If you’re like most people, when you hear “cranberries,” you think about Thanksgiving and cranberry sauce. While cranberries are a traditional part of the holidays, there is so much more we can do with them than just make cranberry sauce. Cranberries can be a delicious part of recipes, both sweet and savory. They pair well with so many flavors including other fruits, nuts and grains.
Cranberries are in season during the fall season. When choosing cranberries, select ones that are plump, firm and dry. Their colors can range from light red to deep scarlet. Refrigerate the cranberries in a plastic bag or freeze them where they can last for months. Rinse in cold water before using. You can also buy dried cranberries which are shelf-stable.
Here are some ways to cook with cranberries that may make you think differently about these gems:
1. Cranberry Sauce
We may as well start with the most common way to cook with cranberries. My Easy Cranberry Sauce is not very sweet. It has a tangy tartness and makes a beautiful side dish for your holiday table. Open a 12 oz. bag of fresh or frozen cranberries and set aside 1/2 cup of them in a bowl. Put the rest of the cranberries into a saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar, the zest of one orange and 2 Tbs. water or orange juice and cook over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries soften, about 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and cook until the cranberries burst, about another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat back to low and add in the cranberries you had set aside. Add more sugar if you want it, salt and pepper to taste. Let cool (you can refrigerate it if you like your cranberry sauce cold) before serving.
2. Have Them for Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so try adding this healthy, tangy fruit to your favorite breakfast dishes. This Cranberry Coconut Smoothie is a delicious way to drink your breakfast. A slice or two of this Cranberry and Pumpkin Breakfast Loaf is just what I want to go along with my tea or coffee. Another way to pair up these two autumn favorites is to make these Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup. With breakfasts like these, you may not mind your alarm clock going off in the morning!
3. Put Them in Salads
Cranberries are the perfect addition to your fall and winter salads. They add such a pretty color and a chewy texture. I add dried cranberries in my Apple, Cranberry, Arugula and Fennel Salad with an Apple Honee Vinaigrette. The spicy arugula, tart cranberries and anise-flavored fennel all fall into balance with the addition of sweet apples and a slightly sweet dressing. To make the salad: combine 6 cups of arugula and 1 head of fennel that has been sliced in a bowl. Core 1 large apple and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the apples on the salad along with ¼ cup dried cranberries. To make the dressing: combine 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp. vegan honey, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk until smooth and mix into the salad. Also try this Seasonal Sweet Fall Salad for more cranberry goodness.
4. Mix Them with Whole Grains
We all know we should eat more whole grains and we love adding veggies to them to make incredible dishes but fruit is also a great addition. Fresh cranberries add a tart flavor to this dish of Bulgur with Curcuma, Veggies, Nuts, and Cranberries. For a lovely addition to your holiday table, try this Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans. If you prefer rice stuffing to bread or cornbread stuffing, then you will want to make this Wild Rice Stuffing with Cranberry, Apricot, and Scallion.
5. Add Them to an Entrée
There are so many foods that can be stuffed with yummy goodness and none of them need to involve a turkey. Stuffing vegetables (and fruit) allows you to be imaginative and creative. This time the star is the acorn squash. I stuffed it with a combination of wild rice, edamame, walnuts and cranberries. The wild rice is hearty and full of flavor, the edamame adds a soft but firm texture (and is my something green), the walnuts add crunch and the cranberries add a tart flavor. The squash itself tastes sweet when you bake it and a little maple syrup helps it along. To make my Baked Acorn Squash with Wild Rice, Edamame, Walnuts and Cranberries: in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat 1 Tbs. vegan butter. Add 1 cup wild rice, ¼ cup chopped walnuts and ¼ cup dried cranberries to the pot and cook for about 1 minute to toast the rice. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and let simmer for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for 10 more minutes. Add ½ cup edamame, turn the heat back on low and let them heat through. You want the edamame to still have a firm texture. Fluff rice with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the squash. Cut the acorn squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts. Brush some oil on both the insides and skin of the squash. Brush 1 Tbs. maple syrup on the cut halves of the squash. Lay the squash, cut sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the squash for approximately 30 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender. Remove from the oven and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. When the rice is ready, stuff it into the acorn squash. Fill the squash generously. If desired, top the rice with ¼ cup bread crumbs mixed with 1 tsp. olive oil. Return the squash to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned. Serve while hot. Another amazing way to use cranberries is seen in these Crunchy Cranberry Chik’n Sandwiches.
6. Sweet and Tangy Desserts
Cranberries are tart and tangy but they are also sweet. They make delicious fall and winter desserts. I love cobblers because they are easy to make, easy to serve and you can use one basic recipe with different fillings for variety. My Gluten-Free Apple, Pear and Cranberry Cobbler is made healthier by making an oat topping rather than using dough. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, add 2 pears and 2 apples cut into bite-sized pieces, 2 cups fresh cranberries, ¼ cup sugar, 2 Tbs. orange juice, 1 tsp. fresh orange zest, 1 tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. ground allspice, a pinch of salt, 1 Tbs. chickpea flour, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Toss so the fruit is well-covered. Transfer the fruit filling to your baking dish or ramekins.
In another bowl, mix 1 cup gluten-free certified oats, ½ cup sliced almonds, ¼ cup chickpea flour, a pinch of salt, 3 Tbs. maple syrup and 2 Tbs. melted vegan butter or oil. Mix well. The topping mixture should be crumbly and a bit sticky. Taste it to see if it’s sweet enough for your liking. Top the fruit filling with the oat topping. Press it down into an even level. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let set for about 10 minutes. Serve with non-dairy vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or all by itself. If you prefer your cobbler in an easy-to-carry form, try these Cranberry Apple Cobbler Bars. These Cranberry Bliss Bars are blondie bars covered with a sweet cashew cream cheese icing. Become more well-rounded with bars shaped like balls when you make these Cranberry Date Walnut Protein Balls. Yes to all of these, please!
When you go shopping for your holiday ingredients, buy some extra cranberries and try some of these incredible recipes. You will see that cranberries are delicious fruits to eat all year round.
Image Source: Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup