The Best Cranberries For All Seasons

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Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries is hosting a blogger challenge. I am thrilled to participate and bring this kind of quality product to my blog.  For more than 70 years the Rhodes family has been harvesting cranberries. Just open a bag of their cranberries and you will see nothing but bright red and fresh beautiful fruit. Available all year long, I have never seen cranberries like these before. They are like jewels and I just could not wait to create some recipes with them.

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Just last week I was eating the best cranberry lemon muffin I had ever tasted. It came at a premium price from a high-end coffee shop. It was so good I went back the next day and purchased another. I knew I needed to try and make these muffins at home and I did. Light and buttery these muffins are filled with cranberries and tart lemon curd. Husband approved these muffins are perfect for all those overnight holiday guests.

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Fresh Cranberry Lemon Muffins

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Zest of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons milk

1 and 1/2 cups Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries (do not thaw)

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray a 12 count muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners that rise above the rim of the pan (like the tulip shaped liners in the photo). In large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs; beat until well blended. Add yogurt, vanilla, lemon extract, zest, lemon juice and milk; blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups filling to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 20 to 24 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. With a melon baller tool scoop out the top center of the muffin. Fill with a small spoonful of lemon curd. Replace muffin tops.

Please note that if you use standard liners that just fit the size of your muffin tin that your yield will be up to 15 muffins and your bake time will be a few minutes less. [/recipe]

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While most of us use cranberries in baking have you thought about adding them to a main dish or entree? Tapping into my Sicilian roots I thought Cape Cod Select cranberries would be perfect in an agrodolce sauce recipe. Agrodolce translates to sweet & sour and these cranberries shine in a savory mix of onions, vinegar, apple cider, rosemary, ginger and brown sugar. Can you say dinner on the table this busy holiday season in 30 minutes? Yes, you can!

Festive Cranberry Agrodolce Chicken

4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs*

1-teaspoon kosher salt

½-teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes

1 small to medium onion, chopped

1 cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups apple cider or juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus additional for garnish

1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

cooked spaghetti squash; optional

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add chicken; cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. To same skillet, stir in ginger, pepper flakes, onion and cranberries; cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add butter, apple cider or juice, red wine vinegar and rosemary; stir well and bring to a boil. Gently boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Stir in brown sugar. Return chicken and any accumulated juice to pan. Cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and tender. To serve: spoon cooked spaghetti squash over center of plate. Top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with fresh rosemary. Serves 4.

*We love chicken thighs in our house, but feel free to substitute boneless chicken breast if that is what you prefer. Just leave the chicken skin intact to avoid overcooked chicken.

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How about that gorgeous drink featured in my first photo? Greet your guests at the door with my Holiday Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer and they may never leave. It’s your fault that you are treating your friends and family to the best of the best.

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Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup pear brandy

¼ cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

1 sprig fresh rosemary plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ cup (4 ounces) good quality vodka

1 cup (8 ounces) cold prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer

In small saucepan, over medium heat, swirl sugar, pear brandy, cranberries and rosemary until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes just to a boil. Let mixture steep and cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove and reserve cranberries. Remove and discard rosemary sprig. In a shaker filled with ice, combine cranberry pear syrup, lime juice and vodka; shake well. Pour over 4 ice filled glasses. Top each with ¼ cup (2 ounces) prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer. For glass garnish: skewer reserved cranberries onto fresh rosemary sprigs and drape on top of glass.

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Thanks Cape Cod Select for sponsoring this recipe contest and sharing your delicious cranberries with me and my readers. For more fresh recipes, fabulous photos and how to purchase check out the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capecodselect/#

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CapeCodSelect

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/capecodselect/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/capecodselec

For the store locater link: http://www.capecodselect.com/store-locator/

 

The Best Pumpkin Harvest Torte

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Pumpkin. It’s everywhere this time of year including your appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee. Americans are obsessed with it. Not just limited to canned pumpkin, grocery store aisles are filled with a variety of pumpkin flavored products. It brings to mind falling leaves, cool nights and the smell of warm spices wafting through the kitchen.

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Recently, I tried these cookies called pumpkin spice snaps. Made in Pennsylvania, (love the USA) they are brand new to the market and I got a sneak peak taste. Filled with warm spices like cinnamon, ginger and cloves and sweetened with molasses these cookies have the perfect crispy snap that one would expect from the name. While simply delicious on their own I could not help but want to play with them in some dessert recipes. The first recipe I tried was a cookies and cream pumpkin cake. It was a hit with crispy cookie bits adding a textural contrast to the creamy frosting, but I could not stop there…….

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See those cookie bits on the edge of the cake? I greased my cake pans and then dusted them with finely crushed cookies instead of flour

……because as of today I have harvested 7 sugar pumpkins and there are at least another dozen lying in wait. I only planted 4 seeds! Plant some seeds people! For fresh pumpkin all one needs to do is roast them whole (400F. for about an hour) on a foil lined baking sheet until they feel soft. Cool, peel, seed and puree the orange flesh in the food processor and then drain for an hour or two in a paper towel lined sieve with a weighted plate on top. It’s amazing how much liquid drains out leaving silky concentrated fresh pumpkin behind. It freezes well, so please, completely skip the canned stuff. No garden? Pick up sugar pumpkins at the local farmers’ market.

In today’s featured recipe I really wanted to show these beautiful cookies off and there is no better way than my signature cookie crust. I first featured this idea many years ago in a Southern Living Magazine cook-off. It was such a big hit that even a restaurant out in Colorado asked my permission to use it on their menu. It works with any crisp, wafer like cookie and creates a lovely edge to the dessert.

