Hey guys, it’s Christine here wishing you a happy Sweet-Tooth Black Friday! I hope you had a nice veggie filled Thanksgiving yesterday. If you are taking a break from shopping and noshing on leftovers already, be sure to set some cranberry sauce aside for today’s recipe, Vegan Cranberry Crumble bars, made with a secret helping of spinach!
The Sweet Side
Now you may be tired of cooking after yesterday’s big meal, but this Cranberry Crumble will carry you all the way to Christmas. The tart flavor adds a nice contrast to both savory dishes and desserts. Best of all, this berry packs a powerful nutritional punch. Besides being filled with vitamin C, cranberries also have phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. Cranberries can even fight bacteria, like the ones that cause gum disease and urinary tract infections. Their bright red skin adds a splash to any holiday table, but more importantly, that red color comes from anthocyanins, another super powerful antioxidant.
Environmentally speaking, cranberry bogs offer a couple of benefits as well. Cranberry bogs need quite of bit of surrounding land to support the wetland, which provides homes for other wildlife. These wetlands help prevent the spread of urban sprawl. With some pressure from the EPA, cranberry farmers are starting to use natural methods for controlling pests and weeds. For example, instead of pesticides, they apply a thin layer of sand to the cranberry vines which buries insect eggs, fungus spores, and seeds that may compete with the cranberries.
The Sour Side
Unfortunately, the enviromental effects of cranberry bogs aren’t all so sweet. Farmers still use pesticides directly in the fresh water that covers the cranberries, and this water runs off into other streams and river. Even when chemicals aren’t used, cranberries bogs can still affect local water. Farmers need to keep running water over the vines to keep them from freezing. The addition of this running warmer water heats up other local water sources, which can harm species that need cold water for survival, like trout. Finally, cranberry bogs are rarely constructed from scratch. They are usually built on top of natural wetlands, an already endangered environment. Check out this cool article from TLC and How Stuff Works for more information.
On the baking side, although there are many benefits to cranberries, there is always one prevailing problem: sugar. Cranberries need a lot of sweetening to be palatable in desserts. But with the increasing availabilty of stevia and agave nectar, there are lower sugar ways of solving the tart issue.
Vegan Cranberry Crumble Bars
For my first cranberry dessert of the season, I decided to rework an old favorite: Vegan Blueberry Crumble Bars. When I first made that recipe, I liked it so much I vowed to make another variation of it. This time, instead of the blackberry jam and fresh blueberries, I used a can of Organic Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce. If you are using fresh homemade cranberry sauce, you may need to increase the arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken it up. To make a more seasonal dessert, I substituted a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice for the teaspoon of cinnamon, and used pecans instead of almonds. Finally, instead of almond extract, I added a teaspoon of orange liqueur to better complement the cranberries. I went for “bars” this time instead of “wedges,” and found that in the 8 inch square pan I used needed another 5-10 minutes of baking.
The result? A delicious and healthy dessert that definitely got me in the holiday spirit! The darkness of the cranberries worked well with the spinach, and just like last time, the spinach was totally undetectable in both taste and appearance. These Vegan Cranberry Crumble bars would be a super way to introduce something healthier to your cookie exchange!
Ok that’s it for this week! I just wanted to say thanks to Matt and Erin for the delicious and healthy Thanksgiving dinner; I know they worked really hard preparing it. The Spicy Curried Pumpkin Soup and the Pecan Brussel Sprouts were just to die for. Thanks guys!!
Check back in next week for some “sweet” homemade Christmas gift ideas!