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Spring Cleaning, Blue Plate Style

At our house, spring means that it’s time to clean out the freezer. I don’t mean “clean” in the “get a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush” sense, but in the “eat up last year’s produce to make room for this summer’s bounty” sense. When I first fill the freezer with garden-fresh goodness, I tend to be a little stingy overprotective cautious about using my frozen fruits and veggies. After all, it’s a lot of work to process / put up produce! I don’t want an empty freezer by Christmas. (Andy does not understand my logic.”Didn’t we pick this stuff so we could eat it?” Yes, of course. But not all at once!)

By the time March and April roll around though, I am all about the frozen fruit. Strawberries in my lunch? Every day! Blueberries in my oatmeal? Yes please, and can you drizzle some maple syrup on top? Cherry pie with crumb topping? Don’t mind if I do! (Of course, this all backfiring, as Andy just informed me that we’re down to two packages of cherries and one package of strawberries. And June is still a long ways away. Eeek!)¬†

Back when I was planning my Easter dinner, I knew I wanted an easy dessert. I figured I’d have my hands full enough with the main course. A quick survey of the freezer, fridge and pantry confirmed that I had everything on hand for this cake. Plus, it’s made in a bundt pan, which gives you maximum impact for minimum effort. Win-win!

I realize that cranberries are technically a fall crop, but fresh, tart flavor says spring to me, especially when it’s paired with lemon. So, if you had the foresight to throw fresh cranberries in your freezer last fall, then you’re set. And then you’ll have some room for the rhubarb that’s coming soon. ūüôā

CranberryLemonCake

Cranberry Lemon Cake

For the cake:
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks or 6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (reserved from above lemons)

Preheat oven to 350¬į.

Generously butter a bundt pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar in an even layer over the bottom of the bundt pan and then spread the cranberries in an even layer on top of the sugar. Set aside.

In  medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Next, combine the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and zest together until the sugar is fragrant. Add the 12 tablespoons of butter to the lemon sugar and beat on medium-high until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl in between.

Pour the buttermilk into a measuring cup and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until the flour is incorporated into the batter.

Spread the batter in an even layer on top of the cranberries. Bake until the cake tests done with a toothpick and is golden brown on top and just set, about 50-55 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Place a serving plate over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Allow it to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and 1-1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and allow the glaze to set before slicing and serving.

Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature, with the cut ends covered in plastic wrap. (Ours was gone in under 48 hours, so I am not sure how long it keeps!)

As seen on Annie’s Eats, originally from Williams Sonoma

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Summer Snacking

Guess what day week it is!

EAA 2014 038

Yes, this is one of last year’s pictures. I haven’t made it down to the brown arch for my 2015 picture yet.

That’s right, we are smack-dab in the middle of EAA Airventure. It’s arguably the world’s largest aviation celebration/event/convention/party, and we are lucky enough to live just up the highway from the excitement. Andy and I share a love for all things aviation, and we spend as much time as we possibly can down in Oshkosh this week. (Side note – and shameless plug – for the event: Even though the airplanes are cool, the people are the real reason for going. Yesterday, we got to hear three WWII vets talk about their experiences in a B-17. Priceless.)¬†

Several days at an airshow means several days of packed lunches and dinners. (Yes, we could buy food there, but this is cheaper, healthier AND tastier.) Our typical airshow snacks include fresh veggies (cucumbers and green beans from our garden), cheese and crackers, fruit and whatever else sounds good when I’m packing the cooler. This year, I decided to make something new for airshow snacking.

Several years ago, I saved a recipe for a maple nut snack mix from the now-defunct Cooking for Two magazine. I don’t know why it took me so long to make this, but I’m glad I finally did. It was easy to make, and I had nearly all of the ingredients on hand. I substituted pecans for the walnuts, since that’s what was in my pantry, and I added some dried cranberries to the mix after it came out of the oven. The result was a super-addicting, sweet-salty snack that’s perfect for enjoying on the flight line (or wherever your summer adventures take you).

