Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Here's a quick pic of Peanut rockin' a wifebeater. Isn't he just adorable?? I fall more and more in love with him everyday. He'll be THREE months old this weekend. Wow... I'm speechless. Okay, not really. Like that would EVER happen.

I'm normally a pretty adventurous cook, but when it comes to Turkey Day, I don't experiment much. I made that mistake once and the results were so disasterous I have blocked the details out completely. All I remember was the horrified look on my husband's face when he tasted the gravy and the silence that continued for the remainder of the meal. After the shock wore off and he was able to speak again, he asked if I could just do traditional Thanksgiving every year.

A large part of my husband's job is talking to farmers all over the country. A great perk is that he often comes home with large amounts of free fruits and vegetables. When he showed up with TEN pounds of cranberries a few weeks ago, I knew right away what I would use part of the cranberries for--Cranberry Sauce! And no, not the kind that goes sssllluuuurrrrrp when it comes out of the can and keeps the can shape, although I totally dig that stuff too.

When I posted to my blog a few years ago about fresh cranberries, I was surprised to see how many people hadn't made anything with fresh cranberries or even eaten anything made with fresh cranberries! We always had fresh cranberry sauce with our Thanksgiving dinners. But I grew up in Montana and everyone knows Montanans are weird...except me. I am blissfully normal. Yeah, that was a lie.

Once you see how fast and easy it is, you'll wonder why you've never made it before. But the real payoff will come when you taste it! Homemade Cranberry Sauce has a fresher and tangier taste and a MUCH better texture than that gelatinous cranberry goop from the can! Plus, when you make your own, you control the sugar. You can make it as sweet or as tart as you want!

Lots of people like to fancy up their cranberry sauce with oranges or pecans or crazy spices, but I am a purist. Well, not really, I just like cranberry sauce to taste like cranberries. I've made Cranberry Chutney before and that was AMAZING, but it just didn't have the zing and bite of plain old cranberry sauce.

There are three ingredients to make this folks! THREE!! How much easier can a recipe get? I'll tell you--not much!! Take a look at this stuff and tell me it doesn't look 100 times better than the canned stuff!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
12 oz (3 cups) fresh cranberries (most bags sold in the store are 12 oz--look for them in the produce section)
1/2 - 3/4 c sugar or sugar substitute (I used Splenda, but you could also use frozen grape juice concentrate)

Rinse and pick through your cranberries. Most bags are fairly clean, with just the occasional leaf or stem. Be sure to look for soft or mushy berries. Your cranberries should be firm and smooth, just like my abs. *snort* Set them aside.

In a pot with tall sides, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Dump in the cranberries. Be sure to take a cool picture.

You'll begin to hear popping, but don't worry, your kids aren't stepping on the bubble wrap from their Christmas presents you ordered online and stashed in the closet. It's just the cranberries exploding as they cook. Stir occasionally and cook for 10 minutes or until the berries get to the point where a spoon pulled through leaves a line that doesn't fill itself in.

Turn off the heat and immediately add 1/2 cup of your sweetener.

Stir to combine and add more sweetener if you desire. Be careful tasting the sauce--it is HOT! Although, if you need me to tell you that, maybe you shouldn't be using a stove...

VOILA! You are done! Now you can chortle at all your city friends when they say they've never had fresh cranberries! If your friends tell you you've suddenly become snobby, you can blame it on me. Go ahead! I can take it!

This recipe will make approximately 1 pint. I doubled it and canned the remainder. Well, I actually quadrupled it because I did two double batches. Remember--I had ten pounds of those little suckers! I also made Cranberry Breakfast Bread, which is deeee-licious and you MUST make it! Unless you want to weigh less than 689,114,285 pounds like me. You could also try my Cranberry Salsa.

To can the sauce, process pint jars for 15 minutes and quarts for 20. For altitudes above 3,000 feet, process 20 for pints and 30 for quarts. Above 6,000 feet (Hello Rocky Mountain-ers--I was TOTALLY kidding about that Montana thing--sort of), 25 for pints and 35 for quarts.

Hubby, Midget, Peanut, the Wieners, my sexy pants with the extra elastic, and I will be heading to my Sister-in-law's house for Thanksgiving and several pints of cranberry sauce will be making the trip also. I don't expect any of it to return with us, except maybe on a shirt of mine...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkey Day Fun!

I'm finally starting to feel human again! Now that Peanut is on a schedule, I have a little bit of time every now and then. Midget is at such a fun age. She loves reading and doing crafts and is very into imaginative play. I've had fun the last few days looking for fun ideas for Thanksgiving.

When I saw this in Family Fun Magazine, I knew I had to do it. Theirs looks a little bit cuter, but it calls for stuffing and hand-stitching. I took the easy way out and didn't stuff it and machine-sewed it. I still think my finished set below is pretty cute and will be a fun way to teach about a few less common vegetables in play sets like turnips and acorn squash. It was super easy to do! I made it in about two hours.
Want to make your own? Templates for the cornucopia and veggies are available on Family Fun's website at the link above.

We took a quick food craft over to a friend's house this weekend. Midget was much more interested in eating the cookies and candy than making anything with it, but she finally took a few seconds off of her own gobbling to make a cute little gobbler. You'll need golden oreos, rolo candies, chocolate chips, and candy corn to make these. You may want to swap out a little bit of white frosting tinted red for the red decorator's gel that I used to avoid looking like your turkey's head was already cut off and reattached...

Thankfully, her little buddy let me take a picture of his turkey cookie when it was done, because Midge tossed hers in her mouth the second it was completed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Princess and the Peapod

I've been less than energetic lately, so when Halloween started getting closer and the creative juices weren't flowing, I decided to take the easy way out. Midget's Auntie sent her a gorgeous princess dress-up outfit for her birthday, so TA-DAAA--Princess! On a whim, I had purchased an infant Peapod costume for a dollar last year, so TA-DAAAAA--Peapod!

Someday, my energy and creativity shall return to me. I hope...