Tart, Tangy and Tasty

No one is really sure how cranberries became such an integral part of Thanksgiving celebrations. Most historians believe it had something to do with the generosity of Native Americans who used the cranberry for food as well as medicine, and, in turn, shared the bounty at that very first Thanksgiving. Conveniently, cranberries are harvested in the fall, when the berries take on that distinctive red color.

As cranberries have grown in popularity over the years, cooks have become more and more creative with recipes that highlight the tart, distinctive flavor of the little red berry. This distinctive flavor, an interesting combination of slightly sweet, mostly tart and almost bitter, lends itself very well to savory and sweet recipes alike.

Today’s savvy cook is using cranberries in everything from cranberry bison chili to turkey filled tortellini with cranberry foam. Still, 400 years of cranberry tradition can’t be wrong, and most folks will agree, it’s hard to beat classic cranberry sauce. Especially the day after Thanksgiving, spread on a left-over turkey sandwich.
While cranberries are only available in stores during the autumn and early winter, I have good news. They freeze beautifully and can be used in recipes without thawing. They will store frozen for up to 9 months, so if you plan carefully, you can have cranberries available year round.

Enjoy the fresh cranberries while they last. Whir them into morning smoothies, cook them into fresh cranberry sauce, fold into muffin batter or stuff sweet winter squash with them. Stock the freezer while they last and have cranberries year round.

 

This easy, slow cooker cranberry sauce uses just 6 ingredients and bubbles away filling your house with the smell of cranberry cheer. Use the slow cooker to free up valuable stove space, or make the sauce the day before while finishing up Thanksgiving prep work. It’s the perfect short-cut for busy cooks.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce
Yield: about a pint
1 (12 ounce) bag of fresh or frozen cranberries, washed and sorted
¼ cup water
¾ cup orange marmalade
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Juice of 1 lemon

Stir all the ingredients together in the crock of a slow cooker. Cook on high heat for 3 hours or until the cranberries begin to pop. After the cranberries are beginning to soften, use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to mash the cranberries against the side of the crock until desired texture is reached. Continue to cook on high, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Store refrigerated for 7-10 days.

 

Tender muffins, spicy with warm autumn spices and pumpkin, get a tart little kick from cranberries. A simple streusel topping adds an extra bit of sweet crunch to this new autumn breakfast favorite. To make mornings easy, line the muffin tin with cups, mix the dry ingredients and the streusel topping the night before. While the coffee brews, mix the batter and pop the muffins in the oven.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins
Yield: 12 large muffins

cranberry-pumpkin-muffins-web

Warm spicy pumpkin muffins, topped with crisp sweet streusel get a nifty tart kick from cranberries.

For the muffins:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
½ teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 (15 ounce) can of pureed pumpkin
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, washed and sorted

For the streusel:
2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
¼ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 Tablespoon of cold butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a standard sized muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Reserve 2 Tablespoons of this mixture.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, pureed pumpkin, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just blended, not a second more. Toss the cranberries with the reserved 2 Tablespoons of flour mixture until coated. Fold the cranberries into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking tins, filling them to the top for jumbo muffins.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, cut or pinch the butter into the mixture. Top the muffins with the streusel.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn the muffins out onto a wire rack.

 

This may be the easiest side dish on the table. Simply halve the squash, lightly coat with olive oil and stuff with cranberries and nuts. It’s a beautiful presentation, makes the house smell wonderful and doubles easily.

acorn-squash-web

Winter squash begs to be stuffed. What better to stuff with than a mixture of rich pecans and tart cranberries?

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Yield: 2-4 servings

1 large acorn squash
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries, washed and sorted
4 Tablespoons of brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash, halve and seed the acorn squash. Lightly brush the cut surface with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together the pecans, cranberries and brown sugar. Arrange the squash, cut side up, in a baking dish. Stuff each cavity with the cranberry mixture and top with 1 Tablespoon of butter.

Cover loosely with foil and bake or 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. Remove the foil and continue baking for 5-10 minutes or until the top is browned.

Cool 10 minutes before serving.