Sunday, November 8, 2015


Here's my November column from the Petaluma Post:

What fruit grows on an evergreen shrub, floats and bounces?  Yes it is our holiday staple turned main stream, the cranberry.  Considered by most as an essential on the thanksgiving table, this simple berry is now common year round; from turkey sandwiches, to vinaigrette, to cocktails, and even cookies. From craisins to juice, cranberries’ health benefits are numerous, being high in antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C, it is considered a super food.

Native to North America they were first commercially cultivated in 1816 in New England, but are now grown across the northern United States and southern Canada.  Now over 40,000 acres are grown each year, lucky for growers they are a hearty plant and some in Massachusetts are over 150 years old!  Harvest season runs through September and October so they are ready for the store shelves in November and December. Cranberries are one of only three fruits that can trace their roots to North America (the others are concord grapes and blue berries).

I have always been a cranberry fan, personally I like jellied cranberry sauce, it is a favorite snack; I’ll just grab a small can for a snack or even breakfast on the road.  It’s a great addition to trail mix, and our cranberry golden raisin oatmeal cookie is a signature for the catering company (it’s our most popular cookie, surprisingly even more than chocolate chip).  The tang of Craisins with the sweet of the golden raisins is a perfect match.

Cranberry Golden Raisin Oatmeal Cookie
1 cup Butter, salted
1 cup Sugar, brown
½ cup  Sugar, white
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 cups Flour, all purpose
2 cups Oatmeal, Quaker
2 tsp    Baking Powder
1 cup   Craisins
1 cup   Raisins, golden

Cream the butter and sugars together.  Then combine with the eggs and vanilla with the cream.  Next blend the flour, oat and powder with the mixture.  Finally combine th craisins and raisins.  Next you can either (the regular method) table spoon dollops on to a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 11 to 12 minutes, OR you can use the super-secret professional method: scoop 2 to 3 oz balls of dough onto a pan (they can be closely packed to save room) and refrigerate them for a least a day (this allows some cooking chemistry to take place which will yield a better cookie), then space them appropriately on a cookie sheet and bake.  Another secret: once the baking is done (as soon as you take them out of the oven) give the sheet pan a good rap on the counter to make the cookies fall; they will stay chewy that way.

As a seasonal touch for lunches I love to add Craisins to salads.  Local greens tossed with Craisins and candied pecans is a great start.  Whole grains are very healthy and popular.  We recently did a barley salad with baby kale and Craisins

Barley Kale Craisin Salad
1 cup barley
3 cup Water
1 tsp salt

Combine ingredients in a sauce pot with a little extra room, bring up to a boil, then simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until tender.  Drain any excess water, and cool.  Then combine all with:
4-6 oz baby Kale or shredded Kale
½ cup Craisins
½ cup shredded carrot

And add dressing to taste:
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbl honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together

This salad holds up very well and can be made a day in advance.

Those that know me, know that I do enjoy a cocktail!  For many years cranberry juice and vodka was my go to, cosmos are another favorite.  Several years ago my husband Jim and I hosted a nontraditional thanksgiving block dinner; you had to use a thanksgiving ingredient but non-traditional way.  We created a personal cocktail we call a Happy Pilgrim.  Yes it will make you a happy pilgrim.

Happy Pilgrim
1 shot wild turkey bourbon - must have turkey!
1 shot ginger beer
2 shots cranberry juice
1/3 shot orange bitters

Shake and serve over crushed ice, garnish with a fresh cranberry.

Now that we talked about thanksgiving what about Christmas?  Cranberries’ bright red color is a festive touch, Native Americans used crushed cranberries as a dye for clothing, use them for a pop of color in center pieces, and, of course, in food.  I think fresh cranberries are a great addition to scones for Christmas breakfast.

Cranberry Scones
4 oz butter (cold)
3 cups flour
2 Tbl baking powder
¾ cup sugar
6 oz buttermilk
6 oz cream
½ cup craisins

Mix all the dry ingredients, then add the dairy and mix until just combined.  Mix in the craisins.  Next press into a disk about ¾ of an inch thick, and cut into pie wedges.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm and golden brown.

Remember to enjoy cranberries through the holiday season, and don’t forget to throw an extra bag in the freezer for later use.

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