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Pomegranates are healthy, sweet holiday treat
Freezing the pomegranate juice and using the ice to cool the punch assures it will not get watery. - photo by Stock photo

Apple-pomegranate  sparkler
• A half gallon of organic apple juice
• 2 cups diet club soda, seltzer or tonic water
• 1 package fresh mint leaves
• Juice from one or two pomegranates

Ahead of time, freeze the pomegranate juice in an ice-cube tray.  
Combine mint leaves and one cup of apple juice in a glass or small bowl. Mash the mint with a spoon. Strain the juice-and-mint mixture to remove the mint leaves and pour the liquid into a pitcher or punch bowl. Add the remaining apple juice and club soda and stir to combine.  Add the frozen pomegranate juice cubes. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. Serve this drink cold.

I love pomegranates during the holiday season — not just for their brilliant color and sweet taste, but for their outstanding health benefits.  
Pomegranates, in season from September through January, are a powerhouse of nutrients and antioxidants, and they work well in holiday dishes. Fresh whole pomegranates are available at most supermarkets right now at decent prices. I have even seen displays with a great money-saving coupon at several area stores.  
Since pomegranate juice can be expensive — even when it’s in season — buying whole pomegranates and juicing them is a better option. It is also healthier since homemade juice is minimally processed and contains no preservatives.
To de-seed a pomegranate, you’ll need a knife, a bowl full of water and a strainer. Score the flesh of the fruit like you were cutting it into fourths. Use your fingers to tear into the flesh and break it into four pieces. Place the pieces in the water and use your fingers to pop the seeds from the flesh. The seeds will sink and the flesh pieces will float. Once you have all the seeds, strain all the seeds from the water.  
Seeds can now be juiced, used in recipes or even snacked on whole, although you will need to watch out for the pits. Juicers make pretty easy work of pomegranates since the pits are relatively soft. If you don’t have a juicer, mash the seeds in a bowl using a wooden spoon or run the seeds through your blender and then strain out the tough pieces of pit that are left.   
I’m including a great recipe that I use as an alternative to heavy, fattening holiday beverages such as eggnog. This light drink is fruity and a little bubbly, thanks to the inclusion of a carbonated mixer. Since the pomegranate juice is frozen into cubes, the drink doesn’t get watered down. If you are looking to add a little more “holiday cheer,” it will stand up to a splash of rum, gin or vodka, although you should go easy on the alcohol, which contains a lot of empty calories.  

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