That dash of red sitting dutifully next to the turkey on your holiday dinner plate is much more than a condiment. Cranberries are packed full of powerful antioxidants, beta-carotene and vitamin C, and they contain no fat and no cholesterol. Since they are low in sodium and also contain potassium, they can help maintain healthy blood pressure and may offer a natural defense against the development of cardiovascular disease. That’s a lot from a little berry.
Available fresh from September or October to December, this native North American fruit can be eaten raw, but since they are very tart, most people prefer to cook them or combine them with a sweetener or other sweet fruits such as apples, oranges or berries. And while it seems like the holidays are big for this small fruit, only about 20 percent of cranberries are consumed during this time; most are enjoyed year-round in juice, sauces and chutneys or sweetened and dried.
There are certainly many ways to give thanks for these ultra-healthy berries. You can add them to yogurt or cereal or whip up a smoothie with cranberry juice cocktail, vanilla yogurt and strawberries. Make them a flavor accent by using sweetened dried cranberries in a salad or by spreading cranberry sauce on a turkey or ham sandwich. Try sweetened dried cranberries in place of jelly in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can use them to top grilled salmon, chicken or pork with spicy cranberry chutney, or add dried cranberries to rice or risotto. When it’s time for a treat, bake fresh cranberries in muffins or use sweetened dried cranberries in bars, pies, cobblers and cookies as you would raisins. The list goes on, but make if nothing else, try cranberries atop sweet potatoes for a holiday dinner twist in this recipe courtesy of the Wisconsin state Cranberry Growers Association, which appeared in Real Food.
Cranberry Walnut Sweet Potatoes
Makes 8 servings
4 large sweet potatoes
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
¹⁄3 cup maple syrup
¼ cup water
¼ cup cranberry juice
¼ teaspoon salt, divided
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub and pierce sweet potatoes and place on baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until tender.
2. While potatoes are baking, make cranberry mixture: In a small saucepan, sauté onion in butter until tender. Add the cranberries, syrup, water, cranberry juice and ¹⁄8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until berries pop, stirring occasionally. Stir in walnuts and mustard; heat through.
3. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; sprinkle with pepper and remaining salt. Top each with 2 tablespoons cranberry mixture; sprinkle with chives.