I’m a bit of a berry nut and one of the very best seems pop up here and there but only gets an honorable mention during the holiday season. Chestnuts show up in Christmas songs but nobody ever sings about one of the hardest working berries in the food business; the cranberry! Lets face it, a Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be the same without a little cranberry sauce gracing the table. This fabulous little berry shows up as a side dish, in side dishes and in desserts that wouldn’t make sense without them, starting with the madly delicious Starbuck’s cranberry bliss bar but never seems to get the respect it deserves.
I keep plenty of cranberries around year round to put in salads, hot cereal and as a topping for things like sweet potatoes. These great little berries whether dried or fresh bring a special zing to everything they touch. They’re also found to have a long list of amazing positive health benefits including powerful antioxidants and antibacterial effects on the body. Heck, the cranberry is so important there’s even a Cranberry Institute….Who knew!
In addition to all of this, the cranberry is the number one fruit crop for the state of Wisconsin which produces more than half of the entire world’s supply. Why so much love for cranberries? Well, they just seem to make everything taste better. Check out these holiday and everyday recipes and tips and you’ll see what I mean:
1. Cranberry Sauce with Candied Ginger (Whole Foods Market)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup triple sec or other orange liqueur
1 2/4 cups brown sugar
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen and thawed cranberries
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup crystallized (candied) ginger, finely chopped, divided
1 tablespoon orange zest
Put juice, triple sec and sugar into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved. Add cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minute.
Add ground ginger and about a third of the crystallized ginger and simmer, stirring often, until cranberries have popped and sauce is thickened to a desired consistency, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in zest and all but a few pieces of the remaining crystallized ginger. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Garnish with crystallized ginger and serve.
Note: replace triple sec with more orange juice if desired.
2. Homemade Cranberry Sauce (with a little spice)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
Put water, sugar, cloves and ginger into a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved. Lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes giving the ginger and cloves time to flavor the mixture.
Skim ginger pieces and cloves from the pan and add cranberries. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Note: Double cinnamon, clove and ginger amount if stronger flavor is desired.
2. Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (modified Ocean Spray recipe)
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 375ο
Mix butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs and mix well. In a separate bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture until blended well. Add dried cranberries and chocolate chunks.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.
Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
3. Simple Cranberry Nut Mix
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup almonds
1 cup pistachios
1/2 cup round dark chocolate pieces (optional)
Combine cranberries, nuts and chocolate pieces and package in a glass jar with a bow. This makes a perfect hostess gift or simply keep around as a healthy treat to nibble on throughout the holidays.
Note: Recipe works great with raw or roasted nuts.