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February 15, 2014

Culinary Conversation: Cherries can help make Presidents Day sweet as pie

NEW CASTLE — Monday is Presidents Day.

Granted, most of us don’t celebrate like we do on the Fourth of July and Christmas.

Some get the day off, though, which is a mini-celebration in itself.

Typically, when we think of the two presidents associated with February, often what comes to mind is George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. But that tale has been proven to be a myth.

I cannot tell a lie. Cherries aren’t my favorite fruit.

However, in honor of President Washington, today we put them front and center.

Did you know there are quite a few benefits to eating cherries? According to Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian in New York City, cherries help ease arthritis pain. Bing cherries, in particular, can ease painful inflammation.

Flavonoids are found in cherries and those are powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body. Zuckerbrot also said that drinking tart cherry juice before bed can help you sleep because it contains melatonin, a hormone that helps you feel sleepy.

Because cherries are an excellent source of potassium, they help to lower blood pressure by getting rid of the excess sodium in the body, she mentioned, and eating them can help you lose weight because a cup of cherries is less than 100 calories and contains three grams of fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer.

Lesson learned — I thought of cherries as either eating out of hand or in pie. But they can be added to everything from dairy to pork, strained for juice, cooked down to make sauces, and of course, in lots of other sweet desserts.

While it may be difficult to find fresh cherries this time of year, we have included several recipes using the fruit from a can. Save the rest for when you can find cherries in the store.

As always, Culinary Conversation welcomes your recipes and cooking stories.

And happy President’s Day — with a cherry on top.

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