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Resolve to try new fruit

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Q I would like to try a pomegranate. Do you have tips on buying and preparing pomegranates?

When buying a pomegranate, look for fruits that are hard on the outside and feel heavy for their size; avoid fruit with cracks or bruises. The rind color ranging from bright pink to red to brick indicates variety not ripeness. Select the largest fruits as the biggest pomegranates will be the juiciest.

As for storing them: Whole fruits can be kept at room temperature for a week or in the fridge for two. Or remove the seeds and seal them in an airtight container; they’ll keep for five days in the fridge, or up to three months in the freezer.

To open the pomegranate, I’ve found you can simply cut the blossom end slight with a knife and place your thumbs at the opening and pull the fruit apart. This will expose the seeds and white membrane. At this point, place the pomegranate in a bowl of cool water and continue to separate the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will float on the water and the rind and membrane will sink to the bottom of the bowl. The seeds are the edible part of this fruit and are now ready to use or store.

Q I love to make spinach dips during holidays. Do you have suggestions for getting the moisture off of thawed spinach?

One of the quickest ways I’ve found to remove the moisture from the defrosted spinach is with a clean dish towel and rolling pin. Place the defrosted spinach between the dish towels and roll over the towel with the rolling pin till you have the moisture removed. If the towel becomes saturated you may need to add another towel.

A second method that works well is to place the defrosted spinach in a clean towel and twist the towel over the sink till the moisture is removed. You can also substitute a clean, heavy-duty paper towel for the cloth towel if desired. Depending on the quality and thickness of the disposable towel, the disposable towel may tear with moisture and excess squeezing.

Q Do you have suggestions for making my cookies more uniform in size?

If it is a drop cookie, a cookie scoop (looks like a small ice cream scoop, 1 ounce) works well. Fill the scoop and press the open side of the scoop against your bowl to level it off before dropping it onto your cookie sheet. I’ve found the stainless steel scoops work the best over time and can be used for numerous years.

Another method if your recipe indicates a size of cookie such as 1.5-inch balls, mark a line with pencil and ruler on a sheet wax paper or parchment paper indicating the size you want. Now check your cookie ball size with your reference marks.

Another method is using a digital food scale to weigh the cookie balls. I do this when I make yeast rolls so that they are similar in size and bake more evenly, all getting done at the same time. It works well. You can simply make the individual balls and line them up and eyeball for similar size. Once you’ve determined the size place them on the cookie sheet.

Q Aspartame sweetener: How safe is it?

As recently as this month, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for human consumption at current levels of exposure. This conclusion was determined after full risk assessment of this sweetener. Following a thorough review of evidence provided both by animal and human studies, experts have ruled out a potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancers.

Authority experts also concluded that aspartame does not harm to the brain, the nervous system or affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults. Individuals who suffer from PKU cannot consume aspartame, as their bodies cannot breakdown phenylalanine, which is one of the proteins in aspartame.

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