Robin's Healthy Take: Crazy for Cranberries
For me, the holidays have officially arrived when fresh cranberries hit the produce department. The canned, dried and juiced versions are available year-round, but the fresh berries charm store shelves in late fall and early winter. These nutritional powerhouses aren't just for cranberry sauce -- here are my favorite ways to use them.
These tiny berries pack a nutritional punch. They contain elements that prevent bacteria from adhering to our urinary tract, thus preventing infection. Cranberries are also brimming with antioxidants, which are compounds that neutralize free radicals in the body. What does that mean for you? Free radicals harm the body’s cells. We're exposed to them every day (in the food we eat, sunlight, tobacco smoke, pollution and toxins around us), so we need antioxidants to protect our cells, promote health and longevity and prevent lots of diseases.
There are tons of applications for cranberries, from chutneys to baked goods. Here are some easy ways to use them:
Turn them into chutney. Simmer 2 cups fresh cranberries with 1/3 cup water, 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger and 1 teaspoon cumin. Simmer until the cranberries break and the sauce thickens. Pair with chicken, pork or a platter of cheese and crackers.
Make fresh relish. In a food processor, combine 4 cups cranberries, one 11-ounce can mandarin oranges in light syrup (undrained), 1/2 cup sugar and a punch of freshly ground black pepper. Process until finely chopped and pair with chicken, pork, fish and shellfish.
Bake cranberry-studded pies. I also love pie (who doesn’t?), and when fresh cranberries are in season, I fold the gems into my apple pie for added color and flavor (I also add a little extra sugar since cranberries are tart). Cranberries and nuts pair really well, so when I add them to my apple pie, I leave off the top crust and finish the pie with walnut or pecan pieces instead.
Additional ideas for dried and canned cranberries:
• Fold dried cranberries into your favorite quick breads (like zucchini and banana), scones and oatmeal cookies.
• Use canned sauce (jelled or whole berry) as the base for delicious vinaigrettes for mixed greens.
• Add dried cranberries to savory stuffing and dressings for chicken and turkey.
• Make a warm cranberry-Dijon sauce for baked ham. To make, combine whole berry sauce with Dijon mustard and bring to a simmer.
Now how about YOU? Got a favorite cranberry recipe? I’d LOVE to hear it!!!
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.