Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Amazing Cranberry!

This morning’s paper had a feature on all the amazing things you can do with cranberries in terms of decorating. They are beautiful, but it seems a waste, since their real power lies in what they can do for you physically. I love cranberries. Their sweet tart flavor makes just about any dish more interesting.

I eat dried cranberries every morning in my yogurt. And I don’t just eat them because they taste so good. They are also one of those super foods, full of antioxidants. Their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – say that three times fast) score is 9,584. Compare that to blueberries (which get all the good press) score of only 6, 552. They beat them by a mile. A higher ORAC score means the food is more of an antioxidant.

And that’s not all. How about cranberries for infection fighting? You bet. The antioxidants in cranberries, called proanthocyanidins, help prevent bacteria like E. Coli, the leading cause of bladder infections, from attaching to the cells in the urinary tract.

Fresh cranberries are the most powerful, but dried and juice also give you the benefits. But remember those forms usually give you added sugar. Cranberries alone are pretty hard to take – so sour they make you squint. But if you make your own cranberry sauce, you can control the amount of sugar you put in. And it’s incredibly easy to make. Here’s a recipe I like from Cooking Light magazine:

Cranberry Sauce

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
¼ cup water
1 ½ Tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 12 oz package fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Discard cinnamon stick; cool completely. Yield: 14 servings (2T each)

See? It’s crazy easy. If you like more orange taste in your sauce, you could add orange rind. And I’ve heard of adding white zinfandel wine as part of the liquid.

Fresh cranberries freeze well and they keep up to a year. So stock up this month because now is when cranberries are in season (at least in the US) and usually on sale.

I like to make cranberry sauce and freeze it in 2-3 cup batches in large yogurt containers, but it can also be canned. I’m going to give that a shot this year. I bet it’ll look gorgeous in the jars.

Want some other ideas for working cranberries in to your diet - pop them in to blueberry muffin recipes in place of blueberries. Use cranberry juice as the liquid in smoothy recipes or simply add it to your kids’ apple juice. I buy dried cranberries that have been sweetened with apple juice instead of sugar. These are delicious as a snack or mixed in to granola or cereal in them morning.

And here’s some of the ideas published in the York Daily Record this morning:

String cranberries with popcorn to trim a tree. (they used dental floss as the string! Be sure to leave garland on when you put your tree out for the birds after the holiday.)

Pour cranberries into a glass bowl, then accent with a candle pushed into the center. (simple, anyone can do this, even me)

In a clear glass snifter, float cranberries and tea lights in water. (love this, I might just shock my family by actually producing a center piece this year)

Create napkin ring by stringing cranberries onto thin wire and wrapping several times around folded napkins. (A lot of work for a short-lived purpose, but might give your kids something to do while you prep dinner)

Layer cranberries and fresh holly leaves in a vase and fill partway with water, then add a bouquet of flowers. (Very Martha Stewarty – will definitely impress especially with white roses or some other white flower)

Cover a foam ball with cranberries using pushpins to hold them in place. Add a ribbon at the top for hanging. (This sounds gorgeous, but a crazy amount of work and my big fear is that it would attract the fruit flies that won’t seem to die this year and are still circling my kitchen.)

If you want to see pictures of how cranberries are grown check out There are a few pictures of cranberries growing and a bog in full bloom They are beautiful and amazing. I’d love to see them in person!

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