Schools these days always advocate sending healthy eats in the kids’ snack boxes. The best solution for me are the snacks that are non-messy , easy to eat and pack a nutrition punch. Dried fruits and nuts tick all of these boxes. Along with the raisins and dates another dried fruit found it’s way into my child’s snack box , many years ago .The cranberry has, since then become a permanent ingredient in my dining cabinet drawers.
Cranberries are a fairly new entrant to our supermarket shelves. For the past decade or so the global awareness in food has led to food companies testing the market with different products that are popular abroad. Among these are the dried cranberries and the cranberry juice.
Fresh cranberries are very popular this time of the year in the west. A thanksgiving meal or a traditional Christmas feast will feature the cranberry as a side dish or in a sauce or even as part of the turkey stuffing. The luminous ruby red colour of this fruit is also in keeping with the festive colours. I so enjoy reading glossy cookbooks that feature the golden roasts and glazed meats that are part of the December menu. The pictures that accompany them are equally drool worthy and the red cranberry just cannot be missed among the myriad different colours of the season.
I have come across fresh cranberries only a couple of times at Orchard in Coimbatore . At both times ,the miniscule quantity available and the exorbitant rate mentioned had me deciding to stick to using the dried ones in my cooking. Dried cranberries much like dried raisins are intense in flavor. The sugars are concentrated but they still retain their tartness. This makes it such a versatile ingredient to work with in both sweet as well as savoury food . Our local stores are full of dried cranberries from different countries. Please do read the label when you buy them. Look for ones that have little or no sugar.
Another reason that cranberries are being prescribed by health gurus are because of the prevalence of many vitamins and antioxidants. The cranberry juice has been promoted as being high in polyphenols and flavonoids that are extremely beneficial in treating stomach disorders , ulcers and urinary tract infections. Dried cranberries too contain vitamin E along with traces of iron , potassium and vitamin C. It is a berry that I have found very easy to incorporate into many a salad and rich dish while cooking both continental as well as Middle Eastern food. My “Christmas salad” ,that I have so named because of it’s colours featuring both broccoli and cranberries is a favourite at my home and the recipe is on the website. Unfortunately not everyone is agreeable to giving new food a try when offered in salad form. So , the other way to get kids to try is by making it fun and getting the ‘goods’ inside their tummies come what may ! Once they develop a taste for it , the chances are there will be less of a fuss happening the next time around.
The cranberry treats are in the form of white chocolate and cranberry cookies and chocolate bark. Both are rather simple to make and go down very well with people of all ages. Cranberries pair very well with both white chocolate and orange . It is a combination that I turn to often to add cheer to a meal. Similarly the milky sweetness of chocolate highlights that sour bite of the cranberry. Add bits of chopped green pistachios to that and you have a delicious x’mas confection that is the work of minutes. It also looks extremely special ! Chocolate bark is rather thin, so while the sizes may look substantial the volume is actually small. All that is required is a good quality of dark or milk chocolate. A swirl of melted white chocolate gives that marbling effect. Do refrain from using compound chocolate as that contains more of hydrogenated oil and no cocoa butter . The chocolate has to be melted in what is known as a ‘baine-marie’. It’s a fun process , that tantalizes your senses and leaves you salivating. It’s very hard to not dip a finger in for a quick lick from that pool of melted chocolate heaven !