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Time to Go Crazy Over Cranberries

Pastry, salad and salsa can all be enjoyed using the popular Thanksgiving fruit.

Second only to the turkey, cranberries are the food item most often associated with Thanksgiving. Every photo of a golden roasted turkey ready to be carved is displayed with a bowl of cranberry sauce, its tried and true partner in crime. Frankly, it sells this seasonal jewel a little short.

Cranberries are a more versatile ingredient than you might think. They are featured in many recipes from breakfast to dinner and everything in between.  Nutritionally, they are a great source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber. So cast aside your preconceived notion that cranberry sauce is a one-hit holiday wonder as it has much more to offer.

According to the Cranberry Grower’s Association, the cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America's three native fruits that are commercially grown. Today, cranberries are commercially grown throughout the northern part of the United States and are available in both fresh and processed forms.

The cranberry helped sustain Americans for hundreds of years. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods. They also used it as a medicine to treat arrow wounds and as a dye for rugs and blankets. In fact, the name "cranberry" grew its roots with the Pilgrims who referred to the fruit as the "craneberry." This is attributed to the small, pink blossoms which appear in the spring resembling the head and bill of a Sandhill crane.

Here are some other notable facts of this New England staple:

  • Dennis, Massachusetts was the site of the first recorded cranberry cultivation in 1816.
  • American recipes containing cranberries date from the early 18th Century.
  • U.S. farmers harvest approximately 40,000 acres of cranberries each year
  • Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year.
  • About 80 million pounds — or 20 percent — are gobbled up during Thanksgiving week.

Although it may appear that cranberries grow in water, they do not. Rather, they grow on vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay referred to as "bogs.”  Interestingly, some vines in Massachusetts are more than 150 years old.

Now, let’s move on to the good stuff. This week, a hazelnut and cranberry coffee cake is designed to share with family or friends on a lazy Sunday morning. The cranberry spinach salad is a show stopper and complements a variety of entrees but also pairs wonderfully with a grilled chicken breast as a dinner salad. Finally, a cranberry salsa, featuring some classic salsa ingredients such as cilantro, is a treat with tortilla chips, a hearty seasonal ale or a glass of red wine on a chilly fall evening. Whatever your cranberry inspired pleasure; enjoy the arrival of the holiday season as November settles in for a stay.

Cranberry Hazelnut Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Fold in cranberries and hazelnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Mix together 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over cake, and swirl through the batter.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 75 to 80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Cranberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
  • 1 pound spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook and stir almonds in butter until lightly toasted. Remove from heat, and let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach with the toasted almonds and cranberries.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and olive oil. Toss with spinach just before serving.

Cranberry Salsa

Ingredients

2 ½ cups fresh cranberries
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup minced onion
2 medium oranges, grated, fruit seeded
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large food processor; pulse until well combined. Chill and serve.

Renee Hirschberg November 16, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Cranberries are my very favorite thing about this time of year...and I only really started embracing them in the last couple of years! Your cranberry salsa sounds great, I will definitely try it this year! Here are my 3 favorite cranberry recipes for Thanksgiving http://eatliveblog.com/2010/11/24/cranberries-three-ways/

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