Kaylor: Get creative with cranberries
Cranberries can add color, refreshing taste and nutrients to foods and beverages. Available in many convenient forms, from fresh or dried to juices and sauces, cranberries are an ingredient you can use throughout the year. You can add fresh cranberries to breakfast breads, toss dried cranberries into a salad, or mix up a refreshing beverage with one of the many forms of cranberry juice. Check out the following tips and information on buying, storing, and adding cranberries to a healthful eating plan in new and delicious ways.
Nutrition and health -Cranberries are fat-free, cholesterol-free, sodium-free and a good source of Vitamin C and fiber. Cranberries are thought to provide health benefits because of their flavonoid and phytonutrient content. These naturally occurring compounds have antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits. They have also been shown to promote cardiovascular health by reducing low-density lipoprotein-oxidation (bad cholesterol), maintaining or improving high-density lipoprotein levels (good cholesterol) and improving vascular function.
Forms and availability – The peak harvest season for fresh cranberries is October through December. Sometimes fresh cranberries can be found in the freezer section near the end of their season. Cranberry juice, sauce and dried cranberries can be found in grocery stores year round.
Selection and storage tips – Choose fresh cranberries that are full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red. Avoid cranberries that are soft, shriveled or have brown spots. Fresh cranberries should be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in a crisper for about three to four weeks. Cranberries freeze very well, either whole or sliced. When sealed in an airtight container, frozen cranberries will keep for up to nine months.
Cooking with cranberries – Shortly before use, rinse fresh or frozen cranberries and throw out any that are shriveled or bruised. Cranberries are good for both cooking and eating raw. If raw cranberries are too tart, cook them before eating. One method is to cook them in a pot of water for 10 minutes on medium heat or until the cranberries pop. If cooked longer, they will taste bitter.
Getting culinary with cranberries – Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many other flavors. Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape. Dried cranberries can be added to nuts, trail mix, granola, oatmeal or even chicken salad. Fresh or dried cranberries work well in quick breads such as muffins, sweet breads and yeast breads. These berries also work well in pies, cobblers, chutneys, salsas and relishes.
– Lisa Franzen-Castle, RD, PhD, nutrition specialist UNL Panhandle Research & Ext. Center
CHUNKY CRANBERRY SPREAD
(16 servings, 1 tablespoon each)
1 8-oz. package low-fat cream cheese
1-2 tablespoons low-fat milk
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds or other nut
1/2 teaspoon orange zest, preferably fresh.
Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and allow to soften at room temperature. Mash and work with a fork until texture is light enough to combine easily with other ingredients. Gradually add just enough milk so cheese becomes soft and easy to spread. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days ahead. Flavors will blend and mellow if this recipe is made ahead of time and allowed to refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. Spread on slices of a whole-grain bread.
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