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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stay Healthy with Cranberries

Named after the whooping crane, which apparently makes these nostalgic berries a part of its winter feasting ritual, cranberries are a native crop to the northern regions North America. They grow in moist woodlands and bogs and are a close relative to the blueberry.

Cranberries are known to inhibit bacteria from adhering to the bladder and urinary tract, which prevents urinary and bladder infections. They are also extremely high in antioxidants, the "good guys" that help fight disease and boost immune function. Like blueberries (their cousins) these berries are of the top sources for antioxidants when measured against 100 kinds of fruits, vegetables and grains.

Commercial cranberries are produced in bogs in Massachusetts and other East Coast states, as well as Washington and Oregon. Although cranberries are not generally sprayed with insecticides, most commercial non-organic varieties are treated with growth hormones to plump them up and take the edge off of their notoriously sour notes. Thus, buy organic if you can.

Since fresh cranberries are most abundant over the holidays, stock up on them while supplies last. Buy them fresh from the produce stand and store them in the freezer for 6-12 months. Use them throughout the winter months to help immune function and ward off colds and flu.

An excellent way to get your daily dose of cranberries is by drinking the juice. Unfortunately, most commercial cranberry juice is sweetened with white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. To make your own cranberry juice concentrate at home, use this simple formula: Place 1 bag of fresh, organic cranberries and water to cover in a saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blend the cranberries in a food processor and add a bit of sweetener (organic sugar, brown rice syrup, agave nectar...) to taste. Add 12 ounces of water to 1-2 tablespoons of the concentrate. The concentrate can be frozen for up to 1 year.

Traditional Cranberry Orange Sauce
Yield: 6-8 side servings

You'll never consider buying canned cranberry sauce again after trying this easy recipe for a sweet and punchy topping for potatoes, poultry or tempeh. For a nice garnish, grate a little of the orange peel and sprinkle it over the sauce just before ready to serve. The orange can also be replaced by a small handful of seasonal kumquats - thinly slice them, peel and all, and toss them into the pot.

1 orange, peeled and chopped (keep the peel)
3 whole cloves
8-12 ounce bag fresh, organic cranberries
1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder mixed with 2 teaspoons water

Poke the whole cloves into a 2-inch piece of the orange peel. Place the peel, along with the cranberries, maple syrup, apple juice, cinnamon stick and nutmeg in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir the berries occasionally and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon until they pop.

Whisk the arrowroot with the water and slowly drizzle it into the cranberries, whisking briskly to prevent clumping. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and has a glazed look to it. Remove the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Taste, adding more maple syrup for sweetness, as desired. Serve warm.

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