Maple Snack Mix

Maple Pecan Snack Mix

6 cups of rice chex cereal
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup real maple syrup
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the cereal, pretzels, pecans and sesame seeds. In a glass measuring cup (yet another use for the 2-cup Pyrex cup!), whisk together the maple syrup and butter. Pour the butter-syrup mixture over the cereal mixture and gently stir until it is completely coated.

Spread the mixture on the prepared pan and bake until crisp, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding the cranberries to the mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Spring 2007

Click here for printable version.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2015 in Appetizer

 

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This One’s a Keeper!

So, out of all of the cookies that I made this past Christmas, these were my favorite. I realize that seems like¬†a backhanded compliment, since I only made a couple batches¬†of cookies, but it’s not. I promise. What I’m trying to say is that these were good enough to make the cut on an incredibly short list of baked goods¬†during a hectic¬†December. ūüôā

I had a stockpile of fresh cranberries in the freezer and a lemon in the fridge, and the recipe looked simple enough for my crazy schedule. The only change I made was to use my KA mixer to combine the lemon zest and the sugar Рit does a better job than I ever could do by hand! I used my small cookie scoop, which meant I ended up with one-to-two-bite cookies (one bite for Andy, two for me).

They’re the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and the cranberries give¬†them such a festive look. Of course, there’s no reason to save these guys for Christmas (good thing too, since I’m sharing this at the end of January). They’re the perfect cookie¬†for lots of occasions: Ohio State parties, Valentine’s Day… they’d even be a good addition to a Super Bowl spread – on the New England side of the table, of course. ūüėČ

LemonCranberryCookiesCranberry Lemon Cookies 

For the cookies: 
2 1/4 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

For the glaze: 
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and the lemon zest. Turn the mixer on to medium and beat the sugar and lemon zest until well combined and fragrant. (Alternatively, you could put the sugar and zest in a bowl and rub it together with your fingers until it’s fragrant, but that takes a lot longer.) Add the butter to the lemon sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the chopped cranberries. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill for about 30 minutes. (This is when I get caught up on my dishes.) 

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop, form the dough into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place the balls on the prepared sheets and bake until lightly golden brown. (Mine took about 10¬†minutes; the original recipe recommends 13.) Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool slightly before removing them from the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cookies have cooled completely, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice for the glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies. When the glaze has hardened, store the cookies in an airtight container.

From What Megan’s Making

Click here for a printable version.

 

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Cookies, Dessert

 

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Frozen Cranberry Love

If you saw my Thanksgiving idea list, you may have noticed that I’ve got a thing for cranberries right now. There were two different cranberry breads, two cranberry sauces and one cranberry dessert. And if I’m being honest, I’ve always had a thing for cranberries. Juices, sauces, drinks…¬†there’s just something about that sweet-tart flavor that gets me every time.

I needed a treat for our New Year’s Eve celebration this year, and since I had to work during the day, soft pretzels weren’t an option. Thankfully, this sorbet is as easy to make as it is to eat. I mixed it up before work and chilled it in the fridge during the day. Then, Andy threw it in the ice cream maker when he got home from work. By the time I pulled in the driveway, there was a container of sorbet chilling in the snowbank by the back door. (What? Our freezer is full, and it was definitely cold enough outside!)¬†

The original recipe wants you to strain the sorbet mixture through a fine mesh strainer before chilling, but I skipped that step. My immersion blender did a good job of pulverizing most of the cranberry skins, and I didn’t have time to fuss with that step. I also skipped the¬†Cointreau/Grand Marnier because I don’t have any on hand and wasn’t going to buy a bottle for one measly tablespoon.

