Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cranberries Galore!

The Pacific Northwest. Just the name of the area in which I live, conjures up images of rubber boots, umbrellas, mud puddles and dark, dreary cloud cover. Those that live here may tend to agree with that image, but it depends on, well, the weather! A well-known fact up here is "summer begins on July 5th." It's mostly true. But with all the rain, (and it's not 9 months, more like 8) comes a landscape that cannot be described. It must be experienced. For my family, living between the Pacific coast and the beautiful Cascade Mountains, an hour's drive in either direction allows us to do just that.

Our latest adventure was to go to a Cranberry Festival. Every fall, millions of pounds of the little red berries are harvested and sent all over the world. Chances are, you've probably eaten cranberries that have come from the Pacific Northwest! As someone who grew up in this area, I had never seen cranberries in bins! I mean, don't they always come in packages or cans? Sure, I have seen and experienced (funny story involving a moped) the cranberry bogs, but had never visited them in October. (Which is the start of our rainy season!)

Here's how it works. The cranberries grow on small, compact, bush-like plants. In the fall, the farmers flood the fields with water to float the berries to the surface. Then they use these big rakes and pull them in. It's a little more complicated, but that's the "gist" of it. Some are made into cranberry sauce, some are packaged whole and fresh, while others are processed into juice.

These little berries are good for us too. With only 44 calories/cup, they are a good way to get in a couple of servings of fruit! Here are some more stats on cranberries:
carbohydrates: 11.5 g.
fiber: 4.4 g
calcium: 8 mg.
magnesium: 6 mg.
potassium: 81 mg.
vitamin C: 12.6 mg.
Cranberries are also used to fight urinary tract infections and other types of bacterial infections.

We had the opportunity to purchase "fresh from the farm" cranberries in bulk. I had never seen them in bins before, so it was a new experience for me. All my children could talk about was how many Cranberry/Orange Muffins that those bins could produce! While we couldn't purchase entire bins of cranberries (not unless we bought yet another freezer!), we did end up with about 35#! Just enough to enjoy Cranberry Orange Muffins all winter long!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 orange, quartered with seeds removed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cup flour (I use fresh ground white wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins. (I use melted butter) Put orange quarters in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add orange juice and puree. Add the cranberries and pulse a few times, just until the cranberries are chopped up. Pour ingredients into mixing bowl and add butter and egg. Mix well. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add slowly to wet mixture with mixer going. Only stir until ingredients are just mixed. Don't over-mix or the muffins will be "chewy". Fill muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes. Let muffins cool slightly before removing from pan. Yummy!!!

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