LAKE TAHOE — Once called “crane berry” by early settlers, due to its blossom’s resemblance to the sandhill crane, cranberries are most popular at Thanksgiving. However, this little, red fruit packs a powerful flavor and health punch and is very versatile. This holiday season; take extra notice and enjoy this festive fruit.Cranberries are native to North America and were used by Native Americans and early settlers in a variety of uses. From being cooked with honey, mixed with deer meat, or crushed and used to dye fabric; it wasn’t until the early 1800s this wild berry was farmed and cultivated on a large scale. Originally picked by hand, cranberry growers later developed a process to flood the cranberry bogs with water; a unique wet harvesting technique that is still used today.Studies have shown cranberries have exceptional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Cranberries provide a natural antibiotic and have also been shown to prevent stomach ulcers and acid reflux disease.Fresh cranberries have a short harvesting season and are available from October through December. When selecting fresh cranberries, choose plump berries deep red in color. They should be firm to the touch and will bounce slightly if dropped. Fresh cranberries can be stored in sealed packaging in the refrigerator for one month or can be frozen for later use for 12-18 months. Fresh cranberries can be enjoyed in variety of ways. They make wonderful additions to breads and muffins, made into homemade jam, or transformed into a fresh cranberry sauce that can be used to not only top turkey, but pork, chicken and even cheesecake! Other popular ways to enjoy cranberries are in the form of cranberry juice or dried. Similar to raisins, dried cranberries are sometimes referred to as craisins. Dried cranberries can be added to cookies, trail mixes, or tossed in a salad.This Festive Fall Salad is the perfect salad to serve at holiday dinner parties this season. Incorporating seasonal fall foods, including cranberries, apples, and pecans, this salad will be a hit!— Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.
Prep Time: 10 minutesServes 4Ingredients:1 (8-ounce) package salad greens2 green apples, sliced1⁄2 cup dried cranberries1⁄2 cup pecan halves1⁄3 cup blue cheese crumbles1⁄2 cup Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing, more if needed (recipe below)Combine salad greens, apples, cranberries, and pecans in a large bowl. Right before serving toss with desired amount of dressing. Serve topped with blue cheese crumbles.Creamy Poppy Seed DressingPrep Time: 5 minutesIngredients:1⁄3 cup orange juice1⁄3 cup fat-free mayonnaise1⁄3 cup reduced-fat sour cream1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon lemon juice1 teaspoon poppy seeds1⁄2 teaspoon each salt and pepperIn a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all of the ingredients; shake well. Cover and refrigerate until serving.