“Historically, the health-promoting properties of cranberries have been based on folkloric remedies, which have existed for centuries. The healthy giving properties of this fruit were recognized by Native American Indians, and early New England sailors are said to have eaten the vitamin C-rich wild cranberries to prevent scurvy.” — Massachusetts Cranberries website
Cranberries — those inviting, bright crimson berries — have often reminded me of mini Christmas baubles hanging from an evergreen branch. I decided I needed to learn more about these ruby orbs; a fruit full of that much color had to have some redeeming qualities, and boy-oh-boy do they ever!
One of the first things I learned is that cranberries are considered a superfood due to their nutritional benefits, including high levels of anthocyanins — a powerful antioxidant that gives cranberries their bright red color. In addition to being consumed as part of the treatment for and prevention of UTIs, research has also linked cranberries to improving the immune system as well as decreasing blood pressure. There are several promising studies indicating cranberries may be helpful in slowing down the growth of cancer cells in certain tumors.
Several websites say cranberries’ high levels of polyphenols may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have also found that consuming cranberries regularly, as part of a whole-foods healthy diet, promotes the health of gums and teeth.
Cranberries are also believed to decrease inflammation associated with both chronic disease and aging, and these tiny powerhouse fruits offer numerous benefits to one’s gut health and microbiota. Additionally, the naturally low-sugar, high-fiber berries are high in antioxidants, vitamins C and K.
Cranberries are typically in season and widely available throughout the fall and into the early winter months. They can be stored in a refrigerator for up to two months, and frozen for several more months for later consumption. When choosing fresh cranberries, look for smooth skin that is firm to the touch and unwrinkled.
Below is a recipe I created based upon one I found in an old Betty Crocker cookbook. I adjusted this recipe to make it both gluten-free and plant-based. I added a few extras to it in order to, as my Grandmother Helen used to say, “doctor it up.”
Both my daughter and husband — neither of whom likes cranberries — tried these muffins and, to their surprise, they both really liked this recipe. It is moist, but springy — like a good muffin should be. The sparkling sugar adds a thin crusting effect to the muffin tops. Plus, a large portion of the berries burst open into the batter during the baking process creating a just the right amount of tang and sweet.
Share the goodness of these muffins, chock full of healthful benefits, with someone you love.
From my home to yours, I wish you homemade, happy, and healthy meals.
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
2 cups flour (I use a gluten-free variation.)
¾ cup sugar (Can use a sugar substitute, such as Swerve)
1 can (15 ounce) of pure pumpkin
½ teaspoon orange extract
½ cup apple sauce (Can substitute ½ cup oil if preferred)
2 eggs or “flegg” equivalent (2 tablespoons ground flax seed + 5 tablespoons water, allow to sit in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.)
½ chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
White sparkling sugar (If you do not have this on-hand, simply use regular sugar.)
**Note: if using “flegg,” make first and set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line muffin tins with parchment paper or lightly grease.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Stir in pumpkin, orange extract, apple sauce, and eggs until just mixed –careful not to over mix.
Gently fold in cranberries and nuts if using.
Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups and sprinkle with sugar. Before sprinkling with sugar, you can also top with a few cranberries, a bit of pumpkin seeds, or a bit of oats.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool on a rack. Serve warm.
Makes 12 muffins that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at [email protected]. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.