Every Thanksgiving, both my sister, Kim, and I are conscious of being thankful for many things, one of which is no more canned cranberry sauce! What was that jelly-like sweet stuff anyway and where were the cranberries in that big red blob? We loved Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, but that jelly stuff had to go! Ever since we’ve been on our own, fresh cranberries have graced our holiday tables in a lot more than just sauce. In fact, we both go crazy for cranberries in just about everything — from breakfast to bread to a snack before bed, and anything in between.
Cranberries are one of the few fruits that are truly native to North America. Stories say that Native Americans used them for food as well as medicine and even as natural dye long before the first settlers arrived. Although no one knows for sure, some believe they were served at the first Thanksgiving dinner! Back then, the cranberries were truly wild — a smaller variety that has long since been replaced by the larger cultivated cranberries that we are familiar with. Interestingly, only about 10% of the current cranberry crop is sold fresh while the rest is processed and sold in the form of juice or canned sauce. Cranberries are harvested September through December, which is why they are in high demand for holiday menus.
Aside from Thanksgiving dinner, cranberries are probably best known for benefiting the urinary tract. It was once thought that they worked by making the urine more acidic, but studies have shown that cranberry can keep the walls of the urinary tract healthy. By adding cranberries to your diet this holiday season, you’ll be getting a great bang for your buck. Just one cup of raw cranberries contains:
- Only 51 calories!
- 5 grams of fiber
- 0 fat
- Antioxidants – cranberries have plenty! Antioxidants may help support heart health by keeping cholesterol levels and blood vessels healthy.
You’ll find cranberries fresh, frozen and dried. Here are some delicious ways to add them to your menu this season:
- Of course, Thanksgiving would not be what it is without the cranberry sauce! Here’s our amazing Cranberry Sauce with Candied Ginger.
- Chop and add to quick breads and muffins. Here’s a recipe for Cranberry Banana Quinoa Bread and one for Cranberry Nut Bread.
- Cranberries are great with savory breads and muffins, too! Here’s a lovely Savory Cheese, Cranberry and Herb Mini Muffins recipe that’s perfect for a dinner party.
- Add to casseroles and roasted squash like in this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage and Cranberries.
- Throw some dried cranberries over a green salad, or add them to a whole grain salad. They are particularly delicious in this Wild Rice Salad with Pecans and Cranberries.
- Add them to stir-fries and pilafs. Here’s a recipe for Quinoa Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds.
- Try them with leafy greens. Here’s a recipe for Kale with Diced Fresh Cranberries.
- Add them to baked apples for a marvelous, seasonal treat. Here’s what we did with Baked Apples Stuffed with Cranberries and Almonds.
- Add them to a fruit pie like we did in this Spiced Apple Pie with Cranberries and Currants.
- Stew fresh cranberries with dried fruit such as prunes, dates, apricots and raisins, then use as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, non-dairy desserts, pancakes, hot cereal and waffles!
- Add them to slaw. You’ll love our Tangy Coleslaw with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts.
- Stir dried cranberries into cottage cheese or yogurt.
- Add dried cranberries to cookies – really good with oatmeal!
Remember, if juice is your “thing,” Whole Foods Market has the real deal! That means straight, 100% pure cranberry juice (no sugar, fruit juice concentrate, or high fructose corn syrup added). It’s tart, for sure, but very refreshing when mixed with a splash of sparkling water and a squeeze of fresh orange or lime juice. If “too tart” is not for you, we have naturally sweetened cranberry juice as well.
Do you get crazy with cranberries, too? Got a favorite recipe? Let me know!