Christmas Eve Dinner Menu: Dessert Tray, Pt 1

cranberry-upside-down-cakeWith the dinner menu being fairly simple, I’ve spent the week baking desserts. I started with Spritz Cookies. I used this recipe, and then I divided the dough in half. I added 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about a 1/4 cup extra flour (a little at a time until it was workable dough again) and 2 tsp of lemon zest. I dusted those with powder sugar when done. The other batch was just the yummy butter half of the dough.

Next up, this cake. I had leftover Cranberry-Apple Sauce from Thanksgivingwhich I froze with this recipe in mind. It made for a very tasty fruit bottom.  Here’s the original recipe:

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, chopped*
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange zest (rind)
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk


  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp orange juice (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp butter, softened

8×8 glass baking dish & mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350°

Melt 3 tbsp of butter and pour into baking dish, spread to cover bottom and up the sides. Add ½ cup sugar, mix with butter on bottom of pan. Add cranberries & walnuts, spread over bottom of pan. Cream remaining butter & sugar, add vanilla, egg, orange zest, mix well. Add flour, baking powder & milk, mix until well blended, don’t over mix. Pour batter over cranberry mixture. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and center bounces back at the touch. Invert on plate. Let cool.

Topping: Mix together butter, orange juice & powdered sugar, pour over cake and serve.

* if you don’t have a food processor, you can leave cranberries whole.


I’m not done yet. I’ll be baking more later this week, so stay tuned….


Cranberry Pepper Steak

This can be grilled or broiled.  This goes great with baked potatoes or rice.  If you’re grilling, grill up some fresh vegetables (coat lightly with olive oil and grill in a grilling basket, turning often) for a quick and easy dinner.

 Cranberry Pepper Steak:

  • 1/2 cup canned whole cranberries*
  • ¼ tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 lb sirloin steak
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper


In saucepan, combine cranberries, pepper flakes, & vinegar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, cook until thickened and reduced by half. Rub sirloin on both sides with garlic, chili, salt & pepper (use more of each if desired).  Cut into 4 pieces, grill or broil 5 minutes on each side for rare.  Spoon sauce over cooked steaks & serve.  Serves 4

*I usually keep a bag or two of fresh craberries in my freezer. I add 2 tbsps of sugar to 1 cup of cranberries and simmer over medium heat until reduced.  Add a splash of orange juice and more sugar as needed.

Christmas Eve: Turkey Dinner with Traditional Side Dishes

Bald Eagle 1 5 12

Bald Eagle from my hike the other day. Wish I had my camera, not just my cell phone

Would we still have turkey if it had become our national bird  instead of the Bald Eagle?

The menu is set for Saturday.  I’m doing an Orange Glazed Turkey.  The sides will be Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Oven Baked Stuffing, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Spinach-Raspberry-Walnut Salad and Homemade Cranberry Sauce.  Appetizers will be Tomato-Basil Crostini, Chips w/Dip and a Raw Vegetable tray.  Dessert will be a Dark Chocolate Torte with a Dark Chocolate Ganache (this recipe with a chocolate ganache* instead of confectioner’s sugar) and Fruit Pie Cookies.

I’m still trying to decide if  I’m going to mull cider or not.

I’ll add more recipes as I go along.


*Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and pour over cooled cake.

Cranberry-Orange Bread

I like to cook.  I especially like to cook new things that I’ve never tried.  For me a recipe for a new dish is more like a suggestion that I feel free to play with to suit my own and my family’s tastes.

I love to bake.  I love using the same basic ingredients, with variations for flavor, and creating such a immense variety of things.  Eggs, flour, sugar, butter, dairy, leavening, salt and vanilla – a simple palette and an infinite gallery of creations.

I’m a lucky baker (with that bread exception I mentioned in my first post).  The first thing I ever baked that was more complicated than a single-layer cake or chocolate chip cookies was homemade pies for a Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people, the first year I was married.  I made 4 pies and my pie crusts worked!  They weren’t perfect, but they were reasonably flaky and tender and held the filling in.  I remember thinking “Wow, I wonder why people think pie crust is so hard”.

The clincher was deciding to make chocolate eclairs for my husband for our first Valentine’s day together (We’d been married 4 years, but he’d always been out to sea in February).  I’d watched Alton Brown make pate choux on Food TV and it just didn’t look that hard.  It looked time consuming, but not difficult.  I tried his recipe and everything came together just like it was supposed to.  I made homemade vanilla pastry cream from another Food TV recipe and it came together just like it was supposed to.  I used a zip bag with the corner cut out of it to fill them, dipped them in melted chocolate and Voila! I had homemade chocolate eclairs.  I still treasure the look of pure bliss and surprise on my husband’s face when he tasted the first one and said “Oh, my God, these are better than anything I’ve ever tasted”.  That was it, I started baking everything from scratch and never looked back.

I try to buy local produce and meat and cook with what’s in season as much as is practical and within my budget.  I’m lucky, I live in a farm state and one with lots of small farms that produce wonderful organic products.  So here’s my first baking post using local, seasonal ingredients.

Orange-Cranberry Bread

Did you know that Wisconsin produces 57% of the US cranberry crop?  Neither did I, until today and I live here.

I use a scale to measure ingredients so I’ll be listing them by volume and weight.

