Cranberry Conserve

FullSizeRenderDon’t bother with canned cranberry sauce, the stuff that “schluuuuuuurps” out of the can on it’s way to the serving bowl, maintaining it’s telltale ridges. This fresh and tangy relish is the perfect accompaniment to turkey or ham, and has a variety of other uses too. What can of cranberry sauce can make that claim? This recipe came from a Better Homes & Garden magazine sometime in the 90’s, and I’ve been making it every year since I stumbled on this gem. I can’t wait for cranberries to appear in the store so I’ll have jars of this on hand for our family, or to give as hostess gifts over the holidays. (This year I was lucky enough to get a beautiful bag of marble-sized berries from my friend Monique, who got them at a cranberry festival in Wisconsin. Thanks, Mo!)

FullSizeRenderIf a dollop of this relish on your roasted bird isn’t your thing, then try spreading it on some sour dough bread or gluten-free 100% rye bread (pictured here on Trader Joe’s bread), top it with slices of that leftover turkey or some deli ham, Swiss or provolone cheese, and finish with thin slices of Granny Smith green apples. Best sandwich EVER!!! This also makes a nice addition to a wine and cheese tray. The sweet and tangy pairing perfectly compliments aged cheeses and red or white wine. (Or so I’ve been told—I don’t do alcohol…) Or make a quick appetizer with some hearty crackers or earthy flatbread topped with warmed brie or cold cream cheese, and then some cranberry conserve. Give this recipe a whirl, and tell me how YOU liked it best!

IMG_1222IMG_1226Have to tell you this is the first recipe I’ve posted that warranted a trip to the after-hours clinic. My wonderful son, Mitchell, had kindly sharped my knives this week, and then I was commenting on how great it was to work with these super sharp knives while chopping the onions, and WHOOOSH! Off goes a chunk of my thumb, nail and all. My husband layered on the Band-Aids, and I finished the conserve. (Because I’m just that dedicated to my food preparation.) Then I went to the clinic to get a tetanus shot and properly bandage my wound. So all those jars of cranberry conserve lined up like little soldiers on my kitchen counter are extra special this year!

Makes 12-13 half-pint jars

Ease rating: medium (My sister Judy would never make this, so I’ll bring her a jar.)

2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cups butter
4 teaspoons white vinegar
3-4 large yellow (milder flavor) or red onions (stronger flavor), chopped
8 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup raisins
½ cup apple cider or apple juice
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
7 cups granulated sugar
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Wash 12-14 half-pint glass jars in hot soapy water, or in dishwasher. Set upside down on clean towel to dry. Fill medium sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, and drop in 12-14 Ball or Kerr canning lids. Let sit until ready to use.

In a large skillet, cook and stir brown sugar, butter, and vinegar over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add onions and cook uncovered over low heat for 10-12 minutes, or until onions are glazed and tender. Stir often. Set aside.

In 8-quart kettle or Dutch oven, combine cranberries, raisins, cider or juice, allspice, and cloves. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook, uncovered, on medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in cooked onion mixture and granulated sugar. Return to boil and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes more. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and stir in nuts. (May seem thin after cooking for the 10-15 minutes, but it will thicken up significantly as it cools, so do not over cook.)

Pour conserve into prepared glass jars, filling to 1/4-inch from top. Wipe rim of jar with clean towel to ensure there is nothing on rim, then pull a lid from sauce pan, and place rubber side down on top of jar. Add screw top band and tighten. Place jar upside down on counter. Repeat with remaining jars until all are filled. Let jars sit upside down for 5 minutes, then turn over to cool completely. As jars “plink” you will know they are sealed. If any do not seal, place in freezer. Will keep for up to a year.

Oatmeal Crisps

Oatmeal cookies are the Rodney Dangerfield of baked goods. They get no respect. My son Brandon thinks you’ve got one foot in the nursing home door if you’re snacking on these. But there’s something so comforting about a hefty oatmeal cookie, chocked full of raisins. It’s kinda like a hug from your Mom. Speaking of Moms, I got this recipe from mine, who found it in a Better Homes and Gardens “new” cookbook printed in 1963. (Apparently, I liked these enough to warrant my name being recorded beside the recipe, but I guess I dissed the cup of chopped walnuts. So she used raisins instead. Thanks, Mom!)

Chewy when first baked, these are the perfect after-school snack with a tall glass of cold milk. Once cooled, they crisp up a little, and are great for dunking in a mug of hot coffee or tea. And these would be especially welcome after all that rich Thanksgiving fare, so keep this one handy for after turkey day.


Makes 2 to 2½ dozen

Rating: easy

1 cup shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In large mixing bowl, cream shortening. Add brown sugar and cream again. Add granulated sugar and continue to cream. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla. In separate medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda, and stir. Gradually add to creamed shortening and sugar mixture, stirring down sides occasionally. Add oatmeal 1 cup at a time with mixer set on low. Remove from mixer stand and stir in raisins by hand.

Drop large tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet, 12 per sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tops of cookies are lightly golden. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Store in airtight container.