All in all, this was a success. Andy says that it doesn’t hold a candle to his favorite ice cream, but it’s worth making. Especially if you’ve got a cranberry habit freezer full of cranberries to use up. ūüėČ

CranberrySorbet

Cranberry Sorbet

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
12 ounces fresh cranberries (I used mine straight from the freezer.) 
pinch of salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier liquor (like I said before, I skipped this.) 

Place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.

Add the cranberries and salt to the sugar mixture, and bring the mixture to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan and allow the cranberries to cook until soft, about 10 minutes or so. (Since my cranberries were frozen, it took a little longer for them to soften.) 

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange juice. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, if you’d like), puree the sorbet mixture until it’s completely smooth. If desired, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl before chilling in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture has thoroughly chilled, churn the sorbet in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Store the churned sorbet in an airtight container in the freezer (or in a snowbank).

From David Lebovitz, as seen on Brown Eyed Baker

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Dessert, Ice Cream

 

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Good Morning Muffins

I’ve been on a muffin kick lately. Blueberry muffins. Pumpkin muffins (I added chocolate chips). Apple cider chocolate cranberry muffins.

Yep, you read that right. Apple cider. With chocolate. In muffins. Weird, right? (No weirder than some other things I’ve tried.)¬†Who would have thought to put apple cider in muffins?! Not me, that’s for sure. But Kirsten at Farm Fresh Feasts makes a lot of muffins, so I figured she knows what she’s doing. And since apple cider is one of my favorite things, I knew I had to give them a try. Of course, I saw this recipe after apple cider season ended, which meant they went on the back burner for a few months.

Thankfully, cider season rolled around again, so I dug through my saved recipes and gave this one a whirl. My only changes were to use dried cranberries instead of cherries and regular chocolate chips instead of mini ones (all based on what was in my cupboard at the time). I thought about adding some diced apple pieces as well, but chose not to since I threw these together before work one morning and didn’t have time for extra peeling/chopping.

I love the fact that these are one-bowl muffins. And as long as you remember to soak the oats the night before, you can have fresh muffins by the time you leave for work in the morning. (Seriously… mix them up, bake them while you shower/prep for the day and then snag one – or three, whatever floats your boat – on your way out the door.)¬†

AppleCiderMuffins

Apple Cider Muffins with Cranberries & Chocolate Chips

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine oats, cranberries and cider. Let mixture soak until oats are well-hydrated (I soaked mine overnight). 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

Once oats are thoroughly soaked, whisk the oil, brown sugar, egg and vanilla into the oat mixture. Make a well in the middle of the wet ingredients, and then pour the dry ingredients into the well. Stir until the mixture is almost combined, then add the chocolate chips. Give the mixture another stir or two to fully combine things.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. (I ended up filling 13 muffin cups! The frustration!) Bake for 15 minutes, or until tops are golden and muffins test done with a toothpick. Remove from pans and enjoy.

From Farm Fresh Feasts

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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Totally Smitten.

Well, I have been a slacker food blogger lately. Here we are, more than a week in to February, and I haven’t shared anything yet. Believe me, it’s not for a lack of cooking! In the last week, I’ve hosted dinner for 10, baked a cake and a cheesecake for a baby shower, tried a homemade version of monkey bread, and spent some quality time reading the library’s copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Unfortunately, I spent too much time reading the book and not quite enough time cooking out of it. (I only made one recipe before the library insisted I return it – they gave me some story about other people wanting it or something. Whatever.) I did make a copy of another recipe that I want to try before my turn at the library comes up again…

Anyway. Let’s talk about the one recipe that I DID make before I returned the book: Cranberry Crumb Bars. I needed a dessert for dinner with friends, and with the way my schedule had been, I needed something easy. These caught my eye because they’re different from what I normally make (chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate), and, as Deb said in the book, “bar cookies are your friend.” (I may be paraphrasing there. Like I said, I had to give the book back.)¬†

These came together in a snap, with cranberries that I’d picked up over the holidays and tossed in the freezer. They smelled cozy and comforting, and we barely let them cool before sampling them. Sadly, our plans changed (boo on all those cold/flu bugs that are going around!), which left us at home with an entire 9″ x 13″ pan of these bars. I wish I could tell you that we shared them with our coworkers or other friends, but that would be a lie. Andy and I did an¬†embarrassingly¬†good job of devouring these; I baked on Wednesday night, and they were gone before Sunday.

