Try it: PB and cherry muffins, salad with cherries

Peanut butter and cherry muffins. (Supplied photo)

Peanut butter and cherry muffins. (Supplied photo)

Rita DeMontis, National Food Editor, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:10 PM ET

Pucker up for a good night's sleep - with the help of tart cherries.

This brightly-coloured fruit known for its unique sweet-tart flavour profile is also a source of melatonin, the natural chemical that helps get your body back into a natural sleep rhythm.

Sure, we recently received an extra hour's sleep — but it also means we go to bed an hour later, and for many who struggle with sleep issues, this hour change may have caused their sleep patterns to be disrupted.

So try going red before bed — with tart cherry juice for a good night's rest. And keep in mind the tart cherry's bright red colour – anthocyanins – is also a cue for an array of health benefits: In addition to evidence supporting the benefits of tart cherry juice as a natural sleep aid alternative, research indicates that tart cherries may help promote heart health, reduce inflammation related to arthritis (what do you think cowboys in days or yore relied on after days of hard riding!) and ease exercise-related muscle pain.

Tart cherries are available year-round in dried, frozen and juice forms (including juice concentrate), and readily accessible on the shelves at a variety of retailers across the country and online. For more ways on how to Go Red Before Bed, and to learn more about the many health benefits of tart cherries, visit choosecherries.com, and enjoy the following recipes, courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough for The Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI).

Warm Salmon, Cherry, and Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) ground turmeric
  • 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 cups (1.5L) loosely packed arugula
  • 1/2 small head radicchio, cored and shredded
  • 4 salmon fillets, about 3/4-inch thick
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 large jalapeno (halved lengthwise), seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups (325 ml) thawed frozen tart cherries
  • 1 1/2 tsp. (7 ml) grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) tart cherry juice

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, turmeric, and 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) of olive oil. Add arugula and radicchio and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste and divide mixture among serving plates. Set aside.

Season salmon with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm remaining olive oil. Add salmon and cook until barely opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Arrange salmon on top of salads.

Return skillet to medium heat, add shallots and jalapeno, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cherries and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Add cherry juice, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in skillet, until juice is almost entirely evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the cherry mixture over salmon and serve.

Serves 4 servings.

Serving Suggestions:

A light soup would be a nice accompaniment to this entrée. If you like, serve some bread along side. To vary the recipe, substitute swordfish, halibut, or a chicken breast for the salmon.

Peanut Butter and Cherry Muffins

Ingredients:

  • Sunflower, safflower, or other neutral-flavored high-heat cooking oil or high-temperature non-stick spray
  • 1 cup (250 ml) cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups (325 ml) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. (12 ml) baking soda
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (325 ml) dried tart cherries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Lightly coat 12 muffin cups with the oil or spray and set aside.

Spread oats out on a large rimmed baking sheet and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly (leave oven on).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, butter, peanut butter, honey, and eggs. Add flour mixture, stirring until almost combined. Add oats and cherries, stirring until just combined. Transfer batter to prepared muffin cups and bake until a tester inserted into centre of a muffin comes out almost entirely clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Serving Suggestions:

To mix things up, try using almond or cashew butter instead of the peanut butter.


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