NOTE: I like my cookies soft and chewy, and these start out that way if you bake them for 10-12 minutes. If you like cookies crisp (Sherie Lindvall, I’m talking to you…), bake them 15 minutes or more.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

FullSizeRenderNeed a vegetable side dish for the holidays that doesn’t involve green beens and a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup? As previously promised, here’s another option for your holiday feast. If you can peel carrots and chop ’em with a knife, you can make this super simple recipe. I’ve posted roasted veggie dishes before, but it never hurts to be reminded how good vegetables can be when roasted in the oven! Roasting brings out the natural sugars (mmmmmm…sugar…) in the vegetables, and makes them oh so delicious. I like to chop these into skinny sticks, and you can almost convince yourself you’re eating fries due to the shape. Almost. Parsnips mix nicely with the carrots as they are less sweet, and they also make the dish visually more interesting. Just make sure your sticks are similar in size so they cook evenly. This is a little tricky with the poor pear-shaped parsnip. (If parsnips were your girlfriend, she’d be that one constantly complaining about her hips.)

heritage carrotsdownloadTo really make your roasted carrots comment-worthy, try using the heritage carrots found at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores in the fall (also at farmer’s markets, if the one in your neighborhood is still open). Look for the bag of carrots in a variety of orange hues, sometimes cream, and purple. Yes, I said purple! It looks like Harold and his Purple Crayon helped with dinner. But the combination of colors brings a little fun into your simple veggie side dish.

Serves 4-6

Rating: easy

8-10 carrots, peeled and cut into 4 or 5-inch sticks
5-6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3 or 4-inch sticks
1-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dill weed
½-1 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Toss carrot and parsnip sticks in a bowl with olive oil, dill weed, and garlic salt until vegetables are coated with oil. (I actually just sprinkle rather than measure, so I’m guessing at the amount of herb and seasoning here.) Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tips are slightly caramelized, and vegetables are tender. Serve.

NOTE: The beauty of this dish is that you can cook it at just about any temperature, so if your oven is set at 325° or 400° for the main dish, that works too. If using a 325° oven, they will need about 35-45 minutes. If using a 400° oven, they will be done in about 20 minutes. Another trick? I save old cookie sheets just for roasting vegetables, as the oil and sugars from the veggies darken (aka: ruins) the pans and make them no longer fit for baked goods.

Rutabaga Whip

FullSizeRender-1Get some variety in your veggies with this easy rutabaga side dish. If you’re Scandinavian, chances are you’ve grown up on this meat-and-potatoes staple, and if you’ve not tried this root vegetable yet, you’re in for a treat. I found this basic recipe in my ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookbook ( you know, the one with the 80’s helmet-haired ladies I’ve mentioned before…). The only trick is letting the rutabaga chunks boil until they are good and tender before adding the potatoes. Rutabaga takes much longer to boil than potatoes do, and it’s tempting to think they are done before they are. We love these as a side to roast pork, smoked ham, or grilled chicken—they just have a little more flavor than plain old mashed taters, and are great when you’re craving some comfort food but want to switch it up a tad. And this may be easy, but it’s still worthy of a place at your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. (Rutabaga whip is pictured here with smoked pork roast, courtesy of my husband, and a golden melon, grapes, and raspberries, drizzled in a simple mint and lime syrup, courtesy of my friend and fabulous cook, Karin.)

As Thanksgiving is approaching, I’m going to be posting some of my favorite holiday side dishes the next two weeks. Most of you probably have your go-to family recipes at the ready—like grandma’s stuffing recipe—but if you’re in the mood to shake it up a bit or add to your répertoire, you’ll have some options.

Serves 6-8

Rating: easy

1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons butter
2-4 tablespoons milk
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Fill large saucepan or small Dutch oven half full with water. Add rutabaga, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt to the water, and bring to a full boil. Reduce to medium heat, and cook rutabaga for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender to a fork. Add in potatoes, and return to a boil. Reduce to medium heat again, and boil for additional 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender when prodded with a fork. Drain off water. Place cooked rutabaga and potato in mixing bowl fitted with wire whisk attachment, or food processor bowl. Add butter and milk, and whip or process until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Pumpkin Bundt Cake

IMG_1172You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something pumpkin flavored in the fall, so it’s at the risk of pumpkin overload that I post this. I just tried this moist and delicious pumpkin cake recipe, after seeing it on Martha Stewart’s website. It called for cake flour, which I didn’t have, so I subbed in all-purpose flour using this little trick that’s all over the internet: measure out 1 cup flour, then remove 2 tablespoons, and sift in 2 tablespoons corn starch. Use that concoction cup for cup as a replacement for the cake flour. I have a confession to make—I don’t think pumpkin actually has much flavor! Now, don’t pummel me with candy corn for my sacrilege against the sacred gourd. While it adds moistness to a recipe, it’s really the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a recipe that we associate with the pumpkin-infused desserts and drinks so popular in autumn. (Personally, I think butternut and acorn squashes have more going on in the flavor department…)

Some people, like my daughter-in-law Jessica, can totally rock a layer cake. But cake making is my Achilles heel, so I love a good, simple Bundt®* cake recipe, especially one like this that requires no frosting. A light dusting of powdered sugar is all that’s needed to finish this tasty cake, and bing, bang, boom, it’s ready to serve. Maybe add a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip if you’re going to serve this instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving… And then watch this clip from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as a reminder that the term “Bundt® cake” isn’t universally recognized.

