What ingredient makes you feel likes it’s winter? I posed this question to my good friend Cary, and she immediately had an answer. I was grappling with my own thoughts…Brussels sprouts, potatoes, tenderloin, nuts, ginger, or how about cinnamon? The list can go on and on. Her response was swift, Cranberries!
And she is so right. I don’t use cranberries in my recipes nearly as often in other seasons as I do in the winter. It makes a lot of sense to use cranberries in the winter months. For one, cranberries are in season right now, and two, they are just so pretty.
Cranberries are harvested in the fall and you’ll only find them fresh at your market through January, so it’s time to take advantage of their goodness. There’s lots of info about how helpful cranberries are in preventing heart disease, urinary tract infections, possible weight loss (loading up on fiber!), improving digestion and even reducing tooth decay! Whether you enjoy cranberries fresh or dried, the health benefits are impressive. This beautiful red fruit is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins (especially Vitamin C) and minerals such as copper and manganese. Dried cranberries contain almost the same number of antioxidants and dietary fibers as fresh. Just be aware that many dried varieties have been sweetened to reduce the tartness.
Although they are high in water (87%) and soluble fiber, don’t consume too many or you may have an upset stomach. This isn’t the case with cranberry juice as the fiber has been removed during the juicing process.
I love adding cranberry relish to my chicken dinners or smearing it on a sandwich. Check out the many fabulous recipes in our DinnerTime Recipe Box that include cranberries. However, when Cary mentioned cranberries, my mind immediately went to how I was going to use them to decorate my home this holiday season! There is something so festive about cranberries; I guess it’s the bright red color that makes me happy.
Tips for decorating with Cranberries
- Cranberries will last the season outside, but inside, they may start decaying after a few days. Keep your cranberries in your refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
- If you decorate with a cranberries outside, don’t worry about the birds eating them. Cranberries are too tart for the birds.
Cranberry Garland. So easy.
- Thread a needle with waxed dental floss and string the cranberries.
- Alternate each cranberry with other items such as air-popped popcorn, a gold bead or a little pinecone.
- To keep for years, spray with shellac twice, flipping over to get all sides and drying between sprays.
Candle displays: Pretty candle displays just scream winter holidays.
- Fill the bottom of a glass jar with holly or other greenery, top with cranberries and fill with water. Float a candle on top. Or you can skip the greens, and fill with water and cranberries and float the candle.
- Fill bottom of large votive with cranberries and nestle a large column candle in the center. Tuck branches of greenery around the candle. Several of these in a row down your table will make a beautiful effect.
- Frozen displays. Fill a jar with a few branches of rosemary or other greens, add in a few cranberries and freeze. Gently run warm water over the frozen jar to release the ice. Immediately place back into freezer until ready to display it. Position a candle on the top and place outside along your walkway to welcome your guests.
Floral decoration: My favorite and easiest way to make my table centerpieces.
- Use glass floral containers. I use a variety of square and rectangular but all types of vessels will work. Fill to about 85% cranberries. Arrange greens in the container to fill it out. Branches will displace some of the space in the vessel so if the cranberries overflow, just empty a few out. I pick a variety of greens from my yard and add in a branch or two of holly, and maybe a couple stems of roses. Sometimes, I use a lot of roses, sometimes just a few or other types of flowers and fillers like pinecones or mini ornaments! Fill with water to the top of the cranberries. The cranberries will hold your stems in place.
Swizzle sticks: These smell great and look so festive.
- Top off champagne or ginger ale cocktails by threading a branch of rosemary with a couple of cranberries. Presto! Instant pizazz.
- Set up champagne glasses in advance. Drop a cranberry or two in the champagne glasses so when the corks pop the glasses are festive and ready.
- Add cranberry juice to your Champagne~~Cranberry Mimosas!
Floating ice: Any old ice cube will not do for the holidays.
- For your favorite punch, make a large ice float with slices of oranges, limes and lemons and cranberries. I place the ingredients in a Bundt pan to make a pretty ice ring.
- Or do smaller ice trays with a couple of cranberries in each cube.