As the busyness of the holiday season kicks into high gear, it's also the peak of the season for pomegranates from California. Pomegranates are the latest in-season jewels of the produce department - the perfect way to dress up any dish for the holiday season.

This big, red fruit is full of crunchy juicy-filled seeds, called arils, that make any dish special with their jewel-like appearance. The juicy, sweet cranberry-like juice with a crunchy seed is a treat, as long as you have a few tips in how to access the seeds in this large fruit.

Start by cutting off the top, about a half-inch below the crown. Then score the fruit with a sharp knife. Open the fruit under a bowl of water, allowing the loose arils to sink to the bottom of the bowl. The underwater method prevents the bright red juice from getting on your clothes as you open the fruit. Discard the bitter, white membrane and strain away the water so you are left with a bowl full of ruby-red arils.

Now you can enjoy these beautiful seeds that contribute potassium, vitamin C and fiber simply on their own by the spoonful, as a garnish for any salad, or mixed into yogurt or your breakfast cereal. Pomegranate arils also add a festive appearance to any bubbly holiday beverage or sprinkled on top of any holiday candy or chocolate-covered pretzel treats you may be making this season.

Arils will keep in the refrigerator for approximately five days or frozen for longer storage. With a NuVal score of 91, pomegranates are a smart seasonal item to add to your shopping cart - and a great stuffer for any stocking - this holiday season.

Chicken Pomegranate Salad

This make-ahead salad is a great way to care for yourself during this busy holiday season. Pack a lunch while shopping or running errands and enjoy the pleasant crunch and sweet/tart flavor pomegranate adds to the salad.

All you need: 1 cup canned pineapple tidbits, drained, reserving juice 3 cups diced cooked chicken 1 cup diced celery 1 cup diced red apple 1 cup diced red grapes 1/2 cup pomegranate arils 1 cup chopped walnuts 1/2 cup light mayonnaise 1/2 cup light yogurt, fruit flavor of your choice 1/4 cup pineapple juice

All you do: 1. Toss the pineapple in a large bowl with the chicken, celery, apple, grapes, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. 2. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt and reserved pineapple juice. 3. Toss dressing with chicken mixture in larger bowl. 4. Serve. Refrigerate unused portion promptly. Source:

Pomegranate Spritzer

Add jewel-like pomegranate arils to this drink for a unique presentation.

All you need: 5 ounces sparkling wine or sparkling cider, chilled 3 ounces pomegranate juice, chilled 3 fresh pomegranate seeds

All you do: 1. Pour sparkling wine or cider slowly into a festive 8-ounce champagne flute. 2. Slowly fill glass almost to the brim with pomegranate juice. 3. Drop in pomegranate seeds and serve.

Source: Hy-Vee Seasons Holiday Entertaining book

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at