Brilliant Cranberries Offer Good Looks and Tangy Taste

We are so lucky here in the Pacific Northwest, with great access to fresh local foods all year. Washington is one of the places where cranberries grow well, and we can buy and cook with fresh cranberries all winter long because they keep well.

Cranberries have lots of protective nutrients and antioxidants. They can help guard against urinary tract infections and may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

In addition to those health benefits, I like cranberries just because they are so pretty! Pretty, but sour. But used in sweetened desserts, or combined with the natural sweetness of oranges, they can add brilliant color and flavor to winter meals.

When cranberry growers figured out how to add sugar to cranberries and dry them, a whole new food appeared—Craisins. You can toss these dried fruits into salads, turkey stuffing, or couscous, and they are a wonderful addition to apple pie.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup buttermilk (or 2/3 cup milk, 1 tablespoon vinegar)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup juice from orange
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups cranberries, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with vegetable spray.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together. Mix buttermilk, melted butter, orange juice, egg, and zest in separate bowl. Fold liquids into dry mixture until moist. Add cranberries and nuts. Pour into pan and bake about 1 hour, until center is dry when a tested with a toothpick. Let cool completely before serving. Serves 12.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories 243, Carbohydrates 37 grams, Protein 4 grams, Sodium 76 milligrams

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

1 pound fresh cranberries
2 oranges
2 apples
1 ½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh thyme

Grate peel off both oranges. Peel both oranges; save the peel from one orange for use in scones, in marinade or sauce for chicken. Put fruit, berries and peel of other orange in food processor and chop coarsely. Mix in sugar and thyme and store overnight or longer to develop flavor. Serve with turkey, chicken or pork.

Nutritional information (per serving, ¼ cup):
Calories 67, Carbohydrates 67 grams, Protein 0 gram, Sodium 1 milligram

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

Contributor Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.

Photo credits: Cranberries by Pen Waggener and Cranberry Sauce by Brandon Daniel, both accessed 11/18/14 at Flickr Creative Commons.