My favorite part of the onset of the holiday season just might be that it signals the cranberry harvest. That brief window of time when fresh cranberries can be found in the market, at farmers markets or even at nearby local farms. These tiny, tangy and tart late fall berries add a lovely and delicious flavor component to bring a little zing to just about any dish.
Whether featured as the traditional cranberry relish or sauce for the Thanksgiving turkey, or served up in generous slabs of cranberry jelly on turkey or chicken sandwiches, its clear there is a powerful and delicious cranberry/poultry connection.
There are loads of other great ways to enjoy them, too. Try tossing them into salads, sweet dishes, (all manner of winter squash and sweet potato concoctions), hot breakfast cereals or pancake batter or check out the delicious cranberry bars recipe below.
If you have not explored cranberry, unsweetened, fresh and in its personal glory, you are missing an entire world of delicious tart that is nothing short of sublime.
Cranberries are not Only Delicious, They are Über-Nutritious!
New research shows that cranberries have unique infection fighting properties which allow them to literally help turn off over-inflammatory responses in certain situations. Everything from the infections that cause periodontal disease in our mouths to fighting the bacteria that can adhere to our stomachs and cause ulcers, cranberries offer vital nutritional support to the body.
Eating cranberries can also increase HDL cholesterol production (the good cholesterol) and help maintain healthy blood vessels.
Cranberries are high in vitamin C and manganese and are a good source of vitamins B5, E and K as well as copper.
To get the most nutritional benefit from cranberries it is best to eat them raw in their natural form. Chop and add them to salads, and any number of recipes from breakfast to dinner and desserts to add zing, zest and health. Cranberries pair well with citrus, apple and poultry, but they also go excellently well in hot cereal, winter squash and sweet potato casseroles, and fresh fruit desserts. Try tossing some food-processor-pulsed cranberries into your next fruit salad.
Whether you are consuming your cranberries raw or in a cooked dish, they still provide plenty of great nutrition, so add them to a variety of recipes, especially during their fresh season – when there is plenty of great opportunity with all the holiday cooking.
Add fresh cranberries to your favorite salad and reduce the lemon juice in the dressing, as the cranberries add the tart component. It’s nice to gently pulse them in a food processor before using them in salads or other uncooked foods to open them up and get their juice into the recipe.
But don’t limit your cranberry consumption to the fresh season. Freezing cranberries is easy and they keep well in the freezer, retaining their nutritional power for more than one year when frozen. To use frozen cranberries, thaw cranberries in a sealed container in a cold water bath taking care not to allow the cranberries to come in contact with the water, or they will become diluted and mushy. Frozen cranberries can also be pulsed in the food processor and in general will not be firm and hard like the fresh cranberries.
Cranberries in Your Stir Fry
Make your favorite vegetable or meat and vegetable stir fry, and add a handful of fresh berries as the last ingredient into the pan. Be sure they get in early enough to get hot and tender. If you use them whole, you’ll hear them ‘popping’ as they hit the heat. Again, particularly delicious when paired with sweet potatoes, carrots or other sweeter vegetables in the stir fry.
Chop fresh cranberries in half and add them to any pancake, muffin or hot cereal recipe. Throw them into the cereal as it starts to thicken, add to the batter of the muffins or pancakes as the final ingredient before baking or frying. This is especially wonderful if you are using fresh pumpkin to make those muffins and pancakes or to add to the hot cereal.
Here’s a sneak peak at one of the recipes from my new book, “The Coconut Bible”, coming out in January. This one is a super healthy and delicious holiday treat great for parties, gift boxes and serving to holiday guests with a hot beverage on a chilly evening.
Cranberry Orange Chocolate Coconut Bars
This is another great twist on the nutty chocolate coconut bar that goes in a new taste direction. It makes an excellent holiday treat and offers the exceptional nutrition of raw cranberries in a delicious tart and sweet dessert that is a serious favorite around here. If you freeze fresh organic cranberries in season (October through December) you can easily keep them year ’round in the freezer and use them in this recipe any time of the year. Just take out the desired amount of berries and thaw them in a sealed container in a cold water bath before use. (Don’t get them wet, set the sealed container in the cold water). Then pulse-process them in the food processor until they are well chopped.
Servings: Makes one pan or about 14 – 16 bars depending how thick you cut them
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes plus time to chill – about an hour (or 30 minutes in the freezer if you’re in a hurry, but they cut better if chilled more uniformly and slowly.)
|¼ cup coconut oil|
|¼ cup cocoa powder|
|¼ cup almond butter¼ to ½ cup cranberries|
|1 to 2 Tbsp. raw unfiltered honey|
|1 tsp. organic (or homemade) orange extract or 1 Tbsp orange zest|
|⅛ tsp. salt|
|½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut|
|½ cup pecans|
Directions: Melt the coconut oil in the top of a double boiler. Add the cocoa powder, almond butter, and honey. When the mixture is well combined, add salt and orange extract or zest, and stir well.
Chop the pecans in a food processor until they are coarse but small bits. Scrape them out of the food processor, put in the cranberries, and chop the cranberries to the same consistency.
Add the coconut, pecans, and cranberries to the double boiler and mix well. Line a glass loaf pan with parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly across the bottom. Chill in refrigerator or freezer until firm. Then cut slices just as you would slice a loaf of bread (across the short width of the pan) to make the individual mini cranberry bars. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks if in a sealed container and chilled. Freeze for longer storage.