When it comes to “super” foods, berries deserve their place at the top of the fruit food group. They contain a potent mix of nutrients that have been shown to decrease inflammation and support immune function. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and they taste great. What’s not to like?
I eat a lot of blueberries, but I like to change it up according to the season. Luckily, there are options for nearly every time of the year: strawberries in the spring and early summer, raspberries in full summer, and grapes (yes, they’re a berry) in the fall.
At this time of the year I focus on cranberries and I have found ways to enjoy them almost daily. I avoid the highly processed version of the fruit, steering clear of juice and canned sauces or jellies. Instead, I stick to dried and fresh cranberries. Yes, most dried cranberries have added sugar but there are lower sugar varieties that are now widely available. They can be added to oatmeal, salads, and grain dishes.
I prefer the fresh cranberries that appear in the stores starting in November. I buy several bags at a time as they freeze easily, and my favorite way to use them is in a cooked cranberry sauce that’s naturally sweetened and that I enjoy on my morning oatmeal. In my latest batch I added some chia seeds and it turned the mixture into a more solid, gel-like form. It’s still great on oatmeal, but I tried it as a spread on top of toast and almond butter and it was awesome! Here is my recipe:
• 1 bag fresh cranberries
• 2 navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, and chopped into small chunks
• ½ cup apple cider or apple juice
• ¼ cup real maple syrup
• 3 tablespoons chia seeds (optional but it makes the mixture thicker if you use it)
Rinse and pick through the cranberries to remove any damaged fruit. Add them to a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients. (I blended the oranges, juice, and maple syrup in my high-speed blender, but it’s not necessary. You could use orange juice instead of the oranges, but using the whole orange preserves the fiber.) Cook the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes until you hear the berries begin to pop. You can continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes if you like a softer texture. I usually stop at this point because I like to have more whole berries. Cool and refrigerate.
Cranberries are just one more thing to be thankful for this time of the year. Enjoy the season!