL know someone who is struggling with or affected by hunger and we are not even aware of their plight.

In the 2009 report over 49 million Americans lived in households with food insecurity.  Households with children reported almost double the rate of food insecurities as households without children.  Those statistics appear to be increasing at an ever more alarming rate. 

I know we all get on our soap boxes from time to time.  We're always trying to save this and save that, free something, preserve something from extinction or whatever.  Sometimes I think we just forget that hunger is real and it's not going away and we COULD do more.  For myself, I plan on volunteering at Second Harvest.  One day a week of my time at a local soup kitchen is not so much to ask really. 

Please buy an extra can or two...especially during this holiday season.  Many grocery stores provide drop boxes for non perishable goods and if you can't find one; go online and look up a food pantry, rescue mission or soup kitchen in your area.  They won't turn down your matter how minimal!

Aside from the benefit being for such a good cause, it was also a lot of fun!  It gave me an opportunity to go out with a good reason to wear all black, have spider web stockings, a pointy hat and flamboyant makeup.  Wait a minute...don't I do that anyway??  Some smarty pants commented on my facebook that I had not changed a bit since my high school senior picture....


"I'll get you my pretty...any your little dog too!"

Wicked cool huh?

"Oh...come in, come in!  We like children.  They taste good!"

"Get that water away from me....."

"Do you see this face?  Do you even THINK I won't turn you into a frog just for the fun of it?"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creamy Pumpkin Polenta Two Ways

As is par for the course lately, I am behind in my posting.  I feel guilty about this but until I can learn to squeeze a couple more hours out of the 24 we've got...that is just the way it is! 

There is SO much going on that I feel like I can't do it all justice by trying to cram everything into one post so I'm going to take them one at a time. 

First...last week I got an email from the folks at Lactaid asking me submit an entry in their Gourmoo Cookoff  on 

I was actually flattered that they found my blog on their own and invited me to participate, which I was glad to do!  I use Lactaid milk anyway when I use cow's milk at all. 

Here's the deal on this on either of the links above and find my entry either under my name; Jill Anderson OR the name of the recipe which is Creamy Pumpkin Polenta Two Ways.

The contest entry video is only 3 minutes long however, I did record the full instructional video to post on my youtube channel.  My husband is the director, editor and chief officer in charge of posting to youtube though so hopefully he'll have time to get it posted tomorrow.  The contest entry is up though. 

The recipe can be found on cookoff website and I will also include it on the youtube companion page on my blog once he gets it up.  For now, I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Voting closes on November 9th so I would really, really, really appreciate it if you'd pop on over and vote for my entry!

BTW...part of this recipe is also going to factor into my POM WONDERFUL dinner party on Sunday, November 14th.  I'll be posting all about that later!

Remember to VOTE at 

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States