Serves 12-16

Rating: easy

4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), or 4 cups all-purpose flour minus ½ cup flour, plus ½ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk**
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Spray a 14-cup Bundt® pan with cooking spray or coat with butter. Dust with flour, and tap out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat in flour mixture gradually, alternating with the buttermilk or sour milk. Beat until just combined. Add pumpkin puree, and beat until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Let cool on awire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully turn cake onto rack to cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

*FUN FACT: The Bundt® pan was created in the 1950’s by Nordic Ware, a Minneapolis company started by a husband and wife post-WWII to make Scandinavian ethnic cookware products. It comes in a wide variety of fluted or ridged configurations within the general ring shape. No one recipe needs to be used with the Bundt pan—it works for hundreds of different cake batters, as well as making a beautiful Jell-O mold.

**NOTE: I’ve never bought buttermilk when it’s called for in a recipe. I always make my own sour milk by putting 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a measuring cup, and filling it with 1% or 2% milk (don’t use skim—the milk needs some fat to “sour”) to 1 cup measurement. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes before using in recipe.

Smokey Fifteen-bean Soup

FullSizeRender-1Who loved Campbell’s bean with bacon soup as a kid? One whiff of this 15-bean recipe simmering on the stove top will transport you back to your childhood home, when Mom occasionally served this for lunch with a side of grilled Wonderbread and Velveeta sandwiches. But this hearty gluten-free soup has soooooo much more flavor than the canned variety. It’s also easy and cheap (great qualities in a soup, not great qualities in a woman…)with the shredding of the ham shank being the most time-consuming step—and it’s a budget-buster at about $11-12 a pot. This recipe is off the Hurst’s Hambeens 15 Bean Soup package, and I’ve always made it in a big Dutch oven on the stove top. But on their website,, they say you can make this 15-bean soup in the slow cooker (aka: Crock Pot) as well. Maybe I’ll try that next time, so I don’t have to stick around the house on a Saturday, keeping an eye on the pot. Oh, and when you’re shopping for a bag of dried beans, you may run across bags boasting a whopping 16-bean soup mix. But I think that’s taking it just one bean too far, don’t you? Let’s not go crazy, people.

Serves 12-16 (freezes well, if a gallon of soup is too much for you!)

Rating: easy

1 (20 ounce) bag Hurst’s HamBeens 15-bean Soup mix or other brand 15-bean soup mix
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (optional—my addition to Hurst’s original recipe)
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large ham shank* or smoked sausage (leftover ham bone from the holidays works great too!)

Quick cook method: Rinse and drain dry beans, reserving enclosed flavor packet for later use. Place rinsed beans in a large pot with 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours. Stir occasionally. After boiling, add onion, diced tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic, and ham shank (or sausage). Stir. Bring back to a rapid boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove ham shank (or sausage) and let cool on plate. Stir in reserved flavor packet. Once ham shank is cool enough to handle, pull meat off bone, cutting away cartilage and membranes, and dice meat. Add meat back into soup. If using sausage, dice and stir into soup.

*NOTE: Sometimes I have trouble finding ham shanks, so ask your butcher for help if you can’t find them. If you can’t find the ham shank, try it with the sausage. I’ve never tried this recipe with smoked sausage, but I’m sure it would be delicious as well.

Flourless Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_1131This treat has a trick—no gluten, but when the GF crowd needs a cookie, this rich chocolatey wonder fills that craving for baked goods. With only 6 ingredients and none of them being flour, it’s hard to believe the thin batter will actually bake up into anything resembling a cookie, but it does. Word of warning: lack of flour does not equate healthier. This recipe is mostly sugar, with a few eggs for binding things together. So they toggle somewhere between a cookie and a meringue. I tried these after finding the recipe online, and it had been posted and reposted by a few bloggers— had gotten it from, who had gotten it from It appears Lori Lange of deserves the credit for creating the original recipe, so I’ll stop there. She used bittersweet chocolate chips in her recipe, which I’ve never seen in the stores (only bittersweet sold in squares for baking), so I used Nestle semi-sweet morsels, a kitchen staple. At least it’s a staple in my kitchen—how about yours? 

(Also pictured here are Ginger Crinkles, a previously-posted fabulous fall or holiday cookie, with sugar and spice, and everything nice. Not gluten-free.)

Makes 16 cookies

Rating: easy

3 cups confectioners sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, or Hershey’s cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 large egg whites, at room temperature (or use 2 egg whites and 1 whole egg)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (a necessity, not an option, for this recipe.)

In a large bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar with cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in two egg whites and vanilla, and beat just until the batter is moistened. You want a thick and fudge-like batter consistency. If it seems too thick, add another egg white, then a 4th one if it still seems too thick. (Or start with the two egg whites, and add in one whole egg, yolk and all.) Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter onto the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet. Bake about 14 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto wire racks. Let cool completely, then peel cookies off parchment and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (But they won’t last that long.)