Holiday Cheery: Pumpkin and Cranberry
So, I’ve been stumped on a challenge recently (working on a specific dish for someone who must eat gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, dairy-free, casein-free, egg-free and low fructose…coming up in a future post), and haven’t been up for much additional experimentation or posting. Thankfully, my little sister raised my spirits without even trying, just by asking for my whole wheat pumpkin cranberry bread recipe. It’s autumn…how can anything pumpkin not make a person smile? And cranberries! I don’t really care how Pollyanna or dorky I sound, they make me happy. Plus, they’re both real gems of the harvest. Here’s a little brief on both these holiday staples.
Anyone who has read anything of this blog will already know, I loooove pumpkins, along with butternut squash, another carotene-rich cousin. I love pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin cake, pumpkin mash, roast pumpkin…I could and seem to be going on for ages (and the same pretty much goes for butternut squash, too, but that may deserve it’s own post another day, being that much more surpising and therefore interesting). I also really love how pumpkin puree can be added to thicken a variety of dishes, and can also lend body and richness to breads and other baked goods while cutting out a little fat. When roasted, the sweetness of the squash is really brought forth, and you can typically reduce sugar way more than many conventional recipes would suggest. In addition to being loaded with beta carotone, converted in the body to age-defying, skin-protecting, anti-cancer vitamin A, pumpkins also continue vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and other nutrients. They’re also simply interesting, bright, fun colors, cheerfully shaped, begging for decoration, and, like the watermelon, 90% water. According to University of Illinois Extension, in 2008, the total US pumpkin production in major pumpkin producing states was valued at $141 million. So, clearly I am not alone in adding pumpkins to my personal happy list.
I may be alone in this particular penchant, but to me, tart, plump cranberries have the appeal of bubble wrap. I love their poppability (I know, not a word, but you know what I mean) when they’re warm, and find the mysteriousness of whether or not a particular berry will be truly lip-pinching sour or mildly sweet really kind of fascinating. More fascinating is the slew of health benefits cranberries bring. You’ve probably heard that this native American berry has been associated with prevention of urinary tract infections. Studies have also indicated that the blueberry-cousin may also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as help stroke recovery, and overall gastrointestinal and oral health. According to a recent study from the University of Glasgow, evaluating popular juices, cranberry juice ranked among the highest in antioxidant activity. They’re especially rich in vitamin C. My Kindergarteners love experimenting with “painting” with cranberries, which we talk about as an old-fashioned dye…which puts cranberries in the pumpkin-fun camp, too.
Whole wheat pumpkin cranberry bread
- 1 cup flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour (or just under 2 cups whole wheat flour)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or a combination of your choosing to the equivalent amount: ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon)
- 1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
- 2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries (to save time, I often leave these whole, and it’s still great)
- 1 cup raisins (or use dried cranberries or a combination)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 cup skim milk
- 1 egg, 1 egg white
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Add liquid ingredients to dry, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moist.
Bake in a prepared loaf tin coated with cooking spray, 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
Photo credit – Flickr user Hyeknitter