2 cups all purpose flour (8 1/2 oz)
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 oz)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
1 large orange, zest and juice.
1/4 teaspoon orange oil or real orange extract (optional for extra orangey goodness)
3/4 cup (6 oz) of buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 oz) of canola or vegetable oil
1-1 1/2 cups (5 -7 1/2 oz) of cranberries, fresh or frozen, coarsely chopped.
1/2 cup (2 oz) chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 x 5 in. loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl mix the orange juice, orange zest, buttermilk (or sour cream or yogurt), egg and vegetable oil together.  If you use a scale to measure you can put each ingredient in the bowl one thing at a time, zero out the weight after you add each ingredient and only get 1 measuring cup and your measuring spoons dirty.  I love it.  Add your wet ingredients to the dry and mix until evenly combined.  Don’t stir it to death, the more you stir anything with flour in it the tougher texture you will get.  Gently stir in the cranberries and nuts and pour the batter into the loaf pan.  Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a tester (I use a bamboo skewer since a toothpick isn’t long enough) comes out clean and the loaf starts to pull away from the edge of the pan.  Cool the bread on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool to room temp.  This bread doesn’t cut very well when it’s warm, if you can stand it, let it cool completely, wrap it up, and let it sit overnight (refrigerated or not).

Try serving it with a smear of cream cheese-mascarpone icing.  I love to mix these two soft cheese for spreads, both sweetened and unsweetened.  American cream cheese has that little acid bite and mascarpone has this incredible buttery-smooth texture on your tongue.  Soften half a block of cream cheese (4 oz.) and whisk it with 1/2 cup (4 oz) of softened mascarpone until smooth, add in sifted powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until it is as sweet as you want it  Add in a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract for a truly sublime flavor.  I warned you that I didn’t do low-fat or low-cal.

Pics to follow as soon as I figure out how to get them here.


Cranberry Grilled Chicken

No secret for anyone who reads the blog with any frequency that I love cranberries.  This cranberry chicken is tangy with a sweet and tangy crust.  Great with rice and grilled vegetables.  I started making it when I was given 2 bottles of cranberry wine and wanted to see how it did as a marinade.  It is best with cranberry wine, but cranberry juice works well, too.

Cranberry Grilled Chicken

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup cranberry juice (or cranberry wine)
  • 8 oz cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp ground dried mustard
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic

ziplock bag or freezer container & saucepan

Add chicken and cranberry juice to container and marinate overnight. In saucepan, mix together remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from marinade and grill or broil for 15 minutes (until chicken is cooked through), turning every 5 minutes. Baste with cranberry sauce several times during the last 10 minutes.

Welcome Back

I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to take up the recipe task yet.  I seem to have been cooking non-stop for the last two weeks.  Last night I made my last Cranberry Upside-Down Cake, and did something a bit different.  I made a full batch of the cake part of the recipe and a half recipe of the cranberry filling and a half recipe of Pineapple Upside-Down Cake filling (which was by request – hard to turn down a, “my favorite cake is…” comment).  Very easy to do and a nice change of pace.  And really made me a hero today.

When I went grocery shopping this weekend, I found myself drawn to a theme: lime, cilantro, corn tortillas, pico de gallo (the spice, not the salsa) and pineapple.  I’m thinking I’ll be making chicken tacos at some point and maybe fajitas later in the week.  Usually when I shop, I’ve already planned out my meals for the week, but couldn’t face it this weekend, so it should be fun to see what I can make from the mish-mash of ingredients I purchased.  Always better to shop with meals in mind, but this could be fun, too.

This week will probably continue to be light in posts as we all recover from the holidays and next week I’ll begin in earnest on our series and tips.  But I’ll post a couple of light recipes this week and a friend’s recipe for baked eggs.  Until then….

This had me laughing out loud….

I wish I’d stumbled on it before I posted my Cranberry Recipe, because this is just awesome.  Funny (and bit R-rated), this is how to cook something fun and STOP STRESSING ABOUT IT. 

From Wonkette, a Totally Awesome Cranberry Recipe:

No first lady could even fucking imagine making something as wonderful and perfect as your editor’s famous Wonkette’s Actual Awesome Real Cranberry Business. It is one of those things that just blows people away, because they assume it must be so hard to make real cranberry relish because why else would we eat that Jell-o’d aspic glob from the can? IT MUST BE SO HARD. No, it isn’t, so stop whining about everything, for once.

This dish takes exactly three minutes to prepare, and another 10 or 15 minutes in the oven, and you don’t even have to think about it. Pre-heat the oven, prepare the cranberries, “slide in the pyrex,” as they say, and just turn the fucking oven off, go outside, have a cigarette.    More here….

Thanksgiving Table: Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberries and I love cranberry sauce with whole cranberries.  The only problem is the amount of high fructose corn syrup in canned versions.  I’d never made my own until a few days ago, I think because in my head I thought it was complicated.

Those of you who have made it can stop laughing now.   Thank you.

It couldn’t be simpler and fun to make (mostly because the cranberries pop as they cook).  Here’s a basic recipe to get you started:

Cranberry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water or unsweetened cranberry juice (100% cranberry juice)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar
  • 12 oz (1 bag) whole, raw cranberries


Wash cranberries. Bring juice and water to a boil, add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves, then add cranberries, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, no more.  Remove to a tempered glass dish or mold, cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.  What you’ll have is a nice thick cranberry sauce with whole cranberries.  You can add different things for a variety of sauces:  pecans, orange rind, apples, walnuts, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, currants.