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Organic Dried Cranberries: 5 Favorite Ways to Use Them

You may already be familiar with the dried cranberries that go by the name ‘Craisins’.  They’re a delicious snack and they’re great for on-the-go, but I want to let you know why it is important to choose organic dried cranberries instead.  Most commercial dried fruit uses additives and preservatives that maintain the color and the softness of the fruit.  Not only are these additives not necessary, they may be harmful to your health.  Sulfur dioxide, the most common additive in conventional dried fruits, may cause health problems if you have asthma, sulfite sensitivity or sulfite allergy.

Also, when you choose organic dried cranberries, you’re avoiding both pesticides and potentially GMO sweeteners that are often used on conventional cranberries.  Considering this is a great snack for kids and their smaller bodies are more sensitive to pesticides, why buy anything but organic?

organic dried cranberries

Health Benefits of Organic Dried Cranberries

Nutrients like vitamin C and fiber play a very important role in cranberry’s health benefits but its really the phytonutrients in cranberries that are so beneficial.  Containing phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and flavonoids, cranberries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, help control urinary tract infections, support the immune and cardiovascular systems, benefit the digestive system and are cancer preventative.  All of that in a tiny red berry makes you wonder how you can start to incorporate more of them in your diet on a regular basis.

 

Five Ways to Use Organic Dried Cranberries

 

Desserts

Organic dried cranberries add a tart burst of flavor to your favorite dessert recipes.  Try substituting some or all of the raisins in your dessert recipes for a change of pace.  Recipes like oatmeal raisin cookies, apple pie, biscotti and rice pudding are perfect for substituting dried cranberries for raisins.  Use a 1 for 1 replacement.  Here’s an easy recipe for a cranberry biscotti that is great for the holiday season:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cane sugar
1 1/2 cups toasted pecan halves
1 cup dried organic cranberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roughly chop the pecans and set aside. Combine baking powder, flour, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and vanilla and add to dry ingredients.  Mix until a sticky dough is formed.  Add in the pecans, cranberries, and lemon zest. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface.  Sprinkle with flour and knead slightly. Shape into 9-by-3 1/2-inch logs. Transfer to baking sheet and bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. Lower oven to 275 degrees. On cutting board, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Return pieces cut side down to baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Turn over and bake another 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack and store in airtight container.

 

 Granola

Making homemade granola is really simple, much less expensive than store bought, and you can customize the ingredients.  Here’s a simple recipe for organic granola using dried cranberries that is perfect for the holiday season:

4 cups regular rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped raw walnuts
1 cup organic dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the oats, coconut, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour half of the liquid mixture over the oats mixture, in the large bowl. Use your hands to combine them until well mixed then pour in the rest of the liquid and mix again, making sure all of the oats are coated.  Pour the mixture onto the baking sheets and spread it out evenly or in small clumps if you like granola the sticks together. Bake for 10 minutes then stir and bake for another 10 minutes.  Stir again and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until toasted brown. Stir in the dried cranberries and let the granola cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Salad Topping

I eat a lot of salads in my house so I’m always looking for ways to jazz them up with something different.  Adding nuts or seeds along with a dried fruit makes the salad come to life.  One of my favorite combinations is pecans and cranberries.  Here’s a recipe for a spinach salad using dried organic cranberries:

6 cups organic mesclun salad mix
1/2 cup organic pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons organic white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
2 teaspoons organic dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup organic dried cranberries
1/3 cup organic walnut pieces

In a bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, vinegar, olive oil, and mustard and whisk to combine.  Place mesclun mix in a large bowl and pour the dressing on top.  Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with cranberries and walnuts and serve.

 

Breads and Muffins

Baked goods get a tart lift when you add organic dried cranberries.  From holiday breads to breakfast muffins, adding cranberries also gives you a boost of antioxidants.  Here’s a recipe for an organic cranberry bread – serve it warm right out of the oven or room temperature.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
zest of one orange
1/3 c fresh squeezed orange juice (from the zested orange)
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sunflower or safflower oil
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup organic dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.  In a large bowl stir together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cranberries and chopped nuts.  In small bowl beat eggs with a fork and stir in milk, orange zest and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; the batter should be lumpy.  Add the orange juice and stir to combine.  Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

 

Snacks

Adding organic dried cranberries to snacks like trail mix, snack bars or popcorn balls is a great way to get healthy antioxidants into your diet.  Here’s a recipe for popcorn balls that are really fun to make with kids for holiday gifts.

8 cups popped plain popcorn
1 cup organic dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter

Place popcorn and dried cranberries in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Combine the brown sugar and maple syrup in a small pan and add butter. Cook over medium heat, until butter melts and mixure comes to a boil, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens slightly. Pour over popcorn mixture, stirring until coated. Dip hands in cold water. Shape popcorn mixture into 2-inch balls, pressing firmly to hold shape. Place on waxed paper and cool completely. Let stand overnight to harden. Wrap in decorative plastic wrap. Makes 12 balls.

What are your favorite ways to use organic dried cranberries?  Let us know in the comments!

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