In their natural form, cranberries are quite healthy, full of vitamin C and fiber and packing just 4 grams of sugar per cup. In fact, they only become nutritionally worrying when they get doused with sugar around the holidays.
My answer, of course, is to make your own cranberry sauce this holiday. It’s incredibly easy and it allows you to cut the sugar content in half without anyone missing it.
So instead of heading down the canned food aisle, pop over to the produce section (you’re going there to buy potatoes and green beans, anyway, right?) and pick up a bag of fresh cranberries. Follow the recipe on the bag (usually something along the lines of boiling the berries with water and sugar), but cut the suggested amount of sugar in half (or by a quarter if you can’t come to terms with half).
For extra flavour and natural sweetness, I sometimes add orange zest or segments to my cranberry sauce, as well as a vanilla bean. But frankly, it almost doesn’t matter what I do to the cranberry sauce, as its presence on the table is merely symbolic to my family. My French husband didn’t grow up eating cranberry sauce, so he never developed a taste for it. And my kids aren’t fans, either.
The result? I always have leftover cranberry sauce. Forever a budget cook, I feel compelled to give those leftovers new life. I’ll add it to my favourite apple crumble or muffin recipe, spoon it over yogurt or into oatmeal for breakfast, or use it as a base for a spicy-sweet salsa or chutney.
Perhaps my kids’ favourite way to rework cranberry sauce is in pancakes. I mix cranberry sauce with oats and flax seeds to make a tasty treat that my family loves on winter weekend mornings, when I let a little extra sugar slide. I use my leftover homemade cranberry sauce in this recipe, but it works just fine with the canned stuff, even the jellied variety (complete with can-shaped grooves on the sides).
CRANBERRY SAUCE, OAT AND FLAX PANCAKES
This recipe is easily made gluten-free by substituting a gluten-free flour mix for the all-purpose flour called for. Your best bet is with flour mixes labeled as a “1-to-1” substitute for wheat flour.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Makes 10 pancakes
1/2 cup oat flour (or 3/4 cup oats, pulsed in food processor until finely ground)
1/4 cup almond flour (also called almond meal)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons flax meal (ground flaxseed)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2/3 cup prepared cranberry sauce (whole berry or jellied)
1 teaspoon orange zest
2/3 cup low-fat milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat a nonstick griddle over medium while preparing the batter. Heat the oven to 200 F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flax meal and cinnamon.
In a second medium bowl, briskly whisk together the yogurt and cranberry sauce to break up the cranberry sauce. Add the orange zest, egg, milk and vanilla and whisk until smooth (not counting chunks from any whole cranberries). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and gently stir with a whisk, incorporating all the ingredients, being careful not to overmix.
Lightly mist the hot griddle with cooking spray. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto the prepared griddle, being careful not to crowd the griddle. Cook until the pancake batter is nearly dry, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe plate and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with desired toppings.
Nutrition information per pancake: 130 calories; 30 calories from fat (23 per cent of total calories); 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 190 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 4 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net