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Bake off the crust and let it cool. Then fill with the most luscious fresh pumpkin mousse which in my case is “spirited” (I love you, William). If you don’t like the alcohol feel free to substitute fresh OJ or apple juice or even maple syrup in its place. Feel free to play with the spices too, but for me there is nothing better and easier than a quality pumpkin pie spice mixture like this one from King Arthur Flour.

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Make it one day in advance, so the cookies will soften slightly for easier cutting and take the edge off of your party planning. Anything I can make in advance of a holiday like Thanksgiving is a godsend. In fact, it can even be prepared 2 days in advance. Topped with sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt, oh, yes, this recipe is waaaaay better than the usual pumpkin pie. You are welcome.

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Pumpkin Mousse Torte

33 Stauffer’s Pumpkin Spice Snaps, divided

4 tablespoons (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons bourbon or orange juice (for non-alcohol version)

1 (1/4-oz) package unflavored gelatin

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I use King Arthur Flour brand)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream, divided

2 egg yolks

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 cup unseasoned fresh or canned pumpkin, drained on paper towels

1-teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven 350F. Place 18 cookies in food processor fitted with blade. Process until cookies are finely crushed to make 1 cup of cookie crumbs. Add butter; pulse until crumbly. Press cookie crumbs over bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Place remaining cookies around edge of pan slightly overlapping and rounded side out. Gently press each cookie into the bottom crust. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool crust in pan on a wire rack. In small bowl, combine water and bourbon or orange juice; sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set mixture aside to let gelatin soften. In medium saucepan, whisk brown sugar, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, salt and ½ cup heavy cream until smooth. Add egg yolks and milk; whisk until well blended. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking another minute being sure to scrape the sides of the pot with a heat-proof spatula. Whisk in gelatin mixture until it is fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Whisk in pumpkin and vanilla. Press a piece of plastic wrap to pumpkin mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours. Whip remaining ½ cup heavy cream to soft peaks; fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour filling into prepared crust; smooth top. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Cut into wedges and top with sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt.

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My absolute favorite sweet pumpkin

BTW-I receive no compensation for endorsing any products. Last year I won a contest sponsored by Stauffer’s and my prize is a monthly cookie gift package for a year.

Loss and Giving Thanks

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Celebrating the holidays is especially difficult after losing someone near and dear to the heart. It can be such a time of sadness and of dread. The loss hits hard. It’s a time when one feels like burying their head in the sand rather then planning family gatherings and buying gifts. I remember our first Thanksgiving and Christmas following my son’s death. I could not stop crying. I could not be in my house.  Thankfully, my brother and sister in-law offered to have Thanksgiving at their beach house and my father in-law invited us to North Carolina for Christmas. It was the great escape from so many happy holiday memories. It was a relief to not have to decorate, plan a meal or see an empty chair at my dinner table.

The holidays will never be the same and will always bring some sadness, but I can assure that with time it gets a bit easier.  It becomes a time to decide what you can still be grateful for. For instance, I can truly say that I am so grateful for the 23 years I had with the most amazing son on the planet. I am grateful that I can still hear his voice and feel his hug. I am grateful for all the times he made me laugh and let me take his picture as I see his dazzling smile and loving eyes in so many photos. I am grateful that he is still with me in spirit and that his energy is ever present giving me peace in my heart. And isn’t having peace in one’s heart what the holidays are supposed to be about? Yes, I have many things to be grateful for.

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There isn’t a more peaceful place for me to be than at the beach. Luckily that is where my family is headed this Thanksgiving. What a blessing to be surrounded by family and friends. We will all be banging pots and pans together, enjoying an amazing feast, playing bocce in the sand and searching for sea glass along the shore. We’ll remember all the reasons why we are grateful to be together.

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This year I am grateful for the vegetable garden that keeps on giving. I am amazed that I grew these pumpkins from seed in a plot of ground no bigger than 2 by 4 feet. The pumpkin vines were out of control, but never mind about that. Just yesterday I roasted the baby pumpkin to try out this new recipe I created using some Martha White self-rising cornmeal mix. It is surprisingly moist with a pleasant kick from the warm spices. Hope it makes its way onto your Thanksgiving table or holiday brunch. Let me know if you try it. And if you don’t own a Lodge cast iron skillet that is a must have on your Christmas list.

Spicy Pumpkin Cornbread

2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix*

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated preferred)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup mashed pumpkin**

3 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup olive oil

Heat oven 425F. Heat a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the cornmeal mix, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs and olive oil. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened. Carefully spoon the batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick or wooden tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

*if cornmeal mix is unavailable substitute 2 cups white cornmeal, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt

**if using canned pumpkin, spread it out on a few layers of paper towels to absorb some of the moisture. It is shocking how much liquid gets absorbed into the paper towels.

Note: to roast the pumpkin all I did was remove the stem, plop the whole pumpkin in an oven-safe skillet and roast at 400F for about an hour or until it is soft and skin is turning dark orange. Cool. Peel away the skin and remove the seeds and stringy stuff inside. Then I put all the pumpkin meat back into the skillet and over medium-low heat cook it for a good 10 or 15 minutes, stirring with a heat-safe rubber spatula, to smooth it out and remove as much moisture as possible. The pumpkin gets sweeter and a little darker in color as it caramelizes. Cool and use in all your favorite pumpkin recipes.