CranberryCrumbBars

Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices

For the crust and topping:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (two sticks), chilled, plus extra for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg

For the filling:
3 cups of fresh/frozen cranberries
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper, and butter both the paper and the sides of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg with a fork. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the pan, and reserve the other half of the mixture for the crumb topping.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the cranberries, zest, juice, sugar and cornstarch. (Here’s where I deviated from the recipe: Deb says to do this until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. Because I was using my immersion blender, I ended up with a smoother mixture (and cranberry flecks all over the kitchen). I liked the way it turned out, and I think I’ll continue to make it with the smoother filling.)¬†

Spread the filling in an even layer over the crust, and top with the reserved crumb topping. Bake until cookies are set and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting. (Do as I say, not as we did here.) 

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version!

*In case you’re wondering, I loved the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. There were a few things in it that I’ll probably never make (like a mushroom tart), but there were lots of recipes that caught my eye. Maple bacon biscuits? Cheesy breakfast rolls? (That’s not the recipe’s name, but it’s what it looked like.) I think I’ll eventually break down and buy a copy… if it’s not gifted to me first. (Andy, are you reading this?? Hint, hint!)

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in Dessert

 

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Fruit & Nuts

I’ve been a slacker blogger this month. I could tell you that it’s because I’m busy brainstorming cookie ideas for three lucky people (no Mom, I’m still not telling what I’m making), or that it’s because I’m prepping for Thanksgiving, but the truth is that it’s a little of this, and a little of that. Run here, go there. Add it all up, and we’re lucky that I’m making dinner, let alone writing about it. And somehow, I don’t see things slowing down at all – at least not until after Thanksgiving. ‘Tis the season for busyness, you know.

Even though I’m over-scheduled sleep-deprived busy, I’m still cooking. It sounds crazy to a lot of people, but I really like coming home and making dinner. At least on most days, anyway.¬†(That said, if Andy decides he wants to spring for our favorite pizza on a Friday night, I’m not one to turn him down. I might be crazy, but I’m not dumb!)

Busy or not, I still want to try new things. Especially with sides – I feel like I get stuck in a rut with them sometimes. Tossed Salad. Roasted Broccoli. Roasted Sweet Potato. Lather, rinse, repeat. So when this tasty little number caught my eye, I figured it was worth a shot.

It fit all of my requirements for a weeknight side: quick (done in less than 30 minutes), simple (shelling the pistachios was the hardest part), tasty (no explanation needed here, right?), and it combines the carbs and the veggies in one dish. Dinner is much easier when I don’t have to come up with two sides (and yes, I feel like I need a second side if the first is, well, carb-o-licious).

Cranberry Pistachio Orzo 

1/3 cup uncooked orzo
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons wine* or stock
1 large handful of spinach, rinsed and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, cook the orzo according to the package directions. In the last minute of cooking, add the chopped spinach to the pan, just long enough for the spinach to wilt down.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute the shallot for about a minute. Add in the pistachios and cook for an additional one to two minutes.

Stir the cranberries, cream, stock and wine into the pistachio/shallot mixture. Continue to cook for three to four minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Drain the orzo and spinach and return to saucepan. Pour the cranberry/pistachio sauce over the pasta and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 servings as a side dish

*The original recipe called for Marsala, which I didn’t have on hand. (Is this a foodie crime?)¬†I did have some apple wine from the Door Peninsula Winery though.¬†(I’m a big proponent of trying local wines.) The wine went really well with the dish! Score one for substitutions!

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Fall 2006

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Side Dishes

 

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