Ruby Red Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries seem to only make their apperance during the holidays. Bags and bags of fresh cranberries fill the grocery stores this time of year, along with prepared cranberry sauce and other “holiday only” fare like pumpkin pie filling and green bean casserole fixings.

These fresh little hearty berries are sturdy enough to be surrounded by a candle or placed at the bottom of a vase, which is exactly what I’ve used them for.

I never really liked this little berry, until I started making my own. Cranberry sauce would be on my grocery list during the holidays, and year after year I would buy a can and put it on our Thanksgiving dinner table for anyone that wanted it, but I was very ambivalent. I became quite amused watching the gel-like glop make it’s appearance, and took great efforts to keep my sauce intact by opening both ends of the can watching it slowly slither onto a plate. There was something intriguing about those cylindrical canned designed ripples on the gel that kept me looking forward to the next year of can opening. Then, one year I paid closer attention when my mom made her delicious sauce, and I couldn’t believe how simple it was! No candy thermometer or special cooling process needed! I finally learned that, besides adding color to candles or vases, which was all I ever used fresh berries for, this fruit’s purpose is to become a flavor filled ruby red side dish! I was reformed from being a yearly can opener, to becoming a fresh cranberry sauce maker!

It’s simple to make and you will love the way it tastes!

Ruby Red Fresh Cranberry Sauce (yields approximately 2 cups)

  • 1 cup juice (I used Trader Joe’s orange-strawberry banana juice, but orange or apple works well too)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Wash the cranberries. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the sugar and juice stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and cook until the berries start to burst and begin to soften (close to 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and add cinnamon. As the sauce cools, it will begin to thicken. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.
Don’t wait until next year to buy fresh cranberries. More holiday festivities are on the horizon!  One great idea for this luscious sauce is to put it on top of baked brie, and serve with crackers as an appetizer.  Or you can blend it with cream cheese, form a cheese ball, and roll it in chopped nuts.

Pumpkin Flowers

I usually buy a couple of small pumpkins during the holidays which I put around the house as decorations.  They just sit near my fireplace and table cuddled next to each other looking cute, until they get booted for Christmas decorations.  A few days before starting to prepare Thanksgiving dishes this year, I saw an ad for a Thanksgiving floral centerpiece using a ceramic pumpkin as a vase.  Tada!  My little pumpkins had a new purpose!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. small or mini pumpkins
  2. floral foam (I bought the block size)
  3. flowers
  4. sharp knife
  5. scissors to cut flowers

Soak your floral foam in water for about 20-30 minutes.  Make sure you buy the kind that will absorb water if you plan on using fresh flowers.  I mistakingly bought the wrong type!  Clean out your pumpkins by cutting the tops off and gutting all the seeds out.  My little guys were tough skinned, so it took some muscle to cut.  Next, Put your foam in the pumpkin and cut to fit.

Next, pick your flowers.  Some of mine came from potted plants from my yard, and I also bought some from my local farmer’s market.

One by one, clip a flower and gently push into the floral foam.  Add some greenery if you like.  I replaced my pumpkin’s little head back onto the pumpkin by attaching it with a couple of bamboo skewers.  The sharp side went into the top and the flat side was secured into the foam.

And there you are!  Pumpkins repurposed!  I brought one to my mom, the host of our Thanksgiving dinner, a mini one to a friend who’s birthday was was a day before Thanksgiving, and another went to my daughter’s boyfriend’s family.  The rest are on my table!

Individual Sweet Potato Casseroles

This recipe is a family favorite. I’ve already made it twice this Thanksgiving season! I remember on our first Thanksgiving as a newly married couple away from our families, my husband called his mom for the recipe she always used to make at the holidays. That’s his handwriting below and as you can see, the recipe card has grown worn since I pull it out year after year, adding a few notes as I tweak it a bit, and put a few more food splatters appear on it!

We like our sweet potato casserole with the crumbly sweet topping, which makes it taste like a dessert! Doesn’t it always seem like you never get quite enough of the crumble when you plate up a serving from the casserole dish? I want a bite of crumble with every forkful! Well, this year I decided to personalize the casserole with individual servings using ramekins. I can make each dish “to order”, leaving out the nuts for my son (sister is rolling her eyes), or if someone likes the traditional marshmallows on top, those can be added easily.

Recipe – Preheat oven to 350

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes – for canned, use approximately 3 – 16 oz cans (drained and rinsed); if fresh, use about 5 medium sized potatoes.
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk

Mix all the above together using an electric mixer. Put into a 9″ x 13″ casserole or ramekin dishes (I used 6 with 1 cup of filling in each dish).

Topping:

I doubled this so I could have leftovers to make it again
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together, and pour on top. Bake for 25 minutes

Can you tell which serving is sans nuts? Hint: it’s one of the green ramekins.

What about now?? Yep, the one up front!

Everyone liked the idea of having their own casserole. It didn’t take up room on an already full plate and each bite was full of scrumptious crumble!