Stranger things than CRANBERRIES

Tonight was a night full of lessons.  For the most part,  I played the teacher, but I must admit, the biggest lessons were taught to me by my two sons.  It all started with my youngest son Maxwell’s invitation to beat me in checkers – that’s right, this kid invited me to a friendly game of checkers where he would hypothetically embarrass me, and therefore teach me a lesson     ( *shaking my head* these are his words not mine).  I suggested that I teach him a few things, providing that he was open to learning, instead of revisiting the day where I crushed him. He preferred the option to learn, and so we moved forward with a “friendly” game of checkers.  A few hours later, he felt empowered enough trash talk again, so we took a snack break in hopes that a healthy treat and some water would be sobering to  his young mind (* this kid is hilarious)  At the mention of a snack, my eldest son Will walks in (so typical) and suggests a few healthy treats before we could get into our next lesson – a game of  ” Go Fish “.  So we grabbed some unsalted pistachios, some water, fruit and made light conversation.  In my sleepy stupor I looked up to see Will smiling while rinsing something in a bowl.  It could’ve been anything for all I could tell.  So I gave myself a light smack on the face, and prepared for what looked like part two of snack time.  “Whatcha got there?” I asked while rubbing my eyes.  “Fresh cranberries Dad” he answered while tossing a few in his mouth the way most children eat jelly beans.  I grabbed a few myself, and got right down to business.  And then my son asked the question that woke me the way only expresso can. He looked  me in the eyes and said  ” Dad is it strange that I like fresh cranberries?, people always say that I’m a strange kid because I eat them”  I grabbed both sides of his face, and gave him a crazy wide eyed look, while still crunching on a mouthful of cranberries.  “Son, you are absolutely beautiful, cranberries are dope, and so are you, whoever tells you that you’ve got strange taste buds is the problem,… tell em Dad says so” I said.  (*and so begins the conversation on what “DOPE” means)  “Yes, son, there are stranger things than cranberries”.  As the night progressed we moved from checkers, to cards, to movies      ( the movie really did watch me), and that cranberry conversation never left my mind.  All I could think about was how crazy a world we live in.  In a land of information, childhood obesity has become our norm, whereas my son is made to feel like an oddity for his  love of whole foods.  I woke up suddenly in the wee hours of the morning impregnated by this question, and all others born from my lil mister’s original thought- Is it so strange for a child, or anyone for that matter to love fresh cranberries? Do people realize the health benefits of cranberries?  Does America understand cranberries integral role in this countries history…. even before colonization?  After rising  in the early am for a restroom run, I sat on the edge of the bed, and contemplated it all.  After 10 minutes of deep thought, i decided that this was no time for sleep.  I needed some answers that sleep would’nt offer.

Native Americans were very generous to the Pilgrims that settled in the Americas.  They sheltered them, taught them how to survive the harsh winters, how to plant, hunt and how to thrive on indigenous foods. They shared super foods like cranberries, and so in short the Pilgrims and all other such vandals survived, consequently the New America was created. Cranberries were called the  sassamenesh, and  ibimi by native tribes because of its bitter, sour taste,  and later, the “cranberry” by the early settlers due to its resemblance to the Sandhill crane.  Native Americans used the cranberry as dye for clothing, medicine, tea ( the leaves), for hunting bait, and an all purpose food. Yes, the Native Americans recognized the many benefits of cranberries early on. Pemmican, which was made from dried venison and cranberries would be stored in pouches and eaten as quick energy food on long journeys.  Cranberries have been recognized by the USDA Food Composition and Methods Development Lab as having antioxidant qualities. Antioxidants are key in reducing the effects of oxidation, or aging in the body. Cranberries are great for cleansing the kidneys and bladder of toxins. They also boast disease fighting properties, so cancer and heart disease can take a hike.  And thats great news!  Besides all of that cranberries are delicious.  Whether you use them to make juice, sauce, relish, cakes, cookies or accent a simple salad, cranberries are a wonderful way to add color and great flavor to any meal.  So why again would anybody question a young boy for loving cranberries’ life giving properties? Like I said, there are things much stranger than cranberries.  Try this decadent cranberry bar recipe from The Vegetarian Times and reaffirm your love for one of Americas native super foods.

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

Cranberry Bars

Makes 25 bars

These vibrant-hued bars look great on an autumn dinner table. The sweetened condensed milk gives them a texture similar to Key lime pie.
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 7 oz. fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup graham flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make Filling: Bring cranberries and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 minutes, or until berries have burst and are tender. Cool. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth, and strain mixture through sieve. (You should have about 1 cup purée.)

2. Transfer purée to bowl, and whisk in condensed milk and lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks.

3. To make Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil, and coat with cooking spray.

4. Whisk together flours, sugar, and salt in bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Press into bottom of prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F, and pour Filling into hot Crust. Bake 23 to 28 minutes, or until custard is set. Cool, then chill until firm.

5. Use foil to lift baked dessert out of pan, then remove. Cut into 25 bars. Serve cold or at room temperature.

References:

Aubrey, A. (2010, 11 15). Bow down to the medicinal power of cranberries. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/131272331/bow-down-to-the-medicinal-power-of-cranberries

Cranberry bars. (2011, 11). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/cranberry-bars/

Cranberry image. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appforhealth.com/2012/12/cranberries-small-berries-with-a-big-health-benefits/

History of cranberries. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cranberries.org/cranberries/history.html

Whitman-Salkin, S. (2013, 11 27). Cranberries, a thanksgiving staple, were a native american superfood. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131127-cranberries-thanksgiving-native-americans-indians-food-history/

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